Enclosed spaces…

The world is currently in the grips of a minor fascination with the rescue of a Thai soccer team that managed to get themselves trapped in a cave. The situation feels ripe for a comment about going considerably out of our way to prevent Darwin from protecting the gene pool, but I’ll let that go for now.

Maybe I’ve just led a charmed life, but I can’t remember a single time when I looked at a hole in the earth and thought, “Self, what you need to do is grab a flashlight and climb down.” That’s especially true when I have no special knowledge, skills, or abilities that would in any way prepare me for leading or participating in such an activity. Hell, I mean I don’t particularly like being in a small room – in a building above ground. While my record of doing dumb shit as a kid is not spotless, we managed to keep away from the biggies – like falling down a well or getting trapped in a flooded cave. There but for the grace? Maybe, but it also feels like maybe they were not paying nearly enough attention to the quiet voice of self preservation.

It is well that the latest global human interest story seems to be trundling towards its end, but it hasn’t yet answered the question about why anyone thought dragging a bunch of kids into an enclosed space was a good idea in the first place.

Towards the sound of the gun…

My first professional job after college was as a history teacher at Great Mills High School. I spent two and a half years walking those halls. A decade and a half has passed since I last set foot in the building, though I have kept in touch with a few of my former colleagues and more than a few of the students who I know count as friends.

It’s a hard day for Great Mills and those students, teachers, and staff past and present. It’s a hard day for the community. It’s a hard day.

Even in the midst of a hard day, though, the story of Deputy Blaine Gaskill, the school’s resource officer, has come to the fore. His is the story of heroism that came unbidden and unwanted. You see, he was the man charged with standing between his community and danger. When faced with uncertainty and chaos, Deputy Gaskill ran towards the sound of the gun. He ran towards the danger, engaged it, and ended it.

Blaine Gaskill is a hero. His actions reflect great credit upon him, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department, and the good people of St. Mary’s County.

It’s the kind of debt that can never be repaid. I don’t know if the teachers and staff at Great Mills still gather at the Brass Rail or maybe the Green Door from time to time, but if they do, there’s a man who should never buy his own beer again. That might at least be the very beginning of a start on a downpayment.

No idea…

I have no idea what’s happening in the world. That’s not an exaggeration. At the moment, anything that is happening outside my immediate line of site might as well be an undiscovered country. I’m assuming the North Koreans haven’t bombed California and Donald Trump is still president because those are the kinds of stories that would have made Facebook explode.

I didn’t set out to cut myself off these last few days from global events, but I find that I don’t regret it all that much either. I find increasingly that if I’m busy tending to me and mine, the amount of time available to be all that interested decreases dramatically. I’m mostly OK with that… which is easy to say as I sit here in the fading light of this grand sweep of days off. Tomorrow is going to bring be back to wall to wall televisions spewing what passes for news all day long. I’m guessing it will take me about 24 minutes to get all caught up on whatever it is I missed.

I’ve heard it said that ignorance is bliss. That may or may not be the case, but it seems that I’m a happier and probably more sane individual when my consumption of current events is held to a bare minimum.

Neutrality…

​With our political and media celebrities having trouble keeping their dicks in their pants, the possible end of Net Neutrality is something that’s not getting as much coverage as it probably should.

There’s a big part of me that generally favors deregulation. Having worked under and been responsible for writing government regulations, I can attest that they often have a certain stifling effect on whatever they touch. I also recognize that “the internet” isn’t some ubiquitous “thing” that sprung into existence in nature. It’s a network that exists because companies went out and designed, built, installed, and maintain the infrastructure that has come to deliver us the connectivity we know and love. The “net” in net neutrality, then, is underpinned by a whole lot of businesses that spent a whole lot of money based on the assumption that they’d make massive amounts of profit by doing it. You didn’t think they developed the net out of the kindness of their hearts so we could exchange funny animal memes did you?

​On the other hand, I’ve learned to despises Comcast with the burning fire of a thousand suns don’t want to give them any more control over the internet or give them and the other cable/intent providers the chance to bleed me for even more money every month than they’re already getting. It’s a painfully interesting case of self interest versus governing philosophy.

​Google, Apple, and the rest of Big Tech are arrayed against Comcast and the companies who own the “pipes” the internet flows through. It’s not like they aren’t profiteering off our data left and right themselves, though.​ Unlike the cable companies who take their cut month by both, the tech giants skim theirs in the more subtle way of data mining and selling the personal information that we’ve all chosen to give them. Most of us choose not to notice that bit.

