Saturday, September 13, 2014

An Unpromising Future?

Our seemingly perpetual state of warfare based on a misguided and exploited paranoia is causing me to become progressively disenchanted with the current state of our political system. Our government and the acquiescent mainstream media have successfully shifted the public’s focus away from the country, which is literally crumbling before them, to terrifying and cruel criminals in faraway foreign lands that contain huge supplies of oil.

President Obama has been an improvement over his predecessor, but just barely. It appears that he also is going to bear the legacy of leaving the country in another military quagmire. And the leading presidential prospects, as of this writing, promise more of the same.

I've lived through some tumultuous times, Vietnam, Watergate, and 9-11. But I must admit that, right now, I’m having the most pessimistic feelings about the United States I've ever had during my 57 years of life.

Monday, June 30, 2014

South Florida Museum (A Photo Diary)

The South Florida Museum is situated in the heart of Bradenton, Florida. It contains a rather large collection of natural and cultural history displays and artifacts. The facility also includes an aquarium and a planetarium. (Unfortunately, the latter was closed the day I visited.)

The museum's entrance...

Apparently mastodons used to live in Florida thousands of years ago. This huge skeleton of one greets visitors as they enter the museum's foyer.

The jaw bones of a prehistoric shark that used to swim the waters near Florida. (That is me standing there to give it some perspective. I'm an average size man at 5' 11".)

This picture is a close-up shot of prehistoric shark teeth.

A mural depicting Native American life in Florida before the arrival of the Europeans.

A statue of Spanish conquistador, Hernando de Soto, stands in the museum's central interior plaza.

Manatees are the main attraction for the museum's aquarium.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Blog CPR

My blog has been a rather lonely and neglected place lately. It's been about 5 months since I've posted anything to it. I suppose the following video sums up my recent activity.

But fear not! I have two valid excuses to explain my absence.

1.) I got a divorce.

In February, Patty, my ex-wife, and I decided mutually to end our 24-year marriage. It was, without a doubt, the toughest decision I've ever made. To this day, I'm still grappling with the fact that she and the kids are not a daily part of my life. The emotional fallout has been intense. I suppose I'll never 'get over' it completely. I have many fond memories that I'll cherish forever. But without getting into too much of a diatribe, the breakup had to happen. I honestly believe that our toxic relationship was bringing both of us down. It was time.

2.) I moved.

The second excuse ties in directly into the first. Because of my divorce, I decided that I needed some new scenery. I relocated to Bradenton, Florida, a beautiful Florida gulf town about thousand miles south of Terre Haute, Indiana. My reason for choosing Bradenton was based purely on a lead for an inexpensive mobile home I saw for sale online. (As it turned out, I purchased better, more inexpensive unit that I later discovered by simply driving around town.)

I'm now settling in quite nicely. I have a job, a Florida driver's license, and I'm registered to vote. I've found an excellent outdoor, local pool at G.T.Bray Park where I can swim laps. Bradenton also provides plenty of spots for bicycle riding. So there's plenty of activity here, and the year-round warm weather enables me to be take part in them consistently. I still have gotten acquainted with too many folks down here yet...but give it time.

And with that, I've now officially revived "Outlook from the Outskirts"!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

So Goes The Nation…So Backslides Indiana

Amid the fanfare of becoming the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana for non-medical customers, Colorado appears to be leading an inexorable trend toward relaxing pot laws that’s taking place in all of the United States…EXCEPT Indiana. Because of laws requested and signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence, Hoosiers actually have to deal with even stricter laws and penalties.

In a nutshell, Pence and the ultraconservative, GOP-controlled legislature revised reforms last year to actually increase possession from a misdemeanor to a felony. Ironically, these changes were initially intended to lessen marijuana penalties. During the debate, the Governor said he’s interested in reducing prison populations. "I think we need to focus on reducing crime not reducing penalties," Pence said.

Apparently, the Governor was not swayed by the statement made in 2012 by the head of the Indiana State Police.

While Pence remains resolute in his plans to clamp down on pot, some folks suggest that his motives may be laced with unethical and ulterior motives. From the Daily Kos, a diarist writes that Pence favors stricter penalties because it helps fill the beds in the state’s corporate prison system, whose parent company (the GEO Group) is a huge campaign donor.

