Saturday, October 13, 2018

Answering Machines and Victrolas
      I was in a staff meeting for the School of Business and Nonprofit Management where I teach. During the agenda item on what faculty could do to assist in recruiting students, we reviewed a program where faculty call recently accepted students to congratulate them and encourage them to commit to North Park University. It is a great program in concept. I noted, “In not recognizing the number of the incoming call, no one answers the phone and I end up leaving a message on their answering machine.” Everyone laughed. I asked, with a dumb look on my face, “What??” Someone filled me in saying, “Answering machine? It’s called Voice Mail this century.” 
     Well, yes. Technically, they were right in laughing at me. I was certainly referring to a most outdated technology. Laughter aside, everyone knew what I meant.
      There is a precedent however: my father. This, occasional, trait of mine for using outdated terminology seems to be following in his footsteps. For as long as I can remember, he would occasionally refer to the refrigerator as an icebox. “Where are the apples?” He would respond, “they’re in the icebox.” Or he might ask, “Go to the icebox and get…” whatever. He used the term early enough in my life and often enough that I assumed that icebox and refrigerator were synonymous terms. In my view, to a certain degree, they are. It is where items you want to keep cold are stored. It matters not what method is used to cool the stuff in the box. I used to use the terms interchangeably, until, I was old enough to realize what an icebox actually was and how antiquated the term actually was. 
      The same logic applies to the answering machine and voice mail example. When I call someone, they don’t answer, and I hear a recording of the person’s voice telling me that they are not there and to leave a message, I have no idea if I that recording is from an antique answering machine or voice mail provided by their cell or home service provider. Actually, if I know I am calling someone’s cell phone, duh, I am fairly certain it isn’t an answering machine when I hear their recorded voice.
Uhuru Furniture
     My dad had another one of these that I found even more amusing. He used to call any music playback device, that required a needle to function, a Victrola. Of course, most everyone else called them record players or phonographs. For some reason, I never took the name Victrola to by synonymous with record player. I never really knew the origin of that term. I did figure it out about the same age I found out how an icebox differed from a refrigerator. Victrolas were actually the brand name of phonographs made by The Victor Talking Machine Company from 1901 – 1929 ( 
     The brand is still alive today,, as one can purchase a variety of retro looking record players... er... I mean...Victrolas: 
Victrola was born in 1906 in Camden, NJ when first introduced to the American public by the Victor Talking Machine Company. Full of entrepreneurial ideas and known for its use of quality materials, Victor (later becoming RCA) was the largest and most successful turntable manufacturer of its time.
More than 110 years later, the legendary Victrola trademark has been revived in the US and is now owned by Innovative Technology – The Victrola Brand will once again symbolize the same high-quality, nostalgic turntables of the past for this century’s music listeners of all ages.
    I would expound more on all of this but have to go and check my answering machine as the light is flashing. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Come on Facebook!
     There is some of fishy goings on these past few days on Facebook. Friends of all kinds are sending me messages telling me that they have gotten a duplicate friend request from me. The implication is that someone has cloned my profile and trying to get access to all my friends. I guess the cloners do this for… well it is not exactly clear. Do they use the cloned me to disseminate false news? Will they eventually make a plea for money to my friends on a fake GoFundMe like site? Maybe, it is a social media rival trying to destabilize Facebook, forcing users to leave Facebook for… and I can’t even think of where I or others would go. Or, are they simply trying to clone everyone and create a parallel Facebook of all cloned profiles? At least this last, low probability at best, option has cool philosophical implications. I would love to be able to check on what my cloned self is up to and how that cloned self is interacting with my clone friends on a parallel Facebook.
     Given that the first message I got from a trusted friend seemed plausible, I took it seriously. I searched to see there was indeed a parallel me on Facebook. I could not find a clone. That was good. So, I googled what to do if I thought my Facebook was either hacked or cloned. Not surprisingly, I was advised to change my password. I did. It was also suggested that I “secure” my account by evoking a “secure my account” dialogue box on Facebook. I did that even though it did not give me any sense that what I was asked to do could possible lead to a more secure account. OK, I idid what I was supposed to do was done.
     The following day, I got more such IMs suggesting that my account was cloned. After getting a few, I noticed that the messages were all the same or a too close in wording to be coincidental. Here is the most common message:

