Random Thoughts in a non-random world

Assuming Keith Scott actually had a gun (which I don’t believe) and that we are now seeing that good guy with a gun gets shot by the (plainclothes) police in North Carolina, why is the NRA silent?  Is it a stretch to say that the 2nd Amendment only applies to white men?  I’m guessing Anton Scalia would say yes, “Guns move too fast for blacks.”

Why does North Carolina put up with politicians that believe “blacks hate whites” and that transgender citizens are bathroom predators?  What has there been, 1 maybe?  There are more conservative politicians with sexual predatory convictions (or clearly shown cover ups) than transgender bathroom issues.  See:  Dennis Hastert.  I’m not dismissing liberal sexual criminals, but they aren’t the ones driving the laws in North Carolina.

Why must a black man with hands up, assumingly following police commands in Tulsa, be a “bad dude”?  Is the false accusation of being a “bad dude” automatically a death sentence?

In a world where many (90%?) of our Law Enforcement officers are good, if not great people, why must they protect the minority that abuse the power and make mistakes (yes I’m being kind) that end lives?

Why do people think that I am anti-police?  I’m not.  I’m against injustice and the policies and practices that protect the abusers.

In a country where we are proud of our freedoms, including the freedom to protest, why are we focused on one man kneeling during the national anthem as a crime against the country and ignoring what his message is?  Why are the angry conservatives ignoring the message in light of recent tragedies that are on point with his message?

Why do people think that kneeling during the national anthem is a slight against the Military?  The Military defends the constitution and our rights, not a flag and a song.  Peaceful protest is a protected right.

Why do people think that after hundreds of years of slavery and 100+ years of Jim Crow and continued rights violations (see NC and voter restrictions), do people not understand that the black experience in this country is different from all (most?) others?  Why do we think there are easy answers? There aren’t any easy steps.  We are good at easy.  It’s hard. It’s painful to look in the mirror and say, “I’m part of the problem” in some way.  But for the most part, if you are reading this, you are.  So am I.

In the 30’s, the US ignored Europe.  We were worried that Jewish refugees were spies.  Then 6 million were executed, along with other targeted peoples.  Why don’t more people worry that we are doing this again?  Is it because Muslims scare us?  Jew were thought to have horns, so let’s get over our Muslim fear.  For the record, no one in my family has horns.  I won’t speak for other Jews.

Why is it so hard to embrace our heritage of the freedom to practice our religion, when it comes to Muslims?  Yes, there are elements of their texts that are harsh and talk of killing those that are different.  So does the Christian bible, but we conveniently ignore that.  Isn’t that a tad hypocritical?  That’s not to say there isn’t an ISIS, terrorism issue in this country.  There is.  Again, hard problems and difficult work.  Profiling and registration database will inflame those given to intolerance of “Western” values.  Why can’t we be smarter?

Yes, I think there are too many guns in this country.  Yes I think it is too easy to get a gun and way too easy to get a gun capable of killing a great many people in seconds.  I’m in favor of keeping guns out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.  See: Sandy Hook.  I’ve never heard a major candidate for president say we should round up the guns; TAKE THEM AWAY!  Never.  I guess not. But that is what the NRA is advertising.  Do people really believe that?  Why don’t people realize the NRA is a lobby for the gun manufacturers and survivalists?  Who really needs 100 guns?  5 isn’t enough?  Because once you go past 5, what are your really saying about your need for guns?

After all the 2nd Amendment guaranties the rights to guns. Do people forget that it takes most of the states to ratify a constitutional amendment?   The odds of your guns being taken away in the next 20 years is 0.  And if you are worried about 20 years from now, you are being ridiculous.  Start worrying about 2036 in 2026.  None of us can see that far.

Why aren’t we all working to make this world a better place?  What stopping you?

 

Smile!!

Just because it’s not happening in my field of vision doesn’t mean it’s not happening or not worth our attention. The continued recent events matter. We must stop pretending they don’t. Change starts with us. Speak up. Be heard. Create change. Our world needs it.

I've Got Cake

SMILE!!

The man who runs the cafeteria at my job, he’s been saying this to me off and on for the past 3, 4 months and he doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall.

Any man with half a fucking brain knows not to tell a woman hedoesn’t know, to ‘smile!’

Finally today –

Me: You keep telling me to smile, is there a problem?

Him: *startled expression*

Me: I’m asking if my smile is your problem?

Him: Well…..it’s…it’s not…you just have a lovely smile…you should smile more….

Me: Oh yeah? You wanna know why I’m not smiling today?

Him: …ummm….well…should I even ask….I mean, from the look you’re giving me right now, I’m not sure I want to know.

Me: *speaks slowly* Because they’re still killing defenseless black men. Shooting them, over and over. MURDERING them. And. It’s. LEGAL.

Him: *jaw hangs*

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A Modest Proposal or Happiness is a warm gun

The recent tragedy in Orlando brought gun control back into the spotlight.  Immediately, liberals over reacted and started taking about what they perceive as needed gun control legislation, some even previously endorsed by the NRA.  Simultaneously, the gun lobby, NRA and Donald Trump – the great hope of America – reacted in the other direction, mobilizing their followers to make sure there were no restrictions on gun ownership in the USA.  After all the Second Amendment is the most pressing issue in the US today.

