Smallfoot (Tongue-In-Cheek)

smallfoot felix titling

Many of you may soon see me on the news or on A&E. As you’ve probably heard, I’m the 1st person to ever obtain photographic evidence of Smallfoot. (He is a genetic cousin of his larger counterpart Bigfoot but instead of being 7′ tall he is only 3″ in height.)

Instead of “Squatch” we might call him “Squashed.”

I had footage of Smallfoot. Unfortunately, I took it at midnight near a river in West Fork, with the lens cap on evidently. But it’s still further proof. However, the media won’t let me show it to you, for reasons I can’t discuss.

I disbanded the Smallfoot social media community on 12-20-2014. It was getting too commercialized and participants were losing sight of the objective of ensuring that people were made aware of Smallfoot.

11102014 Why Dry Counties Are a Waste of Resources

“The assertion that alcohol sales and consumption lead to rampant crime and decay of the moral fiber is no less than a claim that the free citizens of this free nation have neither the moral nor mental capacity to govern themselves and act as responsible members of society without a benign, possibly even theocratic, despotism that seeks to pass judgment….”   (I lost the attribution for this quote. I’m using it anyway and I apologize for not citing its source. – X)  This is a fancy-pants means of saying that you have to trust people to behave responsibly and not interfere with their choices until they misbehave – and not to seek to dictate people’s choices based on your moral grounds.

To ensure clarity in my point: I disagree with attempts to keep counties ‘dry,’ or devoid of the sale of alcoholic beverages. (Given the false pretense that no alcohol is sold in these counties, of course!)

I updated this entry after Amendment #4 failed here in Arkansas. Oddly enough, though, one county voted overall against allowing statewide liquor sales, yet on the same ballot passed a law to allow their own county to be able to sell alcohol. That’s funny on several levels, and a good demonstration of the craziness that characterizes people’s attitude and relationship to alcohol. The liquor stores in wet counties spent millions of dollars to reframe the argument to indicate ones attitude about “local control.” Those arguments are specious and laughable. But they were very, very effective in the vote. In Johnson, one of the most Mayberry RFD little kingdoms in the state, voters passed a law to allow Sunday sale of alcohol, even though it affects almost no businesses and in general the voters there lag significantly behind other areas in attitudes about such things. In the towns where I grew up, both illegal moonshining and bootlegging were very common. Even today, it is rampant.

Arkansas will eventually become totally wet and statewide liquor sales will be the norm. Like all social issues, it will be defeated by slimmer and slimmer margins. Over time, people will see through the ineffectiveness and hassle of having such crazy repressive laws on the books. It’s not a moral issue and continuing to frame it that way is going to lessen the ability to keep the laws unchanged.

First, restricting availability only serves to ensure that those without the means won’t have the same access to alcohol as those with better transportation and disposable income will have. If you argue that people with less money shouldn’t be spending it on alcohol, that is an elitist attitude. It’s true, of course, that money needed to maintain one’s life and health shouldn’t be wasted on alcohol; on the other hand, being rich doesn’t excuse the expenditure, either. We could all find better uses for our money than spending it alcohol. But that’s true of eating out, going to sporting events, trips, or how big our house is. Alcohol is still tainted by the old prohibitionist attitude.

Second, limiting access to otherwise legal activities or substances usually has an underpinning of moral superiority somewhere in the mix. Telling an adult “no” because they might misbehave is terrible public policy.

Third, if you vote down alcohol sales in your own backyard and yet drink elsewhere, where people allow one another to live freely until they do something illegal and/or stupid, you should consider that this sends the wrong message about how steadfast your beliefs might actually be. I would never prohibit an activity in my own backyard and partake of the same the activity just because of a different geographical location. Whether it is alcohol or bow hunting, if I fight it where I live, I’m not going to do it anywhere else, either.

