A Century of Loss (or All the Dogs will Die!)

With Earth Day come and gone I am reminded at the path our species is taking. I went to the celebration downtown and left disappointed, more so than when I arrived, at what was really a party for middle-aged baby boomers to brag about their high mileage cars and the protest they have been attending over the decades. One doesn’t have to look hard to find that what they accomplished was little, if anything. There was a sense of nostalgia for the 60s as I looked at people with rainbow-colored shirts who had not bathed in days telling people how they were working to save the planet, while driving god knows how many miles to attend a mostly dead event. After a quick round through the park I was done.

Earlier in the week I read a story online about the end of Syrian tobacco and how it would no longer exist once the last of the blends were sold from the online retailers and brick and mortar stores. This may sound like whining to some and in one case i was called a white capitalist pig for bringing it up. “With all the death and destruction that happens over there you are complaining about tobacco?” Sure he had a point but what I was trying to point out is the loss of a species that may never be seen again. Sure, it is tobacco, not food, not a medicine, but still it represents something that is lost from our world. Over the coming years we will start to hear about crops being lost, species of insects and birds that will never been seen again, and lakes that disappear from the landscape. In the coming generations there will be animals and food that our descendents will only be able to read about.

I watched a documentary about a chef who was trying to reconstruct a recipe from a hundred year old cook book. many of the technics had been lost over the years but slowly they were able to piece together the ingredients and make what was close to the original meal. There is one difference between this story and what is happening in the world, the ingredients will be lost forever. I learned on earth day that the sugar maples that i grew up with in my yard and the syrup i savored on my pancakes will no longer grow in my home state of Michigan. Many of the birds I listened to outside my bedroom window will be gone. The insects I watched crawling on the plants in the garden will no longer exist. My daughter might be the last member of my family to experience these things that have been a staple of our life here, the end of an era with unknown repercussions in the future.

Many people were bragging about their electric cars at the Earth Day event, talking about the need to convert our power sources to renewable, their point was to boast about being ahead of the curve on climate change while they charged their cars on electricity produced by coal and natural gas. They didn’t consider the power it took to manufacture the car, the oil that went into the tires, the fuel to transport the materials for the batteries over the oceans so that they could enjoy a vehicle with less guilt associated with it.

While my city discusses how to waste a 30 million dollar gift given to it by donors the only things I have seen done with the money was provide free WIFI in the park and the planned removal of a racist fountain that is crumbling to pieces and should be destroyed since it provides no social or historical merit. There was one obvious use for the money that they could have done, one that would provide financial security for the city and helped the planet a little bit. The city has several large plots of land that were once the factories for paper and automotive manufacturing, contaminated land that they are constantly talking about “cleaning up” but instead sits there unused. Why they didn’t consider putting a solar farm on these lands is beyond me. providing the majority of the city’s power, reducing the tax burden on its citizens and providing jobs for locals, it is a win win all around and yet they are more concerned about a fountain crumbling in the park. Priorities are, needless to say, fucked up when it comes to our political appointees and I have to wonder why these people stay in these positions as long as they have.

With choices like these I hope you come to understand why my vision of the future is bleak at best. Instead of talking about climate change and pushing the agenda that we need to discuss we are preoccupied with where Donald Trump put his dick before the election. The last male white rhino died this year and more species are disappearing from the planet than we can talk about. Maybe if we changed the discussion to a different topic we can make a difference. My suggestion “all the dogs are going to die!” get the dog lovers involved, they tend to care more about their dogs than their own lives or the lives of other humans for that matter. So when talking about climate change start out with “all the dogs are going to die!” If you have a friend who smokes a pipe tell them “all the good blends will go extinct if we don’t solve climate change.” Those guys, myself included are already concerned about some of the big loses we ahve had in our hobby over the past year. Thanks FDA, you don’t know how to regulate opiates but you have become concerned about an ancient hobby that built this country? Again, messed up priorities.

I do my best when it comes to helping with the problem but then policy sometimes contradicts what is best for everyone. My place of employment offers a reimbursement for parking spaces downtown but no incentives for people who walk or ride their bikes. While I live less than a mile away I am told to use my parking money or lose it, weird right? In my garden I grow heirloom plants that may go extinct with the changing climate, saving the seeds each year in the hopes they will keep growing and not die out half way through the season like some of them have.

