Two nights ago I dreamed.

In my dream the Vice President of Sales of my company smiled at me and addressed me in his usual cordial way. But he had hired a mafia hit man to kill me because my software product was hard for his people to sell. Violence and confrontation were not his way, so he used his financial resources to solve the problem for him.

They saw me quickly. I was already within range of the men with their guns. And it struck me how petty and selfish murder was. How my children would be denied my presence at their weddings. How I would not meet my grandchildren. How my wife would be made to cry by my having been taken from her, and how she would bear the heaviness in her heart for the remainder of her life wondering how I might have suffered before death.

And anger welled from within my heart and I wanted to strike them. Kill them back.

At that moment the bullets struck and the ground hit me before I realized I had fallen. And one of the assassins, to be sure I was dead, lay his head on the ground beside mine and looked into my eyes, mocking that of the two of us only he would arise from the dirt. His face was that of a devil. His flesh was clotted blood. His eyes were yellow with hepatitis. His teeth were jagged and rotted with decay.

There was no hate at that moment greater than mine for him. Then the memory of my daughter reading from a Sunday school catechism book flooded my mind and I knew I must not die with hate in my heart. That the only way to escape the assassins was to love them. Eternal life be unto him who loves his enemies.

My eyes opened automatically when my wife began shaking me. I was shouting in my sleep.

No love warmed my dying heart but the voice in my throat was loud enough to wake her up.

"Who do you love?" she asked me. "What are you dreaming?"

"It's terrible," I said. There was no sleep the rest of the night.


Last night, I dreamed again.

My eyes were the eyes of a foot soldier in Iraq. My squad was suiting up for a night operation. We were heading to a dangerous part of the city to root out insurgents. My commander was younger and less experienced than me. He had been chosen because he had rank, and he only had the rank because his family had influence with men in power.

He wore the bars because he was their son, and not because he knew what earning them meant.

And I was almost taken down by my sinking heart when he ordered me to the point. His rash and inexperienced decision-making would get most of us killed.

It was clear to me, then, what was the value of a life. That my volunteering for this duty had seemed patriotic and strong to me, but now I was to be squandered at the whim of my superior officers who would simply replace me when my body was dead. Mine was to be a military funeral for a senseless death in the line of duty. Because of obediance. Because the statistics demanded that some of us would be lost due to misuse and wastage. It was a calculated risk taken by all parties.

There was a child at home who would never know me beyond a picture on the television. A wife with whom I had promised to get old who would from this moment forth know me only as a sad episode.

And all my education and plans would be reduced to the dust inside my coffin, because my life had been not worth as much as a wealthy family's misplaced pride.

"What's wrong with you?" my wife said, waking me up. "Why can't you sleep?" she said, not aware of the concept of irony at that late hour, or perhaps at any time.

I buried my face in my pillow so she wouldn't see I was crying.


My daughter was very angry today.

She sat in front of the computer seething, slamming pencils and pacing.

"What happened?"

She told me she had been talking to a friend on IM and e-mail. And now look--look what they wrote.

The message seemed innocuous to me.

"Don't you get it?" she said. "She's saying I'm accusing her of being a bitch, and so she's saying that's what I am."

Those words were nowhere in the message.

"What did you say to her?"

She told me. Those words were nowhere.

"What's really going on here?"

"Dad. Look. You don't understand."

"I guess I don't. But unless you guys have some secret code, or maybe there were some other messages that led up to this, I don't see where you should come off with that idea. Looks like your friend just wants to know how you feel."

"You don't get it, Dad."

"Maybe you're thinking something, so you think she's thinking something? But really, it's all in your head and not on the page. Could that be it?"

"Dad, can I have some privacy?"

"You know, honey, I'm going to tell you something and, I don't know, I'm just a random father, but I'm yours so I get to tell you these things. I think I'm right. There's not enough information in e-mail or your instant messages. You send each other abbreviations and you think you're having a conversation but you're filling in the blanks between the little abbreviations with words in your head. And if you have some crummy words in your head, you think your friend said them. But maybe she didn't mean that at all. Maybe the crummy stuff is coming out of your own brain, and not out of her mouth. Think about that. It's hard enough to have a live conversation and be understood because of all the things people leave unsaid, or say mistakenly. And here you are trying to talk for hours by typing strings of capital letters. Maybe it's not what you think."

"Dad..." She crossed her arms and looked at me with her chin lowered.

"You are so much like your mother," said me.

And then I didn't wake up. And it wasn't a dream.


