Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Humanity in the Corona era

Let's face it the mixed signals from our leaders have not realized our situation any better. Wash your hands, don't touch your face and maintain six feet from everyone. And in the next breath up to 200,000 people in this country will be killed this year by this enemy and better than half will be sickened by this disease. Talk about confusing people! I mean which one is it?

It was FDR who famously said "This day will live in infamy." A rousing and inspiring speech given to a nation and the world who were desperate to know the world was not going to cease. We are again living in a time that will test our mettle in a way not measured in modern times. The heroes in this chapter will not sport stars on their collar nor hold an impressive title. Nor will they have a staff or an impressive desk. They will be the low wage earners who are making sure the trains move on time. Serving sack lunches through a drive up window or bagging your groceries. Bearing the scars of teenage acne or the beleaguered and hollowed out eyes of men and women working to keep what little they have.

The front lines will be taken and surrendered by people in medical scrubs fighting an almost unwinnable fight against an insidious foe who knows no bounds and shows no mercy. 

We all recognize the uncertainty in our communities, states and country we are living in and our realities are sometimes shifting by the moment. Crossing the street to avoid what could be a hidden enemy hiding in the particles of expelled air. This is our new norm. Hoping and praying it will slip away as suddenly as it appeared or to wake from a cruel night terror. It would be easy to give in and surrender or lash out in anger, looking outward and upward for your guardian angel to draw you to safety. That is how it would be written in the movies or books. What will preserve us in the end will be humanitarian aid.

Humanitarian aid does not invariably come in the form of grand gestures from governments or large corporations. It also can occur in the form of gratuitous payments to the clerk at the check out counter or doing the laundry for a nurse whose just finished a grueling twelve hour shift. Sheltering in place to keep from winding up on the front lines or becoming a tragic statistic.

Today, more than ever we must fight against the temptation of giving in to the fear of what sometimes feel is the inevitable. Kindness to others must claim the place of pushing our humanity to the side. Let us not stand in the shadows of uncertainty or dive headlong into despair.

So I am asking one and all to find some means to provide humanitarian aid to those called into service who serve us. Make sure they know how much you value the sacrifice they are making. It is the least and also the most we can do for each other.

Friday, August 16, 2019

On The Devils Side of Heaven Chapter 1


I used to be a good cop in Texas and then I used to be a good cop in Florida. I used to be a good husband and a good father. Hell, I used to be a lot of good things, but now I’m just an Ex. Ex-father, ex-husband and an ex-cop. In fact, the sad running joke I tell people is if X marks the spot then you’ve found me.

 It’s pathetic, I know, but it’s the sad truth. Years ago I was a state trooper in the state of Florida that could boast the highest clearance rate in just about every category of crime there is but that was before the incident. By ‘incident’ I mean the one action I can never walk back from, nor can I fix or even mitigate.

My ex-best friend Ronald used to be a button man. He freelanced and his allegiance was as fleeting and as permanent as the wind. Ronald worked for the highest bidder. Didn’t matter if it was the cartels or the Italian mob or for that matter, a rich man looking to off his wife or rid himself of competitors. If you needed someone dead, then Ronald was your man.

 I had him dead to rights on a righteous murder beef, but he was in love with my sister and she was in love with him. So I did what any stalwart cop would do. I buried the evidence against him. Don’t get me wrong, the sad sack he offed had it coming and no one was going to miss him, but I broke the one credence every cop lives and dies by – ‘you do the crime, you better be ready to stack the time’.

I could say he promised me he would never do it again and that’s why I ignored the evidence against him, or I could even justify it with his undying love for my sister. Hell, I could even justify it with the fact he only killed a shitbag.

When you’re a cop, it’s drilled into you from the start that if you commit the crime then you stack the time. Part of the interview process concerns your mother and whether or not you would arrest her or not. When I was asked if I could arrest my own mother, I had answered in a loud and clear voice that “No one is above the law!” Of course what I didn’t tell them was that my mother was dead. I just assumed it must be buried somewhere in the file that the review board had in front of them.

That’s in the academy, though. When you work the roads in your cruiser, it’s something else. You learn over time there’s crime and then there’s crime. The former you overlook or give warnings to, the latter, you hook them up and stuff them in the back of your cruiser.

With Ronald, his crime was the latter, but I chose to punish him like the former and it cost me my badge, my dignity, my marriage and finally my kids. This they don’t teach in cop school. In the academy they teach, nay, they preach and drill into you that when you find any criminal you cuff and stuff.

As a result, I no longer carry a badge (unless you count insurance fraud investigator, I got mine from the Army Navy Surplus store in Tampa). My wife wants to be married to a dentist named Earl. Seriously, his name is Earl. I refer to him as the Earl of dentistry. She is not amused. My kids think I’m the antichrist. The latter is in large part due to my wife, but if I had to, I would admit I had a hand in it also.

Today I am in divorce court. What’s in dispute is how much it’s going to cost me and more importantly, how often the spoils of my loins and I will get to spend time together. The former is a lot (for which I have no means to pay) and the latter is turning out to be not much.

