The View from My Edge…

Random Musings from an Overactive Imagination


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Techie Post: Desktop as a Service (Part 1) – The Destructive Cloud Technology

I seldom, and by seldom I mean almost never, shill what I do for work on this blog. I try hold true to the adage “never shall the twain meet”. However, because I’m pushing for a wider audience, I’m going to share a quick promotional post here.

In fact, now that I think about it, I’m not going to duplicate the content, I’m just going to share the link. You can find it here.


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New Home For “The View From My Edge”

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering what’s been so long.  Well, you see, my job is to work with “the cloud” in IT.  And, as a former Microsoft employee, I am beginning to move this into Microsoft Azure.  I won’t get into the sticky details, but let’s just say that this site is moving from wordpress.com to a new, cooler, and much more customizable interface.  Plus, I have to admit, I want to move this to an Internet Property (ebertowski.net) that I own, not WordPress.com.

So, for now, pretending to look over the edge from some building from NYC…

Oh, the link!  Here it is:  http://theviewfrommyedge.ebertowski.net.

 


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A Ride through the Surreal…

How many times do we tell people in a day that what you hear and what you know are two different things? This could be a statement like “all roughnecks are a problem” if you’re in Williston, ND. But I know a bunch, and while we were all kinds of trouble back in the day, these guys basically want to work and live the life they have. Are there troublemakers in town? Yup, I see friends posting about it and read it in newspaper articles every day. But I *KNOW* that these guys, my friends, aren’t usually the cause of all of this. It’s, in many ways, propaganda. Or glamorizing things to catch attention. Or both.

So to rephrase the question: Is perception a reality, or is reality a perception?

Feel a bit like Neo in The Matrix yet? Here’s a hint: take the red pill. Wake Up.

Where is this coming from, you may ask? You see, I watch at least one hour of news every day and generally two. I don’t ONLY watch Fox News, contrary to what most of you might think given my general conservative leanings. I watch news that captures my interest. MSNBC, FNC, CNN, heck, even David Gregory and George Snuffleuffugus on Sunday Mornings… I watch them all if there’s something interesting and not really partisan. But thinking about it, they all do one thing: they paint the Middle East as a collection of people that ALL hate America. Some are more extreme than others. But they all repeatedly discuss this protest against America and its ilk.

I get it. Bad News Sells. You can’t sell news if there’s not a bad guy.

But, there is so much more than that. Making the statement “The Middle East hates America” is roughly the equivalent of saying “All Americans are in the Ku Klux Klan.” It is just not true. Don’t believe me? Here’s a story that, if I were really not welcome, if I were truly hated, would never happen. And it proves my point that reality is never what propagandists want you to believe.

In 2012, the family and I moved from our villa in Jumeriah Village Circle (JVC) in Dubai to a different Emirate. How we got there isn’t really a matter of fodder for this blog, but on May 1st 2012, we moved to our new villa in Umm al Quwain (hereafter referred to as UAQ), at a development called the Umm al Quwain Marina. It was an Emaar project that failed to get off the ground in the real estate collapse of 2008/2009. This development was to be the prototype development that all the other developments around would be based upon. The commute from UAQ to Dubai is between 65km and 90km (depending upon which part of Dubai and which route you could take) so it’s roughly the equivalent of commuting from some exurbs in major American cities into the business centers.

Basically, it was the Arabian version of Buffalo, MN. And we called it home. Just like Home
Home, as a certain 14-year-old-female-friend-of-the-family would call Buffalo, but warmer.

One of the benefits of living on the edge of the big city was the ability to quickly and easily get on my bike and ride. And, more importantly, not die while riding my bike. By June 2012, I had been riding my bike every day for a month. I was getting fit, I wasn’t getting saddle-sore any more, and I was really just enjoying my time on the bike.

One day I wanted to do a long(er) ride. I started out with 20Km rides, working my way up and it was time for a breakthrough ride. I’d been doing 40Km (25mi) rides for over a week, and wanted to push that to 80Km (that’s 50 miles for my American friends) and see how it goes. Because of where I lived, it required two things: a plan and LOTS of fluids. By the middle of June, the temps at 9a are pushing 100F, so you can imagine the amount of water on the bike.

So I put together the plan, and headed out. My ride out took me east, out past Emirates Road, past the Dubai Bypass Road, and out into the desert. And by desert, I mean DESERT. Think of things like camels walking alongside the road, djinns, wadis, and sand dunes. About 15miles out, I rode past a camel track. And stables. I got in a race with a local Emirati boy out riding a camel, and training another.

