Thursday, March 29, 2012

Magic bullet

In our world of connectivity, as never before we are assaulted from all sides with products, advise and general fixes to our personal and professional worlds. It's hard to ignore. They come at us from television, radio, books, movies and the internet. We are all tempted.

One of the things I began to understand as I grew older was that there are no magic bullets, no one-trick ponies, no simple answers to most issues that we think of as hard to overcome. Think about what those are to most people. They include weight loss and other medical issues, money problems, professional (work) issues and family issues plus a whole lot more.

What we see pushed to us on a daily basis are one-shot products and answers to fix those nagging issues. How many have reached out in a moment of weakness to try one of these answers? Most problems we deal with are much too involved to be solved by a magic bullet. A pill won't cure those who are overweight. A patch won't make you stop smoking (I gave up cigarettes over ten years ago and it wasn't easy). One of the problems with the medical fixes is the dependance we have all given to popping a pill. Here, this pill will fix the problem. Likely, the pill only fixes the symptoms.

Although medicine has made great strides in the past decades, that pill-popping fix notion has worked its way to other avenues. The 'hawkers' on the television commercials are the most visible spokesmen for this type of fix. They 'hawk' products that are one-time fixes for everything from soup to nuts to leaky faucets. I'm here to tell you, 'magic putty' doesn't fix a leaky faucet, it only covers up the problem.

Most issues worth overcoming properly require work and dedication to fixing the cause. Fix the cause, not the symptom. It will take longer but you'll be happier in the long run.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A dark past

The killing of a young African-American man in Florida has created yet another national debate. Was it a racist act? Was it a hate crime? Whatever did happen, it is likely only two people know the whole truth, and one of them can't say anything about it.

I think the bigger issue here is what has happened in the aftermath. I'm not trying to put the young man's life in the background, however I think the flood of people who have arrived to protest the way police have handled the matter have begun to become no more than a lynch mob. The national news media has once again shown the most inflammatory statements, as is their usual habit. But, they are not there to create the news, they are there to report it.

What most have failed to remember is that the investigation is not over. Not all the facts in the case are known, as was said by a national news anchor. They may not like how it is being handled, that is their right, but in their fury they have become judge, jury and executioner. The gunman (notice I didn't say alleged gunman) could very well be completely guilty of the worst crime. But the group yelling the loudest is now no different from those groups they were persecuted by before the civil rights movements. How are they different from the white supremacists back in the fifties who lynched Blacks just because they thought a crime was committed against a white person? How far have we really come? When has Al Sharpton ever defended the rights of someone of another race? He seems only to follow the cameras and incite others.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the young man. My family has been where you are, and for the others who will say "you don't know what you're talking about because you've never been there", I say, I have and I know.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Please do SOMETHING, Mr Mayor!" (Just not THAT.)

It was recently announced that the City of Columbus would seek to purchase or claim up to 900 vacant and derelict houses in various neighborhoods in order to raze them. The initial announcement was met with positive reaction from citizen's groups and individuals alike, but then the NIMBYs started in.

Their line of thought went something like this: Yes, we asked the City to do something about these blighted and condemned properties, but we really wanted someone to fix them up so our property values would start to increase as people moved into these houses.

For years these people begged the city to tear down these houses as many were used as crack houses. Now that the City has proposed making the soon-to-be vacant lots into small parks or community gardens, the NIMBYs are against the idea. How many community gardens can you have?, they ask. And who will maintain these parks and gardens? (The answer appears to be: Not Me!). These buildings are in many of the poorer areas of the city, most vacant for years, and not one person or group or corporation has moved to buy even one to remodel or build new, so I am at a loss to see how they believe a run down neighborhood would attract people with enough money to want to move into such an area. They really seem to want it both ways, it appears.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can't please all of the people even some of the time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A writing preview

For those who follow this blog or are recent readers thereof, I would like to give you a writing sample of the novel 'White Staff'. If you wish, when you go to you are able to preview the novel, always a good way to see if it is something you would be interested in.

I hope you enjoy. (Besides, my family isn't buying enough to make me wealthy).

The Sovereign pushed himself back into the throne. The decision was before him; it was his and his alone and he fully understood the loyalty of his subjects. He had led them to safety centuries ago into a world of darkness and rock. It was perhaps the only thing that saved his people from being absorbed into the darkness of their enemies and total annihilation. But at what cost?

