My Inner Moron Again

Does this happen at your house?

Emerald Ash Borer is ravaging the upper Midwest. The City came along a few months ago, waived the white flag and cut down all the ash trees lining the local street. I am determined to save my ash tree. She’s in a good spot, she has nice shade and it’s expensive to cut those things down.

This morning I was assigned the duty of figuring out what to do about inoculating the tree.

Truth be told I was given that task last August. It must have come up on her tickler file, or perhaps an article in the paper sparked her memory. Whatever, I got a no-nonsense reminder this morning.

So I researched.

Turns out you can treat a tree yourself if the diameter of the trunk is less than 20 inches. All you have to do is completely soak the ground around the tree with some insecticide that I’m sure is highly toxic and an environmental carcinogen.

Mrs S- “Don’t think about asking the kids do this soaking thing when they’re home, it has to be you.”

“Why me?”

“Because you’ve had all the kids you’re going to have.” “So have you.” “You’re also worth more dead than I am so in the unlikely event that something goes wrong…”

She’d run rings around me logically.

She looked out the window “I’m not sure that tree isn’t too big?”

“Too big, bet it’s not even close”. I had a picture of the thing in my minds eye.

Went to look out the window with her.., apparently I don’t update my mental images often enough. The realization of which I condensed down to one word, “Shit!”.

“Get that measuring strip thing” I said. I was thinking about the tape measure in her sewing kit.  She was not. “Measuring strip thing? You mean a tape measure?” “Oh yeah that’ll work too”. She handed me one and out the door we went.

As we walked I pulled out about 4 inches of tape and held it up to her “Bet it’s more than 10 inches.” , Yuk yuk… “Sank, that wasn’t all that funny in 1985 and it’s still not all that funny”. “That’s what she said”. Haha. Sometimes living with me is like having a Journey song stuck in your head; it’s dated, you’ve heard it a million times, and even when it first came out, it wasn’t that good.

We got to the tree. It was pretty windy this morning and the tree was a bit bigger in person. Mrs S said “Note says 20 inches in diameter. I think we’re probably close”.

“Lemmie measure it then” I cheerfully replied and considered the problem man-style. I had a little sense of urgency as well because when we came out to measure the tree I didn’t put my shoes on like she did, and found myself standing in wet grass in my socks. Note to self ….

The tree was bigger than I could get my arms around, so I did this maneuver where I pulled out a good length of tape and whipped the tree with it. The idea was if I could whip it with one hand, while reaching around with the other I could grab the tape as it wrapped itself around the tree. Harder than it sounds given my uncoordinated nature and the high winds. And to Mrs S’s amusement, each time I did the whip maneuver I went a little farther around the tree. After making nearly a full circle I finally caved and asked her in a loving way “Any chance you could help here and maybe hold the tape.”

Silence. Head shaking. I know that look.

“WHAT?”

“As much fun as it is to watch you do this I have to ask, you do know the difference between circumference and diameter right?”

Guess who was silent now.

Gawd I hate it my inner moron comes out.

“Were you planning some fancy math to figure it or should we just measure the diameter?”                                                                  ,

“Dear, I just wanted to make sure I accounted for the arc of the trunk, we aren’t measuring the flat side of a square.. there’s geometry involved here you know”.

She came forward grabbed the tape measure, put it up against the tree “We’re also not splitting the atom, we can be a little off”.

Tree circumference, almost exactly 20 inches. “Honey” I said “With a circumference of 20 inches or rather 2x the radius if 10 inches I feel that we can safely treat the tree ourselves.”

She walked back in the house “I’m calling a guy”.

Which is fine with me.

 

 

 

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ADD and the Six Word Essay

What is a six word essay?

Apparently it is a real thing.

I have actual written proof.

Some book I bought on Amazon.

It’s loaded with six word essays.

 

It makes me ask the question, Can six words be an essay?

High school English teacher would disagree.

According to Ms Wattel, five paragraphs. That’s the minimum for expository essays.

Another example of ADD going mainstream.     

 

Sounds like a verbal machine gun, or talking to an 8 year old. Which in hindsight, wasn’t all that fun. Unless of course you like arguing about why brushing teeth is not optional.

Apparently when I was sleeping the millennial hordes found a way to bring their ADD inflected thinking to the rest of us. Say it in six words.

Interesting observation, the older I get the less concise I tend to be. Seems to be a pattern in the newly aged community. Those of us with the least amount of time left on earth, tend take the longest amount of time to say anything.

Or in six words:

Old people talk way too much.

NO ONE has ever accused me of being concise. To the contrary. The only time I’m ever concise in my writing is when I forget words. Mrs S thinks I don’t like adjectives. She also thinks I don’t pay attention. It’s a fair point.

Censoring sentences gets to the point. Also drives people stark raving mad.

My first six word essay was:

Deal with reality, on realities terms.

Word.

My sons do not like writing.

They really do not like reading.

They do not like long sentences.

They don’t really like any sentences.

They certainly do not like essays.

Even short six word expository essays.