I biked out to Al Rashidiya in UAQ, about 24 miles out, and started heading back. Here’s where the ride got a bit surreal.

About 30 miles in, I flatted. And it was getting warm. In fact, I was sweating out more than I was taking in, and I felt it. If you’ve ever been riding in 100F heat, you know what happens when you stop: a flood of sweat starts coming off your head. I had sweat in eyes, stinging, everything. Plus, I had to change my tube.

So here I am, a guy who’s obviously not an Arab, riding my bicycle in the middle of nowhere in the Arabian peninsula, with nothing other than my Emirates ID and my mobile phone. Changing a flat. I got it changed, pressurized the tube (thank the Lord in Heaven for CO2 cartridges) and started riding. And about 400yds up the road, I flatted again. I swore. Lots.

Time to change the flat again and, oh, no… I’m on my last tube.

Enter, the surreal. In the form of an Emirati in a white Toyota Land Cruiser.

This gentleman, because he truly was, pulled up next to me and asked me, in VERY broken English, if he could help. In fact it was this:

“My Friend, I help!”

I thanked him, but told him that I’d be fine. I just had to change the tire. He offered a ride. I told him it was fine, that I was just changing a tire. He offered dates for a snack. I’m NEVER one to turn down dates, so yes, I’ll take some. He offered water. Knowing I had about 12 km (8mi) left, I took him up on it to refill my water bottles. He asked if I was sure if I didn’t want a ride, and I thanked him again, but said I really wanted to ride. He smiled and said to me words I’ll never forget:

“You ride safe, Insha’Allah!”

Yes, he did. I half expected based upon that phrase to get nailed by a herd of wild donkeys thanks to him going and throwing it to Allah’s will, but hey, gotta get home. So I thanked him, wished him a peaceful journey, and started pedaling away.

And then it struck me… He hadn’t driven past me. In fact, if I listened close, I could hear the Land Cruiser bumping along ON THE SHOULDER. BEHIND ME.

So, what does one do in this situation? One glances over his left shoulder. And there was a Land Cruiser, with the hazards on, travelling behind me at my pace, making sure I wasn’t going to get hit from behind.

We carried on like this for about 5k. Until just before I went past the Dubai Bypass Road, which at the time was an incredibly dangerous roundabout.

As I was biking up the hill just before the roundabout, he pulled up next to me and told me he had to go to work. He couldn’t “watch for me” anymore, and that his brother was coming to drive behind me. While I am riding.

Again, a bit surreal, but okay…

Just as I came out of the roundabout, I noticed that I had a car behind me again. This must be the Emirati’s brother. I looked back and what did I see? A UAQ Police SUV. With the lights flashing.

All the way in to the police station, which, if you are looking at the map, is at mile 45. I had a police escort through into and through town, all the time with the lights flashing and his hazards on.

It’s this memory, this incredible little slice of time, that I remember when I see the news and hear about riots or hatred of the USA. It’s there, I know it. But that’s NOT the norm. It’s not ANY experience that I ever had, and of my many Muslim acquaintances I made in my two years in the desert, I never experienced it. Not once.

And, the stuff you see on the news? On Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr or any other social media site? You have to look past it. It’s not the only thing that is there. There is an incredible capacity to care about humanity in the people.

And, God Willing, we’ll all be able to see that someday.


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150 Years Later…

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now about the greatest 272 words uttered by an American President. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address happened 150 years ago, today. For posterity’s sake, let’s read them just one more time.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The primary orator that day was Mr. Edward Everett, one of the great orators of the day. Mr. Everett spoke for two hours. President Lincoln just two minutes. And in those two minutes, the President spoke words that ring as true today as in 1863. President Lincoln basically said three things:

  1. We are a country where all, regardless of sex, religion, or race, are created equal. We have differences, and it’s those differences that create our country’s combined strength.
  2. We are unworthy of those that have given their lives, and it is for us to remember them, to honor their memory and more importantly their sacrifice.
  3. We are responsible for our country’s direction. If the country “drives over the cliff” and loses its direction, it’s not a person’s or the government’s fault; it’s our fault.

**Note: those three bullet points take up 85 words. And they will not be nearly as relevant or viewed as eloquent in 150 years.