I can’t really complain. After the incident, I began to drink… a lot. Which is to say that if it had booze in it and I was awake, I would be able to give you a pretty good description of the bottom of the glass, bottle, or jug I was drinking from at the time.

I haven’t surrendered to a higher power yet, but I do attend meetings. What this really means is I show up on time, I’m relatively sober, but I don’t participate in a way that my on-again-off-again sponsor says is meaningful or helpful to others.

 I haven’t the funds for a good mouthpiece so I represent myself in court, which is part of the problem. My wife has the best lawyer a dentist can buy while I have chosen to throw myself on the mercy of the court and as it turns out, mercy is in short supply.

My soon-to-be ex-wife, Lori, knows all about the incident, but we have agreed it won’t factor into the divorce. What that really means is my character and honor will be freely impugned by counsel and I have no meaningful way to combat it without being forced into pleading the fifth.

Her honor Judge Sandoval has done nothing but give me disapproving looks for the past two days while I just sit here giving sheepish looks of contrition.

Take, for instance, my soon-to-be ex-wife’s mouthpiece, who has been pontificating for quite a while now about what an absolutely horrible human being I am. Most of it’s true, but I am happy to say not the vilest of parts. I had promised Lori, I would not make this divorce difficult and then I turned around and made it very hard. Why? Well, I guess because when I said ‘I do’, I meant forever. So if she wants to be free of me she should at the very least have to face me before Judge Sandoval drops her gavel.

Lori and I have two kids, one boy and one girl. The boy’s name is Thomas and the girl’s name is Cassandra. He is eight and she is ten. Thomas looks like me and Cassandra looks like her mother. Both of them are fairly normal as far as kids go. I love them to death, but my ex has done a rather masterful job of making me look like a daddy who is just a paycheck father/semen-supplier rather than the doting and loving father I am. When I have the actual time to spend with them I give them all the love and doting a father could give.

“Your Honor, the defendant has repeatedly not shown up for his scheduled visitations and over the course of the last twelve months he has had contact with his children no more than a dozen times.” Feet carry me upwards and I feel the words coming, but am unable to stop them.

“I object!” I screamed.

Both the judge and Lori’s mouthpiece stop and turn to me. Now I feel silly standing here because I have the feeling this is not something that is done.

“Mr. Walker, I know you don’t have the legal background that I would prefer you to have so I will give you a break just this once,” Her Honor says. “Okay,” I said. “Now Mr. Walker, do you see that thin cylinder coming out of the table with the fuzzy black thing on top?” she asks me.

 As if it was just placed in front of me, I see it. A microphone is sticking out of the table I am sitting at. Now I know why both the judge and her lawyer had cringed when I objected. Clearing my throat, I answer her, “Yes, your honor, I do.” “Are you familiar with how it functions?” she asks me.

…And on it goes. I think you get the picture. Suffice to say I will be living out of a cardboard box for the foreseeable future and anytime I get with our kids will be from a distance and over the phone.

Life as an insurance investigator isn’t bad if you’re single, but when you have a wife and kids it’s near impossible. Pay’s not bad, but you spend a lot of time on the road. Which is how the problem with the booze started – way too many nights alone in a hotel with nothing but the TV to keep you company.

 Like now, court and my marriage have both ended. She and the dentist took my kids and went home. I walk a few blocks until I find my way into a bar, which is where I am when my sister calls.

I have to tell you now, if I had stayed with my instinct and not answered the phone, things would have turned out a lot better for me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Author Interview

I wanted to thank Bekah from @mthrhood_moment for the interview. Check it out! https://lnkd.in/eejRKbP And then hashtagclick over to my website and hashtagbuy a copy rogerpeppercorn.com hashtag

With the drop of a judge's gavel, Walt Walker has officially lost everything. The one-time police officer is now without his badge and gun and the moral certainty of right and wrong that had kept him grounded. He has also lost his wife and his two kids to her new boyfriend. Even his sister has turned against him, and it's all because of his ex-best friend, who also happens to be his brother-in-law. Now Walt, sans gun, gets his badges from an Army Navy store and spends his days in South Florida, working for a boutique insurance firm as their investigator. He spends his nights in dive bars, trying to forget the mess he has made of his life. 
Meanwhile, retired hitman Ronald Jacobs is living in the shadows as a respectable gentlemen farmer, far from the reach and pull of his past life. 
With Walt whiling away the hours as an insurance investigator and Ronald living the simple life on a farm, what could possibly go wrong?
Turns out, plenty. 
In the action-packed thriller, On the Devil's Side of Heaven, author Roger Peppercorn has woven an entertaining tale of a chance encounter that reunites estranged brothers-in-law and sets them on a collision course of violence and retribution. Hunted by contract killers, the law and corporate bag men, they are pursued across the barren adobes and sweeping vistas of the Mesa Valley in Western Colorado.

I had a chance to interview the author to learn more.

What was the inspiration for this book?
Several years ago, my wife and I packed up the kids and went to my parents for Thanksgiving. While we were there I ran into a childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in years. He invited us up to his place which is in a fairly remote area outside of Loma CO. Now when I say remote it's very remote. His driveway is a dirt road that's not marked nor is it on any map and GPS units think you're driving in across the adobes.

