Musings on Chimneys

chimney2I’m an old house
Creeks and cracks and moans
Rigid and dry are my bones
Stubbornly flexing with the seasons
Sway, settle, groan

I’m an old house
My chimney spews smoke and fumes
You can see floating like clouds
On a cold winter’s day
Rise, billow, drift

I’m an old house
Who needs a makeover
To accommodate the wonders
Of the modern world
Buy, own, loan

I’m an old house
Designs break like tea cups
upon the brick and mortar
Of my immobile chimney
Drop, crumble, crash

I’m an old house
My limitations proudly parade
Nakedly around the rooms
Undeterred by the open windows
Look, linger, lust

I’m an old house
Let’s tear the chimney down
Rebuild from the ground up
Open up the walls and breathe
Bury, build, renew

I’m an old house
The chimney shall remain.
A new soul is not desired
My old soul binds me to this world
Live, love, life

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When Priority is Time and Time is Precious

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You’re not getting to the things you want to get to. Whether they are a passion or a hobby or a great idea you’re just not getting to them. You want them to be a priority but you’re unable to … Continue reading

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Organizing Myself Out of Organizing

books1I recently painted my office. I had to move all the books off the bookshelves and everything out of the room.

Furniture is starting to move back into the office. Book shelves first. Now the books. Now the organizing of the books.

I have a strong sense that I should organize the books. I like to keep it simple. Start with basic genres, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama. That’s as sophisticated as I get. Alphabetical within genre.

Half way through the sorting I begin to think that organizing all this really sucks: partially because I can barely remember the order in which the alphabet progresses and partially because I’d rather do anything in the world other than organize. I often think it would be preferable just to give the stuff away than to struggle with organizing.

I like things that are organized. I just don’t want to do it. I would have made a lousy librarian.

I just wonder why I dislike organizing so much. Maybe I don’t like it because I’m so bad at it and it takes way more mental energy than I think it should. But I really think it’s about time. Time spent doing anything but that, even if that something is doing nothing, or as I like to all it, just being, is time better spent.

Time is priority.  Priority is time.

Or is it my minimalism? Less possessions less organizing. Or did the dislike of organizing create the minimalism? The chicken and the egg here. I suppose deep analysis of origins here isn’t entirely necessary.

I can purge almost anything but books. Good thing I acquire books at the rate I read, which is very slow.



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Methane Wars: A Fable — Chapter Twenty

End Game

good cow wordpressEmboldened by his success, Esposito went after the remaining population he considered a burden on society: the homeless. The homeless weren’t considered unemployed by the PCA because they weren’t on unemployment assistance or any other assistance. They had simply slipped through the cracks, intentionally or unintentionally.

Esposito argued that society had failed them and so society needed to take care of them. And government was the face of society. Esposito commissioned a study to determine the suitability of the homeless population to work. The answer came back that nearly 80% were considered unemployable. That was OK. Esposito had expected as much. The plan was to screen the homeless for those who could work. Those who could work were assigned to The Contract and provided state-supported housing.

The remainder would be given state supported housing, or Homenet. Handlers from the unemployment rolls would be assigned to the formerly homeless to make sure they had what they needed. Better the state take care of them than to allow them to become a burden to society and individuals. Everyone would be taken care of.

On the same day the Homenet bill was passed in the senate the PCA announced its first Five Year Plan to target key industries that could benefit from the creation of one of PCA’s quasi-private companies. The Plan included a list of trades and skills necessary for those industries. Training for those skills would be introduced into high schools and colleges with quotas. Planning for needed skills was far more effective and cost-efficient than training on the fly.

Millions of people found their way onto the government workforce. Hundreds of large and small labor camps sprang up. The labor camps became societies unto themselves, albeit with government-imposed rules and regulations.

For all the touted benefits of the PCA, the real challenge for the workers was getting off the government work teat. The only way off was a firm job offer from an accredited private sector company or a non-PCA government job. Unfortunately, you were damaged goods once you went to the work camps. Some thought the best option was to drop off the grid. If you could afford it. Some people could.

Then there was always black market unemployment. If you didn’t take government assistance you didn’t have to go to the work camps. So you bought this insurance and hoped you found a private sector job. It was like a rainy day fund you could borrow against. You paid it back when you got a job. If you didn’t get a job soon enough, you either went to the work camp or you disappeared.

I stopped getting calls from Esposito. He didn’t need me anymore. I didn’t need him either.

One day I read a news story about a minstrel messiah travelling through the PCA work camps preaching and singing for freedom. “Let my people go” was his slogan. A modern-day singing Moses. Someone needed to fight for freedom. I thought he might need some help. I thought I should find out. He was last seen in Tennessee. I went to look for him.

The pendulum was going to swing again. Extreme behaviors have a way of causing that to happen. What we needed was moderation and compromise, not extreme application of logic to extreme ideologies.

I had ridden the pendulum on the side of the machine and on the side of the cog. I was just that much more weight carrying the pendulum farther and farther to the extremes. I was part of the problem. This time I would step in front of the pendulum. I would slow it down. The minstrel and I would spread the word together. He had the message and I had the money. We would find common ground and we would stand on it. Together.