Hi....I actually got another friend request from you yesterday...which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears...then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too....I had to do the people individually. Good Luck! PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT A NEW ONE FROM ME AT THIS TIME.
     What else should I do? I copied the above message and googled the whole thing. Yesterday, there were a few news items talking about this being a hoax. The report said that the was not an uptick in people’s accounts being cloned. The reports urged people not to forward these messages as the IMs suggested. Today, googling the same message there are many more news items saying the same thing. Oddly, there was nothing from my favorite reputable news sources: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsy, or NPR.
     What surprises me is that Facebook has not posted a notice about this. They are obviously working behind the scenes trying to figure this out. I look at my IM icon and it shows 9 new messages and a few seconds later it shows 2 or 0. Clearly, there is some filtering going one. I would think being forthcoming and giving folks status updates would be better than letting people get frustrated about this, forward this hoaxy message, and think about just not using or even quitting Facebook. But then, what do I know? I’m not a Facebook executive.
     In the meantime, please stop sending me these IMs.

If I am Right...
     There is a thing about religion that I have never really resolved. Actually, it is about all the religions and their seeming inability to get along.
     Sure, we have our World Council of Churches and who knows how many other high and low level meetings of leaders of this sect and that religion, this branch and that synod, and so forth. There are divisions within what seems like the same religion, e.g. Protestants and Catholics, Sunnis and Shia, Jews and, sadly, just about everyone else.
     I grew up with division. The Armenians are a small, but I am required to add, proud and enterprising, people. We will proudly tell you that we are the first Christian nation. We are a people of devotion and dedication to our sacred church and its rites and sacraments. But, we have the equivalent of two popes though we call them Catholicos and that is but one of the things that divides us.
     Don’t get me wrong. Religions and faith are so very important. They help us answer the questions that have no empirical answers. This biggest of these questions is “What happens when we die?” Do we just die and basically cease to exist? Aesthetics would say “yep!.” Agnostics would say “can’t really tell, now can we?” These answers are OK for atheists and agnostics, but they leave so many more people view this as a hopeless perspective. It makes them uneasy and unsettled. Most of us want someone to tell us that, “death is only the end of this life, your essence will live on.” Maybe we will be reincarnated, over and over, until we get it right. Maybe if we lived a good exemplary life we will go to Heaven, Nirvana, or Valhalla. In essence, the vast majority of the world’s religions assure us of an afterlife of some sort. This is important stuff. We want to know. We need to know. We need to believe and have faith in the answer to this question. Religions help us answer this question. They are good, they are necessary, and everyone has faith in the beliefs, teachings, and writings that fortify this faith.
     Herein lies the rub. We do believe, truly we do. We believe so hard and have so much faith that for so many of us when confronted with a person with a different set of beliefs we are confused and start thinking, “We can’t both be right.” The next thoughts are, “For my belief system to be right, yours has to be wrong. For what I believe to be true means that your, different beliefs are false.” It often comes down to just that. If what I believe is the word of God and what you believe isn’t. It can easily evolve to “What I believe is the word of God and what you believe is evil… and thus you are evil.”
     Of course, this doesn’t universally apply. People are capable of seeing similarities as much as they can see differences. But, in the history of the world, rulers have often played to these kinds of differences to motivate the populace to do what they want from fighting wars to ridding a country of a particular ethnic or religious group. Yes, the rulers are motivated by economic and political gain and the use of these differences are used to get the people to do their bidding. This is not just a historical thing, it happens in our world today.
     Also, I know that theologians and biblical scholars have well thought out theories, commentaries, and commentaries on other commentaries that clears all this up using rhetoric, languages, and references that laymen have no hope of understanding. In my naïveté  I almost think they make things unnecessarily complicated and erudite.
     These differences are in base beliefs. No amount of reasoning or preaching will easily sway someone who fundamentally believes differently.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Another Devotion? On Humor?
     I joined the full-time faculty at North Park in August of 2014. Until then, I had written exactly one homily in my sixty-one years. At North Park, department and faculty senate meeting begin with a devotion/prayer. So, each year since, I have had to write one or two. Truth be told, when it is my turn, I struggle with them. It is tough to find a topic or theme. It is a challenge to find the appropriate Bible passages. Lastly, it is equally challenging to write a good prayer that is authentic, meaningful, respectful, and of value to those hearing it.
     For some reason, I was asked to prepare three of them in the past five weeks. I have done it twice for our School of Business and Nonprofit Management. The first was for our faculty retreat in late August and the second was yesterday. The third which was the subject of my last blog, Overwhelming Perspective, and for a Faculty Senate meeting a week ago.
     I have actually started jesting that I am considering enrolling in the North Park Seminary as I am writing so many of these. I have learned something, actually reminded of something is closer to the truth, in writing these three devotions in short order. The more I do them, the easier the become.
     So, here I am posting another devotion on my blog. This one is on Humor. I seem to be getting bolder in my theme choices as I do more of these:
     God is indeed the creator of our universe, our planet, and we are reminded that we are created in his image.
     Sometimes, I listen to folks talk about God’s will. Often it in reference to an illness or tragedy that has befallen us, a loved one, or even a group of people. Perhaps it is God’s will. Perhaps it is the nature of creation where tribulations and good fortune are random variables that are part of God’s design. This whole probability thing? That is for my next devotion.
     At other times, I listen to folks talk about being a Christian. The talk and message is righteous, serious, but also refers to the joy found in accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal savior.
     I rarely hear anyone talk about the role of wit and humor of God. If we are, indeed, created in God’s image and some of us are bestowed with the gifts of wit and humor, are these gifts not from God? Otherwise, the only conclusion is that we developed these traits on our own and they are not Godly.
     Humor and wit, even their playful cousin sarcasm, can help provide joy and insight when properly used. I have to note here, that while I think I am witty and humorous, I cannot claim that I am provide joy and insight with every lame joke and self-deprecation.
     Of course, I did an internet search on God and Humor, The Bible on Humor, and such. The result? A big fat dud. There are a few references that provide Bible passages mostly about joy and rejoicing… but not quite humor.
     I use what I believe to be humor and wit is to keep things in perspective and to provide insights. There is of course a time and place, but I want to emphasize that there is indeed a time and a season.
     A time and a season? Naturally, I turned to Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV):
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,  
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
     Let us pray.
Dear Heavenly Father: 
Help us balance the serious and whimsical so that we may have the proper perspective on this gift of life. Allow us to see the divine creation in laughter and joy as much as seek your help and solace in times of illness and great sorrow. 
Help us to hone our wit and humor to make others feel better and happier.

