Story Starts – Unpolished


Sometimes I experiment with starts of stories. But I quickly run out of energy on it. Here is one…

 

 

The Shield went up at midnight GMT. Every country on the planet had a brand new border patrol. If your country bordered an ocean then the Shield was at your international waters border. The Shield was slightly opaque and shimmered on closer inspection. About every 50 miles a warning was posted – “Nothing Illegal Passes” in huge letters that you could see from miles away. At first everyone thought they knew what that meant, but then the catastrophes started. An airplane starting its landing into Korea when about  50 bolts from the engines suddenly stopped at the Shield, ripping through the engines and effectively plummeting the plane to the ocean below. 300 people perished. The bolts were counterfeit and therefore illegal in some law buried in the official trade documents. A school bus traveling from Canada into the US taking a load of grade school kids on a field trip. The bus driver had brought along his pet parrot as he usually did, but unknown to the driver, the parrot needed to be quarantined by law. The parrot suddenly stopped at the Shield as the bus passed through, the colorful bird seemed to be thrown straight down the center aisle to the back door where it made a large red stain on the glass, and made a lasting impression on a bunch of school kids.

Some in the worlds governments liked this new order. No more illegal immigrants, no more human or drug trafficking, no more refugees crossing the borders. Some in the worlds governments hated this new order. No more spies or mercenaries inserted into hot spots. No more spy satellites. No more peering into other countries business or trying to control them by proxy. No more invasions concealed as land grabs, or police actions, or cross border skirmishes. And no more stealing secrets by internet. In short order governments around the world were passing laws left and right, sometimes to their detriment. But soon, they realized, the Shield had specific intentions. No law could be passed unless voted on by a democratic society. Governments couldn’t hide behind obfuscation and tricky wording. Some governments around the world had to completely revamp what they were doing. No more dictatorships. No more ruling by force. If they wanted to change the laws for the benefit of their country, they had to change their ways. Of course there were some holdouts trying to keep their hold onto a dying country. Killing off the populace through constant internal strife, but they didn’t last long. As a consequence of this, new countries were formed, new governments established, and the people were the ones with the power now. The governments now needed to be transparent in their dealings. Laws needed to be spelled out and explained thoroughly in order to have a chance of passing. In most of the countries with established voting systems this was relatively easy. Newly established countries had a harder time of it. Convincing citizens to vote often was challenging.

In the first few years after the Shields appeared the USA was in turmoil. Unemployment was at its highest levels ever. No need now for border patrol agents. The military had huge cutbacks. TSA, NSA, CIA, Coast Guard, all were cut back or cut off completely. If nothing comes into your country illegally, then we don’t need people looking for it. And since we couldn’t do anything illegal to other countries, whole sub-sections of the military were dismantled. All branches of the military were scaled back to 20% of their pre-existing force. But Bureaucracy! Bureaucracy! That was the job to have. Overnight people recognized that all these new laws and regulations needed people to manage them. To caress them into law. To cajole the citizens to vote often. And so government work ballooned. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created to try to offset the huge unemployment numbers. From the smallest town to the burgeoning metropolises, government employment was a force to be reckoned with. The Newest Deal, it was called. Harkening back to FDRs expansion of government in order to keep citizens gainfully employed. Small local governments and State governments were not affected too much. Some tweaking here and there. But the main government. There were changes there.

The State Department was now the biggest, baddest kid on the block. Negotiating and import/export became the most important section of governing. And it was time consuming and plodding. Both governments had to go back and forth to the constituency to keep everyone informed and to see if there were any additions or subtractions to the matter at hand. Because all items had to be nailed down in one document. Any changes to the document had to go back to a nationwide vote, so it was imperative to get it right the first time. Bureaucracy marches on. Certain factions tried to insert clauses to allow oversight or hidden agendas. But they were always voted out by the citizens. But it didn’t really matter because the other negotiating country also could see these shenanigans and would be negotiated out. Planes and vehicles traveling across borders needed to be extra vigilant. If one of the countries trade papers had a clause about a specific product or standard, it needed to be strictly adhered to. Thus avoiding the catastrophes that happened early on. Hundreds of thousands of people died because someone was negligent in reading paperwork.

