You Can Quote Me On That

Let the Federal Government shutdown...

Not only that, let's celebrate it, make it an extra long national holiday, a break from the political and bureaucratic classes who sharpen their wits with deal-making every day. "Oh NO!" you cry! "What about all the people who need their Social Security and Welfare checks?" "What about Medicare and Medicaid?"

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

I'm pretty confident that deep in the American soul there's enough people with a heart and ingenuity who will take care of people when they don't get the check. That is those who want help anyway. I'll bet it won't be bleeding heart liberals either but regular working people. The so-called progressives will be busy getting busted up by the people they've been "helping," who are angry the free ride isn't being conveniently direct deposited. There's a pretty good chance there are several million doctors and health providers who would love to be free of all the paperwork and provide health service at reasonable cost.

It's one way to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Let's not talk about a week or two here but months, maybe even years. It will be a shakedown of what "vital services" really are and what the government should be involved in and facilitate solutions for. We would know after a period of time what institutional services really are important and needed versus those who are getting the gravy money and dispensable. For example the Coast Guard would qualify but I'm willing to bet that some of their agencies and people will be found as not necessary. My money is on that most students can be taught exceptionally well by competent teachers, let out of the corral and freed from administrators and unions, liberated to innovate without all the clutter of interference.

What about all the disruption it would cause?

Think of the disruption that's going to happen if we don't stop feeding the beast. The political class, bureaucrats and non-governmental organizations living off "grants" is trying to pirate away our money for a government that doesn't serve those of us paying for it very well. They're hijacking our government and we're the fools for voting them in. We need to get hold of the remote control again. Just as surely as the tech bubble, housing bubble and the stock bubble burst, so will the Big Government bubble burst. Now that will be real disruption.

The point is not entirely tongue in cheek. I seriously think we need to let the government stop, become immobile, cease and desist. Most of it anyway and I mean seriously paring it down to bare bones, not this phony baloney "shutdown" which is really government workers staying home and getting paid with all those accumulated personal days, vacation days, sick time. No, just S. T. O. P....Skid Tires On Pavement before smashing into the brick wall of no return. If bureaucrats, politicians and their staff don't have big savings accounts with their bloated paychecks, I don't feel sorry for them. They can help out at the food bank and get groceries.

What is really needed will still be carried out while we figure out what we need and can afford.

Truly vital communications, defense, electrical power, infrastructure and markets will still run without all the programs, grants, pencil and people pushers while we figure out what really is necessary that we can afford. We need to seriously look at our options now before it inevitably bursts all over us like an overcooked egg in a microwave.

Arizona Landscape

No Outlet...


Writing: Fact and Fiction

My anxiety...

An exercise in writing on a topic I rarely publicly discuss.

Like a low vague sound of some humming electrical device the feeling is omnipresent and hangs in my soul somewhere, haunting me without explanation. I'm not exactly sure when I really became aware there was a name for it except it was sometime in the late eighties. It's an unexplained disquiet which for me usually leads to a low level melancholy or depression if I don't resolve it. It occurs to a lot more people than is recognized since those of us who live with it don't like to talk about it. Men suffer from it as much as women but we're generally not very good at identifying intrinsic emotions and expressing them well. Many of us act out inexplicably due to it.

There are two themes underlying my faint angst. The first theme is some unfinished business or I did something I wish I hadn't that is bothering me and it has not been addressed. Very often I really don't know what it is or conversely, I do, but would rather push it down with some cement of the mind to keep it from surfacing. If I do nothing and don't dig within to figure out what is bugging me it turns to melancholy. The other theme is my anxiety is right out there, live wire on the surface, edging to be dealt with immediately. That can be the most dangerous since if I'm around people I'm likely to do and say things that result in something worse. Remorse. That is the tipping point depression sets in.

When I refer to melancholy or depression it is not of the clinical variety but rather a natural emotion that most people feel sometimes, some experience it more often than others. It is a flat or dead feeling and I am sluggish. The best solution is to sleep it off. I have experienced deep, dark, black depression a few times in my life but it was due to a specific tragic event, a normal and typical reaction. Death of a loved one, job loss and broken relationship come to mind. Thankfully I had a support system during those times who listened to me, although in each case the only real answer was time.

Over the years I have tried a lot of routes and taken advice on how to deal with my anxiety. Some of the roads and answers were good and others were very bad for me. With no humility I think I can truthfully say I've learned that I'm smarter than any psychologist or therapist I've ever seen professionally or known personally with the exception of one friend. She is atypical for her field and believes most therapists dish out pablum and balderdash. Her advice, like so many of my head-on-shoulders friends, has helped me make sense of how to deal with anxiety more than any psychologist ever has. The same can be said for doctors who want to feed you pills, there is a price for taking them and it's high and not worth the expense of the aftermath.

What does work is knowing yourself well enough to recognize what is happening when it happens. The discovery of how to cope with it and solve the puzzle before it escalates can be a painful process but well worth it. I know that for fact because I have done it and can follow my own advice of what works for me, however, actually implementing the solution is sometimes another matter. The same strong character traits that usually work for me can also work against me. Persistence becomes stubborn. I know in my intellect that what I should do is think, search and find what is nagging my soul and deal with it. Herein lies the rub, sometimes I am just stubborn and don't want to take the time to deal with it, even knowing full well what will be next.

Fortunately most of the time, especially these past few years, I deal with my anxiety effectively. Writing is integral to my methods of both clarifying and purging my vital essence. Once I mull over and reason out the core of the matter, I am then able to implement very old fashioned solutions to the problem.

Think positively.
Take action to fix what is broken.
Accept it as a learning experience and personal growth.
Things usually work themselves out the way they're supposed to.

You're granddad's or father's advice maybe? Probably. Modern psychology and psychiatry is great for other people if it works for them. All I know is if I take the bull by the horns and wrestle the beast to ground, I won't get gored.

[inspired by Maryann, who is braver and more courageous than she thinks]

Arizona Landscape

Muted sun waiting for haiku poet...


A Head of My Time

On earning your keep...

The battle lines are being drawn between the entitlement mentality crowd and the legion fed up with them.

