Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Real Pandemic



I can’t help but notice while COVID has substantial risk to our country it is not the pandemic that worries me the most, nor is it the one that is most common among Americans today. The problem with this other pandemic is not only that it is much more pervasive but those who have it rarely recognize it, it’s highly contagious, and it attacks the fabric that holds our society together, the ability to live peaceably with others.

What is this pandemic? To introduce it I bring in a concept that is a very popular topic among those who are loyal to our current president but before I do I must be careful to note that this pandemic equally affects all parties and political creeds. Early in Trump's presidency his supporters started touting the idea that pundits and die-hards on the left had come down with Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). The idea that Trump was the embodiment of evil, that everything in their life that was bad came because of him. TDS blinded them from noticing or admitting if he did anything right. It allowed them to categorize and minimize his supporters. That they were dumb, uneducated, backwoods folks who don’t know what’s best for them. This also allowed them to turn a blind eye to the reality that there must be something real, something worth paying attention to in the moment that elected him. Something they needed to learn from and change.

In my humble opinion TDS is real. I believe far too many people have it to one degree or another, but that is not the pandemic I am writing about. And part of the reason is BDS or Biden Derangement Syndrome is just as real. There are just as many on the right who can’t accept any discussion or recognition to anything good that this man has done. They envision him as a socialist baby killer who can’t wait to destroy the economy by taking from the hard working and giving it to the lazy. They equally begin to believe that any rational decent person couldn’t vote for Biden.

If I said right now that I am endorsing Biden and you cringe you have BDS. If everytime you see a yard sign that says Trump Pence you negatively judge the person who owns the home you have TDS and if you hear a business owner is supporting Biden and you think you’ll take your business elsewhere you have BDS. I hope you get the idea. The truth is that the decision about who to support for President is nuanced. There are so many factors that impact it. Yet we often try to trivialize it down to one issue or topic.

As an example, I am a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, while not every member is Pro-Life, I think it is safe to say that a majority of active members feel that protecting the unborn is an important issue, I for sure do. But it pains me when I see members of my church who support Biden get attacked online because of his stance on one issue. In doing this they turn a blind eye to many other issues. And I feel the same for those who get attacked for supporting Trump. But he’s an immoral bully, they say. 

What do I do if I have a I don’t want to vote for a canidate who will increase access to abortion or a immoral bully? If I belive Biden will increse access to abortion and that Trump is an immoral bully than I have to pick one, vote for someone that has zero chance of winning or not vote. Those are my options. And I only list this as one example. There are hundreds if not thousands of nuanced decisions that go into a voting decision. My point is I know smart, moral, and well thought out men and women who will be voting for Biden and Trump. If you don’t, you have blinders on and need to cure yourself of TDS or BDS. How? I’ll get to that in a second, but first:

I still have not told you the real pandemic. Biden and Trump in time will dissipate and will become like Mitt and Obama or old. Whatever your feelings for or against them may change (has your views of Romney changed?) and their importance will diminish as the spotlight moves onto someone else. This is not about Trump and Biden. The pandemic is perhaps best called PDS, Political Derangement Syndrome. The disease that makes us think that our political views are the only ones worth having. That allows us to instantly judge, in a negative light those who don’t think or believe as we do. This to me is far more pervasive than racism, sexism or any other ism, but has all the same impacts. I saw it with the Black Lives Matter movement, on both sides. People lost jobs over things their relatives said on facebook. Like all political movements there were a huge amount of things that went into the BLM movement, any honest person no matter their political views probably agreed and supported some of them and disagreed with others. Therefore it’s perfectly rational for people to either support or not support the movement. The problem is we pick which side of the political world we sit on then we only look at the negative issues and the most extreme supporters of the other side all while turning a blind eye to the fact that our side, whatever it may be, has those same problems.

The problem with this is obvious. The worst and most dangerous enemies are always from within. Internal division, the endless desire to focus on what divides us over what unites us is far more likely to destroy our nation and our economy than is China, Coronavirus, Hurricanes or a Nuclear Bomb. So how do we cure it? 

