Friday, March 30, 2012

So I bought myself a Mega Millions ticket

I had a dollar. And now I have a dream.
I've never been a big fan of the lottery. In fact, I abhor it. I feel that it prays on needy people, taking in — by far — more money from those who can ill-afford to spend it than it dishes out.

For anyone who's read the Hunger Games, it's not all that different. It's the poor who risk the most.

But $640 million sure would come in handy. Hell, $640 wouldn't hurt! And with the fever pitch surrounding the biggest jackpot in lottery history, I decided to get in and buy myself a ticket.

Of course, as soon as you decide to buy a ticket, your mind wanders to "what if I won?"

Let's say I won the whole shebang. And I was the sole winner. $640 million works out to $24 million per year for 20 years (about $16 million after taxes). If you break that down further, it's $300,000 per week for the next 20 years. In other words, I'll make in a month what I'm *hoping* to make cumulatively over the rest of my life.

So ... how to spend it?

In the first week, I could pay off all my debts: Car loan, college loans, credit cards, medical bills, property taxes, etc. Debt free in a week. Love it.

In the second week, I'd set aside money for my oldest daughter's college. The little one's college would be paid for the week after.

In week three, I'd buy some things I've always wanted, like a home of my own. Big enough for me and my girls and my girlfriend and her kids. We're talking five bedrooms minimum. And a beautiful back yard. Also, a new car. As much as I love my Honda Element, I'd like a newer one. But, yeah, I'd probably get another Element. Even with a $300,000 weekly allowance, I don't see my tastes changing too much.

London 2012 Olympics.
High on my list of things to do if I win.
Week four would be time for a vacation. Spending money is hard work, ya know? I'd like to visit Europe — Rome, London ... maybe Paris if Heather forces me to. And I'd send my ex-wife and our girls to Hawaii. Her brother lives there and winning the lottery is about the only way we could afford for her to go. 

The second month of payments would probably go to fund all my favorite causes — the SPCA, the ACLU, the YMCA and the USSR (that last one's a joke, for those who don't know. But the first three are legit). There's a lot of things in Western New York that could really use some financial help. And someone needs to step up to the plate.

By month three, I have everything I need and want ... and still have $300,000 a week coming in! I'd help out some friends that I know could use some extra scratch, make healthy contributions to those who have helped me along the way (family, friends and some who were practically strangers) and probably get a little stupid, spending boatloads of money on things I don't need and didn't — until now — know I wanted (think Brewster's Millions). For example, wouldn't you love to have a building named after you at your Alma Mater? Yeah! Me too! (I just realized that).

I could be really foolish for a whole year, walking into random bars and restaurants, picking up everyone's tab, etc. I would take random people Christmas shopping and get everything on their list. Whole families could have the best Christmas ever. And I'd still have 19 years worth of weekly $300,000 paychecks.

So I know, buying lottery tickets is stupid. And really, it goes against my very being. But the dreams I've had in the last couple hours were totally worth that buck.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Light the Night

There was a candlelight vigil for
Trayvon Martin in Lockport on Monday.
This week's column focuses on the death of Trayvon Martin, who was killed on Feb. 26.

Rather than rehash the column here, why don't you just read it in its entirety.

Thanks again to Melissa Junke for putting on the candlelight vigil Monday night at Lock 34 Bar & Grill. And thanks to her brother Bryan for allowing her to hold it there.

Despite only having one day to plan for the event, the vigil drew nearly 100 people.

