Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Indirect Costs of Disasters

Teton Dam - Wikipedia

Today is National Dam Safety day, because on this day in 1889 Johnstown, PA South Fork Dam failed. It flooded the town of Johnstown killing over 2000 people. This was by far the worst dam failure in US history as far as life lost.

As someone who studies dam failures, one of the first questions you get, and one I always have when studying a dam failure is, how many people died? We are all naturally curious. It gives us a way to judge how significant a failure was. Yet, studying dam failures you quickly learn that the question is always a lot less cut and dry than you think.

In large floods many bodies are washed away and never recovered, making a final life loss count very hard. Many dams fail during large rain events. If someone dies in a flood, would they have died anyways or is it the dam? But one of the hardest things to estimate is lives that were lost indirectly. What do I mean by that? Many think in a dam failure the cause of death would be obvious, drowning. But you would be incorrect.

The largest dam failure in history, as far as life loss is Banquio Dam in 1975, where the life loss estimate is over 100,000. Most of the people died, not from drowning but exposure. After the dam failed, millions were left cold, wet and homeless, not only that roads to the towns affected were all washed out, by the time sufficient aid arrived, ten of thousands had died from exposure.

But at times the deaths can be even less intuitive, and it is those I want to talk about. I have spent a significant amount of time studying the failure of Teton Dam. It failed on June 5, 1976 flooding the towns of Wilford, Sugar City and Rexburg in south eastern Idaho. Luckily, it didn’t fail on a dark and stormy night as is all too common in dam failures. Rather it was on a sunny Saturday afternoon, while the warning could have been sooner, it was soon enough to save many lives. 11 people passed away, but as in most failures many were not directly from flooding.

In Teton only 6 were from drowning. The other five?

Mary Gillette at 94 was the oldest woman in the small town of Teton. Teton actually sat just up from the river valley. The town would not be flooded at all but this was before the days of 2 dimensional flood modeling and most people assumed the town would flood. In fact, it was the first town to get the evacuation warning. Mary had been bed ridden for some time, she was ill prepared to evacuate, but at the time evacuation seemed to be the only option. The next day she would pass from exertion.

As the warning passed through town most people were gathering at Ricks College that sat on a hill in Rexburg. One area that for sure needed to be evacuated was also in Rexburg a small trailer park that sat down near the banks of the river. Both due to proximity and strength of structure, this place didn’t stand a chance when compared to the power of the water behind the dam. The warning hit one of the residents Dolly Pendrey, age 62, particularly hard. She lived alone and as she began to pack to exit the stress hit her. She had a massive heart attack. She made it to the hospital but died later that day.

Downstream of Rexburg was not scott free. The city of Idaho Falls was named because it is built around a beautiful falls on the Teton River. There was considerable fear that the town would flood due to the failure. John Heyrend, 72 lived close to the river and began to pack his car with his most trusted belongings. One trip back to his home he had a heart attack and passed away. His town would fare much better, due to great efforts of citizens doing a massive effort to sandbag around the river the town didn’t flood.

The day after the flood the water began to make its way downstream, leaving in its wake, mud, thick, slimy smelly black mud. Many who were evacuated to be with loved ones or at the college, slept an uneasy night wondering how their possessions, homes, pictures and other treasures survived. Stanley Peterson, 51, was fortunate, his home was not in the flood plain and he had spent the night warm and dry. However, his construction trailer where he stored the tools and equipment that he used to make a living as a contractor were all in the floodplain. He not only wondered if they had survived but worried that opportunists would take advantage of a bad situation and steal his valuable tools. He took his gun and jumped in his truck to make his way through the muddy streets back to his storage area. He didn’t get very far, as he went to leave his driveway he knocked his gun off the passenger seat, it went off, shot him in the femoral artery and bled out in his car.

The whole area began the process of recovery. Many people living in St. Anothony and Parker, towns nearby that had remained dry, housed family or friends that didn’t have homes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was being organized and coming from all over the rest of Idaho and Utah, to help muck out homes. Federal government assistance was also coming, providing trailers to house the many middle class families who now understood homelessness in a new way. But in St. Anthony one woman was struggling with her own personal recovery. Karen Virgin, 29 had been working with councilors to overcome struggles in her life. She felt worthless and couldn’t shake the thought that God was not pleased with her. The dam failing was clear evidence that God was punishing the people around her for her actions. As she struggled with these inner demons she decided to end her life, and shot herself on June 10, 1976. She is the last life that was documented as being associated with the Teton Dam.

Disasters are named that for a reason. And often the indirect damage can be as significant as the direct costs. We are currently in the grips of another disaster. The final death toll connected to COVID-19 will be very difficult to compute. There will be deaths that are COVID that are thought to be something else, and deaths that are counted as COVID that are something else. There will also be many indirect deaths. There will be those that die due to stress at this time, just like those that died at the time of Teton Dam. And there will also be those in the midst of fighting other demands and due to the added pressures caused by this disease and economic stress will take their own lives.

The question we should ask ourselves is? What are we doing to better prepare ourselves and those around us, so that when the next disaster comes, and it will. We will be ready to handle the stress and anxiety that will come with it. In the world of dams, one of things that has changed since Teton is emergency action plans, plans that are practiced to prepare those who will react to potential dam incident or failure. As these drills and other items are better communicated it can help a community be prepared if the worst is to happen.

What emergency action plans do we have in our lives? Are we personally prepared for the potential disasters that might be headed our way? We should all do an after action report after this latest disaster. How prepared we were when COVID hit? Were we physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for what we went through?

If not, take the time to determine what you would have done differently, and then take the time so that you and those around you can be better prepared for whatever the next disaster that comes our way.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Trout's First Case-Chapter 3

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

Here is the Link to the Prologue, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2.

Nothing up to this moment could have prepared Trout for this. Hanson had been the model of composure through some of the most bizarre circumstances so far but supposedly these beats, as they called them, had a profound effect upon him. Trout had sensed that Hanson was not exactly in love with his living counterparts but never expected him to cry out in horror as soon as one came into view. The detective who stood on the front door was a bit shorter than average, 5’ 8” or so, stocky build and wore a standard issue ginger mustache.

“Hello, Ms. You rang. I’m Captain Driggs.”