  1. Accept that you are wrong at times. Politicians and policies we love aren't always as good as we thought. And sometimes ones we thought would be horrible end up not that bad.

  2. Make sure you have close friends who disagree with you. Most people, the more we get to know them the more we like them. If you have a black lives matter and Biden poster in your front yard, invite the neighbor with the Trump and All Lives matter poster in theirs. And don’t talk about politics. Find out that you have far more in common and that they are really good people. People worth loving, people worth listening to, not to belittle and unfriend on social media or more importantly in life.

  3. Talk politics with those who disagree with you, not to persuade but to listen. I know I just said don’t talk politics with the neighbor you disagree with. And not to disagree but to understand. You will be surprised when you ask, Why are you voting for Biden? They won’t say because he kills babies and wants to destroy our economy. They likely have reasons that if you really listen, not just superficially long enough to see a weakness and attack, that they have really worthwhile reasons.

This year is very interesting for me. The man I respect most politically, my father, and I will likely be voting for different candidates. I think we agree on 90% of political issues, but we predict different outcomes based on the votes. Is he right? Maybe, I for sure can’t say with any certainty that I am. But I feel good that the vote I am making is right. Likewise there is a decent chance my wife and I vote differently this year. There was a time in my life that this would really bother me. That it would lead to endless arguments, endless focus on how we see things differently. But this year I am very at peace with both my decision and theirs. And at peace is a great place to be.

If we want more of it we need to fight this pandemic.


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Give me the *&%*# Hammer and how we can learn from construction workers.

 

Construction Workers

This week my Mother is having some construction work done at her home, and I happen to be there, also working from home. I have forgotten how angry and full of vitriol some construction sites can be. As the concrete pumper truck begn to flow so did the swear words. Now don't get me wrong I have worked on concrete jobs and they are stressful. Once the truck starts pouring there is no turning back. 

They yelled, they cussed, they called each other totally inappropriate names. And as a team they got together and did an amazing job.  As the job was complete they laughed together, told jokes and were clearly once again the best of friends. 

My point is not that we all need to expand our vocabulary by the extensive use of swear words so we can get more accomplished. No, I would just assume go without the anger and swearwords, but what we could learn is the lesson they teach on forgiveness and not taking offense. In the ultra PC world we live in, and in many court rooms what I saw and heard in the yard would be nothing short of a hostile work enviroment. But whatever you call it, the individuals were slow to take offense, and within a few hours had forgiven each other of any hard feelings, if there ever even were any. 

Is it too much to belive in a world that takes the best from both worlds? One where we work hard to not get angry and swear at work, but when we do or when we encoutner those who struggle with this, we don't take offense, claim harrassment or file a lawsuit?  




Sunday, July 26, 2020

Are you Present?

In Pennsylvania, May 23 will be '143 Day' in tribute to Mr. Rogers ...
Fred Rogers, doing what he always did, smiling, listening and being present.

When we hear that a member of congress has voted present we often mark it as cowardness. Likewise, we have a tendency to call those who show up only physically retired in place. For valid reasons we disparage the idea of being physically present but in every other way are absent.

Mister Rogers who physically has been absent from this earth for 13 years is making his presence very much known. This has come as books, documentaries and popular films have all been produced about his life. Rogers didn’t mean much to me as a child. I mean, I enjoyed his program like I enjoyed almost anything on TV. True, it probably was more beneficial watching Mr. Rogers talk about how to get through a tough day instead of witnessing one by seeing an affair and murder come to light on days of our lives on the other station. But can I say I always looked forward to Mr. Rogers? Or remember a hard time in my life when I needed to think of Daniel Tiger to get me through it? No.

However, I have watched both, Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks and the documentary on Fred Rogers life, Won’t you be my Neighbor, as well as begun reading The Good Neighbor and I can say Fred Rogers is having a profound impact on my adult life.