While we look at the speech through the filter of history, you have to extricate yourself from your comfortable life of today and use your imagination. Put yourself in that place, in that time. The Battle of Gettysburg started on July 1, 1863. It ended on July 3, 1863. The Soldiers’ National Cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863, just four and a half short months later. The smells of decay and gunpowder, the stench of dead and rotting horses, the destruction, the likelihood that there might have still even been a corpse of a fallen soldier around, all of these things factored in to this day. The ground was torn up, the result of cannonball after cannonball fired at fellow Americans, brigade after brigade of soldier marching headlong into the line to prevent a breach. Tents were still standing sporadically throughout the billeting areas, blowing in the wind and not removed. It was November in southwest Pennsylvania, so there was a distinct chill in the air. The graves where they placed the honored dead were mass graves; holes dug by hand, lined with bodies, and filled back again by hand. There was not the clean precision of today. Battlefields in 1863 were indiscriminate, and they took years to recover. And the audience that November day experienced just a small portion of the horror from the battle in July 1863.

It’s at this backdrop that Lincoln spoke one of the most famous collection of words of all time. He tugged at the very idea of what America is. The country wasn’t even 100 years old, and already it was tearing itself apart, with brother fighting brother. But, as he so eloquently put it, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us”. He wasn’t pointing fingers and saying that it’s the Confederacy’s fault, or the Southern Democrat’s fault. He’s saying that it’s OUR fault, and these men, these “honored dead” who gave the “last full measure of devotion” should not have died in vain.

I’ve been to Gettysburg one time. It was raining and cool the day we were there in 2004, and I didn’t get the opportunity to truly explore the place. But even then, 141 years after the battle, there was reverence. It was quiet. It was reserved. That place is sacred. Men and boys, women and children, Jew or Christian, Black or White, they were all lost that day. And this speech reminds us of that fact that we are not worthy of their sacrifice. There is unfinished business to be addressed, and the easy path is to just give up. The country cannot give up. The country must strive to the ideal, our government truly a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”.

This day in 1863 was about healing scars. Scars on the Earth. Scars of soldiers’ lost. Scars deep across the United States. Scars in our hearts. President Lincoln’s remarks, just two minutes in length, provided a goal, a vision. I could easily use this day as a way to prove that my side is better than yours, that my ideas are better than yours. But that misses the point of the President’s speech. The speech captures, in two minutes and 272 words, what it means to be American, and more importantly, what our responsibility is as Americans. We are not Irish, not African, not Scandinavian, English, or Hispanic. We are American. And we need this speech today. More importantly, we need someone dedicated to the concept of what America can be, not what we’re entitled to.

So, from the historical edge…

Aaron


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A Thank You Letter to “The Guardians on the Wall”

This day, November 11, is Veteran’s Day in the United States. It started as Armistice Day in 1919, celebrating the end of the First World War, which was claimed to be the war to end all wars. As we have grown, we’ve adapted this day to acknowledge not just the closing of the hostilities in one of the most devastating wars in history, but we acknowledge “The Guardians on the Wall”. In the years beyond November 11, 1918, we have learned that these people, these Servants, are the protectors that allow us to sleep safely at night, that protect the defenseless, that fight for those that can’t, and that help any in need.

This day, around the world, is celebrated. Whether it’s Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, or Veteran’s Day, the message is clear.

Thank You Veterans.

Thank you for serving. You have had to leave family and friends to do a selfless job. Volunteer or Draftee, combat or peacetime veteran, you served. You served your country while facing overwhelming force from an Empire that had never been defeated at Bunker Hill in 1776. In 1812, you watched the new Capitol burn and you still served. In 1863, you served a nation that pit brother against brother, cousin against cousin, and friend against friend over the ideal of a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. You served protecting American and its interests in Cuba and the Philippines against the Spanish Empire. You brought hope to a lost cause by serving next to British, French, Canadian, and Australian forces in the hell that were the trenches of the First World War. You answered the call in 1941, not ready to encounter the atrocities that were occurring, with a resounding call. You served in Korea, fighting again against overwhelming force to achieve a stalemate and guard that wall still. In 1969, you served in a war that was not wanted, in a time when you weren’t appreciated, in an atmosphere that recommended you walk through airports in civilian clothes as you came home, only to be forgotten by a country that wished you never came home. In 1991, you served knowing that chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons sites were being bombed to protect you, leaving you with a mysteriously diagnosed disease not even recognized by the government you served. In 2001, you watched as our country was attacked, and served in longest war in America’s history. You have done these things and more, and I thank you.

Thank you for sacrificing. You sacrifice so much through the years. You have missed children’s births and family deaths. You have missed soccer games and dance recitals. You have missed morning coffee with loved ones and coming home after a long day of work to exalted screams of “Daddy’s Home!” or “Mommy’s Here!” You have sacrificed your blood, sweat, and tears. You’ve sacrificed your life. You have sacrificed all of this not for a job, but for an ideal. Whether the ideal is that America is the “Shining City on the Hill” or to protect the brother standing next to you, you have done it.

