Thursday, June 30, 2016

Nomad Feet: Hilton Head Vacation- June 2016, The Final Shots

As everyone can guess, I made it a habit all that week to get to the resort's beach house to watch the sunrise. This picture was taken Thursday with me walking farther out into the surf. Funny thing, about four pictures later when the water was up to my knees I stepped on some unlucky creature. Not exactly sure what kind of animal I stepped on since but given the smooth texture of its skin I can say with some certainty it wasn't a sand shark. By mutual agreement, we went our different ways after it wiggled to show its displeasure and I pulled my foot up.  

This is Disney's Hilton Head beach house which is about a mile away from the main resort. You can't walk to it but there is a bike path complete with an underpass that lets riders safely avoid the busy main highway. The beach house has its own pool along with a bar and small diner that serves lunches.   

My wife and I did the beach on Thursday going all out and renting an umbrella and two beach chairs. It was pretty expensive but since I didn't bring our own chairs or sun shelter tent we had no real choice. The people in the picture were our "neighbors", the guy is a retired judge from Pennsylvania and his wife is a doctor who works at a clinic in Philly. Nice people but the judge talked a little too much, my wife and I were trying to read but once he found out my lovely spouse is an attorney he wanted to talk shop with her.    

The fact that I didn't bring our own chairs or sun shelter tent didn't sit well with my wife. The biggest reason I didn't bring them was because the chairs are junk needing to be replaced and the sun shelter tent is far too small from two people to sit under. The orange and grey one in this picture would have been perfect for my wife and I. Okay, I also be honest and say I took this photo in a blatantly sexist attempt to try and get a picture of the knockout blonde wearing a thong bikini. Unfortunately, she walked out of the frame about a half second before I pushed the button. 

Friday we did the Coastal Discovery Museum located at the old Honey Horn plantation. Since the tour was arranged through the Disney resort it was free for us but there are more than enough activities to justify the price of admission.

It had a huge amount of information on the coastal environment and history of Hilton Head Island.

This is a diorama of an early 20th century oyster harvesting process. During this period South Carolina oystermen harvested about three million bushels of the delicious bivalves each year. Of, course as coastal development increased pollution has played hell with those numbers. In fact, there were several times runoff so polluted the oyster beds in Georgetown county all harvesting had to be stopped for a while.    

The museum had a small butterfly garden, always a favorite for my wife and daughter. Since I'm secure in my manhood I'll go ahead and admit I like the creatures myself. 

Took a good deal of effort to get this picture. Little buggers wouldn't stay in one place for more than a second or two.

If you look carefully you'll see a trio of fiddler crabs doing what I am sure is important crustacean stuff. If you somehow get the idea that their tiny muddy politics of domination and desire to attract mates isn't far removed from the ridiculous behavior of us humans don't worry, it's a sign of sanity.   

The museum even had its own bee hive. No, I didn't feel the need to get a closer shot of those industrious gals. 

Unfortunately, all vacations have to end eventually forcing us to return home Saturday and retrieve Sparky the Wonder Dog and his sidekick, Snickers the Overactive Canine from the kennel.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Nomad Feet: Hilton Head Vacation- June 2016 Part Three

Tuesday night was finished off fireworks shows put on by the Shelter Cove organization consisting of all the businesses in the immediate area, which includes the Disney resort. When this shot was taken to the left of this picture is the marina and on the other side of that was a concert with the band playing Buffett, John Denver, and other old style rock and roll tunes. 

During the fireworks I learned that the Disney resort has an unauthorized feline living on the premises. I am told due to liability issues and health reasons concerning the cat, the staff has attempted to catch the illegal resident and take it to a shelter but he always slips away. I am also told the unofficial name for the cat is "Felix" and I found him quite friendly.     

Wednesday morning brought a whole new set of activities here at the resort. There seems to be a preconception in some circles that all the activities cost money. In fact a good number of them, including some that take place off the resort are free. The Pinckney Island Tour is one of the free nature tours and, as I mentioned in a previous post, my daughter and I did the free beach nature walk a couple of days ago. We missed the marsh nature walk that had everyone put on knee-high boots and walk through all the glorious mud to examine many of the tiny lifeforms that live at the base of the food chain. 

My daughter's day was made when she caught a very irate blue crab in her crabbing net. We try our hand at crabbing at least once during each of our visits here and usually catch at least one or two. We never keep our catch though because there are size limitations and you can only keep male blue crabs.  

Not sure what gender this one was, but it was so small, a sure sign it was below the limit, he or she soon slipped the net and dropped back into Mother Ocean.

Before we caught the crab somehow we nabbed this poor, tiny fellow with a net that is in no way designed to catch anything but crabs. We quickly returned him to the water and hope he learned a vital lesson.

