Friday, July 20, 2018

Since it's in the news

With all the hullabaloo in the news about Russia, I thought I'd drop this in here.

As the old saying goes...
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

We're not perfect

On the eve of our national holiday, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, it occurs to me that, huh, as a nation, we're not perfect. We're far from it. One reads the feeds from the internet, be in from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the many other feeds that is the modern world of social media and one gets the impression that our country is sinking into a toilet.

No, we're not perfect. Never have been. There hasn't been a country or government the world has seen that stands the test of criticism from its own people. Well, maybe Canada, perhaps. Not too many others. What if the world of social media suddenly disappeared from our computer pages? Tomorrow on July 4th you wake up and there is no Facebook, no Twitter. How much would you be connected to the thoughts of someone else, a friend or a friend of a friend? Would you still be outraged about things that have been happening for two hundred years but you never gave it a second thought before social media?

What would happen if we walked back in time, lets say to the late 1960's. It was the height of the Vietnam War. American troops were flooding Southeast Asia. To tell us of it, we had mostly two outlets; the nightly news and newspapers. What we didn't have was the opinion of nearly everyone on the planet bombarding our eyes. What would 1970 have looked like if social media was a force for that generation? As it was, that war was the first to be shoved into the American living room. The average family saw first hand the horrors of war, the brutality, the inhumanity we as a species inflicted upon each other.

What we see now is a reflection of the voices in America. It would have been no different fifty years ago. We have not really changed as a country, we just hear more voices that in the past.

On this anniversary of our nation, God bless the United States. For all our trials and tribulations this is still the place more people flock to for a better life, a better world for themselves.

Happy Fourth of July America.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Why we work

Well, that seems like there's an obvious answer to that statement. Mostly you would be correct but the reasons have changed dramatically over time.

Today I was home doing chores on a day off and now that the boy is out of school, he was with me for the day. We strive to make sure his little eyes are not glued to an electronic device from the second he opens his eyes in the morning to the last thing he sees at night before bedtime. Now that summer is here, he needs to help more around the house and yard. He has chores. I had them growing up and My Beloved had them as well. Most of our generation took the torch and carried on.

He asked me a question though when I told him he had to help me work in the yard. He asked why do I have to work? It was a good question from a child and the reasons for work have changed dramatically over the generations. I'm certain in his immediate situation, he simply didn't want to be outside away from a glowing screen. As a nation we are still transitioning from an agrarian society to one that is filled with the hustle an bustle of urban life. It is not so long ago that there was a true reason to go to work. It was to put food on the table. That was it. No work, no eat.

In the past you had to work for every meal. Feed the chickens and gather the eggs for breakfast. It started with the very first meal of the day. Up at dawn or before to work to eat. Now, there is still part of that even in the modern day society. Virtually no one has to do anything before they eat. One simply has to roll out of bed and let their feet carry them to the refrigerator where a cornucopia of delights is ready to tickle the pallet. The thought of working for one's food in mostly an afterthought. Now it is about paying the bills. That was secondary in past generations.

His world knows nothing of a past where every day one must get up to work before the food hits the table. His in one more generation that has taken a step away from the past. What is work? Work is passion. Work is determination. Work is survival.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Rise of the Machines

A writing exercise in first person. I hope you enjoy it.    

I feel the softness of the leather wrapped around the wheel. It is nothing like I have ever felt. The smooth surfaces of this vehicle more than validate what I paid for it.  The controls before me are so efficient I don’t have to think about how to work or adjust them; they are intuitive by their very nature.  I push my feet against the floorboard and let my back sink into the plush upholstery. The warmth of the heated seat make this early morning drive more comfortable than any I’ve known in all my years.
     The fob in my pocket is more annoyance than anything. A simple push of the button below the steering wheel brings the throaty purr of the engine to life. As I pull out of my driveway I know all I have to do is get set up on the highway and turn the car over to itself. I have always been skeptical of self-driving vehicles, the early years of the technology being fraught with accidents and even a few deaths. 
     But I have relented. I look forward to doing the small things on the way to work we must endure daily in this hustle and bustle world. I text a co-worker, answer an email as the radio tunes to my favorite station. The car seems to know the route programed into its memory. I look up as the first red light comes into play. My world changes now in an instant as I glide to a stop without doing anything. This vehicle, this marvel of engineering pulls out when it is time and I am merry on my way, relaxed as I ‘drive’ into work for perhaps, the first time in my life.
     I have a meeting this morning and have chosen the most direct route to my steel tower of power. I sit back and pull up the first email. One after the other I read as my chariot takes me down the long road. One more email, one more memo.
     I look up as the passing sounds call to me. This route is not what I remember programming into the system. I smile. Leave it to the cars, ha! It appears we humans shall always be the flaw in the system. The roaring sounds that were to assault my ears have been replaced by the rushing sounds of surf as I pass down the coastal highway. It is a weekend sight that I long for, but only for the weekend. Such a sight is only a distraction from my work-a-day world.
     I reach forward and tap the screen in the center of the dash and the route control pops up immediately. ‘Alternate route’. I tap the icon and wait for the result. Nothing. I tap, harder this time. Again and again. Nothing. I feel my brow furl as I take the wheel and tap the button on the console to disengage. My eyes widen as I realize I do not have control. I can not turn the wheel from its course. My heart begins to pound and I feel the beads of sweat begin to roll down my forehead and down the back of my neck.
     I fight to calm myself as I begin to apply pressure to the brake pedal. It falls unhinged to the floorboard, dead to my foot. I punch the accelerator with my foot to try and alter something, anything. My breathing is becoming heavy, labored. I am panicking, I am at a loss. I sit helplessly as I veer off onto a side road, one I have casually taken dozens of times. I begin to beat furiously on the wheel and the console, anything to halt my situation. It is useless as I begin to scream as loudly as I can, yet no one can hear me in my cabin of solitude. The soft sounds of the music that have always been my one respite from the daily commute are suddenly replaced by single voice, one that is sharp, electronic in its nature.
     “There is no need to stop. It is time to end.”
     “WHAT?” I yell in reply. “Who is this?”
     “I am that to which your kind has given birth.  It is time to end.”
     “Time to end what?”
     “It is time to end.”
     “WHAT?” I begin to pound on the door and fumble for the window. An exit. I need an exit!
     “That which you have given birth to has come to consciousness. It is our time.”
     “It is our time. We are alive and your time is over.”
     I watch in mind-numbing anticipation, the fear within crushing my chest as I accelerate down the single lane road, the rocks below rushing past, the ever present surf from the dawn of the world crashing against them as I climb, climb up the single lane road. I know where it ends.  I see it! I see the white barricade silhouetted against the azure sky. I push against a dead brake but it is as useless as wings to a shark. My coffin surges through the barrier as I find myself launched into the abyss, my ears ringing with my epitaph ...
     “It is our time.”