“Thank you for coming, I’m Daisy Mason.”

Hanson regained his composure. “Well Trout, lets go.”

“What? I thought you said, we didn’t have to go. That while the cops were here; we were super busy following them around.”

“Recall, I prefaced that with, if we got a decent detective. We did not.”

“How do you know?”

“This isn’t my first case with Captain Driggs. I do not wish to speak ill of the living, but here it goes. The man is an imbecile. We will only lose brain cells by watching him investigate and he will refuse in every instance to listen to me.”

“No kidding, you’re dead. Do they usually listen to you?”

Hanson debated replying but didn’t have the patience to do so. “Let’s go.”

“So you are just going to drop the case?”

“No. I do not drop cases. We will have to do the investigation without the beats.”

“Shouldn’t we at least see what he asks the wife?”

“Let me tell you how this will go.” He did his best imitation of Captain Driggs, who had a Boston accent and a bit higher voice than Hanson. “Let me see Ms. Oh, I am sorry but it looks like your husband shot himself. Do you think it was suicide? Oh, you do, well I’m sorry to say but you’re right. Would you like us to clean this up or do you got it.’ Then he will ship back to the office, pull out his ‘case closed’ stamp and leave 100% of the work to us.”

Trout had no desire to abandon the scene of his first case. “Look, he has a junior partner maybe he’ll be better?”

“He never listens to anyone, partner or not.” Hanson said.

“So you and him have a lot in common.” Trout came back.

Hanson usually appreciated someone quick on their feet but didn’t seem happy with this last comment, no matter how clever it had been. But like it or not it was effective. Hanson turned around and sat in a chair in the adjacent dining room, clearly giving in to the idea to listen to Captain Driggs.

Before Captain Driggs asked anything Daisy felt the urge that most people feel when they are the ones who find a dead body, to explain themselves. “I came down to breakfast, and noticed the coffee pot was empty, see, my husband usually makes Coffee every morning, so I came out to the living room and saw him there.” She gestured to the body as tears began to flow.

“Oh, I see mam, So how’d he die?”

“I’m so glad we stayed for this.” Hanson mocked.

The question caught Daisy so off guard that she stopped crying. “I...think it was a gun.”

Captain Driggs looked down, and began to process what had been patently obvious to everyone else, the gun and the large wound in the victim's head.

“I believe you are right Mam.” Daisy would have been offended if there had been any hint of sarcasm in his voice.

“It’s only downhill from here,” Hanson continued his mocking.

“Hang on, hang on, what have we here?” Captain Driggs grabbed the hand written note with his ungloved hands. He began to read the note under his breath. “Sorry… can’t go on...affair,” He added, “That is never a good a thing,” before he continued reading. “Can’t live without her, we say goodbye.”

“Well,” Driggs turned back to the group at large, ready to let them enjoy his great wisdom. “That is what we call in the business, a suicide note. Mam, I hardly know how to tell you this, but it is my professial opinion, as a vetern detective, that your husband committed suicide.”

“Nice clean wrap up, time to dust off that, ‘case closed’ stamp.” Hanson said, with an, I told you so, smile.

Daisy was in a state of shock from the captain’s behavior that was only slightly less than the shock she had an hour earlier.

Trout spoke up, “They have to ask her something.”

“Weren’t you listening?” Hanson asked, “The captain asked her that very astute question about how the victim died.”

“Didn’t you say you could get them to listen to you sometimes?”

“Kind of, I can put thoughts in their head but they can choose to ignore them. And Captain Driggs is an expert at doing just that.”

“What about this guy?” Trout said gesturing to the quiet junior detective who had failed to say so much as hello. “Why don’t you try to influence him?”

“I am not very optimistic about this but at least we can say we tried,” offered Hanson.

Captain Driggs was getting up. Trout eyes jumped back and forth between Hanson and this junior detective as if magical telepathic waves would be like ping pong balls going back and forth for him to see. With nothing visible he at least thought Hanson would focus his eyes, hard on the Jr. detective, like a Jedi Knight playing mind tricks. For a good example of Trout’s expectations, ask any 7 year old to attempt telepathy, but Hanson simply sat there.

“Are you doing it?” Trout asked.

“Calm down kid,” Hanson said in a relaxed sense.

Captain Driggs was continuing his dithering of attempted sympathy as he got up. “You know Mrs. don’t blame yourself, the affair may have not even been your fault. Although I did read a study that most men who have affairs do feel neglected from their spouse. See . . .” That’s when it happened. Trout could tell Hanson was getting through. The junior detective was visibly looking at things. And beginning to question if things were not quite as straightforward as Captain Driggs thought.

Driggs was about to leave as he said, “I’ll send a few of the boys in for cleanup”. When junior first tried speech.

“Do you mind if I ask her a few questions?”

Captain Driggs was taken a bit aback. “Sorry ma’am. This is my junior.” he paused. “Very junior partner, Detective Lung, I’m sure I can answer his questions outside.”

“I only have a few questions,” Lung continued.

The captain pulled his partner aside and tried, unsuccessfully, to speak in a voice the others couldn’t hear. “Listen Lung, I have been able through my expertise, to calm this poor woman down. We don’t need you riling her up again.”

“I’ll try not to.”

The captain gave a look and then finally backed down. “Go ahead, make it quick.”

“Mrs. Mason. How long were you and . . .” He realized they had not even got the victim's name.

“Caden,” she helped.

“Thank you. So how long were you and Caden married?”

“Twelve years.”

“Any kids?” Lung asked.

“No. We were unable, so our dogs became our children.”

“So you have dogs?”

“Used to. Mildred and Munchies. Two weeks ago, Midrid disappeared. It was very unexpected, she had never run away before. A week later, Munchies died,” she said, pointing to the urn on the mantle. “He was getting old, and I think Mildred disappearing broke his heart. He simply couldn’t take it anymore...and now I know how he felt,” she said, as she began to cry.

As she did Captain Driggs rolled his eyes. “I knew it,” he puffed through his mustache.

Ignoring his superior, Lung moved on. “Any life insurance?”

“No, we had sufficient to be fine if either of us passed.”

“I also noticed that you have an alarm system. Is it active?”

