Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Repairman

I want to address an issue this post that has hit very close to my heart. It touches myself, several of my friends, and some family as well.

This is about mental illness.

It hits us in a variety of guises, from depression to paranoia, to PTSD, to DID, to full-blown schizophrenia.

The reason that I write this today, is inspired by a particular incident relating to a close friend of mine. They were actually told by a family member that if they were a stronger person, they would not be suffering the situation that was diagnosed. In this case, it was a combination of PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Read this again: "This only happened because you aren't a strong enough person to handle it." IT, being the multiple traumas that spawned my friend's illnesses.

So this is to my friend, but also to anyone who suffers in their mind:

It isn't your fault. And you ARE strong enough, or you wouldn't be here today. We'll use this illustration. Look at this  picture:



The wires are frayed, pinched. Contacts are worn, malformed. The bundle is loose. The mounting tray for the equipment is broken.

Is it the wire's fault that someone came along and cut the ties that bound the bundle together? Is it the contacts' fault that oxides built up, that wires were pinched and chafed? The materials used for the installation were all MIL-spec. For those who are not aviation buffs, it means the materials used were all top-notch.

You ARE strong enough. What you are made of, is good. Life happened, and everyone has their limits. And for someone else to second-guess how strong you are, only shows their own lack of understanding about what happened.

The fact is, you need help putting things back together, repairing the damaged spots.



The final product isn't perfect, but it isn't about reinventing the wheel. The whole system doesn't need to be removed and rewired, to make it functional. Replace the broken tray. Clip out the damaged portions of wire. Extend wires with splices where they are needed. Attach a new wire bundle mount and re-route the side bundle. Clip off the damaged connector contacts and use the right tools to put new contacts in place.

Use the right tools. Use the therapist. Receive the prayer. Let the Master Healer restore and heal the broken places.

Using outside help doesn't mean you're weak. It means you're smart enough to ask for help.

Give yourself a break. And be your own awesome self. Just get better.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

NADIA Picture Tour: Next stop, Las Vegas!



Marco was crouching on the concrete outside the loading dock when Jenna approached the
rear of the Sands Hotel five minutes later. He was engaged in an impromptu dice game, and
judging from the pile of bills in front of him, he was doing well today. He looked up when she
called his name, and a distrustful scowl replaced the grin he’d worn a moment previously.
He stood and sauntered to Jenna. She found herself looking at him eye-to-stomach. She
stood her ground and looked up, meeting his gaze evenly, and held out the card-key. He took it
from her and stuck it in his back pocket. “You could use a bath. You smell like a dumpster.”
Without waiting for a reply, he turned on his heel and strutted toward the loading dock’s door.

“T-Bear, you watch my money, ‘ight?” he said to one of his compatriots, a skinny kid with a
shaved head.

Jenna followed him inside, through the service area, and up twelve flights of stairs. After
they exited the stairwell, he led the way down the hall, finally stopping in front of a door on the
left side. He opened the door with the card-key and held it for her. As she walked past, he said,
“Pick up and dial 8787. Order whatever you need. Tab’s taken care of.” He left, taking the cardkey
with him.

When she saw herself in a mirror, she was appalled. Need a bath? Marco, you were being a
positive gentleman. Her hair looked like an explosion in a wig factory. Her clothes hung in
rumpled, filthy rags on her small frame, and her face sported a couple of bruises from the day
before.

She picked up the bedside phone and ordered two changes of clothing and a steak dinner.
She tried to call Anna at the hospital, but learned that she hadn’t been seen or heard from since
the ‘bomb scare’ the day before last. There was no answer on Anna’s cell, either. This can’t be
good. She couldn’t call upline, not from here. But she hoped they’d have some answers for her
when she did call them.

Lunch came while she soaked in the tub. She finished her bath, toweled off, and ate. That
was when she noticed how tired she was. The bed was soft, the covers warm, and in less than a
minute, Jenna was in the arms of Morpheus.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Got a confession to make: I was not actually in Vegas. My kids were there, for a convention of one of their favorite TV shows. It was pretty cool to hear about. They got to meet the stars, and came back with some awesome souvenirs and even more awesome memories.

I called my son after they landed and checked into the Rio. I specifically had this scene in mind when I asked him to take shots. He did a fantastic job, as will be seen in further installments.