Over time a mutually agreed set of standards in governing took hold. Negotiating became easier and because nothing was hidden from the voting public, a calm settled across the globe. People were free to travel and transportation became easier and quicker. Tourism and business grew and as more people traveled safely and the costs associated with travel fell, certain countries felt a huge increase in revenue. And with the savings from a downsized military, governments could start looking inward. As the cash cow of tourism increased, governments became serious in corralling graft and petty thefts around any tourist attraction or business areas, big or small. It became important to build up infrastructure. Rebuild or restore ancient treasures and monuments. Rework the roads, railways and bridges. Renew inner cities and build up city centers. Nothing Illegal Passes. Trust was rebuilt. People started looking at each other as someone you could do business with. Commerce was easier. Everything became a bit more relaxed because you knew you could trust the other person across from you. Nothing Illegal Passes through international borders.

But as always, there are those who seem to want chaos and discord. It’s part of their DNA. Part of their psyche. Part of their style. And so underground groups were formed. Some groups were military cast-offs. Made up of those individuals displaced by the new world peace. War and conflict is in their blood and money can be made by continually having some problem somewhere in the world. Some groups were gang based. With no drugs coming into the country from external sources, they had to look domestically for new distribution networks and sources. Some new groups were a bit more obscure. Former diplomats with no countries to continually have deep and meaningless conversations with. Former traveling prostitutes. Former roving slave traders. The list goes on and on.

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Trucking and Firearms – Caution: Political.


I have a Colorado CDL. Commercial Drivers License. That means I can drive large trucks around. It started with a 4 week introductory class where we learned what it took to become a driver, from the tires up. And because I was going to drive explosives and possibly small amounts of radiation around I had to have extra training to hold certifications for Haz-Mat (Hazardous Materials). I needed to go to the local Sheriffs Office and be fingerprinted and have a full background check by the state FBI guys. There was an extensive test by my employer and by the state DMV. So I am regulated by my employers requirements, Colorados requirements, any other states that I drive into-their requirements, and the Governments requirements for having not only a regular drivers license but also a Commercial Drivers License. Atop all of that is the strict requirements for Haz-Mat transportation. If I was a Union driver there would be other requirements. If I drove for the Government there would be other requirements. If I drove for a large corporation that hauled sensitive or very large loads, there would be other requirements. The trucking industry is heavily regulated and stiff penalties are incurred for violations. Every time a trucker stops at a mandatory weigh check station, these credentials and your logbook are scrutinized. So a trucker is constantly being regulated while using the roadways.

At the moment, in Colorado, when you purchase a firearm at a retail store you fill out paperwork and it is submitted to the states FBI for a cursory inspection. If you purchase a firearm at a gun show or from another individual, there is no such check. This is the ‘Gunshow Loophole’ you hear talked about. This is how we are currently handling firearm purchases, a kind off 50-50 approach. Not all-encompassing. We as Americans are very concerned about this. Some want a complete regulation and checked process like what I described for the trucking industry, and some want a hands-off approach to gun-ownership. There is very little middle-ground. A lot of this discrepancy comes from a 240 year old document and how we try to interpret what the founders meant when the words were written. Some take a very absolute strict stance when reading it and go word for word with no interjection of meaning. Some try to inject meaning into it and try to read minds from 240 years away.

In my trucking analogy, we as people are regulating the people while making sure the equipment is safe and road-worthy. In the gun analogy, we are regulating the firearms while making a half-hearted attempt to regulate the people. And in my 2nd instance we have groups and individuals at both ends of the political spectrum with very strong opinions on how this should be regulated (or not) and by whom. There is no coming together for the common good to find ways to alleviate this.

The discussion starts with a decision on how to frame the questions. Do we decide to regulate the gun industry as we do the trucking industry? Or do we decide it is a given right to own any gun, in any circumstance, with no regulation? Can we regulate the industry just a little bit, but not fully? If we decide to not tightly regulate firearms, then should we relax the regulations on the trucking industry? The drug manufacturing industry? The explosive manufacturing industry? The chemical manufacturing industry? Fair is fair, right? How can we have very strict rules for some industries that can kill you, but not all of them? Or maybe we need to take a more libertarian stance and de-regulate all of them. It is now the responsibility of the individual to decide what to use, or not. Get the government out. There are now no industry regulations. Do what you want. Where would we be in that instance? Isn’t the government there for the common good? Im asking these questions in a Black and White way, while the gun debate is all Grey issues.

