Gone Wrong

An Adult Adventure Inspired by Modern Politics

Gone Wrong, the novel, was partially inspired by the thoughtless acts of others. As Crystal Lange, the reporter responsible for the inception of the Paladins, writes, "Devolving manners feeding growing avarice. Our individual worlds shrinking as if some black hole sucks everything into the singularity that is each of us." No concern for the other guy.  A simple, but corrosive, lack of manners threatens to dissolve what little is left of the social contract.

This page is dedicated to rants on that topic. And since Gone Wrong is the first in a series, tell us about your rants and, of course, we're always accepting auditions for new superheroes (those of the ordinary sort only).

Let the Rants Begin!

A Party for America

Democrats and Republicans pose an existential threat to America.  Significant players in these pivotal institutions question the legitimacy of government and the need for civil discourse.  They have forgotten policy and personalities cannot be valued over an enduring structure.

We have overcome McCarthyism, resigned and impeached presidents and threats of Supreme Court packing, but only because of a belief in the Founding Fathers. We understood destructive players could be discarded in the next election.  Separation of powers, checks and balances and respect for the smaller states, might freeze the government, but only momentarily.

Our current morass began with the prior administration.  Congress deadlocked. The president thrust himself into this apparent vacuum, a pen in one hand and his phone in the other, he legislated by executive diktat.

He treated Congress as if it were a broken pipe in a concrete slab.  His “work around” only lasted until the next president found his pen and phone.  This president, probably the least qualified person to hold the office, both in experience and temperament, so disturbed half the country that cries for his impeachment began simultaneously with his election.  Rejecting the concept of impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors, a wide-spread movement, led by congresspersons, proposed the proper standard for removal to be boorishness, bullying and policy.

Congress, dominated by a single party approved judges, justices and legislation all while enflaming the opposition which now threatens to retake at least one house and reinstitute gridlock. Then the attack began on the third branch.  Eric Holder, the former Attorney General of the United States, Hillary Clinton, the former many things and Diane Feinstein, current Senator from California have all said the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is in question.  What does this mean?  Will Spartacus Booker implore us to ignore future court rulings? 

The complaints are many.  Congress fluctuates between ineffectual and polarizing. The president’s actions are temporal and if unpopular are grounds for impeachment.  The Supreme Court is said to be blowing smoke in the wind.  The Electoral College is a farce.  A Senate with equal representation for smaller sates must be restructured.

The only remedy is conversation and compromise.  Respect for our Constitution and institutions.  Tip O’Neil and Ronald Regan.  Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton.

Instead we have a different Clinton rushing into the breach.  Hillary Clinton, she of the basket of deplorables, has argued this is not the time for civility.  Republicans want to destroy Democrats.  Until Democrats are in power, civility, respect and manners must be set aside. As with all the arguments either side makes, this is fungible and temporal.  Harry Reid’s tactic yesterday is Mitch McConnell’s tool today.

There is a solution.  Before the current players blow up the system we need a third party. As Democrats and Republicans rush for the wings, the vast center of the stage has been vacated.  A third party will demand conversation and compromise to create a governing body.  It will center everyone.  Hopefully, with one more choice, vast numbers of Americans will not have to close their eyes and hold the noses when they vote.  Otherwise, look to the sun.  To use a quote from “The Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew” when politicians of the stature of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder and Spartacus Booker cast a giant shadow it is a sure sign the sun is going down.

 Of Trump, Sanders, Participation Awards and Montgomery Gentry

There exists today a fairly recent trend slamming the “Participation Award”.  This is the trophy given for showing up.  Customarily, it’s a chunk of wood or a piece of rock with a brass plaque proclaiming the recipient to be a “Participant”.  Most will feature a golden plastic action figure depicting the participant’s sport.

The standard pabulum being spooned out by the “exceptional” is the Participation Award recognizes nothing.  No grand achievement, no records, no championship.  The participant is told she’s great for just being there.  These complaints almost universally come from someone who has already enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame (or much more).  Movie producers, actors, journalists, pundits.  They are annoyed the Participation Award dilutes and deludes.   The “real” trophies somehow become less important and the recipients of the PA somehow believe they are better than their reality.