Wednesday ended with this nice sunset and the promise of yet another day of vacation. Unfortunately, enough time as already slipped by for me to begin hearing the real world starting to call us back.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nomad Feet: Hiton Head Vacation-June 2016 Part Two

Tuesday morning started with a cup of coffee on the balcony overlooking one of the common areas. I had already made my wife and daughter cranky by trying to get them out of bed. For my own safety I left the room, got a cup of free coffee from the lobby, the only thing the Disney Corporation will ever do without charging an arm and a leg, then walked the resort. When I returned the ladies were back asleep allowing me to sit on the balcony. 

This, of course, is the campfire area where the resort staff leads up guests in songs and games. It's actually a really cool thing just seeing how much the little kids enjoy the festivities. 

My daughter, Darth Wiggles, and I did a beach nature walk late Tuesday morning. The resort has a naturalist on the staff and she walked us through one of the more secluded beaches on Hilton Head. Unfortunately, it was right before high tide and we didn't see a lot of the starfish, sand dollars, and other small creatures usual when the water is lower. We did see this marked Loggerhead turtle's nest, which according to the naturalist, is due to see its baby turtles dig themselves out in about another thirty days. Kind of ticked off a couple of my fellow tourists during the walk. As we walked I made a point of picking up trash as I went, and sadly there was a lot including plastic wrappers that have killed and caused grievous harm to many animals.

Lunch was at Santa Fe Cafe just a few minutes from the resort. My wife loves this place and when we are here on the island it's always a safe bet she will literally grab the steering wheel of the car to force me to stop there. This was her meal, which consisted of the painted desert soup with a small salad and quesadilla. I had the same thing, except I had the boring but tasty black bean soup that doesn't have anywhere near the artistic appeal.  

I absolutely love these ancient oak trees. I take some spiritual solace in the idea such lifeforms exist and that, with a little bit of luck and care, should continue living long after I have again become what a famous Disney movie and play calls "the circle of life."

Got a great deal of hammock time Tuesday and continued with this book about a pig who showed such love of life and basic humanity that he could have taught lessons on the subject to a good number of Homo sapiens. I'll have a review of this wonderful book at a later date.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Nomad Feet: Morning Walk at Hilton Head

Jumped up this morning and hit the beach before sunrise. It was a beautiful morning, although it was impossible to get my daughter or wife out of bed to enjoy it with me. I returned to the room about an hour later to still find them asleep. Frankly, I don't think they even registered me leaving the room. 

This is a butterfly garden here at Disney's Hilton Head Resort. No butterflies though, this morning they appeared to have totally split the scene. This was all part of my morning walk around the resort after coming back from the beach. It gets rather busy during the day but up until nine o'clock most everyone is still asleep.

Cool little sailboat docked at the Shelter Cove marina. Been seeing this one here for years and to be honest there a couple of times I thought it had been abandoned. Whatever the case, it's sporting a brand new photovoltaic solar cell array on the stern to generate some electricity. Would love the story on this little boat, of course you can't see the stern where the name and point of origin are painted and it says it started out at Racine, Wisconsin. Doubt the owner sailed through the Great Lakes, then up the St. Lawrence seaway, then down the east coast on the intercoastal waterway to finally get to Hilton Head. If the owner did such a thing that was a hell of an adventure.  

Sign showing the distance and direction of all the Disney Resorts, most are in Orlando but there is one at Vero Beach, Florida, one all the way in Hawaii, and one in California. being members of the Disney Vacation Club, my family and I have stayed at several of these resorts. They are all amazing places and yes, I feel extremely lucky to have been able to even visit them. My personal favorites are the Animal Kingdom Lodge resort and the Old Key West resort. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

How to Almost Screw Up a Vacation

One of the sure fire ways to really dig deeply under my skin is to mess with my vacations. Frankly, few things anger me more than having someone or some unforeseen event even slightly threaten to throw a monkey wrench into a family trip that is always planned and paid for many months in advance. That being said, just yesterday I made a huge mistake that if things had gone just a little further sideways would have forced my family and I to cancel the vacation I am on now.

Actually this situation started about four months ago when I called the kennel my wife and I normally use to take care of our dogs when we are away. It's truly an excellent facility run in such a professional manner that no one would even begin to guess it is an old fashioned mom and pop operation. The sticking point though is that since this kennel is not some huge semi-corporate beast the hours of operation on weekends are short. On the order of two hours rather early in the morning and two hours late in the afternoon. The second thing signifying it's mom and pop status is that the owners do not have a true website, although they are mention, inaccurately, on a couple of webpages that include performance reviews. Here is where yours truly enters this potential cluster frak, and I'll be upfront and say the character flaw involved here is simple laziness.

