Thursday, December 1, 2005

Fading To Black...

Arizona Memorial

I got sick last week during the Thanksgiving holidays. Don't remember much of it. Actually, Sue got sick first and then after 36 hours the bug made the leap to a new host. The price I pay for loving her, but hey, it is worth it.

This was a good bug. Not that it was a mild illness, it was anything but that. This germ really kicked my ass. Haven't had my mind, body and soul worked over like this since I got a 104 degree fever in high school. When I have no arguments about going to Urgent Care and waiting for 2 hours to fill out paperwork just to get some antibiotics, you know I have thrown in the towel.

Arizona Memorial

While there was not a lot of pain involved with this illness, there was a lot of coughing, running nose and some extreme muscle weakness which made just getting out of bed to make it to the TV almost a triathlon event. So the predominant thing that that I did for 72 hours was sleep for about 60 of them. And brother, let me tell you, that is all I wanted to do.

With this sort of extreme exhaustion and fever, the things that go through your mind are not really under your control. I recall trying to lie down and think about things, but my thoughts eventually ended up on some really weird subjects as I lapsed in and out of consciousness for 10 hours at a stretch.

My overly analytical brain had enough power left to speculate that this is what the start of the 'final journey' must be like. That slow descent into the afterlife as the present life slowly drains from your body. There isn't a lot of fear or pain here. It is pretty much the most relaxing thing you can do. I recall struggling to crawl between the sheets just so I would not have to tax my brain to keep my balance anymore and the relief I felt after getting all cozy and just letting gravity do all the work once I was laying there.

Arizona Memorial

All the thoughts that kept running through my mind were some sort of bizarre "life passes before your eyes" movie with no particular order or reason and with a Fellini-like twist of surrealism. Inside the womb of the bed, I was relaxed, tired, and had this strange catalog of video memories that seemed to be stuck in the 'random view' mode. These were not visions of material wealth or great accomplishment, they were recollections of emotions and what had caused them. It was that whole sort of life's lesson movie that Frank Capra tried to teach us in 'It's A Wonderful Life'. All that stuff about virtue and value and the things you leave behind that can't fit in your coffin / urn because they are intangible.

In a way it was almost enjoyable (except for the hacking and the sweating, not to mention the inability to eat anything). These scenes from marriage, childhood and work would float through my mind and then I would cock an eye open and look at the alarm clock by the bed. It read 2:37pm, and I thought I should get up and get something to drink. After 'thinking' about getting up for about 12 minutes, I dozed back into the movie theater of life for another 25 minute screening. I was finding it enjoyable to be able to be totally exhausted and totally content in that bed and let my deeply stored subconscious just play away.

Arizona Memorial

I was thankful that this was a holiday week since I was not missing much work and could just let this virus run its course.

It has been over a week since that fun filled and fever induced experience, and I am still not quite over this thing. The concrete that formed in my sinus is still being chipped away at with medication and deep breaths still make me cough, but I am getting back to normal slowly. I guess sometimes, Mother Nature has more than one way of forcing you to slow down and re-examine things.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Final Passion

Kaiser / Fraiser Authorized Service

It is amazing what comes to mind during my walks to work in the morning and during the trek home each evening. Little things that make you think. Your mind is an awesome tool when not bombarded by stop and go brake lights and Howard Stern every morning.

Last week it was the Kaiser / Frazier Owners Club. Most of you young'uns won't have clue about what these are. They were automobiles produced after WWII in the heady days of the 1950's when we were on top of the world (figuratively). In those booming days after we had defeated Tojo and the Nazis, there were all sorts of car companies started up from all the excess production capacity of those plants that had been building Sherman Tanks and B-29 Superfortresses. There was Tucker, Hudson, Kaiser and Nash, to name a few. They are all gone now. Either bankrupt or bought out by bigger fish in the Capitalistic Ocean. I believe that Kaiser and Nash were eventually swallowed up by American Motors, which was swallowed up by Chrysler, which is now owned by Mercedes. It is hard to keep track.....but I digress....this is all just background.

I still have a lot to learn in life, but a couple of the blocks keep falling into place as I get older. One is the realization of the 'Final Passion'. The last great thing that we do in our lives. That thing or activity that we are passionate about when the old ticker stops working.

We all start out as pretty impressionable lumps of clay and we get molded by a bunch of factors over the years. We are told what to want, by our parents, our peers, the media and others. Rare is the person that charts their own course when they are young. Most are steered in various directions by the environment where they are raised. When we are young, and the sky is the limit, we collect passions like baseball cards. The desire to own the nice car, to have the BIG house on the hill, the perfect husband / wife, the yacht anchored off the Hamptons, the penthouse in downtown Manhattan. Capitalism sort of does this to you. Makes you want a lot of stuff. Most of it we don't need.

Then that awful thing called reality and maturity comes into play. Children don't raise themselves and they aren't cheap., taxes, what a bitch those are. And who would have ever thought that we would need medical care when we were 20 and that when we did, it would be so damn expensive!

As these hard facts of life start to weigh down on our shoulders, we started to drop our passions to lighten the load. Gone are my dreams of that Ferrari TestaRossa and sailing around the world solo. Last week I sort of scratched hang gliding off the list as well.

This all leads up to the final passion, that one thing that we hold onto and continue to pursue because we can't let go of everything. Life can't be all about work, taxes and death. And this final passion tends to be what we are labeled with. Think about it. Anyone that you know that is retired tends to have one, "You know, Bob. down the street...the guy with that huge stamp collection."

I recall my neighbor who lived across the street from me. He was a retired prison guard and had lived a tough life. He was pretty happy-go-lucky guy and he had some medical problems, but he didn't let it get him down. What was his final passion? His hot tub. It was in his back yard and it was huge. Totally enclosed, with a TV and little mini-bar. He had decorated his backyard with little lights in the trees and cute road signs and nick-nacks as well. Not a bad final passion I thought. He let me use it once or twice and it was sweet. He passed away about 2 years ago and the new owner tore it down.

On my way to work there is another such man. I have never actually met him, but I have seen him out in his driveway working on his 3 Kaisers. He has to be in his 70s. Neither the cars or the man are in perfect condition. The cars need new paint and I think the upholstery could be replaced, but I am sure they all run. They are not terribly attractive cars. They are big and round and must weigh as much as a tank. But they are his final passion. That one thing that he is good at, and brings him a lot of joy. A simple thing. A simple passion.

Kaiser / Fraiser Owners Club

That is where most of us are headed although we don't tend to realize it. It just sort of ends up that way. So if you think about it, what might our final passion be? And when we are gone, what will we leave behind for folks to remember us by?

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Bread Basket

Shopping Carts
(All Pictures Taken With My Palm Pilot)

Once the symbol of American Prosperity, they are now the icon of its decline.

In the old days, they were filled with Fruit Loops, glass bottles of milk, Ovaltine, large heads of lettuce and a toddler riding in the fold-away seat.

Today they are the conveyance of the down trodden, the homeless and the mentally ill. They are the automobile with a trunk for those that can't afford a car. Like the numerous check cashing stores and greedy politicians, they are easy to overlook until you start seeing things with a critical eye.

I first started noticing them a couple of months ago near my home. Abandoned, like lost puppies far from their litter. They sat forlorn on the street corner, overturned in my yard, pushed up against the curb on a busy downtown throughway. I started to ask that age old question, 'why'? Why were they there and how did they get there.

The answer seemed obvious but it has variations. People had to move things around and had no other option.

In the suburbs, it seemed likely that someone had a large family but no vehicle to drive to Safeway or Albertsons or Piggly Wiggly. When Jose is off putting up a new roof on the job site the little ones still need their pampers and tortillas so Rosita takes the long walk to the supermarket with their 6 kids in tow and then makes the long push back home. Once there, why push an empty cart all the way back the 3 miles you just walked? Just push it into the alley.