Fourth, please don’t use the presence of children to force abolition on others. If you don’t want alcohol sold in your area, please don’t drink around children. It sends a conflicting message. Of course, you might counter with the claim that any good parent can demonstrate, explain and educate their children on the social downfall or intoxication and misuse – but so too can anyone else ask for the same right in their area and household. If you fight the availability of alcohol where you live based on your children being exposed to it, you should probably not drink in their presence, whether at home or on vacation. Most places don’t limit access to alcohol with laws such as ours. Children are going to be exposed to it. All you can do is be great parents and be a good example. History has shown that not having alcohol in the house doesn’t serve as a good indicator as to whether ones children will drink inappropriately.

Fifth, where alcohol is sold can be regulated easily. Whether your goal is to maintain an appearance such as to avoid gaudy signs or deterioration, you can pass laws to specify those concerns. The same holds true as for hours of operation, proximity to schools, the taxation amount and so forth.

People who drink are going to find ways to drink, especially when it is just a question of geography.

In simple terms, you have to trust me to drink responsibly, to not engage in illegal behavior, to treat my fellow human beings with the courtesy they deserve, to not drive under the influence, to not expose children to activities detrimental to their well-being – all of which is already expected of those who are responsible citizens.

The Perryman Report is a great read for anyone denying that prohibition is anything but negative on a place’s economic strength. The ability to control sale of alcohol has no effect on consumption. Many studies have shown the going “wet” has decreased a region’s per capita accident rate and increased its economic strength.

 

A Personal Blog, A Personal Note

“I can only write from the porch of my narrow world.” -x

(Note: some people try to stretch everything said and done to include people not intended to be included in commentary. If someone else is trying to get you to believe that I’m talking about you, please stop and look at the person trying to make the claim. If you think I’m writing about you, there is probably nothing I can say to dissuade you from the idea. )

Part of the reason I started this blog was to get my words out, even if imperfectly, so that no one could easily set their own record in my regard. This isn’t a two minute dash to angrily lash at people. It’s a long-term commitment to share some parts of me. When I’m gone, it will be hard for people to attempt to change the nature of who I was. They will try, but these thousands of hours of both seriousness and farce written here will drown out the attempt. A person doesn’t just sit down one morning and write hundreds of posts without some type of motivation.

(Even if misguided motivation. Everyone reading this has their own hobbies. Whether it is sports, napping, television, long walks, or any other activity, it translates into time being spent in the manner you see fit, even if no observable benefit to you or society will result. Each of “wastes” our lives to some degree.)

For those who know me personally, you can’t just accidentally find this blog and start reading. If by miracle that is how you found me, you should know that continuing to read it is a choice. Like any account of a person’s life, my words suffer from the present moment, meaning that a person’s mood at a specific moment can “color” the tenor and meaning of one’s words. A careless synonym can sometimes set a reader’s mind far away from the intended meaning. In the same way that the bible admonishes masters to not overhear their servants, you should know as you read that written words are powerful things, capable of provoking emotions that weren’t intended.

Revisionists insist on painting their lives with a soft brush. They are so damaged they’ve even given themselves convincing amnesia about their past. I’ve written a lot about the need to remember that my parents were capable of so much good – when they weren’t at the mercy of alcohol or anger. The violence overshadows that potential. But I don’t walk around whimpering about my horrible childhood and I don’t use it to justify anything I’ve done. Whatever stupid or bad things I’ve done are at my own feet. People who know me intimately will tell you that it is almost ‘just’ a horrible story to me. I laugh about it quite often. Not that fake laugh-to-cover-unhealed-wounds laughter, but the authentic, healthy “Can you believe it?” laughing.

Much of my goal each day is to avoid cynicism.

 

Forgiveness

Becoming Minimalist Blog Link About Forgiveness

I love the Becoming Minimalist  blog. But I loathe the idea that some people aren’t toxic and that sometimes normal people don’t deserve to say “no more.” I do NOT say that forgiveness is not worth striving for. I also do NOT say that forgiveness requires reconciliation with the person who has wronged you.

For this post, I’m not focusing so much on the criminal justice aspect of forgiveness. This mostly refers to interpersonal forgiveness.

Why must “forgiveness” be collectively agreed upon to be a total acceptance of what someone has done to you AND that you allow the person full access to your life and emotions again? This goes against what I see day in and day out, regardless of religious viewpoint or temperament of those involved.

