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Saturday, December 11, 2010

American DREAM Act

Americans have a love-hate relationship with immigrants and immigration. We love being an immigrant and hate the others who follow us. It is like having your little brother or sister following everywhere you go. You want to be unique and free in your endeavors and not have to share with the brat.

After a few generations of residency in this country we like to forget that 99% of us are immigrants. The only distinction that holds any sway is recent immigrant versus long-term immigrant. For most of the long-term immigrants the dividing line is set by whether you or your ancestors passed through Ellis Island or not. The Ellis Island moniker stands for a point in time not for all prior immigrants. Europeans have swarmed here for centuries before the physical facilities of that portal were built. Incidentally so did Central American peoples via the border with Mexico.

Two of the biggest complaints about continued immigration from south of the border is the notion that they are taking away Americans' jobs and are sponging off our social services institutions. Both notions are partially true, and equally false. Without proper documentation an illegal immigrant cannot hold a job of any real significance such as bank teller, loan officer, real estate agent, lawyer, Doctor, Engineer, nurse, etc. They cannot pay taxes and collect on the benefits thus pair for. Living on the fringes of society, they don't reside in big houses and pay real estate taxes. They don't buy expensive new cars and pay sales tax on such items. In the big picture of such an existence, they are actually denied the ability to pay taxes. They cannot contribute in a bigger way to the revenue streams of the communities where they live and work.

Since they must hide themselves in the greater numbers of Latino citizens and legal aliens they cannot take advantage of insurance pools that would allow them to be covered for medical care. Most of the work they do is not for large corporate employers who include health insurance coverage for individuals and families. The result is indigent care in emergency rooms that is required by law.

One of the great innovation of Western civilization is the notion of private property and the ability to inherit. These two construction of law enable a family to start where their parents left off. The grandchildren in a family lineage can benefit from the hard work that their grandparents undertook to improve the lot of the family. With private property and inheritance the next generation may not need to buy a house and have a mortgage. There may be a going business that the sons and daughters can take over and continue. There may be intellectual properties on which several generations of family live. These benefits to the family also benefit society at large by allowing that some people do not need to take a job in order to have the money needed for participation in this society.

Such generational benefits are denied to all illegal residents inside America. First, the economic level of most such people is so low that accumulating wealth is a non-starter. Second, there is no way to convert their labors into long standing assets such as homes and businesses. This makes the immigrant and his/her children forever beholden to the labor market and the whims of legal residents to hire and pay them. It makes them generationally beholden to the social services institutions that have been established over the years that attempt to make sure that people are not hungry, sick or cold amongst the greatest wealth in the world.

Forever denying citizenship to the children of people who crossed the border without an invitation creates and maintains an underclass of near slave laborers. They become generationally dependent on other taxpayers even though they may be paying taxes without receiving any benefits for them. This is where the DREAM Act enters the picture.

A child younger than 18 who arrived with his/her parents is just as undocumented but not culpable for the commission of a crime. They need a path to full participation in this society so that they will eventually be able to make the transition from mere laborer to that of college educated managers and professionals. They need a way to become legitimized so that they too can acquire wealth and pass it along to their progeny. Otherwise society at large will always be called upon to subsidize their existence in this land. They will remain perpetually poor while the people who do employ them will keep getting wealthier.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Introducing: Human Life International!

Father Thomas Euteneur, President of Human Life International expressed his opinions concerning gay marriage in a Life site commentary titled "Gay Marriage and the End of Christian Civilization." (August 13, 2010)

In expressing himself so eloquently, he made references to current events on the west coast of America. After 52% of the voting population of California in 2009 endorsed Proposition 8 that restricted marriage rights to the pairing of a man and a woman, a solitary Federal judge overturned the "will of the people." This "activist judge" took it upon himself to rule that even a majority of voters do not have the right to tell other citizens whom they may marry.

While every church may independently or collectively decide whose marriages they will honor inside their temples, it is not their place to impose that limited authority on the population at large. Marriage, although sanctified by a church authority, is primarily an economic status sanctioned by the State, which ever that state may be. It is the state's recognition of the union that must be documented and recorded in order to have the remainder of our economic and legal system likewise recognize it.

This union of two adults conveys certain rights and responsibilities that enhance economic wellbeing . The union conveys the right to inherit property. It conveys the right to Social Security and survivor benefits. It establishes who is a spouse with respect to spousal and family health insurance coverage issued by an employer. It conveys the right to make end-of-life decisions on behalf of another person who no long is capable of expressing those decisions. The union permits two people to file a joint IRS Form 1040.

There is no place for a church, creed, faith, scripture or theology in those economic aspects of human relationships. No where in attainment of those rights is there any mention of how one must have sex or with whom. Any church may regulate those aspects within their walls, and require the swearing of an oath that the members only engage in certain sexual activities with their registered opposite-sex partners in order to maintain membership in good standing.

Fr. Euteneuer asserts that God decreed that marriage was only between a man and a woman based on "Genesis 1 (the marriage of Adam and Eve) to Revelation 21 (the marriage of Christ the Lamb with His Bride the Church) God has had only one model of marriage, and it is not gay marriage." His Bride the Church? This church was not a woman. So the Lamb, Jesus, marries an Institution. Let us not even go there.

"A close second to this is that gay marriage distorts the very concept of parenting as well as marriage. Even if you overlook the fact that gay marriage is by definition sterile, every child of a gay marriage has to be adopted or artificially inseminated, and that in itself is a violation of the whole concept of family." There are thousands of reproductively sterile marriages between man and women. There are thousands of adopted children by married couples who both have children of their own and not. Sterility and other reproductive barriers has prompted the development of artificial insemination. None of these institutions of Man are inherently detrimental to any child. The operative factor is love and caring parents. Marriage provided two of them as opposed to one. Euteneuer continues with the assertion that "Kids model their lives, their concept of family, their morals and oftentimes their whole worldview on their parents' attitudes and values." There is no disputing that. Divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse likewise shape the minds of children and their attitudes and concepts of family. A read of the foster care statistics and the statistics on child and spousal abuse will open the eyes of any hardcore Christian who believes that Christian civilization might be doomed by allowing two men or two women, who love each other, to be united in economic unity. The incidence of dysfunctional family life far exceeds the numbers of couples who are homosexual and want to marry.

First, two homosexual people must want to become united in the eyes of the law. Second, the two people must be willing to "come out" exposing themselves to a bigoted world where Christian and Muslim, Hindu and Jewish fundamentalists are called upon to "fight against it with our very lives." Third, this couple must want to raise children. All of these factors significantly reduce the numbers of family units where "These kids get a totally distorted view of all these basics." The basics cited here must be the bigoted view of people who seek to limits the rights of others.

While the realities of American and religious society makes marriage and/or civil unions difficult or impossible, restricting such recognition doesn't alter the number of homosexual people by even one person. Loving couples have survived decades without the state recognizing their couple-status. The lack of the ability to marry has not changed the sexual orientation of anyone.