 The band Montgomery Gentry has a song titled “That’s Something to be Proud Of”.  These are some of the lyrics:

You don't need to make a million
Just be thankful to be workin'
If you're doing what you're able
And putting food there on the table
And providing for the family that you love
That's something to be proud of
And if all you ever really do is the best you can
Well, you did it man

I wonder how many of us would disagree?  I love Country Music.  So many complicated things said so simply.  There should be a huge pat on the back for every person that works hard, takes care of her family and raises kids that will do the same.  If that’s not a Participation Award, I don’t know what is.

I have coached over 400 kids.  Not all were champions, not many won individual awards.  Only one went on to professional sports.  But, with less than a half-dozen exceptions, every one showed up, worked hard, played hard and respected their teammates and the game.  I will argue that’s life training.  I will argue we are making a mistake not respecting and recognizing this as an achievement.

Which brings me to Trump and Sanders.  You know all those people who received Participation Awards and are now being told they didn’t deserve a trophy?  The people we shuffle off into the corner while we pat the backs of actors, athletes and pundits?  Who do you think is standing up lifting their Participation Awards in the air with their left hand while voting with their right?  Maybe it’s time for a little recognition for hard work and taking care of business.  Or maybe it’s too late.

 Of Stormtroopers, Comic Con and Real Heroes

Gone Wrong is a story of heroes.  People admired or otherwise enshrined for their courage, exceptional acts and noble attributes.  I may have cheated by using “and”, but I believe a true hero gives us all three: courage, acts, nobility.  Just maybe Kevin Doyle is such a person.  I can’t be certain because I must rely upon the reporting of various news outlets and more often than not, they mess up, or blow out of proportion, or skew a story out of undisclosed bias.  But still, I’m going to assume they got it right.

This Kevin Doyle is not the soccer player born in Ireland, even though he is a professional athlete.  I know I differ from Lebron James who believes if you are “gifted” and the “best basketball player in the world” you are a hero. (His quotes about himself constitute hero disqualification based upon a lack of noble qualities.)  I think if you’re incredibly rich, the mere contribution of money is not enough.  A hero must be aspirational.  We should all respect him/her purely because of their “goodness”.  Pats on the back are either irrelevant or disqualifying if self-applied.  

This Kevin Doyle is not the actor who portrays the servant of the Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey.  Actors and actresses sometimes believe once they’ve graced our TV or the big screen, they’re entitled to espouse opinions on anything and everything and we should revere and follow them because of their public portrayals. They are wrong.  Think Donald Trump, Alec Baldwin.  Don’t think Angelina Jolie.  She’s amazing.

This Kevin Doyle is the man who, dressed as a Star Wars Stormtrooper, pushing a three-wheeled pet stroller loaded with his camping equipment, walked from the Star Wars Museum in Petaluma, California to Comic Con in San Diego.  Any rational person would scream “Why?” Kevin and his late wife, Eileen, were huge Star War fans.  She died of cancer three years ago.  His trek down to San Diego will raise funds for a children’s cancer charity in Eileen’s name.

So is Kevin’s 645 mile stroll heroic?  You must have courage to don a Stormtrooper suit and march through California for a month.  If you do it in honor of your lost love, for the memory of a woman so exceptional you could not imagine a life with anyone else or without her, that’s noble.  If your intent is to immortalize your love through a charity as to which your role will quickly fade and only her memory will endure, that’s heroic.

Sorry Lebron, sorry Donald, but I choose to believe all of the above.  And I’ll take Kevin Doyle for my hero, but don’t let it stop you from shoving a leather ball through a metal ring thinking you’re something special or mouthing off indiscriminately, because that’s solid comedy and everybody enjoys a good laugh.  Just not as much as they treasure a hero.

Of the Zonkey

The topic of this Rant is “beware of symbolic acts”. The first part is true. I know this because it was on the internet. The second part is probably true.

During a road trip to a nearby farm, Raya, a zebra residing at the Reynosa Zoo in Mexico, fell in love with Ignacio, a blue-eyed albino donkey. Ignacio and Raya knew they were separated by nearly 20 chromosomes; a conception denying gap.Ignacio with 62 chromosomes would never produce a child with the 44 chromosoned Raya.

Believing their act of love to be only symbolic, they got it on. I will not subject you to the video which is retina branding. A year or so later, in defiance of science and common sense, Raya gave birth to Khumba, a zonkey. Khumba was named after a cartoon zebra born with only half his stripes, much like an Independent in Congress.