In April 1967, Misterogers Neibhorhood, (They changed the name to Mister Rogers Neighborhood later). The show had been on the air for a year and they decided to do a meet-the host event in Boston. They knew Rogers was popular and planned for 500. Over 5,000 showed up, the line wrapped around the studio and down the street to Soldiers field. But despite the crowd Rogers insisted that he kneel and speak with each child individually.

The thing that stands out to me as I read about Fred Rogers is he had learned how to be present. Wherever he was, whomever he was with, once he chose to be there he was fully there. His eyes were there, his ears were there, his mind was there, and his spirit was there. The rest of the world became non-existent.

With this skill came a peace that he carried with him continually. A peace that is increasingly rare as this skill is becoming lost to the world. Our cell phones allow us the opportunity to remove ourselves from where we are at any second and put portions of ourselves somewhere else. Being distant while present, half engaged and half aware has become a way of life, a part of who we are. We rush from one place to another, always late, always in a hurry and then get there only to be more focused on the next appointment than the task at hand.

There is alot spoken and written on being at the right place at the right time. However, the person in the wrong place but fully present will outperform his peer whose body is in the right place, but is not fully present.

You want to have a great marriage? Be fully present when you are with your spouse. You want to be a great parent? Don’t have a phone in your hand, or work on your mind when you listen to your children tell about their day. Want to be more successful at work? Be fully there when you are there. Don’t have your mind worried about Donald Trump, your favorite sports team, black lives matter, or what you are going to have for lunch.

You want to be a person who has great character and understands why they are on earth? Be there for yourself and your God. Too often when we find ourselves with even a second of silence, or boredom we quickly reach for the phone and see what in the news, on facebook, the stock market or the number of coronavirus cases. Because in not being able to be fully present with others, we are losing the ability to be fully present with ourselves. Moments that should be for reflection, prayer and self improvement, when we give ourselves and our God our full attention, when we process what we did right and what we did wrong are handed over to a screen to see an acquaintance's views on politics, or pictures of what someone else ate for dinner.

Paul gave a wonderful analogy about the importance of us as members of the Church to work together. That we are all part of the body of Christ. He said, “For the body is not one member but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; … If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the member every one them in the body as it hath pleased them?” (1 Corithians 12: 14-18)

Paul used this analogy because the idea of walking out the door without our ears was so ridiculous, but that is exactly what so many are doing every day. It’s driving with headphones on and reading a text. We try to listen to meetings while our eyes look at something else, and our brain does a third thing.

Christ well understood our tendency to disengage. He taught in parables in part because he knew that to understand them would only be accomplished by those who choose to engage, to be fully present. He said, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)

But? You say, “I have too much to do. I have to check emails while in meetings, I have to check facebook before I sleep, I have to be reading work assignments at the dinner table.” We all feel too busy to slow down. That we have too much. That if we give our wife or kids our full selves then we will get behind on our work or be passed up for that next promotion.

That is why Mr. Rogers is so important for me today. Did he, giving his full attention to each child, taking time to be present with whatever one he was with, limit his ability to achieve? His ability to influence? His success? No, the Lord magnified him in incredible ways that are still influencing people like myself over a decade after he is gone.

But as I think about Mr. Rogers I realize why he is having so much impact on the world. It’s because he is a reflection of someone who had this exact same skill. A man who could be fully present when he ran into a total stranger getting water at a well. Who gave his full attention and energy when he ran into lowly fishermen. A man who while only living into his early thirties continues to have a larger impact on earth than any other man. A young man from Galilee who we would all do well to find time to be fully present with.


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Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Romance of Writing - Aspen Hadley


World Changer! Aspen Hadley #WaitByTheGate #ChooseLight – Shannon ...
Aspen Hadley- Author

Loose papers, three-ring binders, and pencils lay strewn across the kitchen table. “Aspen, what are you up to?” Her mother asked.

“This summer I'm going to write a novel.”

“What about?”

“I’m not for sure yet, but my heroine is going to be named Tara and she will fall madly in love with Mark. It’s a romance.”

That 8th grader handwriting out her first novel during summer break with her cousin was Aspen Hadley. Storytelling was something she always loved. But it would be a few more years before she would finish her first novel. First came alot of life. She took creative writing classes whenever she could fit them in as she continued through high school and a few years later, at age 21, married her sweetheart.