Taking a stand against gay marriage might just be a last stand against the assault on Christianity by the rest of the world. For certain Christians have been persecuted for 2,010 years since the religion first embraced the birth of Christ. But so have they been the persecutors. They have been particularly brutal against factions within their own ranks. Heresy has not been the wholesale denial of Christ as Savior, but rather a disagreement over the relationship amongst the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit. More Christian lives have been taken be Christians over such disagreements than by any other religion. Whole congregations have been executed because they refused to renounce THEIR priest's teaching of the dogma and embrace the official one.

Today, Christian homosexuals are being persecuted by other Christians for their belief that they are Christians and homosexual too. One thousand years ago, Rome would have sent the Christian Knights to enforce the edicts of the Pope that they renounce, repent and atone for their sins or die burning on a stake or being otherwise brutally tortured and killed in order to make sure that God didn't punish all of Christendom for the sins of the few.

Fr. Euteneuer wraps up his comments with proof that he is still worried that God is still the wrathful vengeful Jehovah of the Old Testament. "We are called to be faithful and obedient to the Plan of God for our world, and within that, God will bring forth the victory. There is no doubt that, if it is not already there, gay marriage will be coming to your state soon. If we don't fight it, our souls, our families and basically, our very civilization, will find themselves at "the end" of the line in very short order.

The ancient superstition that the righteous and the sinner will perish together when God's might wrath sweeps a tsunami, or an earthquake or flood across the land is alive and well in the minds of the scared. A plague of locusts or just HIV will take the guilty and the innocent alike. When the end does come in the Apocalyptic conflagration surely it will be because of a few gay couples being allowed to have the same civil rights as heterosexual couples.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Mercy of the Universe

I was listening to a monologue on the Radio one Saturday at noon. The storyteller related the events of his life that followed him through his adult years. On one fateful day while he was driving along a street a girl about his own age swerved her bicycle into the path of his car. He swerved to avoid hitting her but not enough to miss her. She was killed.

Through out his life from that teenage year until he was twice that old he was haunted by her ghost. Not that a ghost was metaphysically present but the memory of her and the life she might have led had he swerved enough and missed her. Maybe he would have been killed instead like so many drivers who undertake to miss hitting some one or something else.

Upwards of 40,000 people are killed in automobile accidents each year and many of the dead were killed by someone who did nothing wrong. They were merely the instrument of the death caused by another. The author asserted that many people who are involved in fatal car crashes suffer post traumatic stress as the result. The ones who were at fault or at least partially responsible, he said, had an easier time coping. His statement was that they knew why it happened and could take measures to never have it happen again. The person without fault has to deal with the random nature of the Universe. One cannot escape that mindless clockwork cause and effect nor ever understand its capriciousness. That person was at the mercy of the Universe. Actually we all are every day, but we are quite adept at forgetting that.

I had just returned from the Grocery store and was preparing to put away the thing that needed to be kept cold. I had my hands full with bottles and packages. I was thinking that I would not be so distressed by a random event disrupting my life because I was in this world to experience random events. Without the opportunity to have unexpected outcomes life would become tedious and boring like watching the same film every day knowing that the same people get sick and the same people die in the same way every time. No matter how good the acting, no matter how great was the script, or beautiful the cinematography, it would get boring and the desire to watch it again would disappear.

Just as I was thinking about not being traumatized by a random event, I bumped the plastic tray in the refrigerator door causing it to dislodge and fall on the tray below. The bottles and jars all plummeted to the floor and into the lower tray. Several items bounced and rolled away across the floor. Only one bottle broke.

That bottle contained the only item in the door trays that I cared about. It was a nearly full bottle of pure maple syrup. The shattered pieces of glass were mainly grouped together in the sticky mass of liquid that slowly spread out from the impact point. A few pieces of glass including the neck and cap slid the furthest away. It was a random event indeed. It was not one comparable to the magnitude of killing a bicyclist, but every day I open the refrigerator door and close it without dropping a single item. When I drive to the train station to go to work and then ride the subway to the office, random movements of people and objects set up millions of opportunities for the Universe to be heartless and cause me injury or death. But it doesn’t. It could and I realize that one day it might. Meanwhile, life is interesting.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

John Stossel, Poor Baby

John Stossel, poor baby, must have had to wait to sit down in a public restroom. His ambivalence about restroom design demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about what the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is all about. He should spend one day tagging along with a person who uses a wheelchair in any city of the United States. Better yet he should borrow a wheelchair and try to follow that person through that one day. My invitation is always open. His blog post, Disabilities Act Feeds a Suing Public demonstrates his lack of understanding.

The architecture of this country started out completely inaccessible to anyone who could not navigate stairs, simple street corned curbs, revolving door and heavy ones. Twenty year on from the passage of the ADA we are only scratching the tip of the problem of barriers that are intentionally built that prevent person with mobility limitations to participate in this society. I will bet that Mr. Stossel never waited in the Mens restroom for the one end stall to be vacated by the guy with a suitcase while the use of the other nine stalls turned over several times. I will also bet that he never flew from New York to LA on a jet that did not have a restroom that he could use if he wanted to.

Even when there are restrooms that have been remodeled, the dimensions are many time not to code. If the sink is too low, it is too low. This is a matter for the ADA. If the wiring is deficient and ground fault outlets are not installed where they are required, this is an electrical code violation. Both code violations are the result of professionals not doing their jobs correctly, poor workmanship, faulty inspections. While the business owner is ultimately liable for the deficiencies and their corrections, he does have recourse, unless he did the work himself.

Mr. Stossel also doesn’t have a clue when he talks about service animals and snakes in particular. “Millions” of small businesses will never have a customer with a large service snake that will disrupt the operations. Many businesses that did have a customer with a service snake never even knew it. We are not talking about Anacondas and Pythons here. If other customers were riled up by inflammatory language like in Stossel’s September 1, 2010 blog rant they would realize that there is nothing to worry about. I challenge Stossel to cite one single documented incident where a large service snake accosted a nearby restaurant patron anywhere in the US.

While there are people who specialize in discrimination lawsuits, some based on the ADA, there are hundreds of thousands of slip-and-fall suits, soft tissue automobile collision claims, Workers Compensation frauds, dog bite claims, racial, gender and age discrimination suits. None of these are disability related. Some are valid and some are merely the result of aggressive ambivalence chasing. Attorneys have to make a living too. They can allege a case on the flimsiest of facts, just like John Stossel.

Just “Because the law turns ‘protected’ people into potential lawsuits.” And “Most ADA litigation occurs when an employee is fired, so the safest way to avoid those costs is not to hire the disabled in the first place.” is not a reason to not have the protections. Employment of persons with disabilities might very well have gone down AND partly because of the Federal regulations that prospective employers seek to avoid. The low employment rates for person with disabilities have a lot to do with the lack of suitable transportation to get to the job and home.