While I’m certain Ignacio and Raya were overjoyed with the donkey-like offspring that appears to be wearing above-the-knee zebra stockings, all is not well.The EPA instantly labeled the zonkey an endangered species. Who could argue otherwise? Even Match.com will not take on the soul-mate search for Khumba. His parents must keep Khumba away from all mirrors or risk years of costly psychoanalysis. 

This brings me to our politicians, who must learn the lesson of Khumba. The symbolic act can have consequences. The Republican House has voted some 50 times to shut down Obamacare. There is no calculation as to the financial cost of these time consuming acts of “defiance”. The impact on the working relationships in congress also cannot be measured. Harry Reid will never put it before the Senate and even though the President has a pen and a phone, he would surely lose the pen if asked to sign legislation voiding the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans are not alone in elevating the symbolic act. The President has drawn so many multi-colored lines all over the world he is currently under investigation for violation of international graffiti laws.

In conclusion, symbolic acts should be used like salt, sparingly. Otherwise, you may end up looking like a zonkey. 

Of Marshawn Lynch, His Unpaid PR Staff (aka The Press) and Writer’s Ego

In reviewing my previous rants, I was struck by the high likelihood that the impartial, uninvested (i.e. not family or friends) reader might find them smugly all-knowing.  Observations which purport to provide a unique and worthy view of the otherwise unseen.  Which clearly, they are not. This revelation somehow caused me to reflect on Marshawn Lynch, the running back for the Seattle Seahawks, whom everybody, including Katy Perry, is now talking about.  Did Mr. Lynch so completely misunderstand his value and place in society that he carelessly dissed the game of football and the press?  Ego outsized and unjustified.

Marshawn Lynch is a football player.  Football is a violent, competitive sport played by violent and competitive men.  They love contact and winning.  Even Tom Brady who plays in the “hitee” position of quarterback, jogs down the field after a touchdown pass to head-butt the 7’3”, 500 lb. Gronk.  I’m going to assume Marshawn Lynch loves football and enjoys making a lot of money. 

Mr. Lynch donates his endorsement money to his foundation.  Admirable.  But he still likes making money.  The press’s unwillingness to ignore a guy who refuses to answer their questions has led to two new endorsements: Skittles and Progressive Auto Insurance.  Both of which mock the press.

Get it straight press guys.  You’re not that important.  A large number of people are entertained by your articles, but no more than a momentary respite or guffaw.  No one’s life is changed.  No one is better for having read about the Tampa Two defense or about the challenging life of an interior lineman.  You may occasionally inspire, but you are not part of the game.  Not worthy of that respect unless it’s baseball and your name is Vin Scully or something like it.  Mr. Lynch may or may not talk to you.  He may or may not be fined.  The only certainty is you are his personal, unpaid public relations team and he’s making more money because of your “efforts”.

Which leads me back to writers and ego.  Writers want readers.  I’m not sure they are writers without readers, which reveals my own insecurity. But it’s fun to write even if it’s akin to a tree falling in the forest.  Rest assured I don’t over-estimate my value or insight.  I just enjoy doing this and like the sports writer can aspire to do no more than receive a laugh and a “well-said”.   

Of We Were Going Up, But Manners Were Going Down

My wife and I spent Friday night in San Francisco.  A nice hotel; not the Ritz, but not a dump.  My wife holds her left arm in a sling having submitted to the scalpel of the orthopedic surgeon in hopes of regaining her fastball for one last attempt at the big leagues.  We wait for an elevator in a gaggle including a single man and two couples.  All in their thirties and forties.  We’re not.

The oyster colored arrow above the elevator lights green, heightening our anticipation.  The stainless steel doors slide apart and before my wounded wife can move the single guy jumps in, taps the button for his floor and plants himself next to the elevator panel.  I’m appalled.  But then, I’m fairly easily appalled.  Next one of the two couples enters.  She being led by him.  I utter something ineffective.  Then the other couple repeats.  He leading his spouse.  I know both of these women are spouses because no female with any self-respect would let a boyfriend pull this off.  These guys do not possess the looks, grace or bucks sufficient to inspire a woman to entertain the thought that maybe he’s worth it.