For all intents and purposes my vacation started Friday morning with me leaving work. Now, the wife, daughter, and I weren't leaving for Disney's Hilton Head Resort until Sunday but as far as I was concerned that was a microscopically trivial point. So with my brain already kicked back and running on less than its already small wattage, I blew off my wife's suggestion Saturday afternoon to call the kennel and make sure everything was okey-dokey for tomorrow morning when we were going drop off the dogs and haul ass down to Hilton Head..

Instead, since I was already on the computer wasting my life watching You Tube videos and making snarky comments on Republican Facebook pages I decided to play the experienced internet wizard of the family and just look up the kennel's website. That was when I found the kennel didn't have a dedicated website but I did find them mentioned on the local chamber of commerce page, which included their weekend hours of operation that said: “9am to 6pm.”

Massive setup for a total disaster because I got up Sunday morning, did my relaxed two-cups of coffee routine and then causally ate a grossly unhealthy bagel literally covered in far too much cream cheese. Since my wife was still in bed somewhere around 9:20am I decided it was time to take the first dog down to the kennel. Our two canines children go absolutely crazy in a car so it's simply not possible one person to take both at the same time.

As you can already guess, I arrived at the kennel to find the place closed. Making matters so much worse just to the right of the main entrance was a sign clearly stating the weekend hours to be 7am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm. Yes, that was when a five pound lead ball suddenly manifested itself in my stomach. My mind immediately went into a panicked overdrive trying to remember everything concerning the kennel. The one really disturbing thought was a vague recollection of the owner telling me once that their policy was that you could only pick up your dog in the afternoon during weekends, not drop them off. Yeah, I called the kennel on my cell phone and only got the answering machine, with a message that clearly stated no one would call back until the place was open again.

Upon returning home, with the dog, my wife took the news of my frak-up far better than I believed possible. Since it was Father's Day she made breakfast and afterwards we went in a vegetative state watching travel shows on Amazon Prime until the kennel opened for its afternoon hours. All the while I was sweating bullets on the possible fact that my much desired and very much needed vacation might just become a stay-cation because I screwed up royally. So for me the hours slowly ticked by from morning into the afternoon as I waited for the disaster to become official.

My wife and I were out the door with both dogs and driving to the kennel around 3:45pm. The two high school kids employed were already there waiting for one of the owners to come unlock the doors. Wanting the uncertainty over, I came straight out and asked the kids if they let people drop off their dogs in the afternoon.

When both of the kids nodded yes, that five pound lead ball that had taken up residence in my stomach when this crap started immediately disappeared. I wasn't totally out of the woods yet, the husband of the two owners shows up a couple of minutes later on his nifty golf cart and unlocks the door. As the kids and my wife enter the building he looks at me with a less than happy expression.

“You were supposed to drop these dogs off this morning right?” He asks with me again becoming nervous.

“Yes sir,” I respond politely, “I totally confused the times.” The owner's questions didn't surprise me, the guys has impressed me many times with his ability to remember the names of our dogs and others who stay at his kennel.

“Did you leave a message on the answering machine?” He asks in a way that quite frankly scared me a little.

“No sir” I respond back honestly, “I did call this morning after finding the place closed. And I called a few times during the day in the hope I could touch base with someone and make sure I hadn't lost the reservation. But I never left a message.”

That answer seemed to satisfy the guy. “Yeah,” he said, “someone called this morning and said 'son of a bitch' on the answering machine before hanging up.”

“Well that wasn't me sir,” I said in almost 100 percent honesty. What I meant was that while I didn't directly say those words into the answering machine there is about a three or four percent chance I might have said something to that effect as I tried to end the call on my crappy cell phone.

I'm not complete sure the guy believed me, but frankly I didn't care. Because the dogs were checked in a couple of minutes later and after picking up our moody teenage daughter, something the law required my wife and I to do, I was doing warp speed down the interstate finally on full vacation status. Yes, I learned my lesson, next time I will definitely make sure all the proverbial ducks are in a straight row the day before we go on vacation.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Darkest Before the Dawn

(Author's note: This is a prequel to the story: "The Vile Little Secrets We Keep". Both are zombie stories without the usually required undead. I did this strictly for fun because in this story I got to kill a real life, but never directly named, parasite on the butt of our nation. As you may already be accustom, excuse the typos.) 

 General Nathan Macey ears still rang from the sound of the pistol he had just fired. Always a man of determination and action, the crime he had just committed left him paralyzed, his mind running in circles at the implications, both the immediate and the far-reaching. A dedicated American soldier from the moment he started his career at West Point, he had long since become desensitized to all the smells and sensations of such mundane things as firearms. But the residual odor of cordite hanging in the air from firing his weapon had left him severely nauseated, like some fearful private away from the safety and familiarity of his home for the first time.