The ADA employment regulations created two classes of job duty: Essential duties and non-essential duties. The essential ones can be required of an employee, even one with a disability. The non-essential ones can be reassigned. While there are requirements that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” for an employee with a disability, those regulations do not extend to expenses so large that another employee would need to be discharged to pay for them.

Stossel says, “Under the ADA, Olson notes, fairness does not mean treating disabled people the same as non-disabled people. Rather it means accommodating them. In other words, the law requires that people be treated unequally.” This argument is the same as the old fear that equal rights for women would require that both sexes use the same restroom. Being treated fairly does not mean being treated exactly the same. Just look at the queues at the restrooms at any large public venue. It is painfully clear to all women that the venue having exactly the same number of stations in the Mens room as for the Womens is not equitable. Most US facilities are in this manner deficient. What is the loss of one stall to make one larger when the overall number is 50% too low.

ADA accessibility standards benefit everyone. The Washington DC Metro Rail system has typically one elevator to enter every station and one that gets a person to the track level. It took a lawsuit back in the 1970s when the system was being built to make that so. Yes it added construction costs. Yes it adds maintenance and repair costs. But back then nobody ever considered the number of women pushing baby carriages through the system. They never considered that any man would be pushing that baby carriage! Today, every day, every station – baby carriages on the elevators. All boarding is done at train car floor level – no steps into or out of the cars. Wide fare gates accommodate more baby carriages, suitcases, wide people, parents holding the hands of children than people using wheelchairs! WMATA doesn’t have restrooms for the public in any station, not because of the ADA or accessibility laws, but because they did not want the expense of cleaning and repairing ANY restrooms.

There are no ADA POLICE. That leaves it up to individuals and their lawyers to take on the resistant business owners. The American legal system is notoriously fickle when it comes to making consistent decisions. When a business comes before the bench on an alleged violation of the ADA, it is usually not the first complaint that was registered.

“Finally, the ADA has led to some truly bizarre results.” Yes alcoholic employees are classified as persons with disabilities if they identify themselves and seek treatment. They do not need to be employed in safety sensitive positions such as piloting an oil tanker. To be fair to Captain Hazelwood, he was in his cabin sleeping when his second in command ran the Exxon Valdez aground.

Federal regulations will usually reduce short term profits for businesses that need regulations. I hope John Stossel never sustains an ugly scar on his face because then he might not be allowed on the television any more. And that won’t be a protected disability.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why 1 in 5 Americans are Wrong

White Christian Americans have always been a tad myopic. There is no wonder that a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll suggests that 1 in 5 Americans feel that Barak Obama is Muslim. I can't characterize the finding as Americans "thinking" that President Obama is Muslim. It is their myopia that stands in the way of thinking and leads people to feel instead.

Here is my point. Western culture is predisposed to view everything as a matter of black and white, good and bad, right and wrong, Christian and not Christian. Try this exercise yourself. A child is born. His mother is Caucasian and his father is Negro (please pardon my choice of words. Some Africans are white.) Is the child black or white?

Now change the father to Chinese. Is the child white or Chinese? The mother is Swedish Lutheran, the father an Orthodox Jew from the Ukraine. Is the child Jewish or Lutheran? The chances are that most of white Christian America will say: Black, Chinese and Jewish. How did you fare?

In the binary thinking of Western minds, if the child is less than all Caucasian the child is classified by the bloodline that is not Caucasian. Even one-quarter black is black. One-eighth. The converse of this heritage doesn't hold. A grandchild of three Sub-Saharan African grandparents and one Caucasian grandparent is not considered White. He may indeed by ostracized by his family and village for being of less than "pure blood."

It is no wonder that 20% of Americans think wrong about The President's religion. They look at African Muslims and see a resemblance to Mr. Obama. They see and hear his name with the Hussein emphasized and are lead astray. They see his skin color and the texture of his hair and can conclude only one binary thought: He's black, his name is odd and sounds Muslim. Must be Muslim. It's an easy mistake to make when you only have a Yes and a No choice to make. It's easy when one listens to only one source of information. To them, Muslim is an unalterable heritage like a strand of DNA, not a religion that one embraces through study, contemplation, and ritual attainment. It works that way in Christianity too. Calling yourself Christian doesn't make you one. It is in your thoughts, words and deeds and following the teaching of Christ that Christianity arises.

Additional Thoughts: Global Energy Demand

Global Energy Demand

Even if global energy production from coal, oil and gas remains flat, we will run short at the rate of consumption and the increase in the rate of consumption by such countries as India and China. Those two countries comprise about 2.5 billion people. Although they are presently relatively low on the per capita energy use scale, their sheer numbers will overshadow the USA. While our economy is in a slow period and money is being borrowed against our futures anyway, we should be investing it in the infrastructure that we will need in the next 50 years. That way it will not be wasted. If we get better transportation, better healthcare with more doctors and nurses, energy sources that won't choke us, and cities where we can live and thrive then our taxes and the taxes of our children and grandchildren are not wasted and they will benefit them too.

Additional Thoughts: An Unholy Alliance

The Tea Party folks can contract with the NRA to stand in the doorway of the Emergency Rooms of the country and turn away everyone who doesn't have adequate insurance coverage or proof of ability to pay. The NRA people would probably do it for free if they get legislator endorsements. Then Fiscal Conservatives can repeal the healthcare reforms that so enrage them.

Professional OathTakers can then swear to transport and treat only non-14th Amendment citizens regardless of the form of payment presented.

Additional Thoughts: Creationism

God's Creation must be perfect according to theological thinking. How could He create anything less. The day He invented Adam then the woman Eve was the last day of six. Then He rested. Presumably He is still resting or the story would have continued on with how he further created more of the world we see today. One might imagine Him fashioning an automobile in which to ride over the Divine Highways to other equally glorious Gardens. He might have molded a cellphone from acorns and straw so that Man could call his mother on her birthday. Without divine hands it took nearly 6000 years for a man to fashion a lightbulb from glass and tungsten. It took nearly as long for man to invent television so that tele-evangelists could spread His word back around the world from where it came.

While there are fundamentalists who actually do advocate a return to scriptural roots, few western civilization residents would truly feel comfortable with out coal and petroleum fueled vehicles, heated and air-conditioned homes, electricity, radio and TV, telephones either wired or wireless, Internet, airplanes, antibiotics, refrigeration, tap water, flush toilets, TP, and antibacterial hand sanitizers.

All of these items have come about in the last 100 years, after 5,900 years since Creation. It seems that although God might have provided a great start, since then man's ingenuity seems to have taken over. God might have provided the creativity that is in mankind, that creativity has accomplished a lot of impressive things.