Halwinill pushed himself off the seat, stood and motioned to an attendant on his right, a signal that swiftly brought his servant forward. He carried a small box encrusted in jewels, their fire dimmed in the torchlight. Halwinill made a small gesture and the lid slowly opened by itself. Reaching in and pulling forth a nearly transparent object, Halwinill turned and faced those gathered stretching his arms out fully.

“Let those who darken the Fairy beware the power of the Light of Surolon.” With those words the sovereign of the Fairy placed the object on his head. The cavern instantly exploded in a dazzling brilliance as the foundations of the mountains shook and rock began to tear itself away from the walls. Eston grabbed for Hafram trying to steady himself as a fissure opened between his feet. The Fairy people erupted in a tumultuous roar.

“Hafram what is happening?” Eston shouted stepping to the side, sure in his mind the rent would swallow him up. A smile as wide as the Nordst River broke across Hafram’s face.

“Halwinill has announced his intentions and the king shall go forth and do battle. The life-force of the Fairy is powerful and the Colonel shall surely feel his presence.”

“We shall go forward and reclaim that which has been taken from us.” Halwinill stretched his arms out over his subjects as the crown of the Fairy lords radiated throughout the cavern. “The Council shall be formed and the plans laid.” Halwinill looked into the crowd and spoke to Hafram. “SaHaframanallara, you shall lay the groundwork before us. The world above is still known to you. What you say shall be considered with the fullest weight. The Council shall meet before the sun sets and the Fairy shall return to the world above.”

* * *

Dreash was pacing his campsite. He knew what had happened and was at least for now, powerless to do anything about it. The Dark Mystics had been surprised beneath the mountains and forced back. What power could Hafram have possibly brought forth to turn them away? Their powers were formidable. Not truly alive they could not be killed and he was sure Hafram did not have what he needed to vanquish them. Not yet, not without his staff.

A sudden cold gripped him and the shiver brought him to his knees. There was another presence in his thoughts, filling the space in his mind as he had never experienced before. It was powerful; an enemy, and a sense of dread filled him. His mind raced to determine what assailed him. The light about him attacked his eyes and assaulted his senses. He began to shake as tremors filled every limb. His mind exploded with a single thought: Halwinill!

(Sorry about the formatting. Blogger doesn't do some things very well. The link above is also correct but may not work. Try copying directly into the search engine.)

Also check out the work of fellow author and recent follower of this blog, IE Castellano and the novel 'The World In-Between'.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Order up

I have never been worked in the restaurant industry, although I have for many years been a regular contributor to their wages. This evening when I was returning home from a hard-fought day in the retail wars, I happened by my local steakburger establishment to 'takhomasak', as they used to say. Now this is a fine establishment as are others I frequent, and standing at the counter as I waited for my take-out order, a thought occurred to me that had rattled around in my brain before.

Why on earth do restaurants give us a view of where the food is being cooked? Decades ago in my formative years, one of the jobs I had during college was at the service counter in a meat department. Even under the best of circumstances and with the best of intentions, accidents happen in the kitchen. I'm not here to say things intentionally go on a plate that shouldn't, what I'm proposing is that what happens in a kitchen, should stay out of sight.

When lettuce gets flung into a taco shell and half of it lands on the floor, I don't want to see that before I eat or take my food home. I'm not sure who thought the eating public actually wanted to see what went on behind the counter, but don't count me in as one of them. I would much prefer my McRestaurant have a wall that shields the kitchen from my sight. No matter how good the food is, the sight of greasy stainless steel in a heavily-used kitchen doesn't excite my taste buds.

It's one thing to see the flames from behind a half brick wall as your steak is seared to perfection, but I don't want to see half a tub of fries on the floor.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

They Were Expendable

Much like this movie that was made about the PT boats of WWII, we are all expendable. Consider the sports/news story of Peyton Manning, former quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.

I follow sports but do not run to a fever pitch about any of it, (OK, sometimes Ohio State football). I follow the NFL but rarely watch much of the games. I simply have other things to do. For the uninitiated, Peyton Manning was the star performer for the last fourteen years for this franchise. Before he arrived in 1998 Colts football was the low man on the totem pole in a city that sports a pro basketball team and Indiana Hoosiers basketball. Within four years he took a bumbling, stumbling franchise that several years before stole out of Baltimore on buses and moving vans in the middle of the night. It was his success on the field that 'built' the house the Colts live in.