Surrounding Macey were members of his staff looking for him to offer guidance on just what in the hell they were supposed to do now. Macey knew he had only seconds to collect his wits and do something to save both the nation that he loved and human civilization itself. Despair welled up inside his soul, because on the laying on the floor just a two feet away was the body of the President of the United States.

The perfectly circular entry hole of the round Macey fired had impacted on the forehead of the narcissistic real estate developer/reality star turned politician but the exit wound had blown apart whole chunks of his skull and brains. The office Macey and his men stood in was deep inside the revamped doomsday bunker of the Mt. Weather Command Center, near Ashby Run, Virginia. Until the election of the bastard whose remains were even now dripping blood onto the expensive carpet, Mt. Weather had been deactivated and declassified at the end of the Cold War with some sections open to tourists.

After the insane, self destructive spasm of the 2016 presidential campaign was over, one of the the newly elected president's first actions was to have Mt. Weather reactivated and upgraded. The office reserved for the president, originally a spartan and cold place, had been redecorated to look like a whorish version of the now lost Oval Office. Obscenely bright 24 karat gold fixtures were everywhere along with the the trophy heads of scores of exotic animals mounted on the walls. Instead of the dignified portraits and landscape artwork that hung in the Oval Office, here in his Doomsday redoubt hung garish semi-erotic paintings.

The weirdest addition to the redecorated room were the installation of huge video screens that simulated the Oval Office's south-facing windows. The justification being that it created a sense of normalcy for the president and anyone else inside the room. It didn't take Macey long to learn that the fake windows could be changed to show a variety of scenes including tropical beaches and even the busy insides of an Atlantic City casino. The three long screens were now blank except for the dead president's blood and other bodily fluids splattered across them.

General Macey, who was the commanding officer of the facility before the start of the bizarre plague, could only look on in disgust as the progressively worse alterations continued to be made. His job had been to again prepare the facility for the unthinkable, which included living quarters for an full infantry division, including their families, along with a nearby satellite facility for two tank brigades and one combat aviation brigade, including all their families as well. The space created for supplies ranging from food to ammunition had staggered his imagination. Any semi-intelligent individual could discern many things from the facility plans that had come across his desk, and for Macey that had meant nothing but a long series of nightmares as he tried to sleep. It was almost as if the new president and his inner group of sycophants knew something quite bad was on the horizon.

“Get this bastard out of here,” Macey surprised himself by suddenly speaking out loud. “And nothing we've done leaves this section of the facility, we still have bunch of troops that don't know the extent of that bastard's treachery.” Macey said further letting the disposition of the president's family and entourage go unsaid.

Macey's staff remained in place, either still stunned at what they had been forced to do or in shock that their commanding officer had finally spoke. “I said move people!” he screamed. “We have almost no time to save something of our country and the world!” His outburst had been enough to spring them all into action leaving him alone except for a three bodyguards standing in the adjoining room.

General Macey remained in the office watching as a pair of Special Forces troopers placed the president's remains inside a body bag. “I want it dropped into the incinerator with the system flushed afterwards.” He told the men who grimly acknowledged his order.

Macey couldn't remember the last time he had slept for more than a few minutes. Feeling what remained of his energy leave his body, he dropped down on one of the leopard print couches the now dead President considered tasteful and began thinking of how the world had all went totally to shit.

It defied all rational thinking but the world had been hit with a zombie plague that seemingly raised the newly dead to become a ravenous, mindless horde out to spread their inflection by biting normal people. In truth, elements of the plague that finally emerged had been around for decades. Various illegal narcotics were individually known to cause insane rage, increased strength, and in the case of the drug “Krokodil” cause human fresh to become gangrenous and fall off. Someone had found a way to include all those characteristics in a neatly designed virus that was easily transmittable through bodily fluids.

The first cases had appeared almost simultaneously across the planet, but were discounted by a media more preoccupied by the usual trivial stories that kept their ratings up. The fault wasn't entirely on the media talking heads, it pretty much defied sanity that a zombie plague could be real. If anything about the strange incidents were mentioned, they were immediately discounted by rightly skeptical newsreaders. This allowed the comfortable middle class to chuckle and continue on with their usual activities.

But with the homeless and the hopelessly drug addicted as fuel, the plague acted like gasoline and within weeks the situation could no longer be ignored. Isolated cases quickly spread to regional outbreaks that defied all efforts at containment. The truth of the matter was that the U.S. Public Health System had been so underfunded for decades its personnel never had a chance at even slowing the outbreak. Two months after the first cases appeared the President reluctantly declared martial law and instituted procedures that were first developed during the Cold War. But it was too little and much too late, barely a week later all local, state, and federal authority in the country had collapsed forcing the key members of the federal government to facilities like the newly revamped Mt. Weather.