Help us understand, Lord, that if we can master this balance, we may indeed be able to treat each other with more respect and greater dignity which for a group like our faculty, will lead to greater productivity and accomplishments. 
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
     I do believe this devotion and prayer were well received. We never had such a jovial faculty meeting!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Prioritization Ramble
   This is a follow-up to my last bloggy bit: Overwhelming Perspective
     I really should be working on task A but instead I choose to do task B. Task A has the higher external priority. Furthermore, Task A is late and not doing Task A will be visible to others. Task B, however, is my priority and no one else will really care if it gets done or not. Which should I do?
     There are many possibilities. The first and easiest choice is not to choose. Basically, do nothing. But, that would have a zen-like sage, wisdom laden, and somewhat aloof choice with a certain air of coolness about it. Did I say it was the easiest choice? It is easy to do nothing, lots of people do this each and every day. The hard part is the zen, aloof, cool part.
     When I choose to do neither task, there is nothing cool about the way I do nothing. There is instead lots of fretting. There is guilt. There is angst. Sure, overeating helps. Naturally, watching TV helps. In this decision space where 1 + 1 = 3 or more, watching TV and overeating is the bomb. If this is not enough, I could layer another totally unproductive activity on top of this by playing a Yahtzee on my phone (this particular game may be a family tradition). So, I suppose there is an app for this… whatever this is.
Sidebar: It should be noted that if one chooses to watch TV instead of doing what you should be doing, you should watch old movies or old sitcoms preferably ones you have watched a thousand times before. Do not, and I cannot emphasize this enough, DO NOT Supreme Court nominee confirmation hearings.
     This morning, however, I am feeling ambitious. I want to do something. I have to do many somethings. I am choosing Task B. This means, I am really doing what I want. I am first addressing my priority not anyone else’s. This is good (unless the anyone else is the IRS or a court order). I am officially a senior citizen. This means I really don’t have to care what the heck (insert the f word here if works better for you) others think. Yes, I know, this is just rationalization for doing whatever I want to do… so there is no need to point this out in a text or comment.
     You may have guessed it already, but this blog post is the Task B I have been talking about. Oddly, Task A along with Tasks C, D, E, F, and G are all writing tasks all of which have external priorities linked to others. So, this five-hundred ramble is a just a first cup of coffee limbering-up, get the juices flowing, in preparation for the other tasks.
     I may be a world-class rationalizer. I wonder if I can turn this into a lucrative consulting business? You know, it could be like being an executive coach for underachievers.
     Oh my, did I just create a Task F that I could spend the rest of the day contemplating and thus avoiding the other more important Tasks? I told you I was good at this.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Overwhelming Perspective
     Note:  As North Park University is the University of the Evangelical Covenant Church, we naturally begin all meetings with a prayer or short homily and a prayer. In our School of Business and Faculty Senate, that honor rotates amongst the professors. At our Faculty Senate Meeting on Monday, September 24, 2018, it was my turn.
     Most times, the theme of the devotion is clear to me. This time it was not. So, I started with what was bothering me and it led to the following, which I thought was #blogworthy.