If ever there was a modern-day business that owed its success and fame to one individual, it was the Colts. But, there comes a time when every business or organization decides it is time to move on and Manning is now out looking for a job. But, it happens to everyone at some point. Hopefully, with insight, an individual is able to make such a move on their own terms. Long gone are the days from when our fathers and grandfathers worked for the same company for forty years, then retired. Today is a world of 'what have you done for me lately'.

For many years I always believed if you worked hard enough and had success you would be able to stay where you wanted, put in the time and move up the ladder. Sadly, I believe that is no longer the case for many in the real world. All of us from the newest employee to the seasoned veteran needs to be able to exercise options. Although I am relatively secure in my own position, I need to understand everything above me can be in flux.

The Manning/Colts split should show us all to keep abreast of the changing reality that is life. Work hard and do your best and good things will happen; they just may not happen where you think they will.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Flat tax, with benefits

During prime election years my thoughts often turn to solving/griping about how things are. I wouldn't call myself a big-picture guy when it comes to politics, but I have my moments (in my own mind). One particular item I tend to contemplate is the tax code of these United States. As it has grown over the years it has become a cumbersome mess. It's time we fix it.

The biggest issue is how to be fair. No matter what one proposes, someone else won't like it. The 'poor' won't like what the 'rich' get and the 'middle class' (of which I am a member) won't like what either of the other groups get. Many ideas have been floated with much or little fanfare, yet here we sit with a tax code so complicated that no one person could possibly know half of it.

Here's my thoughts.
Institute a 'semi-flat' tax. Pick a percentage, I'll go with 18. That's higher than some want but less than others. There would be some deductions across the board that each group would be able to take. I would list them as a dependent deduction, homeowners and medical. No matter what your level of income you face the same tax rate as everyone else. There should also be some manner of business deduction if you are the principle owner of a business and you are investing your own money into that business. (This is where I would have to leave it to the accountants to hash out the details). The one thing I would not include as a deduction is capital gains. It's income, plain and simple. At that point you are not investing in creating jobs you are building wealth for yourself. Capital gains should be taxed the same as any other income. Why? It's just income, why does it matter where it came from?

I understand others won't like it if the poor are taxed, but they use the services of the government just like everyone else, and often are the heaviest users of those services. At some point there can be a floor where there is no tax but that floor should be low enough that no one would want to be there. Although our government spends much to much and they should have their hands slapped, everyone needs to pay their share, rich or poor, no hiding money through sheltered funds or investments or other 'accounting tricks'. If you want more wealth, earn more. If you don't want to pay the taxes, move to another country. I hear Greece is currently looking for investors.

And just in case anyone wants to know, this ramble has been penned without the insight of whether my own taxes would go up or down using this scenario. Besides, My Beloved takes care of all that. I just sign what she tells me to.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fischer vs Spassky

Recently, Punkin, age 5, was looking in the basement for a game to play, and pulled out a long box, asking, "Can you teach me this game?"

It was Chess, a game I played so infrequently as a child that I had to read the instructions (that were fortunately still in the box) so as to properly set up the pieces on the board. I then had to try to explain to him how each piece moved (again, after checking), and what the ultimate goal was.

He did his best to recall what each piece would do, but did require some help during the game. It became evident that he liked getting his pieces captured even if he took one of mine. We played perhaps 5 games over the course of a couple weeks, and each time he did slightly better, even if he still didn't mind losing pieces.

Last week we started to play and Punkin Bread asked to play on my team, so we teamed up against Punkin. Punkin Bread and I alternated moving our pieces; I let her move any piece she wanted as long as the move was legal, even if it meant putting our piece at risk. Her favorite tactic was to take a piece and slam it straight down the line to smash into Punkin's piece. I had to repeatedly tell her that's not quite how the game was played, so she would have to go back and try something else.

After about 20 minutes she decided she had had enough, leaving the two Grand Masters to battle it out against each other.

And what a match it was! We went toe-to-toe for an additional 10 minutes before we were both left with just a King, thus settling for a draw.

If the international press had been there to cover our every move, perhaps we could have played for millions of dollars, just as they did in 1972.