This is actually the loading dock of the Rio, as you can see in the shot. Granted, this is a short, short scene. And maybe it comes across as inconsequential in the grand scheme of the NADIA Project. But strangely enough, this is one of my favorite moments from Unalive. Maybe because the entire sequence leading up to this, and the scenes immediately afterward, were pivotal moments in Jenna's story.

Stay tuned for more updates from Las Vegas!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Are You Reading That AGAIN???

It amazes me that so many people look at a book I'm reading (The one with the tattered pages, the cover half worn off, the spine hanging together by sheer willpower and the few driblets of glue that oozed between the pages at the bookbinder's) and say words to the effect of, "Man, are you reading that one again? You read it once already."

Well, of course I've read it already. I know what happens  I know each and every character like they are my family. I know their foibles, their strengths, I know every cliffhanger and every twist of the story. And yes, I remember how it ends.

So why read it again and again?

Let me ask this: Do you have a favorite song, a favorite album? I wore the grooves right off the first live album by Rush ("All the World's a Stage," in case you're wondering). Because I enjoyed the way each song was assembled, how the notes and chords rang in my ears, how the words made me think about the message in the song (See kids, back then, songs actually had a message).

What about movies? I know people who gladly sat through many consecutive showings of the latest slasher flick or the new sci-fi epic. I assume it's all about how they feel when the hero triumphs, or the way the villain jumps out from behind the couch with that big fantastic butcher knife.

That's the way I feel when I read a book. Even though I've pored over it a dozen times before, I still get those same feelings again when Mycroft falls silent. When Jon kisses Nadia. When Black Beauty comes back home.

So why are books different than music? Different than movies? If you can watch the same DVD over and over, you can read the same book over and over. And while you're at it, buy a few more. Dozen, that is.

Just read. Again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Reading: Who needs it?

Why read Books? Why read any damn thing?

Why in the world, when I can just get all my information from FakeBook, movies, TV and every blog/website that agrees with my worldview? I mean, I don't need anything more, right? So why do I need to actually take the time, sit down, and open those moldy old pages just to read dated work from dead guys who don't know anything about today or how things REALLY work?

*Rolls up sleeves* Allow me to elucidate.

1.) Multiple studies show that people who read are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's and dementia. Want proof? Do a Google search of "Reading and dementia." Reading is exercise for your brain. Work it, it becomes stronger.

B.) You might actually get smarter. Robert A. Heinlein was America's Father of Science Fiction. He was also an astronomer and mathematician. In nearly every book he wrote, there's something to learn. Example, in Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, we get a cool lesson about the solar system from the inside out plus some nuggets about the relative orbits of the Nine (yes, nine) discovered planets.


Now, The Big One (Wait a minute, we covered Number One above. Okay. Let's just call it The Last Point):

Point of view. The movie can't put you inside the mind of any one of the characters like a book can. You see what the character is doing, but you don't know the motive. You don't see how their brains work. You can't understand why. And understanding can take work. And understanding can open you up to different viewpoints than your own.

I just saw a Kimmel feature where he sent a guy out into the street to ask people at random if they could even name a book. Of course, he cherry-picked the answers to fit his point as well as entertain his audience. I'm sure the number of respondents who could not only name a book, but have actually read one in the last year were more than he wants to make out. At least I hope so.

Social Media wants to highlight how stupid people can be. Look at the memes spreading like wildfire that get shoved up our noses like cayenne pepper juice. They portray each person's enemy of choice as unintelligent, an idiot, a fool. Not just national figures, but everyday kids and young people. Now granted, some folks can be pretty ignorant, like the folks who "love the smell of person X's colon" rather than their cologne. Or the congressman who thinks Guam is going to overturn. Or anyone who says that rape is okay. Hoho, let's laugh at the fool. Grrr, let's be outraged at the idiot. Jerk that knee, let's see you dance.

It takes a cool head to stop and think. It takes focus to see through the bull muffins to the full story, the one that the OP or the press fail to double-check or balance. It's why we get sucked into the propaganda the gets sprayed at us.

Not every reader balances or double-checks. I get it. But I think that being a reader increases one's chance of catching words and phrases that are intended to trap or influence us into thinking a certain way, of signing onto something that is patently false. Does that still leave room for disagreement? Of course. We all have opinions, and we don't all have to agree with each other.

But reading at least makes us more informed. Isn't it worth the extra effort?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Revisiting The Pinnacle, Part 2

Greetings, fellow castaways on the Third Rock Out.

This week, I want to look at the first prong of the Pinnacle's attack: The political focus.