Please give my heartfelt thank you to your families and loved ones. They sacrifice as much as you. Your children live without their parent around. Fathers and mothers watch children put their lives in danger every day. They keep the driveways clear, the lawn mowed, the dinner on the table and the household running. They manage the bills, call customer service, schedule family video call time no matter the time zone difference. They keep your place at the table set, your side of the bed warm, and they do it based on the promise that you will be returning home.

With Gratitude,

Aaron

And so, in honor of this day, I’m signing off slightly different. I’m signing this one off with one of my favorite poems, ever. The poem was written in January 1918 by Canadian doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, serving in a war whose only goal was to outlast the other side and men’s lives were just a part of an equation. The death, the destruction, the wasting, Colonel McCrae saw it all on the front lines. And in all of that waste, in all of that horror, he wrote the poem In Flanders Fields.

And here it is, from My Edge…

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

Call Her Blessed: The News

Daiquiri might be one of my oldest friends that I’m not related to.  Seriously.  When I moved to Williston in 1985, her dad and my mom worked together.  She lived a couple of blocks away from me until her family moved.  Through the wonder that is Facebook, I’ve been able to reconnect with her.  Last week, on her 40th birthday, she received some news that, well, I don’t know how I would handle.  I highly recommend reading her blog, Call Her Blessed. 

Daiq, I’m not a praying man, but I believe…  So here’s believing that you’ll get through this.


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The (Not So) Fine Line…

I can’t believe I’m writing this.  For Several Reasons.

Very seldom do I write about current events.  I try and avoid politics, current events, etc. because I just don’t want to deal with the fallout that may result.  It’s my choice to avoid it, even though I have some VERY outspoken views on current events.  Racism is not something that I tolerate, ever.  I believe that Dr. King’s words, to judge a person not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, are probably some of the most formative words in my life.  Heck, I’m an American, and a white one at that, that went to live in the Middle East for two years.  How many people can say that they’ve gone outside their comfort zone?  I CHOSE to be a minority.  Because I truly don’t see color, I see the person.  And I wish the rest of the world did, too.

The news that has been going on in Miami, FL, however, is just something that I have to write about.  These guys make hundreds of thousands (or more) of dollars yearly to play a game.  I can’t help but be judgmental.  I judge the players and coaches that let this happen.  I judge the victim, thankful that he knew his breaking point and didn’t show up at a workplace with a gun.  I judge the media, justifying “rookie hazing” as something that we all do, and they’ll get to do it too.  I judge them all.

Racism disgusts me.  The media, especially the sports media with its large collection of former coaches and players, justifying “rookie hazing” disgusts me.  And blaming the victim until a voicemail is leaked to the media to corroborate the venom that the victim was experiencing, disgusts me.

The truth, it seems, is not that simple.

So, before I go any further…  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m going to give you some background.  American Football team, Miami Dolphins.  The offensive line, in most football locker rooms, is the tightest knit group of people in the locker room, and potentially in any sport.  They *usually* check an ego at the door, they work together for a common good, etc. They stand side by side, they back each other up, they work together to keep the quarterback protected from defensive linemen that want to hit him as hard as they can.  One player, named Richie Incognito has *allegedly* (I use that word sarcastically, because as I tell my kids ALL the time, “if you put it on the Internet or on the phone, it’s available FOREVER”.  Those texts, those voicemails, those pictures and posts, they might just end up in the Library of Congress because the minute you hit “send”, it cannot be taken back.  EVER.  But I digress…)  Hold on.  I’m backing up further.

Typically when we think of “hazing”, we think of Fraternities making kids drink until they die.  The word is translated to our children as “bullying” when we tell our young children about it.  Our children’s schools have days every month where all the kids wear a certain color for “Anti-Bullying day”.  Bullying has even taken to the news recently with kids committing suicide instead of facing another day of relentless teasing and physical abuse.  We’ve forced fraternities and sororities to halt all hazing activities, and have made it a criminal activity to force people to perform tasks they chose not to perform in order to become a member.  We’ve forced hazing out of the Armed Forces because the educated and dedicated soldier is a better soldier than the one that is just angry at anyone in authority.