This is a recurring cycle.  A massacre happens in the United States.  Amidst the sadness over our loss and senseless violence, some people immediately blame the ease of access to guns in the country.  Those who oppose any legislation in regards to guns voice concerns over terrorism, mental health and the phase of the moon, for guns themselves do not harm others.  Politicians posture about making changes, while the NRA funds opposition. After much handwringing and rhetoric, nothing happens.  Slowly the cry for gun control legislation quiets a bit and other items dominate the news cycle.

Nothing happens until the next tragedy and then it is only talking points that lead nowhere.  Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, Charleston, Orlando.  Einstein said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  It is time to change our actions and end the insanity.

These arguments over guns, take away from the more important issues facing our country and our world.  We should focus on what we prioritize as important, and clearly that is not gun legislation.
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms and form free, albeit well regulated, militias.  Previously, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to bear arms does not mean that there can be no regulation or legislation over guns and other arms.  I’d like to propose that we abolish that Supreme Court ruling and we address the gun issue in a way that will remove it from the public discussion forever.

I propose that gun ownership be mandatory in the USA.  It can be done in such a way to spur the economy, reduce the distractions that take away from the larger issues facing this world, and unify the US into a new, more effective society.  With a few minor tweaks to how guns are bought and sold, this issue becomes moot.

Once that Supreme Court ruling is overturned, we define “arms” as used in the Second Amendment as “weapons”.  Period.  All Weapons will be deregulated.

 Guns will no longer be bought and sold as they have been

The US Government will be the sole purchaser of guns in the US.  Individual citizens may not buy or sell guns.  The US will work with US manufacturers of weapons to determine how many guns are needed and will be the exclusive buyer of guns.   A profit margin will be guaranteed to the manufacturer.  All guns (and their components) must be designed, manufactured and distributed solely in the US.

Because weapons cannot be bought and sold, does not mean that there won’t be a pipeline to criminals.  But, because every good guy will have a gun, criminals now know that any action that they take could, and probably will, lead to violence.  Many criminals will be killed trying to commit crimes, reducing the crime rate further than the simple deterrent of knowing there are weapons in every home and business.  Of course a few citizens will be casualties, but compared the innocent victims of recent massacres, these people will be martyrs to gun deregulation and hailed as heroes.   A new national holiday will be created in their honor, so that everyone can celebrate their personal sacrifice for gun ownership.  Society has already deemed that the death of 50 or so innocent civilians at any time is an acceptable cost, a national day of celebration, and relief from work seems appropriate.

As importantly, because US guns and weapons cannot be sold outside the US, there will be no fear of terrorist and US enemies gaining weapons to use against us.  What this also means is that we, as the US, can tell who our enemies are by who supplies our enemies with weapons.  This will galvanize and focus our military, increasing efficiencies.

The US Department of Arms will distribute weapons to citizens

There will be a new government department that is solely focused on arms.  They will oversee the gun manufacturers to make sure they make appropriate profits and adjust the profit margin up or down to be reflective of the economy.  The gun manufactures, their employees, their executives and their distributors will make a good income, but they will not be allowed to make super profits or become robber barons.  Prices will be set annually, and there will be significant oversight making sure there are no abuses.

The US Department of Arms will be a large government branch.  It will have armies of distribution workers, transportation options and economic over-sight analysts.  As this is all in support of making sure every citizen has the arms they are entitled to, this is the ultimate constitutional process.  This will reinforce each citizen’s understanding of the US Constitution and their belief in our federal government.

Economic Benefits

The new US Department of Arms will create a new economic growth cycle. First, staffing the new government agency will add tens of thousands of positions immediately.  While supporters of smaller government might be initially resistant, once people see that the department only distributes the guns mandated by this proposal and provides minimal oversight to distribution, redistribution, guaranteed gun manufacturer profitability and product quality, those issues should be overcome.   The rise in demand for truck drivers, maintenance workers and logistic experts will be a boon to the economy, staving off any looming recession.

Clearly, there will be no more gun stores.  But there will be a call for more shooting ranges, weapons training, kill tactics, self-defense and ammunition.  Overall, there will be more opportunities created.  Arms maintenance, safety and shooting will be new required subjects in our school, increasing the demand for vocational teachers.

Additionally, as the US weapons manufacturers will see their increased market place, they will expand, as will their suppliers.  A national think tank estimates the growth in jobs to be over 2 million in each of the next 15 years.

Arms will be distributed throughout a citizen’s life

Starting at the age of 1, US citizens will start receiving their weapons according to a detailed life plan.  No rational person will ever want for a weapon.  The selfish and greedy will always want more, but this will be a level playing field.  Much like aging, one’s weapon cache will grow over time and citizens will have the ability to modify their arsenal.  Initially people will receive their Arms at major life milestone – age 13, graduating High School, age 18, age 21 and every 10 years starting at age 30.  Extra arms will be issued upon marriage, birth of children, starting a career and opening a business.

There will be opportunities to add additional weapons for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, Baptism, religious conversion, Quinceañera and other milestones.

On a citizen’s 16th birthday they will also be given 3 hand grenades.  The only weapons not distributed to the average citizen will be nuclear weapons.  Those will be distributed to local, state and national officials to be used at their discretion.  As they have been elected to do the will of the people, it makes sense that they should be in a position to exercise whatever that will turns out to be.

