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Ready Player One, Ernest Cline, Book Review

So this review might be about 7 years too late, but its only a few days before the movie hits. If you haven’t read Ready Player One yet, you still have time to get it in before the movie comes out.

I had never heard of this book until a few months ago when the IT guy from the department mentioned it. He was an 80’s kid who grew up with the old cabinet arcade games, D&D, and some of the best movies of the last 50 years.

The book is based around Wade Watts. A kid in the not so distant future in a world where everyone’s lives have gotten so bleak and dreary that they escape into a massive multiplayer online world called the Oasis. When the creator of the Oasis dies, he leaves his incredible fortune to whoever can solve a series of riddles and challenges that he has hidden throughout the online world. We follow Wade, through his online persona- Parzival, as he builds friendships, relationships, and rivalries with people all through the Oasis. Parzival is just another unremarkable kid, living his dreary lives both in and out of the Oasis. That is until he is the first to solve the first riddle.

I may have enjoyed the book a little more if I was born 5-10 years earlier. A lot of the references pre-date me. That being said, I haven’t enjoyed a book as much as this since I read The Martian a few years ago. The book has action, adventure, friendship, loyalty and betrayal, and enough nostalgia references to take you on a trip down memory lane. It’s a quick read once it hooks you. My biggest worry is that the movie will disappoint.

You can get the book as a mass market paperback for less than 10 bucks. Maybe you can find it used for much less. I highly recommend it!

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“Huh?” My Cop Life with Hearing Loss

I’m a cop with a “disability.” Shortly after I was born, I suffered a reaction to medication that affected the nerves around my ears. I have significant hearing loss, and because of that, I have had my career opportunities limited. At 17 years old, I stood in a Marine Corp recruiting office with my parents blessing, ready to sign my life away. I was determined to make a career out of the Marines. I had my eyes set on boot camp in 2003 and I was specifically requesting a job that would get me into combat. There was nothing else in the world I wanted more. And then I went to MEPS and sat in an old booth with headphones so tight, if I didn’t have tinnitus, my ears would’ve been ringing from the pressure. I guess I missed a few beeps and they kicked me out. Attempts at waivers never quite panned out and eventually the recruiter told me the options were exhausted. I was crushed. My hearing loss was less profound then and I thought I heard everything just fine. I’d performed fine in school. I held conversations just fine. Plan B was community college.

Fast forward to 2016, and holy shit, I knew I was missing a ton. I’d spent years progressively saying “huh?” more and more. I noticed I was dialing up the TV and radio more and more. I was missing whispers on perimeters in the dark. I knew it was a problem. I was terrified to take steps to correct it. I was worried the stigma would end my career in law enforcement. I didn’t know any cops with them. I looked at prices for corrective surgery. I couldn’t afford the $30k per ear or the 6 month recovery. I looked at hearing aid prices. I couldn’t afford that either. My insurance barely touched them. Frankly, I was scared.

In 2017, I finally bit the bullet. I called an audiologist. I had not been to one since college. I tried to join the Army after a few years in college. Same result. That last audiogram was enough to keep me out. I was afraid to see the new results. I even found myself hoping that maybe I just had a blockage in my ear. Maybe it was a tumor or a big ball of wax. I wanted it to be something that could be fixed immediately. Turns out my ears were bad. It wasn’t a quick fix. Or was it? The audiologist told me what she charges and I walked out and never looked back. Then I found an opportunity that literally changed my life.

Did you know that Costco, in addition to being one of my favorite places to shop, has optometrists, pharmacists, and EVEN AUDIOLOGISTS on staff? I had visited the hearing center a few times and picked up brochures every time, but I was still nervous. I called and scheduled an appointment about two weeks out. I went in, got a FREE hearing test, and then the sweet audiologist let me put tester hearing aids in. Holy smokes, I almost cried. I could hear a watch ticking, I could hear my hair brush against my collar, I could hear the hand dryer in the bathroom two hundred feet away behind a closed door. AND IT WAS LOUD! She let me try a few, but I knew what I wanted. I had 4 copies of the brochure in my truck.