Monday, March 26, 2012

We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet

It’s been nearly 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” 
The “I Have a Dream” speech laid out a dramatic vision calling for not only racial equality, but an end to discrimination.
We’ve come a long way since, but we’re not all the way there yet. Every day people are still judged by the color of their skin, the flow of their walk and the style of their clothes. 
I’m lucky enough to work at night when no one comes into the office. The day shift has to look presentable to the public, but I have no such requirement, so some days I may not be as polished as others. I wear what’s comfortable and warm — or cool, depending on the weather.
I wear hats — a lot. I have many friends who have most likely never seen me without a hat on. Oftentimes, I coordinate my outfit for the day based on what hat I want to wear. The primary reason I wear them is because I like them. But there’s another deeper reason. When I was much younger, I was told that no one that wears a hat amounts to anything. That sounded like a challenge to me. I’ve worn a hat ever since.
I wore a hooded sweatshirt to work on Monday. It’s not uncommon for me to wear a hoodie to work — especially on days when the high reaches a mere 38 degrees. 
I don’t usually wear my clothing as a statement, but Monday was different. I wore my hoodie as a sign of solidarity with Trayvon Martin and those like him who have been labeled by society to be thugs and hoodlums, in large part because of their hooded sweatshirts.
Monday night I went to a vigil for Trayvon, the 17-year-old high school student who was shot and killed on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain. Martin’s biggest offense from what I’ve gleaned from media reports over the last month: He wore a hoodie.
I was one of about 100 people at the vigil, candles lit, sitting silent, listening to Mark Sanders, pastor of Refuge Temple of Christ in Lockport as he quoted King himself and said, “I don’t remember when it became a crime to wear a certain piece of clothing.”
Sanders pointed out that while this all may have been new to some of us, for many in the crowd it was a long-dealt-with issue. 
Sanders said, “I don’t have all the details. I just know that something stinks.”
I don’t have all the details on the slaying of Trayvon Martin either, but I will tell you that I believe it was a slaying. From what I can piece together, he was hunted down and shot — primarily for wearing a hoodie. And being black.
We’ve come a long way since 1963. We’re not there yet, but outpourings like the one I saw on Monday night are helping us to get there.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Good words ...

“We’re not as racist as we used to be, we’re not as sexist as we used to be, we’re not as homophobic as we used to be. Our only remaining prejudice is we just don’t want to be around anybody who disagrees with us. We need to be around people who disagree with us. Nobody’s right all the time.”

- William Jefferson Clinton

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Observations from my bike ride

It was far too nice to stay home and watch Scrubs all day (although I did some of that this morning), so I dusted off my bike and took it out for a spin. First time this year, so I had to do a little maintenance and put some air in the tires. Chain could still use some oil, but other than that, it's in decent shape. Well ... I need a new water bottle, lock and air pump. But other than THAT ...

Nothing like a ride to clear your head and get your blood pumping. And it's funny the things you notice at 10 miles per hour that aren't quite so clear at 30 MPH.

I used a program on my phone called "Map My Ride." There's several different programs by the same company: Map My Run. Map My Walk. Map My Fitness. Map My Hamster ... okay, I may have made that last one up. Anyway, I accidentally stopped it in the middle of my ride, so I have two maps (below) instead of just one. BUT if you combine them, I went 9.46 miles in just under 66 minutes. Not too shabby.


Things I noticed:
  • If you smile at people, they smile back
  • Bikes are invisible to cars
  • Stop signs and red lights are merely recommendations
  • All the problems I had before my bike ride, I still have, but in that hour and a half I was out on my ride, my only concern was "Oh, dear God, don't let me slide under that car"
  • When you're going up a hill, it seems like you've been on that incline forever
  • The second you hit the peak and start going down hill, you forget you were ever sick of peddling up
  • The view on a bike ride is much better than the view while Gazelling
  • The flowers sure are blooming early (at right)
  • Cold Springs Cemetery is beautiful and would be a great place to go with Heather for photos
  • The path along the Erie Canal in Lockport takes some odd turns. They should rectify that. (More on that later)
  • They should fill the canal up. There's no point in waiting
  • USUALLY water is an ingredient for me, but after a workout, I drink a gallon of it
  • I was smarter while I was on my ride
  • This list was longer in my head

Beautiful day in Lockport ...

I think I'll go for a ride.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Who got hate mail?

My most frequent critic says 'hi.'
This guy!
It was in reaction to last week's column ...
Letter reads:
March 13, 2012
Mr Leffler
     re - "Your Column" in today's US&J
     You really are a piece of work!!
     You "probably won't vote for Barack Obama". What a laugh - If you even think out loud of doing so, you'll "probably" lose your job with the US&J.
     You spoke of loons - Aren't those running for president on the Republican ticket just that?
     Talk of riding both sides of the fence - First on the list Bull crapper you!!!
By the way, it's the same writer as a previously posted hate mail. It's nice to be loved. :)
Of course, my favorite hate mail ever was from someone I thought was a friend. It always works out that way, doesn't it?