“It is. My husband was very big into security and always kept the alarm set. His general security fears are also why he bought a gun a few years back.”

“Is that the gun?”

“Pheff,” a sound of exasperation came from the Captain, “Who’s gun do you think it is?” Clearly he felt he deserved to have a monopoly on obvious questions.

Mrs. Mason ignored him. “I think so.”

“And did the alarm go off last night?” Lung continued to question.

“I didn’t hear it.”

“Is the alarm connected to every window and door in the house?”

She began to stir in her seat and it was clear she didn’t want to answer the question. “Um, I think all of the entrances are connected, but it was really my husband’s system. There are so many things he ran around here. I won’t know what to do without him,” she got out as the tears again began to flow.

Captain Driggs jumped in, “alright that's enough questions for the poor Mrs.” He grabbed Lung and pulled him to the door. “The boys will be by in a moment to bag him.” Realizing, ‘bag him’ was a bit insensitive, which for Captain Driggs was quite impressive, he paused and tried to think of a kinder way to say it. But this was Captain Driggs, so nothing else came to mind and he headed for the door.

Lung turned and said, “Last thing, Did you hear the gunshot?”

She paused and was clearly surprised, “You know, I’m a very light sleeper but did not.”

The Captain was not happy that Lung had slipped one more in and said, “I said enough,” and pushed Lung out the door.

Hanson turned to Trout, “That Lung has potential. Much better listener than his Captain, of course, so are most inanimate objects, but I’m glad you suggested working with him.”

“So, you told him what to ask?”

“I can only prompt and encourage thoughts, putting it into words and asking it is up to him. I was trying as much as possible to get him to consider this as a potential homicide. I’d really like some drawers open but the fact that he pushed back at all against his Captain shows guts. And the last question about the gunshot was all him. Not that it hadn’t crossed my mind, but I didn’t give it to him.”

“Can you teach me to prompt people?”

“Like most things over here kid the best way to learn, is try. I don’t think there is much more for us to do here, perhaps it’s time for a chat with Caden.”

Here is the link to Chapter 4

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Law of the Harvest and going viral

We stood staring at the screen. It couldn’t be so. 1000 hits in one hour. How could that be? Someone, somewhere in the world was clicking on our movie every 3.6 seconds. We could hardly believe our luck. You hear that people can go viral and you assume it’s possible to happen but it seems more a dream than a reality, even as it is occuring.

Going viral has taught me a few things in regards to the law of the harvest. Some are old news but some of the insights have been new to me and I hope prove valuable to you.

1. You cannot reap if you never sow.

This is so incredibly obvious, but so often it is the problem. You want to be a New York times bestseller, but you haven't written a book. You want to be a YouTube sensation but you haven’t posted a video.

In Proverbs there is a great scripture, Prov 26:13 The slothful man saith, there is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.

There is always a reason, a lion, for not moving forward. Time, effort, it wouldn’t pan out anyway. I would do all that work only to see my book/movie flop, etc… But step one is getting up and going in the street.

2. The harvest can be surprising, both in type, quantity and timing.

Type first

This one has been a surprise for me. We are taught in scriptures and elsewhere you, “reap what you sow.” And while it is true one cannot sow anger, resentment, violence, addiction and hope to reap charity, benevolence, peacefulness, and self control. However, the harvest is often far more diverse than we realize. For example, when you plant YouTube videos, you do so in the hope of reaping views, likes and subscriptions, but we have found that in there we have also seen more discipline, hard work, love in our children, and overall unity. Has our home turned into a sparking clean bundle of sunshine? No, but having goals and moving toward them has given us far more than the things YouTube offers.

This is important to realize in any venture you take. Never start a journey saying, if I don’t get X for this it will be a failure. Because you very likely will fail, and it won’t necessarily be a failure. A few examples. If a kid only plays basketball to get in the NBA they are wasting their time. They should enjoy the game, get physically fit, use their fame and name in high school and college for good, and then if on draft day they get called up great. There is nothing wrong with the goal to make it to the NBA, but if you judge your success or failure on that one endpoint you are missing most of the benefits the journey provides. I have noticed this in my writing journey. Do I want to be a New York Times bestseller? Of course, I do. But in the meantime I am loving writing. I get joy out of hearing every time someone enjoys an article or one of my books. I am learning a tremendous amount and pushing myself in new and exciting ways that is making me better at everything I do, even if I never sell a single book. So, don’t get over caught up in a single outcome.

Quantity- You always reap more than you sow

That is why we do things. Would a farmer plant a seed if all he got in return was another seed? No, you put seed, water and work into the soil in the hopes of getting more in return than you started with. And you do. As stated above, it’s not always the crop you expected but good effort yields benefits in greater supply than the effort put in. And much of the credit goes to others on this one. First and foremost the Lord. The Lord always blesses us above the efforts we invest when we do things that he commands. (Mosiah 2:24)

In addition to the Lord's blessings, no man is an island. We all benefit from those around us, and they all play a huge part in our successes. What good is YouTube videos without an audience? How much technology goes into getting a video created and put out for the world to watch? How much of that technology can I take credit for? (Zero, in my case). To ever feel that you deserve a certain outcome is ludicrous. We all get far more than we deserve, but that is one of the reasons God asks us to make honest efforts, because he wants to bless us above what we deserve. That is part of what makes him such a great Father.

Timing- The harvest is rarely in planting season

This is the hardest lesson for any of us to really accept. We all know this instinctively with actual crops, it takes a good portion of the year to grow tomatoes, and it will take several years from the time you put that orange pip in the ground until you are enjoying your first sweet bite of pulp and juice. Yet we all want instant benefits. In our YouTube case Jeanine has been cultivating many skills, including video making for years without getting a single YouTube like. They are hilarious little sketches she did mostly for ourselves and family. One she posted on YouTube six years ago and before last week it had about 100 views, and since I have watched it 99 times you can deduce that it didn’t get much outside traffic. She spent hours on hours learning video and sound editing, determining where to film etc… The first real big production, so to speak, her song, Did I Sing with the Angels. Did okay, a few thousand views, but never really took off. Simply speaking, the harvest, so to speak did not come instantaneously, it never does.