This begs the question of what happens to arms when a citizen passes on or leaves the country.  They may leave their weapons to a family member or members or bequeath them to an approved Militia.  If there are no arrangements made, their weapons will be collected and redistributed.

Well Regulated Militias

As the Second Amendment does call for the existence and formation of well-regulated Militias, there will be no hindrances allowed to prevent their formation.  Once a Militia is formed, it will be acknowledged by the government and given and extra 2 arms per member.  Weapons will be distributed semi-annually based on membership increases, insuring each Militia has the enough arms to be effective.

There will be no significant requirements to form a Militia and they can be formed for any and every purpose.  Some purposes include local defense, border defense, racial defense, religious defense, terrorist hunting and perhaps illegal immigrant deterrence.  Each Militia will determine what well regulated means to them as the government will not interceded, but will support each Militia equally.

, there will probably be Militias for the Jehovah Witnesses, the Catholic Church, various White Supremacist factions, Rotary, the ACLU, the Clampers, NAACP, Greenpeace, PETA, the Hell’s Angels, AARP, Mensa and other cultural free thinkers. Clearly, not every Militia will see eye to eye with every other Militia.  Over time, it is anticipated that there may be small skirmishes between these groups, but as this is by-product of allowing for free Militias, it is to be expected and accepted.

Legal Changes

Clearly, there will need to be some legal changes.  Open carry will be made legal across all venues.  School children will be mandated to take a weapon to school and no business may bar a patron carrying a weapon.  There will be good guys with guns everywhere:  in schools, churches, bars and casinos.

Self-protection and stand your ground laws will be expanded in light of the increased weapons in society.  There is no need for the courts to get bogged

Non-citizens may not own or carry a gun in the US.  This may help some the refugee concerns that are cropping up.  If anyone gets wind of a non-citizen with a weapon, they will be encouraged to report them to the police, so that the matter can be addressed appropriate.

Societal Benefits

As with any major change, there will several changes in society and many will occur quickly.  As everyone will carry arms, though some may choose not to, there will be more deaths.  Guns do not cause deaths, people do and people will die.  Those with mental health issues will probably be eliminated in the early days.  As they often intimidate and provoke others, they will most likely be killed in a series of “stand your ground” and self-defense events.  This will reduce the need for mental health efforts and free up professionals for more important and serious work.

In every society there are those that are clumsy and haphazard.  A great many of the uncoordinated and unobservant will ultimately either be killed through a series events placing them in avoidable harm’s way.  As these events could have easily been avoided, the dead will be a fault.  Some people won’t learn to use and care for their weapons.  The lack of attention will back fire on many, leading to their self-destruction.

There will inevitably more children dying.  Children often make poor decisions; some will choose weapons to solve their problems.  It is anticipated that bullies, braggarts and the socially inept will heavily impacted.  This will help improve the adults in society in later years as various problems are eliminated before they can start.  These events have the potential to improve the school system and education in the US as distractions and overcrowded conditions decrease.

Well-meaning and oblivious parents will probably meet an untimely end.  There is already a noticeable amount of toddlers accidently killing adults.  There is no reason for this pattern to dissipate in the near term.

Having arms on hand will provide alternatives to the lonely, elderly and terminally ill.  Over time, the number of people in these situations will find new ways to eliminate their personal issues, improving our society little by little.

In all the various scenarios that occur, some poor souls who should be shining examples in society will be eliminated.  These citizens will be martyrs.  Their names will be engraved on the various weapon depositories and monuments erected as reminders of how important the Second Amendment is.  Their sacrifices will be immortalized and appreciated.

Ultimately, these deaths will be the new millennium’s Darwinian exercise.  There will be a significant thinning of the herd and only the strong will survive.  This will be the ultimate technology aided natural selection, leading to a leaner, stronger US.   Guns will not be our focus, real problems can be focused on and our quality of life improved.  Isn’t that what we really want?

Today’s ideas are brought to you by John Lennon, Mark David Chapman. and the NRA.  Stay armed America.

 

Lee’s (not so secret) Pepper Sauce 

It was a Sunday, much like any other Sunday.  What made this different was that I had made up my mind on Friday that it was time for a new batch of fermented pepper sauce.  Much like many of you, I have a bottle of Tabasco in my pantry.  I also have at least 5 other types of hot sauces in the fridge.  about 18 months ago, I found a recipe for a fermented pepper sauce on Tasting Table.  Since then, I’ve played around and developed my own take on it.  Mine is not some watery  heat.  It is complex, deep and rich.  It balances subtle heat with a hint of sweet.

It is never exactly the same, but it is always in the same realm of deliciousness.  Being the callous man I am, I thought I’d share my secret (not secret) and process with you.  Now let’s be honest, I have a secret weapon. Living in the bay area, I can go to Berkeley Bowl and grab more chilies than you can imagine with ease.  I also tend to have 3-5 types of dried chilies in my pantry at any time.  Below you can see my selection for this batch.