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The Timberwolves and Flash Seats

I’m sad. After years of NBA fandom and specifically season ticket memberships with the Minnesota Timberwolves, I’m just about done. I have experience with the NBA and with season tickets. I’ve had the distinction of being a season ticket holder for some of the very worst teams in NBA history. For you youngsters out there was a time when the Golden State Warriors were absolutely terrible, I know, I was there. (See Ralph Sampson years)

I’ve sat through 5 season of wretched Timberwolves basketball, and this season, the trend continues as we hurl towards a 25 win year.

But at the end of the day, I’m a fan. I’m a fan of basketball, I’m a fan of the NBA, and yes I’m a fan of the Timberwolves. Season tickets ain’t cheap. I pluck down about $1500 for my seats, that’s a lot for entertainment in my world. And that’s a cheap seat in the Timberwolves world. But I enjoy it because over the years or so I’ve had a great relationship with the club. Despite a horrible product on the floor, and in the David Kahn years, some of the very worst personnel decisions in the history of pro sports.

Exhibit A: Kevin Love contract fiasco that sent him packing

Exhibit B: The Jonny Flyn fiasco where we drafted Mr. Flyn (last seen in the Aussie League) ahead of Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, and Ty Lawson (a good but not great player who has mastered the salt in the wound play by consistently putting up all star quality games every time the comes to Minnesota.

Exhibit C: The Wes Johnson draft fiasco. Wesley was picked ahead of DeMarcus Cousins (I’m willing to concede that might have been a bad pick for us as DeMarcus seems to be unworkable) and Paul George

Exhibit D: the entire fiasco that was Darko Milicic..

Exhibit E: The litany of excuses as to why every one of those moves the right thing to do at the time.

 

OK, my therapist says I need to let some stuff go, and frankly I have been willing to because this team has always gone out of it’s way to take care of it’s fans. I’ve had fantastic interactions with the ticket reps I’ve worked with who every year have basically been able to establish a value for me to make me feel good about renewing my season tickets. Like what?

  • Value: One of the good things about a crappy team is tickets are inexpensive. And while I’m a big fan, I’m a fan at the $15 to $20 a seat range. Do the math for two tickets that’s about $1500 a year in basketball.
  • Special events: The Timberwolves are great about special events. Lots of things to attend and get closer to the players and team. Helps to build a relationship with the team when you feel like you know some of the fellows, even it was just a quick handshake.
  • Upgraded tickets: I buy cheap seat tickets, I’m a settler as the ad would indicate. Mrs. S hates the cheap seats and won’t got to games with me unless I upgrade. Which in the past was as simple as calling my ticket rep, telling him I’d like to move up and simply paying the difference between my seats and the upgraded seats. And if I wanted 5 additional seats, no problem, same deal. As a matter of fact, on more than one occasion the upgrades were provided free of charge. And since at most Timberwolves games the fans in the upper deck could easily relocate to the lower bowl and still have seats left over (Read chronically empty arena) not a big deal for team.
  • Paper copies of tickets. While I like electronic copies of tickets, it is handy to have ducats in hand to pass out or donate when I can’t go to games.

I emotionally invested enough in the between fandom and good will from the front office that I swallowed a pretty big price hike two years ago to fun Timberwolves Arena improvements. Which by the way, have yet to happen.

This year that’s all changed. The Timberwolves announced late in the summer that that they had singed on with Flash Seats, an electronic ticket provider. Flash Seats is the invention of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert who apparently was tired of seeing his Cavaliers tickets being sold on the secondary market with his getting a cut.

Some changes that have been implemented with the Timberwolves as a result of Flash Seats-

  • There are no more paper tickets. Admittance to the arena is now done with a credit card, drivers license or mobile phone app. This has actually come in handy when I’ve forgotten my wallet and was able to go to Will Call and get in with a simple password.
  • NO MORE PAPER TICKETS. So, you’re a friend of mine and want to use my tickets? I’ll send them to you electronically (super easy for me to do) and you can use them. After you setup a Flash Seats account of course, and give them your credit card. Leaving tickets at the office front desk for the old first come first serve basis? Not happening anymore. Giving the tickets to neighbors? Nope, not interested in the whole online account thing.
  • Transfer Fees: I have some friends and colleagues who actually want to pay for their tickets, which is nice. In this case I have two options, I can sell them through the site, or I can transfer the tickets to them for free and collect outside of the system.
    • Option 1- selling through the site comes with a whopping 23% “connection” fee charged to the buyer. In sports terms that’s the “vig” for doing business with Flash Seats syndacate. That’s the cut that Dan Gilbert wanted to make sure he got from the ticket brokers.
    • Option 2- Might put me in violation of my Flash Seats agreement that I had to agree too to even get my seats to begin with. The language says if they catch me selling outside their ecosystem they will void the transfer and charge me the “vig” on the tickets.
  • Sell the tickets online in the Flash Seats marketplace. So.. I have a bunch of tickets I can’t use, my friends don’t want them, what can I do? I can sell them in the Flash Seats Marketplace. With restrictions. Remember that service fee, aka the “vig”, is in play. The other restriction I learned is that I can only discount the tickets 25%. 25% off for a Timberwolves game doesn’t turn heads. At ALL- to date I’ve put 5 games for sale on the marketplace and only sold one.
  • Change to upgrade policy. In the past, as I’ve mentioned, the Timberwolves have allowed upgrades and I’ve paid the difference. The benefit for the team is a bit more revenue, seats are filled, and fans are happy. This year I’ve tried to upgrade a couple times. I’ve been told that they’re happy to upgrade my seats, but I have to sell my existing seats myself. (See previous point, on why my seats are unsaleable)
    I was told by my account rep that really “ we don’t do the upgrades and that the best way to upgrade is to use Flash Seats”.. I pushed it a bit, went to the director of the season ticket support team and asked if this upgrade policy had changed, after all the wolves are getting more of my money on a given night, seems like a bit of a win. “We’ve always had that policy Mr. Sankary, we don’t buy out your existing seats.
    Complete BS. I’ve probably done this upgrade thing 20 times in three years with no problem, and a very nice thank you for your business after the transaction. This morning I realized what had changed, by upgrading me and absorbing the $25 or so my tickets, the Wolves are missing out on over $5.75 in ticket transfer fees. Not to mention what I’d pay for my lower bowl tickets.