But even while starting a family with young kids storytelling was never far from her life. She wrote stories about her life and sent them to her family through letters or emails. After a while, she began to publish the stories on a blog, and her family and friends encouraged her to write a novel. It took a while to percolate, but she finally decided she would do it. She wanted to see her name on a book. It took six months to write the story of two bickering neighbors who over time begin to understand and learn to live with one another. Once she had written her great American novel, she decided she better get some feedback, so she found some people she didn’t know who loved to read and reached out. She didn’t want them to be biased. All four said the same thing:“You’re a good writer but don’t care for the story.”

Not one of them liked it. She was devastated. Clearly, this book writing thing was not for her. She decided that story would never see the light of day and debated if her writing ever would either. While writing took a back seat, life continued to do what life does. She had a surprise number 4 child and her brother passed away from cancer. Shortly after these events, she thought she might be brave enough to try writing again, and put down on paper the beginnings of a story she titled, Simply Kate, about a young widow with her son and next door to her aunt in the mountains of Colorado. Kate is making that awkward step of reentering the dating scene. The story goes through the struggles that would be unique to anyone finding themselves single later in life and being a mother.

It felt good to be writing again, but life continued to happen, so writing took a back seat to living and raising her children. But five years later and the youngest was off to kindergarten. She wanted a creative outlet, now that some free time had found her. One day, while reading through old files on her computer she ran into Simply Kate. She had almost forgotten it existed. She read through and surprised herself with how much she enjoyed it. She decided to finish it. She spent the next several months getting the book drafted and then sent it to three beta readers. This time she chose people she knew but also knew would be brutally honest with her. Doing both those she knew and those she does not, she was surprised to find that those who knew her actually gave her more feedback. All three loved the book. When it came to writing, she instinctively knew, even back in eighth grade, what she was meant to write: romance. They suggested some edits and she went through the book again, but clearly this novel had potential. So what next?

Aspen often feels like the least educated person in the world, having not gone to college, but she loves to read and from that has learned how to learn. So, she hit the books, or rather the internet. She studied how to do a query and synopsis. She read that you had to put together a marketing plan. Something she didn’t know existed, let alone how to do. But she found examples and learned. Then she went for it, submitting her work to three publishers, Shadow Mountain, Covenant, and Cedar Fort.

Then the waiting. She wasn’t naive, after doing her research, she knew that the world of fiction is a sea of authors, and that most get rejection after rejection before they land a book contract. “I was standing at my kitchen table folding laundry, I was waiting for an email on something else, so I checked my phone and there it was. An email from Cedar Fort Publishing, accepting my book,” she recalls. She danced, she sang and ran around the table. She quickly called her husband, but he was in a meeting. “Get out of the meeting I have big news.” She wanted to scream, but ultimately it was her 16-year-old daughter getting home from school who got to be the first to hear.

“They sent me a contract, and I was like I don’t know if this is good or not, but I’ll take it.” The process to go from an accepted manuscript to an actual book took longer than she had envisioned. First, they reviewed and did a developmental edit. “They sent me back the file and I could accept or reject their edits. Or as was often the case I understood their point and edited into my voice.” Then came the copy edit with the commas and capitalization. “On that one, I was like accept, accept, accept.” They asked her to go through similar books on Amazon and pick covers she liked and covers she hated. Then they sent her three to pick from. And then the title. They went through lots of options and eventually settled on “Simply Starstruck.” “Now when I write, I don’t worry about the title because I know that will get worked out later,” she says.

A year later the book was done. “I remember getting my box with 20 author copies and just crying. I don’t cry much so my kids wondered what was wrong with me. I assured them they were happy tears.” Shortly thereafter the book started appearing on shelves in Deseret Book, Barnes and Noble, and even Target. “I made my kids pose at the store with my books. It was so exciting.”