Random thoughts on state of society

The debate over health care in this country has gone from bad to worse, with accusations bandied about by both sides, saying that the GOP hates women and that the left hates religion.
Personally, I think both sides might be oversimplifying the issue a bit and everyone needs to step away from the microphone until cooler heads prevail.
I can say this however: Few things sicken me more than the number of people who hate in the name of their God. I say “their God” instead of just “God,” because it’s obviously a different God than the one I know.
Using religion as a means to attack someone just seems to go against everything religion is supposed to mean. It’s as though some people’s Bibles only came with the book of Leviticus. None of that feel-good New Testament stuff. It’s maddening.
The Republican race for the White House continues to muddle along, ever closer to what almost looks like a guaranteed brokered convention. As you may know, I’m a Ron Paul fan, but he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance, so I basically don’t have a horse in that race. Come April 24, I won’t be able to vote in the New York primary, but I have to imagine it will actually count this year, something it seldom does.
My oldest daughter was telling me the other day that she’s scared for the future because she’ll be voting in four years, but doesn’t know anything about the current race for the White House. She then named the four GOP candidates and stated briefly what they stand for — or at least what they are perceived to stand for.
Personally, I don’t fear for the future. I fear for the present because my 14-year-old daughter who considers herself uninformed knows more about the contest than most of my adult friends.
I’ve long suggested that there should be an entrance exam to the voting booth complete with five basic questions about the candidates themselves. They should be factual questions that anyone who’s voting would know the answer to. Your grade on the exam would be equal to how much your vote counts. If you get only one question right, your vote only counts 20 percent. If you get them all right, your vote counts 100 percent. This would ensure that the most important decisions made in this great nation of our are being made from those in the know.
Unfortunately, it’s not that way and everyone’s vote counts the same meaning our decisions are being made by the dumb masses.
I understand political expediency and the art of compromise, but I’m disappointed that Gov. Andrew Cuomo caved on his promise to veto the legislative district lines if they were not drawn by an independent (non-partisan) panel. As such, we are doomed to 10 more years of near-guaranteed incumbency protection.
The same people who have gotten us into the mess that we’re in are pretty much a shoe-in to keep us wallowing in the same mess for another decade.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Where we stand ...

Think Mitt's worried yet? Just remember, from this point on, a vote for anyone other than Mitt Romney is a vote for a brokered convention. And a vote for a brokered convention is a vote for Obama. ... or something like that.

In New York, we vote April 24. Romney, Santorum and Paul will all still be candidates. Gingrich will not. In fact, I imagine Newt will drop out prior to next week's primary in Illinois.

There's a rumor of a secret Paul/Romney alliance, but I'm not buying it. 
GOP Delegate Count as of March 15, 2012.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How'd you get here? ...

These search terms got people to this website this week. The karma thing is kind of funny. I can't help but wonder why someone got her via "paris sonic jihad." Also, Is there a Scott Leffler that plays football? Apparently, there is (kind of). I knew of Scott Leffler the baseball player. Also, there is a Scott Leffler who is an MMA fighter. And I just learned of a basketball player named Scott Leffler. Apparently, Scott Leffler is a sporty name. Who knew?

Making tracks ...

Got a super cool new app for my phone called Pixlr-o-matic. Some of the features are INCREDIBLE. (and it's free)
For more photos from today's trip to the railroad tracks, click here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's all a matter of perspective ...

Same photo ... taken from five feet apart.
Beautiful ...

On the president and gas prices

This week's column in the US&J, Tonawanda News and Medina Journal-Register talks about the "loons" who blame the president for everything, particularly highlighting gas prices.

Here's a couple news articles on the topic:

1) Voters blame president for gas prices. Experts say not to fast. (Washington Post)

2) The claim that won't die: Did Obama want higher gas prices? (also WP)

And while I'm sending you to other places, check out this story about the New York Assembly and Senate's complete inability to draw lines for new Congressional districts in the Daily News.

Florence Nightingale for president?

The more I hear people complain about Barack Obama, the more I like the guy.

Now to be clear, I didn’t vote for him the first time. I don’t think he’s done a particularly good job. And I probably won’t vote for him this time around. But I find myself defending him on a regular basis because of the unfounded claims made by people I can only refer to as loons.

For example, I’ve read repeatedly that the price of gasoline has doubled since Obama became president, noting that he’s the reason that prices have jumped the way they have. tells us that in mid- to late-2008, the price of gasoline dropped significantly in Buffalo from $4.26 a gallon to $1.81. It has been on a steady incline ever since. Worth noting here, of course, is that it was $4.26 in the summer of 2008. But to hear the loons tell it, it was $1.81 until Obama took office.

