Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feel better?

It seemed the area was clear. They must have been keeping the area around their hideout clear of zeds. I did a quick room-to-room search of the building, ignoring the sounds of wet thuds and grunt-screams from that woman in the office. When I was satisfied, I made my way pack to the office. As I rounded the corner I got to watch for a few moments as she wildly stabbed at what used to be her rapist's crotch. It looked as if a small bomb had gone off in his pelvis, all that was left was blood and pulp. The blade rang as it hit bone-- or the concrete beneath. One hundred and two pounds of primal rage focused every fiber of its being on one thing. Face twisted into something never before seen in civilization. I didn't dare interrupt. She became aware of my presence all at once, and jump-slipped backwards into the wall, horrified and confused at what had happened, eyes transfixed on the creation of some demon. As she caught her breath, she managed between gasps for air, "I just-- ... He was-- ... I didn't--... When he--..." I stared at her eyes until she met my gaze. "Feel better?"

She looked at herself, covered in blood and started hyperventilating.


"These people aren't from around here. They moved here from far away. Not even this planet. They float around, bumping into things, playing the part they're supposed to play. Surprised, sad, happy, laugh. They perform these things but they aren't these things. They're empty vessels. Husks occupied by some alien force trying desperately to become human. To feel what the real humans feel, to taste what the real humans taste, to experience what real humans experience. But they can't. Because they're not human. They just want to be real. The lives were always better on the other side of the galaxy, so they came here to become real people, and to live what they thought they should live, instead of realizing that they had all the life they needed where they were. They suffered from the same defect as humans. Envy. Envy so blinding that they couldn't see beyond their flat little non-noses to the truth of reality. The truth that they are who or what they are, and nothing can ever change that. The ironic thing about it is that they would live what they believed were happy lives where they only somewhere else when they formed their opinions. Instead they chase what they can never have, and tell themselves how great their lives are now that they aren't who they were. They see things on television and in magazines and they become those things. Like a child putting on its parents' clothes so it can pretend to be grown up. Or an adult, doing childish things so it can pretend it's not. There's never any satisfaction in these lives. No appreciation. No love. No laughter. No soul. These people have to be something. They can't just be. This would all be understandable -- even excusable -- if these self-propelled sacks of chemicals really were aliens from another planet. But they're not. They're actually magical beings of endless complexities and uniqueness, blessed with life by a random amalgamation of atoms formed in the very stars they hide behind their roofs and their eyelids and their bright lights. Stars so beyond their experience, so unfathomably far, so incomprehensibly large, so impossibly hot that they must avert their gaze from their creators, their gods. They're afraid. They're afraid to acknowledge the miracle of their lives because they're shaken to their core by the thought that they'll have to stop doing all the things they've been pretending were important after they realize how important they themselves are. What they don't understand is that there is only one thing that changes when you realize the greatest truth of your life. Your perspective.

I'm going to change that."


Warren turned to Jacobs with a strange look on his weathered face. Fascination? Morbidity? Condescension? Or was it something else? Something I'd never thought of? Once he caught Jacobs's eyes he purposefully drew his Beretta, ejected a 9mm round from its chamber, and caught it in the air, all without breaking eye contact. Warren turned the round in his hands and held it up between himself and Jacobs and spoke, "Don't you see? That's the amazing thing about a bullet. A bullet is a hunk of metal. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn't care if you've got a badge, backup on radio, a SWAT team, or a helicopter in the air. Hell, it doesn't even care if you command thousands of nuclear bombs. All it does is fly straight, and fly though soft things like us. It is impartial. It has no fear, no remorse, and no respect. It will not deviate because you're a cop, or a soldier, or a child, or a king, or a president, or the Pope, or God him-fucking-self. People like us grow to forget that fact. It's only natural. We get respect, so we think we have the respect of everyone. We get fear, so we think we have the fear of everyone. We get power, so we think we have power over everyone. We forget that it only takes one bullet to end us, and one person to fire it. Body armor can be penetrated, windshields can be shattered, arteries can be opened by a prison shiv made from a fucking plastic spork. You keep going out there and pushing people around like you're invincible, and you're going to give someone a reason to remind you that you ain't. Every civy out there... Every single one... Is capable of ending you. Some more than others. They just need the right reason. 'Some more than others' there too. You don't live as long as I have by putin' on the uniform, walking out that door, and giving people reasons."