From there she just kept on writing. Gathering ideas for her second book she decided to write on a Facebook group asking for weird and bad blind dates people had been on. “I got like 700 comments. They were so funny and great.” From those she selected 12 and got more details, ultimately six ended up in her second book, “Blind Dates, Bridesmaids and Other Disasters.” People regularly comment that the unbelievable blind dates in the book can’t be true stories but as she states in the book, they are 100% real.

She stayed with Cedar Fort as she has been very satisfied with their work. Her third book comes out this fall but the title hasn’t been released yet. People always wonder about how much an author makes. Has her writing allowed her to start paying cash for beach homes? “Writing is only what you put into it. I love doing it and seeing my books on the shelf. I'm blessed in that it doesn’t have to cover my living. If it did, I would have to put out much more than a book a year and I would have to do way more marketing and events. But I get some extra money and every year I do a trip with some of my friends and I can pay for it myself now and that is nice.”

It was great to learn more about Aspen’s journey as an author. I have read both her books and if you like romantic comedies, I recommend you pick them up. As noted the third book will be out this fall and she is almost done with the manuscript on the fourth, so look forward to seeing that the following year. If you liked this I hope you will take the time to subscribe to my blog. As I plan to do more author interviews and journeys.


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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Lessons from COVID and preparing for the next...

Human security in Africa: Assessment and capacity-building to ...
Digging with a mask after war impacts took out this African towns water supply. Disaster often increases the need for work, unfortunately not our ability to pay for it.

For many of us COVID-19 was a wake up call. Not necessarily about our handwashing techniques, the use of masks, or how teleworking may dominate our future, but a wake up call to how fragile our economy and even our political system is. There are many examples of the scriptures about a people who do not believe they could be destroyed:

“We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day.” Alma 9:4- People of Ammonihah to Alma.

“And it came to pass that the jews did mock him because of the thing which he testified of them;'' 1 Nephi 1:19- Speaking of Lehi’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Of course there are many more, Noah, Jeremiah, Samuel the Lamanite… the list goes on and on.

And perhaps you could add us. But hopefully COVID has opened our eyes a little. I firmly believe that COVID’s greatest mission may be a simple warning. A way to show us that we need to be prepared for things. Because I strongly believe COVID-19 is not the greatest challenge I, or our society, will face in my lifetime. We need to be prepared for worse.

So, how do we prepare:

  1. I have always been a supporter of The Church of Jesus Christ stance that you should have a 1-year supply of food. And I did...did being the key word. My storage had dwindled some and the number of people and the amount of food they consumed had increased. I was far from a true year supply of food. We need to take the council prophets have given us for years seriously and get a true 1-year food supply.
  2. Our supplies should carry more than just food. Okay for some weird reason toilet paper this time was the big one. But if you can’t live without it then you should store some, but it showed us a broader point. There are things that aren’t food that we may not be able to get in disasters and we should store those too.
  3. Pay off debts and have some money saved. This has been the council for years and we would do well to follow it.
  4. Live on far less than you make. We have grown accustomed to lifestyles that are not sustainable, the food we eat, the homes we live in, the cars we drive, the boxes of stuff from Amazon, and the electronics that provide endless entertainment. Learning to take a step back and realizing that we can go without them and then doing it will be great preparation. It is far better and honestly easier for us to do it now, when it’s a choice and we can see what works and doesn’t, than wait until we are forced by circumstances. Another thing that can help this one is:
  5. Find fulfillment through self improvement, service and spending time with family instead of things and increased lifestyle. Many of us, if not all of us will go through a time in the near future when our lifestyle as measured by the world will be significantly reduced. We can prepare today by changing what we value. The best things in life are truly free. If you find your entertainment through service there will always be entertaining things for you to do. But if you only get it from Hollywood and high end dining, you may struggle. In fact, if you really want to find happiness in a disaster the number one thing you can learn to find joy and fulfillment in is...
  6. Hard work, learn to do it now. No matter how bad things get there will always be work to do. It may not be the work you want to do, and you may not get the salary you want but there will be work, much of it manual work. This has been a huge eye opener to me. I am not good at, nor do I do enough manual labor. I need to prepare by spending more time on the weekends in my yard weeding, trimming, digging, planting, building, painting, and harvesting. As well as, (Hopefully Jeanine doesn't see this, she might hold me to it) in the house cleaning, washing, cooking and picking up. It’s the type of work that is excellent for my mind, my body, and my ability to care for myself in hard times.
Bottom line is when we think of preparing for a potential disaster we often think of food storage and paying off debt and saving money. And that is good, we need those things. But in addition we need to change our lifestyle as well. We need to eat less and better, spend less and wiser, and work more and harder. Think about it, no matter how bad things get, the people who learn to live on little, find joy in things money can’t buy and are willing to work hard, will get by far better than the guy with 100 buckets of wheat who has never made a loaf a bread, hates hard work, and isn’t healthy enough to do it anyway. I firmly believe if we lived in the way the Lord would have us it would be sustainable as a way of life, through good and even the worst times. If COVID gets these lessons into my mind enough that I actually follow through with them then I will look back, as hard and horrible as it was, and be grateful for what it taught me.