But, there is hazing in sports.  And listening to the sports media over the last week, it’s acceptable in sports.  Apparently, we in sports have endured this since high school and younger. (I’m calling bull on that, but I’ll get to that later) The senior member of the team makes the junior member of the team do silly or stupid things, makes him buy doughnuts on Saturday morning, buys pizza on Tuesdays, etc.  The argument that I’ve heard repeatedly over the last week is that it breaks down the individual and begins to build them back up as a part of the team.  Just like basic training. 

This whole incident results from hazing.  In the NFL, apparently, many teams have a leadership council that helps build the rookies into a working part of the team.  They do that by making the rookies, those new to the NFL, carry pads off the field during training camp and practice.  They buy lunch.  They buy doughnuts.  They split the bill for team dinners.  In other words, these guys, the newest members to the league, have to “pay their dues”.  If they don’t, the “leadership council” of veterans can leverage fines.  These are NOT formal fines that go to charity.  These are kangaroo court fines.  These fines are used for team outings and get-together events.  (Read:  Minnesota Vikings Boat Cruise, Dinner, etc…)  The bill for these events can run into the TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars.  Richie Incognito, in his role as a member of the leadership council for the Miami Dolphins, seems to have taken it as his personal challenge, to take a 2nd round draft pick in 2012 named Jonathan Martin, a 300+ pound offensive lineman, to make him “tougher”.  It went WAY too far, and the result is that a racist bully was revealed.  Disparaging ethnicity or race, threatening to kill, all of these things happened.  And from a veteran leader in the vein of “making the rookie tougher”.

The fact of the matter is that this is workplace violence.  The Miami Dolphins are VERY lucky that Jonathan Martin is an educated and thoughtful individual, who knew his breaking point and, more importantly, how to handle it.  In the team cafeteria, after being the brunt of another round of teasing, he threw his plate of spaghetti down and walked out.  He had a breaking point, LIKE WE ALL DO, and he’d hit it.  Can you just imagine if, after being pushed beyond that breaking point, he’d walked in with a gun to the cafeteria and started pulling the trigger?  What if he’d killed himself?  Would the NFL and the Miami Dolphins have fought their culpability for fostering a hostile workplace?  Of course they would.  They’d blame the victim, just like they did.  HE didn’t know how to handle it.  HE never went to the team leaders.  HE didn’t seek outside help.  I am still hearing it on sports radio.

In “the real world”, the idea of fines or taxes levied by me on my peers because they didn’t participate in an event or buy lunch one day would result in HR complaints, hostile workplace counseling, etc.  I’d be fired.  My manager, supervisor, director, or executive would walk me out. the. door.  PERIOD.  ANYONE that tells you differently is full of BS.  And to those that say that if you can’t handle this, maybe you’re not cut out for the NFL?  Again, BS.  WE ALL have a breaking point. 

What bothers me the most about this is the justification that I’ve heard on sports talk radio.  Until the corroborated evidence of racism and threatened violence, sports talk radio justified rookie hazing.  Forcing guys to bring in doughnuts, fining coworkers for not participating, these were all “just the way it is in the locker room” and “we’ve all gone through since high school”.  BS.  Bull…  (I am trying to make sure my kids can read this and have had to temper my language, but I’m swearing angry.)  I played Football and Hockey in High School.  I was a member of a Fraternity, for crying out loud.  I’ve worked in a professional capacity, and at the top levels of my profession, for seventeen years.  Hazing never factored into my workplace.  By justifying ANY of it, you justify ALL of it.  Go tell your kids or grandkids it’s okay to haze, bully, or threaten people that may not look like you, think like you, or have the same goals as you.  Go tell them that when they get older, they’ll get to do it, too, but they have to pay their dues.  By justifying this hostile workplace in the NFL, which is quite possibly the most visible workplace in the country, you are telling younger generations of kids, who actually ARE listening to you, that if senior people on your team, in your job, etc. threaten you or force you to do something that you either A) can’t or B) won’t, they have to just “deal with it”.  You’ve told them that bullying, or hazing, is acceptable.

The reality is:  It’s not acceptable.  IN ANY FORM.  Anyone who tells you differently has never had to grow up and work in the real world; they just get to play a game.

With Anger From the Edge…

Aaron

 


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Why My Daughters Despise Taxes…

Halloween.  It’s a time when children of all ages let their inner actor out and play dress up.  As a reward for playing dress-up well, children are rewarded with candy.  As adults we go to parties, we laugh and giggle about other peoples’ costumes, and prizes become the new “Candy”.