When I was young my mother would say in her inimitable British way, that I certainly had endurance and stamina. Depending on the situation, if she was referring out of pride or dismay, she would add that "I had a good English backbone" or "you certainly have your father's American grit." My father's response was always a sanguine "I wonder where he got that from..."

My parents where a unique combination. My mother grew up on the coast of southeastern England during the Second World War with bombs literally dropping around her. My father was a Western American who grew up in a dried up Arizona hard hit by the Great Depression and inherited real true grit. They were rich only in that they were fortunate to come from educated middle class families, who managed to persevere by their ability to work through difficult times, with ingenuity and making the best of bad situations. Humility and humor were both necessary attributes. In that sense, although their childhoods and adolescence occurred during an arduous time period, they did not want for anything they needed. They also grew up knowing that they got a break, since they witnessed firsthand the devastation and destitution of others and were not shielded from it. That does not mean they had excess of anything, only they were not wounded or hungry, everyone was affected by the Great Depression and WWII in some way.

I tend to think that a lot of the skills required to overcome adversity and rise above, persevere through tough times, anxiety and depression, physical pain, deprivation and isolation is largely inherited through some genetic coding as well as parenting, along with acquiring coping skills through hard lessons in life. Almost everyone I know who has the character to endure burdens that others can't, have one or all those factors, regardless if they grew up rich, poor or somewhere in between. All races, both genders, either sexuality.

Large segments of the US population lack staying power and are looking for the easy way out.

When my family moved to this country when I was 14, although we were not without some means we were starting out all over again. We left where we were with the minimum of goods, the money we were allowed to take out of there, sorry to go but knowing it had become a hostile place with a limited future and happy to come to the US. I had always wanted to move to this country and for me the goal was to make the best out of my life in the way of education, achieving by work and effort. My hopes were for a happy, comfortable life with the ability to obtain things I wanted. That didn't necessarily include having a big house, a luxury car or expensive fashionable clothes, although I did like and want nice things. It also didn't matter to me if that was the goal of others, as long as it didn't trample on me or anyone else in our goals.

That is where in the late eighties and early nineties my values and goals started to really clash with many natural born Americans.  It was not only that they seemed to want more and more big and flashier things. It was that I was seeing how a mentality of entitlement was insidiously creeping into the culture of a large segment of the population. Additionally they didn't care how they got it or what harm they may be causing to everything from values to economics, to society or to the environment. It was their right to have more stuff and bigger things without any regard to how they got it or if they had worked for it. It came to be a dominant theme in the social conduct of America, turning having more than you earn a virtue instead of a vice.

On account of where I live, the work I do and the sheer numbers of people I am exposed to, I am well aware of a lot of people whose lives were built on this type of entitlement consumerism and are crashing and burning. I take no pleasure in it but I have no empathy for the whining and crying of the disappointment these people feel. As far as I'm concerned their anger is misplaced about losing their "right" to conspicuous consumption and misdirected in the wrong trajectory. They should be redirecting it to themselves and placing the blame on their own shoulders. I see trouble ahead for society from these people.

We are already getting the signals from unhappy adults with childlike cries for their rattles back. They're expecting the government and other citizens to bail them out to continue their "right" to a lifestyle they didn't truly earn and those that whine "you promised us." Wisconsin is just a small sampler of the backfire from that camp that is on its way to pitching tents of fits all over the country. On the other side there are those fed up with subsidizing the life of others, especially since most of them have weathered this economic storm without much assistance from the government, unions or social services agencies. My bet is on them, they're even angrier and are beginning to marshal their troops to repudiate both the entrenched political class and arming to counter-demonstrate against the entitlement hordes. It's a matter of time.

This is where I also see the worth in the values I inherited, the parenting I received and learning from the mistakes I made with money, relationships and employment. There is a price when you take the effortless way out by accepting easy money, ditching relationships at the drop of a hat without resolving personal problems, for taking easy jobs that pay too well for really doing very little. There are no rights except those outlined in the US Constitution and I find nothing in that document that addresses the desire to have goodies is a right or to live off public money. There is no "we promised you" clause or mention of an implied contract that you would get what you want.

There is a storm gathering that is going to blow out and wash down everything and everyone that does not have the wherewithal to hold on tightly. Endurance and stamina will be required as well as the knowledge of what you really need and that you don't always get what you want.

Arizona Landscape

Hello Central? CenturyLink to Qwest...


Thinking Out Loud

There is no going back in time...

Life is not going back in America to the way it was pre-2007 no matter how much the Federal Government, The Federal Reserve and US Treasury, Congress and their lackeys on Wall Street and friends along the Boston to DC corridor pretend nothing has changed. The financial world has it backwards, their ego is not allowing them to recognize a very clear simple fact, that can easily be figured out by watching the Stock Market and their flunkies at the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and on CNBC. The Federal Government, the Fed, Treasury and FDIC are propping them up and Wall Street financiers and bankers are castrated servants.

The actual working real private sector and American people know this. It is only a matter of time before the facade crumbles and the Northeastern so-called elites Masquerade Ball will be over. The show will go on for the rest of the country but without them. How and when this will happen is not yet determined but that it will, much sooner than many realize, is just as certain as a Ponzi scheme eventually reveals itself. Politically and socially two seemingly opposing sides are signalling the same message. Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich may differ politically on fundamental responses but both agree on the inappropriate actions of the Federal Reserve and the banking system. The Tea Party coalition and unionists heartily disagree over basic policies, but are in the same league in believing that the current two political parties are engaging in business as usual, being unresponsive to constituent demands.

What will spur the fall? Anything can happen but three things stand out as the source of a breakdown of the system as we know it. Money cannot continue to be printed without having any intrinsic value and the debt crisis of governments all around the world will eventually reach a stalemate exacerbating a currency crisis. The chain of supply for essential parts and goods has been disrupted by the tragedy in Japan and will worsen with the war on Libya. Also, the war on Libya is only the outward manifestation of festering full blown disputes and conflicts in the entire Middle East, that will not be resolved diplomatically or easily and not without further battles.

Arizona Landscape

Rearview Mirror...


Arizona Landscape

Tin cat on a hot wall...

RIP Dame Elizabeth Roseland Taylor 1932 - 2011 


Geography of the Mind

Seedlings of thought...