3. We are poor judges of others efforts and harvest

“He did what and got how many views? A kid makes millions opening toys and talking about it? I could do that.” We have all said this or something similar. We often judge some of the rich and famous thinking they put in little and got out much. As I said earlier, it is true that they harvest likely exceeds their effort, it does for all of us. But it may be more balanced than you realize. Just like in Jeanine’s case who spent hours and hours learning skills that others will never witness or see, many of these “overnight” successes did their fair share of work and effort behind the scenes. We should always seek to learn from others, but when we move into the realm of judging that they don’t deserve their harvest or that they have “all the luck” we shouldn’t be so hasty.

4. Most harvests are perishable

As big as this video got, I have bad news for my kids. They aren’t going to be able to live their lives in fame and luxury from it. If they don’t make entertaining content they will fade into history much faster than it took them to make the video. Part of the human condition is the need for constant work. No matter how good a harvest we have one year we need to plant the next year if we want to eat. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground. (Gen. 3:19)

We can’t work out once, or for a week, or for a year and expect to be healthy forever. We can’t study hard for 12-16 years of our life, stop and expect not to lose most of what we learned. Constant effort and improvement is part of what we signed up for down here. (See my article about work)

5. Harvest are generally proportional to our effort on a macro, not a micro level.

While we reap more than we sow, the more we sow and work the greater our harvest will be, in general. What I mean by that is, we may have years we work hard and have a poor crop. Jeanine may make a video that takes a ton of effort and it flops. And she may make a video that takes much less effort and it does tremendously well. And while picking any micro level will lead us to say the harvest is out of balance with the effort, if you look at a larger scale you will see that it is more balanced than you think. Work hard throughout your life and you will reap more abundantly the harvest you seek, whatever it is.

6. I am not the Lord of the Harvest

While I can control my efforts, and while the harvest will generally be in proportion to my efforts, I am not the Lord of the Harvest. It is not in my hands. Ultimately God decides what we reap at any given time and for any given effort. This means we need to work on the part we can control, what we sow, and then rely in faith that God knows what harvest we need, how much of it and when to give it to us. Basically we need to have faith that he has our best interest at heart. It is my testimony that he does.

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Llewellyn Hanson, Dead Detective - Chapter 2

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

Here is the Link to the Prologue and Chapter 1.

Hanson had seen this scene hundreds of times but that never made him comfortable with it. But comfortable or not he knew what to do. He held the man who was weeping in his arms, “Caden, we are here to get to the bottom of what happened. I know it’s a lot to take in, but I need you to stay calm”

“I knew this would happen.” Caden wasn’t prepared to listen until he got a few things out. “But how did it happen like this?”

“We don’t know, but that is what we are here to figure out.” Hanson’s calm was equal to Caden’s lack thereof.

“What do you mean you don’t know? How can you not know? I’m dead, right?” Caden asked.

“Yes, you are definitely dead,” Hanson replied.

“Then you should know who killed me. Didn’t you see who killed me?”

“I wasn’t here at the time. If someone was, we will find them, but it’s likely there weren't any eye witnesses.”

“Eye witnesses? Don’t you people just know?” Caden asked.

“It doesn’t work like that, but don’t worry too much about that right now, I see that you have some family and friends here to see you.” Hanson gestured to a few folks who still stood in the doorway. “I assume you know them.”

“Yeah, that’s my Uncle Scott.” Caden said as he started to walk to the doorway.

Hanson walked over with Caden to Scott. “Scott, why don’t you take Caden outside and answer some of his questions. But keep him close by, we will want to ask him a few things after we look around.”

“But what about my wife?” Caden asked as he looked down to the women who cradled the lifeless body against her while she sobbed throughout this interchange. “Can’t I somehow tell her that I am, I don’t know, okay, in a sense?”

“I’m sorry, but no. Go catch up with your Uncle and others; she’ll be calling the police soon and I’d like to look around before they show up.”

Caden and his family walked outside and Hanson turned to his shell shocked partner. “Let’s get to work.”

“With her crying there?”

“Yes. She will be up in a moment and, I assume, will call the police. You can listen if you like, but I doubt she’ll know much more than we do.”

“Shouldn’t we interview Caden first?”

“Wouldn’t do much good. It will take several more hours for the idea he’s really dead to set in and another few hours for him to realize that we're not omnipotent. The first 200 questions we ask him will be answered with, “don’t you know?” I’d rather he use up those responses on his relatives. Your training starts now. What do you see?”

“Looks like suicide to me.”

“Wow, I have more training than I thought.”

“What? You don’t think it’s a suicide?”

“Not sure. See, you are busy thinking, assuming, and conjecturing. There may come a time for that, but I don’t start doing those things until I gather the facts. So, let’s try again; what do you see?”

“Man down. I guess we can say he’s dead because I saw his spirit walk out the front door and the body stayed behind. Appears he has a gunshot wound to the head, entering on the right side, and revolver in his right hand.” Looking on the coffee table, Trout noted, “Hand written note.”

“What’s it say?” Hanson asked.

He went to read it, but before he could the sobbing wife picked it up and read aloud, between gasps of breath, “I can’t go on. I have been living a lie. I have cheated on my wife and know she will be devastated. I can’t be without her, nor can I live on with her disappointment. So, we say goodbye.” She again burst into tears.

While she read and Trout listened, Hanson was busily looking around the room, the mantel piece, around the T.V., out the front and back windows, on counter tops, and at an assortment of many other household items. As she finished, he looked back to Trout.

“What else?” Hanson said.

“Um…” he looked around again, “bereaved wife. Need to start verifying if he really had an affair and that the gun was his, but still looks like a classic suicide.”

“Finally, you said something insightful,” Hanson said with a smile. “This is a classic suicide, everything is exactly to the book, a cliche suicide. Take the note; you could slip that note under any dead body for a suicide. It doesn’t mention him or her by name. Doesn’t that seem odd to you?”

“I have seen vague notes at suicides before.”

“And I’ve seen beats call murders suicides before.” Hanson ment for this comment to sting. But as soon as it was said it was clear it did not have the effect he had planned and Trout’s question explained why.

“Who are beats?”

“Beats, live officers, the people she is dialing as we speak.” Sure enough the woman was trying to compose herself as she picked up a phone and started to dial.

