Monday, November 17, 2014

Trantor




Is it me, or is it getting weird out?

Our culture seems to be changing its mind about this, but I think prison once was about:

a. Holding a person accountable.

b. Setting an example of judging a member of a society and to determine what the “truth” is… (what happened and who did what).

c. Dealing with the individual’s own sense of punishment, so that they are forced to acknowledge society’s penalty and accept it as a judgement of who they are.

d. Relieving the stress on those close to the persons wronged, so they are able to see justice done, and may feel vindicated, in at least the truth of the matter.  It also serves as a social method of “relieving pressure” on a society.

e. Weighing in the possible positive benefits the individual may have for society. Is there training, etc. that can be done.

Is the system just for everyone (including those convicted wrongly)?

I don’t have the answers.   I have a lot of questions.

All in all… the entire society we have seems about to collapse, or shift into something else, and I can’t help but think it is getting weird.

The diseases are pretty freaky, and they are putting a lot of economic and social pressures on the world. 

This thing with ISIL is nuts.

The Russians are taking nearby countries, and all they will about is: “hey folks… Everyone be cool.  It’s all ok.   These guys want to join us and we want to help them out because, by golly, they are Russians.  Legally.  We take the country, they Russia.  If they are not Russia, then they wouldn’t want us, and we would be there…”

The water is running out in the MidWest and it can’t be replaced, because it was all placed there in the Missoula floods 14,000 years ago.  (It might happen again, but it won’t be showing up soon enough to help us out.)

There’s are a few countries out there that are pretty nuts.  And that would be OK if they weren’t sitting in the corner saying nasty little ugly things while they play with biologic or nuclear toys and noxious, anti-social things.

The killing the planet thing is a little disconcerting.  You know, all that pumping this or that into the air and water, or out of the dirt and how it probably isn’t hurting anyone or anything.  There are some weird things happening in the rivers and oceans, but there's a lot of ocean out there anyway...  Even the land species are finding it a little tricky to co-exist with weird Uncle Smart Primate.

Religiously things have gotten pretty weird too.  There's the Quron folks pretty upset that no one believes them that Abraham tried to kill Ishmael, while those who favor the Tora or the Bible people are pretty insistent it was the other brother, Isaac.  There’s the "in the Church stuff" about family issues and life style issues and how that ties into issues about political parties, and programs or the military or freeways or something and various parties get all charged up on one thing or the other.  They seem to find it easy to quit doing their jobs because they want to lead me somewhere they think is going to be better (for someone, I think they said me.)

And I guess it has something to do with taxes. And what they want to spend it on (though they don’t seem too interested in my view of what they should spend it on).

At any rate… things seem to be going a little sideways, lately, and I’m not talking about an early cold storm, or even a freak tsunami, or the emptying of a giant lake or a volcano or earthquake  a nuclear power plant going sideways so some folks are finding it isn't a good idea to fish where the fish glow.

I’m just saying is the whole thing gives me the creeps, like everything local, or global, or even within the solar system some where…is just sort of waiting to see who tears things apart first.

It sort of feels like it could be a Seldon Crisis sort of thing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day



To the veterans out there… Thank you.

I have, for nearly all my life, thanked veterans, police officers, and firemen for their efforts on behalf of country and community.

In every conversation I have had with a veteran about the wars they have been in, and about war in general, I have not met a group of people more anti-war than veterans.

Something has been bothering me about the adulation for veterans since 9-11, and I think I have finally teased out of my subconscious what it is.

It isn’t right.

Bear with me.

I always felt a twinge, one I wasn’t sure about, when I heard people thanking a veteran for protecting our freedom when they have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan.  Was that what they were doing?  Or were they following orders from politicians who had other reasons than preserving freedom?

Those veterans joined the military, with the idea of serving country, protecting our country, preserving our freedom. Is that what they are doing?

After the Vietnam War we moved away from the draft and embraced the volunteer army.  Those who serve do so because they chose to put themselves under the authority of the military and the civilian government which controls it.