In nonconcrete life, one attribute of lasting value we have to offer others is planting seedlings of thought that grow to become thriving shoots. Usually we are unaware that we are doing so. When seedlings mature to cross-pollinate more thought, they become  implanted in ways we didn't conceive of in our first abstraction. Whether planted in neatly irrigated rows or willy nilly in the wild, ideas start as ephemeral wisps that advance into concepts to become full blown ideas. Although some ideas do wither and die while others fertilize and grow, the real importance is thinking, journeying through the mind to uncover what has potential for harvesting.

Thoughts and ideas are to be shared, in the raw and fully formed. A good conversation is an exchange that generates growth in us and others. The medium doesn't necessarily matter. Whether it is face-to-face, verbal or in writing, occurs over a long period of time or in a matter of minutes, is usually irrelevant. It might arise in something seemingly obscure as a random exchange or an email on another subject but during that discourse one little line, perhaps only an aside to the originator, may create a small kernel that grows into a full grown vision for the recipient. It's significance is in reciprocation, since what others offer us, tills a rotation of crops of intellect.

Our only true legacy is how we influence others and how we use that capability and in turn how we are influenced by the ideas of others. Most often we're unaware of the sway we have with individuals or groups, we tend to minimize it, since we're looking from the inside out. Our connections do not have to be far and wide, well known or important people. Rather the opposite is true, it's the soil that keeps everyday life and people going. If it were not for exchanges I have with others, who spark ideas in me, life would lack the creativity that keeps it from being boring. They become roads in my head that draw maps to traverse terrain I might not have. They nourish me more than material gifts and my hopeful ambition is to return them.

Arizona Landscape

Foam river within a puddle...


Economic, Social and Geopolitical

The Great Disruption is here for real...

The supply lines of essential goods and services being disrupted calls for building to return vital work to the United States.

The current economic crisis that technically began in 2007 is referred by many as the Great Disruption. The original assumption was underlying the obvious economic problems of real estate, highly leveraged debt coupled with unemployment, that technology and the internet fundamentally changed communications and the channels that business was conducted. It seems that definition of disruption was too limiting, we now have far larger disruptions as examples, although the underlying one facilitated the current disintegrations.

This weekend GM announced that they were suspending all "nonessential" spending and "unnecessary travel" while they assess the impact of the crisis in Japan. In doing that they were telegraphing more than just their company's reaction to what is a world crisis, which is greater than the powerful impact of Japan's earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear problems. It actually signals a very real parts supply problem that this crisis portends. GM is merely the speaker that blasts the sirens for the difficulties other companies face and amplifies the fundamental flaw in the "just in time" supply model lauded by the MBA Business Culture.

It isn't limited to automobile manufacturing, just as importantly it impacts our technology dependent economy in entirety. Much of what we need to keep our internet based technology and telecommunications systems infrastructure going relies on Japanese manufacturing and shipments in one way or another. In a terrible event that is a classic example of the "broken window fallacy," it is very likely it will be a number of years before Japan is fully back up to speed. There is every reason to think the resolute Japanese people will successfully rebuild, but what they have is mostly gone, rebuilding destruction is not a path to building an economy.

We ought to be considering now in the US gearing up our own manufacturing abilities in order to keep what we have going. At least we should be doing that and learning a valuable lesson from outsourcing and offshoring the manufacturing of necessary products. It is an opportunity to build on what we have. At this moment I know of two specific examples of major facilities that have computer server problems they are working around, since the parts they need are not available and can't be shipped from Japan. For the time being they are able to operate with a "jerry-rigged" resolution and manual intervention. That can only last so long and it seems obvious those local examples are not unusual and going to repeat in other situations.

Another weekend event that is just as serious, if not more so since resolution is not imminent, is the bombing of Libya by Britain, France and the US. The Libyan oil fields have been destroyed and the economic disruption, besides the turmoil and human toll, cannot be underestimated. Essentially this action cuts off the main oil supplies to Europe, which in turns put the squeeze on the rest of the world's demand for oil. Not the least of which is Japan, which will need more oil now due to neutered nuclear production of energy.

While that story holds the attention of the front pages, there are still problems in the Arab world that are unsettling and irresolute. The Jasmine Revolution continues. Yemen and Syria are in turmoil and the people of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are not appeased by the offers of their governments. Additionally Iran has cracked down on "web revolutionaries" and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq are still open questions. India has problems the western media doesn't seem to want to report on but ultimately their ability to provide services is threatened by social class and business-political quandaries. Who knows what China and Russia will do in this mix?

If there is anything I have learned from studying history, I do not believe it is a stretch to state that the destructive bombing of Libya won't stop the contagion of unrest in the Middle East. There is simple truth in Santayana's oft misquoted "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Alongside that is another simple axiomatic truth, it takes three overlapping generations to relearn the lessons of history. It appears we are not paying much attention to learning the history of long standing troubles throughout time in the Middle East.

Regardless of how the bombing of Libya turns out, by the end of the week it should be clear that vital supply lines of essential goods and commodities have been severely disrupted for a lengthy time. Just as we thought 2010 was a respite and that some underlying fundamentals of the economy were making slow improvements, we now have distinct manifestations of disruption with deep economic impact. That is a call for action; now is the time to build in the US to avert future dependence. Although the elemental foundations of commercial and financial spheres have been rocked further, times of difficulty usually bring out the best ability of Americans to rise above and overcome adversity. Actually, we have a long history of it.

Arizona Landscape

When the missile is fired...



Give a little extra...

Use building blocks to become a cornerstone at work.

It's called "value added" in the marketing world but in the working world it is being the "valuable additive." What that means is no matter what job you have, do a little extra, more than what is required, grease the wheel to make it stop squeaking without being asked. Even more importantly don't be the squeaky wheel that always needs to be oiled to get you to do the basic job. Do quality work. Be friendly and amiable to everyone, which doesn't mean you have to like them or be overly nice, people see right through that. Sometimes you won't feel like it and have bad days. If you are consistently congenial, then when occasionally grumpy or not having a good day, it is the exception and not the rule. When you make a mistake, own up to it, fix it and learn from it, apologizing goes a long way.