Much to the chagrin of General Macey, on his first night at Mt. Weather the President threw a dinner party for his family, the few members of Congress that had accompanied him, and his civilian friends who had no apparent function. Macey, while invited to the dinner, was spending his hours trying organize all the extra troops that kept arriving on what seemed an endless series of military convoys.

As the weeks passed, General Macey learned that the president, nor his advisers, had any plan on fighting the growing chaos. When Macey confronted the chief executive he was quickly told that there were long range plans, but that he did not have clearance for what they entailed. More to the point, the President's advisers reminded Macey that he was only a high paid flunky that could easily be replaced, so it would be best if he kept his mouth shut.

Running the Mt. Weather facility took almost all of Macey's waking hours forcing him to make life or death decisions on almost an hourly basis as casually as someone orders their lunch. That didn't prevent him from see the reports, or hearing the radio broadcasts of literally billions of human being dying as a result of the plague and the chaos that followed in its wake.

General Macey played the good soldier until word got to him the vice president had died in a helicopter crash leaving his own reinforced doomsday sanctuary. What finally broke Macey was when he learned that the President was going to appoint one of his sons to fill the empty VP slot. The President himself had been a comical, narcissistic buffoon with nothing in the way of redeeming qualities or abilities with the exception of a low-grade cunning that had allowed him to fool the simpleminded hordes enough to be elected. His son though made the chief executive look like a modest but wise scholar.

After the first family's arrival at the site it hadn't take Macey long to learn the President's offspring as the worst possible form of sociopath. After returning to his office upon learning of the President's decision, he had sat at his desk unable to breathe for a couple of minutes because of the insanity. That was when Macey knew the unthinkable would have to be done, and that he would have to literally pull the trigger.

The operation to eliminate the President had amazingly gone without a hitch due to his arrogance. He had actually believed the entire nation loved him even though just a few months before the outbreak riots had broken out in many cities in the southwest as he attempted to implement his plan to deport millions of illegal immigrants. So deluded was the man that even though his own disgraced political party was writing up impeachment proceeds he seemingly ignored all the news from his advisers that it would be best for him to resign. Once inside Mt Weather and safely cocooned in his personal section of the facility which he never left, the President had continued to feel so secure that he had ordered his Secret Service detail to stay in their quarters.

Once Macey had a plan on how to act, as well as an endgame, he had kept the number of people in his conspiracy to less than thirty. With the President, his family, and his entourage disposed of everything now rested on the two interrelated elements for which luck would play the most important part. The first being timing with the second finding a workable replacement that could rally the troops on site and begin to pick up the pieces of civilization.

Macey was startled back to the present with the arrival of one of his most trusted men, Colonel Jonas Cortes. “We have him,” Colonel Cortes said visibly relieved. “He and his family were exactly where Homeland Security said we would find them, in their mountain cabin one-hundred twenty miles to the west of here.”

“What does he know about the President?” Macey asked rushing over to greet his longtime friend who was still wearing his body armor and helmet.

“All I told him was that the Vice President was dead and POTUS was looking for a replacement. At first he told me to go to hell, that he'd never serve under such a petty asshole. It took my five soldiers and me to drag them all to the waiting helicopters.” After a moment of hesitation Cortes forced himself to speak again, “This guy better play ball General, I had to leave one of my guys behind to provide cover from a horde of ghouls advancing on our LZ.”

“Colonel,” Macey said, “this individual is apparently the only one of the potential targets left alive. All the others are dead or so lost they're effectively the same thing. If he doesn't go along with our plans we're be playing out a twenty-first century version of the fall of Rome with a dark age that will make the last one look positively enlighten.”

Macey asked his friend to bring in the last best savior of the United States before leaving the office. As he waited the general found himself wondering just what do you say to someone to get them to take a position whose predecessor died in a military coup.

Former senator from Virginia, Jonathon Webb appeared in the doorway looking at Macey as if he was completely disappointed. The last time Macey had seen Webb was years before as the two jousted at a senate hearing on the budget for military black projects. That particular day the senator had been wearing an expensive suit while sporting a clean and neat haircut that probably cost more than most people spend on such services for a year. That was a lifetime ago, before Webb had left political life in disgust and returned home to continue his career as a writer. He was now dressed in filthy and torn camping clothes and looked like he hadn't had a bath in months, which was a real possibility.

“Where is that son of a bitch, general?” Webb roared. “I'll kill him with my bare hands if he makes the mistake of coming within my reach.”

“Please sit down senator,” Macey said again taking a seat on one of the garish couches, “I personally shot the President not long before the helicopters that brought you and your family here lifted off from their pads. Both him and his entire damn entourage are now being burned in the facility incinerator.”