I’m now more than appalled, trying to gain eye contact to register disgust, but all five are glued to the small screen currently playing the academy award nominated “floor count-down”. The elevator stops and the single guy exits.  Not even a glance to see if any of the ladies want this floor.  A couple of dings later and one of the two couples departs.  He leading.  She a respectful three steps behind, but hurrying as best she can.  I’m pissed.  For me, for my wife, for the leaving lady, for humanity?  I think, all of the above.  

Two more dings and the last couple repeats the exit.  He bravely ahead to fend off any unruly housekeeping employees.  My wife is now trying to calm me down. Don’t worry about them.  They’re meaningless.  They will never learn and you’ll never see them again.

So why bother?  Manners are a societal glue.  They demonstrate an awareness of the other guy’s existence.  An affirmation that at the lowest level we respect one another.  Nothing too complicated.  A respect granting little more than a head nod.  “I know you’re there and respect your personal space.”  Minimal order and expectations.  Not much, but too much for some people. 

Of Bring It On Putin!

Once again, completely true.  As you probably know, each time you visit a website you drop your IP address as if a pigeon on a bombing run.  Your IP address may or may not leave much information.  The only thing I’m certain of is it gives a general location.  My Gone Wrong website is no different.  I get an IP address and an idea as to whether you’re using your phone or desktop.  No more.  It’s fun to plug the numbers into a free program giving you the location of the surfer.  It purports to be magnificently accurate with coordinates down to the seconds.

I routinely copy these coordinates onto Google Maps.  I get a street view which is unfailing inaccurate in its specificity but probably fairly correct as to the city or such.  I can also tell which pages on the website are viewed.  I hope none of this will deter any of you from continuing to explore the website; I do promise complete anonymity.  Unless you are Vladimir Putin.

Yesterday I had a visitor pop on to the Author/Contact page.  Interestingly, I couldn’t tell how that person was referred.  No Google reference.  No crediting Amazon.  So I copied the coordinates (55 45’ 7.92” N / 37 36’ 56.16” E) to Google Maps, hit the “Find the Sucker” button and was presented with this.

That’s the Kremlin.  The one in Moscow, Russia.  There is nothing anywhere around this place.  Surprise.  I’m not being put to the choice of is it the Kremlin or the Starbucks on the corner?  Now you’re probably wondering how I’m going to explain this.  I can’t.  All I can say is if Putin is really put off by Gone Wrong, come and get me!

Of Buy My Book!

Putin.  Russia.  Kremlin.  Spy.  United States.  I’ve previously told you the Kremlin has been scoping out the Gone Wrong website.  They stepped up their game yesterday, spending no less than ten minutes digesting the “Rants”.  Based upon the IP address in the Kremlin, Russia and my astute, amateur analysis, I can only conclude there is some person sitting at a desk at the end of a dungeonous, gray corridor tasked with searching key words (hence the beginning of this Rant) who has taken a liking to Gone Wrong.  I’ll call him/her “Alexis” (a unisex Russian first name).  All I can say is “Yeah!”.

Readers are readers are readers.  Authors with my circulation cannot be picky.  Just one complaint.  Alexis, BUY THE BOOK!  Spend a few rubles and buy the book at:

If you’re employers are too stingy and you can’t spare the rubles, I’ll send you a copy.  Just provide me with your name and mailing address. Actually, I’m fairly sure I have the mailing address, just name and office number will work.  
But Alexis, above all, keep visiting the website at www.paladinsnovel.com  

Of Spy v. Spy

A while back I exposed the Kremlin’s peeking into the Gone Wrong website.  I was able to track IP addresses to the Russian government offices on two or three occasions.  Each of these dalliances consisted of mere glances at the website’s home page.  The Russians have stepped up their game. Last week they poked around in the “Rants” section.  Should I be concerned?  Was this something I should have expected?

I looked to the current Israel v. U.S. allegations for guidance.  Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported Israel had spied on the U.S./Iranian nuclear negotiations.  Set aside for another day that it’s actually the P+1/Iranian talks.  The Journal continued advising the secrets garnered were then shared with the United States Congress.  The Israelis countered that they had not spied on the United States.  Reminds me of the guy accused of being fat and stupid, replying he was not fat.

So we conclude, Israel spies on Iran. And the White House learned of this by reading the Journal.  Two thoughts.  Does the NSA also get its intel from the Journal and who knew the White House reads the Journal?  We, and by that I mean anyone pushing above 100 IQ, cannot be surprised Israel spies on pretty much everybody.  Everybody spies on Everybody!