Let us all perhaps agree that if someone has wronged you and you’ve made peace with what happened, that you have arrived at a mental place where you are no longer wasting time or emotional injury on the wrong and don’t wish any ill will toward the person who wronged you, then this counts as “forgiveness.” Is that too much to ask? We shouldn’t treat all wrongs as equal in the eyes of a victim. Being gossiped about is not comparable to being abused, stolen from, or accused of something vile.

The essence of forgiveness is whether the wrong has not only left a scar, but changed the focus of the victim to anything except full pursuit of his or her own life and without further consideration for the wrong done to him or her. – x

“Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as revenge, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship)….”

Someone I know once said “I might forgive him, but I’m not going to go to lunch with him.” This attitude speaks of an intelligent decision, made with the intention of not spending any more life energy on the person being forgiven, nor judging or interfering in that person’s trajectory, now separate from your own. There’s no reconciliation with the person who wronged you, but neither is there a focus on the ‘wrong’ that happened, nor wasted time or emotions from the victim. I think this is a great baseline for forgiveness.

To forgive isn’t to forget, despite the cliché…

It is easy to preach and recommend that everyone practice forgiveness and acceptance. But what do you say about  people affected by violence, abuse, anger, alcoholism, drug abuse and sheer evil?

For those of you who have lived bountiful lives and have never known just plain evil, toxic people, good for you. I’m no advocate for violence or reprisals – but I’m certainly not for putting yourself back into the reaches of people who violate the world and the people in it. There are enough great people in the world to justify not getting slapped in the face repeatedly by those you have around you due to “forgiveness.” Better to spend your valuable time focusing on the good people and as for the rest, I vote to make it a case-by-case basis.

When you are preaching about forgiveness and acceptance during the holidays, please take a long minute to mention that you understand that many people are suffering under situations that don’t deserve a second attempt. (Or twenty-third try, for that matter.) Knowing that someone is akin to a deadly viper and taking steps to avoid a venomous bite is not a mark against your well-being or mental health!

It is quite possible to write toxic people out of your life without needing to forgive them, if you are using any definition other than the one I proposed. It’s a strange attitude that excludes the ability to be at peace despite having given up on a few people. At times it isn’t rational to try to reach out to someone who has grossly demonstrated their horrible inner self. Decades of careful observation has proven to me that most people don’t truly forgive those who has truly done them evil. It might be an ideal, but one which finds little practice in the world.

I know countless people who say they have forgiven in-laws, ex-friends and co-workers, yet they freely admit that they will never be comfortable with them again. In many cases, they won’t be in the same place with them at the same time, or talk to them ever again. Despite avoiding any contact with those they have forgiven, they would still say that they have truly forgiven the people who grievously wronged them. Which I understand. (I’m not sure this falls under “forgiveness,” though)

Recently, it seems I’ve been inundated with variations on a theme due to people advocating blanket forgiveness and that not doing so equals some defect in those who don’t practice universal and unilateral forgiveness. I think these people need to try to understand what I think a healthy definition of forgiveness is.

————————————-
Odds and ends…

Even the Christian god is believed to reserve the right of condemnation to hell for those who are deemed unworthy. And yet the New Testament preaches that god is about love. I know it’s an argument away from my thesis, but both god’s judgment and god’s love make for strange bedfellows when butted up against any argument in favor of forgiveness.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive.”
― Wm. Paul Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity

“What was the point of being able to forgive, when deep down, you both had to admit you’d never forget?”
― Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Circle

“Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare…”
― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

“To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
― Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

 “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”
― John F. Kennedy

“To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”
― Confucius

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela

“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” – Oscar Wilde

“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” – William Blake

 

03252014 Privacy? Ha, Ha !

A week doesn’t pass when someone doesn’t seem shocked that much of their “privacy” is available either online or through the government. People who lock down their social media are no more protected than those who post everything publicly. But I can see that it is easier to believe that your privacy is protected. One of the most common errors I find, especially among the more educated, is foregoing Facebook or Twitter but relying on services such as LinkedIn. While Facebook can be locked down and used even jokingly, LinkedIn (as an example) contains your real information. Many users don’t think twice about exposing their résumé on such services, voluntarily, yet don’t feel exposed because it is a ‘better’ service than other social media. The same logic extends toward ALL professional associations and clubs. History teaches us that smart people tend to exploit their environment, too.