To recap quickly, The Pinnacle operates in three areas to achieve their goal of world domination: the political, the economic, and the social.

Politically, the first step is to insert their moles into the leadership structures of every major power on the planet. These moles are recruited from societies like Skull and Bones, the Masons, and top fraternities and sororities in campuses across the world. There is a specific focus on a single chapter of a single group, but the bottom line is that all they need are a few professors who proselytize from the lectern in subjects like Gender Studies, Political Science, and Philosophy. These are the best classes by which to probe deepest into young minds, to twist their thinking into a mindset of a global worldview (Remember the "It takes a village to raise a child" speech?).

The aim at this point is to convince these future leaders that there IS NO GREAT NATION, no great culture, no great system that includes any kind of individuality. One does this by minimizing any accomplishments of any nation or political structure that espouses personal liberty. Because the way to exercise power is to make all the sheep docile and servile. No troublemakers who think any individual can rise to greatness (Remember the "you didn't build that" speech?)

Additionally, the mindset must be instilled that borders and nations are a passe idea. The current crisis of illegal aliens is a prime example. Notice the resistance to a national language of the United States? The rephrasing of "Undocumented immigrants" vs "Illegal aliens," in spite of the fact that many people are in this country against our laws? It's a conditioning that will eventually lead to the erasure of national borders, the push to a globalist society.

Jimmy DeBartolo's problem is not that a bunch of ex-hippies are gathering once a month to sing "Imagine" at an altar to John Lennon. His problem is that the ones pushing the globalist movement are not being honest and up front about their aims and motives. They are hiding behind lies and smokescreens, dictating policy  that keeps countries economically dependent on each other for essential commodities like fuel and food, that negates enforcement of national borders, that forces subservience to the World Court and the UN over local or national laws.

The press plays into this as well, by propagandizing events to force more and more power upwards, into the hands of the federal government. They play up stories that criminalize local police forces and appeal to the "Higher virtue" of federal agencies like the FBI and the US Marshals. This makes it easier to throw deadly force into trouble spots, because the police and officials have no vested interest in the localities they will be sent to suppress.

More and more programs at the federal level gives those few moles the power of the purse as well, with the threat of pulling funding for programs like Welfare and School funding, if those local agencies and schools don't toe the line and teach/operate the way the feds want them to. Force more people to toe the line, use a willing press to back up your aims and provide support for your plans without giving away your end game, you can control an entire country without the citizens even being aware that you are dragging them kicking and screaming into a world of your own design.

Indeed, The Pinnacle have moles as high as the office of the Vice President, Congress, and the Senate in the United States.

And yes, though my fictional bad guys are named The Pinnacle, it seems as though there is a Globalist Movement that even now is seeking to remove individual liberties and force us all into the same, mediocre mold of sameness. There are no illegal aliens in anyone's borders, because we are now all World Citizens, expected to toe the line and sign on to this new paradigm of a unified, docile, "civilized" world. And anyone who doesn't sign on is "unenlightened," "racists," "ignorant."

Next week, we'll look at the Social attack.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Revisiting The Pinnacle: Part One

This is a revised repost of the original published some years ago, but being as we're seeing so many of the changes outlined in the original, I felt it appropriate to revisit the theme, with some added details and clarifications.

Feel free to comment. My rules as always apply: You may disagree all you want, but keep it civil and respectful in my house.

So what would it look like if the Pinnacle were real? How would they operate?

First, for beginners, The Pinnacle is the name I gave the antagonists in my novel series, The NADIA Project. Their aim is simple, although clichéd: World domination. How they differ from the Bond villains or Dr. Evil and his screaming hordes is this: The Pinnacle could do it, and no one would ever know. Their goal is not to rule openly, but as the power behind the throne. Thus, the true leadership stays invisible. On the surface, all looks as though nothing has changed. Their motto, after all, is Praestat facere rex ac esse rex. “It is better to make a king than to be a king.”

Think of it this way: In the United States as in other countries, we have elections, and if we don’t like a certain official, we vote them out of office. It’s that simple. Other nations have dictatorships or monarchies of some nature. Rebellion, coup or assassination is usually what changes leadership in these areas. At any rate, it’s common for a country’s leader to lose his position, if not his life at the hands of a dissatisfied populace.

But what if a group could remain anonymous, behind the scenes as it were, and load elections with their own candidates? They could do this, and we would never know. So either way, the shadow group is guaranteed their real goal, which is power. We’ll discuss this more in-depth in later installments. But the point is, it can be done. What if it already is being done? Would we know the warning signs?