There is nothing wrong with being helpful to your supervisor, if they want it or you see they need someone to lend a hand. Be respectful to them, even if sometimes they don't always return the favor, you might be surprised to find that one day they will in an unexpected way. It's not being a bootlicker but common decency, at the same time don't be an apple-polisher either. It's not hard to be a regular person who offers an element of value without working too hard at it. When you offer something additional to what is required you're becoming a cornerstone of the place where you work. A cornerstone is part of the foundation that makes you vital to the operation of your workplace and difficult to replace in tangible and intangible ways.

The reasons are twofold. The first is it will improve your job satisfaction, no matter how ordinary that job might seem to the larger world, work will be a challenge not a chore. The second is it will also make you more beneficial to your boss and employer in a way they may not quite fully understand until something happens you can resolve. They're likely to realize that you're offering something that others don't and that alone is enough to keep you. If the time should come when choices have to be made regarding who stays and who goes, you will be one of those that stay and the person who does the minimum required, squeaks a lot and when given an inch takes a mile, will be gone.

In this world of high unemployment, companies need people who not only can do the work but also add to that work. There are two skills involved in any type of employment: the skills of doing the actual work itself and more, plus the skills of getting along with other people. In that sense, no matter your line of work, everyone is in customer service.

"No employer ever wants to see an employee with his hands in his pockets." Mike's father.

Mike, who blogs at rock and confusion and video blogs on his YouTube 7anby channel, in this video offers a great perspective on this topic. His thoughts were inspiration for this blog.

Hassle-Free Work

Arizona Landscape

Cardboard Construction...


You Can Quote Me On That

Misplaced loyalty...

If you work for any company, no matter the size, don't love the company because it won't love you back, if you do your loyalty is displaced. Your ultimate responsibility is yourself, family and friends. Work is a source of income and even though it can be rewarding it is not a support network. There are few exclusions to this, perhaps a small family owned business is an exception to this rule.

Always keep in mind you work for a business where the main intent is to make a profit. This doesn't mean that there aren't some companies who do really attempt to keep their employees satisfied, pay a decent wage, try to do the right thing by those that produce for them. It's a fact of free enterprise though that when times are tough, difficult choices sometimes have to be made. The owners, operators, stakeholders have to make decisions based on their fiduciary duty to the company and not to the people who work there.

To preserve your integrity and work ethic you should always do a good job but thinking of yourself as a free-agent, allows you to also maintain your dignity and independence as a person. You can respect the company you work for but that doesn't mean they have an obligation to not make a change in your employment.

Arizona Landscape

Goddard's legacy...

Osborn Road at the Squaw Peak (Piestewa) Freeway aka "The 51"


Thinking Out Loud

Working for yourself...

Even if you have an employer who doesn't appreciate you.

There are careers, jobs, employment and being an entrepreneur with your own business. Not everyone is able to have their own business and run it themselves, some people have careers, but most people have jobs and are employed.

Careers and jobs can be enjoyable and fun and others can simply be employment. With employment your employer only cares that you show up, do what you're told and discourages any independent thinking or initiative. Those jobs are harder when there are also difficult people to deal with daily. I held one once for well over a decade during a previous bad economic era, as soon as I was able, I left it. While doing that job though, I learned as much as I could even though my employer discouraged it, as well as during my time off I earned formal education and did things I enjoyed doing. Most importantly I figured out how to handle being around difficult people.

During this challenging economic period, many people are enduring careers and jobs they would like to get out of but aren't able to due to current conditions. If that is the case, then the best option is challenging yourself to learn as much as you can from that job, which may not necessarily be the skills of the job itself, but other self-development accomplishments such as dealing and coping with problematic people. Additionally also taking the time to learn something else outside of that work to improve your chances for better opportunities in the future. It is difficult, I know. I never thought my work era between 1978 and 1983 would ever end in anything positive. In 1993, ten years after I had left, I had the perspective to look back and appreciate how much the extracurricular work I had done decades prior had paid off. I also recognized that the coping skills and ability to deal with unpleasant people went a long way and were lessons for life.

Coping mechanisms are the key to the door to get what you want.

Right now I have a job that has potential to become a career. I like what I do very much and the people I work with, the one exception is a difficult manager. There's really no other way to state it: she's cranky, irritable, hypercritical and never gives praise; she finds everything that is wrong and nothing that is right. I don't believe she's a mean person, she does have good qualities and for brief periods of time she can be somewhat pleasant. My peers feel the same way as I do about her, therefore I know it's not a personal thing with me.

There are days when it is hard for me to take, especially since I do like the work itself, what I'm learning from it and the potential for growth. It's an exercise in not only learning a new line of work but also something else just as important, recalling how to deal with difficult people. The first lesson I'm still re-learning is not taking it too personally, which is tough. The second is realizing that the other person is probably doing the best they can to cope under the circumstances they're dealing with in life. For the person I'm referring to, the problem is the same as it usually is for other difficult people, their complex, bewildering, problematic behavior is rooted in their own insecurity and doubts about themselves.

The schooling here is coping and overcoming to gain some peace within myself to not let this person bother me and interfere with where I want to go. In order to do that I have to reach back in time and recall skills that I haven't had to use in quite awhile. It's a work in progress but the past has also taught me that in the long term, it is worthwhile and to my advantage. The other person I can do nothing about, they will have to live with themselves, I can only deal with how I control myself within the circumstances.

Arizona Landscape


Android in reflection


Geography of the Mind

Just when you thought...

Nothing else could happen, something does and we all know about it immediately.

For a moment in time, the year 2010 seemed to give us and the world a brief respite. It felt as if, although thinking people realized it wouldn't take hold, we may not be in a fully sustainable economic recovery but at least there was a pause or suspension of things getting worse. We were lulled by overkill of good news of small magnitude. The wishful hope I think most of us had was that the economic crisis would not get too much worse and we could stabilize as a people and begin the laborious task of slowly rebuilding. It seems though the dawn of 2011 has brought home to society the realization that we are not going to get out of this universe changing crackup so easily. On the economic front in the United States, a large segment of Americans now recognize that we are indeed in a genuine depression. We'll likely skip spring and head straight into long, hot summer afternoons followed by cold fall and winter nights.

We've been recently jolted by big, bad news. Another shoe may drop. Anything can happen. Things happen in threes. We will all know about it at the same time.