Do you own property? Chances are that your name, address, taxes, children’s school district, and even a floor map of your house are a couple of clicks away, online, via your local property records. Most searches allow you to use last name only or for multiple guesses. (The more unusual any of your names are, the more easily you are found. Worse still, these property listings are VERY likely to include your middle names, or legal versions of your name that are otherwise more difficult to ascertain casually) On top of that, if you click on deed links, you can see the full legal signatures of everyone involved. Sometimes, your banking institution is listed, as well as other information you wouldn’t expect to be publicly available, such as the location of your garage, where the doors and windows to your house are and whether you have a basement. Almost always, there is also a “map it” link on the property, so anyone can click it and get a detailed map, including street view, of how exactly to get to your property.

1st Place to Look For Property Records in Arkansas  (Link…)
2nd Place to Look    (Link…)

If you own property, you are tacitly agreeing to forgo much of the illusion of privacy.

(Some lawn care services now simply look up your address to quote a price to maintain your lawn based on your lot size and layout, as they can use google street view and satellite imagery to see everything in and around your yard.)

-Marriage licenses? Public.
-Almost all divorce proceedings? Public.
-Voter Registration information? Public.
-If you sue or get sued, chances are all of it is public, including all the motions and filings.
-A lot of people’s job applications are public (even if you don’t get the job!)
-If you’ve ever been charged with a crime, much less convicted, that information is out there for basically anyone to find.
-If you own a business, your business license, incorporation papers and anything similar is a matter of public record.

Want to check your own voter registration (or that of someone else?) Watch what information pops up…  Check Your Voter Registration Information Here                  (This can be a useful link, regardless of privacy, as you can look over candidate information and sample ballots.) But for anyone who can just GUESS your birthday, they can find you without any real effort. You might think you are safer listing only your day and month of birth in multiple places, but it’s an easy guess as to what year you were born, based on schools and other data.

If you know where someone went to school, many yearbooks are available online, for free. If you don’t mind paying for the information, your options expand exponentially. School pictures are in the public domain and are basically impossible to stop from being disseminated. Using Google or DuckDuckGo search engines unveils another universe of photos. Even if you aren’t sharing on Facebook, chances are that your picture has appeared many times in newspapers, LinkedIn, professional newsletters, etc. Databases usually don’t forget you, regardless of the amount of time that has passed. If you learn to use search engines creatively, you are guaranteed to find pictures of anyone. If you don’t mind physically searching at libraries, courthouses and newspapers, you can access anything. We all have pictures of us floating around in real and cyberspace. Worrying about it is no longer meaningful. If you factor in how many times you’ve been filmed or photographed passively by CCTV or surveillance, the probability of you being identified using facial recognition software is 100%.

I’ve known a few people who have public and professional jobs who think their information is safe. “Safe” is a relative word in today’s world. Much of the information being collected is a result of our own tax dollars being used to create ever-increasing databases of information. Your specialized job doesn’t insulate you from exposure to the crazy world. I have yet to find anyone immune from the limelight of information exposure, no matter how careful they think they are being. Regardless of what any government agency collects, each of us is daily doing our part to add information to our database, whether we do so willingly or not.

Even using the most basic functions on Intelius, Zabasearch, PeopleFinder, Pipl or any other common search option yields a lot of information about people – all without paying. Examples sometimes include your age, address, places you’ve lived, professional associations, schools, etc. If you are willing to pay, the amount of information you have available increases considerably. Using the free services usually yields enough background information to confirm your search and to develop leads originating from the confirmed information.

If you make more money or enjoy a better professional standing, your exposure increases, as you are very likely to have been pictured and mentioned in a dozen different formats. Anyone with professional affiliations such as police, real estate, lawyers, or teachers is almost guaranteed to be found without fuss. (The very people who would be most likely to fuss about privacy are also the most likely to have their particulars splattered all over cyberspace and realspace. You are noteworthy and if it’s being noted, it is being saved for later.)