Overwhelming Perspective

     Just five short weeks ago, we were excited to greet our students and colleagues and begin this school. Like our students, we… well at least I, were excited and enthusiastic with the start of another school year.
     Now, it is just week 4, and again speaking for myself and a few others I have polled, I am wondering where that excitement and enthusiasm went. It feels like the 25th week of a 16 week semester. Heck, I will admit it, I am feeling overwhelmed. In our school, we are down two full time professors as a result, a few of us, including me are about to have three quads of double overloads. One is a course that needs some surgery and I only have taught it once, like three years ago. Another is a brand-new course that we need, and I am best suited to develop and pilot. It is not clear if I volunteered or was conscripted for this workload.
     I looked up Bible verses on being overwhelmed. There were plenty of them. Here are two, representative passages from Psalms (NLT):

When I am overwhelmed,you alone know the way I should turn.
Wherever I go,my enemies have set traps for me. (Psalm 142:3) 
From the ends of the earth,I cry to you for help
when my heart is overwhelmed.Lead me to the towering rock of safety, (Psalm 61:2)
     I simultaneously felt better and suddenly foolish. Needless to say, things are not nearly this bad. There are no enemies, that I know of, setting traps for me. I am not anywhere near the ends of the earth crying to God for help. I am not this kind of overwhelmed. But, I am some kind of overwhelmed.
     Clearly, this is a matter of perspective. So… yes, I did seek out bible passages on Perspective. These kinds of searches never really pan out in my humble opinion unless I am searching on words like Salvation, Sin, Love, or Forgiveness. Perspective? Forget about it.
     So, I have written my own prayer on Feeling Overwhelmed and Seeking Perspective.

Dear Heavenly Father. 
I am feeling overwhelmed. I have more tasks than I can accomplish. I have more responsibilities than I believe there is time or mental capacity to achieve. I am feeling lonely and helpless in this regard.
Please, lead me to that towering rock but not for safety. Take me to the towering rock where I can have perspective, where I can clearly see priorities, and I can realize how blessed I really am.

Lead me to that towering rock to see and understand that I am blessed to work in this wonderful school, with great colleagues, teaching amazing young people. Let me see and understand those around who are truly overwhelmed with illness, family issues, hunger, in true physical or mental jeopardy. Help me to realize what I so easily forget, that in my humble case, I need to take some deep breathes, to stop being paralyzed by the seeming mountain range of tasks, and instead organize and prioritize them so I may begin chipping away at them. Lead me to the towering rock where I can see that the mountain range is but a small hill. 
Help me to keep the old German Proverb with me at all times: Start to sew and God will provide the thread. It is a truth I too easily forget. 
Lastly, Father, forgive me for exaggerating my pressures. Please provide comfort and safe passage to those who are truly overwhelmed with their lives, dealing with serious illnesses, or otherwise in desperate need. 
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