One would have to understand the plan would take years and perhaps decades to fulfill. The founders would realize that they may never live to see the final realization of their dream. But how many movements today have the same far-sighted vision? Certainly, many activist groups have been in operation for decades, and are just beginning to see their visions come to pass. Some of them have pure motives, whether we agree with their methods or not. Take Greenpeace, PETA, or other socially-focused groups. Others have less than altruistic aims: The Communist Party, al Qaeda, or Hamas come to mind. Their goals are plain, brutal, and simple. Take power, and kill anyone who gets in their way.

The point here is that the process takes a long time to execute, whether it's a social, economic, or political goal. It takes patience. The patience of a python.

Look at the whole constrictor order of snakes. They can dangle from a tree limb in wait, for days if need be, for their prey to wander within striking range. Then they drop onto their target and wrap it in coils of steel-hard, stubborn muscle. They take their time. Wrapping their coils about the victim is only the first step. They don’t simply crush the life from their prey by brute force. No, they wait until the victim exhales, and then with each breath they tighten, ever so slightly. This prevents the victim from being able to inhale. Slowly, they suffocate, and the snake has all the time it needs to consume its meal.

The Pinnacle has been working behind the scenes, hiding in the brush, waiting for the moment to strike. It has been inserting converts into the areas of business, entertainment, news media, shipping, technology, and the oil industry. Once they have leadership of these industries, the strangulation begins.

Other teams will infiltrate social movements and political parties. Thus, the attack will be a three-pronged assault aimed at dulling the public’s senses to what’s really happening: Economic, social, and political.

We’ll discuss these areas beginning next week. Feel free to comment as we go along.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

NADIA Picture Tour, Next Stop!



By the time they reached D'Antini's, Nadia knew she was in the company of a friend. She and Jon made small talk while they waited for the maitre d' to find them a table in the middle of the sumptuous dining room, and she almost forgot about having to explain herself to her station staff.
The appetizers were amazing, if unidentifiable. Nadia asked what was in them and Jon just smiled and held up a hand. "You really don't want to know."

Nadia almost spit out the latest mouthful, but thought twice about it as she looked around. This was too nice a place to be so rude. Her eyes widened in mirth as she tried to laugh around it and almost choked trying to get it down. She grabbed her water glass and took a drink, waving a hand at her face.
"You jerk," she laughed softly, when her mouth became free. "All right, seriously now, do you take every woman who faints in your arms to a place this fancy?"

"No," he answered, "just those who remind me of a dear friend." The smile faded from his face and he became pensive for several seconds. Then he placed a couple more appetizers on her salad plate. "Here," he said, suddenly brightening, "have some more…brown, crusty…things."

She chuckled again, pushing the plate away. "No, thanks. A moment on the lips…." She let the rest of the cliché fade away while she rearranged her napkin in her lap, trying to buy some time before she had to plow ahead. "So why am I here with you? Because you're concerned for me or because I remind you of someone else?"

"That is an entirely unfair question, Miss Velasquez. I was wondering that very thing myself. Maybe a little bit of both. Is that okay?"

"How did you know my last name?" she asked. It was not as if she were a necessarily private person, it was mainly that she hoped he would not recognize her from television. She was already AWOL. She may as well put in her resignation as soon as she got back to 'Frisco.

"I heard you lie to 'Steve,' whoever that is. When you talked about an interview with a president, I pegged you right off the bat. I've been to the West Coast on business a few times."

"That's where you saw me before. Well, that answers that, then."

"No, it doesn't." Jon looked at Nadia again, the piercing gaze locked on her face. "There's something else, and I can't explain it yet. Just less than four years ago I lost my best friend and her family…."

"Oh, I must look like her, then—"

He cut her off. "How's Phillip?"

Nadia's hand stopped halfway to her water glass. She felt paralyzed. The blood drained from her face, leaving it ice cold. The memory reconnected like a switch in her mind. The question trickled weakly from her lips, her voice quavering. "Who's Phillip?"

Jon's voice took on a steely edge. He wasn't becoming hostile, just insistent, but insistent in a way that made her feel like she was being peeled away, layer by layer under a microscope. "You know full well who Phillip is."

The trembling in her hand increased to a violent shaking. She remembered someone telling her, "It took twenty-three surgeries just to reconstruct your face." Her breath came in gasps; her voice weakened. Phillip. Phillip was— She found herself unable to get up, incapable of walking away, too terrified to run, like a bird in the gaze of a snake. "What are you talking about?"