Prior to that the government simply drafted the people needed to fight a war.  That meant the war they fought had to be justified.  They had to sell the reasons for that war to the people.  

America fought fiercely in wars in which the fate of the world was at stake.  And Americans volunteered for those wars (in addition to being drafted).  

The situation now is men volunteer to stand ready, and politicians spend those lives as they see fit.

It isn’t enough to salve my conscience to tell a veteran thank you for risking his life, especially when it may not have been for my freedom but for political maneuvering or to leverage oil, territory, or other goals.

It isn’t enough to tsk tsk poor medical care or small pensions or offer counseling to veterans who come home damaged and have no homes.

Perhaps it would be better to bring back the draft and have us all be put at risk for the decisions of our leaders.  Perhaps our leaders would be more cautious with lives if there was an immediate appreciation for the human costs.


For those of you who serve in the military, I thank you.  For those of you who have risked your lives to fight in wars past, I honor you. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Flag




Last night I took my family to the rodeo.  My two year old son was amazed, it was his first rodeo.  My wife was amazed also, it was her first rodeo as well.

At the beginning there was the usual sort of dedication.  A rider carrying a crisp, brilliantly colored U.S. flag. A poem, recited by John Wayne, played as the ride went from a walk, to a trot, to full speed racing around the arena.

My heart swelled.

I am deeply patriotic.  I get emotional when I think about my country. 

I love my country, but there is a cancer spreading.  A political cancer.

Within the two main parties is a growing intolerance, a growing anger, a growing resentment, even hatred for the opposing view.

Demoracts and Republicans are pushing in opposite directions.  The Progressives and the Tea Partys are each pushing their side of the aisle to move further from consensus, further from compromise.

The vitriol, the anger, the hatred has driven our country to the point where nothing gets done.  Each side sabotages the other.  Each side blocks progress.  Each side manuevers each bill to include pork and deals in a massive chess game which has little to do with running our country in a way that seeks what is best for the whole, but rather what is best for their party.

I’m fairly in the middle.  I was a member of one party for decades, then switched when I felt that side had gone too far.  I am unhappy with my new affiliation because it includes planks in its platform I find distasteful.  To accept either party is to accept compromises of my beliefs, and neither party is without the stain of flinging mud.

I write this because of that flag I watched racing around the arena last night.  I write this because of the pledge of allegiance I have my students recite.  I write this because of the National Anthem I love to hear, love to sing.  I write this because I love this country and I am dismayed by the intolerance and the hatred which is splitting us up.

I hope, I pray, that those who feel similar will speak up when things are heated, especially when the diatribes are coming from one’s own party, and will help to pull on the reins of this war of words which is turning our country into a bickering mess from which no progress is made.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Not It

This paragraph is an aside... I've had many experiences since I was really posting here. I stopped (mostly) because I wanted to give space and privacy to some people who've been important in my life of late.  Anyway... now to the current tale...

I'm being sued.

A couple of years ago I had a little fender bender. Two cars giving each other a peck on their respective cheeks (mine on the front, his on the rear). It happened at 20 mph. I hit his left rear fender, behind the wheel.

Not too bad, $700 damage to my bumper. I don't know how much to his.

I could look it up. The paperwork must be one of those doc files sent on a disc.

My insurance told me to let them know when I get served and they will deal with it right away.  Yesterday I got a flowery little card:

Somebody Here 
Has An Important Delivery
Please Call Me Today

Oh... you noticed?    "Darla Dee" went as far as to capitalize the "An"! Must be very important.

Apparently, sometime after the accident, this poor fellow needed a chiropractor. The pain; simply too fierce to permit work.

So he's suing me.

My insurance company says they decided against settling with him when they learned he had another accident after mine and that he's suing that guy too.

The gal I spoke to on the phone let it slip is trying to serve me papers and since I consider the whole thing the very reason we pay too much in car insurance (fraud) and because (and this is the important part) it's been a long time since I played "Not IT!" with someone, I'm going to have a little fun.