He and his wife built a very comfortable home. But other than electricity the county provides they are off the grid. You can't see his neighbors. But the sweeping views are breathtaking. I thought then that if you wanted to get away this is the kind of place you would go.

So from that point it took me almost two years to fully flesh out a story and then ten months to write it. 

I like the idea of characters who are deeply flawed and start off from a place of struggle. What I find fascinating are the little decisions we make in the moment that at the time are meaningless, but down the road you discover are the catalyst for why you are where you are. Plus, when you toss in lifelong relationships that are complex and not easily divested I find those are the ingredients of a good story.

The three main characters, Walt, Ronald and Jessica are the base of all of that. Walt and Jessica are siblings and Jessica is married to Ronald a life long friend to both. What I think makes On The Devil's Side of Heaven different from other books of the same genre is you get to see them at a very human level. The make the right decisions for the wrong reasons and the wrong decisions for the right reasons. The relationships are very complex and intertwined. Walt is a broken ex-cop with addiction issues. Ronald is a semi retired hired gun thug and Jessica is the glue that binds them together.

Both of them start off where you would expect them to be on the moral compass, but as the story progresses, you watch them walk towards the center and eventually cross their own moral divide.

How did you come up with the title? 
On The Devil's Side of Heaven is a title that was a long time in the making but eventually came about because of a line from the book. There is a scene in an early chapter where you see Walt in a bar. He just came from divorce court and where the last vestige of his life has been taken. As he is sitting there drowning his sorrows in "bourbon two fingers and make it neat and don't bother asking if I need more. Just assume the answer is yes", he gets a call from Jessica. This is the first time you see the relationship and begin to understand the dynamic between the three. You also get a hint there is a lot of water under the bridge, but in the end she is his sister.

When he hangs up the phone there is a bumper sticker on the bar that says. "Cast not others onto the devil's side of heaven, lest you be cast in with them"

Now that line is one of those things that comes about because I'm in the car for hours in the middle of nowhere and all I'm doing is working through a few different scenes and dialogue. This is how I do a lot of my writing. 

My day job requires me to spend a lot of time behind the wheel and on airplanes. My mind then tends to wander into the story which is where I watch the story play out. 

That line came from a drive from Albuquerque to Denver. And when it landed I pulled over and wrote it down. You see that line play out throughout the book and actually helped drive the story.

There is a new line I'm working on for the follow up book which is titled The Sometimes Long Road Home. Which I am writing now.

What types of readers will enjoy this book?
On The Devil's Side of Heaven is listed as a crime thriller on Amazon and this is one of those things I had to clearly define to Wallace Publishing when they picked me up. So officially it's mostly men 18-55 who enjoy action thrillers. But the book is really more character driven with the crime piece almost as an extension of the story.

There are shootouts, fist fights, and cop stuff, but it's not a procedural and the violence is not gratuitous. 

The dialogue is authentic to who these people are. I'm also not trying to teach you anything nor preach. It's an action packed, funny, fast paced thriller. Anyone who likes a guilty pleasure read or just wants to escape into this made up world I've created.

The biggest compliment I get fairly often is how fast the reader gets sucked into the story and just can't put it down. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ike Brought the USA Together

Ten year old Tommy and his little sister Amy bolted out the back door of the old farm house each of them holding paper cups their mother had given them. “Slow down Tommy you’re going to break it!” Amy screamed at her brother. The “it” she was referring to was the hundred foot piece of string their mother had used to connect the two cups together. Tommy slowed up a bit, allowing his sister to catch up. When they reached the old oak tree near the barn they both stopped.
“You stay here and I’ll go stand by the barn.” Tommy said.
Amy gave her brother a look of irritation, but didn’t argue. She didn’t like her brother always telling her what to do. But the tree didn’t smell like manure whereas the barn did. Tommy walked toward the barn the last few feet, he turned around and walked backwards, watching the string raise and then begin to tighten. Satisfied, he had gone far enough, he stopped putting the cup to his lips and spoke.
Amy screamed “It works I heard you.”
The sound of approaching vehicles off in the distance caused both of them to turn around. Tommy and Amy both stared at the sight before them. They watched an Army convoy of large trucks led by a single jeep with four men rumble past the small family farm. In the passenger seat sat a tall man in dressed in dress Army fatigues with a hat only officers wore. He looked over and smiled and waved.
Drying her hands on a small dish towel Sarah their mother pushed opened the screen door and watched the machines rumble past. Shading her eyes, she too noted the tall man in the passenger seat with the wry smile. Sarah raised her hand and waved back. 
Sarah, Tommy and Amy watched until the last truck had past not realizing the swirling dust and exhaust fumes had enveloped them in a once in a lifetime historical event.