"Why did you skip out on your flight, Nadia? Why did you come to the Staley's at 42nd and Lexington? Why at that particular time?"

The questions gushed from Jon's mouth, one right after another, and Nadia had no chance to answer any individual one. He became more agitated as he went, until Nadia thought he would reach over the table and strangle her right there in public. "Why did you order a double-decaf-mochaccino latté with a cinnamon stick? Why did you know my nickname and then faint as soon as you recognized me? Why are we sitting here right now, while the chef in the kitchen prepares Steak Hélène rare? Before the appetizers came, why were you doodling Betty Boop figures on your napkin and playing with your left ear?" Twenty-three surgeries. "Nobody has called me 'Jake' since I was ten, except for her and my mom. And you absolutely hate Merlot, don't you?"

Nadia's hand never made it to the water glass. She couldn't think. A sound roared in her head, like ten thousand voices screaming in terror. An icy spear of fear shot through her chest. Hot tears rolled down her face, and her chest heaved as she gasped for breath.
 
She hoped with everything inside her that no one else was watching these two terrified people having this horrible, strange confrontation. Her vision started to close in again, but she fought it off. As it was, she nearly fell out of her chair. Her voice was strange and weak. "Do…do you know who I am?"

* * * *

I'm finishing out a school on the East Coast, which afforded an awesome opportunity for a weekend day trip to New York City. So, just when I thought our picture tour of the NADIA Project was done, we're off and running again. So thanks to all my readers and fellow castaways for putting up with yet one more stop. I think I know better now to actually call an end to the tour, because you never know what might come around the corner.

So this week, we're looking at the restaurant scene from Becoming NADIA,  my EPIC-Award-winning first novel.

After covering about fifty blocks on foot in downtown Manhattan, it was time for lunch. And what do we have in Downtown that's more plentiful than anything else? Restaurants.  And even better, this place happened to be within about four blocks of the Chrysler Building. This is La Villa Italia, and I will definitely be coming back here as often as I can. The calamari is a plateful of awesome, and tghe sauce they serve with it tastes like they have an Italian Grandma back in the kitchen who starts making this stuff like, the previous day.

It was a Saturday just before the lunch rush when we walked in. The owner had a wonderfully thick accent, but was the essence of hospitality. Showed us to out table, brought drinks, and that was when I found out something about real Italian restaurants: You are NOT in a hurry if you're eating there.

Count on a leisurely, comfortable wait while your waiter fills your drinks and offers the best fare on the menu, with vivid details about the preparation process. In the background, two men in the kitchen are arguing in Italian. Or are they just sharing banter? It's hard to tell. All I can tell you for sure is it was so much fun to hear. I half expected to see one of them marching through the dining room waving a freshly-killed chicken.

I got up once to use the men's room, which was downstairs. Basements in Manhattan are pretty deep, I'm going to tell you. The steps went down about a story and a half, and then the hall took a right turn, past several doors marked "private." One of them opened, and a man came through, roughly a side of beef with a shave. He didn't smile, and I didn't try to start a conversation.

I was almost disappointed that we never saw a fat, well-dressed man with a napkin stuffed in his shirt front seat in the corner, watching the door with arrogant expectation.

But who's to say he didn't come in right after we left?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

NADIA Photo Tour, Continued!



Back in the concourse, Nadia checked her watch one more time. Good, they had to have taken off by now. She opened the stall door (appropriate term, she thought wryly) and came back out of the women's restroom, turning down the concourse in the opposite direction her cameraman had gone a few minutes before.

Her heart slammed in her chest like a thousand midget carpenters. She was throwing a wrench into her career for this. But there wasn't going to be another chance to find out, on her own, without being spoon-fed bits of information from someone else. No, this was something she had to do on her own, right now, if she was going to find out the truth.

In another five minutes, she was in the loading zone. A taxicab stopped in front of her, and, before she knew it, Nadia was in the back seat, heading toward the Chrysler Building as the plane with her cameraman took off for London. She would probably lose her job for ducking out like this, but she couldn't think of another way to find out for sure if she had indeed seen this place before. Maybe she could catch up to some more of her ever-elusive memory.

Oh, well. Maybe if I play my cards right, I won't get into too much trouble. It would be  worth it, just to touch something that was hers alone, something she wouldn't have to share.