Today I wear a ReSound Hearing Aid on each ear. I was able to afford them through generous contributions to my HSA from my employer. It took a few days to get my pair ordered and in stock. But when they arrived, I walked out wearing them after a brief fitting and adjustment. They have replaceable batteries, last a few days, and Costco even sells the batteries cheap! I barely feel them anymore and find myself reaching up to double check they’re in. I’ve even accidentally gotten into a shower a time or two forgetting about them. You know what the coolest part is? They’re Bluetooth capable. I stream music, video games, podcasts, EVEN MY PHONE CALLS directly into my ears! All I do is answer the phone and keep the handset close by. It sits in a cradle in my car and people hear my just fine when I talk in a normal volume. They require minimal maintenance and I drop them in a small desktop dryer every night. I clean them briefly every morning.

Neither ReSound nor Costco paid for or requested I sing their praises. They probably won’t even read this post. I wrote it because they changed my life. They saved my life. I can hear my kid laugh at full volume. I hear birds in the morning. I can watch TV after the fiancé goes to bed without her wrapping a pillow around her ears. I can still take them out and turn them off and sit enjoying a quiet peace that those without hearing loss may never experience. I work every day now confident in my ability to hear my fellow officers. I can sit through trainings and learn from the instructor rather than reading the materials. I’ll say it again, ReSound hearing aids saved my career and forever changed my life.

If you are reading this and you think you may have hearing loss, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about hearing aids. I’m by no means an expert, but I know what you’re going through. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call a Costco hearing center. They’ll bend over backwards for you, and all you’ll pay for is the hearing aids and the batteries. They were wonderful.

I’m a cop who technically has a “disability,” but after accepting it, addressing it, and moving past it, I wish I’d done it a long time ago. Don’t waste time getting the full enjoyment out of life.

The picture attached are the ones I have. Mine are a slate gray. I swear they’re smaller than they look and I don’t feel them at all any more!

Resound Hearing Aids

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Always Growing, Jones Loflin

Always Growing—How to Be a Strong Leader in Any Season

Jones Loflin

As any cop will tell you, we assume a leadership role the day we hit the road. I spent too long assuming I would pick it all up as I went along. Turns out there is a whole world of leadership resources out there. In the past 2 years, I have been picking up a ton of books on leadership, and this past Christmas, my future in-laws were kind enough to indulge my reading habits. I received a book called Always Growing- How to be a Strong Leader in Any Season. It’s a fictional account of “David” accepting a leadership role at his company. Facing challenges with his new team, he turns to his sister, “Kelly,” who runs a successful orchard. What follows are a multitude of conversations between David and Kelly and David and his team mates. Kelly gives valuable lessons to David about agriculture that David metaphorically applies to the business world. It’s cheesy and very eye-roll inducing at times, but I’ll be damned if a lot of it didn’t make sense. Broken down into 4 parts: Grow, Cultivate, Prune, and Harvest; David learns lessons along the way to make his team as successful as possible. He “Grows” the team by making a plan, figuring out what his team needs to implement the plan, and providing the right environment to promote growth. He “Cultivates” his team by staying involved in the plan and ensuring nothing interferes with the growth. He “Prunes” his team helping them cut out things that might not contribute the most to their growth. Finally, he “Harvests.” The “Harvest” is the reaping of the rewards and celebrating the results.

As far as law enforcement, I think the most significant section to me was the section on “Pruning.” Starting out, cops need to establish their roots. They need to get a good foundation of all aspects of law enforcement to build on. I think as we cops start to grow, we all naturally start to find a niche that we enjoy. We might need to start pruning things out to make ourselves the most effective contributing member of our team. I’ve worked on squads where nobody focuses and just wants to do it all. I’ve also worked on squads where everybody has a skill set that stands out. We do a lot of work on our own out here, but when we combine the skills and efforts of everyone on the squad, we can get more done. We have guys who are great at dope work, we have guys who are great at interviewing, guys who are great at DUI investigations. To get to where we all are, we’ve had to decide where we wanted to go, and start saying no to opportunities that might stretch us too thin. We’ve had to self prune to make sure we can focus our energies on things we are best at. The author says to “prune at the first sign of undesirable outcomes.” I think from a leadership standpoint, this is key. Personally, I have had to make decisions on what to prune in my own career. I personally think I have good people skills. I removed myself from the Emergency Response Team and since then have moved on as an Instructor and a Hostage/Crisis Negotiator. I knew I could never be a negotiator if I was still on the team, so I had to prune in one place to grow in another.