A divinely inspired scripture is only closely rivaled by the American Constitution for its ability to form the framework of a civilization and a society that is able to reinvent itself without completely trashing everything that came before. Whereas the constitution is a document and code of conduct that is able to evolve after its creation, the holy Bible is not. Every educator hopes that in some way his or her students will eventually exceed the sum of all the information and ideas that are stuffed into their tiny heads. I suspect that God as the great teacher would be no different.

There are the persistent students who never leave academia until they are forced out. They do not make that transition from learning to using that knowledge for fruitful purposes. They are fond of impressing others with what they know rather than with how they can utilize it for anything beneficial. They become masters of citation. The can quote chapter and verse without ever really understanding what the words mean. In their academic cloisters, if a statement or idea is not thoroughly peer reviewed and approved, it is utter nonsense and worthless for consideration. In this way, even something as well known as a spherical earth took hundreds of years to reach the status of common knowledge.

For they who are ardent adherents of biblical scripture, we can suggest that they fore go everything that came about after the day Adam was molded from the clay and had the breath of life blown into his nostrils. Upon this act, the rest of us might be able to believe that they are serious about their theological convictions and maybe sufficiently vetted in order to be believable.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Whether the stone hits the pitcher, or the pitcher hits the stone.."

"it's going to be bad for the pitcher." Cervantes.

The day had worn on under the blistering sun in the nation's Capitol. The atmosphere of DC held its heat as the workday wound down. I was sitting on my wheelchair waiting to cross G Street to the Metro. I had just crossed 13th as the pedestrian signal counted down to Zero and the traffic signal was about to change. A man forged ahead on his urgent crossing followed by a 30-ish man with white ear buds and his walking music surging in his head.

After he had crossed about halfway to the other side, an automobile driver sped straight through the intersection on HIS urgent engagement. I marveled at the synchronization of the early pedestrian and the late driver. As the car zipped behind the pedestrian, he momentarily looked back at what has blown that wind on him. I was glad that his music hadn't suddenly stopped and he too stopped to adjust his tunes-device as I have seen done so many times IN the Metro while people are walking ahead of me and suddenly stop for no apparent reason.

I proceeded when the pedestrian signal began its countdown. The man stopped at the corner while attending to his electronics. I arrived as he was about to obliviously cross my path as I zipped up the curb ramp.

"Did you see that," he asked?

"Well you were crossing on HIS signal."

"He ran the red light. It has just changed."

"and you were already more than halfway across the street when he did. I thought, 'I can't believe that guy is crossing the street now'," I said to him.

"He could have killed someone," he proclaimed.

"Not just someone. You."

"He was wrong," the lament continued.

"Whether he was wrong or you were wrong, it would be bad for you," I said, paraphrasing Don Quixote.

He continued on his way and I grabbed the moving handrail of the center escalator to descend into the station for my ride on the Metro Red Line.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Pair of Whammies and an Ace Kicker

[Cross posted from the NotoriousCar5Gang blog]

It happens all too often. It seems to me that it happens more often just as I am getting ready to put the commute on hold for a few days while I travel on business. The correlation is uncanny and I have mentioned to several of the regular MARC conductors enough times that when something goes terribly wrong, one or another will ask if I am traveling again. It used to be a preponderance of incidents low platform arrivals at Union Station that occur when I am about to travel. Now the train that I ride in the morning so regularly arrives on 8 or 16 that the correlation has been made meaningless.

This doesn’t mean that other fubars don’t surface to fill the void. It was July 26, the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This day will live in my memory as the day of A Pair of Whammies and an Ace Kicker.

First let me explain that the following day I was scheduled to fly to Alabama on company business and would be off the remainder of the week. We arrived on the 16 Track as recent normal would dictate. The manual lift was littered with trash that the conductor kicked to the curb, so to speak, and onto the track bed. Beads of sweat on his forehead formed into rivulets and dripped off his chin. As always, I thanked him for the service he provided and let him know that I was going to be away for the remainder of the week. He replied with, “ah, oh.” We both knew that something probably was in store for us.

I departed the office a few minutes early in order to stop by the ATM at the corner near the office. I would need a few dollars for the meals on the trip. When I arrived at the station, Dave, one of the station supervisors gave be the heads up for the 16 Track so that I could get aboard before the onslaught of the remaining 899 passengers. I got me vertical ride to the car floor level and backed into my usual spot. Soon others of the Gang filtered in. Sandy and Mikey arrived followed by George. Even Princess Carly arrived soon enough to get a seat. George got up for Shelly, who has been a new addition to the usual suspects. Mikey held his seat in case Candice arrived.

Billy and Andrew made their appearances and Susan too. We had a quorum and a peanut gallery of itinerants, those people who just happen to stop for an open seat.
The day had been one of those above 90 days where Amtrak promised cold water in the station and just water on the trains in case there was a problem. The HVAC cut out a minute or two before the train started moving. The Princess, sitting in her corner spot, said, “A least we are moving.” It could not have been more than 30 seconds before the train slowed to a stop. I gave Carly one of those sideways glances and expression of mock disgust.

We all waited for the announcement. They were going to get the on-site mechanic out to the locomotive to see about getting it restarted. We had only moved about 2 car lengths before the end came. They fiddled about for a few minutes before announcing that the train was dead and the run canceled. Remember the double whammy? Here it comes. The 6 o’clock departure would take on as many of us that would fit. Here it is. The 6 o’clock train is on Track 8.

Now I have to wait to get off after they drag the half dilapidated lift down to my new location AND I would need to wait again to get back on the replacement train. The Gang ran ahead and regrouped in the fifth car on the new trainset. While there were a few strangers already seated, Carly and Shelly got their relative positions again. While I waited for the lift to be brought along the platform, Sandy and George taunted me by holding cold beer cans up to the window. Although I would have to wait, I did know that a cold one would be waiting. Billy took the opportunity to stop by the station package store.

A round of cheers when up as I made my entrance. Even though the aisle was crowded, my usual spot had been preserved. The new fifth car was a “café car” with the alcove behind where I sit. I offered to pull in there if two people cared to sit. Billy declared, “no way, we fought hard to keep that seat up.” I didn’t argue. Soon enough I was cracking open the cold one that was handed across the aisle and along to me.

We waited until the scheduled departure of this train. As we lurched into motion I said to Carly, “don’t say a word.” She pursed her lips and kept quiet. We held our anticipation until we were fully out of the station.

One of the occasional guys who drops in on occasion got talking about how the heat breaks down the locomotives and that they knew that DC was hot in the summer. Why then didn’t they buy equipment that wasn’t as sensitive to the heat? Billy mentioned the catenary lines and how they sag when it is hot. Mikey added the phrase “the cat and the canary” from our previous raucous conversations.

I said that it was just like the railroad folks to underestimate the needs of the people that serve. After all they would prefer to be hauling freight. Bill questioned, “Why so negative, Bob? You are usually the optimist.”