Summer 1919 Washington, DC
Lt. Col Dwight D Eisenhower pulled the heavy red curtain aside and took note of the very young men and women milling about the trucks and jeeps parked out front of the sprawling Pentagon campus. Some wore uniforms, others did not. He noticed the ease and somewhat sanguine movements they seemed to have with each other. Most did not have the hardened stares of the boys he had watched turn into men through the baptism of war he had served with in Europe. He stepped back, letting the curtain fall into place the room going dark.
Walking with purpose into a gentle breeze he barely heard the slap of his patent leather dress shoes as they struck the pavement. The smell of exhaust fumes mingled with the earthy smells of late spring tickled his nostrils. Off to his left two truck companies totaling eighty-one jeeps, wagons and trucks idled at the curb. His train commanders, Lt Col Charles W. McClure and Capt. Bernard H. McMahon stood next to civilian pilot guide Henry C. Ostermann. Pausing for just a moment he took it all in. His men started to take notice their posture straitening until they were rigid “Attention on deck!” someone shouted. Ike walked the last few steps to his jeep a wry smile touching the corner of his lips.
This motor truck convoy in 1919 was a first of its kind "Truck Train” of the US Army Motor Transport Corps. Traveling across what is now known as Interstate 80. By the time they reached San Francisco they had driven over 3,000 mi.  Suffered 230 road incidents which included adjustments, getting unstuck, breakdowns, and accidents. The convoy broke and repaired 88 wooden bridges (14 in Wyoming), and most roads were unpaved from Illinois through Nevada which accounted. A pilot scout was sent daily ahead of the convoy marking the road so as to avoid further delays. 
Ike understood service like few did before, during and after he was President. He knew the greatest product or service walked on two feet and was the key to getting things accomplished. The Highway act named after him would spur a nation out of the doldrums of war and spawn a growth of infrastructure and service oriented businesses like never before. Roads, bridges and tunnels would lead the United States into the forefront of innovation of service. Because where there was blacktop highways there were be small towns transformed into cities with the burgeoning advancements in modern education, medical services and full service gas stations. All of these features and more paving the way for need of a water, electric and phone companies. Each time a village stepped out of its shadow and allowed it to grow into its next evolution the cycle would begin again until forty years later the United States was connected around the globe through the age of digital electronics.
This time is like no other in that we are at the precipice of realizing our humanity in the service of others. I say this because it is easy to lose sight of what is in front of us. At a time when the older workers of this nation struggle to hold onto what they have worked their whole lives for it is time now, to look past the fear of obscurity and irrelevance. To embrace what it was Ike instilled on a nation from his summer on the Backroads of America and again after the Great War.  

It is easy to forget that the greatest expenditure we have today are fees paid to those who have hands that are not idle. From your mechanic to your doctor. Internet provider, cable TV, and telephone. The plumber and electrician. Roofers and ditch diggers. Pilots and train engineers, Uber drivers and taxis. All of them provided by an army of hardworking and diverse men and women that are the product they are selling. Services oriented companies’ greatest expense and most valued assets are its people. The box, widget, Wi-Fi and social platforms are the tools they produce and support.
Services' manufacturing is the next unexplored frontier we have yet to fully discover its potential. In an age when the heavens are explored further and further by futuristic robots and cars are being designed to drive themselves or the phone in your hand is created to answer your every question and perform every task there are people who are pioneering cottage industries of services that offset the lost jobs of yesterday.
Never has there been a time when we as a people are more in touch with worlds that oceans away. Everyday people from around the globe are drawn and connected together by a system of invisible spectrums of light. Fear not of the unknown. Eagerly and enthusiastically chase your dreams and goals because tomorrow is not promised to anyone.
Today we are a nation and a world of dreamers filled with hope and optimism. We stand on the shoulders of great men and women who brought us here. Now is the time to look to the future of unpromised fields of tomorrow. Let us not forget that FDR brought us through the great depression and WWII. Truman transformed a nation of war into a nation of builders and Eisenhower pulled us together with bridges and roads. Those times were done so by people whose services were in high demand.
This century will be remembered for the people and businesses orientated on providing services to our communications infrastructure. Take this opportunity to grow into a tomorrow not realized.

Old dogs do learn new tricks.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mother's Day

We have four kids. Each one, an individual and as different as the stars. Providing us with a daily dose of refreshed objectivity as it pertains to their rearing. Their eyes serving as a reflecting pool into the past and a peek of what the future holds. Their movements and actions, reminding us of the culpability we as parents played in their raising.

As a father we live in awe at the wonderment and the unpredictability of the womb and the subtlety of the changes taking forth before us. Ours is to be a source of comfort and strength as her body morphs and tortures her insides. Powerless to relieve her pain and discomfort us as fathers ricochet around like pinballs in an arcade. But this is not about us, it’s about them.

From the dawn of time women have borne the full brunt of the cruelty Mother Nature lays on them during the summer months as their bellies swell giving no respite. During the winter they find nominal relief from the heat produced from the belly. At night a mother tosses and turns seeking comfort in a bed that mere weeks ago was friendlier to nocturnal pursuits.

A mother’s love has the power of a freight train and the unbreakable gravitational pull of earth. Traits that provide solace and comfort to her family. They are the center of their universe that all others orbit.

The mother of my kids reminds me of the power of God and random nature with which he strikes.

I remember the time she announced to me how fortunate she was her belly hadn’t gotten as big as a woman she knew carrying twins at the same time. “At least I’m not four feet around.” I nodded my eyes moving off of her and into the coffee cup in front of me. Speaking my thoughts would not have been good. At the height of her pregnancy with our twins, she could take a full size dinner plate and lay it on top of her outstretched belly while she ate.
Her eyes bore into me with laser like precision. “I’m not that big!” I nodded, keeping my eyes downcast a smile touching the corner of my eyes.