At the end of the day, Flash Seats has seriously changed the value equation for me with regard to the Timberwolves. Where I used to be able to counter crummy team play with a great fan experience, thanks to the ticket change I now have seriously negative experiences as fan, and with the horrible coaching on the floor I’m struggling to justify renewals. Mrs. S is, for the first time, seriously lobbying against it.

In two weeks the son and the here-to-fore unmet girlfriend are coming to visit from Israel for the first time in a year. For me the natural thing to do would be call the Timberwolves, upgrade and add seats and make this a nice family outing with my favorite local team. The result of my call to upgrade and the frustration associated with it, this article. And now our family event while he’s here will be Golden Gopher Hockey. Which reminds me, I have Wolves Knicks tickets that I can’t use, let me know if you want them. No charge.

 

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You don’t need a resolution, you need a plan

Happy New Year job seekers!

Who doesn’t like the smell of fresh New Year? The shortcomings and misses of the past year have come out in the wash and the year is ahead is crisp and bright. Maybe you enjoyed a fantastic 2015, and now you’re all about capitalizing on the promise of even greater successes in ’16. Either way, in some way we’re all back in the starting blocks for a fresh new race.

For folks in job search mode, the New Year can come with excitement and at the same time a bit of angst as your searches drag. Perhaps you’re getting close to your target date or maybe you’re past the target date when you expected to be employed again and you don’t have anything cooking. Maybe you’re someone who was able to find that first post layoff job only to come to the realization that for you, the green grass of the new gig really is just over the septic tank.

So you missed your goal, your target dates have passed. Doesn’t help that you probably watched or heard about your former colleagues finding new and exciting gigs, and here you are still on the bench. And now you’re starting have some doubts.

What am I doing wrong? My search isn’t working.

What is it about that employers are seeing that’s keeping me from getting hired?  I must be too [insert self-deprecating adjective here].  

It’s OK, I haven’t started “trying” yet.

I’m not going to “officially” start looking until [next week, Summer is over, fall is over,  after Christmas, after the 1st,  after Presidents Day, after my severance runs out, after after after….]

I’m failing at this job.

I thought this was going to be the dream job and it stinks.

And then, because it’s the New Year, you jump into the annual collective hopefest that is a New Years Resolution.

Sorry to come off as negative, but I’m going to level with ya’all, I’m not a fan of the New Year’s resolution. Little informal study of myself, friends and family, and personally I’d take the odds against any New Year’s Resolution ever happening for anything, Last year I resolved to lose 15 pounds, here we are in the new year and I only have 20 to go. (Thank you, I’m here all week).

Fact is without a plan, a resolution is nothing but a wish. There’s just no way around the fundamental truth that to get something you really want, something that you can’t just buy with cash, you have to have plan, not only that but, please sit down now, you have work your plan.

About that plan of yours…

I’ve had an epiphany in the last year regarding job search plans. I think I’ve been a little guilty, and a lot of what I read out here, have traditionally put a ton of emphasis on the majesty of the plan. . After all, a well-built plan has a better chance of succeeding then one that’s just thrown together, right? A year ago I would have said of course, now I’m not so sure. I’ve realized that the most articulate and detailed plan ever created has no chance of success if you don’t work it. While a hand written, three line plan jotted down on napkin will happen, every time, if it’s properly executed.  

Overcoming yourself.

Suffer from analysis paralysis? I see this quite a bit in the job search world. Folks who spend weeks and weeks developing and refining their action plans, updating their contacts lists, analyzing their strengths and working leads and threads… all good work, all necessary work. But for some reason some of these same folks can’t seem to get started on the actual “working” part of the plan. Making the phone calls, sending emails, writing introductions and doing the executing against that great plan they created.

Two thoughts on this from my perspective.