There are uprisings all across the Middle East, which at a minimum threatens our oil supplies and is bound to cause global economic problems. Even larger than that, the turbulence of the Jasmine Revolution, is far from over and more is to come. There is now the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, taking a terrible toll on the people of that country. Worse, nuclear meltdown is a very real possibility, bringing to the people of Japan the horror of revisiting a different nuclear disaster reminiscent of the Second World War. Japan is the third largest economy in the world and this event will have a financial effect on all of us.

What is next? One of the Four Horsemen? Conquest, War, Famine or Death? We will know within minutes if a White, Red, Black or Pale horse arrives.

Any number of things could bring another cataclysmic event to us soon. The debt of the European nations and the US government is one. The Currency Crisis could suddenly make itself obvious as the insolvency of governments reveals itself. Is a widespread incurable global disease possible in this day and age? A technological meltdown? Food shortages everywhere, including first world nations?

No one knows. Nothing could happen since so much already has. The world is random. Everyone will be aware of it instantly.

In the long course of history, Classical Ancient, Middle Ages and Modern, humans have suffered and thrived simultaneously but in the first two periods, news and knowledge was local and took a long time to spread. In the Modern era globalization began and technological progress, for better or worse, advanced and is omnipresent in our lives. The breadth of communications that span the globe is a critical component of input into our minds with a subliminal effect. The social web is the epitome of oversharing personal thought. 

This is the period of Too Much Information. Media Saturation. Information Overload. Whatever you prefer to call it, I maintain one of our highest priorities should be managing the flow of current material that enters into our brains. We may be people of the latest Modern age but I'm not sure that as mortal souls most of us have caught up with the rapidity of the advances science and technology have made. Especially those of the last thirty years.

I believe the effects of instant connections have altered the psychology of the larger population, affecting the economic crisis and the way people perceive and react to it.

Mass marketing of mass communications isn't necessarily good for the masses. It's unlikely that progression of widespread communications is going to slow down. The effect of globalization, technological innovations and communication has been one of the major reasons why the impact of this economic depression is different. Prior to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression of the thirties, drastic economic downturns were referred to as Panics. Just a Panics came to be called Recessions and Depressions, the nomenclature of economic crisis has changed to Disruption, due to instant messaging. This is not only an economic depression and change of a way of life but also a disruption of great magnitude because we are at a zenith of communications. The progression from local news and knowledge to global information is made complete. All that remains is improving the tools that transmit it.

Know your own mind. Guard and protect it as securely as you would your body. Consider what you feed into your head as much as you consider what you should eat.

Understanding that this economic disruption is not only a life-altering physical endurance contest, it also is a groupthink mental challenge, is pivotal to understanding how to survive relatively intact. Stress is a demanding thing, it eats you up, that is why it is important to learn how to cope with it and prevent it from distracting you as much as possible. Learn it, live it, to do more than survive it, but thrive in it.


Arizona Landscape

Memorial to Arizona Confederate Troops...

A nation that forgets its past has no future.

photo by Zeff Nelson


Writing: Fact and Fiction

One thing I've learned...

Taking a class in fiction wasn't a mistake for me but it has taught me that writing fiction is probably a mistake for me. The reasons why I've reached that conclusion have already been documented in previous blog posts. Writing nonfiction is much more appropriate for me, but one thing I've learned for certain in writing workshop, is that I've gotten lazy and need to tighten up my style. I've learned it in two ways. Proofreading my own material and also receiving criticism for errors in style. Another way I've learned is reading other people's material, although they have a college education and their fiction is pretty good, their style, grammar and punctuation is sometimes appalling. I can say without too much arrogance, that although I make errors, they are not on the level I see too often with some other writers.

It would be trite to go on about the failings of our educational system that people graduate from high school and college without knowing how to structure a sentence, paragraph and a piece of writing with a beginning, middle and end. This we already know. It's disappointing but I have been seeing it at work, online and in email, at school and in publications written by professional authors for enough years now that I am no longer surprised. What I've been doing recently, which has now been reinforced by a blog post written by Mike on rock and confusion, is brushing up on my own style or rather lack of it at times. I'm reviewing simple grammar books as a reminder to avoid common pitfalls we all land in. Also I'm going through different style manuals and the MLA Handbook. It's not so easy to be critical of others when you look at the correct etiquette of writing and realize where you fall short yourself.

Arizona Landscape

Twilight rooftop...


Video: Ron Paul

Country Is Bankrupt and Congress Won't Admit It...

Debt will not be paid but repudiated.


Economic, Social and Geopolitical

A brief history of the Federal government and unionism run amuck...

Or how we got into this mess now and why the country is divisive.

America is a big country with wide opinions as large as the population. We are at a moment in our history where our judgment and reasoning is diverse and our opinions are also divisive. In my lifetime the last time we were at this point was in the late sixties and early seventies in the "love it or leave it" period. In it's simplest form today it takes on the debate of libertarian conservative versus progressive liberal ideals.

Progressive Liberalism (as opposed to Classical Liberalism) as a movement started to take hold over a hundred years ago before the First World War. Theodore Roosevelt was the first President to push Progressivism. The consumerism of today is a result of the shift, at that time, in emphasis of managing the national economy from free market business to the regulation of business in favor of the consumer. The idea was that the consumer was more important than the producer. Consumers were the driver of the economy rather than the producers of goods and their rights to products were more important than those who invented, created, manufactured and marketed them.

In 1927 a group of elite academics, unionists, peace activists and radical leftists took a cruise to the then unrecognized Soviet Union to meet Stalin and tour Russia. Their mission was to be self-appointed unofficial envoys of the United States to document the marvels of the collectivist economy of the Soviets. They were given lavish guided tours to selected places that were successful planned economic enterprises and shielded from anything else. They documented their experiences and wrote papers, books and newspaper and magazine articles extolling the virtues of the collectivist society they witnessed. The importance of the trip and passengers is that many of these people become prominent in Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal administrations.

When the legacy became entrenched.

FDR tired of these people and their experiments by 1937 when the second wave of Depression hit from 1937 to 1939. He had been re-elected in 1936 in a landslide but it was becoming clear that the collectivists and their programs had not solved the problems of the economy. In fact, they made it worse, but the damage was done. The established major institutions we are stuck with today including Social Security and liberalized unionism. After the Second World War, the answer to converting from a wartime economy to a peaceful one was in promoting mass produced cookie cutter housing and consumer goods. The remnants of both Roosevelts, regulated monopolies, Social Security, federal government economic planning and unionism were accepted and tolerated as necessary evils.

