Author Archive for



17
May
16

everyday people

kintsukuroi

The Japanese think that imperfection is a part of an object’s charm. Here, a broken piece of pottery, mended with gold by the kintsukuroi method.

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There are two kinds of people out here: the scrabblers, who are convinced the world is a harsh place which requires that they lie, cheat, steal, and cut corners; and the majority, the decent lot, who shape the world into a place where kindness, generosity, and good-will dominate.

Years ago I wrote that you can look at the same evidence and draw two totally different conclusions. The world outside can be seen as either a living hell or a little piece of heaven—the choice is yours.

Derek has come here with his big-city habits and every night brings in the key to the truck—but who would ever steal it? There are no people out here, let alone thieves. And anyway, there’s only one road out of town. Anyone who had the distinct bad taste to steal our truck would be apprehended by our sheriff’s deputy before they’d ever be able to make it away. Derek will lose his big-city ways soon enough—but he was raised in prison where thieves were some of his best friends.

That’s not to say that there aren’t bad people out here. They’re everywhere. Yet out here they stand out by their deeds and can be avoided.

You all know by now about my recent experience with the bank. We patched things up yesterday and agreed that reasonable people can have misunderstandings and disagree. I have apologized for the part I played in the disagreement, and no longer contend that the bank was trying to rip me off.

But a few years ago the man who owns the local hardware store sold a piece of angle-iron that I paid for (which he was storing for me) to another customer. One day I went in with a pickup truck to get it and discovered that it was gone. “That’s okay,” I said. “You can just give me a store credit for the amount I paid”—but he would only give me half. “No deal,” I said, and walked away. If his reputation is worth so little to him, I would prefer never collecting what he owes me. I’ve never set foot in his shop since and have been outspoken with my friends and neighbors about my experience. I figure I’ve paid for that.

I don’t go looking for conflict and am slow to take offense. People are people, and it’s not the end of the world if they sometimes make mistakes. I’m pretty thick-skinned; I don’t take myself so seriously as to think that I am inviolable. But if they refuse to fess up, are too threatened to apologize, that is worse than having made the original mistake.

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Weather Report

83° and Clear

 

16
May
16

the importance of fathers

dad son daughter.

by Derek King

One of the foundational principles of being a man, and therefore a fundamental element of fatherhood, is responsibility.

Many people in American society today scoff at and do everything possible to stay away from the responsibility of marriage.

Marriage is a public ceremony to show the world you have made a promise to be committed to one person for the rest of your life. If a person can’t even be committed, how are they to be expected to fulfill their role as a primary caregiver to the lives they help bring to Earth? It is sad for me to see that to a vast majority views pregnancy as merely an adverse side-effect. Here is the results of some research I have done:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of every three—live in biological father-absent homes. Nine in ten American parents agree this is a “crisis.”

Consequently, there is a “father factor” in nearly all of the social issues facing America today. But the hope lies in the fact that children with involved fathers do better across every measure of child well-being than their peers in father-absent homes.

In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning. The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experience fewer behavioral problems and score higher on reading achievement tests. This study showed the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, even in the cases of nonresident fathers.

Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers, and for fathers heading single-parent families.

One thing I have learned growing up is that boys desperately seek to have a male role model to teach them what it means to be a man. If they do not have this father figure in place, they will find one. Fatherless boys are like loaded guns, full of potential in the hands of anyone whom they look up to as a role model. In a daughter’s life, a father demonstrates how she is to be treated by a male who loves her. Without this, she never knows what love really looks like and never has someone there to teach her that she deserves better than the charm of seduction.

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۞

Weather Report

87° and Clear to Cloudy and Rain

(It stormed again this afternoon, though of shorter duration.)

15
May
16

kids’ prison

Housing Unit.

by Frank Manning

For some years now I have volunteered as a kind of mentor/grandfather figure for adjudicated juvenile delinquents who are serving their sentences at what is essentially a prison for kids. It is not like any prison you have ever seen before. There is no perimeter fence or wall. It’s in the middle of the woods, and a lake and a swamp do most of the job of keeping the kids in. Regular bear and cougar alerts also help in that sphere.