So if this doesn’t bother us and was not the White House’s complaint, then what is the problem?  Apparently, the only one without spies is Congress.  The White House was taken aback, insulted, because Israel shared White House secrets with Congress.  It was O.K. for the Israelis to know, but don’t tell Congress.  Our elected representatives in a checks and balances governmental structure.  These are the guys we want to keep in the dark?

I don’t agree with Snowden or Assange; some things should be allowed to stay secret, but this is ridiculous. Israel had to tell Congress what the White House was doing and everybody, including the President, had to find out from the Wall Street Journal.  Given all this, I’m glad my Rants are public and even the Russians find them amusing.

Of Carpool Lanes and Arguing with my Mother

Sometimes we do things out of a relentless desire to achieve an admirable goal without the slightest thought as to whether we’re experiencing a modicum of success.  We never step back and critically assess the value of our effort. 

The Freakanomics guys have a chapter in their second book which offers the theory that quitting in some circumstances may well be the best alternative.  Is the effort worthy of the results; what we can reasonably expect to achieve?  How likely is success?  Are we best directing energy elsewhere?

I argued long and often with my mother.  This is the woman who advised me she wasn’t stubborn because she was right.  Once she told me she would agree with me, but it would make us both wrong.  Endless arguing without resolution is neither satisfying nor productive.  I elected to tell her there were certain topics we would no longer discuss.  Subjects which consumed 90% of our “debates” and never left either one of us feeling better.  I can report success.

The reason I continued arguing for so many years was I never critically examined my behavior.  Was it productive?  Did it satisfy the objectives I had as to my mother and our relationship?  Would we be forever harmed if we avoided these two or three topics?  I never entertained the idea of simple critical thought.  Just let fly with the emotions and a daunting feeling success was within my grasp.  Exactly the same feeling she had.

Now onto HOV lanes.  A friend advised me he hated them.  He drove mostly alone and knew his commute would be so much better if there was but one more lane.  And there sat a highly underused lane to his left.  Underused in a most frustrating manner.  Not to mention the danger of drivers dashing in and out of the lane, crossing three other lanes to exit.

I listened without sympathy.  Everyone knows why we have carpool lanes.  To encourage ridesharing, reduce fossil fuel consumption.  Fewer cars on the road.  Better for everybody.  Then I thought about all the times I had been able to use the carpool lane.  In not a single instance had my behavior been changed.  I used the lane because I had a passenger, usually only one, which I would have had regardless of carpool policy.  So I started watching the carpool lane.  All I saw were cars with two drivers, none of whom looked like a carpool.  Oh yes, and many, many cheaters, because I never saw Highway Patrol pulling over a driver.  

Let’s assume I’m right.  Traffic, fossil fuel consumption, tempers and everything else about the morning commute would be better without carpool lanes.  And yet, I’ve never seen a study.  I’ve never heard anyone question their effectiveness.  I’ve witnessed no critical thought; just reflexive building of a new lane at any opportunity.

Therefore, I ask, what else am I missing?  How about we start looking at everything with a more critical perspective?  Wouldn’t that drive the politicians crazy?  See, already we have a benefit.

 Of T-Shirts

My t-shirts have holes.  All the holes are in the same approximate location.  At the bottom, toward, but not in the center.  Actually not holes.  Just one.  Clearly there is a common cause.  I knew by applying deductive reasoning I could solve the mystery.  As an aside, Sherlock Holmes did not "deduce", he "induced", which doesn't sound nearly as interesting.  

Applying deductive reasoning, moving from the general, I tried to find the specific cause.  The washing machine?  Unlikely that it could attack each shirt in the same location.  My wife?  While it would be nice to blame this on someone else, it would require her to icepick each of my shirts. Again unlikely.

 Stumped, I went to the source of all of humanity's knowledge.  The internet.  Shockingly, I was not alone.  Bloggists had solved the conundrum plaguing countless innocents.  The shirt rubs at the waistband at the button.  Millions had suffered silently until united by the internet.

Which highlights we are more similar than we believe.  At the crux of Gone Wrong is a belief that if we respect and listen to each other, little is impossible.  Gone Wrong is also about our federal government.  Congress and the president hammer at their differences, name call and posture.  All this for the next election because it certainly is not done with an intent to solve problems.

Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton searched for and found some commonality.  Congress 86ed this one when it impeached Bill for having consensual sex.  If Newt and Bill could agree on anything, what’s missing now? (As an aside, had Bill divorced Hillary and married Monica, we would today be celebrating Monica Lewinsky-Clinton’s new book as she moved to the head of the Democratic race for the presidential nomination). 

Congress and the president today separate.  They pander to single purpose groups, as if we are “one-issue ponies”.  They name call (a grounding offense when I was growing up) and tell us the other guy doesn’t care or worse hates us.  And they do all of this for votes.  They campaign 24/7/365.  And their campaigns are based upon what the other guy has or hasn’t done.  Nobody can tout their own record.

The holes in our t-shirts prove we are all more alike than our politicians would have us understand.  When will we start believing the holes in our t-shirts rather than what comes out of the pie holes of our politicians?

Of Bees

Yoda instructed Luke Skywalker, "Do or do not do.  There is no try."  Had Luke been our federal government he'd still be on Dagoban under Yoda's, by then, impatient tutelage.  The Fed's motto is "Do, do not do or study."  Really it's just "Study."  Gone Wrong , set in Northern California in 2025, is a city/state into which the Feds funnel programs for study, thereby delaying decision making and avoiding criticism.  Almost daily we are gifted with examples of why a real Norcal would set our national government to drooling.

I wish I was creative enough to make up this stuff.  Unfortunately, once again, it's true.  The Administration, faced with a critical problem it has described as of "breadth, severity and persistence" has elected to form a task force.  They named the committee the "Pollinator Health Task Force".  The Feds name, not mine, but we'll just call it the PHTF (pronounced "pfffft") which is the sound of a bee passing.

Bees pollinate 25% of the foods we eat, adding $15 billion annually to the GDP.  Word is, the bee population declined 23 percent last winter continuing a downward trend.  People, scientist types, having been studying this problem for years and have a fairly clear idea as to what is happening and why.  Harvard has produced a study.  Harvard! But that's not good enough for the Feds.

The new committee will be staffed by representatives from 15 governmental departments including, and once again, not making this up, state, defense, interior and national security.  State is easy to figure, the little buzzers are international, crossing borders with nary the tip of a hat.  For their size, bees constitute heavily armed, drone-like weapons, therefore defense.  National security is the only appropriate agency to deal with picnic terrorists.  I assume the NLRB will be in there somewhere; bees must be unionized. 

The Feds will throw $8 million at this sticky issue.  That's .0002% of the federal budget. Two ten thousandths of a percent.  Pocket change in a country where the only viable use of pocket change is to drop it in the styrofoam cup of the street corner panhandler.  As Yoda would tell us, either it's a problem or it's not a problem.  I've already ranted on the danger of the symbolic gesture (see "Zonkey" below).

While the inspiration for Gone Wrong is rooted in reality, our federal government can only be described as "unreal".

Of Saving Mr. Banks

I watched Saving Mr. Banks expecting to be delightfully entertained for 90 minutes and ultimately rewarded with a satisfying conclusion which excluded death and/or serious injury. Unlike much of life, a happy, untroubled ending. Not exactly what I got, but thankfully Disney heavily re-engineered the actual story. Still, a wonderful movie with as many messages as you might want to extract. One observer strung together 25 meaningful "life lessons".I was somewhat obsessed with one line.

Walt Disney, explained he and P.L. Travers (Mary Poppins' creator) were storytellers.  "That's what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again."

I couldn't let it go. Restoring order with imagination. Telling a tale of how things might, should or could be, of the rights and wrongs, in such a manner as to make the viewer or reader attend and enjoy doing so. As a listener, to take the storyteller's view, critically massage it as personally necessary, and in some small way, sometimes immediate, sometimes not, move towards a better balance. 

I know I enjoy writing. I probably had a gross, gestalt-like purpose. Undefined, but who cared? Now I know. I want to be a storyteller. All I need is an audience. To you who are reading this, thank you.