Saturday, September 22, 2018


     I stumbled across a cable news network that I had not heard of before: Newsy. It was tucked in a part of the channel guide I rarely frequent. It is surrounded, oddly, by Christian ministry channels just below the series of movie channels I frequently peruse.
     I thought it was a kind of an odd name for a cable channel, and as I was feeling kind of newsy, I decided to watch it for a bit. I did not know what to expect. If anything, my expectations were on the low side because the name of the network did not sound serious.
     My first reaction, after a few minutes of watching, was that Newsy seemed to be unbiased. Believe me, this assessment did not involve any serious analysis. It is was a quick judgement relative to my other news sources. I listen to Morning Edition from NPR on my morning drive to work and whatever is on NPR when I drive back home. When I am home in the mornings, I tend to watch MSNBC’s Morning Joe. I read the Wall Street Journal six days a week and The New York Times on Sunday. The only magazine I read is The New Yorker. So, I have a mix of conservative, centrist, and liberal news sources.
     I am watching Newsy while I am typing this. This is only the second time I am watching it. Their evening news magazine, called The Why, is airing now. At this moment, they are doing an in-depth piece on Venezuela. It seems their President Nicolas Madura is in Istanbul. He is shown smoking cigars and eating steak and Newsy is reporting that this is not sitting well with his people who are, literally, starving. They contrasted Venezuela to Cuba as they are both Caribbean socialist countries. It was a fascinating comparison that again seemed amazingly unbiased. They then provided the history of how Venezuela went from an oil rich democracy to poverty ridden socialist dictatorship that has the country past the brink of collapse. The coverage was, maybe, fifteen minutes long and was very well done. The Why airs for two hours every evening.
     I did a google search on Newsy and learned the following:
  • Newsy was founded in 2008
  • Bought for $35M in 2014 by E. W. Scripps Company, a media company based in Cincinnati with $865M in sales in 2017
  • The slogan is: Be informed, not influenced
  • Newsy is not even mentioned in websites and articles that track cable news ratings. 
  • In 2017, Scripps bought Retirement Living Television and rebranded it as Newsy making it available in 26 Million homes
  • Website:
     Per Wikipedia:
Newsy was founded in 2008 on the premise of creating quality video journalism that was easily digestible on mobile devices and the web.[2] In its early years, Newsy operated primarily as a syndication business, selling news and original content to major digital journalism brands that included AOL/Huffington Post, Microsoft and Mashable. Since being acquired by E.W. Scripps, Newsy has become the national news brand focused on delivering news to millennials and Gen X consumers.
“Newsy has already made a name for itself among millennial news consumers who rely on over-the- top television. Now we’ll be reaching Americans with cable and satellite service who are looking for a fresh approach to news coverage,” said Adam Symson, president and CEO of Scripps, in a press release. “This expanded reach for our advertising business alongside carriage fees furthers our strategy to develop Newsy as a prominent multi-platform news network with dual revenue streams.”
     I am thinking, seriously, of making Newsy my TV news source. My go-to source had been MSNBC’s Morning Joe with my morning joe. But, frankly, the liberal perspective has just become a Trump bashing platform. I found Newsy kind of refreshing. Are they truly unbiased? Compared to MSNBC and Fox News, I would have to say yes.
     While I think they are unbiased, a poll I found considers them "slightly" left of center.  But, the polling site is "slightly" right of center.  So, if "Least Biased" is number 2 on this least, I stand by my view.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Impact of the Great Recession

