Skin In The Game

Common sense says I shouldn’t do this, but as a registered contrarian I can’t help myself. The school shooting the other day has sparked plenty of emotion, and for good reason. It’s hard to fathom such evil striking with such randomness. I can’t picture what I would feel finding out a loved one or friend was taken for no reason.

In the heat of such emotion it’s understandable to lash out and want to take action. And it’s always easy to take action against something when you have no skin in the game. As Jules says in Pulp Fiction, “well, allow me to retort”.

Starting at age 16 (or younger) we operate motor vehicles that weigh more than 3,000 pounds, often driving them 30-40 miles an hour in town mere feet away from  accidentpedestrians. We hurtle 70-80 miles an hour on the freeways. These monstrosities kill 37,000+ people a year. That’s 100 PEOPLE A DAY being killed. An average of 2000 of those are children. There are about 5.4 million vehicle accidents per year. Records estimate that there have been 3.6 million vehicle fatalities in the US since the advent of the automobile. Motor vehicle accidents are estimated to cost the US $100 billion a year.

Despite training, licensing, and testing, we continue to murder our fellow citizens. We drive drunk. We text and talk on the phone while driving. We drive too fast for conditions. Common sense says that if we have something that’s killing 100 people a day, shouldn’t we be marching on our state capitals and demanding our legislators take action? What sort of monster doesn’t care about 2,000 children a year being needlessly killed? Where are all the Facebook memes?

It would be appropriate to lower the speed limits to 15-20 mph on any city road. No more than 40 mph on freeways. Require annual requalification and background checks. Massively increase registration fees to pay for statewide safety measures. Caught with a phone that’s turned on should require jail time. A DUI means permanent loss of driving privileges. All vehicles must be retrofitted with breathalyzer devices in order to start. Increase the driving age to 21.

There would be a massive uproar across this nation if any of that were proposed. Why? Because it would personally impact your life. It’s easy to be judgmental when the actions you want won’t effect you. *

There are 300+ million guns in this country. As much as you may like to, you cannot put that genie back in the bottle. Virtually every criminal shooting is done with guns acquired outside the system. As in, they didn’t follow the laws and regulations. Shocking, I know. All the laws and regulations that get proposed after each mass shooting would not have prevented any of them from happening. Why? They either got their guns illegally, the system failed massively (as was with this latest one), or there were huge mental health red flags that were either missed or resources weren’t available.

I don’t know what the answer is. You could send the military to every home in the country to search and seize all guns, but I have a sneaking suspicion that wouldn’t go so well. We could choose to stop spending trillions overseas on silly wars and devote some of that money to mental health services in this country. And to ensure that the existing laws and systems and agencies we already have actually do their job. Or we can choose to let the Tide Pod eating generation drive legislation that only impacts normal law abiding folks.

It’s not an easy issue. Guns aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and I get that. But don’t get caught up in the sensationalism that is modern media. Because if you’re not fired up about 100 PEOPLE A DAY being killed by vehicles… aren’t you being just a tad hypocritical? (and I know you wouldn’t knowingly watch a movie or TV show that sensationalized guns, right?) You have every right to do what’s right for you and yours, and if guns aren’t for you I respect that. I choose to have the option to protect my family when the flesh eating zombie apocalypse comes.


* I spent at least twenty minutes trying to figure affect vs. effect. I’m still not sure in this context. Grammar is not my strong suite. I’m comma-happy and I know it.

 

The Problem With Mirrors

So, I installed security cameras outside the house the other day. The cameras have revealed two very interesting details. The neighborhood I live in has alleys with our garages in the back. The first detail that shocked me was the amount ofcatfreeway activity that goes on in the alley at night. People walking back and forth, cars driving by. And cats. Oh my god, the cats. My driveway is like a regular cat freeway at night.

I’m not sure what to think about this. On one hand I’m ready to put concertina wire, moats, and laser firing automated robots around the property. On the other hand this has clearly been going on for the last six years and I had no idea. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

The other detail that horrified me was catching sight of myself walking around. For the love ohunchbackf god I’m a hunchbacked, potbellied, splay-footed troll. Why didn’t anyone tell me just how bad my physical condition has gotten? The problem is that when you don’t like what you see, it’s very easy to avoid mirrors. I glance in them just long enough to ensure something awful isn’t hanging out of my nose and that appropriate zippers are zipped. Clearly I haven’t been gazing into the mirror much the last few years.