1)      Apply the 80/20 rule to your job search plan. Simple truth, your plan only needs to be good, not great. The time you spend going from good to great is better spent on activities that are going get results; networking, researching jobs, writing introductory letters, attending events. BTW- the plan format, you’re not writing a business document for a client here, you’re writing a plan for you!. Make it work for you.
Need a template? Try this Mind Map- it’s ugly, but it gets to the point quickly and can help you get some thoughts on paper, which really, is all you need.
http://www.xmind.net/embed/F3NJ

2)      You’re not writing the bible here. This document you create won’t be enshrined and unchanged through the end of time. Your plan should be a living document that changes as you go. And, like everything, the more you work at it, the better you’re going to be at it. Job hunting, networking, interviewing, it’s no different. As you get better at this skill set, you’re going to want to change your approach, update your contacts and reformat your messaging, you’re going to learn a ton and you’re going to want to make changes. If you don’t like something in your approach, change it. You have that power.

If you’re truly stuck here and want some ideas, please send me a note through LinkedIn. I’m happy to connect with you and send you some thoughts.

Your boss might be the problem….

There’s a cliché out there that goes something like this:

“When you’re searching for a job you’re working for the hardest boss in the world, yourself.”

It’s true. But please keep this in mind, you may not be a great boss for yourself. It’s one thing to set goals and due dates and to create lists of stuff to do, it’s completely another hold yourself accountable and manage your worst employee ever, which would be um.. you!.

Everyone whom I’ve ever worked with or talked too who has gone to the trouble of building a job search plan, will work said plan. At least for a little while. What seems to be really really hard is maintaining a sustained effort against your plan, especially after a few setbacks and the passage of time. I get it, job hunting is no fun. It’s a full time gig that deals out rejection more often than success.

Some folks pull this off well. Many do not. I see two patterns out there. There’s go getters who create detailed task lists and like to overschedule their day to a point that’s way beyond reasonable. And there’s folks who just can’t get started. Folks who struggle just get to the bare minimum. Sometimes they’re easily distracted, sometimes they’re overwhelmed with what’s in front of them, sometimes they just have trouble getting organized. And sometimes, it’s about change and the fear of putting themselves out there. It’s hard, I know, I’m an introvert. I don’t like networking.

For both patterns the result is the same, the search plan is not sustainable and they fizzle out, they get burned out, they lose sight of the goal and they stop working their plan.

My advice here; quit. Not the search, quit on your boss and fire yourself. Do it in a public place to avoid unnecessary drama, you might not like firing yourself…

Seriously the answer here is reach out for some coaching help. Perspective typically comes from the outside.  If you can recognize that you’re not the greatest person in the world to hold yourself accountable to getting stuff done, or that you’re not being realistic about your work, engage a coach to help you manage this process.

It might be as simple as reaching out to a mentor or trusted advisor. Or it could be making an investment in yourself by hiring a job coach to help you keep your plans on track.

The goal of this engagement should be

  • Someone to review your plan with you and give you an outside perspective on your approach. Reality check if you will.
  • Someone to check in with you on a set schedule, to give you someone to “report” too about your progress and work. Often just thinking about “what am I going to tell my coach this week” is enough to get you moving
  • Someone to reach out to you when you fizzle out and stop doing what you need to be doing. Like chatting with your coach for example. This can be critical as your search gets longer. Think if it as having someone behind you to push you up out of the low spots in your journey.

BTW what you don’t need is someone judgmental. I would also avoid close friends or close family, to easy to bring them into your mindset and then you’ll lose the benefit of perspective.

It’s a new year, page is turned, the sheet is blank, the metaphors are endless. At the end of the day, this search is yours. Yours to manage however you want. Just keep in mind that even the best companies in the world hire consultants, because sometimes a second opinion can make all of difference.

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Post Target Jobs 2.0- the Assessments Before the Next Move

I’ve had a little uptick in the last few weeks from former Targeteers reaching out to network. On the couple of message boards I track I’ve seen a little phenomenon going on- the Post Target Job 2.0. More than few folks have discovered that that first job after long years at Target isn’t exactly working out and they’ve decided to leave their new companies after a few months and seek opportunities elsewhere, some into new jobs and some.. back to the search. That’s always an indicator of unhappiness. There’s also few people I’ve talked too, who are pretty unhappy in their new roles but for reasons like healthcare or financial stability are staying put, but aren’t happy about it.

Sound familiar to anyone out there? I’m going to bare all here and let you know that it certainly sounds familiar to me. Been through this process myself.

There one constant about change that seems to be inevitable.

It’s really hard!

Even I, yes I, underestimated how hard it could be.  

Couple words of advice I would offer, based on a lot of conversations with a lot of different people.

You’ve been in your new job for a few months now. The euphoria of landing on your feet after the trauma of a layoff have worn off and now you realize that you didn’t land your dream job, and something about it is making you unhappy. Before succumbing to misery take a few minutes and do a little self-assessment of your situation, job wise and emotionally wise.

My wife and I went through this very same situation 20 years ago.  About 4 months after we moved to Minnesota and after living our entire lives in California, she was miserable. I remember it well, we were eating dinner at a fast-food place and we just started to make a list of what we liked and didn’t like. More as a way to amuse ourselves and bitch a bit than anything else. It was our first winter after all, and it was also the worst winter in 100 years. She was done here and was really upset about it.