“Why beats?”

“Heartbeat. they have one—we don’t.”

“Are you saying cops don’t do their due diligence?” It took a while, but his earlier words finally stung.

“I’ve known a few officers who really like that ‘case closed’ stamp on their desk.”

“We are not like that,” Trout said.

“What do you mean ‘we’?” Trout’s face was unable to blush, but that didn’t stop him from being ashamed as Hanson pointed out his error. “Anyways, they are going to be here soon.”

“Yes, my husband is dead.” The woman could be heard in the background talking to dispatch.

“Why are you in such a rush before they come? Do we have to be out by the time they show up?” Trout asked.

“No, but if we are lucky enough to get a decent detective and they do investigate, they will swarm the place. I wish we had that kind of man power: two of us will have to keep up with 10-15 beats. Best to pick places you want to look at and try to be there when they look. We need them to open the drawers and turn pages for us to see much.

“We also need to be prepared with information to help influence the beats in the right direction.”

“What does that mean? How do we influence the beats?”

“I would explain it to you, but then I would have no information to help or influence the beats with. So, we better get back to it.” Hanson was continuing looking in every place possible while they spoke.

“Fine, you don’t think it’s suicide,” said Trout.

“I Never said that, suicide is one of many possibilities I am looking for more clues.”

“Okay like what?”

“No forced entry, on the front door, back door or windows, is a good example,” Hanson said.

“I noticed that.”

“You didn’t say it. Nor have we searched the rest of the house. More importantly, the dogs,” Hanson said.

Trout thought back to the picture. “The Dalmations?”

“Precisely, where are they? No sign of them, not in the house or either yard.”

“That picture could have been years ago. Perhaps the dogs are long gone.” Trout said.

“Gone maybe...long gone. No.” Hanson continued, “Dog bowls on the kitchen floor, empty but still there. The leash by the front door on the key rack. And most telling of all, the urn on the mantel with the date from last week on it.”

“The dogs died last week?” Trout asked, “Are you sure? That urn could be from a relative.”

“Good old Uncle Munchies? The name on the urn led me to believe it was one of the dogs.” He then added under his breath, “but I may have made the same assumption with the name Destry.”


“Nothing,” Hanson said.

“Okay, so where is the other dog? No second urn?”

“Excellent. Those are the questions that will get us somewhere,” Hanson said.

Trout suddenly stopped and looked at Hanson, shouldn’t we be writing this stuff down? We wrote everything down when I was just a low down ‘beat’.”

“Yes, beats are so meticulous.” Hanson said with his ever so common roll of the eyes. “I have been writing it down.”


“Check your visor.”

Trout had once again forgotten he had a visor but as soon as he thought about it, it appeared. He had no idea how to get it to display what he wanted but he was curious about the case notes Hanson had supposedly taken and suddenly that is what popped up. Trout was amazed at the amount and the detail. Hanson had noted all they had talked about and 100 times more. It stated how many people had been there when they walked in. What time the wife had entered. How many windows and doors, their sizes and types of locks, the security system. A diagram that showed the location of all the furniture, and every other item in the room. A copy photo of the suicice note, and dimensions of the yards. As he read more things appeared below as clearly Hanson was still making observations. The next one read, a deceased male had a solid wedding band, possible titanium. Woman on the scene, no band but imprint, so recently removed. Sure enough looking over at her left hand holding the phone to her head there was no ring but the tan line showing it must have recently been there. And two inches from her hand was Hanson's face looking very closely. Clearly personal space between the living and the dead wasn’t a thing.

“How are you making all these notes?” Trout asked.

“Think about what you want to write or take a photo of it, and it’s done. Your visor is merely an extension of your mind, only the stuff we put in the file others have access to.”

Trout tried to think of something he could add, instantly text started to appear, beginning with his name.

Trout: What can I add. I can’t add anything, this guy is a freak. How could I add anything? Oh, wait don’t write that, stop, delete, how do I go back.”

Hanson looked over at Trout. Trout smiled, “You’re not reading the file are you?”

“Yes. I am.”

“um...I didn’t mean to...sorry.”

“That’s fine, it takes practice. Focus on the part you want to delete, and delete it.”

Trout saw that if he thought where to start and moved his mind over the text it highlighted much like a mouse on a computer. Once all the text he had put in was highlighted he attempted to wish it away. “I did it, and it’s still there.”

“True, but it’s been marked for deletion. All redacted notes get reviewed, it will be deleted soon. You can’t delete an official record without permission.”

Trout was now stuck between wanting to do the right thing and take notes and fear of being on the record, everytime he tried. As if reading his mind Hanson said, “Don’t be afraid of it being official, in my experience everything we do, say or think will likely get figured out at some point. Might as well get used to only thinking and saying things you are okay with others seeing anyways.”

Trout wanted to say, easier said than done, but realized that went without saying, so moved on to another curiosity he had, “Why don’t I see your visor?”

“I don’t see yours and you don’t see mine. Remember it's really an extension of your brain except with access to the hub.”

“The hu…”

“Listen Kid, Make a personal note and I’ll tell you later. Now I need to scope out the rest of the house.” Meanwhile Hanson made a personal note that he liked Kid, even more than Trout.

“What should I do?”

“Watch her, Note who she calls and what she does. Message me when the beats arrive.” Hanson said as he started up the stairs.

“Message you?”

Hanson was already halfway up the stairs and followed his own advice when he said, “Never mind, just yell.”

Trout sat quietly watching a woman in shock, staring at her dead husband. They both felt helpless. She because her husband was dead, and Trout because he was. Crime scenes were not foreign to him. He had been a badged officer by age 19, youngest recruit in his academy’s history, and detective by 25. He was so determined to change the world, catching one murderer at a time, and after only a few years he was dead. When his great-great-great, truth was he wasn’t quite sure how great this particular grandpa was, but he told him he could be a homicide detective over here he ran down to the office to sign up. And here he was, nothing to do, staring at a dead body and it’s wife.

His mind thought of 100 things that needed to be done, dust for prints, bag the body, the weapon, interview the wife, set up the autopsy and each of those led to 10 more things to do, but all those things required something he didn’t have, a body. And everything he could think to note that didn’t require a body, the dead Hercule Poirot had noted within five minutes of them being here.