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Clockwise from upper left:

2 mini sweet red bell peepers

1 Jalapeno

3 Fresno chilies

1 Anaheim Chili

1 medium Shallot

8 or 9 cloves of garlic

1 dried guajillo chili

3 dried New Mexico chiles

2 dried Ancho chilies

2 dried Cascaabel peppers (the little round ones)

5 Habeneros

7 red Thai chilies

1 Poblano Chili

2 long funny named chilies whose name I forgot

Yes that is a mess of stuff.  Highly unscientific.  Many of the dried chilies came from Rancho Gordo, whose products you already know I love.

The dried peppers are roasted for 2 minutes or so at 375 until fragrant.  This deepens their flavors.  The seeds are discarded and stems removed.  then they are ripped up into 1/2″ chunks in a non reactive bowl.

The fresh chilies and peppers are seeded (and veins removed)  and chopped roughly into 1/4″ pieces.  I did not seed or vein the Jalapeno, Habeneros or Thai chilies as I wanted heat.  The garlic was roughly chopped and the shallot was diced.  Everything went into the bowl with the roasted dried chilies.

To the bowl I added 1 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1.5 Tablespoon salt and 3 Tablespoons of sugar.  Everything was mixed up, laying happily in their bath.  I stirred it every 30 minutes or so for 2 hours, let the marinade help the flavors meld.

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After two hours, everything went into my super de duper blender.  I have one of those fancy Ninjas, perfect for Margaritas, smoothies and pepper sauce.  I let it puree on various speeds until it seemed highly liquefied and smooth.  I washed the bowl and then put the liquid back into the bowl, covered with a layer of cheese cloth.  The  bowl went to the corner of the kitchen counter, out of the sun, to ferment.  I like 5 to 7 days.

Nothing terribly exciting about the bowl covered in cheese cloth is there?  I gave it a smell test a few times during the week and could tell the fermentation was in motion.  On Saturday, I removed the cheese cloth and peaked, stirred and tasted.

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The evil brew had a brown tinge on top.  It had small fermentation bubbles popping constantly.  After stirring, it looked like this.

img_3912Now it was a deeper red.  It smelled wonderful.  It tasted delicious.  A nice subtle heat that rose steadily after the bite.  Sweet and layers of flavors, staying with me for several minutes. 115 minutes later I still had a delightful afterglow, similar to that morning after smile.

This made about 3/4 of a quart.  Kept in an air tight container, it lasts for a few months.  Probably longer with the salt added, but I always run out before it goes bad.  Honestly, this might be the best batch I’ve made.

I use a few tablespoons in my hummus.  Sometimes it goes in my BBQ sauce when I’m looking to up the mysterious heat factor. This really is a great condiment to add to your arsenal.  All it takes is patience and the desire to make something wonderful.  Go forth and make sauce.

 

Loneliness is Crowded Room

Sometimes the universe sends us signals.  You know what I mean and you see it all the time.  There is that horrid Prius commercial that is so ubiquitous that I’m now nauseous when it airs.  Clearly it was that man’s time to buy a Prius and change his life.  Other times, the universe sends us false signals.  On one unnamed TV show, the lead sees the same number over and over and over.  Realizing it’s a sign, he engages is risky behavior centered on that number with disastrous results. (I’m sure many of you will binge the show later so I’ll keep the title covered.  Hint: it is not Firefly, Game of Thrones or Real Housewives of Atlanta.)

Similarly, I’ve been a bit of a funk for a while.  I’m not great at hiding that, and my four loyal readers know I often process my moods here.  And by often, I mean about 10% of the time that I start to.  I do edit myself a little and I really don’t want to turn this into a forum people avoid.  No, not you Sir. I know you are here for the Ashley bashing, that is located here.  But today, the fingers type, the words flow, and the Oxford Comma prevails.  What is going on around me?

The commute and the attitudes around me in the office weigh heavy on my generally happy soul.  For those of you that don’t know, I leave the house at 6am and return home generally after 6, too often towards 7.  That’s 75-90 minutes in the morning and 2 hours on the way home after spending day in a cube where there is limited human interaction and too much of it revolves around not meeting hidden expectations and the constant implication that no one is working enough hours.  Keep in mind that I am not a piecemeal factory worker or laborer (and both are fine, honorable jobs) – I think, I plan, I influence to gain results.  There is no clock measuring my thoughts thinking &  ideas.  When a thought hits me and I work on it, it can be driving, doing dishes or at 3am coming out of a dream.  I’m generally engaged 12-18 hours a day on what I work on.  So why the ridiculous obsession over time?

Just because I’m paid hourly doesn’t mean I don’t put in lots of time that is not technically on the clock.  Oh, and 40 hours a week is the absolute maximum.  I once made the mistake of working 2 hours on a Sunday, because something came to me late on Friday, which I would need to act on early the next Monday.  My hours didn’t exceed 40, but I was told in no uncertain terms that anything other than 8 per day, Monday through Friday would require advance approval.  I keep forgetting that not everyone sees me as the adult I believe I am.

Every day for the last week and way too much for way too often, I keep hearing the seminal hard rock anthem “Closing Time” by Semisonic.  (I looked for the sarcasm sans font, but couldn’t find it and I know WordPress does not feature it.)  As silly as the song is about the hook up life at 2am, one phrase stands out.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Is the universe trying to tell me to move on and find a new beginning, a new cubicle?  When do I become too old to be attractive in the new economy of disposable workers?  Are my experience and skills an unwanted commodity, the Filet-O-Fish of the work world?  How heavy is the baggage that is my gray hair and wrinkles?  Can I embrace the reality of my fading youth, yet still see that experience and wisdom are liabilities in my world?  What is my place?  Is there a new beginning to be sought?