"You know the difference between you and me? You look up at that building and see a Monolith. A huge, overbearing structure assembled by the will of powerful architects. Representing the unshakable dominance of the kings that commissioned it. Daunting. Intimidating. Invincible. You know what I see? I see people. Simple people with simple jobs. People made of flesh, and muscle, and bone. Fragile people. People who do their job not because they believe in what they are doing, or the ends of their efforts, but because it's their occupation. People easily dissuaded. People easily scared. People easily killed. With those people shuffled off or scared off, the monolith becomes a husk. It may still stand upright and tall, but it is lame. A decaying symbol of a dead power. The shadow of kings."

A bit late.

It was a job well done. He told his superiors they needed another few hours though they'd already cleaned the place out. No one was there, so there was no action, and that makes the door-kickers antsy; so he got a few extra hours so they could have some liberty time to unwind.

It was the fourth raid Black Boot team had been on in the past week. The guys liked all the action, and relished the rush they got from taking out Enemies of the State. Plus they got to enjoy a few choice picks from the collections they confiscated. Sure, it was tough luck for the guys that got raided, since they usually got overwhelmed in bed, and were never taken alive, but the law was the law, and without it there would be chaos.

The Black Boots were sitting around the rural property of the house they'd raided checking out their loot, drinking some beer Martinez snuck in one of the duffel bags, and generally horsing around. He avoided the childishness because he thought it undermined his authority over them. He picked a spot under a large elm tree facing the sunset where the roots formed a natural seat for him. He treated his job with a bit more seriousness than they did. It was hard for him to go after Americans. It helped to think of them as he'd been instructed; as domestic terrorists. But he knew they were just Americans. Americans like his grandfather who stood up to firehoses and dogs to secure his rights. All of his rights, including the right to keep and bear arms. But things were different now. His grandfather wouldn't want to own one of these assault weapons... Would he? He protected his family from the KKK, but those times were gone now. We're more civilized. We have better laws.

He ignored the dirty joke being told behind him, and stared at the low-hanging sun trying to quell the odd feeling he always got after he did his job. He sat with one knee elevated, and his gloved hand on top. Something struck him about the black tactical glove that interrupted the natural scene before him. He took it off and felt the cool air hit his hand as he replaced it on his knee. That was better.

As he drifted closer to a welcome nap, he noticed a small black spot grow from the top of a distant hill below the sunset. Like one of the armadillos that plagued the area struggling up the incline, then stopping at the top to survey the land around him. He idly thought, "That's a big armadillo. How far away is that?" He squinted.

First he saw the flash. He could just barely make it out so near the setting sun. Then he heard the buzz of the bullet. Then he heard the sick slap of impact on flesh behind him. Then he saw the spray of blood and matter hit the back of his naked hand still on his knee. He didn't even have time to change his expression. Then he heard the shot. He stared at his bloodied hand.

It wasn't till the second shot buzzed by him that he was broken from his hypnosis. He clambered around behind the tree, and almost tripped over his machine gun. He struggled a thought. "What the hell?! That can't be Jacobs! What balls he must have to shoot at the Black Boots!" Henry Jacobs was the owner of the property they were enjoying, thought to have fled days before the raid. Officially, he was being raided on suspicion of owning silencer parts, but the truth was that he had been a vocal opponent of theirs for years. There wasn't anything in his file about him being a sniper. As far as they knew, he was just a typical fat slob gun nut. Someone was going to pay for this oversight. He moved his back against the tree but lost his footing in the exposed roots and fell backwards into a sitting position, hitting his head hard.

He was frozen in a minor daze. He saw his teammates running for cover, and their weapons, being systematically cut down. Shot in the chest or head, sometimes straight through cover. Those who could make it to their machine guns returned fire to no effect. They were shot in the head when they exposed themselves to fire. He couldn't process what he was seeing as he watched his men die. Those who were not killed on the first shot were hit in the head, ending them in a bloody show. Jackson was the first to run, and was ended before he could make it 15 feet. The remaining members of the Black Boot squad were cowering behind any cover, refusing to expose the smallest bit of themselves. There was a short reprieve, then the shots began hitting the cover, ripping blindly through to their targets. As he regained himself he began to stand against the tree, a shot ripped through the tree trunk just above his head, showering him with splinters. The pain on his scalp snapped him back into his situation. He was lucid now, he had to think about his men, he had to fight back. He grabbed his sub machine gun, took a deep breath, and stepped out from behind the tree, leveling his gun at the target.

