Trek…

Since I was old enough to start making my own decisions about what television to watch, I’ve been a fan of Star Trek. There was a time in the late 80s and early 90s when I could have probably quoted every line of the 3 seasons of the original series, watched in syndication and taped to re-watch countless times on a score of clunky VHS tapes. Six movies and The Next Generation followed, adding to the franchise. I largely fell away during the era of Deep Space 9 and Voyager and Enterprise, though.

I wasn’t overly thrilled about the prospect of bringing the old girl out of mothballs with J.J. Abrams at the helm. I don’t generally like the current Hollywood approach of reanimating every old TV show and movie in an effort to pump more cash from an already tapped well – as if having an original idea or story to tell is some kind of crime against humanity.

With that being said, I’m pleased to report that Beyond manages to hit most of the right notes for this old Trek fan. As troubled as I was originally about these new movies breaking off onto a new timeline, I think this installment comes just about as close to the tone and feel of an original series episode as a fan could hope without putting everyone back on a low-budget set with a bunch of flashing lights and toggle switches. Although I’d never threaten to call this new incarnation of the Start Trek universe “campy,” it finds the proverbial sweet spot somewhere between keeping most of the old timers happy without alienating a new generation of fans. It was nicely done.

The kind of guy I am…

When the temperatures rise towards 100 degrees, some people want to go out and take folks to cooling centers or hand out bottled water to those working in the heat of the day. By contrast, when I got home today I gave the begonias a big drink and then jury rigged an old cracked bird bath to hold water in case any of the fuzzy or feathered critters in the area don’t feel like trekking 300 yards down to the stream.

I’m not sure if I could have explained what my priorities are and the kind of guy I am any more clearly in a 1000-word essay. Make of that what you will.

Strange new world…

This presidential election can’t seem to help itself from turning into a shitshow on the global stage. As if to add an exclamation point to the idea that neither of our two major parties has their act together, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee is being forced to resign due to emails pillaged from a not-nearly-secure-enough server and published online. If I were the candidate of that party, knowing that my own emails are susceptible to the same treatment, my pucker factor would be ratcheting up pretty significantly right now.

I can’t be alone in seeing the grand irony of leaked email being the thing that so bedevils the Democratic Party, can I? Like others, I assumed emails would be the undoing of the candidate instead of the party boss. That may or may not still be true, of course, especially now with rumors rampant that a foreign power was involved in making these specific emails public in an effort to influence an American election.

Each day the world becomes a less certain place. The old rules continue to hold less of a grip. All I know for sure is that it’s a long way to November. I won’t even try to guess what real and fictitious information may come to light between now and then. It’s a strange new world.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Baby on board. It takes a special kind human being to believe that installing a small yellow “Baby on Board” sign is going to imbue their vehicle with some extra protective abilities. As if someone would be driving along and otherwise decide to drive into them until the moment when they realized that a baby might be involved. When the driver of one of these vehicles decides that they’re going to weave in and out of traffic, tailgate a dump truck, and jump a curb because they cut a turn too short, well, I’m just not sure how much I or anyone else should care about whatever baby you happen to have on board. I mean if the driver doesn’t have any regard for their own health, safety, or welfare or that of their offspring, asking their fellow drivers to be careful sort of defeats the purpose.

2. Reorganizing. One of the best parts of any reorganization is learning all about the new tasks you’ll be doing. As everyone shuffles their seats you’ll be picking up new assignments and passing along some of your old work to other people. That’s always how the concept is pitched, anyway. In reality though no specific method of casting off those old duties is ever really defined so if you’re not paying attention you just sort of end up doing all the old jobs plus all the new ones too. If you don’t mind being an obnoxious little shit, though, you can feel free to start making unilateral decisions about what activities get thrown over the side and what you keep doing. In the absence of clear guidance from leadership, it has always been my policy to create my own. Eventually someone will notice that some percentage of things aren’t getting done and start asking questions and shuffle that work off to the appropriate person… or they won’t. In business school that’s what we learned to call a win-win solution.

3. Political party conventions. Once upon a time, party conventions met to do important things like actually select their nominee for the presidency. Our pesky habit of voting has largely made the selection of a candidate a foregone conclusion long before the party loyalists show up in the designated city. In fact no major party convention has selected a nominee outright in my lifetime. That leaves the conventions as largely a four day, made for TV pep rally. That’s fine, I suppose, but even major news outlets are spending less time covering “events” the outcome of which are a foregone conclusion. So I say spend the money on something more effective like direct mailers or TV spots in contested states… and leave the awkward hugs between people who hate each other in the dustbin of electoral history.

Anything at all…

Today was one of those days that seemed to zip along at a respectable place. I was getting a few things done, knocking items off my ever expanding list of stuff to do, and just feel that so focused and productive that surely the end of the day is in reach… until I looked up to discover it was only ninety minutes since I came back from lunch.

Is there a name for that kind of disconnect between the perceived movement of time and its actual movement? If there’s not, there should be, because it’s a damned real thing. And that’s unfortunate in that it tends to instantly deflate any accumulated sense of accomplishment or good will that may have accrued. Look, I’m a believer that doing hard work is its own reward, but when it doesn’t also get you closer to that ultimate objective of getting out the door at the end of the day, well, it just leave a bad taste.