For the urban carts left downtown, the story appears a bit different. This is the transient's mobile home. This is the conveyance that they use to pick up the metal cans to be exchanged for money at the recycler. This is where they carry their bed roll and spare shoes pilfered from a dumpster. This is the cart that holds what is left of their shattered lives.

Even though the American Dream has failed them, they still cling to the concept that material possession is a form of wealth. They haul their throw-away trinkets around in a stolen four wheeled shopping cart to remind themselves that they still have some form of value.

All of these shopping carts were photographed miles from the nearest grocery store. There has to be a medical term for the precursor to cancer. That word would apply to these shopping carts. Regardless if they are urban or suburban, if the American Dream is a living breathing organism, these are the precursor to societal cancer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Single Mothers of New Orleans

It Sucks Being Black Sometimes

I am off on another tangent here that will tick people off but bear with me until the end. There is a method to my madness.

I am sick and tired of the media images that I keep seeing coming out of New Orleans and elsewhere that depict the 'American Family' and how it is suffering.

In the past few weeks I have seen news story after news story showing black mothers with their 3 to 6 children (all under 10 years of age) lamenting about their loss, and how their 'babies ain't got no food or shoes'.

On a local news channel last week I got so see an Hispanic mother whining about the State not paying for her daughters eye cancer surgery because it was 'experimental' and not covered by publicly funded state health care. The mother didn't speak English and had to complain through an interpreter.

Needless to say, that the fathers of this little sea of humanity were no where to be found. They are all single women that have managed to have multiple births (possibly through multiple fathers) and they are lamenting their situation now that they have run into difficult times.

Now, I realize that a lot of these women had little choice in the matter. The sad truth about today's society is that women in low economic classes don't have much opportunity outside of childbirth and are often the victims of domestic violence or rape. They are often denied the 'choice' of having a child and the type of man they end up with. So we can't necessarily blame the women for the plight that they are in. We have to give them kudos for at least caring for the children and not abandoning them.

What has me upset here is the way in which the media feasts on these images and uses them to perpetuate the norm. The media is not about information; it is about imagery and normalcy. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, the morning news shows morning traffic backed up for miles and commute times of 45 minutes to travel 10 miles and speak of it in terms of, "Wow, I-17 sure is backed up this morning, consider an alternate route to work."

It is the same with these single mothers. "Oh, well, mommy got knocked up and daddy ain't around no more, so let's all pitch in and help poor Tonisha and her 6 kids."

Where is the media responsibility to show that this is incorrect? I don't see the media reporting on all the affluent 'nuclear' black families (with fathers) in New Orleans that saved their money and planned for the disaster. They aren't holding these people up as examples to be followed. They show the poor down trodden and say 'What a shame'. Where is the media pressure on fathers to be responsible? None of these news stories even asked the mothers about the children's fathers or if they were helping out or doing anything. It was just 'assumed' that the biological fathers weren't around and accepted as a norm. Instead of eliciting sympathy from the American Public in Minnesota or Arizona, why isn't the media tracking down the deadbeat dads and saying to them, "YOUR kids are starving. You remember Tonisha? The woman you 'popped' five years ago....she had your baby."

Instead of showing the interstate backed up for miles every morning, where is the social responsibility and editorial content to say, "Why the hell isn't government looking into alternate transportation systems?" Instead, they are telling us to 'put up with it and be happy' instead of telling us to 'get angry and think different'.

The media is becoming the Prozac of modern society. It is perpetuating a norm that is neither healthy nor beneficial for society. They are glossing over or ignoring the issues that make up the fundamental problems in the modern world. Instead of acting to change the norm, they are 'teaching' us to 'react' to the consequences.

This is nuts!!!


(All Pictures Taken with my Palm Pilot)

Dodge Theater

There is the randomness of nature. The leaves, the roots, the flowing of the steams, the gusting of the wind. Then, I see the repetition of society. The way we strive to make everything the same, over and over again.

Auto Body Shop

I have to assume that there is something deep in our brains that craves this repetition. We always want things to be the same, never changing, predictiable. We line things up in rows. We think ourselves brilliant for coming up with mass production, where thousands of little rubber duckies roll off of assembly lines, one just like the next. The lines produce cars, widgets, action figures, guns, etc. All the same, with interchangable parts.

Bathroom Floor

This past weekend I spent a good part of Sunday trimming trees. Untangling the intertwined branches, cutting them off with anvil sheers and then slicing them all into neat lengths so they would fit into garbage bags. The end result? All that randomness of nature arranged in a neat row of 33 gallon Hefty bags.

Closed Storefront

If we had control over nature how would we make it look. Would all of the rivers be arrow straight? Would all of the forests have trees the exact same height? Would it ALWAYS be 72 degrees and sunny? It seems that this is the mindset that we have when we create the world that we live in.

Building, Phoenix

We know from experience that a curved surface can have more strength than a flat one. Adverstity and randomness requires adaptability. There are no straight lines in nature for a reason. Nature wants only those that can pass the test in order to move on. It does not keep making the same plants and animals millenia after millenia. Yet we strive for mediacracy. We roll thousands of Dodge Chargers off the assembly lines and make ourselves think each one is 'unique' because of their different colors, better stereos or choice of wheel covers.

Building, Phoenix

Maybe the fact that all things are the same gives us a sense of normalcy, a sense of security. But it also paints us into a corner and gives us a narrow view of what is possible. It scares me that there is a whole generation of children that actually see McDonald's as food yet have never peeled an orange. They have ridden in cars and buses all their lives but never had to ford a stream or climb a tree.

Court House Steps

For some reason, I think we are ill prepared for our future.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Don't Vote

Fear The Future

This is going to sound awfully un-American. I am sure it will not go over well in an era where the media is telling us to pour out our hearts and pocket books for the poor ignorant illiterate uninsured people in Louisiana, the brave young men and women fighting for cheap oil in Iraq and all those middle class gay couples that can't get a valid marriage license.

But in case you have not figured out the 'BIG PICTURE', the system does not work. It hasn't worked for a long time and the fact that folks are still telling you that it does is the biggest shame of all.

Allow me to start with a little background here. Let's set the way-back machine to 1776 and look at how this whole thing started and how it was 'supposed' to work. If you are like me, you probably realized around the time you were 25 or 30 years old, that most of the stuff they taught us in social studies and US History was a bunch of crap.

The founding fathers of this nation basically had a plan to go into business for themselves. Sure they had lofty ideals, based on the Greek model of democracy and the Roman concept of Republic. But they also owned slaves, cheated on their wives and were looking for fast and cheap ways to get more land to make them selves rich. You might remember that there weren't too many founding fathers that were cobblers or fisherman. They all had homes called Mt. Vernon or Monticello. They didn't live at 127 Back Alley Road, Boston. Along these lines, they set forth a government that was going to be centered on perpetuating their 'click'. That meant that women didn't vote, ethnics didn't vote and in fact, unless you were a land owner, you couldn't vote. Sure they wrote down things about 'We The People' and 'all men created equal', but that was just to get Joseph Cobbler or Ichabod the fisherman to go along with it.

This all worked pretty well, as long as there were resources, land and native people to slaughter. Expansion drives an economy, and when folks are making money (or at least think they are going to), they don't tend to get too restless with the government.

So for about 150 years, politics worked well for those that had created it; Middle to upper class white men. You had the Chicago Machine and the Tammany Hall boys on the east coast and the land barons in the west. They pretty much greased the palms of the politicans that got elected and in general things went the white folk's way. Not a bad deal, as long as you can keep the races pure and keep the ethnics doing the menial labor. The majority had the power and they used it to advance the interests that 'generally' were good for the rest of us.