Taking two steps she reached into a bowl on the bakers rack, took out the measuring tape and stepped over to me. 

“Measure me.”

I shook my head. “You're fine.”


Standing up I placed the tape around her until the ends overlapped each other. I tried to stifle the giggle I felt coming on.

“What does it say?”

“Well your right your not four feet around.”

“What does it say???”

“Forty seven and a half.”

“But not forty eight right?”

The giggle, I was trying to stifle turning into a full fledged laugh.

“Jerk. Give it to me because I don’t believe you.”

I thought she might cry when she did it herself.

With each birth her strength bolstered my own and over the years as our kids have grown I see in them the grace and love she has instilled in them through patience and nurturing.

Mothers are in our world what the sun is to the earth. Sonya my wife is no exception. Though my work takes me away this year I am no less comforted by her existence in my life. Without her I would not be the father I am today.

So on this day, love them, hold them, thank them and know without the metal of a mother's love we would all be lost to the incongruities of the universe.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Red Ball Express

Do you know what the invasion of Normandy, the Red Ball Express, any successful business venture all have in common?

The ability to mobilize assets effectively, seamless communications and a fully realized supply chain.

Shortly after D-Day the Allied forces held a 36 hour marathon meeting to figure out the logistics of moving the business of war from the ocean to the front lines. When they emerged, Major General John C.H Lee painted bright red circles on 5 ton trucks, giving birth to what would become a famed truck convoy staffed primarily by African American soldiers. Marshaling their grit and moxy they determined how to get it done without the benefit of modern technology. Armed with little more than a compass and a map, the men of the Red Ball Express set out to do the impossible.

By the end of November 1944, approximately 300,000 tons of supplies were delivered to troops on the front lines. At its height they moved over 12,000 tons of cargo a day. Giving birth to the first visible supply chain.

A well-structured, regulated and proven process driven infrastructure will produce positive results. Moving products produced independently or obtained through an external infrastructure to where they are needed without interruption or delay defines success and failure.

A lot has changed since 1944 but the objective of supply chain has not. It is a service oriented venture companies provide to customers because… well, logistics are difficult on a good day and a nightmare when it’s not.

Commitment to working smarter, faster and better each time a transaction is made, enables the ability to receive an order, kit it, package, palletize it and ship it to its final destination. On time and without interruption.

Using well-crafted processes and software for tracking and inventory allows for forecasting for things like raw materials and space needed for warehousing. Weather models anticipate shipping delays so your customers avoid unnecessary delays to their customers.

Predictive analytics anticipate the changing conditions on the front lines and encourages a continuous innovation. Information supply chains need to adapt to an ever-evolving business environment. But without innovators like the men of the Red Ball Express and their attention to detail, innovation and planning for the modern supply chains would not have had the kick start to be where we are today.

Because industry is ever changing, and boardroom wars are won and lost by the leveraging of innovations. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

North To Alaska

Going to Alaska has been on my bucket list for a long time because it's the only state I've never been to. So when this job came up I took advantage of it. However, because I was to travel to Valdez in December I dutifully watched the weather for a solid two weeks before I traveled. Called, texted and emailed in advance to make sure nothing would keep me from completing my 50 state bucket list.

Now in order to reach Valdez it takes two days. Because the flight into Anchorage arrives well after the last flight. Plus, I'm told it cancels all the time it's an easy 300 miles across the most scenic landscape you will find in the world. So driving it is.

I was told, however, because of the very short days, it's best to drive it during the day because of all the moose on the roadways. Now I've been all over Canada and everytime I'm there they tell me seeing a moose is soooo easy because they are all over the place. Which in my case is bullshit because I've never seen any moose in Canada ever! But this is Alaska so my seeing a moose is in the bag.

It takes me close to 17 hours of flight times and layovers to make it on the first Saturday in December. The snow is falling freely, but oddly it's not that cold. I grab a quick bite and then head to the hotel.

The next morning I am up early. I shower, dress and pack, check the road report (more on this later). Outside it's still snowing, but not that cold. Start the car, load the car and scrape the windows. My rental car is an all wheel drive SUV. I note it has 40k miles on it and while it's a little high for a rental I'm not that concerned.

Besides, I'm from South Dakota I got this.

The first 135 miles were easy, the roads were mostly clear, traffic was light and the temperature stayed around 35. Eureka pass was the first real obstacle I encountered and this was mainly due to the tight two lane black top which clings to the side of the mountain. Its a twisty windy road that if it was covered in snow and ice would test the nerves and commitment to life itself. But it wasn't so it was fine. However, it was the first indication I had my 40k rental was in need of service. My brakes weren't as firm and responsive as I would have liked. More like stepping on buttered mashed potatoes.

65 miles out of Valdez the weather and the roads went to pot. The Glenallen highway went from clear to two feet of fresh snow. But as I was the first guy across it, I had no issues. Slowing down I made a slow but steady pace forward. That is until I topped Thompson pass. On one side the snow covered road had plenty of traction. The other side, however, not so much.