My bottom line is that the internet is going to be controlled by someone – some big business pursuing their own self interest in collaboration with big government who wants to keep an eye on all of us.​ Whether it’s the cable companies and monthly fees or its big tech mining our personal information, probably doesn’t make much difference in the end.​

So which side do I fall down on? I don’t know yet. It feels a lot like picking the lesser of So What or Who Cares when it’s really just picking which set of companies will run the show for the foreseeable future.

Blackout…

One of the walls of the room wherein I’m trapped for eight hours a day features three large televisions. At any given time at least one of them shows a feed from the major cable news outlets shouting the current headlines at us. You don’t realize how little “new” news happens in a day until you spend months with rehashes and repeats washing over you every 30 minutes. It’s possible there’s a lot of news breaking out there somewhere, but it’s an awfully small portion that anyone is going to spend time talking about (and trying to monetize through advertising).

One of the better side effects of this 40-hour a week exposure is that my brain seems to have developed a basic self-preservation strategy of tuning almost all of it out. When someone asks “hey did you hear that?” I can usually respond honestly with, “no.” The other side effect I’ve noticed is that this constant stream of news has left me bereft of the desire to watch or seek out any news for the rest of the day.

With the exception of a few minutes of local weather and finding out the daily body count in Baltimore when I get home from work, the rest of the night is almost completely news free. I should show more of an interest, but I find this newfound disinterest to be a remarkably freeing experience. Sure, I still care what goes on in the world, but I’m becoming a hell of a lot more selective about what I want to burn an increasingly limited amount of mental bandwidth learning about or engaging on.

Some news is good for entertainment value (when bad things happen to stupid people), other bits are good to know because it impacts finances (business news and federal budget stuff), and finally there’s the space allocated to any news or information involving animals. Past that, maybe I should care, but I just don’t. Whatever intellectual energy I have left once I get home is far more effectively spent focused on the next spy novel or great thick books about war.

I intend this self-imposed (partial) news blackout to continue indefinitely.

The worst of us…

Where do you start on a day like this? We’ll debate on what to call events in Las Vegas. I’ve settled on calling it an act of domestic terrorism but the media is still working out the language. The left will use it to scream for “gun control” legislation and in fundraising ads for the next six months. The right will use it as evidence that the average citizen needs to be increasingly armed against an increasingly dangerous world and in fundraising activities for the next six months. That’s the simple politics of the thing. As much as everyone will say they don’t want to make a terrorist event like this an issue of politics, it’s what it will ultimately boil down to even as the Las Vegas Police and FBI continue to collect evidence at the scene.

The issues surrounding firearms and public safety are so charged and entrenched that we seem to be incapable of having even a conversation about them. Both sides live in dread that giving so much of an inch will cost them mightily during the next election. It’s one of those issues that’s so fraught that objectivity simply doesn’t exist – and that’s why I haven’t spent much time considering either side today.

What I have been considering is the other issue that we so rarely talk about it – that is, what’s going on in the head of someone who decides one day to drive to Las Vegas, rent a hotel room, and build a sniper nest? I’ve spent a lifetime around firearms, using them for both food and recreation and learning how to apply them in self defense. The idea of using one to lay siege to a public event simply would never occur to me. I don’t think it would occur to all but the smallest percentage of people. I find myself now particularly focused on those people – and what switch flips in their head that drives them to become the very worst of us.

On the importance of crafting your message…

It’s been a lot of years since my undergraduate communications course, but I remember a few tidbits from that long ago class. The most important of those would seem to be that communication, no matter its form involves both the person “sending” the message and the person or people “receiving” the message. In the absence of the sender, you’re just someone listening to dead air. In the absence of a receiver you’re just talking to yourself.

In the mad dash of social media to tell us who’s standing and who’s kneeling, it’s been pointed out by more than one of the people in my feed that the “intended message” of the players to choose to kneel is being largely ignored or misinterpreted . Therein lines nearly every problem with communication. While original intent is important what’s more important is crafting and delivering your message in such a way that it is “heard” by the receiver in a way that matches what you intended them to hear.

Any halfway decent public relations firm could have told the knee takers that a protest centered around the national anthem would draw attention to the cause – but not the kind of attention the sender might want. Despite the old saw, I’ve never been of the opinion that all press is good press. No matter how well intentioned (and I’m not personally willing to even concede that point), kneeling during the national anthem was bound only to attract controversy. Once it did that, the actual intended messages became entirely academic because it was buried under the weight of those rejecting the message because of how it was delivered / how it was received.

My advice? If you’re making millions of dollars a year and are bound and determined to have your voice heard, spend a little money with your favorite public relations professional. Let them help you craft the message and the delivery vehicle. Laying out a few dollars up front so you can shape the dialog instead of inflaming a substantial percentage of your fan base seems like it would have been money well spent in this case.