After World War II, there was a movement that started the rise of the 'ethnics'. All those black people that went off to war, and the Chinese gardeners and the Mexican farm laborers all started to complain about not having part of the 'dream'. This gave rise to the 'new' Democrats. The champions of the down trodden. Prior to the Second World War, Democrats were just like Republican's are today. But the new Democrats, the Kennedys, and the Humphreys, and the Johnsons all wanted to make a new powerbase. One built on sheer numbers of voters, and not money and influence. So we got the civil rights act, social security, the 'New Deal', and so on.

This in turn, over time gave rise to a new class of politician, 'The bureaucrat'. That made money and power by overseeing the vast bureaucracy that stemmed from the glut of social programs brought about to service the down trodden. Ever since this rise of the bureaucracy, the gap between the good of the common people and the governments desire to perpetuate itself has become wider and wider.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the military industrial complex, there was a little unforeseen problem. Without unlimited government deficit spending we had to start finding ways to pay for things. And that is when the economy went global. Resources started to get scarce, powerbases across the globe started to shift, and all of a sudden third world princess had all the oil and upstarts like China and the 'United' Europe started making things better and cheaper. This gave rise to the 'Service Economy ' in the United States. With the exception of specialized production (Stealth Bombers, Fast Attach Submarines, Space Shuttles, etc.) everything we own and want started to come from somewhere else.

This leaves us with the government that we have today.

In the early 1980s there was the Arab Oil Embargo and gas prices soared and there were gas lines and the economy went into depression. This was unexpected to a certain degree. Today, we 'know' that gas is running out. There is not enough supply or infrastructure to supply all the developing 3rd and 2nd world nations with the fuel to run their Toyotas and portable generators so they can watch SKY television. The US government knew this was coming. They could see it in the bar graphs, but have they tightened gas mileage restrictions on new cars? Have they mandated more mass transit? Have they required heavy investment in alternate fuels? We didn't see this coming in the 1980s and we did all these things. We saw it coming in the 2000s and did nothing. Why? Because the politicians and their 'backers' wanted it to happen. There is money to be made in chaos, but only if you can stay above the fray.

There has been a fundamental shift in the concept of government and what it does in the modern society. Instead of an entity by and for the people it has become an entity unto itself and it's primary goal is not to serve the good of the populace but the good of itself. Government now self-perpetuates itself and those elite that run and control it.

In any major presidential campaign of the last 20 years, Boeing and IBM have all given money to candidates to try and influence the laws and regulation that govern their business. The smart corporations give 49% of their campaign money to one party and 51% to the one they really want to win. The end result is, it does not matter who wins, and either candidate is indebted to Boeing and IBM. As in any good mystery or who-done-it follow the money.

We have been lead to believe that since the turn of the last century (the 20th one), this is a two party government and you either have to be a Democrat or a Republican. Obviously it is felt that these two political parties will cover all the possible issues that we will be concerned about. What it really tends to do, is make politics a black or white issue. Sort of like a football game. You can only root for one side to win. Only problem is, this isn't a game. It is our future and the future of the world. The development and fostering of 3rd or 4th political parties in this country has been repressed, not for lack of interest, but because it would upset the playing field. Boeing doesn't want to divide up its campaign spending by giving 19% to one person and 22% to another and 33% to a third.

In case you have not seen the reality of all this, the awful truth is that you have no say in your government. You are told that you have the right to vote and that you are given various candidates that will represent your views. Sorry folks, this is bull shit. Your vote is meaningless. Always has been. This is not a democracy, it is a republic. Which is to say; it is a 'representative democracy' where you choose others to vote for you. The choices that we are given are not choices at all. Our choices are those that can get enough backing from the current power brokers who have determined that the candidate does not scare the public and that the candidate won't upset the apple cart that big government rides in.

Telling the American public that we had a choice between George W. Bush and John Kerry is like saying you have a choice between Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini. Stalin is a great motivator and Mussolini is very charismatic....and owww, yea...they are both Dictators! Bush and Kerry are both just hand puppets of the money machines that keep them in power. This is not a choice.

In the last presidential election, Bush won over Kerry by only a little over 50% of the vote. Wow....close race. Hardly! Only about 1/4 of the American populace bothers to vote in Presidential elections. Of this 1/4 of the populace only HALF voted for Bush (that would make it 1/8 of the populace ... what a mandate!) And this 1/4 of the populace voted for the electors that went off to Washington to rubber stamp Bush into office.

The bottom line is; Politicians are 'appointed', they are not elected. I have seen this in the lowest forms of state and local government and I would be ignorant to think that it does not exist on a larger scale at the federal level. If you need a good example, just look at 'Brownie'....Bush's choice to head up FEMA prior to Hurricane Katrina, Rita. Never mind that this man had NO experience in the job. He helped Bush out somewhere back down the road and this was his pay off. Only problem was those damn storms! Brownie just went to prove, it isn't what you know, it is who you know. Try telling that to the folks in Louisiana.

So my only solution here is, Don't Vote. You are wasting your time. You wont' make a difference. If no one voted, we would still get the same presidents and they would still tell us that they are working on our behalf.

Forms of government are like organisms. They have life spans. They are young and energetic, mature and reserved and eventually, old and disturbed. I have to say that we are in the beginning stages of the latter. Governments only leave town in two ways; slow decay or violent over throw. Given the compressed situation in the world, both with population and connectivity, I doubt that the next change in regime will come from slow decay.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Wrong Turn

15th Avenue
(all photos taken with my PalmPilot)

I walk this way to work every day. Something I am thankful for now that gas is over $3.00 a gallon in these parts. Besides, I have found out long ago, to really know where you live, you have to get out and walk around. You have to walk in places where you are told not to go.

Between where I live and where I work, there are some very nice neighborhoods and there are some not so nice ones. But regardless, people live in all of them. They are people not that different from you and I. Some have more problems and some have a harder time dealing with them. There are a lot of wrong turns on my way to work.

But just because we are told not to take them, doesn't mean that people don't live down these streets. I know a lot of them show up at this store on the 1st and the 15th of every month. Their primary product comes with a twist off cap. Where ever there is a 'need' there is an entrepreneur ready to fill it on 15th Ave.

I call this the Hotel Overpass, where Interstate 10 goes over 15th Ave before plunging into the 'deck-park tunnel' where they built a park over the interstate. I see one or two of God's less motivated people sleeping here when I walk home. The police don't seem to mind. I suppose they have more pressing issues to deal with than interrupting Walter Wino's afternoon nap.

Most of the ghosts I see walking 15th Ave are waiting for something. Social Security checks. A free meal. Their next rock of crystal meth.

I often see people waiting here as well. This is the cemetery near where I work. Although, I don't like the term cemetery. It seems so cold. I prefer Monument Garden because it more accurately reflects what it is.

I think we are all trained as children to fear these places. They are locations of horror movies and zombies. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They are living history parks that have a thousand riddles. I lament that so many people are cremated these days with no real marker for their grave. I wander the grave stones in this park and realize that each one is the final bookmark in a life with a one page, often cryptic, summary.

Some are inspiring, some whimsical, some funny, others are sad. But they all speak to who ever reads them. "Don't forget me." "I lived once too." "I dreamt.", "I mourned", "I loved", "I wished." They don't have to set the alarm clock anymore. They don't worry about gas prices. They finished the race. I like to think that they figured everything out before they left. Something I am still working on.