And no, I’m not having a midlife crisis. But much weighs heavy.  And I consider the adage about the grass being greener elsewhere and see my lawn turning brown due to drought based water restrictions.  I’m not one to take the easy route. I’m not quitter.  Of course I think about it all the time, but in the end I do the right thing, even when it’s the more difficult, arduous path.  Maybe I should have been a mountain goat.

Today, I sat in traffic behind some unseen delay on the approach to the bridge.  Of course I heard the song about the “last call for alcohol”.  Seriously? People paid for that record?  But then I realized that it was part of a shock and awe bombardment of sad, aching songs.  Like a train wreck, I couldn’t turn away.  Horrified at the sonic sneak attack on my already fragile emotional state, I embraced the sadness.  For more than 30 minutes I sat, not hearing an uplifting note.  8 stations, making sure I paid attention.  Of course I skipped over the Eagles and Journey, it is in my DNA.

There were songs about the  break ups to come.  And then the actual breaking up and the aftermath that follows – longing, regret, and sadness.  Lonely sailors waiting for their bitter end, stranded on an island without Gilligan.  No wonder I spent my youth listening to mostly progressive rock, there are very few love songs and their opposite numbers.  And in those days I had nothing to measure songs of the heart against.  With age comes experience, and those experiences yield so many different yardsticks to use as needed.  I had several in use today.

I sit here, silent, typing, and reflecting on how I’ve been feeling; the loss of empowerment and the shrinking of my ego.  The sadness of the forgotten wrench in the bottom of the tool box, replaced by a shiny new tool straight from a well-produced Kickstarter campaign, left to rust in the dark.

Years ago, I was driving to pick up a date.  Yes, this was over 30 years ago.  One of my favorite songs came on the radio.  “Dance Away” by Roxy Music.  I always loved that song.  But in that instance, that song of finding solace in music and motion, became something different.  It became the manifestation of a rough break up a few months prior.  Tears flowed and I think I finished processing the pain I was holding.   Decades later, I still love that song and I still feel the emotions of that relationship ending. And sometimes I feel the relief of finally recognizing how to move on.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself, just musing aloud.  Much like music this morning, this silent, six by six cubicle is quite sad and lonely.  Perhaps I can figure out a way to make these days better and repurpose that discarded wrench.  Just typing this out helps.

Here are few songs to help you see the frame of my day.

Dance Away, Roxy Music

A Salty Dog, Procol Harum

Childhood’s End, Pink Floyd

Train in Vain, The Clash

Management 2016 or Navel Gazing in the Age of the Internet

I have been thinking a lot lately about Leadership, Management and Identity. It seems in the new world, this one born of the internet, smartphones, investor returns and social media that our world has changed.  As I started my career, the way to success was through management.  It didn’t matter if you were technical or support staff.   Increased pay, growing responsibility and interesting work followed through the management path.  And naturally, so did I.

I had 6 months of management training before being allowed to supervise or manage anyone.  Then, out of the blue I was managing 8 developers, all 10-15 years older than myself.  They weren’t happy about it and I had to prove myself.  It took time, but I did.  As a manager your job is to remove obstacles, allowing others to achieve, while making sure that their work is aligned with the goals and objectives of the company.  Piece of cake, right?  Not in the least.   But that was the past and bluntly, the past seems to matter less each day.

There has been a shift, one as big as the rise of man in the ranks of the predators.  Gone are the dinosaurs, the professional managers.  Management skills have been devalued for hands on technical skills.  I have interviewed for positions over the years where my skills were needed, but the focus of the manager (or director or VP) was to be hands on.  80% of their view of management was to configure the infrastructure or write code.  The staff’s well-being, professional growth, and productivity was sacrificed for more staff, more line labor and ultimately results that missed the mark.

As I’ve transitioned from a managerial leadership role to a place in the temporary labor force, I see managerial skills lacking all round me.  I have worked for managers that could not manage, let alone evaluate staff.  Hiring the wrong person is worse than not filling an open position.  The damage can be anywhere for bad to nuclear.  I’ve made that mistake and watched others decimate their teams with decisions that were far worse than simply “bad”.  Of course we all make bad decisions.  How we and fix them is what separates good leaders and managers from placeholders.

I’ve worked in environments where leadership was clearly lacking.  Managers and executives had limited interaction with their staffs failing to ensure strategic visions were communicated, actions were aligned and results we achieved.  In general, people want to do good things, they want to contribute and they want to achieve.  If they didn’t need help, the role of manager would have never been created.  People never really finish growing.  You thought you knew everything once you finished High School or College? Nope.  There is always more to learn, there is always improvement just beyond your grasp.  Providing the help you need to get there is what good managers do.  Leaders instill the vision; managers translate that vision to actions while growing a company’s most precious resource – its employees.

I’ve seen managers refer to their staff as cattle, to their face repeatedly.  I’m pretty sure that was not a compliment and did not instill loyalty.  But then the manager didn’t care, it was clear he saw people as a commodity to be replaced as needed.  While it is rare to hear this, I don’t think that is the majority view.  But as managerial skills are devalued and eroding, the attitudes become more prevalent.  People become devalued as generic tools, and the results are larger than the bean counters care to notice.