The End

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Methane Wars: A Fable — Chapter Nineteen

Cliff Diving

good cow wordpress The cliff jumper was Senator Esposito from California. He argued that if we were going to make recipients of government assistance work for it then so should those on unemployment assistance work for it.

The opposition lashed back, arguing that this defeated the purpose of unemployment insurance, which was to allow the unemployed to survive while they search for another job. Support was lacking for a bill that seemed to penalize someone solely for the misfortune of having been laid off. The plan would not only hamper the job search of the unemployed but the job filling of the employers. Public backlash stopped the bill.

Jefferson sighed with relief but though Senator Esposito was rebuffed, he was not defeated. A few tweaks to the proposal, some rebranding of the bill and some time to let the furor pass and he was ready to try again. He called to see if I would still support him. I was lukewarm on the idea. Esposito was sorry to hear that, but not sorry enough to rethink his position.

Esposito’s Productive Citizen Bill: Everyone would be a productive member of society. That was the price for living in free country. You would be given six months of unemployment assistance while you looked for a new job. After six months if you hadn’t found a job, you had two options. You could simply choose to no longer receive unemployment assistance. Or you could continue to receive assistance and the government would find you a job. Everyone would work.

It could be compared fairly or unfairly to the PWA (Public Works Administration) of FDR and the New Deal. Esposito explained it as “a preemptive strike to a looming economic downturn by maximizing the workforce and maximizing the usefulness of federal tax monies.” And if it would not diminish the size of the welfare state and habitual dependence on government aid, it would at least get something in return. If the people wanted the government to be more accountable for the way they spent taxpayer money then the government would make the recipients of government aid more accountable. You had to go full circle. Esposito was appealing to those who wanted the government to be fiscally responsible and beneficent as well.

Esposito presented it as a logical extension of Jefferson’s personal accountability principal: from the people to the government and back to the people. Jefferson again felt painted into a corner by his own arguments. He argued for compromise, if only for a loosening of the guidelines. Jefferson pointed to the lack of support in the polls. The people did not want this.

But for Esposito compromise wasn’t necessary. He was emboldened by the simple power of his logic. This was for the greater good. He would commit political suicide if necessary. He had found the votes to pass the bill. Jefferson could veto it. It was possible the veto would hold. But Esposito was confident Jefferson would not veto it.

The bill passed. The act itself was more than a 1,000 pages long. Six month limits were placed on benefits. After that you worked for benefits. The limits were retroactive. Immediately tens of thousands of people were expected to go to work. To deal with this, the Productive Citizen Administration created a new department to coordinate the efforts of putting people to work.

The initial idea was to implement a bureaucracy similar to The Contract’s. The Contract’s structure was unfortunately limited mostly to community service efforts. The PCA needed to create constructive and productive jobs. The legislation had the foresight, buried in its 1,000 pages, to allocate the capital needed for large scale projects. But what projects?

Tens of thousands of people spread across the country with diverse skill sets. In small towns, in big cities. In prosperous regions, in hard hit regions. Who was to be put to work where and on what? Esposito formed a committee to identify the best projects.

In the meantime, what few openings that existed in the community service projects of The Contract were filled. Everyone else on the unemployment roll was giving a reprieve.

The committee to create projects was made up of CEOs of major corporations, governors, economic advisors and labor specialists. The first thing they did was break the task set before them into two parts: the projects and the skills.

What projects to choose quickly became an ideological battle: were these projects for the greater good like public works projects, (the Hoover Dam or the Federal Highway system), public service projects (forest rangers, community policing, daycare centers) or production efforts (making park benches, highway signs)?

Or were these projects to be more like new companies providing goods for sale? These companies could create goods with a competitive advantage. Or companies that could sell goods directly to the government and have an immediate and committed buyer. Would products be limited as so not to compete with current domestic production?

The second step was to identify who had what skills and where they were and then match that against the project list.

The Presidential Committee on Production came out with recommendations.

Public Works Project #1: Build four new high tech gasoline refining plants in key regions. One thousand qualified employees needed per site, plus professional and technical staff. Qualified workers would be relocated to government provided work camps near the construction sites.

Public Works Project #2: Major flood protection and lock upgrades along the Mississippi from St. Paul to New Orleans. Five thousand workers needed, plus professional and technical staff. Qualified employees would be relocated to four work camps along the river at St. Paul, Des Moines, Memphis and New Orleans.

Other minor public works projects finished the public works list. Then came the public service projects.

The biggest project was to provide free public daycare in the top 100 metropolitan areas. No relocations needed. Plus more other minor public service projects.

The committee also established quasi-private companies to create goods for the federal government, like the Public Service Uniform Company. The company would provide uniforms to everyone performing public service. They would be manufactured for safety and durability and relieve financial burden on employees. Ten manufacturing facilities to be opened in key geographic regions. Three hundred workers per plant, plus professional and technical staff. Workers would be relocated to government-provided work camps.

