Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Little Weather

It wasn't supposed to rain yesterday. Of course, we always believe every gem that falls from the meteorologists' lips on the TV forecasts. But we were hoping it was true.

Of course it wasn't. Nor was it true about today, but at least this time is managed to miss us. Still, one of the best investments I made before heading north was a new set of windshield wipers. The old ones were around three years old, but who notices those things in Arizona? The new set is getting good use.

Anyway, there wasn't anything all that dramatic about the rain we got over the last week. No hail, here. No major wind events, here. No massive quantities, here. Steve even got a bit of fishing in during a dry spell at his favorite fishing spot, a bit of sand bar at the base of a boat launch on the St. Croix River that is accessible once the water levels go down after snow melt. By late summer it is usually big enough to drive onto and park to set up his chair.

The part of the weather that was noticeable to us, from this vantage point, was the really heavy accumulations up about 100 miles north of us. The worst was in western Wisconsin. Anyone with a map can easily figure out that that area drains into the St. Croix.

Bye bye favorite fishing spot for a while.

Especially after that Wisconsin dam broke.

Yesterday, after a trip north to visit a family member, and noticing how high water levels were in small streams where we can usually barely see any water from our usual freeway route, we decided to swing by before getting home and see what the local level was. The Hwy. 48 bridge across the river east of Hinckley was closed from flooding. We figured the little sand bar 60 miles downstream was also going to be flooded.

We didn't figure the whole launch ramp would be under water, nor the surrounding woodland. Of course we should have figured it out when we could see crud rushing by on top of the water from two blocks away on our approach. Even if there had been a place to toss in a line, it would have been tangled in downstream trees before the hook landed on the bottom.

We weren't the only car playing tourist there either. We had to wait our turn to swing the parking lot circle and pause near the top of the ramp to take it all in. Nobody was nuts enough to actually launch from there.

Having some daylight left, we decided to hit the park/boat launch under the bridge from Minnesota to Osceola. It's a well-known spot not only for fishing and picnicking, but one of the favorite spots 
for canoe rental companies to pick up customers who just want to float down from Taylors Falls for a leisurely day on a pristine river. The rental companies promise to pick up your canoe and at least one person who can drive back  to pick up the rest of your group. Really ambitious folk can paddle their way down to William O'Brien State Park for their pull-out on the same terms.

Once we got there, the park was blocked off and both launch ramps had about a foot of ramp left. Off in the park tables were standing in water, and roads and parking spots invisible. Obviously no canoeists were around. Probably no rental companies were stupid enough to risk equipment and lawsuits for a few days. We were surprised, however, to see three determined fishermen on what was now the top of the bank casting into the river. Steve asked what they were catching. "Not a damn thing."

I guess for some it doesn't matter.

Later we found a photo somebody had posted online showing the boat launch in Taylors Falls. It had a really nice railing around it, the top bar of which served as the only indicator that it was still there. The paddle-wheeler which normally ties up to it between summer trips was nowhere to be seen. I can only trust they had plenty of time after hearing about the dam to figure out where to park it for the duration. It's a lovely ride.

On the plus side of all this, the corn is growing gangbusters, and the mosquitoes think they've found heaven.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sauna, FREE!

OK, now we really know we're in Minnesota. It wasn't just that by crossing the border it suddenly smelled of green (and don't ask me why that border thing works, but it does). It isn't just that the days are longer above 45 degrees north than they manage in Arizona in the summer, though that's true too. It's not just that Steve has already drowned a few worms in pursuit of a number of tugs on the end of his fishing pole, although technically worms don't drown, they just get nibbled to bits. It's not just arriving to violets, lilacs, tulips, dandelions, ripening cherries and overgrown grass, most of which I take credit for from years of landscaping this yard, after leaving behind the glare of the sun off rock lawns.