Mikey quipped, “He’s SEEN the canary.” That brought up all the imminent failures we have experienced over the years. Susan brought up her fifteen years of MARC commuting and how even when it was bad in those “old days” it was not nearly so often.

The ride moved along reasonably fast up until we had to stop to allow the Acela to clear the BWI platform before we proceeded. I promised an “ace kicker.”

The train stopped with our car reasonably close to the stairwell. I jumped out and headed for the stairs like everyone else. Susan and I waited by the elevator for it to return to the lower level. A crowd of other anticipatory commuters hoped for a spot in the elevator. One of these days BWI station will have two elevators on both sides of the platform. For now though the single rickety units would have to suffice. We packed in and bore up under the extreme heat of 8 human bodies packed into an already hot 280 cubic foot box. When we arrived at the pedestrian bridge level, the kicker became manifest. The door failed to open. The buttons failed to prompt the door. The car would not move and the door did not open.

At least the emergency bell, for what it’s worth, rang out clearly. The emergency phone also dutifully dialed its prescribed number. No one answered. Maybe he or she was out for a smoke or a toilet break or maybe no one was there. We didn’t wait.

A woman asked the logical question, “can we open the door ourselves.” She also posed the associated one about how we would do it. Undoubtedly there was at least one person on the verge of freakout.

I said for those by the door to place the palms of their hands flat on the door and push left. With several intermittent pushes, the door mechanism clicked into place and it slowly slid open. In one big wave everyone was out the door. I quipped to myself that I would probably be the only one in the elevator on the other side. It was astute deductive reasoning. No one waited there to ride down.

Just as I was about to cross the bridge, Jill emerged from the stairwell and we walked over together. I related that we had just averted a major meltdown in the stuck elevator. “Really,” she pondered? “Yes, really. No one is waiting to ride down in this one.” It arrived at my call, Jill and I rode down together. There was no Ace to match the kicker.

Now my only travails will be the three As of flying that constantly are a problem to the traveler: Airlines, Airplanes and Airports. They are all equally good and equally bad each in their own ways. But THAT is another story.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Adventure of Commuting

Recently, my oft posed question has been: When did commuting to work become an adventure? Wasn’t the stereotype of the commute a long boring drudgery that had to be endured in order to match ones household expenses to ones income. Or it was a necessity for having access to suburban schools while still holding down that urban managerial job where you had worked your way up from peon to harried middle-manager. Whatever the reason for the long trip, one had to drive alone on what is euphemistically called an “Expressway” or sit in a bus in the same traffic are the motorists or read the morning newspaper while cruising along the tracks on a commuter train.

When I relocated my career to DC in 1994 while still living in my house on the cul-de-sac in Baltimore, the daily repetition was quite ordinary and indeed boring. I had to meet the train on a crumbling platform in a swampy valley near the BWI airport. The station there already showed signed of its age even though it was not quite 15 years old. The bloom was off its flower even then, but the station as a whole was still quite functional. The two elevators that made crossing over the three tracks worked every day and there was little need to consider what I would do should there be an outage. My wheelchair doesn’t do steps very well but it goes down a flight far better than up one.

On February 22, 2000 the MTA inaugurated the bi-level train car service and announced the intent of doubling MARC ridership by 2020. That was a noble endeavor but one that was more marketing and pronouncement than substance. Ridership did however increase with the advent of the larger capacity cars. At an average of 132 seats per can there was comfortable room for more passengers. Fortunately there was also more standing room for the additional commuters who would be seeking transport into DC each day. The total number of trains each day remained constant on the Penn Line and space was at a premium almost from the start, even on a normal day.

Soon the parking lots at three of the busiest stations were filled and reached capacity earlier in the morning. Halethorpe, BWI and Odenton each reached capacity in a rotation mostly determined by the construction schedules of additional space and the fees that were charged at BWI where they constructed first one garage then a second one. Walking distances at Halethorpe and Odenton reach as long as 0.6 miles from the farpoint to the boarding zones. This long walk is an inconvenience but doesn’t not deter the commuters as a whole. There is a significant amount of ‘churn’ in the overall ridership. When a new rider sees the crowded conditions and challenges of parking and the regular delays of service, they drop out and someone else fills their place. One doesn’t need to be a masochist to commute on MARC, but it certainly helps. I say that with all due respect to MARC personnel who are the front line interface between riders and the operations and themselves must have masochistic tendencies in order to put up with the daily guff that several thousand people can present.

The MTA intent coupled with the economics of $4 gasoline conspired to raise the level of ridership to unprecedented levels. They added a ninth car to some trains because there is a fixed number of parking slots for trains at the terminus in DC. More and heavier cars loaded with 132 seated people and sometimes another 20 to 40 standees, taxed the capacities of the locomotives that were sized and purchased at a time when there were fewer and smaller cars in the set. One an occasional basis the additional weight could be handled by the exiting tracktive effort of the equipment. That ability to manage the additional load may have been possible when the equipment was new, but after a decade and longer, the motors just cannot work reliably every run every day. MARC is the victim of its own success and lack of ability to respond to age and capacity demands. This all is cold comfort to the 900 plus riders who were stranded in sweltering heat on May 21, 2010 when the locomotive that pulled them homeward failed between stations for the ‘um-teenth’ time.

But all of that is not what I am writing about today. There are ancillary equipment and services that are just as essential to commuting as getting a seat on a crowded train and having a locomotive successfully pull it to all the stations in a reasonable on-time manner.

Union Station has 4 tracks on the lower level which do not board from high-level platforms. On the upper level where most MARC commuters are familiar, there are three such tracks without high-level platforms for boarding the trains. To most riders climbing the steps is a perfunctory exercise that is accomplished without must thought. But then there are those passengers who are marginal at best with their abilities to walk and climb steps. Such people actually have a more difficult time going down the steps than up because of the last big step and the affects of momentum as their body mass continues to move pursuant to Newton’s Law’s of gravitational forces. Ten there are the riders such as myself who use wheelchairs and are completely dependent on the train crews and the lift equipment to board and alight a train when the high-level platforms are not scheduled for the train.
The need for such lift equipment is a necessary part of the realities of a station that has a higher need for moving luggage and supplies around than for ease of passenger boarding. Elevators are necessary where passengers must cross over tracks. This is a fact. The issue is the collateral deterioration of these ancillary systems. The wheelchair lifts and elevators are getting older too and are in a state of decline just like the locomotives and rail cars. All are necessary for the successful operation of a passenger railroad.