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Parable of the Gift Cards

The Best Gift Cards For 2020 And How To Save Money On Them


Scott was a serial entrepreneur. And he knew how to catch a fad. Purple, Serta, Sleep Number, mattress companies were popping up offering high end mattresses with huge margins, there was even one selling mattresses made out of parts of avocados. He decided that the right thing to do was mix a new craze with an old one. Hollywood had taught him that nothing sells like nostalgia, look at the box office: Star wars, Ghostbusters, Beauty and the Beast. For him the obvious answer was waterbeds.

He quickly got with his manufacturing contacts and within a few months Ocean Rest was born. But clearly nostalgia has its limits and while he was making a living the beds weren’t flying off the shelves. The Christmas holiday was fast approaching and Scott decided to get in on the gift card business. Why would you buy gift cards for $25 or $50 dollars for a $2,000 item? Even the optimist in him didn’t think he would sell a lot, but on the bright side because of that many that were sold would never get redeemed. So, he would sell a 10 cent piece of plastic for $25. That was the kind of business he could get into.

He dropped some money on a graphic designer and when he got them back he had to admit, they were very cool looking. He bought a few hundred and distributed them around at some stores. A few days later his phone rang. It was from his friend, Sai, who owned the local hardware store. “We would like 200 more gift cards.”

“What?”

“You heard me, the 20 you gave us flew off the shelf. We project we could sell 200 more this holiday season.”

“Sai, you’re very funny. But I’m not making 200 cards.”

“Suite yourself, but I’m serious. They like your cards.”

He and Sai often played pranks on each other so he ignored the call until all the others started coming in. “We will take 100 more.” They all said. Something about that card. And after he filled those orders the calls for 1,000 more came almost as fast. People all over the country were calling asking to get his cards. Soon Wal Mart ordered 10,000. For some reason everyone wanted one.

Scrolling through his facebook feed one day he saw it, a woman holding one of his cards saying, “Can’t wait to give my parents their waterbed gift card for Christmas. The day I punctured theirs and flooded the room they will never forget. They are going to lose it when they get this.” And they started popping up, memes, jokes, memories all with his card. Clearly, $2,000 was too much to have a nostalgic experience, but $20 wasn’t.

As the cards came off the shelf the money started pouring in. First thousands, then tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions. Making gift cards felt like printing money.

“Dad, I don’t know what to say.”

“The polite thing to say is, ‘Thank You’.” Scott said as he sat with his daughter and their family on Christmas.

“But Dad, I can’t accept this.”

“Of course, you can, it's your Christmas Gift.”

“But my home...paid off.”

“I know you and Billy are doing okay but think about how much easier things will be without the mortgage.”

And Scott was also generous with his extended family. Aunts got boats and Uncles got trucks to pull them with. But Scott wasn’t worried it seemed the money poured in faster than he could spend it. So, he just kept spending.