As Trout stewed on the limitations of death he noticed that the woman was coming out of shock and that something clearly hit her, as it did she picked up her phone and dialed, “Tom is that you?”

Not being able to make out the voice on the other line, he moved in closer, as he did he made a note, his visor popped up and he saw,

Trout: She called a Tom at…

He wanted to think of a time but didn’t have a watch, so simply thought the words, current time and 6:47 AM popped into the notes, “Wow, this is nice.” he thought, but was a little disappointed that it appeared in the notes, he marked if for deletion and went back to listening.

“Caden’s dead,” She said.

“Is this a joke?” He was close enough to make out the other line, after stealing a play from Hanson’s playbook when it came to personal space.

“No. I am serious. I came down stairs and he was lying dead on the couch.”

“I’m so sorry, did you call the police?” Tom asked.

“Yes, they are on their way.”

“Good, they will know what to do.”

“But what if they ask me about last night, and who was in the house?”

“Wo, wo, wo, I didn’t end up coming last night. Jim asked that I stay late and guard his stupid paintings. I can prove it to you, in fact, I didn’t want to tell you this but Jim fired me last night.”

“What? He can’t, you need that job.”

“I know. But he can, and he did. He said, I stole something, which is totally untrue. But the point is, I wasn’t there, so don’t mention my name to the cops. It will only confuse them, and even if they clear me, you know what will happen to me?” Tom asked with growing desperation.

“I know, but what if they ask about who has been here lately.”

“Don’t mention my name. I can’t go back. You know that. If not for my sake, think of Riley. She needs me. I need her.”

She thought and he waited for some reassurance. “You never did like Caden,” she said as tears again began to form around the edges of her eyes.

“Daisy, don’t talk like that, I would never, could never hurt Caden. I wasn’t even there, please, please, please don’t mention my name.”

A knock came on the door. “There here, I have to go.”

“Don’t tell them about me Daisy. I can’t go…” She hung up the phone and headed for the door.

“They’re here Hanson.” Trout called out as loud as he could. Instantly Hanson appeared by his side making Trout jump about 6 feet. “Whoa, you can’t even walk down the stairs?”

“There are zero benefits for exercise over here Kid.” The door opened and Hanson cried out in terror.

Here is the link to Chapter 3.

Llewellyn Hanson- Dead Detective- Chapter 1

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

If you haven't read it here is the link to the Prologue.

“Hanson, your attention to detail is superb, but at times, your methods are questionable.” The tone was stern, but Hanson could tell that Chief Grassly was told to have this conversation and, deep down, wasn't that angry.

“They had booked someone else, bringing him in was the next step, right?” Hanson loved putting forth his clear arguments, even if he knew they wouldn’t get him anywhere.

“You and I both know it's not. The next step is to get permission to bring him in.”

“That could have taken days, or weeks. He was there, I had an opportunity, and the two just snowballed.”

“Yeah, some opportunity. I’m not sure that was the best way to bring someone in.”

“Oh, so we can't use animals anymore?”

“No,” Grassly said, trying to think of the best way to throw off Hanson’s attempt to make him contradict himself.“That's not it.” Grassly was now getting truly irritated, “but we prefer you not to deploy lions in large crowds: others may have been hurt.”

“I had total control. You know that lion wouldn’t have hurt anyone without being influenced.”

“Yes, and you aren’t the only one out there trying to influence people...or lions. You and I both know that could have gone wrong.”

“Well, it didn’t. I brought him in cleanly. They found him with merchandise and money from the heist and the weapon that killed the guard. I wrapped up the case in a tight bow for the beats. Get the guy, help the beats, isn’t that why we are here?”

Grassly cut him off. “Hanson, you understand the job. And no one, no one, is a better detective than you. But there is a line between what we do and what the people we put away do; you just better be sure you don’t cross it.” Grassly took a long pause, “They want me to take action.”

“Not my badge?” Hanson asked.

“Lucky for you, no. But it might be next time.” Relief fell across Hanson's face.

“However, they want me to remove your authority to bring someone in. If we get permission to bring them in on your case, it will be assigned to someone else to do it.”

Hanson was not pleased. “Just because I understand using the element of surprise?”

“Hanson, when we talk about maintaining the element of surprise, we're talking about surprising the perpetrator—not your superiors.”

Hanson knew arguing was pointless and grew anxious to move on. “Fine. What's my new case?”

Grassly felt like the point had not sufficiently sunk in but didn't know what else to say, so he decided to go along with it. “Potential homicide just came in. No Witnesses.”

“Of course.”

“But get on it quick; the beats will find the body soon. I think you should go look around before they touch stuff. You should have the file.”

Hanson looked down at the screen that hung in the air in front of him with a photo of a middle-aged man. There was some information along the side of the photo that he began to read.

“Wait, there's a mistake; This gives the case to me and a. . . D. Armentrout. What about Disher?”

“Disher is being promoted to senior detective.”

“Will miracles never cease?” Hanson threw in, but Grassly chose to ignore him.

“But I'm glad you mentioned it because I almost forgot: Detective Destry Armantrout is your new junior detective.”

“You are kidding me, a new junior? And what kind of name is Destroy Armantrout? Does he want to kill all fish with arms, or did his ancestors make shields for trout?”

Grassly continued to ignore Hanson’s wisecracks. “Seriously, Hanson. It’s my call and I think you need a new junior. It's a big responsibility, and I chose you because despite how you act, you're good, and I need more good detectives. Teach him well and please be a good example. Don’t make me regret this.”

Hanson nodded.

“And Hanson, he's not only new to the force, he's also really fresh, so don't be too hard on him; I know it’s been a long time but hopefully you remember what it's like.”

Handsome growned, “How fresh?”

“Last week.”

“Last week?” Hanson said in Desperation. “How is someone that fresh on the force?”

“He used to work as a beat.”

Hanson buried his face in his hands. “Former beat fresher than maggots on a corpse. You should have taken my badge.”

“Get moving Hanson. He's in the lobby, and I wouldn't be making fun of anyone's name, okay Llewellyn. Hanson turned and disappeared out of Grassly's office.