Over the years, Halloween has become so commercialized that it’s now about “Prizes”, “Treats”, or “Candy”. What ever happened to the Trick part of Trick-or-Treat?  I just watched the Charlie Brown special “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”, and I had a realization that is really sad.  We as a society have to treat everyone fairly.  Or, at least, I want MY kids treated fairly.  I don’t care so much about yours.  And if you give MY kids a rock in my bag, I’m coming for you…

It all comes back to Candy.

Many years ago, I had to come up with a way to take my kids’ candy without them having a hissy fit.  I know, I know, I’m the parent.  I should be able to have some without a hissy fit, and if they did throw one I could scold, take away some, etc. and just be a parent.  But you see, I’m all about learning experiences.  And what better way to teach them about the US Government than to use something that the girls hold dear as an object lesson.

So, in 2006, I came up with an idea I called the Candy Tax.  In fact, over the years, it’s become a system.  Or rather, “System”, because like the US Tax Code, it’s taken on a life of its own.  My wife is the Supreme Court when it comes to the Candy Tax, telling me when I’ve overreached, but in general plays along with the System.  It’s been so long since I first came up with this idea…  It’s time I actually codified this.

(I’m borrowing a bit from my wife, here.  She posted something like this on Facebook earlier today which is my inspiration.  So once again, Princess, you inspire me…  )

So, here you go:

Collection, Allocation, and Nutritional Disbursement for Youth (CANDY) Act

We the parents of these United States of Ebertowski (USE), in order to provide a more perfect family, do establish this act to provide for the Collection, Allocation, and Nutritional Disbursement for Youth (CANDY) as a result of Halloween Festivities including but not limited to activities that take place on October 31 annually.  This act, in its entirety, is for the benefit of the youth in the family, ensuring that they contribute to the family society as a whole by bettering and assisting the Parents of the USE in the provision and protection of the USE’s youth.

This act consists of two primary sections:  The establishment of the CANDY Tax and the establishment of the CANDY Entitlement Program.  The CANDY revenue schedule establishes, for the betterment of the family, a method to provide for the Parents of the USE to collect and provide for services rendered to the youth of the USE during annual Halloween Festivities.  The second portion of this Act, called the CANDY Entitlement Program, establishes a mechanism to provide for those less fortunate or unable to collect assets during the aforementioned Halloween Festivities.

Title 1:  Establishment of the CANDY Tax

Section 1:  Base Rate

As the parents of the USE provide resources to, and protect the youth of the USE, a base rate must be set to provide for the Government’s overall consumption of resources.  As such, the USE hereby establishes a Tax called the CANDY Asset Tax.  This tax shall be set at a basal rate of twenty-five (25) percent of ALL collected items as a part of any Halloween festivities.  This rate shall include all asset collection from Trick-or-Treating (hereafter distribution), Parties, School Gatherings, or Team Exchanges in the case of extracurricular activities. 

Section 2:  Progressive Schedule

In order to fairly provide and distribute the assets (treats) collected by the youth of the USE, a progressive schedule is hereby established.  In addition to the basal rate of 25%, any additional collection vessels beyond a single collection vessel are subjected to an additional five (5) percent Tax.  This shall be capped at a maximum of forty (40) percent of total Asset (treat) accumulation, measured annually.

All tax assets (treats) shall be assessed and collected by the Parents of the USE prior to the enjoyment of said assets (treats) by the youth of the USE.  Any violation of this shall be penalized according to Section 4, Title 1, of the the CANDY Act.

Section 3:  Exemptions

There shall be NO exemptions from the CANDY Income Collection Schedule.  All Assets (treats) collected at any time and determined by the Parents of the USE a direct result of Halloween Festivities shall be taxed accordingly. 

Section 4:  Penalties

Penalties shall be assessed for all failing to contribute their fair share to the USE in the form of the CANDY Tax.  Penalties shall include one additional asset (treat) per day paid to the Parents of the USE.  Any failure to do so shall accumulate interest at the rate of two (2) additional assets (treats) per day paid to the Parents of the USE.  Youth of the USE shall not indulge in any assets (treats) until all penalties and interest are paid in full to the Parents of the USE.

Title 2:  Establishment of the CANDY Entitlement Program

Section 1:  Purpose of CANDY Entitlement Program

The CANDY Entitlement Program provides for the redistribution of assets collected by the USE’s youth during Halloween to youths that are limited in their ability to collect assets directly related to Halloween Festivities.  These limits may include the timing of requested distribution, an inability to conform with appropriate Halloween Festivity attire, and the lack of originality in said attire.