If she walks up to me, I will smile and take the paper and contact my insurance company. "Got me!" Those are the rules. But, until then, I can play Sam Spade, private eye, seasoned gumshoe who can shake any tail.

HA!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Trip

"I think it's getting lighter... Maybe it's too early, but it looks like the sky is getting lighter."


Steve cocked a heavy eye to the sky above the mountains. “Yeah’ it’s getting lighter.”


More cars were streaming from the left. I kept guessing that the next line of them would be Hwy. 99. Each time I was wrong, so I stopped. The increased traffic told us two things: 1. People were headed to work & 2. We were no longer in the exact center of nowhere.


We were at the “back side” of the San Bernardino mountains, almost 900 miles from home.


We’d worked all day the day before, driven all afternoon, all evening. Night fell near Roseburg. Grants Pass provided a Burger King. I think it was near midnight when a representative of the State of California questioned us about any produce we might have. We snuck across the border without revealing the two bananas in the back seat.


We changed places now and then, rolling down I-5, but as it was dark most of our time was spent talking or listening to the stereo.


As we slid over the top of Grapevine Pass, traffic got thick, especially as we transitioned to Hwy. 210.


We pulled off the freeway, in the general direction of our destination, looking for coffee. McDonald’s or Subway? Subway. The breakfast sandwich wasn’t too bad; I recharged my phone. We chatted quietly about our drive, the kids we saw walking to school, our mission.


We were a couple hours from the insurance agency where Dad had stashed the better items. We got there a couple of hours before our appointment. We found a burger place where Steve changed into his California duds: shorts and sandals.


I cleaned up travel debris from the back seat, cleared the Jeep’s rear compartment for our cargo. A half dozen garbage trucks crowded into the parking lot, a Hunter S. Thompsonesque convention. Perhaps Castenada, I dunno. A dozen cheerful garbage truck drivers milled around.


We reconnoitered the industrial park where the insurance agency was, noting entries (which I later forgot) and the alley where there was a sort of garage. We laughed at the idea of scoping it out first, noting there weren’t any snipers in sight.


We needed beer.


Unfortunately, California seems to have a dismal appreciation for beer.


We discovered California’s appalling lack of micro brews during the night when we tried to get a beer at a Denny’s somewhere in the middle of nowhere. They didn’t serve beer (apparently there are only two Denny’s in California which do), but we were welcome to buy some at the truck stop store and bring it in. There we discovered the best they had to offer was Miller Light. We settled for coffee.


The same was true for Rancho Cucamonga. No decent beer. No IPA’s. No amber ales. No dark, no light, no hand crafted pilsners. We found a Mexican restaurant that had Coronas, which would do.


The time came. We went to the agency. Steve waited bleery eyed in the car while I went in.


The guy wasn’t there.


I waited.


Steve waited.


The agent called. Someone would show me where our items were. We pulled around the building and I backed through the open garage door.


Under a comforter, atop an old desk, was the pile of stuff we had come for.


Several rifles, shot guns, a converted WWII 50 caliber tripod mounted machine gun. Stuff like that.


“Where’s the Luger?”


The guy didn’t know.


“There was supposed to be a Luger. There was supposed to be a bunch of hand guns.”


He didn’t know.


I loaded everything carefully, very carefully, into the back of the Jeep. Ammo went into the back seat, away from the guns.


We were supposed to meet a relative of mine and exchange these items for money to send to my dad who is very ill, nine time zones away. I’d been clearly told not to contact a gun dealer. This relative was to be trusted.


Should I call him? Where were all the other guns? An aunt was supposed to have some. Perhaps my dad’s ex wife had the other guns? I called her, left a message. Called my aunt, explained the situation.


“Will, we have a bunch of guns here, but there aren’t any hand guns. There’s a rocket, and a bazooka, and I think some sort of bomb.”


I looked at Steve. He had his head cocked, listening to my aunt over the speaker.


I decided I’d head to my aunt’s.