Today I ordered a can of the Syrian blend that will be no more. Yes, i know that by having it shipped I will have added to my carbon footprint for my own selfish desires. My goal is to sit down, open the can, smell the aroma, taste the flavor, and write the most accurate description i can muster so that those in the future will know what it was like to experience something that no longer exist. Think of it as cataloging a vintage of wine that has come and gone. It’s all I can do, document what this world was like and hope that people care in the future while blaming us for ruining everything.

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Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

This title comes from the second rule of Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules for life. While the lesson may appear obvious it is harder than it looks. When my daughter was in the NICU for three months the staff repeatedly told us to take care of ourselves first. How useful were we going to be in helping her if we weren’t taking care of ourselves? This rule goes beyond everyday care, but also applies to the you of tomorrow and twenty years down the road. If you had to plan how you wanted to be in the future what would you do to help that guy? As a parent we do this type of thinking with our children. what school will she go to? How do I make sure she can go to college? What hobbies or sports should I encourage for the best outcome? We do this all the time except for ourselves.

Recently, financial security has been a concern for me. One of my goals for this year is to have a decent amount of savings for security. While researching for my podcast I came across some things in the market that had me concerned about the near future of our economy. So how do I help myself and my future self if something does happen? For starters I have to be more responsible with my finances. Spontaneous spending has stopped, I don’t buy anything these days unless I need it or plan to flip it for a substantial profit. I run an antique booth on the side and have found some ways of adding some profitability to the setup. Along with the typewriters I sell I also supply new ribbon and coming soon I will offer what I am calling “Kerouac paper.” Sales have been well but there are times when I consider closing the booth to spend time and money on other adventures. When I have these thoughts I am pulled back in by customers who are thrilled they can not only find typewriters that work but also the supplies to keep them going. At times I tried to branch off into other areas such as sewing machines but I have yet to sell one of the cast iron beauties I refurbished and restored. typewriters is where I will stay until they stop selling.

I have noticed a change in my behavior since I finished the Self Authoring Program. I am more focused now on the things I am working on. I have started projects I would have talked myself out of in the past. There is a new podcast, I am considering expanding the website beyond the free site so that I can offer more than these simple articles. I have a plan on where these projects are going for the next couple of years. The difference is that I now have a plan.

There are still other things on my list of goals for the year that I need to work on. I have kept up my hikes with Zoey and try to get outside more than I normally do. I budget my time more and accomplish a set list of goals per day. I stopped eating out as much and cook more often at home. I am already making some headway on how I want this year to go but it is a slow process and I have to make sure I stay on the path. I have to treat myself like somebody I am responsible for helping.

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Mosin vs. Voting (or) Who Really Won the Coldwar?

I own not one, but two, Mosin-Nagant rifles. At one time i thought this was the ultimate symbol of winning the Cold-War. The spoils heading to the American market at a cheap price and sitting in the racks of the victors. That was how I used to think about this.

It has become apparent that while the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR fell apart the repercussions have been the revenge of using free market capitalism as the ultimate weapon. While the US trades stocks, bonds, commodities and people in the free market the Russians have learned how to manipulate every aspect of our system. let’s step back for a bit.

In most of the world the governments of most countries will dictate policies to protect the welfare of the people and companies. Countries like China and Russia are great examples, who have the ability to directly manipulate markets at a moment notice. When the Asian markets crashed in 2009 the Chinese government stepped in and dumped a ton of money into the market, devalued the Yen, and balanced the loss in less than a day. meanwhile, in the US, congress had to rush together, debate a bill, kiss the ass of Wall Street, and eventually do something that would eventually work, over the next 8 years. This is the difference between a functioning government and a country taken over by a religious idea. That is what the free market is, a religious idea. With the rise of the conservative right during the Reagan years, the idea that the markets need to be unregulated and left alone returned as the survivors of the Great Depression died off leaving a group of adolescent buffoons to run the country. These ideas ruled the day before and created the greatest economic disaster the world had ever seen. Sadly, Republicans don’t read much, not history and not the bible.

