And through the fog shone a blinking red beacon of hope…

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The crisp air of early morning wafts through a window that was carelessly left open, carrying with it the sweet tang of ripening apples, reminders that summer is always fleeting. Somewhere in the house a teenager stirs, glances at the glaring red numbers hovering on the desk near his bed. He shivers in the chill, groans at the time, and pulls the covers over his face to close his eyes and try to escape his fate.

But, there can be no escape. And as his mother sweetly calls to him to get his ass out of bed right now before she has to come in there and do it herself, he sighs heavily and resigns himself to his fate while his mother does her best to hold in her cackles of unmitigated glee.

Mornin’ all!

This is the scene that will play out in just a few minutes. Times three, that is. Why?

BECAUSE IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL FOR THE TEENAGERS!!! WOOT WOOT PARTY PARTY WOOT!!

…not for the little cub, though. For some reason, he doesn’t start until next week. However, 3/4 is still a majority. I feel that’s celebration-worthy.

This year, I’ve got a senior in high school. It hit me the other day that this is a thing that’s really happening. *sniff* Teen prime is a senior. How is this possible? Look at me. Do I look old enough to have a high school senior? Uh, ignore the gray hair. Oh, and if you could overlook the wrinkles, that’d be great too. But other than that, I look fresh as a daisy. I’m a spring chicken. I shouldn’t be old enough to have an almost adult!

A senior and not one, but two juniors. I give it a week before upper classmanitis sets in. Add to that the growing miasma of cockiness the testosterone is creating, and I have a feeling September will be insufferable around here.

Anyone want a month long house guest? Full disclosure before you decide: I don’t do windows, I suck at laundry, and I snore so loud I wake mySELF up.

But, I make cookies.

Lots and lots of delicious cookies.

Seems like a fair trade off to me.

The cub is so excited that he doesn’t start until next week. Teens pointed out that just means he’ll get out later next summer, but he’s 9. Like he cares about “next” anything! We’re supposed to clean his room today so I can get to the closet that contains school clothes. See, he had an idea, and I foolishly let him run with it.

“Oh, Bethie.”

Yeah, yeah. I know. See, I was doing a car repair, and the clever little imp knew I was too distracted to really pay much attention to what he was saying. He said he had a great idea for his room, asked me permission to “just do something real quick.” I waved it off with a “sure, whatever, I’m just inside looking for the damn 14 mm wrench because some sick maniac at Mercedes decided to be the only person ever to incorporate a 14 mm bolt in a system that clearly should either be 13 or 15 like every other thing in the engine…” He saw his moment. He seized his moment. And I…I let him.

“Newb.”

*hangs head in shame*

What he did was set up a tent. Quite impressive, actually, because he not only managed to fit a tent in his room, but filled it with accouterments of comfort. He had a little table, a fan, his water bottle, sleeping bag…he even fashioned a couch out of extra pillows and a sheet. The kid made his own little apartment.

Now, my teens are very smart boys, so don’t take this the wrong way. But if the zombie apocalypse happened, the only kid of mine I don’t have to worry about is the cub.

Unfortunately to make the tent fit, everything got pushed to the side. Since a bed takes up one corner, and another bed takes up the large wall, that leaves the closet. Mounds, folks. We’ve got to dig through mounds and heaps and piles to get to that damn closet.

Oh! OH OH OH!!! Hang on a minute. I just glanced down at the clock and guess what? It’s that magic time! I must go do my duty and wake up my teens for the first day of school. How should I play this? Sweet and annoying? Snarky and annoying? Maybe I’ll sing a little ditty…

You know what? I’m over-thinking this. I’ll just go in there and wing it. I feel confident that I can play it by ear and get the desired results. I’ll be right back and let you know how it went. *chugs coffee for fortification* *takes a deep breath* Unto the breech!

….aaaand nailed it.

I went with, “Boys, time to get up! It’s a school day. Or should I say, COOL day!?”

Their groans of appreciation for my early morning wit are really all the recognition I need.

I hear them stumbling around their rooms in various states of denial. One is already getting dressed. One sounds like he’s throwing every bit of clothing he owns out of his dresser. The upstairs one is no longer moving. Shhhh. Let me listen.

No, he’s definitely not moving. Hang on.

Damnit he fell back asleep! No way. Not happening, bucko. NOT ON MY WATCH.

I told my man this morning that it would be miraculous if I got all the teens out the door dressed, fed, clean and groomed with all of their backpacks and school supplies. Odds are very good that one or more will forget to do one or more of these things. That’s okay. As a seasoned pro in the first day of school biz, I know that some of that list is optional. Not a lot, but some.

All I need to do is to make sure three kids get on the bus with enough clothing to not get sent back home. The rest can sort itself out later.

Now that they’re up, they’re actually getting along. As any mum of a herd will tell you, the hardest thing about summer vacation is that the pups have to look at each other’s faces for months. While my boys get along way better than most siblings, there are limits, especially in the heat.

A half hour, folks. That’s all I have left before I send them off to catch their bus.

It’s a foggy morning. It’s been hot here, but that cleared out with a powerful storm system the other day. Last night got chilly, and turned the leftover humidity to thick fog. I love fog. It feels close and comforting. Sure, it hides the world from view. However, it also hides me from the view of the world. I like that.

And I think if the drone policing trend continues, others are really going to start liking the fog, too.

Have you read about this? North Dakota (of all places) just okayed the use of armed police drones.