Then there were the Tier Two Projects: projects that didn’t have enough skilled employees to perform the necessary work. Regional Training centers would be opened to train selected employees in the necessary skills to begin Tier Two Projects. The first Tier Two Project was Street Cleaning Equipment Company. Manufacturing plant to be opened in Tennessee. Training center would be opening while construction of plant occurred. Four hundred workers. Workers would be relocated to government work camps. Other Tier Two projects would be named later.

The case was made that this would be a huge economic boon. Unemployed people would be put to work. Thousands of civil servants would be needed to administer the PCA. Unemployment would drop to historic lows. Funds previously spent on unemployment would now have production attached to them. Society as a whole would be more efficient and productive. The USA would be more competitive in the world economy.

And yes, as unemployment dropped confidence in the economy began to increase and the economy began to grow again. Happy Days were here again.

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Musings on Laughing

eyes2aLook, look, look.
I look but I don’t see.

See, see, see.
I see but I don’t hear.

Hear, hear, hear.
I hear but I don’t laugh.

Laugh, Laugh, Laugh.
I laugh but I don’t understand

What I was looking on,
What I was listening to,
What I was seeking for.

I turned my eyes inside out
To see where I was looking from.

I turned my ears inside out
To hear what I was listening for.

I turned my laugh inside out
And saw why life is so funny.

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Methane Wars: A Fable — Chapter Eighteen

The Contract

good cow wordpressThen the welfare state met the drug user. The first debate around legal drug use came from California. The state and many cities began to argue over whether people who received government aid should be allowed to spend the money on legal drugs. The age-old debate of what products should and shouldn’t be allowed for purchase with government aid rang out.

The debate spread to state after state. Were they going to let the government purchase drugs, however legal they were? Where do you draw the line? Was there even a line?

Timothy Jefferson was silent on the topic. The Administration issued no statements. Rumor was that Jefferson was hoping the states would work it out. They didn’t work it out. They looked to the White House and said, “Hey, this is federal law. A little help?”

Jefferson told the states he would get back to them. He formed a focus group and headed off to Camp David. At first, it seemed that Jefferson saw this as a burden, but soon he found the opportunity in it. The states, the cities, the Feds were all looking to him for direction. And direction he would give them. To Jefferson it was simple. Everything fell into his creed of personal accountability. He knew he was responsible for the fiscal welfare of the country as well. How to balance these? He must get the most possible value out of the people’s money. You couldn’t do that by giving away money with little demand for return.

What was wanted here was a contract: a contract between the people and the people. Jefferson would offer a contract.

He offered this: “The people who receive government aid will provide community service. Based on an equitable wage for the service performed, you will work off seventy-five percent of your aid up to but not exceeding forty hours a week. If you cannot for good cause perform community service while you are receiving government aid, you will have up to twelve months to begin your community service. If in twelve months you do not begin community service, your aid will be cut off. In return, the aid given to you will not be subject to any expenditure rules. Your personal choices and freedoms will not be limited because you receive government aid. You are free to not sign the contract. Not signing the contract precludes you from receiving federal government aid. You may rescind your request for aid at any time and be relieved of community service commitments.”

The Contract would be offered on all Federal aid. Jefferson would not mandate that states follow this policy but any programs supplemented in any way by federal monies would be subject to The Contract. He recommended states and cities implement some version of The Contract.

Thirty-two states and hundreds of cities chose to implement The Contract for both federal and state aid. Everyone else either put no requirements on government aid or issued rules stating that government aid should or should not be spent on drugs.

The opposition cried foul. There were extenuating circumstances in many cases. Hardship had to be taken into account. Jefferson decreed that agencies were free to make documented exceptions.

Other critics warned of rampant drug use and rampant abuse of the system. Jefferson argued the Civic Accountability Boards would take care of abuse.

The courts agreed with Jefferson. The government was certainly allowed to place stipulations on aid that it handed out. It was a long and common practice.

Of course, if you were going to require community service, then you had to have someone administer community service. You had to have a lot more of it for people to do. A handful of people cleaning road sides wouldn’t cut it. Significant amount of public services could be handled with this newfound labor pool. Civil service unions cried foul. This would take jobs from civil servants. They sued to stop the law. The courts ruled that a government’s job was not to provide jobs and so could provide public services in what manner it saw fit.

You couldn’t choose what kind of skills came with your community service workers, so more general labor projects were needed. Non-vital service projects. Beautification projects became an easy choice: graffiti removal, gardening, cleaning and maintaining parks, etc.

Beliefs and arguments sprang up that the costs to manage the projects were higher than the benefits that came out of them. In some cases that may have been true. Jefferson argued that objection was missing the point. The point was to instill personal accountability into receiving government aid. It would encourage people to get off government aid. If they did not make an effort to get off government aid, then at least they would have to work for it.

Again, critics claimed it was a slippery slope. Nothing appeared to be out of reach of government control and stricture, from the innocuous divvying up of highway funds to provisioning of health care to providing of personal welfare. Government had always placed strings on things provided. The question was where did the breadth and depth of those strings stop.

Jefferson knew it was slippery. He began to edge away from the slope. But it was too late. One of his party members jumped off the cliff. Jefferson was obliged to follow.

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