Nothing like a dose of reality to force resolutions to happen. Eating clean starts right now. Ok maybe not now, it is super bowl weekend. Monday. Monday for sure. For the perimeter defenses, I’m not sure what to do yet. I’m thinking motion triggered tear gas rounds and blaring Justin Bieber music. Ok, maybe not the last part. A judge may find that too harsh.

Oh, and if you see me hunching over please tell me to stand up straight.

 

On Camping. And Totes.

Last weekend I went car camping. It’s been awhile. The last number of years have been more focused on river trips, backpacking, and a mega land-yacht RV. All of which arguably have components of camping, but are not exactly the same. To me, “campintrucksterg” is loading up the family truckster, driving to a designated forest service campground and unloading a mountain of gear at a designated “site”. Said site shall contain one rickety picnic bench, one fire ring, tent sites that are on a mandatory slope of at least 30 degrees, and easy access to a standard forest service toilet that contains horrors that shall not be mentioned.

While all of those items are worthy of discussion, it’s the mountain of gear that befuddled me. With backpacking and river trips you have clear space limitations, so you’d think that I would be good at packing efficiently. Apparently those rules don’t apply when car camping. I looked at the volume of space I had in the pickup truck and lost my mind. I packed gear for every possible contingency. Enough clothing to cover temperature ranges from  Death Valley to the top of Everest. I brought enough lighting products to perform neurosurgery at midnight. Small, medium, and large flashlights. A 5 pound lantern powered by 6 D-cell batteries. A headlamp. And a backup headlamp just in case. What did I actually use? The 2 inch mini flashlight one time, while digging around in the cooler for another beer. I had approximately 2,000 feet of utility cord, mosquito nets, shaving mirrors (but no shaving kit), tools, zip ties, plastic zip lock bags, a compass (we never left the campground), a broom, and at least four different drinking cups. All told I think I had three full duffle bags, a backpack, a cardboard box, a cooler, a half cord of firewood, an air mattress that was too big to fit in the tent, and a ten pound folding chair. I briefly considered renting a trailer but that would have been… excessive.

Within the first half hour at camp all this gear somehow exploded, covering the camp site. And when it rained – it all came into my little tent. I slept surrounded by mountains of stuff. The contents of every duffle bag had been pulled out and strewn everywhere, looking for the extra pair of socks I was sure I had. When it came time to leave there was no careful packing and organizing. Everything got stuffed into one giant pile into the back seat of the truck, which is now spread across the garage, the basement, and the kitchen. I plan on cleaning and putting it all away any day now. Promise.

I vowed never again. I will become the Martha Stewart of camping organization. I’ve spent approximately 45 hours researching camping organization web sites. I have visions of campkitchencolor coded plastic totes, camp kitchen boxes, and gear organizers. In my mind I’ve been crafting plans for adding a camper shell to the truck and building fantastic storage options so I’m ready to camp at a moments notice. I will craft laminated efficiency checklists and pare all equipment down to the bare minimum.

And then I stumbled across the Sprinter van. I am now officially obsessed. This is the ultimate car camping vehicle. Small enough you can drive it sprinteranywhere. Big enough you can comfortably sleep and have all your gear available. There’s whole community dedicated to van life. I could be ready to go fishing, to faraway hikes, climbing, escape the zombie apocalypse, a horrific nuclear accident, or just plain old camping at a moments notice. It works for campsites, boondocking, sleeping at truck stops, or Walmart parking lots. Never mind that I average about two camp trips a year. The point is that I could if I wanted to.

Now I just have to convince Mrs. troutdog. Or I could just buy more totes.

—————————–
Clark: I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun… We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! I must be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!

On Moments Of Truth

The moment of truth. A turning point. That defining moment. The red pill or the blue? Beer or bourbon? A salad or fries? Jimi Hendrix or… wait, never mind. Hendrix is always the answer. For many people there comes a point in time where you reach a place that inspires you to decide that you don’t want to continue down the same pzig-Ziglar-motivation-quotes-2ath you’ve been on. If I was a motivated guy, this is where I’d insert the inspirational quote from Zig Ziglar and declare that things will be different from now on.