The CANDY Entitlement Program requires that a portion of the CANDY Tax (Title 1, Section 1) be reserved to provide assets (treats) to the aforementioned youth, regardless of citizenship in the USE.  The Parents of the USE reserve the right to determine what assets (treats) qualify to be redistributed to those eligible in the CANDY Entitlement Program and may, at any time, determine that safety of the Youth of the USE is more important than the assets (treats) the Youth of the USE have accumulated and require additional contributions to the Entitlement Program, forcibly if necessary.

Section 2:  Redistribution Schedule

All assets distributed as a part of the CANDY Entitlement Program are taxable.  The level of need, specifically the observed filled volume of the collection vessel (expressed as a percentage) at the point of distribution shall determine the amount distributed as assets (treats) in the Redistribution Schedule.  Youth may appeal said distribution, but the decisions of the distributing body of the USE are final. 

Section 3:  Qualifications for CANDY Entitlement Program

The CANDY Entitlement Program sets no restrictions on qualifications for membership in the CANDY Entitlement Program.  All Youths, regardless of citizenship in the USE, qualify.  The USE is an Equal Opportunity Distributer and therefore does not require blood sugar testing to qualify as that may be deemed discriminatory to those unable to either: a) control sudden urges and binge on assets (treats) collected during the distribution period; or b) medically unable to regulate blood sugar.

Looking at this, I have to wonder.  Is our Federal Tax Code as silly as this is?

Happy Halloween from my edge…

Aaron


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Water in the desert, the hard way…

Water.

H20.

If you want to get technical, the chemical name is dihydrogen monoxide.  (Yes, Hank…  I paid attention in my Sophomore year of high school Chemistry.)  It’s essential to life.  In the desert, it isn’t easy to find.  And at 122F (50C), you can’t live long without it.

In the UAE, the water from the tap is potable.  It’s desalinated (that’s a big word, it means the salt is taken out of it since it comes from the sea), treated, and pumped out to the villas and apartments around the Emirate.  Each Emirate is responsible for providing water to their Emirate.  Without getting into the messy political bits about how government corporations, you pay the water company, aka the Government, for the water you consume at your residence.

If you’ve ever been to the “Third World”, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  You drink bottled water.

So, where am I going with this?  Bear with me, for just two more paragraphs.

In the UAE, water to your residence is possible, and about 99% of the Country has it.  It’s potable.  We used it to cook all the time.  Sometimes, I even drank it.  It was salty, it tasted a bit funny, but you get used to it.  For drinking purposes, we bought a water bottle dispenser.  A bubbler, a bottle cooler, whatever you want to call it.  It’s the thing that you talk about football around on Monday morning.  We had one on our countertop.  The benefit of living in the Middle East is that EVERYTHING is delivered, if you’re willing to pay.  When we lived in Dubai, we lived in an “out of the way” part of town, but water was delivered by just putting the bottles out the back door with the payment coupons.  We generally got new bottles when we had one left (we had 3 or 4).  When we moved to Umm al Quwain, it was a little harder because we had to call “a guy”…

The call…  Just thinking about it makes my pulse increase.  I’m serious.  I just checked, it’s at 84, when I’m normally in the upper 60s…

Okay just, one more paragraph.  Please hang in there.

In Muslim countries, the month of Ramadan is the Holy Month.  It’s twenty-eight days of fasting during the day (no food, no water, no nothing) and connecting with family and friends during the evening.  People attend Iftar, the traditional “breaking of the fast” after the Maghrib prayer (Arabic:  صلاة المغرب‎ ) occurring just after sunset.  Many countries require that anything that sells food or drink be closed.  Eating or drinking in public is punishable by a fine.  Also, since many are not eating/drinking, work hours are shortened.  It’s law, and you learn to deal with it.  Honestly, it was my favorite time of year to work there.  It was a lot easier to just focus on work.  It’s also when expats flee the region.  The malls are COMPLETELY empty during the day.  Couple that with the fact that Ramadan was during the summer months (when expats go back home to visit their family/friends) and there were effectively 20% of the total number of people around when I needed to call the “water guy”…

Sigh…  I still get angry, 14 months later.

One late July day, Kerri asked me to call the “water guy”.  We were already running low, and the general rule is that Fridays (Holy Day in Islam) the service didn’t deliver.  At the rate we were drinking water, we’d end up without bottles about the middle of the day on Friday.  So, being the INCREDIBLE planner that Kerri is, she asked me to buy water. 

Here’s how the call (basically) went:

Aaron:  Yes, I need to get water delivered.

H2O Guy:  Ha. (As a quick aside, Ha = yes in Hindi…)

Aaron:  Can you deliver today?