As for social media, it is amazing how many tools are out there to analyze the who, what, when and where of what you say on Facebook and Twitter, among other services. No matter what your privacy settings, listen to that little voice in your head telling you it is all floating around out there anyway. That little voice is correct. No matter how careful you are, at some point the certainly of all information eventually being exposed becomes unavoidable. Even if companies share just your metadata, the algorithms which monitor everything already “know” you. People who aren’t on Facebook, for example, are still identified. Facebook has a huge repository of information that connects you to family and friends. It “knows” who you are – even if you’ve never had an account. It knows what you look like, then and now. People think I’m making that part up, but it’s true.There are geniuses who can subvert any privacy settings on social media and get past the protocols for privacy.

In many places, once you put your trash on the curb, it is available for anyone to pick up and take. Yes, that includes your five years of tax papers, bank statements, personal letters – all of which you knew you should have shredded, but didn’t.

Since I starting doing genealogy, I have been constantly astonished about what is out there in cyberspace – much of it listed willingly by real people. Having access to some of it has allowed me to genuinely help people. I’ve been able to locate people’s “lost” birth certificates, find their biological relatives, locate people who were once important to them, provide information that has allowed people to substantiate claims for grants and Native American registration and so forth. Some of it has been very rewarding. But the more I learn, the weirder that nagging feeling in the back of my head gets. It’s telling me that privacy is an illusion that we are trying to collectively believe in, despite all the evidence. I’ve found pictures of people who have erroneously claimed to have never been photographed and found information and pictures of those who do jobs that require secrecy. Many times, some of this information that should be protected vigorously is offered by local, state, and federal agencies without consideration for content or identification. (As an example, investigators who have been recognized or rewarded or even been in the news for heroic acts.)

If you aren’t checking at least one of your major credit reports yearly, you are inviting misery into your lives. A copy can be obtained freely from all 3 major credit bureaus. Even if they aren’t a total solution, getting yours should be the minimum, every year. If you aren’t doing it, you might as well be writing your social security number on the wall at the bus station.

As far as I know, I’ve never broken any laws regarding privacy, nor have I used any paid services, even legal ones, much less illegal ones, to obtain information. (Employing a private investigator, for example, is legal and opens up virtually any avenue of inquiry you would want to pursue.) I’ve found that for almost all inquiries, enough is out there already to eliminate the need for complex searching.

And such is our plight – in a world of information overload, each of our lives is spilled out across the world in little pieces, waiting for the wrong crazy puzzle-solver to pick them up. Hiding in seclusion isn’t the answer as it ignores the fact that horse if already galloping out of the barn.

Lifehacker Link To Delete Oneself From the Internet…
It won’t “really” work unless you devote a lot of time to it!

 

03032014 Quote for the Occasion (By Me)


If you seek the best way to sharpen your ax, ask the person whose hands frequently wields one – not the man selling firewood on the roadside.   –X Teri   
I worked hard to encapsulate something I kept trying to remember to use at work.  

The Right To Choose Who Is In Your Life

This is an edited version of the original post. I still believe in everything I wrote but I also confess that I used a sledgehammer to drive my point home.

This isn’t a story of forgiveness or of my inability to forgive. If a husband beats his wife repeatedly, no one demeans the abused wife for getting out of the situation and protecting herself. No one in his or her right mind, I mean. Family bond or previous relationship do not negate a person’s right to insist that he or she be left alone, to feel safe, or to simply take a “time out” away from anyone or everyone.Those who choose to attempt to force anyone to talk to them are very similar to those charged with stalking. Only the people involved know to what extent any allegations of disrespect, hostility, or rudeness were actually at play. It’s easy to rush to judgement.

I had people who’ve crossed the line. Whether you would say that I over-reacted or not, it is irrelevant. The proverbial line is wherever I decide to draw it, independent of family, friends, pastor, or neighbor. Once someone says “enough,” no one gets to argue the point. It belies a very central flaw in that person’s way of thinking. It isn’t respect or love; rather, it is a refusal to see other people as equals and of equal stature. I don’t want people in my life who operate this way. I would expect someone to react negatively, but the only responsible option is to step back and evaluate the situation. If the other person or people think that I am wrong, no amount of screaming, threatening or demeaning me is going to make me wake up and decide I’m being wrong-headed. It makes me think that you are crazy.