It's not even seeing family again, all of whom have remained behind in this state while we ventured south to avoid winters. But we are in the process right now of seeing more family, in honor of Father's Day. Showers and  wardrobe hunting for the day are done, with me choosing something cool and flowery and Steve locating a t-shirt stating "If fishing were meth, I wouldn't have any teeth", which is funnier the better you know Steve.

The car has been loaded, gifts for the little ones, tackle boxes and jewelry for the big ones, charcoal and beverages tucked in odd corners, jellies from Paul finally on their way to be delivered. In its own way, all of that is ordinary.

But you see, Minnesota's been blessing us with seasonal thunderstorms, the kind that color the TV maps in brilliant moving patches from the radar, and require scrolls running across the bottoms of the screens. These are the kind where even in this porous soil and high levels of vegetation surrounding 14,000 lakes great and small, flood warnings are issues when they suddenly dump up to 8" of wet stuff, either running through new trenches or smashing windshields, packing repeated nights with my favorite lullabies, aka thunder. So when you open the door to start loading the car for the trip, you're smacked with heat and humidity levels that start you looking for a route to swim up out of it to breathe again.

We measure humidity in dew points up here rather than some kind of percentage. Yesterday those hit 80 in the metro, and that was before another round of overnight storms covering the northern 2/3 of the state, with a southern afternoon blast predicted. To give us a comparison, the meteorologists inform us a dew point of 80 is higher than either Miami or the Amazon basin. It curls straight hair and straightens curly hair, unless you're me and everything frizzes it anyway.

It's all a great reminder that, while we can avoid Minnesnowta, we always manage to return for Minnesauna. In fact, we've been very successful in timing it each year for about a week after the  return of Minnesquito.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

They Call This Vacation?

Perhaps I've been retired too long. I've forgotten how much work is involved in anything resembling a vacation. Admittedly, there are complications, making this vacation more like work among the fun parts, many of which can be written off as results of aging. And some of them are just the stereotypical extra duties of being a woman. You know, who still does the cleaning? Still, I never imagined it would take me a month to get back into working on my own enjoyment of this summer.

I should have guessed by the time we both got in to the car to head north. I had thought I had planned well, organizing the errands, loading the car starting over a week ahead of departure date. All was ready... except the very last thing. I needed to open up the circuit breaker box to flip all the individual switches to "Off" except the master and solar switches. I knew perfectly well how to do it. But the hands decided they just weren't strong enough to push that little latch on the bottom over to the side, enabling the cover to drop. It wasn't solely that part. But dropping the cover, which was the goal all along to access the inside,  left even less latch to push against and it kept slipping back to the locked position.

I finally had to call Steve. His hands are stronger, but it was back to square one to explain the process and order of the steps. I had almost given up when he finally accomplished the task, so we both returned to the car, sweating despite the early hour. A mile down the road I wondered if we were going to get anywhere at all because I was getting waves of that light-headed feeling that I take as a warning that I shouldn't be walking, much less be behind the wheel. Steve has been forbidden from driving unless and until his dizziness can be diagnosed and treated. It was me or nobody. I found an empty parking lot to pull into, parked under what passes for a shade tree in Arizona, and waited about 20 minutes for normalcy to return. Fortunately, it did. And stayed.

After a night in St. George, Utah, we spent half a day touring both Zion and Bryce before heading up to Salt Lake City for a weekend with Steve's "little" brother's family. Dinnertable conversations left indelible memories of new family stories with which to embarrass the next generation of young relatives for the rest of their lives. They are detailed, so if you really want to hear them, ask sometime. We did find out not to tell a funny story just as somebody takes a large drink, and also that Steve's brother's hair is now thin enough that we can see him blush over his entire head!

As the family headed off to work and school on Monday, we headed east for a 3-day trek to Minnesota. Normally it would have been planned for two days, but we weren't sure how well Steve would tolerate long car rides. The downside of only putting in about 450 freeway miles a day was giving us plenty of time to find out how  uncomfortable motels can be if you plan on anything but flopping into bed until morning. No comfy chairs, no easily found TV programs, too little temperature control, the hell of sinking into a foam mattress and having to try to climb up out of it to move just a few inches....