Webb, now totally stunned once he realized Macey wasn't playing some sick joke, walked over and sat across from the man on the opposite couch. “Senator,” Macey began, “I didn't commit this traitorous act on a whim, I watched the President let the country burn to the ground. Even worse as the situation outside the facility went totally to shit, I began to believe he was part of some horrific plan involving people and organizations outside the government.”

“What plan?” Webb asked incredulously.

“That I have no idea, whenever I demanded to know why he and his advisers weren't working to save the country all he told me that there were long range plans being implemented but I didn't have the clearance to know them. In all honesty, I should have shot the man right then but it wasn't until the death of the Vice President that I decided to act.” It was then that Macey told Webb about the President's idea to have his son become the new VP.

“So you want me to become President?” Webb asked after learning of how Macey wanted him to become the chief executive after an accident was arrange in the Presidential quarters of Mt. Weather resulting in the deaths of everyone living in that section. “What's to stop you from disposing of me General Macey once I order you to do something you don't like?”

“For decades I watched this country destroy itself, all I can say to you is that I still believe in what it means to be an American. Yes, we're often a bunch of self-centered hypocrites but unfortunately fate or simple stupid luck has given us the task of keeping Western Civilization alive and I will fight to my last breath to see it doesn't die because of fools like the one I killed today. Call me naive but I believe there is more good in this country and world than bad and I refuse to let that slip away back into darkness. So will I obey your orders as my Commander-in-Chief without hesitation? Yes, but not because I believe in you personally but for the symbol your office represents, the rule of law, liberty, and the idea that even though the people may stumble that the best government is the one where we all get a say in how it is run.”

Twelve days later...

The walls of President's living quarters deep inside Mt. Weather were charred black and in some areas had almost melted due to the intense heat of the initial explosion and the fire afterward that had consumed everything that could burn. Several platoons of soldiers searched the labyrinth-like passageways looking for the remains of the President, the first family, and everyone else associated with the executive branch. Grizzled NCO's in charge of the soldiers knew their task was hopeless, absolutely nothing recognizable remained, everything was a sickening mixture of ash and water.

On the surface in full view of most of the troops assigned to Mt. Weather, Vice President Jonathon Webb was being sworn in as the new President of the United States. Next him stood the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of what was left of the American armed forces, General Nathan Macey. For both men, the old Republic had died back in November of 2016 with the election of a man who epitomized the absolute worst not just of the dark side of democracy but humanity itself. After Webb finished reciting the oath of office both men silently made a promise they would make sure a new Republic would take its place and not make the same mistakes as the old one.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Paradox of the American Democracy

With the final series of presidential primaries over last Tuesday I happily breathed a sigh of relief that at least that segment of this batshit crazy nightmare was over. Let's face it, American politics has rarely attracted the best and brightest but this last batch of Republican presidential contenders all seemed drawn from a story written by the horror master, H.P. Lovecraft. No, I haven't forgot that the apparent Republican victor in the nomination debacle is a strange combination of comedic narcissistic buffoon and raging megalomaniacal fascist. However, the main election event coming in November does present an interesting opportunity for the voting American public to show the world the strength or inherent weakness of our system.

While I am an enthusiastically supporting of Hillary Clinton let's face it, even though her experience and intelligence are definite strengths, she carries a boatload of both real and imagined problems with her character that are troubling for many. But this issue gets to the base delusion about American democracy these days, that somewhere there is a squeaky clean messiah-like politician who will swoop in and solve all our societal problems.

For the Republicans that messiah was Ronald Reagan, even though during his presidency he raised taxes several times, got full-blown amnesty for millions of illegal aliens, took the United States from the largest creditor nation to the most indebted, believed civilians shouldn't own assault weapons, and illegally sold arms to Iran. All that matters for Republicans is that the dreaded Soviet Union began to crack during his administration. Even to this day Republicans say his name with the same reverence they do Jesus Christ with their chief desire, to the point of deranged obsession, to have another candidate be his metaphorical Second Coming. It doesn't matter that Reagan did all the things listed above that would not only automatically disqualify any person trying to run as a Republican now but would force them to leave the party.

For the Democrats that messiah has yet to successfully appear, although at one time President Obama was hailed as that savior. Let me state unequivocally while I personally believe Barrack Obama is the best president humanly possible, although for some on the left his administration is a failure because he was unable or unwillingly to enact everything they wanted. For those lefties his “failure” is the result of incompetence or lack of political will. They carefully overlook the fact that during the mid-term elections their own failure to show up and vote resulted in the Republicans firmly taking control of Congress. There are even some who hold the insane view that Obama is a type of Manchurian candidate who all along has been in cahoots with the oppressive corporate and banker masters that control our government.