There are no easy answers to these questions I pose. But if our elected officials cannot even find a way to have discussions, then we are not even going to get started. We will continue this cycle over and over again until something really horrific happens. Something so huge it eclipses all the others. Will we look back then and wonder why we didn’t do anything? Or will we say something like “Laser-guns don’t kill people…”

So if we are to fix this problem in any direction, a few things must happen. First is get rid of any PACS and Special Interest Groups throwing money at politicians in order to sway a vote. Both sides can realize that this one action would clean up politicians and let them vote as their constituents want them to. If the politicians are free from the weight of lobbyists then they should vote as you want. Whether your district voted in a Democrat or Republican, they should be listening to you, not the pro- or anti-gun groups with money to spend. Just the people who voted them in. The next one  is on you. Become engaged. Read up on your politicians. Read up on the matters that concern you. Talk to people about the issues that concern you. Be polite and listen. We can disagree and still be civil to each other.

But I’m pretty sure none of the above thoughts will get done. There is too much money involved and we are too divided in this country for civil discourse.

Why can’t we as intelligent human beings agree to limit the damage to other human beings with the things we make? We have decided to closely watch some areas, but have decided to not closely watch others. This is infuriating to me. There needs to be a better way.

Here are my (current) thoughts on gun issues. Subject to change as I learn more…

1) Not every individual should be able to own guns. There are some people who have bad intentions and want to watch the world burn, and they shouldn’t own firearms. There are some people mentally incompetent and should not be around firearms. We need to find a way to locate these people and make sure they can’t do harm with firearms to other people. If they are not allowed, because of past incarcerations or mental evaluations, to drive or fly, perhaps they shouldn’t own a firearm. If a government agency has, for any reason, questions about the validity of a certain individual, perhaps they shouldn’t own a firearm. Yes, if a person really wants to cause injury they can do harm with other things -knives-vehicles-explosives-biologics. But lets start on this list by agreeing that we can do our best to find the people that do not need to own firearms. Keep enforcing the current laws, and make damn sure guns are out of the hands of people who shouldn’t be owning them.

2) There are certain firearms that are not suited for individual ownership. Right now we have limits on specific military type items, and fully automated firearms and some accessories like silencers or large capacity clips. But where do we draw that line in the sand? Its not a calibre issue. Its not really a magazine load count issue. Its something else. This would be covered in whatever regulations we come up with if we wish to regulate guns as we do trucks. Or we don’t regulate. We pussy foot around this a lot. Maybe the answer is one or the other. Fully regulate, or don’t regulate anything. This half-assed way we are doing it now sure isn’t working well enough now.

3) Make sure we hold any individual, retailer, government agency, accountable for their actions. If a child is shot with a firearm, and that firearm has not been locked up in some way, the parents need to be held accountable. The parents/guardians should be jailed as if they shot the kids themselves. If a retailer or gunshow is irresponsible in their security (stolen guns) or due-diligence (background checks as required) they need to be held accountable. Lack of security is a big one. Its expensive to make sure tall the guns are locked. But if the retailer can’t afford to do this, perhaps they don’t need a FFL license to sell guns. If a government agency decides to sell, or give, or otherwise arm groups of people outside of America, and then the guns come back and kill Americans, They should be held accountable. Perhaps a few jailed politicians who are so short sighted should be taken off the decision making carousel as an example.

McDonalds Hot Coffee


First catch up on what actually happened here. Its a quick synopsis. And here is my point. When you go to a restaurant now and order something that should be delivered to your table hot, and it is not?FrenchOnionSoup3[1]

Like maybe a bowl of nice French Onion soup. My premise is that since the McDonalds verdict, that restaurants are super scared to serve anything over about 80 degrees. You have to specifically ask for it to be made hot, or send it back to be heated up.

My wife and I go out often and we are always surprised at how often this happens. Is it a blowback from the suit? Or is it the quality of restaurants we visit? Hard to say. More investigation needed.