It was great to get to the house, except for one thing. 10 months is a very long time for a bachelor to accumulate untended messes. Since cleaning was our "payment" for rental of our room, in lieu of cash, I couldn't complain too hard. But the four hours before bed included sweeping floors, washing dishes and countertops, cleaning and sanitizing the bathroom, and a complete change of bedding. 

Two of those justify explanation. First, the house design leaves an entryway that invites every leaf, seed, and dirt bit to fill it in. Trust me: in about three days it looks the same as before sweeping it out. Of course everybody's shoes track in the mess, and what starts as a leaf disintegrates into scattered bits before you cross the room to the kitchen. Yes, there are shoe mats inside the door: what's your point?

Second, there was a very unexpected mess in our bedroom. It's still only partly taken care of, meaning the bed is usable. But somebody left cans of Coke in a wastebasket just inside the door nearest the unheated part of the house, and the heat for the room was mistakenly set at 40 instead of 45. It wasn't good enough. Those cans exploded over the carpet, up the floor and across the ceiling, and down to the middle of the bed to cover pillows and spread.

It's a good thing our bodies were still on mountain standard time instead of central daylight time, giving us (me!!) a comfortable extra two hours before crawling into bed. Oh yeah, the ceiling, wall, and carpet still need attention, but....

I still push myself to do a few hours of cleaning, or tree branch trimming, or whatever, whenever I can kick myself into action. However, it seems to take me about an hour to reach exhaustion, and three days to recover enough to go for the next thing. And meanwhile there are still the usual tasks of grocery shopping, dishes, re-sweeping everything, driving Steve to whichever fishing hole allows him space to set up his chair and gear because yes, he still can't drive, and take a good friend to the doctor for regular lab work because she also can't drive and just got out of the hospital after temporary kidney shut-down. She swims in a complicated soup of chemicals with some unforeseen interactions, and while she avoided dialysis, all of them were removed and are slowly being added back or being replaced by something else in her system.

Never knowing how Steve will be feeling day to day, hour to hour, we're trying to fit in family visits and diners with friends, managing to keep about 2/3 of them without cancelling.  Those dizzy spells also mean you-know-who gets to handle the to-do lists. I make him do his own cancellation notifications. At the moment we're planning Father's Day with one of his sons along with 3 grandchildren, one accompanied by a boyfriend. He's rented a pontoon for his dream 75th birthday celebration, 4 hours with access to three local lakes, fishing for those interested out of the limit of 10 bodies allowed on board. Me? Camera, not pole, and conversation with anybody not eyeballing their line in the water. No cake, no presents, and everybody BYO-Everything. Well, I think Steve's bringing a bucket of minnows. Original planning involved a launch trip for walleye on Mille Lacs, but that also involved lots of travel time. Since his dizzy spells arrive unannounced, it's also a much riskier plan. Since they tend to leave within half an hour or so, he can often wait one out and go back to enjoying the day.

I have managed to see 2 of my 3 children, and spoken with my granddaughter. I managed to hit my favorite bead store, though this year, I came with different wants and didn't find what I wanted. (Hey, they're not on e-Bay either, so don't fault the store. And I did mention them to the owners and got them drooling over the idea, so maybe they'll secure them by next summer.) I have decided to postpone until next year a trip to tour the Apostle Islands, after finding out how early motels book up in the area, compared to how late in the season it already is. But my favorite local grocery store with the crispiest apple fritters is still making them. You just have to arrive as soon after 7AM as possible.

Yesterday I finally dug out my boxes with wire, tools, and other jewelry supplies, and started renewing my callouses from winding hard wire around various steel rods to start making jump rings again, enabling me to not only do chaining this summer but teach it to a couple of people as promised last spring. Of course, I'm accustomed to doing it in front of a TV program that doesn't need much watching, but summer TV, well, sucks.

