Saturday, January 31, 2015


"A love of books, of holding a book, turning its pages, looking at its pictures, and living its fascinating stories goes hand-in-hand with a love of learning." Laura Bush.

I shopped around for a cover artist, for the manuscript A Miracle of Zeros and Ones. They all wanted a lot of money. So I bought Photoshop. This is what I've come up with, so far.

Okay, I know it isn't pro-style. I'm getting there. Soon to be available at Tattered Cover!

I should start a contest....

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Doing It Portie

"I can’t believe I have to write this next sentence but, here goes: crawling on the floor weeping while you puke all over yourself is not healthy." Crossfit quote on Pinterest.

Several of my closest friends adhere to a workout scheme called "Crossfit." Others claim they are cultists, but those are my friends so I won't apply that label. Mostly.

After observing several crossfit workouts I have concluded that I, too, am a cultist. To wit:

Begin by sitting on the sofa, feet up on the coffee table, laptop on lap, writing. 3...2...1...hit it!

Portuguese Water Dog barks at the back door. Lift laptop and sit forward in one motion (back straight!). Place laptop on coffee table. Stand. Walk briskly to sliding glass door. Open. Dog exits, close door. Return to couch, sit. Back straight, lift laptop, place on lap. Feet up. resume writing. Second Portie barks to go out (don't ask why they don't all go out at once).  Lift laptop and sit forward in one motion (back straight!). Place laptop on coffee table. Stand. Walk briskly to sliding glass door. Open. Dog exits, close door. Return to couch, sit. Back straight, lift laptop, place on lap. Feet up. Resume writing. Third Portie barks to go out (we're dog sitting).  Lift laptop and sit forward in one motion (back straight!). Place laptop on coffee table. Stand. Walk briskly to sliding glass door. Open. Dog exits, close door. Return to couch, sit. Back straight, lift laptop, place on lap. Feet up. Resume writing. Biggest dog barks at other dogs in neighbor's yard. Lift laptop and sit forward in one motion (back straight!). Place laptop on coffee table. Box hop over coffee table. Sprint to sliding glass door. Yell at dog. Yell at dog some more. Run to where dog has target lock. Yank incredibly strong, focused dog back into the house. Chase cat that has run out open door. Close door. Return to couch, sit. Back straight, lift laptop, place on lap. Feet up. Resume writing. Second dog barks at back door to come in. Lift laptop and sit forward in one motion (back straight!). Place laptop on coffee table. Stand. Walk briskly to sliding glass door. Open. Dog enters, steps on my foot. Hop on other foot five times. Close door. Return to couch, sit. Back straight, lift laptop, place on lap. Feet up. Resume writing. Third dog slams into door thinking it is still open. Lift laptop and sit forward in one motion (back straight!). Place laptop on coffee table. Stand. Walk briskly to sliding glass door. Open. Dog stares at you. Yell at dog. Dog enters, close door. Return to couch, sit. Back straight, lift laptop, place on lap. Feet up. Resume writing.

Elapsed time, five minutes. Not enough of a workout? 

Squirrel defeats squirrel-proof thing on bird feeder. Big portie sees squirrel and the barking begins.

Repeat Portie.'re Crossfitting! 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Scoped Out

"We need the kind of soldier who can turn the remorse button off," said Sgt. Buck, the head of an Edmonton Garrison-based sniper unit.

I went to see American Sniper with a group of friends - police officers all. Movie theaters have moved out of the "popcorn, candy, soda" era, and so I sipped a beer in the packed house and let the story of Chris Kyle unfold.

It wasn't what I expected. The war scenes were grim but not graphic. Mostly, they told of a battlefield littered with contradiction. The intermingling of cultures led to uneven interactions between American and Iraqi, between Iraqis of differing allegiances and among the Marines and SEALS sent to fight another of America's ambiguous campaigns. Kyle's skill was not used so much to eliminate high-ranking enemy combatants as to protect columns of Marines and Iraqi troops fighting for control of Fallujah, Ramadi and other cities key to suppressing the insurgency.

Memorable scenes exposed the moral and mental challenges posed by the War on Terrorism. A woman hands a young boy a live grenade and shoos him toward an approaching column of Marines. Kyle shoots him. The woman picks up the device, apparently intent on finishing the job. She is not successful.

The heart of the movie begins when Kyle meets a young woman named Tara. At a bar. He is charming. She is unimpressed. A drinking game ensues (the rules are meaningless) and she ends up puking into a planter outside. Of course, they marry and have children. Those, however, are set pieces for the real drama that unfolds.