Since I am not a manager, and I do not have the authority or license to really lead, who am I?  In today’s world, our identity has shifted.  We have our identity at home, which differs from our online identity, which is clearly different from our work identity.  And some of have even more.  There was a point in time when I was a husband, father, leader and teacher.  The world was simpler and those all rolled into one nice neat package.  Today, it is less clear.

You are reading this on a screen.  It is not part of an oral history.  It most definitely is not work related.  No, this is part of your social or self-educational experience.  If I can help you I’m glad.  But this is far different from my other social media identities.  In each setting, various elements are set up to provide opportunities for people to show their personalities and interests.  While I’m not a troll, I’m most definitely not a taste maker.  Well, unless you want to come for dinner and peruse the wine cellar.

The change in the employment environment changes everything.  My core identity was once that of a leader and problem solver that contributed as much directly as indirectly.  I worked hard to help the people around me grow. Now I am a wrench, to be used on very specific tasks as needed.  Leadership, as I’m defining it, is not part of the workload and it most definitely would not be lauded if it emerged.

I wonder if that impacts how others perceive me.  Am I less than I was? Do those closest to me see me as less?  Has my gravitas given way to grey hair and the ultimate devaluation of my skills?  I pretend I’m not less, but professional fulfillment has been replaced by the practicality of paying the mortgage.  I sit and ponder my identity and my place in this world far too often these days.  Changes happen when you least expect them and deliver new pressures and influences to our perspectives and actions.  I think in this new world of ours, we probably need to spend more time connecting with our inner selves and with others.

Years ago, I worked for an executive that I had a love/hate relationship with.  She was a bit nutty and a hugger.  I am picky on who I hug.  If I hug you, it says a lot.  If I don’t, no need to be offended.  She taught me a lot – mostly on what not to do.  But, I always remembered that she was the one that told me “high tech means high touch”.  The innovations in this world are meant to help us, not separate us.  As we move further apart, we need to have the time and skills to really interact, really make a difference and not just hope that last short email changed someone’s mind.

So while I’m not who I was, I am still me.  I strive to make a difference. I work to help others and when no one is looking, I try to lead.  I try to set the appropriate example.  I believe I can still make a difference.  But sometimes, in my own private corner, I wonder if I’m fooling myself.  In some ways, I’ve always been naïve.

 

 

 

Hummus I Feel

We all have deep dark secrets.  I have a few.  I keep them locked away tight, as direct sunlight or a casual observance may bring down the entire house of cards that is my life.  With some minor prodding, I realize it is time to make the first step, to admit out loud what so few know.

I like Ambrosia.  I don’t mean the old timey desert with whipped cream and canned fruit cocktail.   I am referring to the seminal San Pedro based (softish) rock band.  Sure you all know the soft hits, but dig into “Life Beyond LA” or “Holding on to Yesterday”.  And what other band pulls from Vonnegut (Deadheads need not answer)?  Of course there goes my hard rock cred.  That’s ok, I cry a lot too.  Don’t pick up my copy of Stephen King’s 11.22.63, the last half of the book is tear stained, if you need proof.

With apologies to David Pack, let’s get started.

That’s hummus I feel, feel for you, baby.
Hummus I need, well I need you for lunch.
Hummus I live, I live for your goodness.
That’s hummus, that’s hummus,
That’s hummus, that’s hummus.

Today is all about hummus.  On the Book of Faces, not to be confused with the Hall of Faces from Game of Thrones, there was talk about needing to make your own hummus, due to a Sabra recall.  I do like my hummus and I make a fresh batch weekly, so Lambchop and I have some for snacks and some for lunches.

Hummus is pretty easy to make and most of the ingredients are in your kitchen if you like to cook.  Let me be frank, I wing it every time and my hummus is not “plain”.  It is rich in delightful flavors, many non-traditional.

Lee’s basic, non- basic, hummus

2 14oz cans of Chickpeas (garbanzos) drained

2 Meyer lemons, juiced and zested (I use my microplaner)

10-20 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt

1 Anaheim pepper, whole

2 Jalapeños, whole

1 Tablespoon Cumin

2 heaping tablespoons of Tahini (sesame paste)

½ cup Good Olive Oil

½ cup water

Salt and Pepper to taste

Lambchop likes her hummus lemony, so I often use more than 2 lemons and I haven’t seen a recipe calling for the zest which I believe adds complexity.

Step 1:  Break the garlic barrier

In a small shallow pan, put in the garlic, Anaheim and Jalapeños.  I put the chilies on top. Pour the olive oil over the garlic and peppers, to roughly cover the garlic.  Spin the chilies to get them coated in oil.  I roast these in my toaster oven at 270 for about 40 minutes.  The garlic should not brown significantly, but we do want the peppers to blister.  If they haven’t blistered, take the garlic out and broil them for 2-4 minutes a side to blister the skin.  Throw the chilies in a sealed zip lock or plastic container for 10-20 to cool.  Peel of the skin.  Remove seeds to temper the heat.  Either way.  Make sure the oil is back to room temp.

Step 2:  Whip that Tahini

It is time to get out your food processor.  You can use a blender, but I prefer the trusty Kitchen Aid food processor over my smoothie maker.