He emptied his sub machine gun at the small shape on the hill, and became enraged when he saw his shots kick up the dust a little more than half way to their target. "Who messed with my gun?!" he thought angrily. "It always hits dead center at the range!" Then he realized that he'd never shot it beyond 100 feet. Then he realized he'd never shot it at anyone who was shooting back. Then he realized he'd never actually shot anyone who wasn't in their bed, 5 feet away. For a brief moment he felt a repressed thought push to escape; then cease its struggle.

They were the Black Boots, they were number one, they were the best. They couldn't be wiped out by one man.

Presently, he realized he was not reloading his gun. He looked down and found his sub machine gun on the ground, and his arms hanging at his side. A cold wind chilled a spot on his chest underneath his vest. "How can I feel the cold through my vest?" He tried to say. He bent forward to inspect the cold spot, but realized he wasn't bending forward, he was falling backwards. The world spun downward, and the tree he was under came into view. After he contemplated this occurrence, and considered previous data, he came to the conclusion he had been shot.

It was strange. He always thought he would go out in a cacophonous chorus of gunfire, bullets ripping through his body as he expended his final rounds and issued a war cry before rushing headlong at his attackers, knife in hand, defiant to the end. Instead he lay backwards on the cool grass among strangely aromatic flowers, his face warmed by the low sun. The world around him lazy. Frozen in serenity. It seemed odd that such violence could happen in such a beautiful place. He was lost in thought now. The rifle issued death with slow, dull thuds. As he listened, the bullet whiz and rifle crack seemed separated and disturbed the peace of the valley; but after a while, the sound seemed almost natural. Like it was the way things were supposed to be. As if it were as common a sound as the birds singing or the wolves howling.

Time lost meaning as he drifted in the sea of grass, pushed gently about by the wind. Then he heard the faintest footsteps approaching, and forced himself back to reality and his suffering to see the man who had taken his life.

The man was small, and looked younger than the 31 years his file indicated. Everything about him was plain except for his sharp eyes. The man was checking the bodies that were once familiar, but he seemed aware he was being watched. The rifle he cradled looked old, like out of a history book. A small scope was mounted awkwardly forward, and looked strange. Through the haze he thought, "We're so much bigger, and better equipped. How could we have been beaten by that gun?" He looked at the insulting rifle, and noticed an engraving on the stock. It was something he'd seen before. Something from the files he had reviewed. It was that flag with the snake that said, "Don't tread on me" under it. Everything seemed suddenly clear.

He fought for a wheezing breath, attracting the man's attention, and rasped, "I think --- I understand."

The man who killed him squinted at the wind as he scanned the horizon, then turned to his quarry.

"It's a bit late for that."

Response to Mike

Mike, I've got my ass-kicking boots on, and when I read your comments, all I hear is the wah wah wah of Charlie Brown's parents.

You know better than I what thing you wish you were doing. Write it out, break it down into bite-sized chunks, take a knife and carve out at LEAST 3 hours a day to make it happen.

Focus on the goal. Print out a picture of it, and put it on the ceiling above your bed. Getting up is the hardest part. Once you're vertical, it's all down hill from there. Leave your house to accomplish your goal, too many distractions there. Chip away at it every day, until you've made a good dent in it, then reevaluate. Has this been fun for you? Are you still interested in it? Do you look back on what you've accomplished and think, "Fuck yeah." Are you making enough progress each day to get there in time? Or did you realize you hate it, and can't stand wasting time on it? Time for something new.

It doesn't matter what you do. All that matters is that there's a goal, and you're making progress toward it.

It could be as specific as "get this accreditation," or as nebulous as "figure out how to run a business." Try to pick a path that will be versatile if you decide you hate the destination half way through. That way you can salvage some of that spent time.

Because time is your most valuable, and most finite resource.

A note on finding that "thing" that you want/are good at. I was talking to a personal trainer a while ago, he told me about how he never thought he could make enough money to become a private trainer, and how he would go to his office job, and squeeze in time to run up and down the stairs to get some exercise. This struck me because there is no way the thought to run up and down stairs simply for fun would have occurred to me. But this was his "thing," and to him, doing anything else was just crazy. He wound up striking out on his own, with a promise to his wife that if he couldn't make it work in 6 months, he'd drop it. He made it. Literally on the last day of 6 months, through a minor contact he made in passing several months prior. The universe deus ex machina'ed his dream.