I no longer consider these situations an aberration or even a bad day. Instead they’ve become just the defining characteristic of the normal day – mostly like any other. That should probably make me sad, or angry, or embarrassed. A decade ago it would have. Lately it doesn’t make me feel anything at all.

How “common sense” regulations are applied in Maryland, or A proposal for common sense voting regulation…

On July 12th, the President of the United States remarked that “it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” It’s a nice bit of hyperbole, but the fact is that federal law prohibits a firearms dealer from selling a handgun to anyone younger than 21. It also prohibits everyone who’s not a licensed firearms dealer from transferring a handgun to anyone younger than 18. Since the very thing he’s telling us is bad and easy to do is already illegal, it strikes me that he could have an enforcement problem rather than an insufficient legislation problem… but let me explain why I would say such a thing.

I only bring this up because if our elected leaders think it’s “too easy” to buy a lawful handgun, I’d happily invite them to try walking through the process here in my native Maryland. The first stop is a 4-hour training course which will run you about $100. This portion is waiverable for those who meet certain conditions – law enforcement officers, current and former military members, and current owners of one of Maryland’s “controlled” species of firearms. The next step is applying for the Maryland Handgun Qualification License. This requires a potential buyer to submit a set of fingerprints ($52.75) and an application to the State Police (an additional $50), then wait for up to 30 days while the application is reviewed. Before you’ve even set foot in a gun shop, the state has already dinged you for at least $102.75 in fees – and that’s just if you don’t need to take the class as well.

If your application for a Maryland HQL is approved, all that means is that you have been given permission by the state to go to a gun shop, select your handgun, and then send the state another application for their permission to actually purchase the firearm you desire. Then you wait and on the 8th day you may be allowed to actually pick up your firearm from the shop… or not. That depends entirely on the store you’ve purchased from. If the state has a longer-than-seven-day backlog (I’ve seen the backlog run as long as two months) in conducting their mandatory checks, some shops will wait for final release to the customer while others strictly observe only the seven day wait mandated by law. Oh, and don’t you dare think about trying to go through this process any more often than once per month.

So there you have it, from start to finish you could be looking upwards of a 60-day process filled with regulatory hoops in order to legally purchase a handgun. I can see how that might be far easier than walking into a bookstore and picking up the latest best seller or heading over to Best Buy to pick up a new laptop… or in a pinch, even walking into a library and checking out a book or using one of their computers. Very difficult tasks, indeed. Unless, of course, the president was talking about people who sell a firearm illegally. In that case, I don’t suppose any number of new laws or additional fees will be much of a bother to them since they’re not bothering to comply with the existing laws anyway.

I’m often curious how many of my fellow citizens might be convinced to support similar “common sense” regulations that impinged on their Constitutional right to vote by requiring state issued identification, a 4-hour voter’s training class, a $100 voting license, and only being allowed to vote one ballot per election cycle – so if you want to vote for president, forget about also voting in the down-ballot race for Senate, governor, or county commissioner. I hope I can be forgiven for thinking that if one freedom can be thus abridged, there shouldn’t be a problem placing similar checks on the others as well. It’s for our own good after all.

Of beans and books and possibility…

About six days a week I drive past a little shop on Main Street that specializes in providing whole coffee beans and tea leaves to the more discerning hot beverage enthusiasts in the surrounding area. About once a month I stop in and pick up a pound of really good beans and sample of whatever brew they’re serving up that day. It’s the kind of shop I like to think I’d own if I had any interest in being a shop owner or working with the public in any way.

One of the charming features of this shop in particular is that they’ve blown out a wall to open their space into the neighboring building that does business as part antique shop / part used book store. There’s something in the scent combination of several hundred pounds of coffee and tea mixed with old objects and aging paper that just appeals to me. For whatever reason, I enjoy it and the shop owners seem to enjoy taking my money so it’s a win-win for all involved.

Sometimes I find a few things worth adding to the shelf, other times not, but until my last visit it’s always been a happy experience either way. On my last stop for coffee and a good rummage through the shelves, a youngish human, female type, injected herself into my personal space and struck up a conversation – mostly about the shop, the books, and general pleasantries. It’s not the kind of activity I usually encourage, but she was brunette and pleasing to look at and didn’t “like” or “you know” her way through the English language. She showed me a few of the books cradled in her arms and then asked what I was reading.

Right there, you see, is where I should have read the question as a danger sign. Instead of offering up something blandly inoffensive or popular or even one of the old classics, I had to open my mouth and gush about the intriguing book I was currently reading about the 6th ship in the Royal Navy to carry the name HMS Warspite and its service from Jutland to the end of World War II. I clearly missed the part where her eyes glazed over, but the “uh, that’s… uh, nice” as she suddenly found renewed interest in the stacks was unmistakable. I can’t help but remark on the grand irony of being torpedoed because of my great love of British naval history.

So that’s the story of beans and books and possibly squandered because I wasn’t smart enough to disengage half my brain and approach with caution. Next time I’m just going to say I’m reading Harry Potter for the 3rd time and try to avoid any topic that might hint that I’m anything more than a redneck in a golf shirt. Go ahead and file that under lessons learned.