During the last two weeks period of June when the locomotives failed and an engineer blew passed the Odenton Station there were multiple incidents of passengers being diverted and delayed due to the ancillary equipment and scheduling failures.
One evening the conductor stopped back at my location as we prepared for arrival at BWI. He reported that the elevator was broken and I could not cross the tracks to the garage. The Plan B solution was to continue on to Penn Station and take the next train back to BWI. This entails an extra hour of travel in order to get 30 feet across the tracks to the other side. A week later that scenario was repeated on July 2 except that no one on the train knew that the elevator was positioned between levels while a technician was troubleshooting why it did not work. Faced with another unscheduled trip to Penn Station, I negotiated a solution with the Tech. He could make it run in manual mode by riding along and communicating with his partner in the well beneath the car.

All of these snafus took place during one of the worst weeks for MARC commuters that included three out of 5 days on low-level tracks, a major breakdown, a station blow-by, a meet the managers meeting where the managers were 35 minute late, two minor locomotive failures, two elevator outages.

This is one week in the life of a MARC commuter. Other events in the past year involve the extended commute that involves driving to the parking lot, and talking WMATA to ones final destination. Metro has its share of the exact same infrastructure deficiencies. I have lost count of the elevator and escalator failures that have impacted arriving at work and catching the evening MARC back home. The trains are the primary mode of transport, but getting into and out of the stations counts as part of the experience. Those experiences constitute the adventure I alluded to at the beginning of this story.

There was the fatal crash that claimed 9 lives a year ago. There is the dropped collector shoe that set off electrical explosions in the tunnel by Judiciary Square in October 2009. There are the innumerable service disruptions that took place in that year since that fatal crash. All events add to the notion that commuting has become a life and limb adventure. Not one of these situations is related to terrorist or even alleged terrorist activities. Commuting is quite enough excitement without the addition of the intrigue of bad actors trying to make it worse.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Private Fubars on the MARC

Sometimes I get my own private fubar from the MARC trains. Even when I miraculously escape the monster breakdowns by being on company travel or a day of annual leave, they have a special way of evening that score. After dodging the bullets of Monday and Tuesday at the end of June, where hundreds of my fellow commuters were stranded in the summer heat on a stalled evening train, I got my personal treatment.

The conductor stopped back at my end of Car 5 where I was sitting with the Gang and informed me that the elevator at BWI was broken and I would be unable to cross the tracks to get my car and go home. Unlike massive breakdowns of whole trains with 900 people who are left sweltering in their seats without HVAC or water, there is a Plan B for when I cannot get off at BWI like this.

First of all it is extremely rare that the evening train arrived at the southbound side of the station in the evening except now when that event is scheduled due to track and platform work on the other side of the station. For several weeks our evening trains have been using the Three Track every night and although a nuisance to about 400 who must climb the stairs to go over the tracks, they can do it. Because my wheelchair doesn’t do stairs going up very well, I had to invoke the Plan B that we have had up our sleeves for all of the 16 years that I have commuted on this train.

Plan B involves my staying on the train for three more stops until we get to Penn Station Baltimore then either getting the next MARC train back, the next Amtrak train back or as a third option, a taxi ride back. Any of those three possibilities consume a minimum of one extra hour getting home. It is an irritation but not one where life and limb are risked in the name of holding down a job.

The bigger irritation is that the BWI station has no provisions for an alternate means of crossing the tracks. This constituted the Vulnerable Geometry of which I write. They do have provisions for ambulatory passengers to board the center track from both platforms on wooden decks laid between the rails, however one cannot cross all three track at one location. One must walk down a few steps at the end of the platform to reach the single boarding location. Such boarding operations are accomplished with station crew assistance and at time when no trains are approaching the side track that is out of service at the times the center track is needed. Again it is only me (and any other wheelchair users who happen to be planning to ride that day) who get the screws put to him.

Add to that irritation that in all the years that MARC commuter trains have operated, the Halethorpe Station has not had platforms nor any way to cross the track other than a long climb up about 40 feet of stairs and down again. And I live 5 miles closer to Halethorpe than to BWI. With due respect to the planners, they are actually now building platforms and a cross over at Halethorpe that should be completed within my lifetime.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

So Where IS Plan B?

I have commuted between BWI Rail station and Union Station for 16 year. I've seen the best service and the worst service events in that time. Mechanical failures are inevitable. They are related to equipment age and funding issues. The bigger failures are always the ones that are compounded when company management fails to appreciate the gravity of the situations they allow to take place by their short-sighted responses and lack of timely information. There is no excuse for a poor or non-existent plan.

Several years ago, I was fortunate to not be commuting on the MARC Penn Line on the occasion of a mid-summer breakdown that lasted several hours. The train was stalled on the tracks between stations and a rescue locomotive was dispatched but the entire ordeal lasted the several hours in the afternoon heat that caused several passengers to experience medical emergencies. It was only my work travel schedule that had me elsewhere on that fateful day.

Stalled without power, the HVAC systems were not functioning and the interior temperatures of the bi-level cars climbed over 100 degrees. A lack of useful information and emergency planning by the MTA management and staff left passengers to fend for themselves. People in each can took it upon themselves to remove the emergency exit window panel in order to create some level of ventilation. Even with the windows out the stifling heat prompted some passengers to climb out on to the track bed to get away. Many walked over the berm and found their own way home at the end of a very bad ride.

After that incident, the MTA furnished promises that they would handle any future such events with more competent response. One of the plan elements was a supply of emergency bottled water. Fast forward to May 28, 2010. Again I was fortunate to be on company travel and not on the stalled train. The evening express train, 435, leaving Union Station experienced mechanical troubles just south of the New Carrollton station and was pushed back to DC for a different locomotive. That incident did get handles in an expedient manner and the passenger, though delayed and irritated, were not left stranded in dangerous heat conditions.

June 21, 2010, the 5:38 departure from Union Station with a full consignment of 900 passengers left the station only to become stranded by a stalled locomotive between stations. This time the braking systems became locked and the rescue locomotive could not move the train. These 900 passengers were stranded inside the aluminum cars once again. If one thinks that emergency water was available in June, that person would have been wrong. There were many opportunities for the management to load the water supplies aboard the train, but did not do it. There are several allocated cars on MARC Trains that are called Café Cars. In those cars there is a compartment large enough for many dozens water bottles. An interesting observation I made on June 23, is that there was a new nylon tie sealing the door of the Café compartment with the date 6-23-10 inscribed on it. I suspect that just maybe there is a supply of bottled water in there for the next time the train breaks down in the afternoon DC heat.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Swirl Theory

Ever wonder why it is that you never heard of something and then suddenly you hear and see several references to that very thing in the next few days? Do you ever not see an old friend for years and when someone mentions him/her you cross paths in the oddest location? Have you watched a movie and be impressed by an actor/actress who you never heard of and the next movie or two later, there he/she is again? Well there is Swirl Theory to explain what is going on. Also see the Principle of Imminent Collapse

Sometimes the people, events and places do not seem to be completely the same for everyone. This differing recounting of "facts" has been described under the name Mandela Effect. The swirling of wave energies remain fluid even though the observer (us) locking in one particular moment in time and place.  Thousands of people point out their varying POV and share them at places like Mandela Effect Investigators.