Joseph Campbell said if you want to start understanding your dreams, write them down.
Robert Monroe said if you want to start understanding your dreams, write them down.
The Buddah suggested listening to your dreams.
Jesus had dreams.
Martin Luther King had dreams.

My wife probably thinks I'm having an affair because I wake up in the middle of the night crying and shouting my love for demons.

But that's the way it is.

No matter how well I write, no matter what I say, people will see reflections of themselves.

A very smart guy told me that. It was not a dream.

My commander was younger and less experienced than me. He had been chosen because he had rank, and he only had the rank because his family had influence with men in power. - iceowl's day at the beach

Her first salute was from her dad--an Army Reserve veteran of many years, a Master Sergeant. I believe it took a lot of wheedling.

She comes from a big Catholic family that lives in the suburbs around the Twin Cities in Minnesota; not rich people, but most of them well-off professionals. She joined up two years ago, at the same time that she started her master's degree in computer engineering.

She joined R.O.T.C. almost a year after George W. Bush sent troops into Afghanistan; a few months before Iraq began to appear inevitable, but the signs were there. No one expected a female graduate student in engineering to join the Army; no one would have been disappointed if she hadn't.

This summer, instead of starting a cushy engineering job (M.S.'s are running about $55-60K right now), she packed her bags, drove her dog to Minnesota, and headed east to Virginia for Officer Basic Training the weekend after her thesis defense. In a month or so, she'll be joining her unit in Iraq.

That's the Second Lieutenant that I know.

Turning and tasting the centuries

What century?

    The German researcher Herman Diels seems to have published his Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (= The fragments of the pre-Socratic philosophers) at the "turn of the century". I'm reading this information in a book that I picked up at a bookshop sale, a History of Philosophy by an English professor. I bought it at a sale, so the book is not new. Hence the ”turn of the century” must refer to 1900, not to 2000.

You were almost there, as it were

    Actually, to me (and maybe to most of you) "the turn of the century" will in an emotional sense always mean around 1900 -- a hefty while back in time, but in a comprehensible way, no more distant than by an arm’s length or two away. Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the X-rays in 1895, Albert Einstein published his Theory of Special Relativity in 1905, the Great War started in 1914.

    These times were experienced first hand by people whom I’ve met intimately. Sure, I was far from present myself, but the effects of the events at ”my turn of the century” have affected me personally. The effects have been diluted by time, but by mere decades, not by whole centuries.

Lively, but too ancient

    It's quite different with the turn of the century before that, at around 1800. It is -- again in an emotional sense -- far too distant to be comprehensible. It certainly was a lively period in history and I've read many absorbing accounts about it: American Independence, the French Revolution, Napoleon. But in many ways these events don’t seem to belong to my epoch any more that the equally lively Punic Wars of the Romans and Carthagians, two millennia earlier.

    My grandfather, whom I've met, hugged and spoken to as a child, was born in 1868. So for him the "turn of the century" must always have meant the times of Napoleon Bonaparte, mentally speaking.

Holding hands

    It is now that this line of reasoning starts to become fascinating. Because my grandfather must in turn have met, held hands with and spoken to, people for whom the "turn of the century" meant around 1700, the epoch of Newton, Louis XIV and the Baroque.

    As a child I've held my grandfather's hand in mine, of course. But with his other hand he could conceivably have held the hands of his contemporaries Wilhelm Roentgen or Kaiser Wilhelm II. Which leads to the fact that my grandfather in his turn must, as a child, have held hands with someone who was a contemporary of George Washington and Robespierre.

What is in a century?

    This may seem as just a silly exercise, which it probably is. But it made me aware of how surprisingly close we are to seemingly ancient events. My daughter, born in 1986, is about one century younger than my grandmother (b. 1890). Such an age difference sounds like an eternity, and not only to my daughter. But to me, having hugged, kissed and hotly argued with both of them, it is only a matter of mentally reaching out my two hands in two different temporal directions, making all three of us physically connected in time.

Hi, George, how's Independence?

    The chain of hands reaches far back into history in a surprisingly small number of palpable links. I only need two people to shake hands with George Washington -- my grandfather and his grandfather. It would take a larger, but not unmanageably large number of two-handed individuals to shake hands with Anaximander, a pre-Socratic philosopher with a deplorably fragmentary written legacy.

Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl.

--All Along The Watchtower

So, I began my preparations for Hurricane Frances last night. I started by creating three back-up copies of my novel in its current state. Then I began contacting all the waitresses and female bartenders in the Orlando area whose names were Christina, or some variation thereof, and offered them shelter in my underground bunker.