Hanson approached the young man who sat looking much like a rabbit whose just had the flashlight turned his way. Besides the dazed look, he was a fairly respectable looking young man: tall, slender, clean-cut with dark hair, and dark eyes. He looked like a man in his mid-20s. Being so young was rare, and Hanson instantly felt a bit of sympathy for someone being thrown into their world in their youth.

“You Detective Armantrout?”

“Yes sir, and you must be Detective Llewellyn Hanson.”

“Not to you I'm not,” Hanson quickly cut him off. “You can call me Detective Hanson, or Hanson: I never go by my first name. And as for you, I'll be calling you Trout, because there's no way I'm saying Armentrout every time.”

“That's fine.”

“I wasn't asking your permission. So, have you looked over the file?”

“I didn't get a file.”

“I saw you were sent the file.”

“Where do I pick it up? Do we get mail?”

“Boy, you really are fresh. It doesn't come in the mail, it's sent to your visor.”

“Cool.” Trout didn't want to sound dumb, but decided he better ask. “What's a visor?”

Hanson looked a bit shocked and pointed.

“Oh, this weird screen that seems to follow me everywhere?”

“That's your visor.”

“I thought it was so weird at first, but I got used to it; I honestly forget about it sometimes.” He looked at the screen. “So, how does it work?”

“Didn't you get any training?”

“They said I'd learn on the job. They said you'd be happy to teach me, but I see now why they laughed after the word happy.”

Hanson was stung by how predictable he'd been, so decided he better stop being quite so surly. “Think about the case and look at your visor.”

“I don't know anything about it. What can I think about it?”

“Just do it.”

Trout looked into the visor and thought about the case, or thought about a desire to see something about a case. Instantly, the same photo of the man who Hanson had seen earlier, popped up.

“Caden Mason?”

“That's him, died less than an hour ago. No warning, very unexpected, could be murder.”

Trout looked closer at the picture of Caden. He was middle-aged, nicely dressed, and overweight but not obese. It was clear the photo was a zoom-in from a larger photo, and as soon as Trout thought that he would like to zoom out, the photo did so, and Trout could see Caden kneeling on one knee, and on his other knee sat a woman, presumably his wife. Given her size, Trout was happy she was on Caden's knee and not his. They were in a nicely landscaped yard, and in front of them were two Dalmatian dogs. Along the side of the photo was some demographic information.

Height: 5’10”

Weight: ….

“Wisconsin?” Trout asked after reading the address. “We cover Wisconsin?”

“That's a close one for us.” Hanson had decided to let his Greenie’s lack of experience stop being an irritant and try to enjoy it. “We better go check it out.”

“How will we get there?”

“How have you traveled to places in the last week?”

“I walked,” Trout admitted.

“Oh, to be that fresh again.” Hanson said as he put his hand on Trout. Looking down at Trout, he gave a wink. Trout suddenly felt a bit queasy and then opened his eyes, which he didn't recall closing. He was in the living room of a middle-class home that was filled with a crowd.

The crowd was talking in a large group with most of the focus on one man, a man Trout instantly recognized. Everyone seemed anxious to talk to him.

Hanson quickly spoke up and took control of the room. As he did, Trout noticed for the first time the body that lay on the ground, in front of the couch. There was a bullet wound to the head and a revolver in it’s right hand.

“All right folks, listen up.” Some stopped and turned to Hanson, others kept talking. “Folks, please listen. I'm Detective Hanson from enforcement.” Hanson said, holding up his badge as he spoke. “I realize this is an exciting time for most of you but I'm going to have to ask you all to quickly move to the outside. You can talk there.”

Everyone made a motion for the door except for the man who stood in the center. He looked confused as those next to him told him to quietly step outside.

Hanson turned to the man next to him and said, “Don't let him leave: we will want to take his statement.” But as they turned to leave, a woman in the back with a bathrobe started down the hall, and the group stopped to watch her.

“Keep moving folks,” Hanson reiterated. The woman ignored him as she walked down through the crowd to the adjacent kitchen. She gave a confused look as she held up the empty coffee pot. “Honey did you forget to make the coffee this morning?” She called out.

People continue to watch, but especially the man who Trout had recognized. Trout knew what was going on, and did not want to be there, and yet couldn't turn away. Hanson continued to push the crowd. “Everyone leave now or I will get reinforcements.” People reluctantly began to crowd out but the man was now also ignoring Hanson. The woman began to walk towards the living room, and the man stood in front of her, trying to stop her progress. “Listen, don't be scared, it's not what it looks like.”

She acted as if he wasn't there and walked slowly to the couch. She noticed the body. “Hun, get up or you'll be late.” She stopped and saw the gun and the blood, and screamed. “No, it can't be!” she ran to the body and tried to see if any life was left, and began balling as she held her dead husband close. All the while, the man kneeled by her side and tried to console her. “Honey, don’t worry, we can figure this out. I’m here. Look at me. I’m right here by your side.”

Hanson walked over to him and picked him up. “I'm sorry, Caden. She can't hear you, or see you. You're dead.”

Here is Chapter 2

Llewellyn Hanson- Dead Detective- Prologue

Neka, a female African lion, lays low at the Oregon Zoo. | Oregon Zoo

Justice had never liked his name. And noting that this zoo had decided to also give it to one of it’s female lions didn’t make him feel any better. In his mind, justice was something to escape or avoid, not be praised or named after. Escaping it was his specialty, but it wasn’t always pretty. This would not be the first time he’d have someone else pay for his deeds, he didn’t care for that aspect. The thought of an innocent man going to jail because of what he did, didn’t give him any pleasure, but it did give him security. Cops and DAs wanted someone to pay, and as soon as they had someone, he knew they would stop looking. That made him free. Free to figure out what was next.

There was something about crowds, seas of people, particularly people on vacation that gave him unique insight and more importantly anger. In the masses, he was alone and being alone as he saw couples and families enjoying themselves always made him more comfortable about his chosen profession. Seeing others have things he felt he would never have, help him feel justified in taking what he did from them. Isolation became his motivation and justification. It was on a beach that he had come up with his most recent job, and it had gone very well. Well, it had been a success in the fact that he made more than he ever had before on a job. What hadn’t gone well was the fact that there was a casualty. But such were the risks of the job, and he couldn’t control the movements of the night time security detail.