“I’m only going to say this once, then I’ll let it go.”


Steve didn’t look happy.


“Tell me you called this guy first. Tell me you did everything you could to know where everything was, and what was supposed to be where.”


“I did. I phoned this guy, I emailed him. I was told there were 30 or 40 guns here. I don’t know what happened to the rest.”


Steve didn’t look satisfied.


“And I didn’t know about a bazooka, or rockets, or,” I couldn’t help smiling a little at the weirdness of what I was saying, “a bomb.”


“OK. I can accept that. Let’s get to your aunt’s and figure this out.”


He was as good as his word.


My aunt is sweet. She welcomed us in. As we pulled up she waved and moved her Cadillac out of the drive so I could back the Jeep up against the garage. She gave me a big hug, welcomed Steve, and swept us into her condo.


My aunt introduced her partner to Steve, got us something to drink.


My sister wanted three of the best guns. She was in Cincinnati or Chicago or somewhere. Long haul trucker. Three of the best out of what was looking like only 20 or so guns. I set that aside for now.


“So where are the guns?”


She showed me. More rifles. More shot guns. The bazooka had a hole in the side of its barrel. The rocket launcher was in two or three pieces. I think. I don’t know that much about them. There was a rocket sort of thing. It didn’t look like it worked. I’d seen one on the TV show Sons of Guns and it should have had a grenade type pin in it, and the bottom didn’t look like it would accept the lifting charge.


“Where’s the bomb?”


“Right there by the door.”


I picked it up.


“Aunt Mary, this isn’t a bomb.”


“Really?! What a relief!”


“It’s a smudge pot. There should be a wick under there, and you fill it with diesel and light it to keep the frost away from the trees in an orange grove.”


“Oh! I remember those!!!”


“Yeah. It’s actually kind of cool, but it’s really nothing more than an antique door stop.”


We got ahold of my dad’s ex and tried to figure out what happened to all the hand guns and other rifles.


Apparently the guns had wandered out of my dad’s former office. They never locked the door and people, friends, former employees, and acquaintances had been streaming in and out of there for months, ever since my dad had moved to Thailand.


The hand guns and who knew what else were gone. What was in that living room, and what was in the back of the Jeep, was all of it.


I texted my relative, wrote I was ready to sell. He texted back. He didn’t want to meet that afternoon. If we could wait until morning he would bring four more guys who were also interested in buying stuff.


Do you know these guys well? Can I trust them?


Yes. I know them well. It’s OK.


I can’t take checks on something like this.


We have cash. See you at 10:00 tomorrow.


My aunt’s partner, a former homicide detective, offered advice. “Make your deal, but be careful. Do not go to a gun dealer. They will go in the back and you won’t like what happens. There’s nothing wrong with this in Oregon, they sell guns there as easy as selling shoes. But here in California, things are a little stricter.”


Our weariness was clear and my aunt showed us where we could nap. A couple hours later I felt normal. Sort of.


My aunt and her partner (who was very upbeat considering she’s had 18 operations for cancer in the last five years) took us out for dinner.


They wanted to take us to “the coolest restaurant ever.” A chinese buffet. Steve and I exchanged glances, but what the heck.


“Sure! Sounds good!”


They were astonished to find the restaurant closed. Permanently.


Across the parking lot was a Mexican food restaurant. Bright colors, surfboards, shark & turtle skeletons, all sorts of funk, was crammed into the small building. Plants sprung from every remaining nook and the outdoor propane space heaters were inviting.


What a great meal!


Did we want some guacamole? It’s free...


We did.


A young woman brought out a tray with a couple of avocados, onions, cilantro, and spices. Soon we were dipping chips into the best guac ever.


They mixed the margaritas at our table too.


The food was fantastic.


We went back to the condo.


Steve dozed while we talked.


I haven’t had such a good talk with my aunt and her partner in all my adult life. We talked faith and family and I poured myself a few shots of bourbon. We talked until 1:30 in the morning.


Then I went to bed. I hadn’t slept more than two hours in two days.