Growing up in a violent, impersonal cauldron of hate and anger has forced me to learn the hard way that dealing with this type of aggressive behavior is no longer an option. It’s not because I’m cured or immune from it; rather, because it became overwhelmingly evident that some people are so infected with the need for anger and drama that nothing I could say or do was going to reach their brains and placate them. I can’t change them but I can control whether they are going to be allowed to further infect my life. 

I ask that anyone being asked to step back stop and seriously consider how you might react. 

(But I Eat it Anyway…)

 

Most of my life, I have avoided the desire to eat meat. Even while I was eating it, of course.

My family was one of red-blooded Americans vying to get out in the wilderness (but not too far, of course) in order to kill something from a safe distance. And eat it. And blather on about the adventure of it all. Or force people who had no interest in eating it – to eat it.

Much of my life, I would much prefer vegetables to flesh. I still do. A few years ago, I went quite a while deliberately not eating animal flesh. Despite the biggest personal issue of my life going on at the time, I felt better than I had in years – and since.

As I get older, I can more easily say that I wouldn’t miss meat if it disappeared from the world right now. Beef Jerky and Slim Jims are mostly about the texture and spices. Pepperoni is also about texture and spices.

Also as I age, the evidence, at least to me, is fairly clear that we should not be engaging in meat eating. Or that if we do, it should be a much reduced rate. We should be processing meat with much more care and without so many chemicals and contaminates.

Do I understand that I’m a hypocrite? Yes, of course.
When you take a hard look at how beef and poultry are mass produced, in combination with how it affects the planet, it’s a no-brainer.

Meat Safety and General Opinion

(This blog post was written quite a while ago.) The average person doesn’t know how food is produced. And that’s a good thing. It’s easier to assume safeguards are followed and that food is generally safe to eat. We are at the mercy of giant corporations whose commitment to safe food is not always a given. We hope that circumstances in facilities producing our food are not operated in an undesirable way- but we know in our hearts that it probably isn’t true.

I don’t want to complain about Meatsack Inc (fake name, of course), as it pays the bills for a lot of people. Despite the rough work environment, I ran into a lot of great people when I worked in a meat plant. Most of the people were great. A lot of those great people would be shocked at the conditions that existed under their noses. And the environment seemed to promote and reward people who were able to cross the food safety line. Speed kills – both on the road and in food production. It injures human beings and it injures the ability to take appropriate safety measures for food consumption. Day in and day out I watched as management said and did the most asinine and unsafe things. Nothing got in the way of the efficiency god and cost was trumped by safety only when unavoidable. It was like watching a preacher give a sermon and rob the congregation at gunpoint.