     I am not a great prognosticator. I am certainly not a futurist. But, this does not stop me from prognosticating or pretending to be a futurist. As with most people who dabble in trying to figure out what might and might not happen in the future, I am not all that accurate. When we cover forecasting in my classes at North Park University, I always tell my students if I were better at predicting the future I would be much richer. But, as I love it so, I would continue to teach. The difference is we be in much plusher classrooms with catered gourmet meals.
     I am sorry about one thing I did predict ten years ago. It has come true, at least in part. When the Great Recession was unfolding, I was afraid that the economic turmoil the US was going through was going fundamentally change our country. I predicted in a few different blog posts, e.g. November 2009: It’s the Stupid Economy, that:
First, with the number of manufacturing jobs that have simply gone off shore, we wondered if we could maintain any economic prowess as a service based economy. Second, will we come out of this recession a different country then we were before this recession? Would we come out of this downturn permanently altered looking more like a European country, say UK, Italy, or Greece, than the United States at the turn of the century? These are excellent questions that have been on my mind for some time.
In other blog posts, I referred to the change using a phrase, new normal, lots of others were using (November 2010: Mid-Term Elections). My prediction did not change much. Just to be clear, I was not the only person making such predications.
     I do believe that this has happened especially when I consider my own case. While I have redefined myself and have an encore career as a college professor, I am lesser economically than I was. I am making less than a quarter of my peak salary.
     Today’s, September 16th, New York Times had me revisiting my predictions. As it has been ten years since Lehman Brothers collapsed on September 15, 2008, the business section and a few Op Ed were dedicated to a retrospective. There was a fascinating essay in the Magazine on poverty which was rooted in part in the Great Recession. The picture painted is that this new normal may be even worse than I predicted.
     Sure, we hear that the economy is booming. Well, the stock market is certainly booming. People that can and have invested such have profited from this. I indeed have but that is a vestige of my old pre-Great Recession life thankfully. Now, I would be on the sidelines like millions of others watching the rich get richer across the abyss that is the wealth gap these days. I am not against people getting richer. I am against the poor getting poorer however.
     There is a graph in an article by David Leonhardt, We are Measuring the Economy All Wrong, that summed it up for me. We have talked about a jobless recovery until recently
We are Measuring the Economy All Wrong
when unemployment reached record lows. Yet, it seems large numbers of people have lesser paying jobs in this recovery. The numbers of people working in minimum wage jobs, where it is impossible to live without government assistance, has grown as has the median age of that class of workers. This is not a good trend.
     In an article by Matthew Desomond,Americans Want to Believe that Jobs are the Solutions to Poverty – They’re Not, in the Times Sunday magazine rooted the issue well before the great recession:
In recent decades, the nation’s tremendous economic growth has not led to broad social uplift. Economists call it the “productivity-pay gap” — the fact that over the last 40 years, the economy has expanded and corporate profits have risen, but real wages have remained flat for workers without a college education. Since 1973, American productivity has increased by 77 percent, while hourly pay has grown by only 12 percent. If the federal minimum wage tracked productivity, it would be more than $20 an hour, not today’s poverty wage of $7.25.
      One might question that these articles are from the somewhat left-of-center New York Times. Consider another article from the Wall Street Journal on another impact of the Great Recession. In an article by Janet Adamy, Gen Z is Coming to Your Office – Get Ready to Adapt, argues that the generation now entering the workforce was shaped by the Great Recession just as my parents generation was shaped by the Great Depression. This generation is more serious about school and not wanting debt to get the education. They want better jobs, homes, and cars. They want the American Dream but are sober enough to know it won’t be handed to them… they have to and want to go out and get it.
     I will have to process all this before revising my earlier prognostication or making a new one.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Natural Gas Leaks? Homes Exploding?
     If one buys a classic old house, it might require extensive renovations. Of course, most tend to focus renovations that show and make the house have the amenities we want in this day and age. These might include upgrading the bathrooms, modernizing the kitchen, replacing the windows, pulling up the wall-to-wall carpets and refinishing the hardwood, and even adding central air-conditioning. There are also things that may have to be done simply for one’s safety and well-being. These repairs are invisible and include changing all the wiring and piping in the house. Sometimes this just has to be done to keep water or gas pipes from leaking and faulty wiring from starting fires.
     The same applies to our municipalities. We have heard about the state of bridges and roadways for many years. President Trump even made it a campaign issue promising to fix the infrastructure. But, there is another danger that is very much like the wiring and pipes in the old house. It is the million miles of aging water and gas lines. Certainly, the water catastrophe in Flint, MI is an example of what can go wrong with aging pipes and poor management choices.
     What happened in Andover and Lawrence in the Merrimack Valley of MA yesterday, September 13th, is yet another precursor of what could happen if we don’t start taking this seriously. The natural gas pipelines in that area are antiquated and need replacement. Columbia Gas, the provider, has been working on that. Some reports speculate that a rise in gas pressure caused gas to leak into homes resulting in the explosions. I am suspecting that the rise in pressure might have been due to turning parts of the gas lines on and off for the repair activities.
     These kinds of leaks and explosions are not new. The Merrimack Valley incidents really got my attention simply because we have close friends and family that live there and were affected by the evacuations. Thankfully they are all safe and their homes all intact. Until I started reading about this, I simply forgot that there are numerous examples of leaks caused by aging gas pipelines. There was one in March 2014 in New York City that killed three people and brought down two apartment buildings. I remember that event now after reading about it again. Like most others, I stopped thinking about it like a day later and buried as deep as the decaying pipe infrastructure.
     The problem is that many of the natural gas pipelines are made from wrought or cast iron and are decades old. Remember that gaslight pre-dated electric lighting. So, in some cities these pipelines are ninety and even over one hundred years old. Cast iron piping is particularly prone to leaking. There are over six thousand miles of such piping in New York city and there two thousand plus miles of the same in Chicago. It is a seriously hard and expensive task to replace piping in suburban regions where there are more open spaces to dig and work. Just imagine the added cost to do the same in New York City and parts of Chicago. The task itself is herculean and the expenses astronomical.
     Since the 2014 explosion, the natural gas provider in NYC, Con Ed, has a fleet of trucks that are out detecting leaks. Each address in the city will have one of these trucks pass by twice a month. This is an expensive venture in itself but only a stop gap activity at best.
      Consider the Chicago example. Peoples Gas is in the midst of a project to replace the aging piping in the city. The project is slated to last until 2030 and they have already been working on it for several years. In true Chicago fashion, the cost of the project has risen over the years and the latest estimate I saw was $7 Billion. I recall reading they have already set and blown past three cost estimates. These costs are slowly being passed along to the consumers who are seeing the natural gas utility bills double if not more. Is this the price we will face to solve this issue?