And on to the Rant. As the wind-up was long, I'll make the pitch quickly.We were at a graduation party last Saturday talking with a couple we had just met at the celebration. I was speaking when a woman walked up, broke in mid-sentence and began a conversation with the people who were not us. There was no "Pardon me."; no "Hi, I'm ...".As best I could tell she made a conclusive assessment as she approached the four of us, that my wife and I would be of little consequence. She employed the tacit dismissal of a superior being. It might have been her profession or wealth (I know little of either) or maybe just a failure of upbringing. My conclusions reached concrete as she leveled a venomous one liner at our prior neighborhood. Desiring only distance from this crass personality, we promptly went home to watch Saving Mr. Banks.

In a single day I was reminded of how far we have strayed from common, decent behavior and how much we need storytellers.

Of Pink Parking Spaces

I'm sorry, but I couldn't pass on this one. Everybody knows girls don't do well in math. Except they do. I volunteer in a third grade classroom. Defying all logic, math has nothing to do with sex. Most things, excluding sex, have nothing to do with sex. South Korea disagrees. Apparently women have trouble parking their cars.

Seoul, South Korea will spend $700 million to achieve three goals: (1) build 7,000 new women-only toilets, (2) resurface sidewalks with a squishy heel-friendly material and (3) add parking spaces larger and better located for the ladies. I've seen the lines in front of the women's rooms, so I'm okay with number 1. Number 2 seems a bit patronizing. But my feet hurt too and a bouncy sidewalk would be fun. Would also cut down on the slip and fall injuries. Picture someone going down and immediately springing back upright.It would be just plain fun to watch. I'd be planting banana peels.

The parking spaces are larger, closer to the elevator, outlined in pink and bear a logo reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe standing over the air vent. Start with the size of the spaces. I'm a horrible parker. If anyone needs a larger space, it's me. Watching women in San Francisco swing their vehicles into spots 6 inches larger than their cars, I'm convinced they are not in any manner automotive placement challenged. If a Marilyn symbol is going to grace the pink spots, will the Marlboro Man be stamped on the blue ones?

Maybe the thought is the female parking spaces are safer. I don't care where they're located, if women are more vulnerable, screaming "Here we are!" may not be the best strategy. It just eliminates the confusing guess work for the bad guys. I'll go with it if there are particularly dangerous areas and Seoul will provide security officers. Otherwise it seems like bringing the herd together for the rustlers.

And forget about enforcement. Please explain to me how a female car is visually different from a male car. Is it like looking at some bug? Do we slide under them for an examination? Will all the women of Seoul receive parking stickers? It seems to me  a country sitting alongside a nuclear power steered by a nutcase, might want to direct the $700 million elsewhere.

Of Don Quixote

Wind energy is one of the Gone Wrong villains. So you ask, "How can wind energy be a villain?" 

Wind is our most heavily subsidized energy source. So completely supported by the Federal government that from time to time, wind energy producers sell their product to power companies at less than $0.00/ million watt hours. This is not a typo. The producers give the energy companies two things:wind energy and a check. This is somewhat uncommon for sellers, but no worries, the Federal government pays the wind energy producers to do so by delivering subsidy checks. If you think this sounds like an inefficient use of your tax dollars, I wouldn't disagree.

The federal wind energy subsidy is 17 times larger than nuclear power, 61 times  hydro power and 81 times natural gas. So the wind energy business must be booming. After all, these subsidies have been in place for 22 years. The U.S. is the second largest producer of wind energy and yet, it provides only 2.3% of our electric power.

One has to assume this expensive product is superior to the other forms of energy. Wrong. It is an intermittent, undependable source. On a blustery day in Germany in 2013, wind energy provided 30% of the electricity produced. Four days later the number dropped to 0%. Wind energy requires a back-up source, fired and ready to go. An expensive sidekick for what I am sure you now agree is a dastardly villain. 

If all of the above is true, and I assure you it is, then why continue this folly? Best I can offer is the Four Horsemen of the Modern Apocalypse: Washington, lobbyists, earmarks and pork. And not the good kind of pork. 

Of Russians Annex Brooklyn

Russia will soon annex Brooklyn.

In response to the United States placing Disneyland out of bounds for sanctioned Russians, Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire team owner of the Brooklyn Nets has announced he will transfer title to the franchise from a U.S. corporation to a Russian entity. The move will serve to satisfy Putin’s requests to pressure American interests and remove the Russian rich guy’s assets from the possibly confiscatory claws of the Feds. 