But all crazes die, and when this one died, it died in two phases. Phase 1 was when people stopped buying the cards. The money slowed down and Scott began to scramble. In addition to gifts he had bought many nice things for himself, and the beach condo had a steep HOA, and the water bill at his new mansion with the lazy river, equaled most people's house payment. Things were getting very tight, he even wondered if he would have to sell one of the six new homes when Phase 2 hit.

In Salt Lake another young entrepreneur’s wheels were turning. The world was flooded with $20 gift cards for water mattresses that were almost worthless to those who held them. People would gladly cash them in for pennies on the dollar.

Scott was excited when he got the first order for 15 waterbeds. After all, he could use the money. But then he noticed how they were paid for, all with gift cards. He wouldn’t see a dime, he already had and spent the money for these. This was painful, but he had to deliver. Then another order for 20, then 30. The young man in Salt Lake was buying $2,000 waterbeds with worthless gift cards and selling them for $500 and turning a decent profit.

One by one the six homes were sold. Pouring all his money to fulfill orders that didn’t bring in a cent. It was staring at a computer in his daughters basement at an order of 100 mattresses that he realized the game was up. He didn’t want to declare bankruptcy but it was his only option. In desperation he called a number he had looked up sometime ago.

“Hello, this is Anash, did you want to order a mattress?”

“Anash, this is Scott, owner of Ocean Rest. I can’t do it.”

“Do what?”

“I can’t fill any more orders. I’m bankrupt, I can’t afford to sell you any more mattresses.”

“But that doesn’t make sense. You were paid in advance for these orders. Paid one gift card at a time. You should have money to spare. Getting paid in advance of the orders is an advantage, how could you not have the money?”

Scott knew Anash was right, he knew money today is worth more than money tomorrow, but he also knew why in his case, that hadn’t been the case. “I didn’t expect people to use the gift cards. I assumed most would get lost or thrown away. At least, I guess that is what I assumed. I probably didn’t really think about it enough. I’m sorry, but you have to stop.”

“I can’t, I have orders to fill. I’ve taken another 50 since I sent you that last order yesterday.”

“Then it looks like we're both going out of business.”

----------------------------------------------

I think this parable needs some explanation. Scott is you and me. It’s all the citizens of the United States and the gift cards are $100 dollar bills. Since the great recession the demand for $100 dollar bills has skyrocketed. As demand goes up they simply print more. They now print more $100 dollar bills than $1 dollar bills. There are several reasons for this. Many countries knowing that large bills are often used in crime stopped printing large currency bills. The Euro for instance discontinued their 500 Euro note for this reason. The US dollar is also amazingly stable, so it is seen as a safe place to store your money if you are overseas.

So with all this printing of money why are we not seeing inflation. And isn’t having the world use our currency a good thing? We are not seeing inflation because much of the money isn’t going into circulation. We get to essentially spend it for goods and services and then it goes into someone's mattress or in some cartels shed. Is this good for us? Like Scott and his family members it is, in the short run. We get the world's goods and services and what do we have to provide in return? Nothing, or practically nothing, a 12 cent piece of paper.

The danger is that just like Scott, this game will die and die in two phases. Phase 1 will be when the demand for $100 bills stops. When people in India, China and drug cartels no longer want to use $100 bills as their preferred source of money storage. That will be painful, because no more buying goods and services for practically nothing. But it is nothing compared to the pain we will feel in Phase 2 when people decide to begin to liquidate the bills they have. There will be massive inflation. That is when we will be forced to make goods and services and get nothing in return. Just like in the story the pain will be shared by both us and those who hold our money.

What should we do? We need to realize that we can’t keep printing money without consequences. The decision to print or not print money is based on keeping inflation low, because deflation would also cause economic pain. The best way we could control this is do what Europe and other nations have done and discontinue the $100 bill. It would be a tough decision. It would be like Scott deciding not to sell gift cards when they are flying off the shelf. But we need to. Because the only other option is actually to use good times to save money and prepare for the payback when it inevitably comes. And unfortunately I don’t see us as a nation doing that.