Nadia looked out the cab's windows at the skyline spread out before her as they crossed the Queensboro Bridge. There arose in her consciousness a disturbing kind of tingle, like another part of her was awakening from some deep and hidden slumber.

 She wasn't sure exactly when she began suspecting Petr and the others were holding information from her. But now she was positive they knew something they weren't telling her, and that made her more determined to find out exactly what it was. If they wouldn't tell her, then she'd just find out on her own.

Right now.

The taxi ride was over before Nadia knew it. She did not remember paying the cabbie and getting out, or how long she stood on the curb staring up at the hulking profile of the Chrysler Building. Her mind buzzed and her knees shook as she walked down East 42nd Street until she saw Staley's.

She stepped through the door and waited in line until the counter attendant took her order. She ordered automatically, what she had always ordered, but somehow her voice seemed not to be her own. “Double-decaf-mochaccino latté with a cinnamon stick, please.”

As she turned away from the counter with her cup, a strange pressure mounted in her head. This place is important somehow. But how, exactly? She was so distracted and lightheaded she bumped unsteadily into the man behind her. “Sorry, Jake,” she started offhandedly, but then the man's face came into view. Jon? He had shaved his beard, but those eyes… Jon! A rush of recognition crashed into her mind and, as she started to fall toward the floor and her vision closed in, she heard him ask, “Do I know you…?”

* * * *
The story behind the photo:

I actually didn't count on being sent to the East Coast for work any time soon. But I got assigned to  a school in New Jersey for an advanced avionics suite in Falcon 900EX EASy. And hey, guess what's right next to New Jersey?

So my instructor and I took the Imperial Ferry from the Jersey Side to Manhattan this morning,  and  I got to visit a couple sites from Becoming NADIA. I'm blessed to be able to continue my Blog Tour of The NADIA Project with a couple shots of the Chrysler Building.

So I made up the name Staley's, based of course on Starbuck's. And as Old Bill said, "They's a Staley's 'round the corner from ever' damn where in New York." 

We walked around, visited the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Central Park, Grand Central Station, and about a dozen or so places in Mid-Town Manhattan, just to say we'd been there.

And I got these shots. I have one more place to relate. We'll catch up with that next week.

Till then, keep it real, folks. Be You.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Society. Remember that?

I don't think anyone would disagree with me when I say that, if anything, America has become a fractured society.

Certainly, social media plays a big role in that. People can just hide behind the relative anonymity of their computers and lob meme grenades at random, with relative immunity from the consequences of their actions. It's a playground for trolls and half-educated people to spread semi-truths and misinterpretations, hand-picked to fit whatever agenda the poster desires.

Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to have an agenda. We all want to associate with people who share our beliefs and our visions. We also have a free speech amendment in our Constitution that pretty much guarantees everyone in the US can say what they want, when they want. Right? Free Speech, they call it. And God knows how Americans love their rights. And it's fine for everyone else to have rights, too.

As long as they agree with your agenda.

Just ask anyone on Facebook. Anyone who dares to disagree with you, is automatically a hater, an idiot, a fool, blind, WRONG! Therefore, you, a citizen (in most cases) of a free society, with the right to free speech, have the right, nay, the responsibility, to heap derision upon them in the form of a meme. And because you share it on YOUR page, it means nobody has the right to address you about it. Right?

I think we're getting confused on the balance of rights vs responsibility when it comes to maintaining a society.

Humans operate on multiple levels of responsibility. The first level is the responsibility to themselves, the Individual. You interact with yourself, in your own little closet, in your bedroom, in your apartment, your house (if you live alone). You can tell yourself anything you want, do whatever you want, you're accountable to one person: YOU. Okay, some of you will add God. And yes, you are accountable to God, if you believe you are. I hold myself accountable to my God. But that's a part of being accountable to myself, for my own future.

Next up, we have the family unit. We can discuss specific family structure another time, and in fact, Alvin Toffler wrote about that in his book Future Shock, which was a disturbingly accurate prediction of the changes the world began to take on back in the '70's. It might be a worthwhile read, even today.

Anyway, back to the family. You as an individual, have a responsibility to your family, inculcated from birth. The ones who raised you, held you accountable to standards of behavior that included getting along with your siblings and obeying the senior members of the family. I don't have to go into great detail about what happened to me when I talked back to my mama, do I? I can tell you, after that first time, it didn't happen very often.