David Stern, who retired as the NBA Commissioner two months ago, is now thrilled with his decision to leave. Some question whether he might not have made the move anticipating this crisis. Regardless, the NBA’s current position is there is nothing to talk about as Prokhorov has not filed application for transfer of ownership to the Russian corporation. But they are silently hoping we will not soon be following the Nazyvayevsk Nets. My guess is the Nets’ players will take a unified position that if the price is right, it’s a done deal. Go Nazys!

Of Unfriending Putin

I must preface this Rant. There should be nothing humorous about one nation invading another. This situation will probably morph into an entangled, dangerous, expensive mess. But, at least initially, it’s low comedy. 

That said, in 1853-1856, the Russians went to war to protect the Crimea’s citizens (sound familiar?). They’re back again. Yes, Secretary of State Kerry, those dates are actually in the 19th century. Upon hearing Russian forces invaded the Crimea, President Obama echoed Russell Crow’s Gladiator, screaming from the bowels of the White House, “On my signal, unleash hell!” And thus began bickering at the highest level. The President instantly “unfriended” seven Russians. The enemy returned the opening salvo with a barrage of stinging tweets. 

“Comrade @BarackObama,what should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or U didn’t think about it?”[sic]
"I think the decree of the President of the United States was written by some joker." [sic]

After a bit more in the face chest banging, the Russians proceeded to do something no American has been able to achieve in five years. They brought John McCain and Harry Reid together. Both are banned from travel in Russia.“No Sochi for you!”

I know the “sanctions” have ramped up to include banks. Please understand I am not stressed by all this. Governments such as we have, performing useless acts taking their attention from the rest of us, are a good thing. It’s only sad when you consider what these institutions might achieve.

Of Beer Goggles and Ants

Gone Wrong takes place in 2025 Northern California, a separate state with a satellite enforced border. All new federal programs must first pass muster in Norcal. The project of particular concern in the book is a wind energy venture.I’ll rant on wind energy later, but today I want to focus on the federal government’s capacity to exceed even our strangest imagination. 

During the recent financial crisis, the folks in Washington inhabiting the House and Senate decided to spend $950,000 to study the work habits of ants and $219,000 to confirm the existence of beer goggles. All this while the national debt per person rose to $53,000 (A family of four could clear its portion of this obligation by mailing a check for $212,000 to the Treasury). 

But back to ants and glasses. The hard working little guys were questioned as to how they divided up work responsibilities and if this division of labor was nature driven. I don’t know how the ants found the time to fill out the questionnaires, but I’m confident the results of the study will positively impact our federal work force. It’s my understanding beavers formed a united front and refused to waste time participating in a similar study. 

Buoyed with the knowledge that ants work hard, the Washington brain trust took on one of the philosophical conundrums of our age, does alcohol really make people more likely to have sex? I discount the rumor the entire report generated from the $219,000 consisted of the single word “Yes”. I choose to believe a thousand pages of meticulously documented research supports that conclusion. The temptation is to say these amounts are minor, .0000073% of the national debt, and if academics believe this work will improve our lives, why not spend a few bucks and see what happens. Or we can ask, who do these people think they are, spending our money on crap like this and what else have they done which we haven’t heard about yet?

Of the Self-Important

I'll start with yesterday's adventure in a disdain for others. Volunteers of a local organization were requested to be fingerprinted. Some for the fourth or fifth time because administrators must continually justify often unjustifiable existences. Some 40 or 50 people were given an one hour window to complete a task which would take no less than 5 minutes each. Clearly impossible.The line grew.Not unexpected. When we were within three spots of the promised land, a single finger printing machine, one of the administrators came in with a gentleman and asked if he might not move to the front of the line.It seems he had a business meeting and could not wait as we all had. The busy businessman remained plugged into his phone, the white earpieces signifying importance, connection and privilege to which we could only aspire. While the rest of us prepared to step aside, one man raised a colorfully tattooed arm and allowed as how he was missing work, losing pay and was every bit as inconvenienced. He saw no reason to wait longer before returning to his construction site. His response was reasoned and mannerly, evidencing nothing more than the obvious. We all nodded our concurrence. The busy businessman somehow found the time to assume his original position in line and wait like the rest of us. 

Gone Wrong, at it's base, is about this and ordinary people stepping up as we all should. That and a government of decent intentions warped by self-interest. Of course a novel would not be a novel without exaggeration, suspense, twists, romance and conflicts of all sorts, mental and physical. I promise you adventure at a pace which will not disappoint.