Kyle is on a satellite phone call with Tara. She's telling him their first child will be a boy. A firefight interrupts their conversation and she gets to hear the battle rage, her husband's life surely in the balance. He survives.

The Chris Kyle Tara fell in love with does not. His first tour over, he returns home distant, distracted. His body sits in a chair at home, his heart still with the men and women he left behind to fight and die. He is moody, prone to periods of silence. His wife tries to pull him back into the her life - into the life of a loving husband and adoring father. She succeeds imperfectly, the chore harder and more fruitless with every deployment.

It all sounds vaguely familiar. In the professional life of a police officer there are enforced (though relatively brief compared to duty in a combat zone) absences. There are long days and short nights having little to do with the circadian rhythm into which human beings evolved. Stress, short tempers..... Withdrawal from friends, family and the things we enjoyed before "the job" intruded. Distance of a most unnavigable sort. A career of filling our buckets with the trauma and misery of others.....

I don't presume to compare myself favorably to Chris Kyle, or the men and women who have been thrust into the maelstrom of battle on behalf of our country. His life story stands as a singular tale of the collective sacrifice and service offered every day by our military members all over the world. Called selfish, he responds "I'd lay down my life for my country."

A visceral outrage intrudes, though, whenever another critic of the movie, and of Kyle, bubbles to the surface of the thoughtless ooze of anti-war sophistry. None of these men whose lives are touched (and sometimes are ended) wanted war. The chilling scene showing the Kyles holding each other in front of their TV on 9/11 speaks volumes for what they both knew was to come for them. Along the way he loses friends, who die as he looks on. The thoughtless comments and hollow moralizing by people who have never faced a graver danger than choking on a steak aboard their private jet deserve far less attention than they are getting, and no respect.

This is not a war movie. It is a cost movie, of the few paying a never-ending bill so that the many can be free. That some of those on the paying end were Iraqis struggling with their own culture is one of the smaller ironies (and points of anguish and dismay among the combatants) explored. 

Chris Kyle only faced the failure of his own remorse button (and his stubborn refusal to admit it) late in his life. Surrounded by his friends, a strong wife supporting him, he eventually won the ultimate battle borne by those who serve. 

It is a triumph I wish for us all.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Loose Tools

According to Green's Dictionary of Slang, tool has several meanings. In the current context it would probably mean "a stupid, useless or socially inept person". The first citation for this dates from 1656.

Riding bikes in January with friends. It has a certain south of the Mason-Dixon line feel to it. But Denver's Washington Park on a beautiful (if blustery) sixty-degree afternoon? A gift. An amazing gift. The park road, mostly closed to cars, is divided by a double yellow line. Bikes going counter-clockwise and peds going...wherever they pleased. The people watching? 

An amazing number of loose tools. There was:

A cyclist who felt compelled to mention to pedestrians strolling in the bike lane that it was a bike lane. That was okay. When he started blowing a whistle at people (and clipped an unsuspecting in-line skater) that was a little much. His fashion faux pas added to the ambiance. Cycling shorts and a t-shirt under a windbreaker. Aren't a cyclist, don't get the picture? It leads to a phenomenon called "Bad Crack."

The aforementioned skater. "On your right, on your right" but she still weaved back and forth across the lane like an octogenarian jogger on a cruise ship. Of course - ear buds plugged into music. "ON YOUR FUCKING RIGHT!" would maybe have gotten her attention. But there were a ton of kids present.

Skater number two - decked out in bright red shorts, simulated cross-country skis humming along the bike lane. Well, okay. But the ski poles increased his wingspan until he took up the whole lane and.... I could just envision being impaled as I went by. "Sir, I can't make it for my first day in my new job. They are removing a ski pole from my calf." Fortunately, the judicious application of "God Voice" (thank you Matt, Beth and Katy) moved him temporarily out of the way. Although the dirty look was uncalled for.

An unsteady  cyclist riding a bike that sounded like a one-man band. Every joint on his machine creaked and groaned. The chain may have been lubricated at one point - perhaps when it was manufactured in the 1990s. We passed him quickly and gave a sigh of relief. Until he passed us right back. Okay, I digress for a moment. That is a challenge. Some guy is noodling along slowly, oblivious. We pass him. Awakened, he passes us back. Aroused, we ride nose to tail and drop his dumb ass like a 16 ton weight. There, I said it. Only, my riding partners today are great people who chuckled at the wonder of it all. So we returned to chatting.