As I started down the other side the snow I had counted on for firm traction was transformed into a foot of slush and ice. Keeping my speed down I felt pretty good about it that lasted for about a minute.

The backend of my SUV broke loose from the road and started to slide back and forth. I tried to steer through it only to find myself perpendicular to the highway, the backend starting to come loose again until I was now going backwards down the road. It was about this time I was pretty sure I was going to die. On one side of the road there was a guardrail to keep someone from catapulting over the edge and tumbling several hundred feet to what was sure to be an unpleasant death. On the other side of the road was the mountain. I started to appreciate what a pin ball must feel like.

The rear tires started to dance again, this time turning me 180 degrees. At least I was facing the right direction, I thought. My hands were white knuckled, sweat popped out on my forehead, the steering wheel and rear tires obviously had a mind of its own and just when I thought I was out of danger my car started the whole process all over again. I would do three and half full loop de doos before it was all said and done. When I finally made it to the bottom of the pass I came to a full stop facing in the wrong direction and in the wrong lane.

I sat like that for a long time trying to control my breathing and not to stroke out. I also asked God for forgiveness and made a lot of promises and said a lot of thank you for my life. May or may not have exfoliated my bowels.

The pass closed shortly after I made it to Valdez because a tanker truck jackknifed trying to cross the pass. I was also told a few days prior to my arrival two vehicles had gone over the side killing everyone.

So for anyone driving in the winter months the below could help you out. By the way I never did see a moose.

How to interpret because the guy that updates it has questionable judgement.
I thought it best to break this down to people who live there and those who don't.

Good=snow packed and icy. But covered with sand and gravel. Good to go full speed ahead.

Fair= Snow and ice covered the sand and gravel not necessarily plowed. Good to go full speed ahead.

Difficult= maybe a foot of snow with slush and ice covering sand and gravel. Most likely road crews are thinking about plowing. Because you can just barely make out the sides of the road. Plus there are overhead markers. No worries full speed ahead.

Very Difficult= more than a foot of snow with several inches of slush and ice. Chains and a 4 wheel drive would be good to have but still optional. Overhead markers not useable because you can't see over the hood. Maybe slow down. Plows leaving.

Hazardous= Moose are taking the night off. Definitely, if you're not from you'll die. Plows are out, locals see this as a challenge.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Who's Going To Be The Arbiter?

This weekend I spent some time at Gettysburg National Park taking the time to tour the battlefields and listen to park historians lay out the day by day events of what should have been the lead up to the 4th of July.  While I'm pretty sure backyard BBQs and fireworks were a rarity back then I know for a fact nobody wants to celebrate it in a war zone.

We are now 154 years removed from those four days in July and when you watch the news today, you see protests over civil war statues and what they mean. In places like Charlottesville neo nazis and Antifa protesters battled it out using billy clubs and fists. Neither giving ground to the others ideology. When it was over no dead littered the streets, nor were there any critically wounded crying out for help. Instead, civil war statues in cities all across the country were either torn down by angry mobs or quietly removed by city workers in the dead of night.

Both the left and right parties sent en mass talking heads to all of the 24 hour news stations to defend their position and attack those who did not agree with them. In the end the only thing everyone except the neo nazis agreed to was racism is bad and neither party wants to be affiliated with them or acknowledge their support. But neither side could agree on what to do with our history and how it should be represented in public. Nor could either side agree on who was allowed to have pride in one's heritage and what the appropriate celebration thereof should be.

And while many people have weighed in on this subject I would like to put some perspective that washed over me this weekend.

Between July 1st and July 4th, 1863 two armies stared across the fields of Gettysburg at each other and probably pondered the morass and black abyss of what was about to take place. The Generals who commanded tens of thousands' of boy soldiers who by this time were seasoned veterans of many battles. But what lay before them would go down, as the bloodiest day during the civil war. At the end of the 4th day close to 9000 boys and young men would lay dead, thousands more would lie limbless, gut shot, arms and legs broken by a stray bullet and worse yet left to their own fate because help was not on the way. Not to mention the wounded and killed animals like horses and mules shared the same fate as their human counterparts.

The bodies of the dead ripe and rotting under the hot summer sky. The acrid smell of cordite, commingling with the loosened bowels of the dead and dying not to mention the metallic smell of blood that covered the ground. All of this overlay the sounds of war. The screams from the injured drowned out by the barrage of cannon and gun fire.

What they must have thought and felt everytime they were ordered back into the breach. At what point did the numbness of it all settle in. The courage it must have taken to continue fighting over a mile long grassy field that held no particular advantage for either side. What was the mental toll of the command staff that continued to send mere boys to their fate?

I don't think many, if anyone can comprehend the chaos of it all. The sights and sounds enveloping all of them into an inferno of destruction. Nobody has taken the time to contemplate what the survivors lived with after it was all over. The waking nightmares and living with the gargoyles who lived in their nocturnal hours.