The cause and effect relationship applies to events that are in direct proximity to each other. When one billiard ball strikes another the striking ball changes direction and speed. It imparts direction and speed to the target ball and it rolls away from its original position or changes its speed and direction if it too was already in motion. Sir Isaac Newton described this relationship with the equation Force=Mass times Acceleration (F=Ma) . This relationship between the two billiard balls is wholly predictable and replicable. What is less apparent is that two objects can pass near to each other and exhibit a cause and effect relationship.

This lesser obvious relationship is also wholly measurable and understood by physicists as a Gravitational, Electrical, or Magnetic interaction defined by the equation: F=c(M1 x M2/d2) . You don’t need to understand the mathematics but simply, there is a force between any two objects that acts at a distance and is smaller the further away the two object are.

Even lesser known and understood is how events that take place in similar places at similar times can shape each other and manifest divergent outcomes. How GEM (gravitational, electric, magnetic) forces act across a distance is conceptualized by considering a field of force that act with a uniform effect until something comes along and disturbs the uniformity. Picture a tightly stretched trampoline. It is essentially a flat uniform surface. If you put a small glass marble on it the marble will sit there and wait until something comes along to disturb the uniformity of the trampoline surface. Now carefully place a bowling ball anywhere on the stretched surface. Two things will happen. The bowling ball will migrate to the middle of the trampoline because it deflected the surface downward due to gravity. The second thing that will happen is the small marble will roll toward the bowling ball and stick to it. The marble is only following the bent surface of the trampoline created by the bowling ball.

Two magnets will attract each other across the distance between them. A positive and negative electrical charge will do the same.

All around us are these GEM fields that are constantly interacting with each other. There is an inter-relationship between these three types of force fields. Each force acts in its own characteristic manner on objects that are within its reach. Mathematically it can be shown that every two particle of matter exert a G force on every other particle in the Universe, no matter how small that force might be. Every electron and proton impacts every other one in the Universe. Again the same for every magnetism source.

Just as trillions of trillions of electrons create an electro-magnetic field that surrounds us, everything and everyone around each of us creates a field of possibilities any of which could be the next effect to a cause. All the mass in the Universe is moving around in a semi-random way that while it may appear chaotic and random, it is in fact governed by those two equations stated earlier and a couple more that are too complicated for this discussion. Although we can’t see it, our bodies are acting and reacting in the same manner as the marble on the trampoline or an electron floating in space. Our bodies are composed of mass that has gravity, contains iron that is magnetic and is electrically active and actually has an electrical field emanating from it, although it is quite weak. From a cosmic point of view, our bodies are indistinguishable from the air around us and the Earth beneath our feet. Indeed, we are composed of the air around us and the Earth beneath our feet. It is just that the matter of our bodies is more highly patterned than is the dirt and the gas of the air.

Our human bodies are highly patterned fields of energy that are far from uniform and which are deformed, deflected and warped by everything around us. The spinning of a magnet in an electrical field will induce electricity in wires that are around it. The moving magnet creates swirls and eddies in the previously uniform electrical field. Those swirls and eddies form currents that move by wave motion. The magnet doesn’t have to go anywhere to be felt because the magnetism flows toward or away from the magnet on a wave in the field.

To understand wave movement just drop a pebble in a pond. The circular ripples are a wave of energy that moves through the water without the water going anywhere. Two pebbles dropped in the pond will make two sets of circular waves that meet and interact with each other. If one wave is at a high point and the other at its low point, the result will be calm water at that location. If both are at their high or low points, the result will be a place in the water where the level is twice as high or twice as low. Many thousands of pebbles will make a highly chaotic-looking water surface, but each set of circular waves are independent of each other.

The events of our lives act in a similar fashion. Events travel on wave fronts that propagate away from the point where they originate. These event-waves interact with other event-waves to create that which we see around us. They are subject to the same forces that shape the movement of other types of waves. The strength of the force between events and event-waves can also be described by the GEM equation: F=c(M1 x M2/d2). This equation demonstrates that there is a force between events that is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. In simple terms, the force diminished greatly as the distance increases. The ‘distance ‘ parameter has two dimensions, one of space and the other of time. Therefore, two events may occur on the same spot but 4 decades apart in time but still have an impact on each other. Yes, an event can have an impact on the other even though the one is in the past. This action is part of the phenomenon referred to as the Mandela Effect.

Such retro-active effects are not readily seen and understood, but there is an explanation based in the wave nature of events. Instead of dropping two pebbles in a pond change that to a deep water stream. The surface is relatively smooth so you can see the ripples clearly. The stream water is moving left to right past you on the bank. The pebble that is dropped into the moving water downstream of your position creates ripples that travel upstream toward you. From your point of view the ripples are coming out of the past toward you. A pebble dropped in the water up stream of your position makes ripples that move faster than the flow of the stream and come at you out of the future. This example would be more obvious if it were tiny floating boats that cause the ripples. On one hand, you would see the ripples arriving before the boat floats by, on the other you would see the ripples of the boat that was dropped in down stream where you could not see it. These two boats create waves of energy that interact with each other, one from the past and one from the future.

Flow in a stream is rarely uniform and consistent. There are currents in the fluid that may not be obvious to an observer who is standing on the bank enjoying the beauty of the stream and how the sky and the horizon reflect on the placid surface. Big currents will warp the surface. Rocks on the stream bed divert the water as will variations along the banks. The water constitutes a field of energy that acts both on other parts of itself and on the stream banks and bottom. Waves travel in this turbulent field and are shaped and reshaped by the flow and the other waves in the field.

Two bits of floating detritus can enter a river miles apart, days, weeks or months apart on the calendar and end up in the same backwater location trapped behind a log or washed up on the bank just above the pool elevation. Each bit will have traveled a different path from a different starting point only to end its journey having met in that same still water location. One cannot assure that the tossing of two and only two objects will end in their meeting in the same still water, but with the tossing of thousands of objects there will be a propensity for them to eventually arrive there. The swirling turbulence is not random in nature but has an guiding impact on events.

The lives of human beings are likewise guided and channeled by the flow of events in which they exist. Event-waves travel within other event-waves and combine with them to create that which we see as our times and our histories. The swirls sweep us in similar directions that carry us to common locations. Those swirls also carry others to their locations and sometimes into ours.

Marketing designers strive to create event-waves that predictably place their ‘products’ in the still waters where many people will interact with them and spend their money to continue that interaction.

Artistic performers work to get themselves seen and heard so that later more people will see them and hear them and they will become famous and wealthy in their pursuits.

Entrepreneurs strive to discover or create the Next Big Thing. They try to figure out where that next still water is that is the endpoint for all the turbulent movement that makes predictions difficult. Some people seem to know how the currents move and where they will carry the bits that are moving in those currents.