After my walks it amazes me how far off course we get. We should all take more lessons from the obvious signs around us. The stress created by greed, envy and expectation don't ever amount to much. They just get you to the monument garden a bit faster. Take a lesson from 'Winker'. The top of the piano is as far as I need to go today.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Dead Butterfly

I was driving home from Tucson on Saturday. I was driving a State Van because I had to be in Tucson on Friday on State business. These vans are the pits because no one ever reads the manual for them. Every stupid knob and latch in the dam thing is busted from people yanking on them the wrong way. It took me forever to get my iPod working so I could listen to my 'Top Rated Rock' Playlist. The dang power outlet had been broken by some previous driver. When I finally did get it to work, I was rocking out to about 400 songs that I had picked out as being 'exceptional' from my collection. I was grooving. Hell, I wasn't paying for the gas, and I had good tunes.

I was just passing Picacho Peak on my way north toward Phoenix, when ... SPLAT ... the Monarch butterfly that was crossing the road, didn't quite make it. He impaled himself right on the windshield wiper arm in front of the driver seat. His little colorful wings were shaking in the 60mph wind that was hitting the front of the van.

I tried the windshield wipers to try and throw him off. But he would not budge. I knew he was dead, but his wings continued to flutter in the wind. I could not help but look at him and the intricacy and delicate patterning of his wings. I guess he never knew what hit him.

It was as though Mother Nature was speaking to me and saying, "Hey, numb nuts, stop paying attention to all the trivial bullshit in life. Look what I create on an everyday basis, and you never notice. Look, here it is right in front of you! Can you help but be amazed at the beauty?"

That little butterfly pounded that image into my mind as I drove the 60 miles back to the house. Those small delicate wings, with intricate designs of color and texture, were impaled on the front of a 2002 Chevy Van. There was some sort of strange irony in the whole thing and after it happened, the music on the iPod didn't sound quite as good.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Interview

Management Competency

As I get older, weaker and wiser some things have become clear to me out of the fog of reality. One of those things is that many of the people that I have worked 'for' (supervisors, managers, directors, etc...) were anything but competent. In fact, many of them screwed up the organization that they worked for more than they helped it earn money or stay solvent.

As I became more confident of myself and my abilities, it sort of dawned on me that many of the questions that I was asked in job interviews were asinine. They were obviously created by some idiot legal / psychology team to try and find the ideal job applicant based on bizarre questions concerning my personality. (If you were a tree what would you be?).

Since I know from experience just how incompetent some of these managers that interview me are, I have developed a list of interview questions of my own. I get to spring these at the end of the interview when they ask the final question which is always "do you have any questions?" At that point I pull out my list and start asking. Needless to say, I have not gotten many job offers lately but that is OK, since I don't want to work for some moron that can't answer these.

The Manager Interview:

What is your Degree and from what School? Good to know if degreed from the school of hard knocks or just went through the motions to get a sheep skin.

Follow up: Are you doing any continuing education? Real question shows if they are moving forward, trying to learn more and advance or if they are just dead wood taking up space.

What is your tenure at this job and what did they do previously? Lets you know if they have come up through the ranks and really understand the job or if they were appointed by someone as a favor or are someone's second cousin.

Free word association. Hummer or VW Beetle? The question if obvious to all but management. One shows practicality, frugalness, and outgoing personality. The other shows brute force, fear, intimidation. Who would you want to work for?

What is the turnover ratio in your division? A question that any manager should know, but many have to think about it and or don't want to talk about it.

What is your favorite TV show? Trick question. Those that watch television are influenced by television and television lies to folks. I don't want to work for a manager whose favorite show is Friends or Survivor.

What Is Your Worst Trait? I am so tired of being asked this question in interviews that it is fun to see how management answers it. Since they like to consider themselves as infallible and are always worried about getting the company sued, they never want to answer it and then have it used against them later on down the road.

What is your idea of a 'Team Building' exercise, and what have you done recently to promote one? Again, this is something that makes folks cringe unless they are actually doing it. The best are things outside the office, such as team sports or seminars, etc. Office parties are the worst, since those are basically charades in office dress. No team building in the office shows malaise and deadwood. The manager isn't thinking pro-actively.

How long do you plan on being here and what are your carrier goals? Some managers will say they are going to sit still until they retire. Not a very dynamic work environment and they will be adverse to anything that rocks the boat.

What is your favorite way to pass the time / what is your hobby? Beware the person that has no hobby or passion for anything outside the office. They have given into the dark side and their job is their life and they will make it yours as well.

If publicly traded, ask what the NYSE or NASDAQ stock ticker is and where you might be able to get a hard copy of the last annual report. If they don't know this, then they really don't know their company, nor do they care.

Ask them the difference between Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer. If they don't know, then they don't know the nuts and bolts of how the automated office works. They are figureheads that have little knowledge of what is going on.

Is there an office procedure manual and how often / when was it last updated? Big management no-no if they don't know this. The correct answer is that is should be updated continuously and there should always be one person assigned to it and there needs to be a process where ALL employees get updates and are instructed what has been changed.

Free word association - Vacation or Money. What would you rather have right now? Everyone wants vacation. If they want money, they are not good planners and are living beyond their means. Everyone wants to get out of the office and have a life unto themselves. Those that don't, have problems.

Ask them what their favorite search engine is. If they don't know, bad answer. It is the basic way you find information in the computer age. If they can't find information, they rely on others to get it for them. Google and MSN searches are most likely. Yahoo is also up there, Ask Jeeves and DogPile shows some forward thinking and knowledge of the net.

Ask them if they know the definition of the 'Peter Principle'. This is sort of extra credit and could get you into trouble, but will show you if the manager is competent, a people person and has a sense of humor. The Peter Principle is an axiom in business that states; "In any given organization, every employee will rise to the level of their own incompetence." It basically means that every one will get promoted until they get into a job that they are totally clueless about.

Ask them what the one thing that they would like to do that would make their office/organization run better, but that they have been unable to do / implement. This is dual question, because it will show the failings of the organizational structure and the honestly of the manager. (Follow up; what are they doing to get around this?)

Ask them how fast they can touch type. If it is less than 40 wpm (or they don't know), then they have no hands on experience doing any job, or are a hold over from the days of secretaries. It is very likely that they are incompetent.

Ask them what is more important, assigned parking or a corner office. The answer is 'neither'. These are nothing but ego boosters for those that live for such things. The right answer would be assigned parking for employee of the month or having a corner break room to promote moral.

Free word association: Stoking the fire or greasing the wheels. Managers NEVER stock the fire, the paycheck does that. Their only job is to grease the wheels and make it easier for others to do their jobs. If the wheels are rusted, it does not matter how much heat is under the boiler.

Friday, September 2, 2005

The Big Easy

Reporting Live from Louisiana

I just had to share this with you. If you don't know who this is, his name is 'Foamy'. He is a little, opinionated, animated squirrel that has been on the Internet for a couple of years. He appears in little Flash cartoons from time to time, some of which are very funny and some of which are just strange.

This is his take on the devastation after Hurricane Katrina. I have to admit, that he is pretty dead on for a little Squirrel. If my vote counted, this little guy would be the replacement for Peter Jennings. Click on the icon to watch his report.

(Flash Macromedia Player Required / Strong (but appropriate) Language)


"Rich" and Famous

While riding the bus home from work several months ago I noticed a young urban black man who was intensely looking over the rap CD that he had just purchased from a local music chain store. I found this rather amusing because I knew I could go home and obtain that same music for free by downloading it from newgroups on the internet. This young black man did not know how to download music and was forced to pay the fee of over $14.00 for a shiny pressed piece of plastic they contained the music that he so desperately wanted to hear. It dawned on me at this point that the value of the music was not the $14.00 he had spent. The value was in the young black man's ability to obtain it. The music was not worth $14.00, the price for his ignorance was $14.00.