And what do we talk about today? Offensive statues of a bygone era that should serve as a reminder to us all what happens when we cease to talk through our differences. Nor do we take into account the extreme illiteracy, the uneducated and socioeconomic backgrounds of the people, or the word of mouth news propagating the false narratives of the times. Not to mention what was the accepted practices of the day. What we do have is an unending supply of self righteous judgement and the benefit of hindsight, historical education and the modern day views of morality. But in 154 years will we be given high marks for our actions and beliefs?

Flags, statues and speech are three things that cannot break bones, loosen your bowels or leave you bloody and dying on a green field in western Penneslvalynia. I think we have lost sight of what is important and quite possibly we have allowed others to co-opt and obfuscate the conversation.

There is always a solution to what divides.

Rarely if ever does that include a pathway to violence. If we remove what is offensive to some then that means the alternate viewpoint is entitled to remove what is offending to them. Pretty soon so much is removed, we are left with nothing. Who is the arbiter of what or who is removed? Where does the line end and who decides what is a bridge too far?

Just because you are offended does not make you right nor does it make you just in your actions. Every discourse has an alternate viewpoint. In this country you are entitled to your views and the announcement of your beliefs.

Continuing down this road and there will be another Gettysburg. Except the blood that is spilled may very well be your own or worse the blood of child soldiers.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

An Open Letter to Congress and the President

Much has been made of our last election. Everyone has thoughts on where we are now and where we will be in the future. A general sense of unease and unrest has captured our imaginations and angst. There are also those who seem to be eager to impose their will on others through any means. I have talked to those who are awaiting the day when the shackles of polite society will be removed and they will be able to take up arms against those who disagree with them. I have also talked to those who yearn for the new administration to be expelled by any means necessary. 

I now often lament how those who fought and died in the beginning would react to how their dream turned out. There does not seem to be a day nor an hour that passes when the next scandal breaks. It has been just over two months and it already feels like four score have passed since the swearing in of our new President. I think most hope for the best for the man who sits day after day in a room with no corners. I know I do. But I felt that way about every occupant of that room who preceded him.

Our Congress seems more divided than ever before and no one should be surprised Turn about is after all fair play. So I wonder with all of the hyperbolic speech making if we have been lost in the shuffle. If those who grace that ivory building can ever get back to a time when a difference of thought can be celebrated. I am concerned they have lost sight of a few things and maybe don't realize we as a nation are at the very cusp of a new beginning.

During FDR's time he had the great depression and the 1937 recession, then there was WWII. But just prior to that he understood that poverty and a lack of opportunity were the enemy of idle hands. Through Congress, they passed the "new deal and then the "second new deal" both policies aimed to put people back to work and reign in dangerous banking practices. When WWII began the President and Congress understood the only way to win the war was to enlist the captains of industry. To push them to support the war effort and to churn out tanks, ships, guns, bullets and mercantile goods. During WWII the United States came together like no other time in our history and made unprecedented advancements in manufacturing and supply chain logistics. 

After the war the United States enjoyed the "golden age" and saw 27 years of prosperity and job creation. Eisenhower continued in this vein by enacting the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. Thousands of men and women were able to devote their entire working lives to this project. The US enjoyed another 35 years of remarkable advancements in the construction of our roadways and bridges. 

But by the 1970's all of innovation and automation created since WWII saw our first real declines in job growth as manufacturing jobs began to transition to the emerging markets overseas and south of the border. By the 2000's manufacturing jobs had all but vanished, which created virtual ghost towns in the rust belt and New England states.

There was another problem. Starting in the late 80's a stronger emphasis was placed on college degrees in the white collar sector. Blue collar jobs began to see an influx of workers south of the border driving down wages in areas of construction and agriculture. The trades began to dip in qualified workers as high school graduates turned their backs on the jobs their fathers were doing.

It was during this time the age of the computer began to take hold. Generation X had a whole new world open up before them. Around 2000 IT and telecom jobs exploded and the need for computer savvy workers were in high demand. Pagers were all the rage in the 90's which gave way to the cell phones by 2000. Laptops also were introduced and would swiftly overtake desktops for the casual user. The difference between this revolution and the revolutions in the past was the speed with which innovation and automation happened. In the past decades would go by before emerging technologies would begin to overtake how things were done. But today that gap in time has been decreased by the same decades. An emerging technology today may see five to ten years before it is regulated to the back shelves in box stores.  

Not quite 20 years have passed since the dawn of the last revolution and yet here we are again faced with what the future holds for the next generation of workers. I suspect this next phase will be even shorter. But it is here now and the next wave of job growth and skill sets need to be developed if we are to be competitive in the world market. 

My hope is those who can enact polices have read this far and are wondering what the next big thing is to hit our economy and our future. If you're still reading hang tight because we are almost there. There are just a couple of things you need to know before we get to the big thing.

In 1994 Amazon was created. They began to sell books on-line and would later as we all know shape and create and then reshape and overhaul the e-commerce experience. Walmart does not command the volume or the customer base. Hell for that matter no one does. Amazon is probably the best example of two emerging markets that will define both how business is conducted in the future and the type of business we will see created. The first is B2B & B2C (Business to Business, Business to Consumer) and IoT (Internet of Things).