After the Individual, after the Family Unit, we are all accountable to our Neighborhoods. It's a plain and simple fact, I've seen it over and over again growing up on the wrong side of the tracks: If you make trouble in your own neighborhood, your neighborhood will take care of its own. A thief doesn't rob houses on his own street. Not unless he has a gang of cronies that will protect him from the torch and pitchfork mob that would otherwise yank him out into the street and deliver swift justice.

The other levels of responsibility, of accountability, belong to our companies, our town (usually represented by our high school), our state, our nation. All these levels of responsibility are there to help s to get along with each other. That defines our Society, or Community. That which receives our loyalty and our trust, defines acceptable conduct.

Society says, "Hey, it's a world out here with all kinds. Let's put our big boy/big girl pants on and get along. Here are the rules of getting along..." And like that, we have a community. We understand who we are. We understand where we are in our community, and what's expected of us. Then, you know what happens? We have people getting along, saying please and thank you, tipping your wait staff, obeying laws and ordinances. And if they can't get along, they either move out, or we move them into places like prison (for those who harm others).

But Social Media, that's another story, isn't it? Stomp around on your own little hilltop, shake your fist and scream "Get offa my lawn!" at the passersby as you heap insults and call fire down from heaven on all those heathens and sinners. You don't have to be civil on social media. In fact, if you do something stupid and post it on social media, you get to be famous. So do something stupid, post it on your page, and no one will be able to hold you accountable for it. It's on your page, after all. It's not like anyone's going to see you grinding an American flag into the dirt, or pouring scorn on anyone's faith system, or lack-of-faith system.

That animosity, that horrid vitriol, spills out into our day to day lives, and look what's happening as a result. I'm sure Facebook isn't he only culprit. We have Social Experimenters in Washington, DC who are doing their best to reinvent the Social Wheel, to force us into their mold of what Society should look like. And instead of building community, they are tearing us apart. But Facebook isn't helping. Where else can a picture get relabeled to make Jesus into a likeness of Adolf Hitler, and go viral fifteen minutes after the original troll posts it?

Someone on my friends list recently posted a meme that was a wry, semi-humorous, back-handed slap at a group of people. Oh, goodness, that never happens, does it? The bottom line was, it showed not just a profound lack of knowledge of the matter, but a profound willingness to not even try to understand the other group. And I chimed in with a statement that basically called into question the hostile nature of the meme.

Now, I will say, the "friend" in question wasn't someone I'm close to, more like a casual acquaintance. All the same, being in the group at which the meme was directed, I was hoping to inspire a conversation about the concept in question. Immediately upon which, this person and about five of their friends decided I was meat in the shark tank, and lit into me about what business I had, responding to something they posted on THEIR page, and how dare I suggest they were wrong?

Hey, Little Mary Sunshine, Let me rain on your parade a little: What you post on your page becomes part of a COMMUNITY. It's part of how you show yourself to the public eye. And not everyone in this wide world sides with you in your narrow-minded view of the group upon whom you were heaping your insults.

I have stood guard for your right to say what you will. But that doesn't mean I have to abide by blatant stupidity. It doesn't mean I have to stand by and let you pour derision on anyone, for any reason, without calling you to account for what you say. Words mean things. And from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. We all have a responsibility to use our freedom of speech in a way that builds community, rather than tearing it down.

It's time we became a society again.

Realize, first and foremost, that what you put up on your page, is words from your mouth. You say whatever you post. Whatever you share. That's YOU, Bubba. So don't be surprised if someone questions you, or takes you to account for it. You didn't paste it on your closet wall. Real people out here see that filth, that hatred, that venom, that ignorant slime, coming out of your mouth, the same mouth that kisses your baby daughter good night.

It's time we became a community again.

It's time we started living by the two things our parents tried to instill in us from birth: One, to treat others as you would have them treat you, and B, If you can't say something good about someone, then shut your pie hole.

I'm done being told I'm less intelligent because I post positive pictures and memes. I'm done being told that, as a person of faith, I should sit down, shut up, and take whatever insults are aimed at me. I'm sick of being told I'm the bad guy because I believe a person should be empowered to make their own way without being overwatched and dictated to by our own government, the one who said 240 years ago that they would stay out of our way and let us be free people. And I'm supremely tired of being told that, as a veteran, I have no more responsibility to defend our flag and the republic it represents from all enemies, foreign and domestic (that means ALL enemies, inside and outside the borders of the United States).

It's time we started to bring our country, our world, back together, back from this social brink we find ourselves looking over. Because I fear for a future where freedom and liberty are taken so much for granted, that they are easily taken away for the sake of security.