However, is it wrong of me to feel happy that the company has suffered a least a degree of bad publicity lately? I know that it’s almost impossible to guarantee a safe food supply. The “however” comes into play because when you personally see avoidable and ignored conditions that lead to unsafe food practices, it tends to carry a different significance. Mistakes can and do happen. Willful misapplications and failures to follow rules and guidelines can’t be hidden as “mistakes.” (Even if the marketing and legal departments spends millions attempting to convince us of this.)
While much of my criticism is my OPINION, the reality is that meat facilities of any kind aren’t really operated in a manner that I agree with, to put it nicely. They are generally dehumanizing, dirty, and even established procedures are blithely ignored in order to increase efficiency and allegedly, profits. Or they were back in my day. I have to admit that my opinion could be 100% inaccurate now. Based on what I am told by people I trust, the same objections I once raised are still being shouted today as well.
One positive: Meatsack, Inc. left me with an appreciation for other jobs. Even simple acts such as being able to go to the  restroom can’t be taken for granted for many meat facility employees. Need a drink of water? Have a muscle cramp? Good luck getting human attention.There is a huge gap between the expectation of an honest day’s work for honest pay and the human exploitation of designing processes that don’t fundamentally address the physical effects of long-term repetitive motion issues, among others, on employees. Regardless of cost – even if higher prices result. Of what purpose is the perpetuation of any industry that doesn’t address profit as a result of human-oriented activity?
Working for so many years at a meat facility also demonstrated to me that management cannot survive without “open secrets” behind every aspect of operations. Don’t have time to document inspections, much less do them? How will anyone know it’s done if you document it, but don’t do it? That’s why publicized issues with cleanliness and disease always at first seem credible to me. I’m sure I’ve been mistaken in my contempt for some of the businesses embroiled in these food safety debacles. There must be companies dedicated to cleanliness at any cost. There must be…
It’s not that people who work at meat facilities are bad. It’s that the production method itself inspires nonsensical behavior. Add management who literally can’t communicate with much of the workforce and who know, but can’t acknowledge, that every day must be run one small second away from a disaster. Good people have to adjust a lot of behavior in order to work long-term at meat facilities. In dehumanizing jobs, it is difficult to avoid the pull downward in regards to what you can not only personally put up with, but what you can stomach doing to others. It becomes easier to disconnect from the consequences of doing things wrong. We’re not the ones making the decisions, we tell ourselves.
Daily, however, I saw and participated in processes that simply failed to be hygienic. Managers would become angry if you stopped and pointed out that the way we were doing things was just WRONG. Production seemed to consistently run on the edge of disaster, products needed to be shipped before they were even made and the “get it out the door” mentality was the dominant mantra, even if it was implemented with a wink. Everyone “knew” that rules had to be bent to make production. Discussion of these exceptions was simply not acceptable. (I won’t digress too much into  how SAFETY is considered in exactly the same way, but I worked in an area where someone with decades of experience was almost decapitated. I, too, was exposed many times to the extra SAME danger. Honestly speaking, my exposure was worse than the person who was almost mortally injured in that area. Everything about that area was operated in direct opposition to its inherent dangers and people were injured because of management’s mentality about it.)
Worse still, I had to actively participate in the “overlooking” sometimes, even when I knew beyond a doubt that it was contributing to the likelihood of a degraded food product. On many occasions, I was threatened directly and indirectly to stop talking and do as I was told, even though it was my name on the line. Working in a couple of areas was a course in counter-espionage, with the enemy being anyone or anything standing in the way of MAXIMUM production. A couple of the best people I ever met were inspectors of one kind or another and it was toward them that management ordered me to not only not answer questions, but to actively engage in behavior that was questionable and to falsify inspections and data. If I were under subpoena, I of course could name some of them after all these years. They would have a different recollection. Guess what? There would be no documented proof, as we falsified it all! I got the ‘wink’ from management so often I forgot that it was possible to do things correctly without cooking the books, so to speak. Repeatedly. Like dirty ceilings dripping directly into the food supply, meat spilled onto the floor and then shoveled up off of the floor without being reported, chill coolers being way too hot for storage, fresh product being frozen solid and then sneaked through production to avoid temperature inspection, etc. Did really bad things happen every day? No, of course. Very often? Yes.People don’t like to be reminded that they were involved in the shenanigans, as they feel like they had no choice. But when you are the one making the decisions, the buck can’t be passed.
I’ll never forget the summer when someone was putting a contaminant into cooked deli. Despite our supposedly rigorous detection procedures, we shipped a lot of this stuff out the door to customers. We had to work a lot of overtime to run it all through detectors again – after the contaminant was being found for the second time in cooked meat that we had already processed twice. And even missed some the second time. Yet, at each point, our procedures were documented, our machines calibrated. Or were they? Did speed trump safety? To ask is to answer affirmatively. Someone was paying for all that overtime. We also had lie detectors being used on us during this period, to catch the person contaminating the cooked food supply with metal. At the outset, I knew that only a select few could have been guilty. Management knew my crazy reputation so I wasn’t a suspect. But it bothered a couple of them that an idiot from line production like me could take a cursory look at the circumstances and correctly narrow the suspect pool to a handful of people. Nevertheless, they wasted a lot of resources chasing phantoms instead of taking an honest look at how they were producing food. Any real emphasis on checking the food supply more carefully would have guaranteed a safe food supply. Instead, we focused on production speed. So focused on the necessity of production to keep their respective jobs that sensible group safety thinking among managers often disappeared. Being well-educated, many of the management team could fast-talk themselves and others into forgetting that many of us on the front lines of production knew better than to drink the “we’re doing things right” kool-aid. We didn’t inspect the cooked end enough to guarantee no trapped air or holes in the packaging. If we sliced a box accidentally and into the meat or bird below the cardboard, we often ignored it. Did we use the wrong broth formulation because we knew it couldn’t be proven? Yes, of course. Time was always trumping quality. Yet, we had to listen to paradoxical exhortations to be safe and to treat the food products safely – until we couldn’t, at which point every objection people had to doing things correctly was treated as insubordination. As I was quite the ass when younger, many times it was me doing the objecting and listening to the stupidity of their “shhhh system” of dealing with problems.
If you are reading this and thinking, “Can any of this be true?” Just remember that I am heavily censoring and editing what I say. It is not a specific company or person I want to comment on, even though I am addressing my situation. I’d rather you focus on the idea that if it happened one place it happened many places. Which of course it did. I could tell some hypnotic and horrifying stories of what was done to the food supply. Most of them can be summed up this way: Management said to do it and to shut up about it – or else.
I’ve long said that the way to determine a company’s true values and purpose can be learned by listening, watching, and experiencing things as they happen. If you are in a meat facility, go to where the less-educated workers are holding knives and cutting. It’s the best place to start. Talk to them, in their language, if it isn’t English. Patterns image. You can’t blame all of the negativity on the people expressing their opinions.
(Reading the lofty statements on plaques near the front door only serves to confuse your vocabulary.)
With meat facilities, at least in my past experience, the emphasis is on maximum production. This is the case with most businesses. People forget that a critical difference is that meat plants produce food that can either nourish or kill someone.