What we needed was perspective.  The things that enticed us to move here in the first place, were still in play. And the things we didn’t like made for an interesting list that we were able to use to put our situation in perspective and make our next decisions from a much better place. BTW, we’re still in Minnesota.  

I’ve put myself through this process a million times since then and thought I’d share in the hope that someone out there who finds themselves in unhappy and prone to quick decisions might take find some of this useful.

Make a two column list

The exercise starts with a simple two column list- Pros and Cons. You’ve probably done this in your head a million times.  The key here is DON’T THINK ABOUT IT!!! Just write what pops into your head. More is better here. In both columns.

Categorize your Cons

Once you’ve got your lists do a little categorization exercise. Next to each issue decide if it’s a “REAL” issue or a “PERCIEVED” issue and note it. And be honest here. Hint- if you’re questioning an items designation, it’s perceived.

Real Issues:

For my wife and I there were a few really legitimate issues that we either underestimated the impact off or which we really didn’t realize would be issues when we moved. For example being 1000 miles away from family meant keeping connections were far more difficult, and while we knew that was going to be hard, we didn’t realize that missing day to day events we took for granted when we lived nearby were a big deal. (Not to mention on-call babysitting. Didn’t even think about that)

Perceived Issues:

Surprisingly the vast majority of issues listed in the “con” section were not really issues per se, but were in actually simply a reaction to change. And despite my stoic nature and self-described ability to roll with change, it’s hard and I just didn’t admit it. The good news about the issues that fell into this category, 99% of these resolve over time. Driving in snow, something we were terrified off living in California was mitigated after a few months and we can laugh about it now. Funny how I no longer get that adrenaline rush I used too when the car slides through an intersection. Where I used to panic, I now just try to aim for a snowbank and move on.

Quadrants

Next a little quadrant fun. I love me a good quadrant analysis. In this case jot down an X-Y axis. On one side is Real vs. Perceived on the other axis Big Deal vs Annoyance.  Simple. Now place the Cons on the quadrants. If you’re like me you’ll find a ton if insights in what you’re not liking about a situation.

  • Lots of items in the perceived side, in my opinion, indicate change issues. For things in the perceived/annoyance quadrant, stop whining. Fair? Read them to yourself again if you disagree.
  • The Big Deal/Perceived quadrant probably contains things you want to come up with a plan to mitigate. These are things that are causing you to be unhappy, but, they’re on you. That’s why their perceived. BTW, perfectly acceptable mitigation plan- realize your issue and ignore.
  • Items in the Real/Annoyance quadrant are pesky critters. I know from my own experience that these are crappy the little grievances that nag at me, and overtime have a tendency to become overblown. This is change management stuff to, but it’s stuff I might have adapt to.
    Personally I have to reset my attitude on these things all the time. An example in here are the reports that I have to fill out every week that are incredibly annoying and from my perspective, not value added but required. And so when I get feedback about how I filled one out it’s easy to over react and succumb to misery.
  • Finally the big nuggets. Every item in the Big Deal/Real quadrant deserves very careful consideration. Things that fall into this quadrant, and how you deal with them, will probably define your overall happiness and even outside the job. Each one of these items needs your attention and requires a plan. This is where your decision to stay or leave company based on your happiness should come from. Note that I didn’t say advancement or promotion. Remembering that the point of this exercise is try to better understand what’s making you unhappy.

    But what about those pros?

    Pro-Happiness

    I have yet to talk to anyone who is in a job that’s 100% bad. People don’t tend to last in those situation. But sometimes, especially when you’re in the misery zone, you can lose sight of the good things that might be going on in a situation. Especially if you’re looking for reasons to be miserable. That’s why I like to do the “happy” stuff after I’ve sorted through the negative.

    Keep in mind there were pretty good reasons you decide to make the decisions you did. In our case, moving to Minnesota was probably the best decisions we’ve ever made. But it took time. And it took going to through the process of sorting through some really negative feelings. Taking a new job after years and years of comfortable routine is really challenging. New rules, new culture, things you don’t agree with, issues that nag at you.

    My message for Post Job 2.0 folks out there, if you’re unhappy with your new company, I’m not suggesting that you force yourself to stay in bad spot. I would suggest however, take a few minutes to stop and reflect before you make a decision. Just like I advocated taking time for yourself before you embarked on your career search, give yourself the same courtesy before you make a change.

    Remember you’re not alone out there.

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Fear in America: The Immigrant Problem

This is a little (lot) longer than my typical blog post. Lets call this an essay- Prompted by some disturbing conversations of late.

There’s a lot of business literature on the topic of leadership and personal development. Much of it about how people behave under pressure. There’s a school of thought that to really understand someone, to really expose their true personality and leadership style you have to see them in a crisis. Pressure bring out the truth. I tend to agree with this. Sad to say the attacks in Paris have exposed a side of the American psyche that I personally hate to see.