Some recipes do not call for tahini, some call for more some for less.  I like about 1.5T per can of beans.  Add the tahini, the lemon zest and half of the lemon juice to the food processor. Whip on high for at least 30 seconds.  Whipping the tahini gives body and helps it incorporate more evenly.

Step 3:  Peas to the Pool!

Add your garbanzos to the processor and process for 10-20 seconds to get a rough grind.  Add in the garlic (not the oil), chilies, cumin and salt.  Process the peas for another 20 seconds or more.  The mixture should be fine, but not a puree.  This is an inexact science, you’ll learn the flavors you want to add, how much garlic etc.  Perhaps you want 3 Jalapeños, or none.  I usually add about 4 grinds from my pepper mill at this point.

Step 4:  It’s Time to Rain on this Parade

Hummus is an emulsion, not a mix so the liquids get added slowly.  Turn the processor on low and drizzle in the remaining lemon juice.  Turn the processor to high and drizzle in about half the oil or until the hummus is near the consistency you want.  Then start drizzling in water to get the final consistency.  When the consistency looks right, taste it.  What do you think? Add in more oil, more garlic or more salt if you think it needs it.

When it is how you like it, remember it will be better tomorrow.

In my world, I often add in other ingredients.  My favorites include:

½ white onion

Harrissa

Red Bell pepper

Cayenne pepper

Chipotle pepper

Homemade pepper sauce

Paprika

Oregano (dried or fresh)

Rosemary

 

And if you don’t like my fancy hummus, here is Epicurious’ recipe that I started with.  Its time I mosey on to somewhere I’ve never been before.

 

 

 

 

Tipping Over Rocks

As I watch middle age wind its way inevitably towards life’s downward slope, I ponder which part of my soul to put into words.  While we inevitably have some mid-life or existential crisis – though not nearly as grand as Don Draper’s – I never seem to find the words to process those events appropriately.  Instead, I find myself coming back to the common themes of food and literature.  But not today.

As the parking wars of Oakland ended with my career taking a twist, today I’ll travel the musical path and in doing so, perhaps raise a smile, give you a tune and reveal a bit too much.  Let’s find out.  I’ll take “Tipping Over Rocks” for $2000 Alex.

Nearly everyone my age loves Led Zeppelin. What’s not to love?  Bonham’s barely contained rage on drums, Jones’ arrangements and base, Page’s searing, inventive and hypnotic guitar and Plant’s vocals driving home the point.  And that well-worn spot on his jeans.  Yes, I know that you know he dresses left.  I fought embracing Zeppelin them in high school because everyone else did, but it all finally made sense to me around 1979.  I haven’t let go.

If you ask for a list of people’s favorite Led Zeppelin songs, you will inevitably get “Stairway to Heaven”, “Kashmir” or perhaps “Ramble on”.  While I do love “The Immigrant Song”, my favorite track is a little ditty on side 3 of Physical Graffiti, “The Wanton Song”.  Who doesn’t love a song about the rush and immediate need of sex?  I do.  But the song is about the hook.  This is my favorite hook in the music universe, with all apologies to Mike Campbell.  It rocks.  It rages.  And yet it radiates a progression and melody that echoes all the false promises of pop music.  It is meaty and it delivers.  It takes my seed from my shaking frame, and the wheel rolls on.

 

In the early 70’s no band was more theatrical than Genesis.  My love of the Peter Gabriel era Genesis records is well documented.  I’ve dragged Lambchop to more Musical Box schlong fests than she cares to recall.  And while such staples as “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, “The Musical Box” and “Supper’s Ready” are true favorites, I have a deep, carefully curated, soft spot for “Harold the Barrel”.

Harold is a man depressed, contemplating suicide, being encouraged by reporters and the crowd.  The song offsets the grim situation with a power pop melody and vocals reminiscent of happy children.  It’s a tough song to interpret as it is presented like an opera, but in Peter Gabriel’s singularly spectacular voice.  But without the liner notes showing the various parts, it can be tough to truly grasp the theatrics.  In the midst of such a crisis, Harold’s mother tries to talk him off the window ledge by telling him, “”Your shirt’s all dirty, there’s a man here from the B.B.C.”.  Some things are universal.

 

 

And then there is REM.  I first discovered REM with Life’s Rich Pageant.  That’s me, late to the game. But I went back and found the rest.  From 1986 – 1994 REM put out the soundtrack to my ascent into adulthood.  It might have been easy to point to “Texarkana”, “Can’t Get There From Here” or “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville.” Instead I’ll point you to “A Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)”.

There is a manic, frantic quality to the song.  At once I want to dance and cry.  The beat grabs me by the collar and forces my attention.  Yet under the reaping wheel, a sadness and strange environment dominates the world around me and despair rises.    Don’t miss the train of woe; Boxcars are pulling a carnival of sorts, Out of town, out of town.

 

In early 1980, my friend Matt brought over a copy of London Calling.  The Clash was new to my consciousness and while the title track and “Train in Vain” were cool, it really wasn’t till I started college later in the year did I grasp the meaning and might of this band.  Let’s skip the obvious and jump to the meat.  As I’ve aged, when I listen to Strummer and Jones I always yearn for “Stay Free”.