My underground bunker, which is nearly half a mile below the surface of the earth, is likely the most secure place in Florida to be during a hurricane. As a result, eighteen women fitting my specific qualifications responded and accepted the offer.

Once this disaster is over, a new order will rise from the ashes. More specifically, a new order will rise from my underground bunker. Since this is a slow moving storm that will likely take 36 hours to move through the area, I will have time to impregnate at least six of these women. We will inherit the ruins of this world and we shall shape them in our own image. It will be our right.

So, rest assured, life will continue after this hurricane, but in a different style. If you do survive and emerge to live in my new world order, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Tipping will be done at a minimum rate of 50%. Anyone who tips less than this will be moved into areas formerly known as "free speech zones," which will now be used a "retraining camps." This is something you will want to avoid, so tip extremely well.
  • A barter system will replace the foolishness of this ridiculous cash-based system we're currently being crushed under the boot of. Now, you may say this conflicts with the whole tipping issue, but it does not. If the waitress tells you that you can settle your bill with two bags of rice, a five gallon jug of water and two turkey sandwiches, you will want to throw in a pound of roast beef and some apple dumplings for the tip. This is only reasonable.
  • When you are approached by a blonde waitress named Christina, you will bow and say, "All hail TheDeadGuy" and kiss her shoes. This will prove your loyalty to me. Those who do not acquiesce will be shot, no questions asked.
  • If you wish to maintain your own private residence, you must grow crops, 20% of which will be given to myself and my representatives. Failure to comply will result in learning the true meaning of "scorched earth policy."
  • Horses will be important. I'm sick of cars and other forms of motorized transportation. Car payments, insurance, repair bills and breakdowns are ridiculous. It is time to get back to the animals, people, and in my new order this will be done. All car dealers, mechanics and gasoline merchants will be wiped out in the early purges.
  • Last but not least, those who write poetry about me will be rewarded with educational vouchers. Anyone who does not write poetry about me will be denied an education. Cleaning animal stalls and carrying loads for one place to another will be your fate. So, let's be smart, be safe, and follow directions. Everything is going to be okay.

See you on the other side.

Okay, I'm not a daylogger, but:

Hurricane Frances isn't even close to landfall yet and here in Deerfield Beach, Florida (about halfway between West Palm and Fort Lauderdale) we are already experiencing considerable winds. The storm has slowed considerably, both in speed and in intensity, but already it is lashing at us. Right now it looks very much like any other spring time rain Florida, as the leading bands of clouds move through, but West Palm Beach is said to have recorded winds of 60 miles per hour in the last few minutes.

Our preparations are not even finished yet as it stands. No one in the household received any time off from work before today and to even do what I am doing today (and am still trying to do now even as the winds and rains start) means that I might have been fired from work for not showing. Quite a problem that can be when your company, located in Orlanda, flees to Atlanta but tells you to continue to work even while you are in the throes of a hurricane.

After writing this I will be going back outside. I still have many things to do and will probably be getting good and soaked.

We are going to stay in the house, it is more than 30 years old and less than 4 miles from the coast and the intracoastal waterway, but it seems we will be getting the weaker side of the storm so I am willing to chance it. I wish all those in its direct path the best of luck and offer my good wishes that you get through this unscathed. We always hope it will still turn and that it will not continue this slow movement over the Gulf Stream; a movement guaranteed to strengthen it.

Well, if I have power tomorrow I will write an update, but for now: I go now to experience one of the most spectacular of nature's wonders.

To the Bat Porch!

These squall lines are weird. We got battered for about an hour with very high winds (recordings of 70 mph) and lots of rain. Now its beautiful out; the sun is shining and there is a steady but light breeze. We should continue to alternate these squall lines while the hurricane approaches, but the next line is still very far out.

So if one expects that a hurricane will hit and stay on you until it has moved away, thats not how it seems to work (it has been more than 10 yeards since I last lived in the path of a hurricane. Belive it or not, the eastern part of Central Florida has been spared for years, and this is my first in South Florida, so my memory is foggy except where the heart of the storm is concerned), we have the bands of rain and heavy winds moving through now, pouring down and moving out. Now we but await the big part of the storm while these powerful but small vanguards of its approach hit us.

I have been laid off for two weeks now. It wasn't a huge surprise. The company I had worked for was running out of work, and coming apart at the seams. Meetings had turned into shouting matches. The co-owners were barely speaking to each other. A company that once employed 300 people is down to 15.