Its human nature I guess, for people to want to protect what’s theirs, or what’s perceived as theirs. Human nature as well to get tribal when confronted with threats, again perceived or otherwise. I don’t know why I’m surprised actually, given how much I study history and how I tend to use historical examples to frame my understanding of my present.

Thanksgiving is a great time to bring up the ironies that only a historian can. In Thanksgivings case, the irony of glorifying our Puritan forbearers for leaving behind the religious oppression of Europe in order to find a religious freedom here in America. The Ted Cruz and American Exceptionalism crowd who are so adept at whitewashing history love to point out that freedom and religious tolerance are at the core of American values.

And I truly believe they are, which is why I’m so damned disappointed these days to see how quickly these values are tossed aside by xenophobic rhetoric and fear. Seriously, we either are the promise of freedom espoused on many of our most iconic national symbols, or we aren’t and we should just send the Statue of Liberty back to France, and sand blast the that radical Emma Lazarus poem off the pedestal because frankly, it doesn’t represent who we are as a country anymore. Maybe we can symbolically use the bricks to as a corner stone to start building Donald Trump’s new border wall.

Speaking of those original turkey eating buckle hat wearing folks we love to idealize, maybe Donald Trump and the “keep the Muslims out” crowd are in fact the direct ideological decedents of those original bigots. Let’s keep in mind that the Puritans did give a rip about religious freedom. The colonies they established in Massachusetts were founded for Puritans only, no one else need apply. In essence, Puritans were the Christian equivalent of the Taliban. By today’s standards they were religious zealots bent on establishing a theocracy with the narrowest definition of who was acceptable and who, was not. They had no tolerance for divergent opinions or religious beliefs. And like every religious fundamentalist theocracy, they weren’t beyond mass hysteria and the summary execution of people whom they identified as heretics. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a public moment of silence in memory of the 32 “witches” were murdered at the hands of Puritans in Massachusetts in the 1600’s.

Through the years America has experienced waves of immigration, from around the world, with many different motivations. From European peasants looking for better opportunities, Chinese laborers to work on the railroads to Africans in who “immigrated” chained the bottom of boats. The reasons are as diverse as the places they come from, the one constant in all their experiences, xenophobic prejudice from the folks who arrived in previous waves. Irony? The Thanksgiving story in America, taken as written describes the last time a group of immigrants was in fact welcomed to these shores.

Since the Pigram’s America has been enriched and built by the successive waves of immigrants. Germans, Afrrcans, Irish, Sicilians, Chinese, Jews, Japanese, Mexicans, Cubans. Just to name a few. All of them demonized in the same way Syrians today are being demonized, and most of the time with exactly the same arguments as what I hear today:

  • They’re terrorists. One of them might be a terrorist/anarchist/murders.
  • They’re not like us. They don’t value freedom. They don’t value our way of life. Their values aren’t consistent with ours.
  • They won’t assimilate. They won’t adopt our values.
  • They’re not Christian. They blindly follow a religion that kills. They’re going to impose their ideology on America.
  • They ruined their country, now they’re going to ruin ours.
  • They’re going to steal jobs.
  • We have our own problems we need to solve before we open our doors to these folks.     

It’s a shameful list, but it’s not new, not by a long shot.

Catholic immigrants, in the early 1800’s it was Catholic immigrants from Germany. 40 years later Catholics from Ireland. By the 1900s Catholics from southern Europe. Papists after all, “those” people are a fifth column for a Vatican. By golly they practically animals that breed like rabbits and swear allegiance to foreign pontiff hell bent on destroying true Christianity (Protestant) and enslaving America in their apostate heresies.

Ancient history? The Immigration Act of 1924 was enacted specifically for the purpose of restricting immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe (see Jews and Italians) and Africans through the establishment of quotas. Quotas that limited immigration to 2% of the population from that country already in the United States. Asians? The act, which was mostly unopposed in Congress, completely banned immigration of anyone not defined as White or of African descent. Indians, Arabs, Chinese, Koreans, etc.. Immigration quotas were set to ZERO. The very stated purpose of the act was to “preserve the ideal of American homogeneity”.

This act was predicated by The Federal Naturalization Act of 1906 which specified that only free whites and person of African descent were eligible for naturalization.

Interesting story to illustrate how far our countries xenophobia could go:

In 1914 Japanese immigrant Takao Ozawa, a 20 year resident of the US, sued for his citizenship citing his exemplary history in the US and his embrace of American values. Ozawa had gone to high school in California, he earned a degree from Berkley, and had a successful career in business at a firm in Honolulu. He was loyal to the United States and wanted the same rights that his Anglo friends and neighbors. Namely the right to vote and the right to own land. Side note, in 1913 California had passed a law restricting land ownership to US Citizens only.

Ozawa wanted to challenge the federal Naturalization act of 1906 specifically the provision that only white persons or persons of African descent could naturalize. The District Court in the Territory of Hawaii ruled that despite Ozawa’s “exemplary” history, being Asian, he was excluded from Citizenship under the law. Ozawa appealed, under an argument that Japanese technically are white and so he should be able to naturalize.

Head spinning yet? Well sit down it gets better.