I got up at 5:30, showered, packed.


My aunt sent us off. She helped me wrap the guns (etcetera) in garbage bags and slip them into the back of the Jeep.


She gave us a sack of chicken salad sandwiches.


“Have a safe trip! Don’t go to a gun dealer or anyone like that. Be careful!”


Off we went to Huntington Beach.


I found a parking spot near the pier and Steve and I strolled past the surfers, skaters, joggers, and those also seeking breakfast to a sports bar where we found all we wanted.


I think one of the best parts of the trip was getting to know Steve. We talked a lot, along all those miles. When Steve had heard about what I planned to do, and why, he offered to help. It seemed like too much to ask of someone, but he volunteered and I accepted.


Steve is who I thought he was.


He may not be exactly love beads and paisley, but he’s as close as anyone comes any more and I am glad to call him a friend.


“I want to tell you a story.”


I looked up from my beer and Mexican breakfast thingie.


He told a little story. The upshot was that he was glad to have helped me in this little adventure, but he’d rather not be at the climatic moment.


So, when it was time I dropped Steve off at a 50’s style diner and went to the industrial park where I was to meet my relative and his four friends.


My iPhone guided me to the address but it didn’t look right. The parking lot was torn up, no blinds on the windows, no furniture in the office. The gate was damaged and there was graffiti on the wall. I got out.


10:00 on the nose. No one there.


I got back in the Jeep. If Steve had been there, he would have given me that look he gave me the day before when he said he was only going to ask once.


A car pulled up, drove by slowly. The two men in it weren’t familiar. Not my relative.


I got in the Jeep, pulled onto the street. The other car pulled into the parking lot. I paused, backed up, parked, got out.


“Are you Will? Yeah, you must be. You look like your dad.”


We shook hands, made introductions. My relative showed; he’d brought his three year old. They’d been to the firing range getting the little tyke his gun safety practice.


A water leak had flooded the office, parking lot, and that is why it was all under construction. I pulled the Jeep behind the building and backed up to the back door.


We began unloading the guns. It was quite a lot of them when all spread out. We set the WWII machine gun up on its tripod with the ammo belts around it. There were quite a lot of ammo boxes, the metal military type, and one large wooden crate.


I laid out the rifles and shot guns, and though it was a loss of money for my dad, I was glad there weren’t hand guns. Well, the German Luger might have been cool.


The other guys weren’t going to show.


That was OK. They started picking up guns, talking about what they were.


There was a very crude, probably British, machine gun. There were lots of shotguns, deer rifles, military weapons.


A gun with a folding bayonet was a 1955 Russian M44. It had probably been kicked around the Soviet Union for a while and eventually sold to the North Vietnamese. It probably found it’s way to the states in the duffle bag of a returning U.S. soldier.


There was a musket, a 250 Savage, a couple of 19th century Winchesters, a 30-06, many more.


The relative said “Look what I found.”


We turned to see him holding a hand grenade.


“Put it down!” we all said.


“I don’t think it’s loaded, look.” He held up the bottom to us, showing a hole in it.


He fingered the ring.


“Don’t touch that!” we all said. He smiled and put it down.


One guy was particularly knowledgeable, and especially tight with his money offers.


“What kind of work do you do?” I asked.


“I’m a gun dealer.”


!


It turned out pretty good. I walked away with eight guns and a large amount of cash.


I was ready to head home.


Steve wasn’t.


“We did it!” I said. “We sold what I could and now I can drop some money into the bank where Dad will be able to get at it.”


A waitress asked if I wanted a menu. “No thank you.”


“I’m glad,” he said. He looked at me closely, smiled a little.


“I know you want to get home to your family, but I have to ask. We aren’t that far from my son’s house, and I’d like to see him.”


I hesitated. Almost a thousand miles north was my wife and child. His son was 75 miles in the other direction. We had to.


So we did.


I’m glad we did.


Steve has a very good son. He was the perfect host. His wife made a fantastic tortilla soup. The little boy was very cute.