The national debt hit 21 trillion dollars this week, the first time ever in the nations history and every day is a new total debt that is a first in our history. this is not an amount that will be paid back by my generation or the next but my grand kids will still be trying to pay off this huge pile of festering feces. 21 trillion dollars and what did we get out of it? 2 wars. thousands dead and that is just on our side. Bailed out banks. The list goes on and on. While following this religion of free market capitalism we were blind to see the soft underbelly that we had created. the supreme court declared that corporations were people and could use their money has free speech. I think Putin was listening. companies were hired, adds were placed, fake accounts were started, and like the suckers we are we voted for the worst possible choice on the ballot. so while I sit here with my Mosin-Nagants thinking we had the spoils of war the real spoils was beating us at our own game. Globalization and free trade came crashing down around us and we were powerless to fight it. The system is broken and the people in power are the same ones that continue to say it will correct itself. “Just leave it alone and it will straighten out.” I have never had a car with a strange sound just straighten itself out. Eventually there is a louder noise, a crunch or whining sound, then the smoke appears. Our car is slowly coming to a stop on the side of an abandoned highway with no one in sight to helps us. We will be stranded on the side of the rode because we let dad, who isn’t a mechanic by the way, drive the car and continue to tell us nothing is wrong. all of this after stopping at a commie gas station, hey it’s a free market after all, and Putin put sand in the gas tank and drained the oil from the pan.

Things need to change, and if the gun control debate has shown us anything it’s that congress has no plans to change anything any time soon. The Cold-War never ended. the names changed and the players may have new faces but the old problems of the last century still haunt us today. the only difference is that the Russians continued to learn and became better at this game than we have. While the US has continued playing checkers all over the globe the Russians continued to play a long game of Chess and had their checkmate with the 2016 election.

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Surviving Trump’s America

Something happened last week that changed my life for the better. I started a new job in a place that I have loved since I was a child. The public library had a job posted that my girlfriend found on their website. She sent me the link and said I should apply since I qualified for the job. It was a mixture of custodial and maintenance and had the same hours that I was currently working. The position was closer to my home and gave me more freedom to do the things I enjoy doing rather than limiting what a person could do. In previous positions, I was restricted from fixing machines or doing repairs I found in my area. I applied for the job and after a series of interviews I was offered the position.

Finding a job like this in Trump’s America is a rare thing. The policies put into place by the Republican party since the 1980s have made jobs like mine a dying breed that continue to go extinct. Let me explain. The library has a union that has been in place since the days it was part of the Public-School system, because of that the library has benefits that continue on until today. I have better insurance than either of my previous jobs which included a local non-profit hospital and the county government. one would think the best of the best would be found at institutions like these, but sadly they follow the status quo and are short sighted on their thinking. The staff has gone out of their way to greet me and learn about the new guy in their facility. In larger organizations boasting thousands of employees one is overlooked and viewed as just another cog in the machine. The financial security I now feel comes from the jump in pay I received in my new job, almost doubling what both on my previous positions paid. Granted, that is partially due to added responsibilities I received with the expectation of doing repairs and keeping up the grounds around the facility but these are things I did at my previous jobs with no added pay. Simply put, if I repaired a machine I needed to perform my job somebody else was paid for it while I prevented a complaint from being received by my boss.

The policies and economics of my new employer are exactly what I had been arguing for since I left college and joined the workforce full time. Working at a hospital for 14 years taught me that most organizations, even the ones that boast how well they treat their employees, are quick to slice the pay of their workers before cutting own profits to save an image, the wrong image or prestige rather than charity. It always bugged me that the CEO of a non-profit hospital was paid over 3 million dollars a year while many of the departments of that hospital were understaffed and had equipment decades older than they should have been. When I left the hospital, the ER still had machines with 3.5-inch floppy disk drives for detecting heart attacks. Note to self, when an organization has to continue screaming about how great they are, they usually are far from it. Those who are great are too busy being great to fight for recognition.

For the past 17 years, I have been living off of a pay of twenty thousand a year, and the early years it only came from overtime if I made that much. The sad reality is that most people are unwilling to fight for more and how can they in a country that destroyed their unions and took away the rights of workers for fair pay. If one did complain about how little they made it wasn’t uncommon for employees in higher positions to say “be thankful for the work you have.” If the conversation continued they would become irritated or angry because I was questioning their position on the hierarchy ladder. In truth that wasn’t the case. I knew many nurses who worked endless overtime or had second jobs to pay the bills. They were required to continue their education with the payoff being little in the end with more responsibility and longer hours. This wasn’t just in the hospital either. In the County, we had republican economics playing out with a majority of Democrats in office. I never once saw a Union representative and when the Union negotiated the new contract with the County we received a higher cost healthcare plan with a higher deductible that ate up the raise we received. Our pay increase was only a few cents and the county approved the construction of a new courthouse at the estimated cost of 70 million dollars. Even Democrats run on the policy of investing in short term projects with little benefit instead of people.