They’ll tell you, of course, that the spike in gas prices from 2005 to 2008 had nothing to do with former President George W. Bush, but the spike from 2008 until 2012 is the sole fault of President Obama.

The loons seem to believe that their guy couldn’t possibly have been the problem (this goes with the left-wing loons who serve as Obama apologists, too). The fact of the matter is, the price of things go up and our foreign policy doesn’t help matters. It is, of course, the same foreign policy that has guided us over the course of the past dozen administrations or so.

The problem isn’t Obama. And it wasn’t Bush. The problem — as is so often the case — is us. But it’s easier to blame Obama.

I don’t hear the same people who are blaming Obama for gas prices also giving him credit for the stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hovered around 8,000 points when Obama was inaugurated. It now stands at about 13,000. That’s quite a bump.

Likewise, unemployment spiked at the end of George W. Bush’s time in office, hitting 7.8 percent in January of 2009. It further jumped to 10 percent in October of that year, nine months into Obama’s first term. Since October of 2009, however, it has (very) slowly but steadily declined to where it stands now at just over 8 percent.

But I hear nary a word about that. All I hear these days is gas prices. And when I do hear about the stock market or unemployment, I’m told it would be better were it not for Obama and his horrible fiscal policies. Oh and he’s a Communist.

I’ve been called a Communist before. I know what a Communist is. Barack Obama is not a Communist. He may truly be inept, but he’s not a Communist.

For the record, I’ve been called a Fascist before, too. I’m not one of those either. I’m just a guy who gets irritated by other people’s B.S.

While I’m very unlikely to cast a vote for Barack Obama come November, I do sympathize for the guy. And if I end up feeling bad enough for him, I might just vote for him.

Dear loons, you’ve overplayed your hand. And the reasonable people of the world are going to sympathize for a guy they probably would never vote for otherwise. Get back to reality so we can find someone who can actually do the job.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Rush to judgment is wrong

Rush Limbaugh has stepped in it again.

The question is, will he be able to step out of it? Or were his comments about Georgetown student Sandra Fluke too far outside the realm of what is considered acceptable for him to come back from.

For those who missed it, Limbaugh said Fluke — who testified before Congress about the need for birth control coverage provided by insurance companies — was a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

As of this writing, El Rushbo has lost no less than seven advertisers for his daily talk show. While he has apologized, it came off as forced and insincere, which it most likely was.

I wanted to write a column in defense of Rush. I really did. After all, he only said what half of the country seems to believe. The problem is, I can’t defend the half of the country that seems so clearly wrong to me.

Somehow we’ve reached a plateau where contraceptives are a dirty word, only taken by women of ill repute and only worn by men of questionable character.

I’m not entirely sure how this came to be, but somewhere in our not-too-distant past, we stumbled upon a place where it’s okay to think (and apparently speak) ill of people for living a different lifestyle than you. Ironically, this is veiled under the guise of “religious freedom.”

The same half of the country that is always crying about abortions seems to believe that anything that might prevent pregnancy — short of abstinence — is immoral and should therefore be banned. In the same breath that they denounce abortion, they also suggest that the thing that best prevents the leading cause of abortion — unwanted pregnancy — should not be used.

I can, therefore, only assume that that half of the country thinks that women should be barefoot and pregnant often (thus making more jobs available to men, I guess). Either that or they’re abstinent.

Actually, the abstinent theory might hold some water. It would explain why they’re so angry all the time.

Limbaugh and his puritan cohorts might have the First Amendment right to say what they believe, including calling law students names, but it certainly doesn’t give them any moral standing, does it?

The Puritan Right has darn near idolized Limbaugh for nearly two decades now. And they have — in fact — put him before God. I find it ironic how hateful some people think God is, prime example being the Westboro Baptist crowd.

As much as I want to defend Limbaugh’s First Amendment right and note the fact that he’s simply saying what half of the country is thinking, I am reminded that there is such a thing as being right. And defending someone who’s so very wrong just because a lot of people believe in what he is saying is definitely not the right thing for me to do.

I don’t expect any real apology from Limbaugh. Or his sycophants. I can only hope that they evolve into a more enlightened state — one in which genuine dialog trumps demagoguery.