I took a four hour nap, and was ready for the road.


The drive back was long. Very. We ran out of steam somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Slept for an hour at a rest stop.


We listened to a funny audio book, laughing until we had tears rolling down our cheeks. We talked about everything. Family, faith, friends. We debated if the mileage signs indicated the nearer edge of a city or its center and tested our theories (Steve was right, it’s the center). We rolled through sunshine and rain and snow. Twice the freeway came to a stop. Accidents.


And finally, I pulled into Steve’s driveway.


I’ve given my brother a couple of guns to remember Dad by. I’ve sold the rest. The money was deposited and he has drawn it out to get the medical equipment he needed. I kept a souvenir C ration.


A few pages aren’t enough to fully share what those four days, those 2200 miles were like. Eleven hours sleep isn’t enough to do such a trip, but we did it. I shan’t do it again, but, it’s good to know I can still muster that sort youthful endurance.


A few pages isn’t enough to fully share the sights and experiences, the huge snowflakes, the mountains, the stories, the laughs, the nervous moments.


A few pages isn’t enough to fully share what it’s like to find a friend like Steve.




Friday, August 26, 2011

A Day in a Life


Being a dad is pretty cool. How cool? Very. Especially if you have the great fortune to be the parent of the most wonderful baby in the world. Here are some snapshots of this little miracle so the rest of the world can share in this blessing.

#1: Food is good. Food is a very, very good thing.

#2: Sleep is good. Sleep is very very good. OK, maybe this isn't #2, but I figured I'd skip #2 even though #2 is a BIG part of his day.

#3: Daddy time is a good thing. Especially for Daddy.

#4: Daddy has other wonderful things in his life.

#5: Bed time. I love singing to him, dancing with him, loving on him. Last night, during this pic, I sang...

Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monsters gone,
He's on the run and your daddy's here,

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy,

Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Every day in every way,
It's getting better and better,

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy...

It rained a little last night. Distant thunder. I woke a few times, fed my son. Even did a little house work at 1:30. And when he began to fuss at 5:30, I had the privilege of sharing with him the morning air, fresh from the night showers. He ate breakfast on the back deck, feeling the breeze on his face, hearing the rustle of leaves...


Momma thinks I'm crazy, and threatens to take pictures of me tearing around the house with the dog in my shorts. Little does she know that such a threat doesn't bother me! HA!

"Honey Bunny.... Don't you dare! You're in big trouble mister!"
But she can't resist my silliness...
So.... after getting some coffee into her I talk her into going to the park... 6:00 a.m. is a wonderful part of the day!


See?! Very enjoyable!

Now for some breakfast!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Doctor Visit Today


There was a measure heading for the Fall ballots in San Francisco, but it was struck down by the courts.

Proponents of the measure decry male circumcision as barbaric, unnecessary, and a mutilation (circum meaning "around" and c├Ždere meaning "to cut").


We are taking our son in for the procedure in an hour.


It makes me uneasy, the idea of inflicting any pain, or even discomfort, on my son.


So why do it?


I could point to a recent study which indicates that circumcision makes it more difficult to contract AIDS. That really isn’t a motive for me, but there are other health arguments and they do carry a little weight.


The measure was tossed because it virtually attacks those of the Jewish faith who are required to do this.


Though my faith does not require it, there is something about the way this practice was given to Abraham, father of three world religions, and he was instructed to do this not only to all male members (unfortunate pun there) of his family, but also those in his employ (and my son is ticked because a potential employer wanted him to cut his hair!).


It may not be a big deal but it does prompt a little introspection in me (doesn’t everything?).


So, partly from tradition, partly from spiritual/theological reasons, partly from health, and partly because I feel it to just feel right, we are getting my son ready for a trip to the doctor to get his pencil sharpened.


============


Just got home from the doc's Everything OK. He didn't even cry, though he doesn't seem very happy.


Just before they worked on him I told him I wouldn't love him any less, even though he was. (Pediatrics humor)