Chickenshit


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I’m reading this book and it pisses me off. I can do a chapter or so and then I have to take a break. Because I am a direct victim of the 2008 financial crises, and this book explains why not one bank executive was brought to task for their egregious errors!

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From about 2003 up until November of 2008 I was managing this fun little Gallery on Main Street in downtown Grand Junction. We were just getting our feet under us. Lots of foot traffic and good sales and promotions. We were gearing up for a good Christmas season.

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We also carried some photo related retail products.

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So the mortgage crisis hits summer and fall of 2008. The owner of the gallery was independently wealthy and had numerous accountants and lawyers at his disposal. As soon as the financial markets started to fall, his advisors recommended for him to divest and hunker down.

He walks into the gallery one morning about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving and asks to go out with him for coffee. Over the small table in the bagel shop he informs me of his decision to close the gallery. Just like that. No big preamble and I could not talk him out of this decision. He was stricken and visibly scared.

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I had a staff of about 6 people who I had to inform of this decision. And then I needed to start figuring out what steps to take to close this business in a hurry.

And I was out of work also, with no other marketable skills, other than running businesses for 30 years. But no other businesses were hiring because they were scared also. My wife and I were very concerned about losing the house. Jeez what a time.

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But there was one company hiring. And so I started in the fall of 2008 as a hired hand in the oil and gas industry, where I am to this day. It has worked out just fine. Of course it is not where I expected to be. Of course it is sometimes difficult to work for a giant corporation. But we kept the house. And life goes on…Goliath and the Princess.

Long ride


Very nice ride on the Goldwing. Looped through western Colorado and eastern Utah. Temps were moderate this early. I’m the kind of rider who wants to keep going, so stopping to take photos was difficult. But I got a few in when I needed to stretch. It was a beautiful day and the bike ran great. This is the first time I’ve posted from my iPhone. Pretty easy. I’ll do it more often. 

Enthusiasms


 

 

img_5344From the movie-The Untouchables-1987…
Capone: A man becomes preeminent, he’s expected to have enthusiasms. Enthusiasms, enthusiasms… What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball! A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Teamwork… Looks, throws, catches, hustles. Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don’t field… what is he? You follow me? No one. Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? I’m goin’ out there for myself. But… I get nowhere unless the team wins.
Hoods: Team!
[Capone beats one of the men to death with a baseball bat]

I owned my first watch when I was a schoolboy back in the late 60s. It was an inexpensive wristwatch. It barely fit my thin wrist and hung loosely when I wore it. I remember it being a battery watch, but I do not remember anything else about it. Fast forward a decade or so and it is my high school graduation. My father gives me a really nice skeleton watch. One with glass and front and back so you can see the works from both sides. It still means the world to me. It has no intrinsic value other than the memories of my father.

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And I still collect watches. My mentor was the great Mancil Page of Page-Parsons Jewelry. (No relation) A tall elegant man with piercing eyes and a keen intellect. He started me on Wyler watch. Im not really sure how it started, but here I am. I have close to 2 dozen pocket watches stored, most of them Wylers. None of them are worth very much on their own, but collectively? Who knows. In another few decades, when all the cool collectables are gone, they may be worth more. The watch at the top of this post is my only wristwatch. It, like most of the others, was built in the late 50s-early 60s. It has a classic look and still functions perfectly. Not a battery to be seen. In my current work I am based in Prudhoe Bay Alaska. We wear a lot of clothing there. And because of that I am not always able to get to my pants pocket or a vest, because of all the clothing. So a wristwatch is the easiest to reference.

We live in a digital world. I use computers at work and at home. My iPhone becomes more important to my work life and home life all the time. My wife’s car is a marvel of imbedded computers. The Computers are all around us. And yet I own a manual shift truck from the late 80s. And I choose to wear manual watches. I like the thought of manual. I enjoy the collecting of these things from another era. It feels right to me, these old things. Pulling a watch from my pocket to check the time instead of looking at my phone. Turning my wrist to look at a device built by hand. Still working well and looking good. And as I get older I am appreciating these things more and more. I am quite nostalgic and these things give me peace. A small connection to another time and place. An enthusiasm for a man getting older and looking back more often. An enthusiasm.