Sure, that's it, my perfect excuse for putting chaining off: bad TV. I'll go with that.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Why Century Link Sux

We used this company for our Wi-Fi home service in AZ for several years. When it worked, it worked. I realize this sounds either redundant, obvious, or both. But it didn't always work. Eventually, we got tired of the hassles, and contacted their closest competitor in the area, Cox.

We got instant replacement (OK, within 24 hours to be precise) and had no problems with the service coupled with a reasonable price.

Thank you, Cox.

Within minutes of the new service being set up, we unplugged the old box and Steve called Century Link to cancel their service. Immediately. Our records show that call happening on May 2. So do theirs. Now the "fun" begins.

We were offered a UPS email return label to print out for return shipping of their box. While returning their equipment was/is totally reasonable, an email label to a machine which connects to no printer was refused by us as an option. The "very helpful" young man on the other end of the phone stated they would mail us out a label that same day!

I bet you can already figure out where I'm going with this, right?

The first several days we religiously checked the mail for their label. By the time a week had passed with no label, we let the missing label get lost in the pile of details needing tending to in the process of getting ready to travel. Suddenly we realized just how overdue it was and contacted the company again. Again,  an offer of an e-label. Same response on our part. This time we were connected to a more practical young lady who gave us the shipping address for returns, informing us that we could pay for the return and that our cost would be removed from our remaining bill.

That was done. I kept the receipt. It contained their address, the date, price to ship, and a very helpful tracking number. Gotta love those! In the meantime, the company bills, previously on automatic deduction from Steve's bank account, were dis-enabled (is that a word?) by a phone call to his bank.

Armed with that paperwork, we left on vacation. Trusting as we are, the UPS receipt was among the things packed.

Included in our forwarded mail was, of all things, their label to ship the already-shipped equipment to them. Toss! (Giggle and head shake included.) Today his email announced the Century Link bill would be taken out of his bank.

Bill? What bill? He had settled up with the company  for the previous month, including through shut-off. I dug out the receipt from UPS, and a quick search of the tracking number showed it had been received May 22.

Phone time!

After bouncing from one employee to another equally clueless, Steve was finally switched to somebody who could look at our records and - we naively thought - could straighten things out. Their records showed two things. No record of the return showed, nor was any proof over the phone requested via, say, the UPS tracking number which was still in hand, ready to be quoted to them. Second, while termination of service was shown requested on May 2nd, nobody put it through until the 25th! They claimed we owed them for their incompetence.

At this point I requested the phone from Steve. He doesn't like to swear over the phone. I won't exactly say I like to, exactly, but I'm completely willing to call a spade a fricking shovel when the need arises. Among suggesting their incompetent staff members should be invited to perform physiologically impossible acts upon themselves (exact quote, I wasn't actually swearing yet), I clearly informed them we felt absolutely no responsibility for their failure to shut off service on the day requested, or failure to note the return of equipment which also included inside it a handwritten packing list with both our and their addresses on it, in case some idiot ripped open the box without seeing what it was all about. It was also mentioned that the bank had already been informed to quit accepting withdrawals from their company, so after he'd threatened to send the bill through anyway, I wished him good luck with that.

In a totally deadpan voice he responded by questioning whether there was anything else. I found it a good time to request he pass the matter upstairs and suggested it should be cause for several incompetent people to find other employment.

Upon hanging up, and passing the receipt over to Steve for continued safekeeping, I took a moment to reflect that nowhere in the conversation had I actually sworn at this brainless, unhelpful, robot.

Hmmm, too bad.

ADDENDUM: Why Wells Fargo Rocks!

Out and about this afternoon, Steve stopped in at Wells Fargo, his bank for many years, to make sure what he'd thought he'd done to deal with Century had, in fact, been done.