The US Supreme court took the case and UNANAMOUSLY upheld the decision. Writing for the Court, Justice George Sutherland, himself an immigrant from Scotland (a “good” immigrant???) wrote that when under the law “white” means Caucasian and that Asians are not that and therefore could not be described as “free white persons”. Application denied. Justice Sutherland, three months later wrote a similar opinion in the case of United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind. That case to denied “white person” status to people of Indian descent. Thind, a Sikh from Punjab had claimed that as the descendant of “high class Hindus” he was of the Aryan race and therefore technically Caucasian. The court didn’t see it that way.

I can only imagine the discussion as the highest court in America engaged in discussions of how Aryan and Dravidian racial composition could define a person’s legal standing in this country. Defining “whiteness” using exactly the same logic and language the Nazi’s would make in 1935 in their Nuremburg laws. EXACTLY.

You all know where this went. 25 years after Ozawa, the government, in one of the most egregious examples of xenophobia, imprisoned the entire population of Japanese Americans on the west coast for the duration of World War II. Why? They aren’t like us. There was suspicion that there might be some terrorists in the mix. They aren’t loyal. History notes that there wasn’t a single example of a person of Japanese origin, immigrant or otherwise actually perpetrating actions in the US (remember that 62% of the folks America interned were native born and by that, American Citizens). Ironc? The only actually case we have from the Second World War of domestic saboteurs were people of German descent in Operation Pastorius. There you had 8 naturalized German citizens were dropped off by U-Boats in New York and Florida with money, weapons and explosives. Why didn’t we round up the Germans? To hard to pick out in a crowd I guess.

Just to close this story the “free white persons” provisions in the Naturalization Act were not repealed until 1952. And it wasn’t until 1967 that Alien from Asia could own land in Washington and California.

I’m finding it much harder to not get swept up in mass hysteria about Syrian Immigrants. I had similar difficulties in California about Mexicans. The feelings come from the same place. Here’s a group of people, not like me, who are going to cause trouble and harm to America. In both cases my inklings and human nature was amplified significantly by politicians who used immigration and immigrant communities who arrive after their own immigrant ancestors as scapegoats for political gain.

History for you, voter id and voter suppression issues that we’re dealing with today has a long history in this country going back to 1798 and the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Then it was the Federalists, alarmed at the number of immigrants in the United States, and their damned penchant for voting for Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party. Actually if you read the body of the law, immigrants were it cites Aliens (Immigrants) as “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States”.

History tells me, that refugees are just people. Like everyone there’s good people and bad ones. It tells me that my security, and the security of this country should be predicated on the actions of individuals and organizations, not ethnicities or religions.

My personal family story is all about immigration. Irony? My fathers parents came to America 100 years ago. They were immigrants from Syria. My mother was born in Egypt, my daughter in Korea. As a Jew I don’t have to look very hard to find stories of Jewish refugees trying to escape the Nazi’s, who were not allowed asylum in this country. In some cases resulting in their deaths.

As I stated earlier we either are, or we aren’t a bastion of freedom. We can’t be conditional in our mission folks. This essay was prompted by some conversations with friends who have completely succumbed to fear. I can’t stand listening to name calling anymore. Identifying Muslims as terrorists is exactly the same as telling me Jews are all greedy killers to use the blood of Christian children in their secret rites. So when my Jewish friends take this attitude, I’m outraged.

I have the chance now to really test my open mindedness and see if I really can espouse these values I claim and look at these refugees as what they are, immigrants seeking the exact same freedoms my own grandparents and mother sought, freedom from fear, freedom to think, speak and act without fear of tyranny and oppression. Freedom to provide their families with the economic security they didn’t know back home. To live in a country that at least on its monuments and in its collective psyche claims to be a beacon of freedom and light in the world. Well, I’d argue that beacons and lights don’t really do any good when they’re snuffed out by walls, and made inaccessible by laws attempt to segregate the “good” from the “bad” based on racist labels and prejudiced attitudes about who is like us, and who is not.

It’s a tough position to take these days. No one said doing the right thing was easy.

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The ADD Hunter

Another hunting season is in the books and once again I’m faced with a very tough realization that I possibly suck at this hunting thing. I think the root problem at the end of the day is that ADD and Hunting really don’t mix.

To be successful at hunting, specifically deer hunting (and turkey for that matter) you have to be able to sit still for hours on end, nary a flinch to light a fly on your nose. HOURS. I on my best days I can sit perfectly still for the better part of 10 minutes. Eh 5 minutes. This year I actually gave it a real try, sitting stone still for as long as I possibly could. Mostly because I’d run out of other mental games to play so what the hell, let’s try “Statue”.

When I’m hunting or fishing I wear a watch with a solunar indicator on it. For those you unfamiliar with magic and zodiac, according to some expert there are certain times during the day when fish and game are more active. And during the month there are certain days where that are even better than others. Ideally you want to be out on the water or in the field on a day with high activity during the couple hours of even higher activity. Which in my world means I have 4 deer heads showing on the watch.