     The offices for the School of Business and Nonprofit Management are in a two-story house on Spaulding in Northeast Chicago. In the summer of 2017, Peoples Gas came to our street to redo the natural gas pipes. They were there like two months and ripped up the street and the sidewalks as you would expect they would have to replace the pipes. As an operations guy, I was not exactly impressed with their process but there was not a lot of options available. They had to repave parts of our street twice. Seeing it first hand on just one block, I got a sense for the long-time line and huge costs for this project.
     I fear will see more incidents like we saw this week in the North Andover and Lawrence moving forward before we decide to act on this problem.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Summer Ends, School Begins

Old Main at North Park University
     Today was the last Sunday of August. For the past 18 years, the last Sunday of August have been special. While living in Connecticut, I would attend and occasionally play at the St. Gregory the Enlightener Church Picnic in White Plains, NY. Upon moving to Chicago, that tradition continued at the St. James Armenian Street Fair. For all but three of these Sundays, the weather has been spectacular, perfect to be at an Armenian Picnic, listening to music or performing, having some delicious kebab and other Armenian delicacies, and chatting with friends.
     Today, we played at the St. James Street Fair. It was not the typical glorious weather but rather hot and muggy. Even the welcome breezes coming off Lake Michigan were hot. But, it was a great day of playing the music we love for our people. We sounded great, everyone enjoyed, so overall the day was glorious. It was a beautiful way to end the summer.
     Of course, summer doesn’t officially end until September 20th. I am well aware of this. But, the day before school begins is the unofficial last day of summer. When I was growing up, Labor Day was the unofficial end of summer as the Detroit Public Schools always started the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day. Somehow today, schools and universities seem to start before Labor Day. To the kid in me, that seems so wrong and unfair. It is wrong and unfair to the point where I think Congress should enact legislation making it illegal for schools to start earlier. Of course, that will never happen.
     My children never experienced the after-Labor Day start of classes. They always started classes on the last Monday in August. Hence, the wonderful picnic day of the last Sunday in August has become my new unofficial end of
Set-up and ready to play at St. James
in Evanston.  Mike Adajian photo.
     I am starting my 5thyear as a full-time faculty member at North Park University. We always start classes on the last Monday in August. So, tomorrow is my first day of school and I excited for it. I get to meet incoming freshmen and other students who will be in a course of mine for the first time. I get to greet students who I already know who are taking a second or third class from me. It is exciting for them and equally exciting for me… that same kid in me.
     I am excited because this is the best job I have ever had. It is far from being the best paying job, but it is the most fulfilling. It is where I feel I belong and enjoy it more than any other position I have held. My friend, colleague, and our interim Dean in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management, Professor Ann Hicks, was clearly thinking along the same lines and posted the following in Facebook:

Tomorrow I begin my 17th academic year at North Park University. Over the last couple of weeks, people have asked me if I was ready for the new year. Each time I responded with a resounding, “Absolutely!” (Note that I took that as meaning was I emotionally and mentally ready, NOT were all my classes prepped and ready to go! Otherwise, my answer would have been quite different.) 
These conversations have made me realize how truly lucky I am to LOVE what I do for work! Is it sometimes frustrating? Of course! Do I always agree with the decisions that my institution makes? Of course not! That is life! More importantly: Do I thrive on being able to influence the lives of my students - both inside and outside the classroom? Without doubt! For that privilege, I am and always will be thankful!!
I do believe Ann perfectly captured the essence of why I am excited for the first day of class.