To summarize, I liked the book. It was a very quick and easy read. I may never read the whole book again, and it might not be the first book I hand to someone else, but it has a lot of valuable information and I’d definitely recommend it if you get a chance to read it. The end of the book summarizes all the points made throughout and those points are pretty simple to understand without all of the context. Jones Loflin brings a lot to the table with this book as far as leadership principles. It’s very metaphor heavy, but it’s not as exhausting of a read as most leadership books. I’d give it a 7/10.

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Gideon Falls, Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino

Every town has a secret; but the secrets of Gideon Falls may be more sinister than others. Father Wilfred has been sent to lead the town’s church after it’s  leader, Father Tom, died mysteriously. What mystery does Father Tom’s death hold? In this first issue, Father Wilfred is unwillingly drawn into the darkness. Alternatively, we see Norton, with a deeper motivation to delve into Gideon Falls’ evils. Is Norton’s motivation pure or purely the product of mental illness? Will it really matter in the end? Gideon Falls, the latest from Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, the powerhouse team from Green Arrow reunite to bring a new horror book to Image Comics. From just the first issue, I highly recommend adding this book to your Descender and Royal City pulls. Sorrentino’s vivid beautiful art style, combined with Lemire’s ability to introduce story lines that will inevitably collide, create a book I am honestly excited about picking up going forward. Debuting in March 2018. Contact your local comic shop for more details.

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The Last on Courtesy from Elements of Police Science

This will wrap up the chapter on courtesy as briefly as possible. I’m working on a way to summarize all the courtesy points from several sources into one compact write-up that I might post here. Hopefully it’s worth a damn.

Our author is brief but specific in his expectations of personal appearance and tone. He points out that appearance is accepted as going hand in hand with ability. While well dressed men may not make the best officers, the best officers should present themselves in a clean professional manner so as to exude confidence in their ability. Take a bath, shave, wash your hands, cut your hair, and brush your teeth. These all seem like basic points, but he felt the need to present them. An entire paragraph is dedicated to bad breath. If you can’t get rid of bad breath, he goes so far as to recommend medical help! Basically, wash your ass, shine your brass, and shave. That’s the best way I can summarize this section.

His next section covers tone. “Every time you speak, you touch someone with your voice.” “Ninety percent of all the friction of daily life is caused by mere tone of voice.” The author suggests you not talk too loudly, don’t mumble, but don’t enunciate every single word. He recommends a low pleasant voice. Personally, I have found that about 90% of my interactions are best facilitated by a quiet voice. Raising my voice in a tense situation occasionally calms it down, but a soft voice has been far more effective.

The chapter continues with instructions on how to act patriotically in regards to the flag. There is also a ridiculously detailed section on dining etiquette. I suppose back in the day, police officers were held in a higher regard in society and dined with important people. The author felt officer’s needed instruction on how to hold a spoon, which fork to use, and how to hold a glass. It’s crazy to think how far things have changed. I’ll skip those details, as they are excruciatingly boring.

We end with the section “Courtesy Pays.” In the same sense as karma, the author explains that being courteous will return great rewards for those who take the time. While never being able to point to a single action we perform, the small things we do daily, added up, can enhance the respect and support we receive from the public. The only tangible immediate return we see is the feeling in our heart. We’ll never get rich doing this job; however, the feeling of accomplishment we receive from what we do shouldn’t be ignored. Sometimes, that’s all we get. We also can’t ignore the impact our interactions have on the public. “The whole life of a person in his outlook on law and officers of the law may be involved in a minor contact with him. An unthinking act of discourtesy may embitter him or a simple display of consideration and thoughtfulness make him an ally on the side of law and order.”

I’ll close with a few personal stories about how I think courtesy can affect our attitudes towards law enforcement.

My Dad told me a story of when he was a teenager he had a flat tire while in bad weather, and had no tools. An officer, with tools, stopped and helped him change that tire without complaining. Without that officer, Dad would have been stranded. Dad told me the way that officer did his job, and  how he was helping him in his hour of need, left an impression on him. He said he admired the officer so much he wanted to become an officer himself.