This has been in the back of my mind for some time. What is the concept of art and its value in terms of money? I know that what I'm about to say will cause a lot of people grief and anger. I believe that this grief is due to the blinders that we tend to put on because society tells us to. We are told by Capitol Records and their lawyers, "It has simply been this way in the past and therefore it should always be this way into the future."

With the advent of the Internet and the compression of global society the idea that artists can make money from selling reproductions of their art and live from the royalties seems somewhat arcane. Anything that can be digitized, such as music or video or artwork cannot really be controlled or profited from in this day and age. The ability to duplicate, cut and paste, and e-mail any type of digital artwork means that its value is only that which is related to one's ability to obtain it. If I can download 10,000 songs, all of which I enjoy listening to, how much are those songs worth? Ninety nine cents a song? $10,000? $100?

However, the unseen benefit to being able to obtain these songs for a nominal fee, or for free, is that I get to experience a broader range of music and have the potential to hear and appreciate music I otherwise would never have heard. Thereby, wanting to experience more music (artwork) than I otherwise would have been able to afford.

This gets back the concept of the value being in the performance, not in the royalties from the reproduction. The value to the performer would be the performance on the song, or the original piece (such as a signed photograph) or a commissioned work. I don't believe that Beethoven got 25 Viennese Francs every time the 9th Symphony was played, but he is considered a great artist. Chritine Aguilara gets $2 for ever CD she sells and we think that she will be remembered in 300 years?

The people that don't want you to think this way, are those that are already entrenched in the old system and don't want it to change. They see the 'rights' to music as a commodity. Michael Jackson bought the Beatles music catalog as an investment. Not for it's artistic value. There is a difference. The record companies have vested infrastructure in promoting and reaping the royalties from radio station and the like. But this has all been leap-frogged by the Internet. Instantaneous digital duplication has made music distribution obsolete, unless you are that poor urban black man on the bus, who was paying a price for his ignorance.

The written word can be considered the same way. Does J.K. Rowling really deserve the millions of dollars for writing was is essentially an ornate children's book, while Noam Chomsky goes almost un-noticed? The ability of a great writer comes in their ability to create the great work. Books are available to be printed on demand over the Internet from many authors now and are also available on e-books (particularly fun to read on a Palm Pilot), in which the author makes direct profit from his work, as long as it is fresh and inspiring.

This is just part of the new world order. The digital planet. A place with no middle men. There are those that will resist this violently. But it is a death struggle and they cannot win in the long run. But as long as they keep fighting, I am going to open up a Rap CD store in the poorer part of town. There is money to be made in ignorance. And lord knows, 50 Cent and Nelly need all the royalties they can get.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The American Journey... [a photo essay]

(thoughts that played through my head on my recent trip up north, all pictures taken along Interstate 17 and Interstate 40 with my PalmPilot)

Every once in a while my job sees fit to yank me form my desk and throw me up into the wild reaches of Arizona to handle some business because we can't retain staff to do it.

I don't mind these long trips, because they give me time to think and reflect on a lot of things.

I-17 North from Phoenix

The American Journey isn't just one from point A to point B. It is a journey of understanding and figuring things out. How our views change over time and from location to location based on our experiences and what we have learned.

Sedona Near Flagstaff

I don't know a lot of conservatives that were not liberals at one point in their lives and vice versa. Folks that were conservative and now throw caution to the wind. Their journeys brought about these changes.

Cabin in the Sky

I chuckle at how much the youth of today can't wait to get off the 'farm' and make it to the big city where anything goes and they can party all they want. Only to find out that by the time they have grown up, had kids, taken out a second mortgage and fixed their car for the 18th time to commute to work, that what they REALLY want is to go back to that rural lifestyle that they longed to escape from so many years before.


These cars were once shiny and new, speeding down what was then Route 66 in a country that was affluent, run by caucasians, where Coke had real sugar and there was no HIV or Ebola. Those days, like these cars, are gone, transformed by the journey.


Yet, in their decay, there is a certain beauty to them. They undergo the slow transition back to the minerals from which they were forged. Like the delicate bones of some pre-historic creature momentarily exposed by the wind before being covered up again.

Gas Pumps

Once these silent sentinels pumped petrol for .29 cents a gallon. Now, in the shadow of the speeding semi-trucks that race by on Interstate 40, they stand as tombstones for the coming end of the petroleum age. More road markers on the journey.

Fallen Dreams

In a way, the land is littered with the graveyards of our past. Those things that we held so dear (or were told to hold so dear) but have become obsolete because something new and better came along. But were they really better? Did we really 'need' them? Figuring that out is one of the purposes of the journey.

Cloud Ruins

In the end, the journey teaches us that many of the dreams we had were not our own. We followed road signs that told of us great destinations, lands of milk and honey, with things that were newer, cheaper, better. But when we got there we found that in the long run none of it was true. The signs were not put up for our benefit, but for the benefit of others, to lead us to them.

Empty Rooms

Some say that we should make our own signs and leave trails to follow, and not follow in the footsteps of others. But the insecurity that is inherent in all our lives holds us back. The older we get, the more we lose that insecurity and the more we finally realize how important it is to blaze those trails, but often we also realize that we have lost the vigor of youth.

Window Ruins

These are the thoughts that continually run through my head while taking these long journeys for my employer. A good use of the State's money, I must admit. In their never ending goal of finding new and inefficient ways of doing things with the taxpayers hard earned cash, they offer me the time and the distance to gage the journey and in so doing, show me just how far off course I am sometimes.

Desert Tower

As I stopped at many of these old places along Interstate 40, I saw all those old days, those slower days. This highway parallels the old Route 66 and it is still visible in many sections. I walked some of it to take these pictures. The mother road had a lot to tell if you just stood still long enough and listened.

I-40 Train

How many journeys? How many lives were changed by the wheels passing over this broken asphalt? A million miles, a million miles.

I-40 Windows

I hope the journey never ends; I have still have so much to learn.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Ignorance Is Bliss

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

Been thinking a lot recently and I have come to a conclusion. Ignorance is bliss. This might be a bit of an overused phrase, but regarding one particular aspect of the human experience, I have come to realize it is true.

It all concerns death. That is right, the big "D" word. We don't like to talk about it that much, which is where the ignorance comes in.

In the western, industrialized world, we are all taught to think of terms of life being infinite. You have the 'rest of your life' to get certain things done. Some day I am going to hike up Everest. I am going to save my money and get that Maserati I have always wanted. We think that there is always going to be time to catch up on those shelved dreams.

We think this way, because no one knows the day and hour of their death.

Imagine if you did. Suppose someone told you, "Mr. Smith, you are going to die in a car accident on March 13, 2014 at 7:32pm."

Imagine what it would be like knowing this. Every time you looked at a clock or a calendar, you would 'know' how much time you had left. Well, thanks to computers and insurance companies, you can have a pretty good guess. Insurance companies keep amortization tables and based on key factors (on average) can tell when you are going to take that one way trip to Neverland.

But the awful truth is, we don't really want someone to tell us this. It takes away the ability to procrastinate, the ability to have infinite dreams. It demolishes the thought that there really is no end as long as you don't think about it.

So if any of you really wanted to figure it out you could. Figure out how much time you have left. It would just take a little work on your part. But it is doubtful any of us will do it. Life's journey isn't supposed to have an end. At least not in this day an age.

But if you are curious, (Click Here) Death Clock

Monday, August 15, 2005


Don't Forget To Breathe

Half awake, I take a quick warm shower. It's the rule. Then, knowing the quicker I get this started the better I will feel, I fall into the water. It's coolness rushes over me and jolts me awake. My skin tingles, my toes curl. I take a big gulp of air and submerge my head, rubbing all the oil from my face and sleep from my eyes...rubbing my cheeks and arms to wake up.