Those were the seeds planted that the federal government and programs, as we know it today, mushroomed out of control. President Johnson exacerbated the situation by his Great Society programs. Later the Justice Department in law suits started in his administration resulted in Affirmative Action quotas forced onto private employers by consent decree. Public employee unionism also dramatically increased in this era.

To fully understand the consumerism mindset and sense of entitlement many Americans hold today it is important to see how long it took us to get here and how. In order to unravel it, which we must if we are to recover from our current economic crisis, cannot take a hundred years but must be unwound relatively quickly. If we are to recover from it, otherwise we really will spiral downward, a proposition I don't think most Americans are willing to accept.

Why we're divided today.

Due to the current administration, the ineffective political class of both parties in Washington, the divisiveness we are seeing today is a result of a growing movement that is getting stronger. The loose coalition of the Tea Party is the tip of the iceberg. The sentiment they represent is growing stronger among average Americans who don't necessarily align themselves with any political party of movement. The reason the unionists and supporters resistance, especially in the public sector, is so virulently strong (witness Wisconsin as an example) is they recognize the threat to their status quo. Whether they publicly acknowledge this or not, the Progressive Liberals of today realize they are losing the hearts and minds of the American people. In one election three years ago they won their last major victory and gradually they are losing more and more battles.

Some states, Arizona and Montana among them, are taking steps to buck the Federal government and loosen the grip. The process is called "nullification" and refers to state legislatures and elected officials passing bills and declaring that certain federal government edicts are "null and void" because these mandates violate the limits of authority as stated in the US Constitution. Some of their actions seem extreme to a number of people but they don't realize that some of these actions are literal and others are symbolic. Regardless, the trend is there and it is growing.

In Montana a state legislator, Krayton Kerns, is proposing a bill that would nullify the federal Endangered Species Act "null and void" in his state. According to an article in the Great Falls Tribune he argues that the federal government is in serious debt and the opponents to his bill, countering that this legislation would cost the state federal dollars, are arguing over money that isn't there.

"We may as well be arguing over pixie dust. It has as much intrinsic value, the federal government is going down, and you know when a republic dies, it's kind of an ugly thing. There will be no money in the future. Whether we argue about it or not is a nonissue."

On the federal level, Congressman Ron Paul is making the same argument he has for years. Since the US ended the convertibility of the dollar to gold we are using fiat money. Fiat money only has value because the government has laws that say it does. In other words, we keep printing more and more money that has no real intrinsic value to dig ourselves out of debt. Instead we are digging ourselves into a deeper hole.

What is going to happen.

Fear is a powerful thing and many people operate out of fear. The divisiveness of opinion today is driven by the fear of those who depend on the federal government to continue printing money, versus those who recognize that money has no real value and is leading to the inevitable collapse of the monetary system. Sides are forming up and soon there will be no middle of the road dilly dallying around it. The debate revolves around a number of issues but a few serve as focal points.

On the one side, are those who want to see the federal government get its grip off state and local governments and on the other side are those that want more federal control. There are many who want to be free of government interference in our personal lives and some who want the security of entitlement. It is not easily divided up by political parties but each side has organized representation. They are symbolized by the Tea Party movement and organized labor because they are the most visible. They are by no means the only brokers in this divisive war of opinions but it is becoming clearer, as our economic and social fabric dissolves, that we cannot go on this way.

My thought is that we will survive the increasing fights over how much federal government interference people will allow. At the core will be those who are against the status quo of a so-called planned economy and those who are proponents of it. To me the resolution, which will be a revolution in itself, will come when the bottom line is finally tallied. The government really has no money and we may as well be arguing over pixie dust. The system will break and fall and we the people, will have to pick up the pieces and put it back together.

When it's all over and the dust settles, we will be stronger people less dependent on a consumer economy, achievement oriented where accomplishing something matters, knowing things that are important, such as reading, writing, history, geography and math, working hard results in real reward. Above all we will be proud of our country all over again and what it stands for and what we have done for it and ourselves.


Only In America

I still believe...

In America

...the ideal, not the United States of Statism that I railed about almost a year ago on 04/21/10 in my blog post This Is Not America: It is now merely the United States. I was angrier then about how the American Dream had been derailed by Social Democrats and the lack of any real opposition party. I wasn't much younger then, but I am older than that now (apologies to Dylan), although I'm still not beyond discussing the issues.

Sometimes I think immigrants understand what "America" means much more than many natural born Americans do. Although I emigrated from a former British colonial island 700 miles off the coast of North Carolina, a short distance for a seagull, this country might have been half a world away. It was a different culture, although my father was an American, I lived in a British culture with some American influences and spoke British English (American English is my second language). In that society one was always reminded of "their place" and mobility was limited by a variety of factors. My very British mother was raised in that system in her native England and escaped it after the Second World War. I was surrounded by members of both her and my fathers family and grew up biculturally speaking one language. I learned early on that although the language seemed the same, it was different, as the cultures also were.

It would be fair to say that growing up running barefoot on a rather idyllic beach island was a wonderful childhood. As I approached the age when I started thinking about high school and college I began to recognize my (and my cousins of the same age) opportunities were limited there. We all wanted the chance to go to better schools and universities than we could where we were. I didn't want to go to the UK or Canada, two of my three options, I always wanted to go to the United States of America. I explain this to make clear I was not an immigrant escaping from some poor, third world, strife ridden nation.

The dream was still the same regardless and it hasn't changed.

Every work day I come across immigrants who are taking one of the steps they need to be gain access to permanent residency or a long term visa into this country. Some are like I was, from English speaking nations, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and many former British colonies, with an American parent or spouse or are unconnected in any way except they want to come to America. There are also those that are ambitious, achievement oriented people who want to get out of, for any number of good reasons, from the nation they are from. The other day I was struck by the earnestness of an Egyptian who was extremely grateful for the help I gave him. After he discovered I once was a new immigrant, when thanking me, said a heartfelt "I know you truly understand." I do. Hours later I was overwhelmed by sentiment and recognition of how lucky I really am to be here. I know he'll make it, I'm sure he did well on his professional board certifications and all his other papers were in order, but most importantly he had the right attitude.