The point of that story is, we all have obligations, and there are things we can, and can't do. But if you can carve time for your dreams out of _your_ life, without disrupting the lives of those around you, the only person stopping you is you. I don't have a lot of obligations. I want to be a good husband, brother, son, friend, entrepreneur, and employee. Roughly in that order. My nights are for my wife. My weekends for my friends, family, and wife. My afternoons and evenings for my occupation. My mornings were unclaimed because I was too busy enjoying my lethargy, so they were up on the chopping block.

This last weekend was my first since I decided to pound the pavement till it bleeds, and I spent it with friends and family, and playing Minecraft. I played because I figured I had earned the chance to play a bit. But Sunday night? Regrets. I'm trying to get 4 hours of work in every morning, and I spent about 12 hours (or more, they melt together) playing Minecraft (yes, it's that good), but when I was done, all I had to show for it was a series of logic gates which equated to a combination lock using the in-game equivalent of transistors. I was proud I had accomplished this with no assistance or guide, but after that was done, I realized that I had wasted the equivalent of three (or more) mornings on this. Building things like this for no reason other than to see if you can, is a truly obscene waste of a human being's most valuable resource. I may not be ashamed of my accomplishment, but I'm definitely ashamed of my wasted time.

Of course there is room for leisure, all work and no play makes Jack go on a killing spree, but keep it to a minimum. Save the life of leisure for retirement. Sit on the porch of your mansion, and think back on how you picked yourself up by your bootstraps, and made a better life for yourself, your family, and your generations to come. Think about how your success allowed you to focus on the things that really matter in life. It beats the hell out of rotting in a retirement home, or worse, becoming burden on your family.

If you happen to experience a feeling of loss at the end of your day, don't worry, that's just your drive to succeed sucker punching your contentment. Not everyone has that drive. Consider yourself lucky. Now that you know it's there, and you know it's pissed off at you, you can choose to do one of two things. You can either kill it with sleep, beer, and cheap entertainment, or you can nurse it back to to full strength, put it at your back, and let it push you off the couch, and onto the path to your goal. Confront all the missed opportunities in your life, and instead of letting them hurt you, let them motivate you. They're not failures. They're fuel. Burn them.

And if you think it sucks waking up early for 5 years to become everything you dared dream, then try waking up late 20 years from now with nothing to show for it.

It's all starts in the mirror, man. What do you see when you look?

If you're fine with what you see, then rock on with your mediocre self. Relish your tiny victories over life, and bask in your supremacy over esoterica. Honked at some idiot? Amazing. Told your off your boss? Historic. New high score? Monumental. Level 65 Paladin? Prodigious. Built a combination lock using an in-game equivalent of transistors? You're like a god among men.

But if, in that mirror, you see a world of potential crammed inside a locked safe? Then there's only one thing you can do. Crack it, tame it, and ride it to victory over life.

The best and worst thing about this path is that you're the only one who can get you there, and you're the only one who can keep you going. It's all you. Other people may help, but you can't expect them to do it forever. You have to change yourself.

All of it, from beginning to end and everything in between, depends only on you.

Lets clear out some of this stuff.

I've got some bits and pieces left over in the back of the fridge.

Simon Sez...

Gee, what could this handy, pocket-sized thing be?

Dollar included for size perspective. Silver included for perspective on the dollar.

Lets unfold it...

Just as I suspected! It's a collection of adhesive-backed address labels with politically thought-provoking statements on them!

I wonder what one could do with these...?

Found this picture on the camera

Aside from being a great picture of Ava, I noticed this picture includes our departed friend, the cable box.

Just seeing it here reminds me of the thing we miss most about it.

The clock.

We just keep looking there, expecting to see the time.

But it's too late...

We'll get over it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Holy fuckin' shit!

That idiotic high speed rail approved by a majority of the mouth breathers voting citizens with whom I share internment a state, has exceeded its cost projections.

This is far from surprising, as anyone with a memory longer than a goldfish could tell you that every proposal is under estimated so severely you wonder if anyone in Sacramento owns a calculator.

Water is wet, the sun rises in the East, and any cost estimate that comes out of Sacramento must be multiplied by 5 to be repeated with a straight face.