There is a ritual to all this. First I put the lap fins on my feet; small flippers to work out my legs. Next the ear plugs, because I know how annoying it can be to get water in my ears during the turns. Then the web gloves on my hands to give my arms more traction. Finally, I put the goggles over my eyes. Within a minute, I am transformed into the middle-aged dolphin of the suburbs.

The ritual continues. I have been doing it so long that I have tweaked all the steps and know them without thinking. Stretching my arms and my legs, I take deep breaths. One breath, then another, and then another, blowing the spent air out of my lungs quickly. One final gulp and I drop under the surface, spring from the edge of the pool with my legs and kick my fins in unison to drive the length of the pool underwater. The ritual dictates that I cannot surface. I must traverse the entire length of the pool kicking like a fish, using only my legs.

As the oxygen slowly runs out, the far side of the pool comes into view and I surface. I have passed the first test. It is an easy one.

Looking back at the lane, it is empty, as is the whole pool. Forcing myself out of bed at 4am in the morning to be the first one here has given me this advantage. I am the master of the lap pool. Outside, the sun has yet to invade the day. The echo of the pool and the ripples in the water are the only sound. Here, there is solitude, before the day invades my world. Here, there is just me and the rhythms of my body and the coolness of the water.

I push off and start a lazy breast stroke. Doing this for so many years, I have learned to inch my heart rate up slowly. In the beginning, I had to keep reminding myself to slow down, to not swim too fast. Running out of breath in the middle of the pool is never a good thing. At the end of each stroke I tilt my head to gasp some air before turning my face downward to stare at the blue strip of tile that defines my lane. The rule is that I can't stop. Once the journey has begun, I have to complete the laps. The total is usually 10, sometimes more depending on how long I have to swim. As the end of the lane comes into view, I take one last deep gulp of air into my lungs and somersault in the water, kick off from the side of the pool and twist in the water so that I surface in the opposite direction and continue swimming. That's lap #1.

Swimming like this forces solitude upon me. There are no distractions. The ear plugs muffle and distort all sound, although the only sound at this time of the day is the water splashing past me. With nothing but the rate of my breathing and the blue line below me, my mind starts to wander. Deprived of all distractions, my mind becomes and ocean that is vast and deep. The flotsam and jetsam of my life floats through my thoughts.

What tasks are on my schedule once I get to the office? Is my left front tire leaking air? I need to remember to pay those utility bills before the end of the week.

End of the blue line, flip, push off, twist... surface. Where was I? Owe yea those bills, not to mention the car insurance coming due soon, Yeah, that was lap #2.

I still have to force myself to slow down and allow my lungs to catch with my brains desire to become the human torpedo. Patience. That is one of the reasons I am here. Forcing myself to slow down. See the different light, seek the different solution. It isn't all traffic, bills and job interviews and ... end of line, flip, push, twist, surface.

I have to start thinking of my next vacation. I know that the practical side of my brains is telling me this is a good workout and that I need to lose that weight. The realistic side of my brain knows that this is all about stress reduction. Too much stress in the modern industrial age. I need to get away more. Go hiking, maybe in the Superstitions, or down in Mexico. But that will take planning; swimming is much easier and is on my way to work. Besides I know this is better for me than drinking down Vodka to try and get relaxed or munching on Cheetos while I watch Starsky and Hutch on ....wall, flip, push, twist, surface.

Yea, food. What am I going to eat when I get to work? After these laps I deserve some sort of reward. What lap was that? Shit. Always forgetting. I think that was 4, no 3. Great, now I am going to wonder if I swam too many laps or not enough. Damn it.

Breakfast Burrito, yeah, that would be so good, with eggs and sausage in it, and the good coffee from Circle K. I am gliding through the water now, my heart rate in sync with my breathing. My pace quickens slightly since I have warmed up. With each turn, my mind wanders to a long since forgotten corner of the ocean. Old relationships and why they went wrong, the things I want to buy, but really don't need. My societal trained urges to want things that have no real purpose. My struggle to become more creative. Each thought eventually interrupted by a turn and a push off the wall.

Eventually, I notice other swimmers in the lane next to mine, gliding past me in the opposite direction. They are visible only for a moment. What are they thinking? Have they lost count? What are they escaping from?

Finally, I 'think' the last lap is upon me. Here, there are no reserves. I open it up and thrash through the water like a crazed shark. No doubt, terrifying anyone that might stray into my lane. My lungs straining, I reach the far wall and stop. Gasping for air, my feet touch the bottom of the pool for the first time in 15 minutes and I remove my goggles. I am spent, tired, relaxed. Only two things left to do.

While still breathing hard, I lie on my back and do a lazy paddle with my feet to the opposite end of the pool where this all started. As I let my breathing slow down, I stare at the ceiling as it passes over me. I have to count the number of beams or risk the chance of slamming my head into the far end of the pool. This is the cool down lap. The lap where I get to gloat about my conquest of the morning.

As I reach the end of the pool, I climb from the water, put my apparatus away and head for the steam room. The ultimate goal. Solitary, warm, relaxing, a place to hide with my thoughts before the invasion of the day.

Wrapping my towel around my head, I swing open the glass door to the hissing sound or escaping steam. It is tiled, with tiers to sit on and a glass wall that looks out onto the pool. The wet heat envelopes me, immediately nullifying the coolness of the water on my skin that is left over from the pool. The hiss of the steam coming from a pipe in the corner is almost deafening. Yet, it serves a purpose. Like so much white noise, it cancels out any sound from the outside world. Like the air escaping a punctured tire, the pressure and the stress are released with it. I sit in the far corner of the room, towel over my head to prevent the super heated air from burning my nostrils and my lips as I slowly breathe in and out.

Between the sound of the steam, the hard tile floors, the glass windows and the echoing of the voices in the pool beyond, all the sounds that reach my ears here are garbled. Indistinguishable. There are people in the pool now, there is talk and splashing. But the sounds they make are distorted by the echoes off the water and the hard walls, so that they sound distant, transformed, and unearthly. I stretch me legs in the heat, I crack my neck. For all the things that I am told to want and desire in life, I always end up realizing that this is one of the most important and most attainable.

The door to the steam room opens and someone else walks in. Between the steam and the towel over my head I cannot see who, nor do I care. The outside world has started to come in. The real struggle begins. Time to start a brand new day. I just have to remember to pace myself and breathe.

Monday, August 8, 2005

The Void

Thanks Dad

Not all of you may know this, but my father passed away last week. So it was not the best week of my life by a long shot. While I had prepared myself for his inevitable passing (he had a terminal illness that we knew he could not beat) there is always that sense of finality when it all hits you, and you realize that things have changed, irrevocably.

The thing that you can't really foresee in this type of situation are the little things that became second nature and ingrained in your personality. You notice them when they are gone, but sort of take them for granted when loved ones are still around.

There is that 'void' in my parents house now because my dad is no longer there and at times, that void seems tremendous.

Folks that met my father and did not know him well, did not know what to make of him sometimes. While he was always courteous and talkative, some people came away with the impression that he was unsympathetic and critical of my brother and me and sometimes was rude to my mother. I found that these folks usually never really knew what a caring and loving parent was.

My father was a great man. Not because he fought great battles or built great bridges or amassed large sums of money. He was a great man because he just did the right thing 90% of the time. Something that I have never known anyone else (including myself) to do since I have been alive.

His constant criticisms about my earning potential, or my weight, or the amount of air in my tires or the length of my hair were not derogatory at all. They were just his way of showing that he cared. He wanted the best for the ones he cared for and took every opportunity to 'coach' them in the direction that he thought was best for them. He knew we would do what ever we wanted, but he always wanted those near him to know he was thinking about them.