Personal event-waves

Every person is a point source for the propagation of event-waves. We do not see these waves but perceive only the portion of them that intersect with ourselves or our own event-waves. This is why we can be so wrong in our interpretation of the nature of a person. It is also why we can believe that what someone has done was good and that exact same action is considered bad by someone else. The event-wave that hits us and resulted in a favorable outcome might actually kill someone else. Indeed, the favorable outcome might have required that death. Consider how many suspected serial-murder cases go forever unsolved because the killing stopped. The killer may have been himself killed in an unrelated event. Maybe an automobile collision. Undoubtedly, there are people alive today who would have been the serial-killer’s victim if he had not died in the collision.

On just the opposite side of that previous example there is the tragic outcome. “There is a killer on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad, if you give this man a ride, sweet Emily will die…” (as sung by Jim Morrison) describes that intersection of event-waves. We usually only think about the intersection of the killer and the victim and not about the cloud of potential events and outcomes that constitute the event-waves that ultimately intersect. The swirl of event-waves brings all the victims to the killer (or the killer to all the victims) and scatters everyone else away to relative safety, at least from that killer. One person might be pushed away from the killer by the energy of his event-wave front only to be destroyed in another tragic event.

The driver in an automobile speeding along the highway with a faulty tire may make it home today, but he/she is moving along with an event-wave that could manifest itself in tragic consequences at any moment. Today he arrives home safely. Tomorrow a truck driver who has not slept enough to be driving this particular highway at this particular time will swerve in front of the car with the faulty tire. The driver swerves and misses a collision, but the tire ruptures and the car spins out of control and collides with the minivan with the soccer team…

Mom and the kids set out as usual that morning as they always do on Saturdays in the summer. The car driver normally relaxes on Saturday mornings, but his employer asked him to work on this Saturday. Had the truck driver stopped to sleep and be rested, he would have still been 400 miles away from the tragedy that unfolded on that Saturday morning when the major event-waves intersected. To be fair here, if any of the three drivers had started out a minute sooner or later, driven a mile per hour faster or slower, this outcome of the event-waves would have been completely different.

The larger aspect of Swirl Theory is that in the larger field of energy that is acted upon by hundreds of millions of individual event-waves creates conditions where people and events are swept in the same direction. The combined wave peak that manifests when many waves constructively add together makes a huge wave front that carries many people to the same destination. Impending events like a war or Woodstock push and pull people to specific location by the thousands for either a horrific end or “three days of love and music.” Each man and woman, boy and girl who trekked the distance to Woodstock in the Summer if ’69 made a singular decision that was far from independent of everyone else. The combined event-wave grew larger as fewer days remained until the opening act. People were swept into the current and swirls that deposited them on the farm in the rain and in the mud. And like the oceanic tsunami, this combined event-wave took on a life of its own pulling everyone along even against better judgment (if there had been any) to be swept up and deposited at the concert or be waylaid on the way, never to actually get there. The event developed its own kind of Gravity.

Sometimes the combined event-wave is clearly visible as in the run-up to an election, or the Super Bowl game. Other times the combined event-wave goes unnoticed or ignored until it splashed on the shore as with the ’65 race riot in Watts, and the August 1992 Los Angeles riot. It was not the beating of Rodney King or the acquittal of the four officers that caused the 1992 riot, it was years of dissatisfaction, inequality, subjugation and lack of financial resources in the African-American groups and the perception that everyone else has more and is taking it from them. Individual people living is South Central LA could see their poverty, see the brutal suppression enacted upon themselves, see that the Korean-American culture dominated the small retail market located in the African-American neighborhoods. Wealthy customers would not object to Koreans running the 7-11, hiring their friends and family, and take the profits out of the neighborhood. But the poor customers see it and yet another way to keep them down – no jobs, and a drain of the money that IS in the neighborhood. It was a mini-scale version of globalization, right there in their faces. They rebelled. Burned and looted the neighborhoods. Targeted the Korean communities.

This event-wave combination that creates huge wave amplitudes was seen before. It has been seen since. It will be seen again. As long as the underlying causes are not remedied but only suppressed, there will be future eruptions of violence and destruction. Individual people will be swept in the same direction to the same destiny.

Even when the light of reason fails and fires burn in the cities, good people get caught up in the swirl and accomplish great feats. The lone man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square June 5, 1989 was unlikely to have planned such a stand. He did what he felt he must do.

Reginald Denny was a white truck driver who was dragged from his truck and beaten by a mob of African-Americans while a news station helicopter televised it from overhead. He was rescued by an unarmed, African American civilian named Bobby Green Jr. who rushed to the scene and drove Denny to the hospital. Green was swept up in the national events and has returned to relative obscurity since. He never would have said, “if I see an white man being assaulted by a mob during a race riot, I will jump in and save him.” He just did it.

Fidel Lopez, a Guatemalan immigrant, was pulled from his truck and beaten by a mob that included the same assailant, Damian Williams, who had earlier beaten Mr. Denny. Rev. Bennie Newton, an African-American minister, prevented others from beating Lopez by placing himself between Lopez and his attackers and shouting "Kill him and you have to kill me, too". Both he and Bobby Green Jr. risked their lives to save someone who was being swept along in the turbulent swirling events of those few days.

The national televising of the events did spark additional yet smaller riots in other cities, but it also alerted people to the turmoil and allowed them to take positive actions.

Damian Williams, a single person created an event-wave around himself whose ripples are still being felt all these years later. They will ripple for many years to come. Rodney King in his fear of being returned to prison on parole violations, sparked a riot that left 35 people dead. His resistance to arrest was fueled by that fear. The resultant police actions were deemed excessive by a civil rights jury after a criminal case jury decided it was not excessive.

In every case, the affects of the event-waves combine in ways that increase the height (amplitude) of the wave or in ways the cancel the amplitude. Consider the biblical admonition to turn the other cheek, or the phrase that discretion is the better part of valor. When insulted a man can strike back or can “consider the source” and walk away. If he walks away his and the other event-waves meet in such a way that one at the highpoint meet the other at the low point resulting in no fight, no injury, no collateral damage. But if he strikes back because he has already taken enough crap from the transgressor, or from any number of other people, the results can be huge. Blood feuds have been fought by families, clans, tribes, nations, and even religions where one transgression follows another in revanchist folly. These battles can last for generations. Each new generation is swept into the stream and the swirl carries them to the same place. Gang turf wars have event-waves too that draws in young members who are so unprepared to swim in the flow that the flow carries them far downstream and into that place where the detritus all collects.

On a more happy note, two solitary people can live their lives in the absence of each other not knowing of the existence of the other. The events of their lives and the world around them each add an increment of wave energy to the churning swirling events of their days and bring them together in a small eddy where they remain long enough together to meet and get to know each other. In there they form a new pattern of event-wave that contains the two of them. Then they can re-enter the stream and flow along as one.

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Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.