Finally, a squirrel with a death wish. You'd think the critter would have more experience. Two of us almost clipped him - I don't know how I missed him...or he missed me.

Today was a great ride with three fabulous cyclists. But, somebody had spilled the tool chest.

Call Signs

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Over the course of a career, a police officer answers to an array of call signs. No, nothing as transp
arently descriptive as "Maverick"  or "Goose." They are generally sterile alphanumerics that describe watch and beat assignments. I've been 1North30, or 250 (which a friend translates as "two-fitty"). Yesterday I was 120 - watch one north sector patrol sergeant.

Tomorrow I will be Edward 10. What?!

Leaving my friends in Patrol for an assignment with the Training Unit is an extraordinary mixed bag. I succeed a good friend, and join an excellent group. I will work days, and have Saturday and Sunday off (saying I will have "weekends off" obscures the issue - I've always had weekends off, they were just WTF). This is a job I've wanted for years and now, finally, I'm there.

I'm not a bike cop, anymore. I've left my Patrol team in capable hands, and while vicariously enjoying their triumphs I will no longer share their peril. I look forward to molding the new breed, preparing them for the rigors and rewards of an especially difficult career path. 

Over the coming weeks and months we will explore this transition, from bike cop to training sergeant. I'm excited at the new challenge, humbled that the organization put me in this position and look forward to learning from the professional training officers who have built the excellent academy and in-service programs.

I'm going to miss the street interactions. I won't be rolling through alleys checking on people like Theodore. There will be no more five-degree mornings mustering brave men and women to face armed idiots. When the alert tone sounds a particularly critical call I won't hear it. 

But, I'm going to have a hand in preparing the next generation to face those challenges. I'm going to learn a lot from men and women who have walked this walk very effectively. 

Edward 10. I can do this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Saddle Up

Goal setting.

Every time I ride this, I vow that it will be my last. Get up ahead of the Dawn Patrol, set off for Avon from Bergen Park (120 miles) and prepare to:

*Get passed.... A lot.
*Eat dry bagels, squeeze twenty or so goo packs, drink several gallons of sports drink.
*Get rained on. It almost always rains on the slog toward Officer's Gulch. That is, when it doesn't rain all day...except when it is snowing.
*Risk a fall (stupidly) and need medical attention. Be giggled at by a paramedic, oh joy.
*Have yet another fabulous ride.

Each of my attempts has been unique. In 2001 (my first) I prepared diligently and, riding alone, completed it easily. In 2002 I awoke with a fever and abandoned in the area of Loveland Pass. There was the ride where it rained or snowed the whole way. I made it (with friend Wil) to the other side of Loveland Pass where, shivering too much to hold the handlebars, I rode to a Starbucks and waited for daughter Katy to rescue me. The next year we finished.

Last time - a friend fest.

This will be the last Triple, though. I'm serious this time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Strong Memo To Follow - Updated

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear." Mark Twain.

Several months ago, at morning coffee, a teammate recounted training he had recently received. The conversation was chilling, illuminating.  It related directly to how we might prepare for a coordinated, military-style attack by terrorists. An attack like the one in Paris.

Mayhem would ensue. 

Watching the video, seeing them first wound and then execute a French cop, several things are obvious. Each is chilling.

They didn't just spray and pray. They could shoot. One guy took a long, freehand shot. I assume he hit what he was aiming at, because they approached the downed officer and finished him off without resistance.

They expected to escape. Otherwise, they would not have bothered with masks.

They aren't amateurs, but they aren't elite operators, either. In a photo one of the assholes is "covering" his partner - pointing his rifle at his buddy. They get target lock. They find a lone victim, dismounting their vehicle to hunt him down, both focusing on the cop. Meanwhile.... Who stood vehicle security? Who's checking six? These guys are dangerous as hell, but they can be had.

Finally, my late father had a favorite expression for situations like this.

"Fuck you. Strong memo to follow."

Jihadists like the ones in Paris will eventually use these tactics here, on us. American law enforcement needs to be up to this challenge. It begins by taking our heads out of...the sand and recognizing that advanced training and equipment are necessary to survive combat with a well-armed, purposeful adversary. Leadership among law enforcement professionals must reject passing fads, embracing techniques that work when the bullets start flying. Officers need to prepare for the day that the thin-skinned fanatics arrive in their town, enraged over some petty slight.

As for thugs who would kill cartoonists for what they draw....

Fuck you. Strong memo to follow.

Update: From Breach-Bang-Clear.

Once commenter: "Leeeeroy Jenkins."

Three terrorists down - that's the strong memo to follow.