“The Indiana governor wants to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a felony because, apparently, we aren't nearly hard enough on those non-violent pot smokers. Or something. Lurking beneath the surface is an insidious actor. The unmentioned hand of political influence guides his actions, as prison corporations like GEO own their candidates and wreck state criminal codes.”

According to followthemoney.org, GEO contributed $12,500 dollars in 2012 to the Pence gubernatorial campaign, and nearly $68,000 dollars campaigns statewide. From the Daily Kos:

“That (campaign) contribution made GEO one of Pence's top 30 corporate contributors, ranking in front of US Steel Corp, Caterpillar, and Koch Industries.”

If these assertions on Pence’s motives are true, then this information serves as one more contemptuous affirmation that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ is nothing more than a huge money-making scam for corporations and the political whores who serve at their beck and call.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Not So Insignificant Anniversary

I have two email accounts, one on gmail.com, which is my primary account. The other is my backup and secondary account, and after getting my daily update, I couldn't help but notice that I've had steady use of this account for 10 years. I established it on Yahoo back in 2004, and I can readily recall this fact because it's reflected in its address...joelal2004@yahoo.com.

Now, I realize that many of you are thinking to yourselves, 'Where've you been?" Sending and receiving email has been routine in your lives long before 2004. In my defense, I had an account briefly during 1997 on the now defunct Hotmail.com while I worked at Indiana State University. I more or less lost the bonus of having access to ISU's computers and with it, the account, after I moved on to another job in 1998.

I set up my Yahoo account while working at Eli Lilly (Elanco) in Clinton, Indiana. I lost this job in 2005, yet I maintained this account by accessing it through frequent visits to the public library. I found it to be a timely and convenient tool to keep in touch with my somewhat nomadic family.

It really wasn't until 2008, when my wife and I did what I jokingly refer to as "joining the 21st Century" and subscribed to home internet service and bought a PC. In my mind now, it's almost impossible to conceive of a life without it, and it really boggles the mind why we were such latecomers to the internet revolution.

Afterwards, my email usage seemed to increase exponentially. I began using it for jobs searches, bill payments, shopping, and of course, correspondence with family and friends. I even used it to establish a platform for pursing an online education. Sometime during 2012, my Yahoo account was 'hacked'. So, I decided to make a new account on Google's gmail service using the address: joel.wells.1@gmail.com.

It's easy to take it for granted. But, upon reflection, the technology of electronic mail (Does anyone call it that anymore?) has had a profound impact on the lives of millions...possibly billions of people. Yes, it has had its unintended drawbacks such as spam, hacking, viruses, and information overload. But after the having the realization of having a functioning email account for a decade, I can remember a time when when we all marveled at its capabilities.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: The Year of Twerking and Selfies

It has become a customary ritual during the waning days of every year. And as 2013 is poised to become history, like clockwork, folks are reflecting on the people, events, and trends that have made the past 12 months unique.

While having its share of politics and news of great significance, 2013, it seems, has had a curiously high percentage of catchy words and phrases. In my humble opinion, the following two entries are the most memorable:

Twerking

Hands down, “twerking” wins the award for generating the most news, social networking talk, and controversy during 2013. The Urban Dictionary defines a twerk as ‘the rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in ones intended audience’.

Pop singer Miley Cyrus and her infamous, and, shall I say, abominable, performance at this year’s VMA music award program catapulted the term into the national lexicon.

Due to my general lack of knowledge of contemporary pop culture, Cyrus’ performance, which was shown on seemingly every media outlet capable of playing video, was my first exposure to the term. My teenage sons, however, say they knew about twerking long before her performance last August.

Selfie

While not quite as earth-shattering as “twerking”, the entry “selfie” has made some significant headlines during the last year. The Urban Dictionary describes a selfie as ‘a picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, MySpace or any other sort of social networking website.’ The picture of me on the right, which I’ve used as profile pic on Facebook, is an example.

The term gained a national audience when President Obama was caught snapping one with other world leaders attending the recent funeral for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Within hours after its release, Obama’s selfie went viral, and his political opponents saw quickly another way to score some partisan points over his supposed narcissism. (First Lady Michelle’s body language in the pic suggested she was bothered, and this also lent fuel to the fire.)

Again, it wasn’t until the incident at Mandela’s funeral until I learned about the term, selfie. On the other hand, I suspect millenials have known about selfies for quite some time.