Well, there were issues. But the woman he dealt with invited him back into her office, and listened. Once Steve explained the above situation, she asked him to wait a few minutes while she contacted their fraud department, The result was two-fold. First, all the official paperwork was completed properly so that Century Link no longer had any access to his account. Turns out what Steve thought he'd done wasn't exactly complete.

A result of that was that Century Link had indeed not only subtracted from his account a fee for the month he wasn't using it, but added in a fee for what they claimed was the non-return of their box. Wells Fargo took it back, all of it, and replaced it in Steve's account!

Steve walked out with a big grin on his face and renewed dedication to remaining a Wells Fargo customer! Now that's how to serve your customers!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Forced "Patriotism"?

Now that we're back up north enjoying ... well, summer & whatever, I had planned to post on the trip experiences. (Good). Instead it's time for another rant.

In case you can't tell from the title, this regards the ruling by the NFL on taking a knee. I put "patriotism" in quotes because the taking a knee protest was never about that. It was about the deaths of young (mostly) black men by police under circumstances where, were the victim white, that extreme of a reaction would never be tolerated by the police or the public.

It wasn't about police as a whole, either, nor is this post an effort to criticize them. It's about the few who keep getting away without repercussions for killing over minor actions when skin color alone seems to be the ruling factor determining their response level.

If I were capable, I'd take a knee too. I know however, even with my new improved knees, that would be a monumental effort requiring assistance, particularly the getting up part. Just being on my knees is a uniquely unpleasant experience anyway.

The knee-jerk reaction to this form of protest is disturbing. Shades of Fascism, anybody? When that anthem plays at the start of an athletic event, it never means vendors stop selling, hot dogs aren't being eaten by spectators so they couldn't sing along anyway, toilets stop flushing, side conversations stop happening. Shots of the crowds show very few with their hands over their hearts facing the flag, and many fewer even attempting to sing along or at least pretend they have a clue what the words are. That was noted even at the US gold medal ceremonies at the recent Olympics in the winners on the podium. And how many at home watching even consider standing for the Anthem?

For the NFL, the protest ruling is about one thing and one only: $$$$$. Their revenues are going down and they find the player protests a convenient place to place the blame. The never consider that all TV viewership is decreasing, that fewer kids are growing up playing football because their parents don't want to risk their getting TBIs, that electronic media, games and toys are taking up more of everybody's time and attention. They conveniently forget that players weren't even on the field during the anthem until about 2009 and their so-called patriotism wasn't called into question back then: after all, there was a GAME to prepare for.

If the Anthem is so sacred, why is it such an ugly, impossible-to-sing song anyway? All it does is glorify war and test the voice range of its singers. If it were so sacred, why does the Supreme Court continue to support our right to protest, up to and including the burning of a flag?  Surely the taking of a knee during a song in an effort to call attention to something that needs to be changed in order to make this the great nation that it claims to be is a much less offensive act.

Why do so-called patriotic people defame the flag by turning it into clothing, plaster it on their cars to get filthy and tattered, hang it outside in all weather even after nothing remains but a faded shredded rag? This is honoring it? Really? Ever read the guide on how to properly treat, and not treat, the flag? Do you even know that burning the flag is the only proper way to retire it?

On a similar note, let's put in two cents on the Pledge of Allegiance. It would make so much more sense, to me anyway, to omit the part about the piece of cloth and go straight to the pledging of allegiance to the Republic that is this country. I find less and less appeal to the idea of honoring a bit of cloth and more and more to upholding the Constitution and the principles upon which it is based. Of course, that includes the upgrades we have added about things like making women and non-white Americans full and equal citizens. We have demonstrated we are capable of growing up a bit as a nation and as a people.

Well, at least until recently. But that's another post or twenty.

I have other issues with the Pledge as well. It's that "under God" part. I'm so old that I grew up before it was added. I manage to pause at that part and come back in at the "indivisible" bit, hoping it's still true. Whose God? Why is it necessary? Your faith, any of you, is not what rules whether I honor my country. I honor the part where you can each chose your own, but what in that mandates that this whole country is "under God"? It's about a human as can be, and sometimes as inhuman as well. That's kinda why we need a constitution, eh?