Uh, that’s not really my style. Although, I did have one of those moments yesterday. I’d foolishly signed up for a running race that I’d done before. Except I was lazy and I didn’t train for it. I probably gained did gain weight between sign-up and race day. I assumed that, like when I was 20, I could just show up and get ‘er done. Uh, nope. It was pretty ugly. As I lumbered uphill like a pregnant walrus, it became clear that I can no longer deny reality. I’ve gotten old, fat, and frighteningly out of shape. I was passed by people who, if I saw them on the street, I’d think to myself “there’s a walking heart attack”. I was passed by people in their 70’s who looked like they were going to keel over at any moment. I survived and finished, but it was a humbling day.

I woke up this morning determined to change and to seize this opportunity to improve myself. I vowed to be the like ‘theRock and post my 4am daily workout on the Instagrams. I will be a paleo god and laugh at those fools eating gluten and sugar. I will be pure! I will fuel the engine with nothing but locally sourced fresh food kissed with mermaid tears and love. I will embrace Grok and become a crossfit machine. Then I thought about pancakes and wondered when the new pizza place down the street will open.

I’m not sure if I have it in me to change my habits. I like the idea of it. It’s the doing part that’s a challenge. It’s hard to say what path I’m going to take. I did win the weight loss challenge of ’14. I’ve also managed to put all that weight back on, plus some, by sitting in a chair fairly continuously for a year and a half. Which me is going to emerge come Monday morning? Will it be the motivated and disciplined troutdog or the fat lazy trout taking the path of least resistance?

Realistically, any clear thinking person knows that our actions should be based upon preparations for the zombie apocalypse. And what is Columbus’s rule # 1? Cardio. So there you have it. It’s the 4am wake-up and go time for me. Then again, there’s the merits of being well-armed, don’t be afraid to use your ammunition and rule #2 – the double tap. Go ahead and hand me those pancakes.

Tallahassee: Are you fucking with me?

Columbus: Uh, no. You should actually limber up as well. Especially if we’re going down that hill. It is very important.

Tallahassee: I don’t believe in it. You ever see a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?

Winning Hearts And Minds

This morning I was procrastinating. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me – I could win awards with my ability to procrastinate. Anyway, in my effort to avoid doing something actually useful I was catching up on Tay and Microsoft’s PR disaster. You have to marvel at the blind naivety of the folks who didn’t put any sort of filters in place. Anyone who’s been on the internet for more than about fifteen minutes could have predicted what was going to happen. The interwebs are full of trolls.

Moving on I found a post of pictures of office workers who had their food stolen out of the fridge. That’s some funny stuff right there. Then I started thinking about it. It’s happened to most of us. Your lunch goes missing from the break room fridge. Someone microwaves some nasty smelling three day old fish or fermenting eel, turning the entire third floor into a hazmat zone. What the hell is wrong with these people? What’s worse is that these are your coworkers, people you know, not some random stranger on the street.

The interesting part is that every single one of us would claim that our circle of friends and acquaintances would never do such a thing. It seems like every other posting on theFacebook is some inspirational quote about peace, love, rising above the negativity, and really good fried tofu recipes. Meanwhile it took less than 24 hours to shut down Tay with a barrage of some of the most vile stuff you can imagine – for no reason other than the amusement of trolls. Someone is out there committing this asshatery and it’s not just evil-doers.

I suspect there’s a whole lot of people out there leading a double life. They post the cute Easter meme on Pinterest, then leave their dog poop in the middle of the trail for someone else to deal with (or sidewalk if you’re a civilized New Yorker or Parisian). Someone is throwing all that garbage out the car window to collect on the side of the freeway. Enough of us are watching the Kardashians and Maury Povich that their ratings keep them going strong. Drive on any California freeway and the sheer number of asshole motorists will turn any Bernie Sanders voter into a seething road rage maniac… who will then go into the office and donate money because Sally’s niece is in the hospital and post a few adorable puppy pictures to their Instagram.

I’d like to believe that because of our opposable thumbs and ability to appreciate Ansel Adams, we can rise above negativity and mean people. I think the reality is that we’re one zombie apocalypse, water, food, or bourbon shortage away from survival of the fittest. When Amazon goes dark and you can’t get your selfie stick v.7 shipped the next day, I suspect our societal cohesion will disappear in a hurry.in-case-of-zombies-attack-break-glass-shotgun-apocalypse-now-meme

What does all this mean? I’m not sure. I don’t think it has to be depressing. Go appreciate some art. Get outside and see some nature. Try not to be a complete jerk to your fellow man. Pay it forward. Oh, and stock up on bourbon, toilet paper, and 12 gage double-ought buckshot.