B2B and B2C go hand in hand so no I did not count wrong. In order to have the one you pretty much need to have the other. In the B2B businesses sell to each other in the virtual realm, products in large volume that will eventually go to the consumer. Car manufactures, computers, cell phones, boats, planes and any other product that requires parts and consumables they themselves don't create. In each case the sum of the parts sold in the e-commerce between the business world find their way into the world of B2C. 

In the B2C world, many entities will buy wholesale straight from the producer and then resell those same products to the consumer often times in direct competition with the producer. Don't believe me, well go to Amazon and search for a product and look at the number of sellers for the same product you will find. Keeping in mind the actual producer of said product is probably not on Amazon. 

Both the B2B and B2C have moved from the one off model to the ubiquitous. This model has become so popular and obvious to everyone that you can now find an all together different model that is emerging on Facebook. This model is the C2C (Consumer to Consumer) You no longer need to wait for a warm Saturday for the garage sales for those good deals or looking through the classified ads for a babysitter on a Friday night. Now you can garage sale all day long on Facebook and find your babysitter all at once.  Overtime keep your eyes out as this will become more and more popular in how everyday people find alternate revenue streams for their everyday needs. In the next decade, this form of service will begin to seriously undercut traditional business models because it is tax free and a lot cheaper than buying it from a traditional business.

Which leads me to IoT. This is the space where the real emergence has really yet to begin. Smart devices are all the rage now. From your phones to your homes and cars. The "App" and the convenience and service it brings to the consumer is what drives this market. It also dips its toes into other emerging services like the "Gig economy." What is it? Well, back in the day we called it temp services. Today you might recognize it as Uber or consulting. People who provide a specific service for a predetermined time frame. This space is where I think we can see a lot of growth and capital over the next several years.

Hang tough I'm almost there. 

Did you know that large conglomerates have around $1.4 trillion in offshore accounts? Much has been made about bringing jobs back to the US and a little bit of noise and kerfuffle about this money. I already told you about B2B, B2C, C2C, IoT, and Gig economy. If you're paying attention, then this won't come as a shock when I tell you this is the next revolution. But it is also how Congress can get that money repatriated to our shores.

Manufactured Services or Service Factories whose commodities will bring out the value of the widget or item purchased. Large scale manufacturing and assembly lines have become a part of our history, but will not be a part of our future. By that I mean people employed to take the sum of parts and produce something. Innovation and automation push out the need for physical intervention by humans. But people will still be needed to fix, repair and service those machines.

Here is another example of a manufactured service and a means of repatriating jobs lost overseas. Companies who have offshored call centers should be encouraged to train and hire the young and the old who have found the marketplace hostile. By using technology available today, these same corporations can save costs on those buildings and phone charges by hiring here in the US and eliminating the physical footprint overseas. By targeting those who find employment difficult to obtain like the home bound, retired, laid off and youth companies have right now a ready to work-force. This gives them two things a really good PR move and also providing opportunities to those in our communities are lost and struggle the most.

Here is another ready to go option. By telling those companies who have sought to hide their revenues from the tax man they can repatriate all $1.4 trillion by educating tomorrow's work force.

Here is how I would frame it. 

Companies across all industries know what the next technology is going to be and what skill sets will be needed. Four year and two year colleges will never be able to provide the level of training and support tomorrows workforce will need. But those in the thick of it are keenly aware of what training is needed for the workforce they have and the workforce they will need.

45% of repatriated money will go to the foundation of post secondary education in the form of training material, up to date technology and qualified trainers for students with an emphasis on emerging technology. In exchange the government will give tax incentives for investing in local and national infrastructure needs. Students will get to enjoy a post secondary skill training free of charge but will be required to participate in some form of community service for the duration they are in school.

The second part of this agreement is the hiring of American applicants ahead of H1 visa workers. With 100,000 issued every year to foreigners who are well paid by American companies. This is an obvious way to retake those jobs that have been farmed out to overseas interests. By investing in the education of American workers the government and companies drive down the unemployment rate and drive up the economy and GDP. It also keeps uncertainty out of the market and strengthens and emboldens the fabric of this nation to newer heights.

Lastly, if we stop demonizing the trades and make it known that these blue collar jobs both pay well and provide stability. Workers with these skill sets ensures a living wage is always available to them. We start by bringing these skills back into our high schools and Vo-techs. Like the white collar tech jobs, trade organizations investing in education and internships get continuous quality applicants to fill the expanding needs we have today and tomorrow.

Both of these measures will provide competitive and affordable access to education and the job market. It will also force the overly expensive four year colleges into competing with students who recognize they no longer need to pay tens of thousands of dollars for an education. This alone will effectively bankrupt the school loan practices of today. 

Regardless of your background, income bracket, education or political bent we all put family, friends and our homes above everything and everyone else. This is an extension of what we all hold dear. There is no reason why putting American interests first is a bad thing. The stronger we are at home means the stronger we are abroad.

The way to defeat some of the problems we have today is to de-incentivize the problems that plague our workforce and economy. By giving corporations a pathway to repatriate money and jobs without demonizing them and emboldened incentives to participate in our local economies, we as a people will no longer need to depend on government handouts. The nanny state dies under its own weight and people have the tools, structure and independence to succeed.