This election cycle Bernie Sanders was the messiah du jour causing many to believe he would lead all us lefties to the Utopian promised land. As you can probably guess, I have long since passed the stage of my life where I believe in messiahs or prophets and view any who does as naive fools. The failure of Sanders to win the nomination has convinced many of these people the campaign was “fixed” by the evil “Establishment” to the point they promise to cut their own, and everyone else's, throat in protest by voting for Trump. This is the same philosophy 1960's peaceniks like Sanders railed against after an army officer serving in Vietnam at the time said they would have to burn down a village in order to save it.

The critically important element of our democracy many in the Democratic and Republican parties either ignore or have forgotten is that in the hugely cumbersome thing call Real Life we rarely get everything we want. This is especially true in the horrific realm called politics, the fact that Americans are a heterogeneous batch of largely selfish malcontents makes reaching a consensus even more improbable. Sure, back when Caucasians were the undisputed majority of the population carrying with it both the economic and political power things were easier but that is not the case today.

For politicians to get anything done they are forced to do something called compromise. It's a nifty little tool although the results can be exceedingly ugly, unfair, and/or impractical in the long run. Unfortunately, far too many Americans have come to the conclusion that compromise means betraying their most sacred principles and that anyone who opposes this mindset are at best misguided heretics or more than likely supernatural evil incarnated into physical form. Political fighting is nothing new, in fact at times in our history its been far worse, but I tend to view its current manifestation in large part because the vast majority of our population feel entitled in some respect. Most of these groups have narrowly defined agendas that take no one and nothing else into consideration.

Up until this point I have tried to be nonpartisan, but in all honesty it is the Republicans who are the most intransigent and close-minded these days. Political and societal sins abound here in the United States but they are the ones guarding old prejudices while nursing both irrational fears and privileged classes who care nothing about the future of the country. You don't have to look hard for conservative Republican columnists that say outright the United States was made great because of Christian white people and that once they're the minority everything will go to shit, so we might as well either balkanize the country or just stop everything and wait for the Rapture.

I'm not leaving out the Democrats for criticism. Sanders supporters would be happy to learn that I also feel that the party establishment has become way to comfortable with many of the forces that hold back the country. While not an excuse, this is a side effect of having a working democracy. Democratic politicians have to keep their constituents happy and that often means voting for defense projects no one in the Pentagon wants and protecting corporations that have no real loyalty to the United States. Leaving all the talk about the real evils of unlimited corporate money in campaign alone for the moment, no sane Democratic congress person or senator is going to vote to defund a project that brings high paying jobs to their district or state, nor willingly increase taxes on a business that will move to a new location soon after that happens.

Overly naive and idealistic progressives love to throw around the statement that the “lesser of two evils is still evil” when it comes to political choices The only thing greater than the sour stomach that sentiment gives me is the resulting headache in having to deal with such a person who is so monumentally deluded. Adults are supposed to understand the degree of watery crap mixed in with the operation of normal human affairs.

I'd love to live in the fictional United Federation of Planets made famous in the Star Trek series where Earth is an enlighten Utopia and all choices are black and white. But we don't, in the real world sometimes you have to let a corrupt banker and his buddies continue their unethical practices because they have the national economy by the balls. Furthermore to use another example, as much as progressives decry the use of unmanned attack drones, sometimes innocent kids are going to die because a couple of mud houses over terrorists are busy planning to attack on equally innocent people in another country. The whole geopolitical structure as it stands seriously sucks, but just let information leak out that Americans died in direct result of some idealistic fool holding back on the drones because he, or she, was worried about collateral damage.

In the long run political messiahs are mirages that quickly evaporate once the supposed savior enters office. Once faced with the realities and limitations of both public office and power in general, intelligent politicians realize that ridged ideology has to give way to compromise and common sense. For majority of Republicans that would mean the abandonment of their “conservative movement” that has become so static and out-of-date that it has become unworkable. Sometimes taxes have to be raised along with prohibiting the worst aspects of their vaulted free market capitalism to name a couple of examples. For some Democrats though, they need to learn that disagreements in policy does not make them just as evil as members of the other party. Furthermore, political revolutions are nice, on the rare occasions when they actually work like the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's. But more often than not they usual collapse in exhaustion because their goals are unattainable in the short term.

Real and sustainable change comes step by slow step with rational individuals working to overcome impossibly complex rules and traditions that in many cases were instituted to protect privileged classes. Here is where the choice Americans will face in November will come into play. One candidate does nothing but play to primitive and instinctual fears of the population. When you boil his words down only one segment of the country is really American, everyone else is some form of subhuman only worthy of ridicule and exploitation.