I came to realize this when I saw the parents of other people totally ignore their children or were constantly angry at them for not living up to their expectations. My parents were different. They are selfless. They told us what to do as children, pushed us out into the world and told us to make the best of it. Then they always looked forward to hearing from us to find out what we had learned.

Now that my dad is gone, I walk into my parent's home and realize that he will never again be sitting at the kitchen table to engage me in discussions about politics, the economy, my job, my health or a wealth of other things. This is that void that I am referring to. His willingness to simply give of his time to make sure someone was doing OK, and offer advice (sometimes very bluntly) about what was best for you.

I did not realize it in the beginning, but I came to rely on him more than I could ever realize over the years because of his selfless interest in me. He was like the Rock of Gibraltar. He would never solve my problems (that was something he taught us all to do on our own), but he would sure as hell make sure you going in the right direction to figure them out.

The classic wish of being able to go back in time and do anything you want is often bantered around the Internet. I have to admit that mine has changed. To sit around the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and have a discussion with my dad about 'anything' just went to the top of that list and I don't believe that it will ever change.

When my father was diagnosed with his illness, I visited him in the hospital. He was philosophical about the whole thing and said he had no regrets about his life and that he felt that he had a 'pretty good run'.

Since most of you could not have known him as well as his family, I have to tell you that this has to be one of the biggest understatements I have ever heard in my entire life. Allow me explain what a 'good run' is to my father:

Born in Iowa just after the First World War.
Learned to fly in the 1930s out of an Iowa Cornfield.
Went to college but dropped out to serve in World War II, he became a flight instructor, training pilots for the Army.
Flew bomber missions later in WWII over Germany.
Came home after the war but was called back up for service in Korea.
Married my mother
Rejoined the Air Force in the early 50s and was stationed in: Maine, Texas, California, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Hawaii, Okinawa and Thailand.
While Base Commander at Vandenburg Air Force Base, launched military satellites into orbit.
Served in Thailand during the Vietnam War.
Raised two sons and put both through college.
Retired after 35 years as a full Colonel in the Air Force.
Moved to Tucson, Arizona and 'finally' completed his college degree near the age of 60.
Worked for H&R Block for almost 15 years as a tax preparer.
Until his 80th birthday, continued to walk 5 miles a day and work out at the local gym.

Now mind you, after reading that very 'brief' history of his life, he considered this a 'good run'. I don't know if it is the times we live in, or the character of the generations that followed, but I don't foresee any of us, having a 'good run' such as this in our lifetimes. But to my father, this was all "No Big Deal".

If there is a heaven and I run into him up there after my time on this earth is up, I am really looking forward to sitting down and having a long discussion with him. Just like we always used to do. I am sure we will have a lot of catching up to do.

Monday, August 1, 2005

The Litigious Society...

Click the Picture to get in on the Ground Floor

First of all, I have to preface this, by saying that I am sure that what I am about to write about is not universal, yet. This is not the case 'everywhere'; however, I believe that it will eventually become the standard everywhere, at least in the United States.

If you live in Wichita, Kansas, or Boise Idaho, this probably won't make a lot of sense to you, because the cancer has yet to creep that far north. But let me give you a little glimpse of the litigious society that is slowly taking over your world and WILL be a part of your future.

The moral and legal systems of this country are being taken over by attorneys. These people do not 'practice' law. They practice making money, anyway they can. There once was a time when jurisprudence was considered to be a sort of holy art, like being a doctor or a member of the clergy. Lawyers were well paid, but were also expected to uphold the best interest of the society in which they practiced. Well, you can kiss those days goodbye folks.

Here in Phoenix, Arizona, we have the distinction of being the home of one particular lawyer, who is still practicing law. His law firm is named Van Osteen. He is the lawyer who took lawyers right to 'advertise' all the way to the US Supreme Court... and won.

You may not have seen the affect of this 10-year-old decision yet, but you will. If you ever pass through Phoenix, Arizona (or worse yet, you actually move here), you will notice something a bit out of the ordinary. There are advertisements for attorneys everywhere. On billboards, the sides of buses, bus stop benches, and the backs of phone books. Plaintiff Attorneys (the ones that get 33% of any injury settlement that you receive) actually fight over billboard space at the most accident prone intersections in this town.

The concept being, that if you get rear-ended, they want you to get out of your vehicle and see that great big 60' X 20' sign screaming "Jacoby & Meyers - Injury Lawyers". You will whip out your cell phone, dial the number, and they will come to the accident scene, no joke.

I know what you are thinking. You are probably saying; "You must have been screwed over by one of these guys, and you are pissed". Well, not really, I used to work with them. 15 years in insurance claims and investigations showed me just what a creepy crawly bunch of folks these are.

If you live here, you quickly learn that they have to advertise, because there is sooo much competition for the poor wounded victim in this town. So the early bird gets the worm. Phoenix has no mass transit, small freeways and way too many automobiles.....those poor lemmings rushing off to work, or to pick up their crystal meth fix are just bound to slam into one another. And when they do...Cha-Ching....there is money to be had by someone.

Forget right or wrong or who was at fault or who might be injured. 33% of insurance policy limits is a minimum of $5,000 in Arizona. Not a bad profit for making 3 phone calls and sending a letter, which is all most attorneys do.

The quickest way to see two attorneys drop a case and run, is when both drivers get into an accident, rush out to retain counsel and then the attorney's find out that both clients were un-insured. Can't collect if there are no deep pockets....

[ring ... ring ... ring]

Boye, Dewy, Skrum & Howe Law Offices....may we help you? What's that?

You weren't at fault? (Excellent!)

You are injured? (Even better!!)

Your life is ruined? (I can afford that new Mercedes!!!)

Nobody paid their liability insurance premium? (Hey, screw you pal. 33% of nothing is nothing....we are out of here.)

So much for guarding the public trust, pro-bono work does not pay the bills.

As in all fundamental shifts in societal structure, this 'greed' of law has made a change in the public mindset. If all you see is media (TV, Radio, Billboards) proclaiming that you are entitled to the BIG BUCKS because someone runs over your toe, then everyone becomes injured, regardless if they are or not. I tend to call this the "why haven't I won the lottery yet?" mindset. This has also brought forth the 'perpetual victim' here in Phoenix. That person that takes no responsibility for anything they do and expects to collect from others because of their lot in life. If there is insurance involved, there aren't too many lawyers in this town that are going to dissuade you from being a 'victim'. Those folks that are drama queens or drama kings just love attorneys for this reason. They get attention AND money....yeee hawww!!!

The con-artist that slipped the finger in the bowl of Wendy's chili was one of these people. She had a long history of ding the con and being the drama queen. She knew where the deep pockets were. She has been a 'victim' for years. She probably has a diploma from Victim University. She just reached a little too far for the brass ring and fell off the litigation-go-round. Maybe she should have just gone with the fingernail.

This brings up another important point, which is the concept of pain for money. Lawyers love this. Pain is so 'intangible' and money is sooo tangible. Measuring pain is smoke and mirrors, money is countable. When smoke and mirrors produce countable cash... attorneys will be there. I can scream and contort on the floor and look like I am being hit by a Tazer, but you really don't know if there is any pain involved. But it sure looks like there is.

Since plaintiff attorneys get money for your pain, it makes little sense for you to be only marginally hurt. If someone runs over your toe (even if you are wearing steel tipped work boots), you are permanently injured for life around here.

That is why the minimum limits death claim is so frustrating to an attorney. If you have minimum limits in this state ($15,000) and you kill someone (say a drunk passed out in the street that you run over), all they can collect for the dead drunk's disenfranchised daughter is the $15,000. From that, the poor attorney only gets to pocket the 33%, which is $5,000. If you ONLY had $100,000 policy limits, they could get that (cha-ching) $33,000 paycheck.