I have been conflicted enough about these shows of public patriotism, why they are necessary, and what they mean or whether they have any actual meaning at all, that I took another, silent and unannounced, stand concerning the Pledge a number of years ago. For 8 years I was the Mayor of the town I'm summering in. One of my duties was to set the agenda. There was a flag on a pole in the corner. Fine. But the agenda never included the Pledge as part of the meeting. Yes, we were a unit of government, under, ultimately, the Federal Government. Each of us, at the start of each term, swore an oath that included upholding the Constitution. I took that seriously. I didn't need a monthly or bi-monthly pledge to a piece of cloth. I trusted my fellows on the council to take their oaths seriously as well. Even after being asked by a fellow council member to put it on the agenda, I managed to never get around to it.

You will never convince me that any ritual outward professing of patriotism means a single thing about how the person saying or singing or otherwise declaring their patriotism actually feels, thinks, or acts. I do see precious little meaning for too many people in what they have just said or sung, or concern about whether they have even bothered to participate, to equate any of it with actual patriotism.

I find it outrageous that the NFL puts on the face of equating taking a knee during the Anthem with lack of patriotism and making it a fireable offense. That is one of the most patriotic acts a player can perform, and in no way affects their job performance on the field. It'll be interesting to see how the player's union responds, but even if the monopoly ownership "wins", in no way will it be a moral victory.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Another Rant: Just More Stupidity And Entitlement

Anybody with two seconds to spare these days is aware of the latest volcanic activity in Hawaii. I'd feel sorry for all those folks whose homes and possessions are in danger of destruction ... if they'd not actually realized there were in a development in the volcano's potential path of destruction and they were not supposed to build there in the first place. That's just the first level of stupidity.

As we all are aware, there are very few stupid things that our President* can't make more stupid. He's proclaimed it a disaster zone. We can start with, "Well, duh!" because our compassion bones are tweaked for all those folks and what the consequences are to them for thinking they can outwit a force of nature.  (Oh, if only I believed Trump had a compassion bone!) But the point of a disaster declaration is making available low cost loans for rebuilding homes and infrastructure. The hubris of such an ambition in this location leaves me stunned. What do they think they can do? Dig up the cooled lava because they have some magic way of knowing the volcano is through with its cycle of activity, when every geologist knows it's a permanent part of the island creation cycle, so somehow there's a point to repairing the roads and digging new sewers? Or because they magically know the flow won't change course again and spread into new territory? You know, so all of that magic makes a low cost loan actually useful for something?

It makes just as much sense as leaving offerings next to the lava flows for Pele. Heck, even the people who go through those motions understand that Pele will do whatever Pele will do. Or as one of them said on TV: "Welcome to Paradise!"

The only things I've heard that make any sense at all have been ordering evacuations with the warning there will be no rescues, closing the National Park, and clearing out tanker-loads of flamable liquids from the nearby power plant. In other words, admit the mistakes and move somewhere else.

If you follow this blog, you have read similar sentiments about people building their expensive dream homes right along the seacoast, then whine when the next storm and the following storm remove the beach sand and destroy part or all of their homes. But somehow they are "entitled" to have the government, aka your taxes, enable their repetitions of the same stupidity. And of course, insurance companies continue to insure them and raise premiums for the rest of us to make up their inevitable losses.

Hey guys, everything changes but change. We don't get to stop it. And I am rapidly losing my idealistic faith in my fellow humans to learn and adapt, or stop holding their hands out after the predictable occurs. Sea levels are rising. Glaciers are melting. Species are disappearing. Earthquakes keep happening, rivers keep flooding, droughts keep happening, forest fires keep burning, mudslides keep following, storms are being fed more energy. It's not a question of whether,  just where, when, and how extreme.