Meatsack, Inc hopefully will be reminded to be more careful. Not because of the public spectacle of hurting people avoidably. But because it’s the right thing to do. Again, I’m writing this years later. Maybe the entire business has changed and maybe I was just in the right place at the right time, exposed to a specific set of people who aren’t and weren’t representative of how things should be done in the food supply.

On the other hand, I still see the same stories and allegations about meat suppliers. I’m not sure what an acceptable number of bad companies might be.

Death Vultures Want Your Stuff

When someone dies, why is it that some people focus immediately on what the person has when he/she dies? Instead of being concerned about the people left behind, the “death vultures” shift into a market mentality and begin to imagine what they might get out of the occasion. Or worse, begin to imagine what “should” be theirs.

My wife gets credit for getting the “death vulture” phrase stuck into my head.

There’s 2 ways to look at “death vultures.” The first obligates us to realize that the dead aren’t needing their stuff anymore and that discussion about their stuff isn’t harming the deceased in any way whatsoever. It’s just a practical concern. The second way we might look at, and judge, I might add, the death vultures is to note how impersonal and selfish the attitude is.

I’m assuming that a normal person (whoever that might be) would look at death vultures with disdain and contempt.

Once the funeral dust settles, the focus shifts to cars, houses, pictures, jewelry, money – anything that is left.

If a person has a legitimate claim on what should be his or hers after someone they know or love dies, then he or she must decide how crassly they must insist on getting it. Personally, I’d be more likely to just shake my head and walk away if arguing or refusals surfaced about my the stuff I was laying claim to. Even if it were something very personal or worth significant money. On the other hand, if a family member was simply being evil about it, I would at least consider being evil in response – and not waste my time with guilt about it, either.

The reality is that very few things are worth worrying about once the person you love has died. My main wish is to have access to pictures to scan – and give back so that everyone can enjoy. Everything else is just stuff. People need to stop fooling themselves into thinking we are here forever. Our stuff piles up, we die, it goes to people we love and once those people die it becomes junk or forgotten.

I did decide, however that the death vultures should wait until the close family members of the deceased bring the subject up and especially not to mention their wishes for stuff until after all the funeral-related activities are done.