So where do I go from here? I have a few plans. My little ambitions include filling my modest wine cellar. Stashing away some money in my savings account. Finally repairing my fence that currently fits the image of a ghetto alleyway. Finally, and the most important task, paying off my house years ahead of the thirty-year schedule. Most people either forget or don’t realize that if you only make the monthly payment you actually pay three times the amount due to interest. My $60,000 house will cost me $180,000 if I only make the minimum payment. That is not including the cost of interest and taxes paid on the property.

Why paying people more isn’t a national call of duty I will never understand. I have known so many people in my life that worked their asses off, sometimes to death, without ever having a sense of financial security. Charles Bukowski wrote about this phenomenon in several of his books. People think that the artist must suffer and be driven to write great works of literature. Bukowski argued that his best works were written when he was financially secure and didn’t have the pressure to rush something out. I found myself in that boat a few years ago after writing After the Day and rushing to finish the sequel Red Tide. Trying to stay afloat and keeping a roof over my head I continued writing and releasing books that were poorly edited, if at all, and lacked the rewriting they needed to make a better story. Currently Trump is cutting funding to the arts and in doing so will hurt the quality of our culture adding pressure to those who are trying to survive and therefore undermine the quality of their product for a short-term goal of paying the bills. Welcome to Trump’s America, the Republican wet dream of destroying that which the majority of people love.

While some will argue that I am being over paid for what I will be doing I will leave you with this. My pay will afford me to buy a bottle of wine I could not buy before, paying for the truck driver who delivered it, the wine maker to stay in business, the field hands that picked the grapes, the advertising agents that promoted it, the glass makers that produced the bottle, the graphic designer who made the labels, and the list goes on. People who make more money contribute to the economy, rich people do not. End of story.

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Renew, Reuse, Recycle

Over a year ago I started a hobby that has taken a few twist and turns. While thinking about global warming and where our world is heading I quickly realized that there aren’t many things made these days that will be around a decade from now. However, there are many tools and items that were made a hundred years ago that not only still exist but still work.

This adventure started with an interest in typewriters. I had bought my first typewriter, a Smith-Corona super speed that had a few parts missing and needed a little love. The adventure took over a year, it was finally fixed a few months back, but after ordering a few parts online it was working perfectly. During that tim,e I came across dozens of typewriters that had different things wrong with them and I was able to fix them all. It was during that time I realized I was saving these machines from the recycling and trash dumps to continue being used. I became a middleman between a death that would come too soon and a new life with a good home.

While a part of me wonders why people won’t take the time to figure out what is wrong with these machines it also keeps me busy looking for more that people are trying to flip or make a profit from. The oddest part of this trade is finding rusted out machines with broken carriages and platens missing from the rubber rotting off are the machines that have the highest price. People will look online and see what some machines are selling for and thing their piece of junk will sell for that, not seeing what it really is. These machines I would find useful for the parts they contained. For the price they are being sold for they will sit on the shelf and eventually move on to a darker place.

A few months back I found three AM radios at a sale where everything was half off. I picked up the radios to see if I could figure out how to fix them. I knew little about vacuum tube radios or electronics in general, but I replaced the power cords and cleaned out the bodies. Plugging in the first radio and turning it on I waited a few seconds to see the lights turn on and the static from the speaker start to fill the room. An old zenith radio had found a second chance.

When it comes to the eco conscious individual I see a few things that make sense but there are many aspects of their personality I can’t get past. They will buy new cars that cost several barrels of oil to create from the beginning of production to the point of reaching the parking lot. They by cell phones from china, eat food from supermarkets, even if it is organic it was still harvested, wrapped, and shipped from oil. At the end of the week they feel good about putting their recycling out and making money for somebody else who sells the raw material produced.