The other candidate, while not perfect, understands everyone deserves a chance to make the most of themselves and would do everything in her power to level the playing field, not upend it in an attempt to right all wrongs everywhere immediately. Her method is as frustrating as it is slow, but that is the nature of imperfect but democratic governments. Personally, I feel we would all be better served if we stopped looking for the fabled squeaky clean political messiah that like Moses will lead us to the promised land. Our true strength as a democracy lies with a voting population that elects rational individuals to state and congressional offices that can oppose an authoritarian leader bent on resisting change or aid the one that wants to implement much needed reforms. Because in the end, the real power in this country rests with the people, if only they would wake up and use it wisely.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Night Shift Fun

Work at a hospital for a few years and you quickly learn they are not static entities. In fact, a person couldn't be faulted to suggest their need to expand services and grow in physical size is comparable to the laws of gravity or evolution. As soon as the first building or group of structures are complete and operational, you can be sure a committee exists that is working diligently to secure both funding and extra property so that newly establish hospital can expand its business and revenue.

That being said, there are entirely different rules governing how a hospital expands its services and the way it grows in physical size. The former is restricted by such factors as technology, the experience of the staff, and the economic limits of the local area. Though for the latter the only real restriction is the available property. What I have noticed though is that additions to the physical structure of a hospital campus often seem quite piecemeal to the point they not only defy the existing architectural design but but seem to court chaos, which can create some interesting events.

Because of this haphazard design, the hospital where I work has several sections of roof sandwiched between different buildings creating something akin to a canyon. And without going into boring detail my job has me repair and do preventive maintenance on various mechanical system, some of which are mounted on the lower-level roofs between these much taller sections of buildings.

A few nights ago I stepped out onto this canyon-like section of roof to check on a few exhaust fans. Almost immediately I looked up at the other building directly across and saw the large picture window of a classroom one floor above me. Naturally, this classroom is used during the day for training but in all the years I have performed my monthly checks, which forces me on that section of roof, I have never seen anyone inside the classroom at night. Usually the window blinds are closed but that night they had been left up along with one light being left on. Along with the window being slightly tinted, this allowed me to see inside the classroom but not in great detail.

What I did see, besides several nondescript tables and plastic chairs, was the silhouette of a human figure which looked to be sitting in a large office chair next a desk. My natural thought was that someone on the staff had slipped inside the classroom to catch a small nap. Yes, I know such an action is seriously wrong at work but I am not a snitch and immediately thought that whatever the person was doing was none of my business. Truthfully, it could have just as easily been someone who was off duty but was so tired they didn't want to risk driving home in such an impaired condition. So, I went about my duties which had me on the roof for about thirty to forty minutes.

As usual for me, I grabbed the wrong-sized fan belt and had to leave the roof and head back inside the building and go to the parts room to get the right one. In doing so I passed the classroom window again and noticed the person in the chair had not changed position. My thought being that during sleep people have to change positions occasionally to stay comfortable. Whatever the case, I went about my own business and did not return for another twenty minutes.

When I stepped back out on the roof almost by instinct I again looked up at the classroom across from me and saw that the person still hadn't changed position in the chair. I was now starting to get concerned, it just didn't seem natural that someone wouldn't have shifted a little after having sat in a chair for such a long time. Despite my unsettled feelings for the person and growing curiosity, I went back to the exhaust fan and replaced the belt.

It was when I was finally leaving the roof and saw that the sleeping person was still in the same exact position I got on my radio and called security explaining the situation. The scenario going through my mind at this point was the person I saw might have felt bad and slipped inside the classroom to rest for a few minutes but had suffered a heart attack and become unconscious or even died. 

About ten minutes later, security meets me at the entrance to the classroom and by this time there is a good deal of worry floating around the heads of the three people and myself standing next the door. Once the security dude with the large set of keys finds the right one and unlocks the door, we all rush in and head straight to the person who we see from the back. The fact that this person didn't react to the sound of the door being unlocked raised the level of what was simply concern to outright fear something very bad had happened.

It was when the senior security person turned the chair around that I realized I had unintentionally been punked. The “person” in the chair was one of those full sized CPR dummies that you would expect to find in a hospital classroom. The person in charge of the class the last time the dummy had been used just dropped the thing in the office chair instead of storing in back in the room's closet. The collective groan we all uttered was a combination of relief that no one was unconscious or dead and frustration given that everyone had got worked up over nothing.

As we all left the room, the security folks spent several minutes kidding me about taking them away from their own duties. Which I retorted was watching television in their office and sneaking as many donuts they could carry out of empty doctor's lounges. Given the nature of the normal workplace if I'm lucky, I might live this down by the time I retire.

Happy workplace thoughts.