Even in an economic crisis, the rest of the world sees what some natural born Americans do not, there is still opportunity here. It is what you make of it, even if it isn't a mansion on the hill, it is still far better than a large part of the rest of the globe.

Lately I've been coming to see a sea change that a lot more natural born Americans are now re-acquainting themselves with and appreciating the achievement oriented, dream as big as you want to, entrepreneurial, "can do" spirit that this country represents to the rest of the world. The Land of Opportunity. I recognize many things have gone awry and we have a long road ahead of us to get back to where we were before we derailed ourselves. There are many people who are trapped and have obstacles that will be exceptionally difficult to overcome. Self-reliance and mutual help are not opposing American values. I still believe that for the vast majority of people in this country, the chance of rising above is still here.

It isn't always fair and somehow we lost our way several decades ago trying to make opportunity for people who had traditionally been discriminated against. With the best of intentions we created unintended consequences. As I wrote almost a year ago: "It also morphed into equal rights for everyone [that] has come to mean that everyone is equal in everything." What I am observing now is that the move away from that concept has become more than continental drift, but a tectonic plate shift with the potential for a good shaker to come along to wake everyone up to what we don't want to lose.

At stake is what our forefathers intended in rebelling against a regimented social structure divided by wealth, poverty, class, with rights that allow us to be free to become what we want to be, if we have the will and ability.

Being Bicultural: One Language
One of my first YouTube video blogs from the vault, done almost four years ago before I learned to edit. It is about my experience growing up in a bicultural environment learning British and American English.



Arizona Landscape

Yaqui Rug...


Economic, Social and Geopolitical

Statistics aside...

Stagflation awaits aside a revolution extinguishing the political class.

We're awash in economic statistics that seem to conflict and depend on where they're derived from and who is reporting them. What the general public should know is that government statistics are constantly adjusted and the criteria for what is being measured changes not just year to year but often quarterly. For instance the unemployment rate may include one group one year and the following year that group is changed or adjusted.

Another statistical tool to be cautious of is opinion polls. They differ in who is asking the question and how the question is asked. Therefore the statistics Gallup reports on a topic may vary from what Rasmussen reports when they publish a standard question such as "Who would you vote for in the next general election?"

The cohorts in both government and opinion poll statistics is the media, particularly the mainstream media. If you were to believe the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Associated Press and any of the television "news" outlets you could believe the economy is improving, it is getting worse or easily be confused. The average person, who doesn't have the time nor inclination to investigate the nitty gritty details, confused by this reportage is understandably baffled.

It also helps to understand that the situation and beliefs of the reader sway which part of news coverage they're going to believe. We live in confusing times where clarity is obscured by the opaque, deliberately clouded by the political class and their media for it's own interests, especially in terms of the economy and how it is doing. This sounds conspiratorial but I am not alone in believing this.

The saying about the Great Depression of the 1930s, "always recovering but never recovered" also applies during this economic recession I think. In the 1970s we had "stagflation," the condition where high inflation accompanies low production and high unemployment along with short supply of a necessary commodity, followed by a contraction. In the seventies, it was oil, a condition that is being replayed. In the case of our current economic condition, the oil shock just now beginning, is occurring during an economic crisis triggered by real estate, high debt and other factors. We are tumbling into an inflationary spiral coupled with the twin evils of our current economic crisis, unemployment with low production and a high debt ratio. It appears we're heading into an era much like the seventies but worse, since when oil prices gush higher then deflation results in one of two ways. One is a financial collapse, the first part we've already experienced in 2008 with a second dip on the way. The other is a prolonged economic funk that is arduous and harrowing, which we are enduring now. Generally these two conditions cause a compression lowering prices causing deflation. In other words we can experience inflation and deflation simultaneously creating epic stagflation.

We are at an interesting crossroads. Elements of the fundamentals of our economy have been slowly improving. In other areas they are stagnant or going backwards. In a sense, oxymoronic as this seems, all the political class chattering and media reporting is correct in one sense or another. Herein lies the rub. We are at a crossroads that no matter which route we take, we are traveling with baggage that requires a no-room-for-error balancing act. One slip and everything else is affected. My belief is that we are beginning to lose our balance and the primary tipping point is oil.

Since we are Americans a significant majority of us still hold the ingenuity, grit, entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic that has brought us through hard times in the past, I believe this will bring out the best in the country through the long haul. We are always recovering and will continue until we have fully recovered. It won't occur without hard work, sacrifice, effort and long term commitment. It will also take time and patience but we will eventually rise above and succeed. The political class and their minions are unwittingly making themselves moot, proving that in it's inimitable revolutionary way, the United States is still the America of dreams.

Arizona Landscape

New Economy seventies redux...

On the way up.


Music Break: Jeff Buckley


Live Chicago 1995


Writing: Fact and Fiction

On writing fiction and non-headaches...

Part Two: A Response to a Response

When I wrote yesterday my thoughts on writing fiction, it evoked a great blog response from Mike in his blog rock and confusion titled "Headache vs Non-Headache." He writes that he thinks there is some truth to my feeling "there is a line between writing fiction and non-fiction." He continues on to state that the line does get a little "fuzzy" and he points out a few things that put a new and different perspective on that line for me.

I went into writing fiction thinking there was a distinct line between the two but it was a bit of a false assumption on my part; especially since I also went into it with the underlying premise that "real life is like fiction and vice versa." How's that for a duality of simultaneous thought? I have more clarity now on those ideas because as Mike points out, five people can observe a train crash and write five different accounts of it, since each writers point of view will be from another angle. It's a factual nonfictional event, but are the five separate versions of what happened fiction? No, because they are based on fact, as each observer interprets and recalls them through the vision of their lens.

He also points out that good fiction is "as clear and honest as the best non-fiction." He's correct that most of us don't read a good piece of fiction and think the writer "made that up really well!!" A very artful observation.