Now wait a sec. Put those pitchforks and torches down. Let’s look at the details before we storm the castle.

…or fort? I mean, it’s North Dakota. It might be prejudicial to assume, but I just don’t picture many castles there.

Either way, let’s chill and look at the situation rationally before acting on our gut impulses to revolt and tamp down our future robot overlords.

Everyone knows that police around the nation have been using drones to spy for awhile. More and more, drone camera footage is used in courts to help convict ne’er do well jaywalkers. While the nation is not at all comfortable with those drones, it feels like we’ve kind of accepted them.

However, North Dakota just kicked it up a notch. They are the first state in the nation to okay the use of weaponized drones. At the moment, the drones are authorized to be equipped with pepper spray, tasers, and “other non-lethal weapons.” They’re not loading them with bullets, though that level of ambiguity in the last clause certainly leaves the door open. As long as a drone is trained to shoot at the foot, a bullet could technically be considered non-lethal. Right? I mean, that’s what I’m reading into this.

This…this is a hard one for me, folks.

On one hand, I’m a firm believer that robots have the potential to be our downfall. Call it too many sci-fis with my dad when I was in my formative years, but I just don’t like the idea of artificial intelligence, of putting robots in a position to make decisions for humans. I have a deep distrust of inorganic walking, talking, moving, shooting things. If a human made it, it will not be an infallible system. And if A.I. truly advances to the self-logic stage, we’re screwed. From a purely logical standpoint, humanity is a no win scenario. We’re bad for the environment, we’re bad for other species, we’re terrible to each other. I believe in humanity because I’ve got the part of A.I. that cannot be programmed…emotion. Will a robot? ANY robot?

The other hand contains a few arguments I just can’t seem to shake.

First, there’s the fact that drones are not A.I. units. They are drones. They…drone. Someone programs them. Someone watches through a camera and makes the drone change actions through a series of human controlled inputs. Someone, a person, a living, breathing, thinking being makes that drone perform every single duty.

…right now.

At the moment, it’s a failsafe. But will that always be true?

Another point is that real human police are the ones that are trained to shoot to kill. Many of them have the non-lethal options that the drones will have, yet in the time of crisis, when there’s a choice between killing or simply disabling, they act like humans.

Now don’t get it twisted here. I’m definitely pro-cop overall. I just realize that humans have a very strong survival instinct. We didn’t get to be the alpha species without it! And that survival instinct is what overrides the brain in a split second situation. That instinct makes the hand go to the weapon that is going to make certain the threat is eliminated, not just stopped in the moment. That instinct says, “Kill it and don’t let it have the chance to kill you ever again.”

Is this bad?

No. It’s simply human. It’s just part of being a self-aware meat lump that doesn’t want to die.

People can override this instinct. There are plenty of officers who will do everything in their power to choose the non-lethal option. However, there are also plenty who haven’t had the training or the personal discipline to be able to choose calm, rational thought over the gut instinct of survival at all costs. It’s not a failing on the cop’s part. It’s a failing because of the way we train our officers. We train them to eliminate the threat, put a gun in their hands, then casually mention “Oh, yeah, there’s some other shit there you could use, I suppose.”

A drone won’t be like that. If all the drone can do is act in a non-lethal fashion, then we’ve successfully found a way to take out human emotion in the moment and act with logic. If a criminal is brandishing a knife, and a drone tases that person, the person will most likely drop the knife and real officers can safely move in to slap on the handcuffs.

When viewed in this light, I can actually see the benefits of sending a non-lethal drone to take care of a dangerous situation.

“Ah, but what happens when the guy at the control end gets a God complex?”

Ay, that’s the rub, eh? The person controlling the drone is not there. They aren’t just steps away from the real human being at the other end of the weapon. There’s a disconnect. Without being the one to view the person involved, to get the sense of humanity you simply cannot feel through the lens of a camera, it would be so very easy to keep hitting the zappy button. Or to go on the attack when it might not be necessary.

The very same system that is designed to remove one dangerous human trait makes the world vulnerable to another.

And last, but certainly not least, is the aspect of officer safety. Like cops or hate them, they’re people. Real people with mothers and fathers, wives, husbands, children… In 2014, there were 133 “line of duty” deaths for officers in the US. 49 of those officers were shot or attacked by a suspect. It’s sad when an officer shoots to kill. It’s also sad when an officer GETS shot and killed. It’s a broken system with victims on BOTH sides. It’s easy to forget that when you read the news. These drones would definitely remove more officers from dangerous situations.

This one’s a real poser for me, folks. On paper, the pros of using non-lethally weaponized drones clearly outweigh the cons. On paper, it’s a no-brainer. Use drones. Save lives.

But we don’t make decisions on paper, do we? That’s exactly what makes us flawed, wonderful, impulsive, illogical humans and not simply machines. We AREN’T drones. So should we really let the drones do our dirty work? Or should we instead start recognizing the fact that we’ve gone so far off the rails that MACHINES seem like the only way out, and start really making some hard changes?

The moment a species lets another one take over, they are no longer the alphas. We’re sending in drones because we are too lazy to fix ourselves. I honestly don’t know how that could possibly sit well with anyone.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! I just watched the bus ferry the teens off to start another year of learning and growing. They were slumped down, heads hanging, the loss of summer manifesting itself in a physical cloud of disappointment that surrounded them. *sniff* Warmed this mama’s heart.

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