Dining Area - Day RoomThe residential units (above) are large cottages, spacious, airy, full of light. The locked rooms where the kids spend their nights and daytime downtime, are clustered at either end of the cottage, around two separate hallways, where the four boys in a “zone” share a bathroom/shower room that may be used by only one of them at a time. There are three meals a day, with plenty of decent nutritious food, and a surprising variety of snacks. The food service is regularly checked by both state and federal inspectors.

There is an accredited school, overseen by the neighboring school district, and the boys can earn a GED or a regular high school diploma. The boys can take part in a service dog training program. Oh, and they have an olympic-sized pool and lots of outdoor play space.

When I first started volunteering almost 15 years ago, most of the boys were doing time for drug offenses (possession, selling), sex offenses, stealing cars, burglaries, gun possession, assaults (many in school fights), and the like. Serious violent crimes, like School Roommurder/homicide, arson, aggravated assault, were rather rare. Over the years, as juvenile crime has declined and attitudes toward incarcerating juvenile offenders have switched from “let’s teach them a lesson” to “only the worst”, I’ve dealt with fewer and fewer nonviolent offenders. So now we mostly have only sex offenses, murder/manslaughter, aggravated assault, and violence or other crimes associated with gang membership. Yet the staff’s emphasis remains focused on rehabilitation, behavioral therapy, and treatment focused on future release back into society.

I have perhaps encountered my most difficult case, one that will definitely be of interest to Dan and the readers of this blog. He is a parricide, now 14 years old. Last year, after he had just turned 13, he shot his father in the head with a hunting rifle as the man was napping on the couch. The man had been beating him for years, sometimes with a 2×4, and had started to molest his little sisters. Seeing his baby sister bleeding and crying and his mother too terrified to say anything finally put him over the edge.

His case was heard in superior court, but he was adjudicated as a juvenile. His lawyer and the prosecutor agreed that because of the circumstances he would plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and serve five years in a juvenile facility. They wanted him to realize that killing someone in their sleep is not acceptable. He is lucky to be where he is now. It’s a nice location, the staff are young, sympathetic, and kind. There is no staff abuse or violence of any kind. In another year or two he will be moved to another facility, one for older boys. It is a lot more restrictive and prison-like, but for now he’s in what many of the kids call a locked summer camp. He will be free shortly after his 18th birthday. But for now the staff and I have to work on fixing at least a part of this broken kid. And that’s where we have a problem.

The boy’s treatment work requires him to write about his crime and his feelings about it: anger, guilt, remorse, hate, whatever. He has adamantly refused to do any of it, and has so far resisted all inducements and consequences. He has even had himself sent to “intensive management” (sort of like segregation, but with strong staff intervention) as a result of acting out violently in response to staff demands. He’s been diagnosed as ADHD and bipolar, and put on the usual medications for that. He still will not cooperate. He is so hyper that even when he’s locked in isolation and deprived of every distraction (to try to get him to yield) they have to let him bounce a rubber ball—or else he will hurt himself. He has got 14 years of hatred, anger, and resentment bottled up inside him. And he is still maintaining some very high walls, even with me.

Staff get paid to crack and break down those walls. I do not, but that is fine. To be honest, it is really exhausting trying to help someone who does not want it. But I’m a stubborn old bastard myself. He will come around, at least part way. We might not be able to fix this boy, but we can at least prevent him from being destroyed by his own demons.

Note that because of state confidentially laws I cannot name the boy or give his contact information to anyone. Only family and people designated by them and approved by the facility can write to him.

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Tame Deer on grounds

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۞

Weather Report

80° Cloudy and Rain

(It hailed tonight and topped-off our water tank.)

14
May
16

significance

significant.

If I thought before that I was an insignificant speck of dust in the whole of the Universe, this conclusion is even more dramatic after having recently watched Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. The Solar System, the Milky Way Galaxy, our Galactic Neighborhood, the entire Universe are all so much larger, so much more fantastic, than we can even imagine. Using special effects, Tyson tries to give us an idea of what’s really “out there,” but he fails miserably. No one… no special effects, no myths or analogies… even come close to the truth.

People who come out here to visit are amazed at the nighttime sky. Living in cities, most of them have never seen it like this. Though spectacular as it appears, it is still a feeble representation of what’s really out there, unseen. I don’t take it for granted, it’s a part of my everyday life. Living here, I accept the inescapable fact that I am a speck.