If we rewind a few years, my Dad was a child. His family wasn’t flush with money. They got by but vacations were few and far between. He told me of a time when Grandpa had hyped a camping trip. All the kids were excited. He said they had the car loaded up and had just pulled out. They weren’t far from home when Grandpa got pulled over. I don’t recall the infraction, but Grandpa got a ticket. He didn’t argue. He didn’t complain. He accepted the ticket, and then he turned around and told everyone, “Well, sorry, guys, we can’t go camping.” That ticket was enough to set them back that Grandpa couldn’t afford the trip any more. As a child, I cannot imagine how much you have to hate that cop for ruining your trip. Maybe Grandpa deserved the ticket, but a child probably doesn’t care. I tell these two examples to show how a single act from a cop could totally influence someone’s opinion on us. In every single thing you do, be cognizant of the potential ramifications. Sometimes we have to do things that suck. Sometimes we can’t cut breaks when we want to. But just keep in mind what’s at stake.

The coming chapters cover witness testimony, photography, fingerprints, and a whole lotta other potentially outdated stuff. I’ll skip most of it. If there’s anything of interest in those chapters, I’ll try to include it in more interesting write-ups. Again, if you have questions, opinions, comments, feel free to comment or email. I’m interested in other viewpoints.

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The Gift of Grief and the Dead Dad Dilemma

Here I am. 10 years after my Dad died. He was my best friend. He was my idol. He was my hero. He was the best goddamn Dad around. And he died a pretty shitty death from pancreatic cancer. He didn’t deserve it but who ever does. My Dad was a legend in my eyes. I grew up seeing his bravery medal quietly displayed in our house. I made him tell me its story a thousand times. It never got old. He was a DARE Officer and he drove a huge DARE Tahoe. Everybody in town knew him. He was a celebrity in my eyes. We never went anywhere without seeing someone who knew him.

I left for college at 18 and around 21 he was diagnosed. I wasted our last year together with optimism about his diagnosis and I took him for granted. I spent valuable time complaining about the stupidest things. He had gotten better. A LOT better before he got super sick again. It didn’t click with me that he was going to die until he was REALLY sick. We had a hospice bed set up in the house and he and I spent a lot of hours finally talking about what we should’ve been talking about all along.

Dad always told me not to be a cop. He wanted a better life for me. He thought I could do better than this life. The day I told him I was going to be a cop was probably the proudest I’ve ever seen him. He told me one day in 2007, “I couldn’t be a rookie cop today. Things have gotten so bad. They’re like the 60’s and 70’s again.” But he also told me they’d get better. That those that rode it out would see better times again. He died before I got hired. He saw me get passed over for my first hiring process and I’ve never seen him so upset. He wasn’t upset with me. He wasn’t upset with them. I think he was upset because he knew he might not get to see me be a cop. And he never did.

The grief I felt when my Dad died is something I wish no one ever had to endure. But unfortunately, so many people have felt it. Losing a best friend. Losing a dad. Losing a hero. It’ll break your heart every time. I lost all three. And I am a better man because of it. I was just a kid who didn’t know anything about the world. I’d had a sheltered childhood, never really gotten into trouble (outside the house) and I’d gone to a small community college where I mainly kept to myself. I had no idea what was in store for me. I had spent the last months of my fathers life stocking groceries over night and working at a video store. When Dad died, something in me changed. I grew up that day. I made a promise to my Dad the night he died. I was hell bent on keeping that promise. I stepped up and tried to lead my family through the planning and execution of Dad’s funeral and burial. Thank God for the men and women who had worked with Dad. They handled so much. I recall finally feeling like a man after carrying my Dad’s casket to the gravesite. A local police chief approached me and asked if there was anything I needed. I shook his hand over the grave and told him, “Well, I could really use a job.” Within 5 months, I had two full time police job offers. Maybe that’s tacky. Maybe it’s rude. Maybe I made a bad decision out of grief. But I don’t think Dad would’ve been upset.

The grief I felt over my Dad’s death weighed heavy on me for a long time. But eventually I learned to live with it. I learned to joke about it. I realized so many of my friends had Dead Dad’s and they survived. I remember being in the police academy that year after his death. I was ordered into front leaning test position and I was there for a LONG time. One of the instructors yelled, “Better go to your happy place!” I knew my happy place was when I was with my Dad. Once there, I could’ve held that position all day. Once, after a particularly long run, the longest I’d ever run, I just wanted to tell Dad. My roommate knew my story and when he saw me choke up, just put a hand on my shoulder. I wept in the shower that day and when I was late for formation, he covered for me. It was the first time I’d ever let the grief hit me that hard. Letting it out was what I needed. I’ve been okay with his death for a long time now. It never goes away, but it definitely got easier. The grief I’ve carried has been a blessing in that it made me grow up when I had stayed a kid too long. My grief has given me motivation and dedication. My grief gave me purpose. Which brings me to the Dead Dad Dilemma.