Come on folks, it is only another $45 a year on your insurance premium. Help an attorney out here. Up your limits and then kill someone. Whether or not the drunk's life was worth the settlement is irrelevant. Hell, he could have been dead already, but you ran him over, so it does not really matter. Can’t prove he “didn’t” suffer!

It is amazing how much more an injury is worth if there are just some deep pockets to go along with it. Sure the plaintiff attorneys could go after someone's assets if they don't have insurance, but most law firms work on the short term. Two years is OK to collect $15,000 or so. But invest billable hours and wait five years to get a portion of someone's slum house in Phoenix? I don't think so. Fast cash is the name of the game in the Phoenix legal arena.

But of course, if you already have the BIG bucks, you can always BUY the law. O.J. did it. Michael Jackson did it. Ken Lay tried to do it (bad idea Ken, should have skipped the country). Martha Stewart...well, Martha just wasn't as bright as we thought she was, she should have brought the jury some cookies.

The end result in all this, is that you have to 'prove the truth' in today's legal system. You don't have to prove the 'guilt'. We are supposed to be presumed innocent, but that is not the case. If someone runs over your toe, the system has to prove you are not injured; the public perception (by default) is you are. It is not worth the defense's (insurance companies) time or money to defend the insured on moral principles, so they just pay out the money and move on. After all, just like the attorney's, the insurance companies are here to make money. Not to do what is 'right'.

In the insurance world, the 'premium' is the thing... not the settlement check. Regardless of what the Good-Hands people tell you.

In summation, your honor; there are laws and then there are laws. There are the laws of physics, which are universal. If it happens here on earth, it has to happen on Cygnus. However, monetary trends govern the laws of jurisprudence. And the ebb and flow of money is not universal. Sometimes societies have it and sometimes they don't.

The laws of jurisprudence are molded to fit the current trends in society. The current trend is the short-term greed of the populace. So the system that we were thought would protect the innocent and prove the guilt of the law breakers has morphed into a money machine that only benefits those that have the ability to wield it, and those with the lack of morals to abuse it.

Get ready Minot, North Dakota. The lawyers are coming.

Now...I have to go put my foot underneath someone's tire....I have a mortgage payment to make.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pizza Palace Just Went Online

Click For A World Without Secrets

First of all, if you have not seen this little video clip, I highly recommend that you watch it. It is funny in the extreme and very well done. It made the rounds about 9 months ago and most of my friends saw it through e-mail.

However, that isn't why I am posting it here.

After I got done chuckling at this little skit and the paranoia that it was supposed to instill in all of us, I started thinking about 'why' the content was so funny.

The skit references a world in which 'big brother' has gone wild and can control our lives. There are no secrets, everything you do, buy, say and think is documented and can be used against you. Sort of George Orwell's 1984 come to life in the present day. The ACLU and the American left wing want you to be very afraid of this and want you to fear the idea of being 'exposed' for all the world to see.

Over the years, I have trained myself to ask the question "why" a lot. If someone tells me I should like something, or that I should be afraid of something, I ask "why". Seems to me, that too many of us take what others say (be it a friend, the media or the President) and take it as truthful.

If Exxon / Mobil says 'toxic sludge is good for you', I sort of ask "why". Could Exxon / Mobil be lying to me? What is THEIR motivation for telling me this.

So with this sort of warped mindset, I watched the ACLU's version of Pizza Palace and started asking some questions. Why is this so bad? If this type of world came to pass, what would it entail?

A world where neighbors had no secrets about one another.

1. A world where you knew if your new neighbor was a PhD scientist or a pedophile.

2. A world where you knew if they were taking out a 3rd mortgage on there house to deal with a gambling problem.

3. You knew that their last 3 houses all burned down within 2 years.

A world were no spouse had to worry about the other one cheating.

1. You knew that your spouse had filed suit against 3 previous employers, all for sexual harassment.

2. Your husband had really been at a strip club when he had told you that he was visiting a sick friend in the hospital.

3. That your fiancé was under the care of a psychiatrist for bi-polar disorder and extreme depression.

A world where employees and employers had nothing to hide and knew who was incompetent.

1. You would know before you took a job that the company has the highest turnover ratio during the last 8 months of their 15 year history.

2. You would know that your new female supervisor's maiden name was the same as the company founders and she had just gotten out of 2 years of drug rehab.

A world where your status and monetary prowess was known to all, and not masked by clothes, jewels, cars and homes.

1. You would know that the person driving the Hummer in front of you was in debt up to his / her ass and about to go bankrupt.

2. You would know that the bum on the street sleeping on a bus bench was really worth 8 million dollars and that he "chooses" to live the way he does.

3. You would know that the strange folks living across the street from you were actually using the home as a drop house for immigrant smugglers or a meth-lab.

A world where everyone knew what each others physical frailties where and they were all accepted.

1. A world where you knew what your friends, office mates, lovers and neighbors all had to deal with in their personal lives.

2. What diseases they had, what medication they were on.

3. What trauma they had faced in life.

4. How many kidneys' they had.

5. Do they know what chemotherapy is really like?

In short, this all sounds like the world of the 'good old days', when we all lived in small towns and knew our neighbors and everyone helped each other out and was compassionate to their plights.

Instead, the ACLU fosters the fear of having all your 'secrets' found out. We don't want people to know that we have AIDS or are about to go bankrupt, that we cheat on our spouses or don't know the first thing about our jobs. Because that would make us appear 'lesser' in the eyes of others and hurt our chances to 'improve' our situation through deception.

Seems that we are more in fear of having our ego's bruised than of having the world a better place and understanding others.

That was the answer to the questions of "why" that I kept asking myself after seeing this little video.

All of a sudden, it did not seem that funny.

Hmmm, I wonder "why"....

Monday, June 27, 2005

Hummer - The Urban Assault Vehicle

Outta My Way Punk!

First there was the H1, built for the military. Then there came the H2, built on a GM truck chassis, but made to 'look' utilitarian. Now comes the H3, boxy but smaller. Say hello to the Hummer Family. Another really good reason why the rest of the planet thinks we are friggin nuts.

Never mind the fact that you could build and staff a school in central Zimbabawe for the cost of one of these things. Not to mention feed a whole town in Uganda for a year based on what these things guzzle in gas every year. In a time of diminishing fuel sources, global warming and ozone depletion, this monster gets 9 miles per gallon!

Every time I see one of these things, with their bling-bling alloy wheels, garish chrome and 'thumper' sound systems I have to wonder what sort of statement the driver is trying to make:

"I am filthy rich and you aren't!"

"My Oscar Meyer Weiner is really a Vienna Sausage!"

"I got beat up on the playground as a child....BUT NEVER AGAIN!"

"I just turned 55, got a toupe and all my divorced buddies have Corvettes!"

"Someday, I'll be brave enough to drive down a dirt road!"

"I am paranoid as all hell and live in fear of being hit by a bus!"

They have become and icon of our times. Excess consumerism in a world of shrinking enconomies and limited resources. Are they sort of the prize we have given to ourselves for winning the cold war? The Navy has nuclear powered aircraft carriers, the Air Force has stealth bombers, the Army has M1 Abrams tanks, and the American civilian has their Hummer. Gives a new slant on the concept of an Army of One.

I think deep down, this vehicle just represents another step in the downward spiral of our self isolationism. I mean look at this thing. Could it look more unfriendly? It is the 'bank vault' that we drive around town. No one can touch us in one of these things. In here the rest of the world can't touch me. And if they try, I will just drive right over them.

I miss my Yugo...