I think for many people there is a huge fear of being small. They mistakenly feel that change is impossible unless you can amass great numbers for your cause. But if you stick to your guns over the long haul, there is an amazing amount that a single person can accomplish.

I’m talking about real change, not something fake or illusory. Yet some critics contend that pop-culture has become more narcissistic in recent decades… all about “Me.”

The “will-to-fame” is creating a new era of public narcissism in online culture for an entire generation. I am astonished by the number of “selfie” images posted on my Facebook timeline, and by the alarming number of people who analyze their own names for “deep” meaning. I’ve heard that some celebrities hire “fake paparazzi” to appear more popular than they are. I am aware of the rising frequency with which reality programs populate television schedules. In everyday conversation, I’m amazed by the frequency with which people keep steering conversations away from others and toward themselves, as if they’re competing for attention.

It seems to me that there is a certain nobility in being a speck of dust, or at least in discovering what a speck of dust can accomplish. After all, according to Tyson, the humble microbe was the basis of all life on Earth. This in itself is pretty awesome.

۞

Weather Report

80° Clear to Cloudy and Rain

13
May
16

irresponsible

sajhggnjb2whjteyyqvi.

On Monday I went to the mailboxes and learned that my checking account was overdrawn and the bank was piling on overdraft charges for every transaction. I had made quite a few, some for minor purchases, so we turned the truck around and have been living without provisions ever since. “How could I have been so irresponsible?” I asked myself.

I had emailed the manager of our branch of the bank just days before, requesting that she float an “overdraft protection” loan to help me make ends meet until my Social Security check arrives next week. “How could I have been so out-of-touch as to allow over $440 in unnecessary overdraft charges at the very time that Derek was arriving and needed to be reassured that he had arrived in a safe place?”

Now the mystery of my “irresponsibility” is solved. The bank manager never made the “check credit” transfer. Despite clear instructions to the contrary, my account was about $800 lighter than I’d thought. I am relieved to have the explanation of the discrepancy… not at the least because I now know I’m not losing my mind and am treating contributed monies as frugally as I can. I owe that much to you.

Yet this still does not address the bank’s exorbitant overdraft charges, which never should have been levied in the first place. Truly, the money should be put to better use—for kids—than bank charges. How extravagantly wasteful! The bank did nothing to earn the charges and, in fact, has made my situation much more difficult as a result.

Yesterday the improper charges were reversed by the bank, but they want me to find another institution to work with. This is a huge inconvenience, but it is better than being ripped off. No banking relationship is worth in excess of $400 or $500 for the mere privilege. No one should have to submit to such extractive practices. Plus, this is the only bank I’ve ever heard of that closes everyday for three hours over the lunch hour.

Don’t you think I need a change, anyway?

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۞

Weather Report

86° Cloudy and Rain

12
May
16

fatherhood

fatherhood-youre-doing-it-right-15-guys-that-get-it.

by Derek King

I am thrilled to be welcomed back here by everyone. It is very wonderful to be accepted and to know that I have friends with all of you readers. Thank you all, this means the world to me.

I want to start by setting the tone for this whole thing. For a long time I have been searching to find a way to give back to society for the life I have taken. With that being said, I am very passionate about fatherhood.

In America there are very few good role models of fathers left in this country. What does it mean to be a man? What does it take to be a father? I understand that the answers to these questions may be relative, however in the upcoming posts that I do, I want to share my personal beliefs on this matter.

As a “father to be” this is one important area I personally need to do some growing in. Stepping into fatherhood is a very challenging stage of life for me. Having murdered my father, I created a void in my life that I need filled now more than ever. This whole thing is an opportunity to honor his memory by being the best father to my children as possible.

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۞

Weather Report

94° and Clear to Partly Coudy

11
May
16

hello

Derek Welcome.

by Derek King

Hello everyone. It has been way too long since our last reunion. Much has happened in this adventure in the past several months and I hope to share with you some of my experiences I have had along the way. I have learned a lot about this country and how chaotic society is. In 2014 I packed all I had in a car and set out on a new adventure to start a life in Virginia. Most importantly, I am now married and I am expecting my first biological child. Like I said, lots of caching up to do. However, I just wanted to begin by saying thank you for your love, loyalty, and support.

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۞

Weather Report

93° and Clear




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