You can also, for the low price of $4.00 buy an app for your phone that will tell you the best times and best days to try to ambush things or entice them eat stuff with hooks in them. Even better you can conduct the entire transaction of buying the app, downloading it and checking dates and times for hours, directly from your deer blind, as I discovered. Which is how I passed the 6:05-6:25 AM time frame.

See the problem yet?

Tuesday was a high activity day, and 10:35 was the start of a major activity period, which if the stars, the magic charts, the shamans and astrologers and other contributors to the “science” of the Solunar Table for Windows Phone marketing people were correct, the deer would literally line up and present themselves for harvesting.

If I could just
Keep
Still.

So at 10:35 I made the following commitment to myself. I’ve been sitting in this blind now on and off since Saturday and in that time I’d seen 3 deer. Rather I’d seen portions of deer, fleeting glimpses of grey brown hide 75 yards away in the woods as the ghosts went about their business of getting frisky whilst avoiding me. I made a pact that as I did not want to this to be yet another year where the number of bullets I bring into the season exactly equals the number I bring out, so I pledged that at exactly 10:35 am I was going to “start trying”.

The games we pkay huh? I told myself that I was going to hunt “really hard” this time. No phone, no book, no snacking, no drinking water, nothing but stone cold, perfectly still scanning of the forest in front of me. Statue. No noise. Scan the forest. Find the deer.

And I did; I sat there. I became one with the woods, feeling my essence mix with natural environment. I heard the woods. I felt my quarry out there, I was becoming one with nature. Nothing would get by me.
Except, a certain pileated woodpecker that landed on the tree next me and started hammering. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the pileated woodpecker is one of the great birds of the woods. Size of crow with an outrageous red Mohawk, think a living Woody Woodpecker. And unlike other it’s smaller cousins that rap on trees in a machine gun fashion, Mr. Pileated does the slow pound, one or two hits, a rest and then again. Sounds like a guy chopping wood. Or a buck walking into brush.

Take your pick doesn’t matter because either way, in my state of hyper-awareness the thing scared the crap out of me with its first peck. That’s what hyper-awareness does to you.

But I recovered. Realized what it was and continued “trying”.

I was literally a part of the forest. Perfectly still. And then the sound of movement in leaves. To my right, of course out of my immediate field of vision, I heard him. Rustle, rustle. Coming my way.

And talk about going from feast to famine, another one somewhere in front of me. This was it.
For the one on my right I had a problem. Being right handed my gun was across my lap facing left. I would have to come around 180 degrees, raise the rifle to my shoulder while doing a little contortion move, all while not being noticed. I took what felt like 10 minutes to slowly negotiate the manuver. Didn’t see him right away, but being one with woods and all, I knew he was there. Then a rustle and out into the open he came. A beautiful big male grey squirrel, who looked up at me and waved. For a second I fantasized what a 7mm round would to him but that’s not who I am.

Back to trying.

As I continued to hold still and measure my breaths a little voice in back of my head started yapping.
“Pee anyone”.
When I get up at 4:00 am I’m going to drink coffee. A couple cups of it at least.
And some water in the stand.
And now I’m screwed.

Scent is a big part of this I’m told. Before going in to the woods I sprayed my outerwear down with deionized water. Am told it knocks the scent right offa’ya. I make a lot of scents during the day and am not sure that a little water would do it. To make matters worse Tuesday was pretty stinking warm which meant by 10:00 I had stripped off most of my outerwear and was now sitting in my sleeves, my invisible effluvia emanating the surrounding woods. I’m sure causing the deer to be concerned as in their own way they articulated “smells like ass in these woods”.

Pushing that thought aside I continued my effort to focus. I ignored the buzz on my phone, message of vast importance I’m sure. But not now, I’m focused.

The hot time to be hunting, according to my app, went from 10:35 to 12:35, two hours. Or, the sum total of time I’ve ever spent focusing on one activity IN MY LIFE.

The woods were quiet. I looked for the landmarks in the trees, things you notice when you stare at the same batch of woods for 3 days. To my right there was a tree that had a remarkable likeness of human face on its base. Looked like one of those detailed little ceramic heads my folks had on their kitchen wall back in the 80’s. Apparently the face was dependent on afternoon shadows, because in the morning I couldn’t find it.

An old tree stand was sitting in a tree down and to my left. Good reference point should I need something to focus on.
In front of me about 100 yards were some small mounds with aspens growing out of them. I assumed they were shallow graves from some serial killer that once stocked the area. Probably find his peg leg and hook over there somewhere too.

A pile of rocks, that the longer I stared at them, the more convinced I was that one of them, at least from my vantage point 75 yards away, looked like it had runic engravings on it. Mental note to check that out later.
And I sat. And I focused. And the little voice got a little louder. “Might want to start making a pee plan”

Two hours.

I estimated that I’d been “trying” for about an hour. Hadn’t seen a deer. Hadn’t heard a deer. My um, personal seat cushion, aka butt, was getting numb and my skin was starting to tingle from lack of stimuli. Time to readjust and settle in for the next hour. The home stretch.
I glanced at my watch to see how much time I had left:
1 hour and 50 minutes.
Hence the self-realization- I suck at this.
  

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