But that's another discussion.

It's time we all put on our big girl/big boy pants, and actually worked on getting along.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

NADIA Picture Tour, Last Stop!


Ten minutes later, Carlos pulled onto the shoulder of an unpaved road. After he and Tab got out, he locked the car and drew a small GPS unit from a cargo pocket in his BDUs. “Hang on—” He took a few steps to orient the unit, then turned and strode across the dusty road, boots grinding in the dry gravel. “This way. Just a short walk, now.”

Tab muttered, “At least we’re not wearing Class As,” before following.

They walked along a deer path through hardwoods and poison ivy when Carlos heard the same voice he’d spoken with on the radio.

“That’s far enough, Sergeant.”

Carlos turned to see a mound of dirt move and rise into the figure of a man wearing a ghillie suit of rough, earth-colored rags. “Check’em out, Jenna.”

“Right,” a female behind Carlos answered.

As Carlos spun around, a compact young woman stepped out of the trees in camo BDUs. What the hell, she wasn’t there a second ago

Jenna seemed to read his mind. “That’s okay,” she said with a smirk, “I’m a sneaky little wench when I want to be.” She hummed a random little tune as she waved a wand that looked like it was made from a curling iron in the air around his body. A steady static hiss came from a small speaker. She finished with Carlos and waved it around Tab. “Okay, no bugs, and they came alone.”

“Sergeant Villanueva,” said Jon, “I’ll come right to the point. I want you to leave us alone. Don’t contact us anymore, and shut down your investigation of NADIA.”

Carlos looked them up and down for a minute. They didn’t carry any long weapons, but that didn’t rule out pistols. And the way they were just standing, it didn’t look like they were in too much of a hurry to use them. But something about this Jenna woman nagged at him. Maybe it was just the casual, self-confident smirk she wore. But she was someone he did not want to make mad. All the same, he felt safe enough to respond honestly to the request to desist. “Can’t do that, Agent Daniels. I’m under orders to get to the bottom of NADIA. You’ve been sheltering a known felon and using him to illegally obtain information—”

Jon said, “Are you a cop?”

“Huh?” Carlos’ jaw hung open, caught open in mid-sentence.

I asked if you’re a cop. It’s a simple question.” Jon removed his hood and stepped closer, looking like a comical cross between Sasquatch and a homeless man with the rags hanging loose from his suit. “A yes or a no will do.”

“No.”

“Then shut down your investigation. It’s a matter for the Justice Department, not the Army.”

Tab said, “What’s NADIA?”

Jenna stepped up, nose to nose with her. “Who’s asking?”

“The United States Army, on whom you’ve been eavesdropping,” said Carlos.

Jon said, “You could have closed the hole in your firewall.”

“I peeked back through. It led me to you.”

“It’s also going to lead to you getting a bullet in your head, if you dig any further.”

Carlos felt the hair on his neck stand up. “Is that a threat?”

Jon shook his head. “Not from me, Sergeant. But the enemy has moles everywhere. For all you know, the one who gave you the orders to find me, may have done so only so they could take us all out.”

“Don’t you think you’re being just a little paranoid?”

“Do yourself a favor, Villanueva—start checking your superiors for connections to the Global Unification Alliance.”

Jenna whispered in Carlos’ ear, “Chapter Seventeen. Look for it.”

Jon’s brow wrinkled. “I’m sorry, what?”

Jenna stepped back. “Just keeping your ass out of the meat grinder, Jon. Let these guys handle that one.”

“Are we going to have to have a talk when we get back?”

“No, dear.” She gave Jon a sly grin as a flush rose in his face.

Carlos interjected, “So this…group will lead us to NADIA?”

“No, Carlos,” said Jon. “It will lead you away from NADIA.”

* * * *

Now for the story behind the picture behind the story:

First off, I know this is a paved road, and the excerpt specified an unpaved road. But it was too pretty back where I was, to pass up.

I was looking for where I had plotted Irving's cabin to be, and cruising the back roads toward the Mighty Shenandoah. I think this was Locke's Mill Road, not far from the highway. But it looks so remote, it was perfect for the shot. So I took this one, specifically for this scene.

And that, my friends, brings us to the close of our photo tour of the NADIA project. It's my hope that you could put faces and places to names, and that my series becomes a little more vivid for you.

Next week, we'll go back to our usual, somewhat controlled, chaos. Till then, happy reading!