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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Llewellyn Hanson- Dead Detective- Chapter 20

Move over Poirot, a new detective is here - columns - Hindustan Times

Here is the Link to the Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18, and Chapter 19

“What was that?” Trout asked, as he Hanson and Chief Grassly were all back in the office.

“It was the sound of the judge removing her inner ability to influence,” Hanson said.

Trout imagined the judge removing some sort of light crystal from the heart of Stacy as she cried out in pain. “Really?”

“No,” Hanson clearly enjoyed the joke, and the chief couldn’t help but have a chuckle at Trout’s expense as well. “More likely she found out a painful truth. I found out this morning, and honestly I reacted almost the same way. Her daughter,Trish, moved on last night.”

“Moved on?” The chief said in surprise.

“You mean the second death?” Trout asked.

“Some people call it that.” The chief replied

“What do you call it?” Trout asked.

“I try not to think too much about it.”

“So, we can call a witness from those who have moved on?” Trout asked.

“No. You can’t,” the chief jumped in.

“But you said…”

“I was bluffing.” Hanson said with a calm that only comes from a gambler after his play has worked out.

“That was a little gutsy.” The chief said. “You went to trial with your only witness not available. You basically had nothing.”

“Nothing is a bit strong, I had circumstantial evidence and I had visited with her daughter, who helped me quite a bit on the details. She had agreed to testify but she moved on. I wasn’t going to give up because of some bad luck.”

“Couldn’t they wait until after the trial to take her?” Trout asked.

The chief and Hanson shared a glance. “I’m not sure who you think ‘they’ are, but we don’t have any control over it. In fact, the second death, as you call it, is as unpredictable as, actually...” he thought of something they handled everyday, murder, and changed his mind, “even less predictable than the first death.”

“Where do they go?”

“Not sure. But it isn’t here.” Hanson stated with the same matter of fact tone he usually did.

“Do we ever see people who have moved on?” Trout asked.

Hanson turned to the Chief, “You take this one.”

The chief cleared his throat, which was completely unnecessary for someone who is dead. “Well, some people say they have seen people who have moved on. The best way to explain might be to ask, did you know people in life who claimed to see us? I mean dead grandparents in dreams and things?”

“Not personally but heard of people, mostly crazys.”

“There you go. Same here, but we do exist, so I guess they might be telling the truth.”

“I guess.” They could tell that Trout was not fully satisfied with their answers. But the truth was the questions weren’t answered any better for the chief or Hanson; they had just experienced these situations long enough to know they worked, even if they didn’t know why. So at some point they stopped asking and just lived with it. Sort of moved on, and that is exactly what they tried to do now.

“Speaking of the board, Hanson, they came back with what to do about you and I can’t believe what you’ve done.”

“What?” Hanson feigned innocence.

“Well before I tell you, how about your outburst at sentencing?”

“Oh yes, I’m sorry but five years was a bit light.”

“Not your call.”

“Fine. The judge called you back for that?”

“No. She didn’t mention it. She is a bigger person than I would be. It’s the board. They came back on your using the elements to stop Tom from using drugs.”

“They’re still bent out of shape about that?”

“No, turns out the board had it reviewed by the judge panel. Judge Sherman wanted me to tell you. They have ruled that you effectively used your expanded authority in enforcement to further the protection of life within the boards of duty and further that such use is hereby authorized for all members of enforcement. You’ve done it again, you have changed the rules of the game.”

Hanson gave a smirk

“I’m proud of you. But I’m supposed to remind you that we have to get those things vetted before, not after we use them.”

“Oops,” Hanson said in as much jest as was possible for him.

“Well, after a big case win like that you boys need a day or two off.” Hanson glared at the chief. “Just kidding, I’ve already got a case. It’s an odd one. No body. Almost unsolvable.”

Hanson smiled, “That is more like it.” He turned to his junior, “You ready, Trout?”

Trout was looking down unto his visor, ignoring Hanson.

“Trout, I said you ready?” Hanson reiterated.

“Stop interrupting. I’m reading the case file.”

The chief laughed, “You two are the perfect team.” but his words were spoken into the empty space in front of him, they were already on the case.

The End

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