H2O Guy:  Ni.  (Another quick aside, Ni = No in Hindi…)

Aaron:  When can you deliver?

H2O Guy:  Ni.

Aaron:  You can’t deliver water?

H2O Guy:  Ni.

Aaron:  You can deliver water?

H2O Guy:  Water, Ni.

Okay, now I’m getting confused.  This guy just told me that that he CAN’T deliver water today, that he CAN’T deliver water at all, and that he DOESN’T have water.  All in just a short exchange.  Time for me to get a little more clarity.

Aaron:  Is this Al Falaj water?

H2O Guy:  Yes.

What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks?  The guy just switched to English…

Aaron:  Do you speak English?

H2O Guy:  No.

Ummm…  Yes and No are sure English-sounding words, but I’ve learned…  not everything is always as it sounds…

Aaron:  You don’t speak English?

H2O Guy:  Ha.

Aaron (Beginning to sound a little exasperated, because we’re back in Hindi): No English?

H2O Guy:  No English.

Aaron (getting whiplash from all of this back-and-forth between English and Hindi):  So no water?

H2O Guy:  Yes, water.

Aaron (now convinced that I’m being Punk’d):  Yes, water?  Can you deliver water to me?

H2O Guy:  Yes, water.

YES!!!  We’re getting somewhere!

Aaron:  Yes, water?  You can deliver water to Umm al Quwain Marina?

H2O Guy:  No marina.

Aaron:  Yes, marina.  You deliver to me all the time.

H2O Guy:  No marina.

Aaron:  Not Dubai Marina.  Umm al Quwain Marina.

H2O Guy:  Yes Umm al Quwain.

Aaron:  Yes.  Umm al Quwain.  Umm al Quwain Marina!

H2O Guy:  Yes marina.  No Umm al Quwain.

Aaron:  Yes Marina?  You just said No Marina!

H2O Guy:  Ha.

Sigh…  Back in Hindi.

Aaron:  Is there anyone around that speaks English?

H2O Guy:  Yes English.

Aaron (Now pulling out back hairs, because all the ones on the top of my head are gone):  I know I speak English, and you don’t.  ENGLISH ANYONE?

H2O Guy:  English.  Ni.

I know, English, Ni.  English, ha?  Work with me here, guy…

Aaron:  Okay…  Let’s start over.

H2O Guy:  Ha.

SEE!  This guy can understand English!  I’m convinced I’m being punk’d…

Aaron:  Water?

H2O Guy:  Ha.

Aaron:  Water, Umm al Quwain?

H2O Guy:  Yes.

Aaron (seeing the light at the end of the tunnel):  Water, Umm al Quwain Marina?

H2O Guy:  No Umm al Quwain.

AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!

Aaron:  Water Umm al Quwain?

H2O Guy:  Yes.

Aaron:  Water Umm al Quwain Marina?

H2O Guy:  Marina Yes.

Okay.  Let me get this right.  I *think* he just said marina YES!

Aaron:  Marina Yes?

H2O Guy:  No marina.

Aaron:  No Marina?

H2O Guy:  Yes Marina.

Darn contrarians…  This guy is just saying the opposite of what I say at this point. 

Aaron:  Umm al Quwain Marina?

H2O Guy:  No, water.

Aaron:  Water.  Umm al Quwain Marina. Today?

H2O Guy:  Yes.

Aaron:  Today? 

H2O Guy:  Insha’Allah.

Abrupt hangup.  Like I really heard “Insha’All… <click>”. But I got what he was saying. 

<<Cue the family, including visitors, laughing their backsides off so loud you could have heard them outside!>>

At this point, I was looking for Ashton Kutcher somewhere because this guy understood EXACTLY what I was asking because he committed to it at the end.  Well, kind of.  He said Insha’Allah.  That means he’ll at least TRY.

If you ask Kerri, this is one of the things about living over there that stick out in her mind (I think).  I liken it to the “Who’s on First” bit from Abbot & Costello.  I knew what I was trying to ask.  He knew what he was trying to say.  Our problem was that neither one of us understood what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks the other was saying. 

Now, the aftermath.  Did the guy come?  Nope.  Not that Thursday.  Not that Friday either.  Saturday?  Late in the day.  But it took another call.  That’s what I mean by the Insha’Allah Diaries.  You roll with it.  You learn and you adapt.  You make due.  We came up with a way around it, and learned that, apparently, God DIDN’T will it that day.  When they finally did come, they had no clue that I was even the guy.  They just pulled up, delivered water and drove away.  Life moved on…

So for now, from My Edge…

Aaron

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