I do think that how the fiction writer operates and originates their work is a result of how they operate out of that creative space in their mind. Some writers approach fiction as storytelling that has an element of truth in it or based loosely on some real events or facts they've strung together in their own way to make a story. Others operate out of a pure fantasyland in their mind that is capable of conjuring up wonderful stories that you believe. It's a vision in their head of what they would like to see happen and transport the reader to. Believability is an important factor for me, which is why science fiction has never appealed to me. Some fiction is pure fantasy and not possible but delightful to the reader nonetheless.

So to turn this whole topic on it's head, I would also add it is not only what the writer is trying to convey but also what the reader is willing to go along with in believing the writer.

Personally my nature is very grounded in fact and what could really happen. That doesn't mean it's the only way to write or read, merely where my head wants to go. I say "read and let read" whatever suits your fancy. I now know more what mine is from this experience.

Probably the most telling observation I received from my fiction in workshop is that the readers "learned a lot." That was their way of saying they didn't feel they were reading a story but a recounting of place, people and events. I need to write one more short story for this class and workshop but this time I think I'm going to go the way of a spare, minimalist style with a simple story line with two characters and their dialogue. That is because I know very little, unlike most participants in this class and writing workshop, about how to develop characters, story lines, plot, themes and so on. It's not the talent I've nurtured and developed over the years. The story I write will be what it is.

What I do know how to do is recount in vivid detail and good prose actual places, people and events. Written as nonfiction, my version is what I think happened or is happening, it may differ from the way four other people might interpret the same things. A writer writes, I write, whatever it is called is irrelevant.

Arizona Landscape

Carnegie Public Library...

photo by Zeff Nelson


Writing: Fact and Fiction

Stick with what your good at...

but still stick your neck out and try new things.

Fact: I'm not very good at writing fiction. I know this because I wrote a short story that went nowhere and my friends and writing workshop were at least somewhat kind about saying it. I also knew it as I was writing it.

Not Fiction: I'm a pretty good nonfiction writer and the next writing class I take and workshop I go to are going to be developing that skill. My ability to tell a true story is a lot better than making one up.

Writing fiction requires a rich fantasy life and enjoying escapism I think. That's not a criticism of people who are that way, but an observation from being around fiction and screen writers. Movie lovers are like this also. Perhaps they're trying to make sense of the real world by creating a world of make believe. Maybe I'm over-analyzing it or thinking too much about it, a fact that is probably why I'm better at writing nonfiction.

Too me it's much more interesting observing the real world, studying history, looking at factual information and making sense of it and commenting on it. That's just my preference. Thankfully there are people who can write fiction, screen plays, make movies and offer something to escape into for awhile. Real life can often need escaping, occasionally I enjoy doing that. The "a ha" moment in my recent revelation about my lack of fiction writing skills, came when I realized that the fiction I do read are historical novels. Especially ones well researched and grounded in fact.

In order to keep life from being boring, to stretch personal boundaries, requires a creative person to take risks. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At least I can say I took up a challenge and did it, faced the results, learned from it. Who knows? I may end up writing a historical short story or novel someday.

Arizona Landscape

All lined up...


Geography of the Mind

Arizona is a state of mind...

It's irrelevant what any urbanist, civic booster, city officials or property developers say. Downtown Phoenix is a ghost town of brand new high rise buildings, condominiums, multi-use projects that have largely been unoccupied or are under occupied. Lots of them. The restored slums sit waiting alongside the new buildings also waiting to be fully peopled. Our historic buildings sit as lonely islands in a sea of steel and glass. The truth is not much is happening in Phoenix, at best we're at a standstill, mostly the core city is deserted. Meanwhile we are ringed by cheaply built but formerly high priced suburbs that one day may rival the desolated developments of the Salton Sea.

There are those who are doing well, the usual suspects, making a buck of what is left but despite attempts to dispel the truth, the average person is economically down. There are pockets of activity and vitality, some of it in the most surprising places and communities of people. For the most part, Phoenix is like a jilted lover, confused and wondering what to do next. As most forsaken ones do, we will find new companions and our way back. People may be down but are not out, the new frontier spirit is alive and well among lots of folks.

The Arizona Legislature is busy thinking of ways to buck the Federal Government, in ways that appall much of the rest of the country, but we have never much cared for what they think. Good on 'em for doing it. Even though I find our Senate President, Russell Pearce and his minions, personally repulsive. We're as broke, if not more so, than any state in the union but we need to rebuild this state our way. We have been like that from the beginning. Before President Taft would even allow us to become a state, he insisted on changes in our Constitution, which our ancestors made and then after statehood put the issues to the voters to reinstate them and they did. Nowadays we have people in Pima County who want to become a state of their own.

Which is laughable to a lot of the rest of the country but you have to be a real Arizonan to understand. We truly don't care what the rest of the United States thinks or does, especially about us. I have no idea how Arizona, especially it's two major cities, Phoenix and Tucson, are going to pull out of this over-development and funny money mess. What I do know is there is something about this place, that you have to be here a long time to fully understand, that always manages to find it's own way back.

Arizona Landscape

The Onion Dome...

JM Evans House: The Arizona State Archives and Public Records Building

photo by Zeff Nelson


Thinking Out Loud

Too late for Blackberry...

Blackberry sent me a promotional email today. I should tell them they're wasting their time. After years of using Blackberry, then being burned by the Storm, I gave mine up today for an Android phone. I stuck with the same carrier, Verizon Wireless, although I was very close to switching to Sprint. It took awhile but I decided on going with a DroidX, the original version with larger memory, not the new one they're selling with lower memory and price. Yes, it's 3G but I don't really need 4G and my VZW Storm 1 was EVDO, so 3G is an upgrade for me.

I'm not an Apple person, I still think of their products as computers for kids and students, although I do use iTunes and have an iPod Touch. An iPhone was out of the question, I don't like walled gardens. For all of the noise about Google and privacy, I'm still a Google fan.

It mystifies me how Blackberry could blow the advantage they had in the smartphone market by not upgrading their browser experience. I recognize they're technically a more secure device but that's still not enough for the user who wants a richer mobile phone experience without hauling around even a tablet.

My laptop has basically been a desktop PC for awhile now, I don't haul it along when I travel around, an Android device obviates that for certain. Even so, as tablets get better, I will probably consider one within a year or so. I'm still a sucker for wireless technology, being a former Bellhead after all.

Arizona Landscape