We are often reminded about how excellent the private sector is. Bullshit. The only advantage the private sector enjoys over government is that bad businesses run out of money. In government, good managers run out of money, because their funding has much more to do with the-flavor-of-the-month than job performance. Bad firms fail. While bad government officials sometimes get promoted, and bad CEOs often get another company to manage, the workers get screwed. They get to hit the streets.

The failure of my company came from one cause, greed. The owner of my company had inherited it, with a significant fortune from his father. Daddy had a good team in the office, and good people in the field. Jobs were bid properly, run properly and the company made money.

Then the young, handsome owner declared if we make seven million in profit this year, I'll pay everyone a big bonus. It was a lofty goal, but doable. People dug in and worked hard. But at the end of the year the company fell $2.97 short of the goal. The owners paid themselves big bonues. Nobody else got a dime

Of course one can argue that technically, the goal was not met and therefore no bonus need be paid. Of course a smart boss might remember that he employs people and not paying something would seem like a slap in the face. But the issue gets even worse, as it turns out the accounting was juggled by Chief Financial Officer, another co-owner, so that one job paid two weeks later than the cut off date. In other words, the goal was met and the bonus had been earned.

Employee morale plummeted. The smart people who had made all this money found employment elsewhere. Other workers with brains, saw which way the wind was blowing and bailed.

But that didn't deter the co-owners. They knew what the company needed. Cheap labor. The problem is that electrical contracting is technical work, requiring skilled labor. But hey, all people are interchangeable. Hire the cheapest people possible. Hire people in the office who's primary talent is schmoozing. Yell at the foreman so he'll be scared and make sure things get done. Make sure foremen don't have much help, because help must be paid.

It was into this environment I stepped last year. At first i worked with my friend Chris. We had three journeymen, Chris, myself and recent journeyman named Roxanne. She's a terrific worker, but with limited experience, one who can take responsibility in most jobs but still needs guidance. And a couple lemons. plus two competent apprentices.

Our project manager moved to another company, tired of having to work 70+ hours a week to get his job done properly. Then Chris, who had worked with him for years left as well. I took over the job. I asked the new project manager for someone to replace me as senior journeyman. He told me no one was available. I told him my biggest worry was in estimating how long it would take to complete various phases of the project. he told me just do my best.

That was the extent of their help. if you had a contract worth the better part of a million dollars and a green foreman wouldn't you send the project manager to at least sit in on the job meetings? No project manager attended a single weekly meeting with me. Not once. Would you come around and teach him the paperwork? Apparently not. Would you keep up with the paperwork and pricing on extras, which are guaranteed profit because they are time and material. Well, they didn't do that either, and thousands in extras would lost. On top of that my data sub-contractor went under during the waning phases of the job. I had a couple shouting matches.

And oh yeah, the second project manager was fired for incompetence three months after I took over the job. The purchasing manager didn't act on the replacement light order I gave him March 1 until late May. Good fundamentalist Christian that he is, he denied I'd ever sent him the order. Until I turned up with the original order sheet, and a copy i had faxed to the project manager on the very same day as the original.

i lost a lot of sleep, and weight, running that job. But i got the job built. But I ended up on the company out-list. You see, the job which had been expected to make money, lost a bundle. The new project manager told me we had run out of money in May, and i didn't complete the job until late june. I had taken a sure money-winner and turned it into a loser. I felt like one as well.

Today I ran into the original project manager while putting in a job application. It turns out they had lied to me the whole time. Another job had been underbid. In order to cover one well-connected ass they took some 400 hours and $200,000 in material and billed it to my job. That had been found and put back later, but no one ever told me. I had made them money hand over fist. But they continued to lie to me because I would have-- quite rightly-- used that to say, 'Okay, i've proven myself how about a raise?"

So now they are about to go down. The lack of skill has led to a few, no more than a few debacles. Many builders won't accept bids from my former employer. I saw why in the time between my job and the end. They ran commercial panel rooms in MC cable because they didn't have enough people who know how to run pipe. In five commercial buildings, I was the only guy who ever ran a pipe in a panel room, One guy almost got blown up.

The last two weeks have been tough. No matter the reason, getting laid off feels like failure. I hate to see a business fail, and good people go without work. But I refuse to mourn for this company. Like a whole lot of old school capitalists, the boss never saw his line employees as people. He's got enough money left that he won't go hungry. Alas his greed and corruption have left a lot of better men and women without a paycheck.

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