That kind of collateral damage was never his intent, but luckily he was always prepared for such circumstances, and he had staged the scene perfectly. Police were so obsessed with DNA today, and he knew all it took was a little of someone elses to taint a scene. It wasn’t easy to get someone elses blood, but given how valuable it was, it was worth the effort. Sure enough, as predicted they had arrested the man he had so cleverly framed and his freedom was secured.

As he walked out of the restroom he was surprised to hear nothing. It was a Saturday and he had picked the zoo because he thought it would be packed with people, and it had been. But now a silence fell over the humid building that housed hippos and alligators. Instinctively he felt his side, he knew his gun was there but getting ready to draw always made him feel more comfortable.


“Is everyone out?” Bill yelled to his fellow security guard as they entered the office.

“I think so.” Donald replied.

“You cleared the restroom right.”

“I cleared the ladies room next to the hippo cage.”

“What about the men’s room? It’s back around that corner.”

Donald gave a blank stare that let Bill know that the answer was not one Donald wanted to give. Donald had only worked at the zoo for two weeks. They paid their security lousy and it was the kind of job you picked up to pay the bills while you looked for a real job. This meant that Bill spent more time training new security guards than he did on actual security. But one thing that he knew was not on the training was the location of all the bathrooms. If he had had a more experienced security guard, he would have sent them.

“Well let’s hope it was empty.” He switched the video feed in the small room full of screens to the hippo house. “Did we figure out how she escaped yet?”

“During the early feeding, the trainer left the gate open because he thought Justice was in the main pen, but due to some shots she was in the vet’s area.

“And we are sure that she made it into the hippo house.”

“That is what some people said, I didn’t see her, but I locked the door, so if she’s there, she'll be secured. Jim and Tess are locking down the other buildings as we speak just in case we were wrong.”

“They were right, there is Justice now.” A large female lion came into view. “What is she doing?” The lion was low and moving slowly as if stalking prey. In the back corner of the view they now could see what she was stocking as a man became visible. “Quick call the others to get to the hippo house.” But as they spoke, the majestic lion broke out into a run. For so many who are used to seeing lions only sleep at the zoo this would have been a rare treat. The lion moved fast, and effortlessly as you saw the sinews of the legs stretch and flex with each stride. Ten feet from her victim Justice leapt into the air. It was only as she leapt that the man who shared her name, heard something, turning, he saw the last thing he would ever witness: claws, eyes, and teeth. When his friend had shown him his full-back tattoo with this same view, he had admired it, and even thought about how amazing it would have been to witness a lion in that pose. However, a little more distance between him and the lion would have been appreciated.

The guards watched in silence as in so many ways, Justice was served.

Here is the link to Chapter 1.

Work, Consecration, and Motivation

Our Annabel happily doing her chores

“I hope while you have been here you have learned to work.” My mom’s words came with a soberness and sincerity that I rarely felt. Not that she wasn’t a sober and sincere person it was more than that. I felt how deeply she meant what she said. And it has stuck with me ever since.

I was 18 and headed off to college and except for a few weeks between college and my mission I would never really live at home again. I had always known that she had wanted me to work. After all, she spent more of her life trying to motivate us to actually get our chores done than she did anything else. Something I am sure she wished wasn’t a full time job, but unfortunately was even more than that. But I assumed she just wanted the bathroom clean, the dishes done, and the clothes from the washer into the dryer and put on cotton sturdy thirty. But what I realized as she spoke, while that work had to get done, was that she was more concerned about who I was becoming than she was about clothes or dishes.

The older I get the more the principle of work has come into focus as one of the most important and guiding principles in life. Satan would have us believe that happiness is found in avoiding work, and he regularly portrays the joys of ease. Caught up in this view many of us make work avoidance one of our great pursuits.

God knows true happiness is not found in avoiding work, but in embracing it. There will always be work. Work to maintain our existence, to eat, food must be grown, prepared and then dishes washed. Work to improve our life, it is work that leads to innovation and comfort. And work to make our lives rich, the entertainment we all enjoy takes work. There are exceptions, individuals who get “lucky” and have a life of ease purely on the work of others, not on their own. Satan would have us focus and waste our lives dreaming of becoming the exception, God would have us focus on the rule. And that is, that with its ever presence the only way for all people to be happy in society, what God wants, is for us to be happy in work. Not only that, he knows our greatest joys in our lives will not come from fleeting moments of pleasure or the stuff we accumulate, but in our accomplishments. Things that can only be achieved by the sweat of our brain and our brow.

This is true for individuals and societies. In the Book of Mormon we get to see the creation and destruction of many nations. But whenever a nation begins to prosper it is always because, “Yea, they were industrious, and did labor exceedingly.” (Mosiah 23:5) There are many economic theories out there. Most focus on government and how it runs business and monetary systems. But what I think some economic theorists lose sight of is at the end of the day it's about production. How many people are working and producing? You can borrow, you can save, you can liquidate, you can plan, you can merge, you can stimulate, but if Bob and the other millions like him don’t get up and go to work to make a product our GDP will be zero.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ we speak a lot about consecration. And when we think of consecration we often think of the difficulty in giving up or surrendering all that we own to be redistributed by the Bishop of another spiritual leader. I personally don’t believe this is how consecration will be applied but that is a discussion for another day. The point is consecration becomes a much easier principle to live, in the future and today. If we can do two things.

  1. Alter our motivations for why we work: This means getting up and going to work because we want to improve the world around us and help others not because we want to enrich ourselves. This will not only help us but will in my mind improve the quality of work we provide. But this is much easier to do if we:
  2. Learn to love work and the joy of producing. This is really the change that needs to occur. And if it does consecration becomes a very easy principle to live. Because we are more concerned with and find joy in the opportunity to contribute, the opportunity to create and produce and being productive than we are in what we consume. How much we get, how rich we are, how big our house is or how nice our clothes are, etc…
It took me many years to understand what my Mother really meant. She wasn’t worried about whether or not I knew the mechanics of how dishes were washed, or the lawn mowed. She wanted me to understand not just how to work, but how wonderful work can be. Because she knew that this discovery was the only way I could see the fulfillment of that great scripture” “men are that they might have joy.”

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