Would I be the man I am today if I hadn’t lost my Dad 10 years ago? Would I have made the same mistakes if he had been around to guide me? Would I have chosen the department I did when I had two offers? Would he have convinced me to hang it up or make a move to a federal job? Would I have named my son after him if he hadn’t passed away? What lessons have I learned from the grief that I otherwise wouldn’t have learned. Would I have strived so hard to carry on his good name if he was still around to carry it himself? The Dead Dad Dilemma will likely be around for a long time. What impact did his death have? What impact would MY death have on MY sons? It’s definitely worthy to think about but if I think about it too much, I’ll go crazy.

In closing, I love my Dad. I miss my Dad. His absence breaks my heart to this day. But maybe his death made me a better man. Maybe I owe him a thank you when I see him again someday. I’ve got so much to say to him maybe I’ll ramble to him than I did in this post.

If I can impart any wisdom in this mess, it’s this: Talk to your parents when they’re healthy. Ask them for life advice. Ask them to tell you what they’d tell you if they knew they’d never give you advice again. Find blessings in your grief and you’ll overcome it a lot faster. And don’t be afraid to let it all out. Handle what you have to handle first. But pull your shit together when you’re done and move on. You got stuff to do and you can’t afford to dwell in the past. Life’s moving on and if you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind.

NerdCop Out.

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More Police Courtesy, Olander

Conduct at the Desk

I work for a smaller agency that doesn’t necessarily have a desk officer. If people have questions, they often call our dispatch center and we get a message to call them back to answer their questions. In a sense, I guess we’re all desk officers

Olander reminds us to always have a pleasant and courteous attitude. Even the silliest and seemingly small calls should be treated with the same professionalism as the serious ones. “If the request is for something that cannot be granted or that does not come under the jurisdiction of the police, it can be politely explained or refused by saying ‘I am sorry, but your request is beyond the authority of the police,’ or “we would be glad to help you, but it does not come under our jurisdiction.” This book was written a LONG time ago. It seems just about everything has become the responsibility of the police. If you can find a tactful way of effectively explaining to someone that something is just not a police manner WITHOUT them getting upset, I’d love to hear it!

Promptly greet people, and greet them pleasantly, as they enter the office. Assure them you will get to their needs as soon as is reasonable possible. Offer a place to sit if one is available. Olander felt the need to point out that it is not rude to ask a person’s name if they fail to offer it. It seemed an unusual point to make, so it made me wonder if something has changed since them. Do not patronize people who are young or old. Never act as though the office is your private space, and the person has intruded.

Appear interested. Be patient and tolerant, even if the person is vague or rambling. “If you find it necessary to dismiss him, do it politely by saying you have another engagement, or in whatever way courteously fits the occasion.” I’m not sure Olander expressly endorses pressing your earpiece, feigning listening, and then explaining you have a call, but it seems to fit his rules.

Phone Courtesy

In 1937, while telephones were in wide usage, no one, including the author, could have predicted the increase in phone calls in today’s society. Now more than ever before in the past, it is important to know how to effectively communicate via telephone. Olander stressed that it’s not so much WHAT is said to the caller but HOW it is said. He stresses that the very first words that are spoken might determine the effectiveness of the phone call. The tone of your voice should convey a helpful “at your service” attitude. When answering, answer with your agency and name to avoid wasting time. Have a pen and paper handy so as not to waste anyone’s time. Pay attention to avoid having the caller repeat themselves.

These were very short sections in the chapter but I think it reinforces a lot of points as well as covers some things that while seemingly common sense, we may have all struggled with over time. I think most cops naturally start to lose some of their courtesy over time. We deal with “The Public” every single day. It tends to wear on us. We get annoyed because we deal with the same silly stuff all too often. But I think we tend to forget that for these people interacting with us, it might be their first interaction with police. Whatever they are reporting might be so profound in their peaceful life, yet seem so minor compared to what we deal with daily.

The next few sections are about presentation. Stay tuned.

Like, comment, share, message. This blog is new, and VERY lightly read but I’m always open for discussion if you’re interested. I’ve picked up some other books lately that I’m hoping to get to. Any feedback is greatly appreciated!