Growing up I learned three words to help the world. Reduce, reuse, and recycle was printed on a triangle pinned to the board on the side of the classroom. So far recycle is the only one that has gone anywhere in the last 20 years. Reduce is not popular with the Walmart crowd, but let’s look at reuse. I’m the type of person that likes to go to garage sales, antique shops, estate sales, and flea markets. What I try to find is items that are at their last leg in life and have a second chance waiting for them. Many of these machines are better for the environment and had their carbon bill created almost a century ago. A typewriter is Microsoft word on a machine that prints what you write while you write it, no electricity needed. The AM radios offer entertainment that have a classic sound and still play modern music if you tune in to the right channel.

My latest project is a 1922 Minnesota domestic model A sewing machine. This machine is a clone of the Singer sewing machines of the time and came with a solid oak cabinet that contains the foot pedal and belt that powers the sewing machine. Again, a fully functional machine that doesn’t use electricity. Not only is it useful but the quality of materials and the beauty they were made with isn’t matched by anything today. With a little oil, cleaning products and love the machine came back to life for another hundred years. The oak cabinet is still solid and just needs a little sanding and finish to come back to life.

While people stick to their recycling and think they are making a difference I have started to look at the other two words in that phrase. Reuse isn’t just taking stuff out of the closet and using it once in a while, for me it means bringing things back to life that people will want to use again for a second or maybe third lifetime. As for the reduce aspect of the triangle I can say that selling these items takes care of the stockpile that builds up while fixing these machines. Their sale isn’t for much profit since I try to sell them for a price that the average person can afford and are more likely to appreciate. For the type writers I don’t see many collectors trying to find typewriters, what I have been seeing is people who want one to use for letters or writing that novel they always wanted to do.

Reusing items isn’t just that one word. You are recycling the material they are made out of, reducing the need for more items to be created, and renewing a machine that somebody will love for the first time. While I have expanded into world of sewing machines it won’t stop there. I have seen quite a few tobacco pipes that are looking for a second chance and what I have learned is that with a little buffing, cleaning and a shot of whiskey they are like new for a new owner to enjoy. Who knows maybe renewing old products that were created so long ago will become a new industry.

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A Vision of the Future

When I imagine what the world will look like, specifically my area of Michigan, I see a drastic change from the world we have today. Some of the things we no longer have include supermarkets, a large number of cars, and less people. There will be some resemblance of our current normality. Local governments will have more power compared to state of federal. Roads will still be around. Electricity will be available to those that can figure out a power source. Libraries will be the main source of knowledge and entertainment.

Economically, the main stores will include reuse merchandise. Items that can stand the test of time and be fixed by a steady hand. This won’t be the electronics that we have today. Cell phones won’t be around. Home phones will return as the norm, for a while. The post office will send correspondence if it is still around after a republican administration. With a return of a reliance on the post office will come a return of earlier technology like the typewriter. Some people as about ribbon and how to get more? The bright side is that ribbon is a fairly easy product to make, also if the ribbon is still in good condition it can be reinked and used several times over. I can’t think of any modern technology that has that ability.

We will see a line in human history marking when humans stopped building tools that were reliable and sturdy. The quality of tools will mean more than how pretty they are.

Slate records and the hand crank Victrola will be items of luxury. The mechanically inclined will be the most valuable people to the general public. They will be the gateway to an easier life and a reminder of the world we once had. Communities will have to return for the sake of the population at large. Neighborhoods will no longer be boxes to hold your stuff, instead everyone will rely on sharing of goods and supplies to get by. Festivals will no longer be a place to sell and buy goods, instead a place to share and enjoy one another’s company.

Acoustic music will be the norm and making those instruments will become a new craft, revived from the local need. Old hand crank or foot pedal sewing machines will be a sign of luxury again. I don’t know if money will survive. People might think it was a nice idea and some will hold onto it thinking it is special while it is not edible and doesn’t serve any purpose besides existing. Festivals and local customs will be dictated by the seasons. Blueberries and other crops will become a focus point and become more than just a garnish in a salad. The first two R’s in reduce, reuse, recycle, will finally be used. While these items are saved and restored for future generations, life will be easier than if they had disappeared along with the rest of civilization. Mechanics will be the wizards of the future, speaking words like Metric and Inches as if it was a foreign language only they can understand. Life will become more simple while becoming more dangerous with people dying from diseases we consider a hindrance these days. In the end, everywhere will become a small town. Jobs will no longer be the concern on people’s minds. With the fall of banks and corporations the only job people will have is to survive. In order to survive people must work together, and hopefully remember the mistakes of the past and not repeat it in the distant future.

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