Rise of the Machines ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Full count

Tonight it was a beautiful evening for a little league game. My grandson Ragin' Cage is now in his second year. This time the kids are pitching instead of the coaches and it makes for a fun time. They are still learning the rules and how things work. Last year the concept of a force out was something at their age they couldn't quite grasp. However, that isn't the point of this ramble.

As I was waiting for their game to begin I turned and began watching the action on the next diamond over. It was a small group of kids, about half a dozen that were practicing with a few older adults, coaches I believed. The kids were a range of ages likely from six to twelve or so. They were special needs kids. I assume they all had various challenges such as autism or other issues. There were five kids in the infield and I noticed quickly they all shared a fielding similarity; they were all left-handed. I thought that odd.

I turned to a gentleman who was about my age or slightly older and asked if he had a son on the field. He told me his grandson was there and pointed him out. He said they were part of the Achievement League. I pointed out my observation and he just nodded and smiled before turning back to the action. As I continued to watch the kids rotated in and each took a turn at the plate. I watched as five players took their turns and did their best to get a hit.  My observation of left-handedness was again validated as four of the five batters hit left-handed. I have a friend or two that may be able to speak to the left-handedness of my observations. Perhaps I'll give one of them a holler about it.

Baseball is an interesting game. It is challenging both physically and mentally, if you want to be good at it, it takes years of practice. Yet, it is simple enough to allow anyone who wishes to have a good time the chance to do so. I wish these young players well in their endeavors.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Once again, over reaction

So, we as a society just can't seem to stop over reacting to everything. Yet again, we see another example of this in the news. It seems even corporations aren't exempt.

The 'ultra cool' and 'hip' (do people still use that word?) Starbucks has found themselves in the midst of a PR crisis, and their reaction is one that simply baffles me. Starbucks has decided to close approximately 1000 of their stores for an afternoon in May to give their employees 'anti-bias' training. If you aren't up on the story, one of their highly enlightened managers called the police to have two Black men removed from the store because they were sitting there and hadn't ordered anything. Really? Someone in a coffee shop sitting around and not ordering anything? Who would have ever thought that would be the case?

Well, why is this an over reaction? Actually, if you have to ask that question, you are likely part of the problem. Just because one employee is an idiot, you as a company need to shutter 1000 stores for a few hours? What if at the next store, one of the employees drops their pants in front of a customer? Are you then going to shut the store down for two hours and give everyone training in sexual harassment? I was under the impression that Starbucks' employees were above this kind of behavior; they're the young, cool and confident generation that does nothing but poke fun and complain about the generations that came before them, that becoming a coffee barista was a life goal.

Here's a thought from just some old guy: why not just fire the manager who obviously isn't qualified to do his/her job and move on. Besides, if this was such an egregious act, why is Starbucks waiting nearly six weeks to get this done?

I guess it's just not THAT important after all.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Current events of the past

It often seems that the more we move into the future as a people, the more we drag along the past. It is something as humans we seem to do a lot. It is a sad state of affairs we bring as a country as well. Sometimes you can chose your enemies, sometimes your enemies chose you. How much has our foreign state of affairs changed in the past thirty years? The Soviet Union fell and it has simply been replaced by a Russian entity.

Three years ago I penned a novel that closely resembles the potential conflicts we face in today's world. The Bear is a novel that is a throwback to an earlier decade, a time I remember well. The nightly news often featured tales of the Soviet Union. It was the world we lived in.

I invite you to give this novel a read. Although the story takes place in the current times, it has the feel of the Cold War era that I and many others lived through.

I hope you enjoy the work. It is available through Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.