Clearly, the tale of a friend who wound up in prison and then got out bears no relationship to my life.  But time passes and life’s choices often create distance between friends.  Relationships erode and yet, deep down, bonds never really break. I wonder what might have been, filling in an alternate history for my life.   I always tear when Mick sings “But go easy, step lightly, stay free”, my code for what never was, but could have been.

I’m sure your first exposure to the Pretenders was “Brass in Pocket”.  Perhaps you always loved “Back on the Chain Gang.”  I know Lambchop loves “Night In My Veins” and that special something dark and dirty about Chrissie’s nights.  I tend to prefer the darkness in “Up the Neck” and the raw, bleeding emotion of “The Wait.”    One brings the darkness of love gone violently wrong to the sweet melody of a strolling love song, while the other rages with pain dished out and taken.  When I heard the entire debut from the Pretenders, and my view women in rock had changed forever.

Bondage to lust, abuse of facility
Blackmailed emotions confuse the demon and devotee

Oh gonna hurt some, child, child, child, child, child
Gonna hurt some whoa my baby

Music changes us, rewriting our DNA in a way that we can’t comprehend until it’s finished.  The old cliché is that music, generally what we heard in high school  is the soundtrack to our lives.  Instead I find it to be the fabric on which we write our story, the texture to our soul.  And if you listen closely, you’ll hear echoes of my past, here under the rocks.

Myriad Randomness: No Trump Edition

Is there anything more annoying than traffic?  As always, I drive for over an hour each morning and nearly 2 hours on my way home.  Today, several thoughts hit me.

  • This is California.  65 is a suggestion for the fast lane on uncrowded freeways.  You should consider visiting the slow lane if you believe 64 is a death sentence.
  • Is there anything worse than the indignant look of the driver doing 64 in the fast lane when you pass him (or her) on the right?  The shame they showered on me was, well, nonexistent.
  • Why no Ma’am, you your pristine white Kia Soul cannot simply bump that stalled truck out of the way.  I believe the word you are looking for is totaled.
  • I hate 880.  I will work hard to avoid it.  Sadly, on days like today when there are accidents up and down that stretch, everyone moves to my alternate routes.  Thank you for the extra 20 minutes of crawling.  My life is now approaching completion.

Eggplant, the poor misunderstood eggplant.  I think it is time we allow the purple globe to leave the island of misunderstood vegetables and live a happier, more fulfilling life.  I’ve been making versions of ratatouille and roasted vegetable, with the humble aubergine front and center.  Seriously delicious good eats those are.  Fuck.  When did I decide to eat healthier?  It must be time to put more pork on the smoker.  Don’t get your hopes up, I’m still not going anywhere near albacore — in or out of a can.

Normally we get nostalgic as we realize how far technology has brought us.  A TV antenna on a roter to watch slightly less blurry shows.  The rotary phone and the callus it created. The phone book.  A time before salmon roe foam.  I was listening to “The Bad Touch” by The Bloodhound Gang.   For those of you unfamiliar with the hook:

You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel

 How long has it been since there were shows about animal procreation on the discovery channel?  Now you get “Fat and Furious”, “Moonshiners” and “Pacific Warriors”.    I think the world was a kinder, gentler place when cable TV focused on Walrus sex, not deadly situations and careers.  And then I missed the X-Files.

If you aren’t watching “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” you are missing some fantastic comedic commentary on our world.  She and John Oliver are filling the void the left by Jon Stewart by expanding on the niche and adding to our conversations with thought provoking shows.  It is not too late to start catching up.

And please, enjoy your Passover.  Many Matzo sacrificed their balls for your soup.  If this multi-generational mutilation must continue, at least enjoy your soup. And thank your mother.

ennui

I drive to work; the train is no longer an option. Later, I drive home.  The round trip is at least 3 hours, often closer to 4.  It gives me time to listen to sports talk and generally the presidential debates. Satellite radio is a wondrous thing.  But my mood has shifted.  I am reverting back to listening to music.  My mind collapses around the sadness that is the 49ers.  The Warriors are a bright spot and the Giants exude yearly hope.

But then there is the election, still 8 months out.  Am I the only one that see’s Trump inciting violence?  I was appalled when he suggested that if he didn’t get the nomination with plurality votes, which he will surely have, the people might riot.  Might?  Isn’t he telling them to?  I took it as a signal.  A blatant call to arms.  And we wonder why he is compared to Fascists.  There are no good choices.  My politics lean liberal and as bad as Trump would be – and he would be—Cruz is worse.  The manipulation of the media for air time, the cultish feel of some candidates.  Wondering if Cruz would really like to start the end of days as his father suggests.  And then I’m reminded the next SCOTUS depends on how the NRA feels.  It all makes me weary.

And Brussels, following Paris.  Some days it is indeed too much.

So I move to music.  And the lift I’m looking for is nowhere to be found.  Sad songs.  Reminders that Bowie and Kantner passed on.  That Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin died too young.  That Duane Allman cut a swath through the south but left it searing and incomplete.  John had me imagining, but even that leads down dark hallways in this year’s context.

Today, there is no joy in Mudville.   I’m sorry I’ve neglected you, my 3 or 4 dedicated readers, but most things haven’t gotten past my filters.

Here’s a little spot of joy. Maybe it will help, at least for a moment.  Who doesn’t like power pop about teachers spiking the punch of wee ones?