Anybody remember that archaic term, "thousand-year event"? Some newscasters now have actually stopped using it every 5 or 6 years. Apparently some few of us are capable of adapting.

Friday, May 11, 2018

"Something Legal and Ordinary"

I have become increasingly ashamed of my "fellow" Americans. Every day or two another one of them makes the national news for calling the police on some brown-skinned person or people. It's not, "That person robbed a store," but, "There's a brown person in the store". It's not, "I saw someone commit a crime" but "I saw somebody brown." All they need to to do is simply be there, doing something legal and ordinary were they identified "white", but somebody feels justified in calling the police because, oooh, brown, scary! 

You can't play a bit too slowly on a golf course where you're a member, where any other group of golfers would be politely asked if the trailing group might please play through. Having a business meeting in a Starbucks is cause for arrest when you're brown, but common, even expected, if you're white. After all, hey, if the meeting drags on, you might order another round of  the overpriced slop.

Yeah, you, Starbucks: overpriced slop.

Don't even think of using the "wrong" B&B, or moving into the "wrong" neighborhood. Don't take a nap in the middle of a long session of studying on your own campus. And for heaven's sake, don't head home from the store armed with tea and Skittles because not only will somebody call the police, they will attack and kill you when they get too impatient that you're not arrested yet. Even worse, they'll not only get away with it because you're finally scared enough to defend yourself, they'll be hailed as a hero by their neighbors.

To all of you, all of you, I am disgusted by and ashamed of your behavior. I am ashamed of all the ignorant, stupid, frightened callers who think a skin color is by itself a danger, or worse, those of you who just find yourselves superior and use the police to punish not only the presence but the very existence of darker skinned people. And to you police forces around the country, I am both ashamed and disgusted by your frequent willingness to kill first and attempt to justify later.  Judges and juries, same to all of you who enable and reward such assumptions and brutality.

I think it's way past time for the cops to start arresting those folks who get them involved in such incidents for falsely reporting a crime. That false report is an actual crime, you know. Our police forces have more than enough real criminal activity to deal with, especially with more and more politicians cutting their staffing budgets in the name of lowering taxes. Not only should police be better staffed, they need to be better trained. DWB should never be an excuse to pull somebody over, and simply being black - or brown - should never be justification to pull your weapon before approaching. Anybody on the force who has that as their first, go-to response, with no actual cause beyond their own fear, has no business even being on the force.

Sure, if that make, model, and color of car is fleeing a scene, have at it. Carefully. But remember, even the whitest of us can't simultaneously obey "Hands on the wheel!", "Roll  down your window!",  "Show us your license!", "Don't move!" and "Step out of the car!" With six guns pointed at us, you understand where the terror comes from? And that's before adding skin color into the mix.

We've already heard of too many cases where officers unload their weapons into black people reaching for a cell phone, or into somebody running away from them, because, I guess, their shoes might kick up a pebble and you get a boo-boo? They might let loose a fart in your face from 30 paces? Or maybe the cop was just to fat and out of shape to chase them down so they drew their gun instead? And were exonerated!

Beyond just the attitude, what everybody - everybody! - should be scared silly about is a little piece of news from the recent NRA convention. Somebody has invented a pistol that, until you open it, looks exactly like a smart phone! Exactly! It's bad enough guns get made in pretty colors so young kids think they're toys to play with.  After all, who could possibly imagine one kid picking up a pretty toy gun and going Bang! Bang! at their sibling or playmate? What could possibly go wrong there?

But in a world where practically everybody has their own smart phone either in their hand or pocket, why on earth would a company disguise a gun so it's indistinguishable from one? Hey teacher, teacher, I bet I know, my hand's up, call on me? Could it possibly be so all those scary dark-skinned folks look even scarier when they're just doing something legal and ordinary and there's even more justification for violence against them?

And to think, some folks believe there's no evil in the world!