But this is not the development worthy of the painstakingly selected choice of words which comprise the title for this post; the amazing development is that they stopped.

That's right. They reassessed, loudly announced the discovery they knew from the project's voter approval, and actually stopped what they were doing so they could review their ability to continue funding the project!

This is a huge step forward for California (and a revealing view behind the curtain of the fiscal problems California faces), because it used to be that when a project ran belligerently over budget, there was this song and dance about how they need to reign in spending, and reduce overhead, and reevaluate the project, and absolutely nothing official interrupted anything about the project. It just kept chugging along as if the politicians' words carried as much weight against the project as they did outside the political echo chamber. Then, years later, the project would be reevaluated, "discovered" to be horrendously over budget, and the song and dance would start up again.

But they actually stopped this one.

This is a huge step forward for California!

Well, "huge step forward" might be a bit much... Lets just say California ceased its self mutilation for a moment.

I take what I can get. Who wants cake?

The Hunter and the Moon

My eyes opened without hesitation. I was lucid, and rested. A good start.

I put on the latest evolution of clothing selected for my pursuit. As I struggled toward my goal in the preceding months, clothing changed more than anything else. Past challenges, mistakes, and successes groomed my accoutrement beyond mere garb, and into nothing short of the purpose built machines of steel and polymer, and of plastic and silicone that I once regarded above simple garments. My clothes were tools. Good tools.

Quietly, I readied my equipment. Silence punctuated only by the backpack's zipper, and the M1A's action closing after one final chamber check. I kissed my dozing wife as I did every morning, and heaped straps onto my shoulders before stepping out into the stillness of a world frozen in the lull between drawn breaths.

The car beeped politely as it unlocked, and clicked gently as the trunk opened. I loaded the trappings of my current task into the eager car, and paused as I drew the trunk near closure. After a moment's hesitation, I slammed the trunk shut, hopped into the driver's seat, and drove off, trying to complete my intrusion upon the quiet as quickly as I could.

The traffic lights seemed to act more reluctantly as they granted me passage to the freeway. Free, at this unnatural hour, to exaggerate their lordship over my movements. The sparsely populated freeway lay before me, its usual cold indifference unchanged. It asks only that I get on and off as quickly as possible, and I do my best to oblige.

After a few curves, and appropriate application of the accelerator, I found myself completely alone on a stretch of the 12 lane freeway. Nothing in front, nothing behind. It felt wrong. Like aberrant actions in dreams; you feel that you must stop and question, but know that you won't be able to. I noticed the radio had been turned off.

I took my exit, and waited at the light. To my right, rows of closed shops leading to a city ready to burst to life. To my left, looming mounds of darkness silhouetted by moonlight. The light changed, and I turned left.

The darkness seemed to accentuate the twists and turns of the mountain highway. The drops off the shoulder had turned from slopes to beautiful valleys into an abyss whose glare hardened as each successful turn denied it of your substance. The will of the darkness pulsed rudely in the back of my mind, where I had banished it long ago. Far away, but never gone.

As the lights of men faded, the sky revealed the brightest of her bounty. Unfathomable gaseous monuments to our slightness deigned to share their light from impossible distances. A lifelong favorite cluster of these gods hovered over my destination. The oldest hunter known to this planet offered his consent before fading into the beginnings of the horizon's glow to leave me to my task.

I turned into the dirt clearing nearest my access point, quieted the car, and stepped out of my shell. As I moved the equipment off the car and on to me, my stomach growled loudly, threatening to expose me at my most silent if I didn't meet its demands. I opened the dense brick of nutrition I had brought along, and bit off a piece. Unlike the protein bars, this seemed to provide filling substance to my stomach, instead of small clumps of slow-release energy. My opponent sated, I adjusted the straps that clung to me, and closed the trunk.

The hunter gone, I now looked to the moon, which drifted imperceptibly toward a smaller mountain -my destination- on the horizon. It shined full, and urged me on with the knowledge that it too would soon be gone, and my magic hour lost. The moon somehow entranced me, and as an unintentional moment lost in contemplation elapsed, a shooting star appeared, and streaked in my intended direction before vanishing forever. Its swan song short, and without echo. But not unnoticed. My face brightened involuntarily at my luck, but my thoughts were still shrouded deep within my mind. I knew they had wished for something.