Ted Clifton's   Updater   2019

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Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
My older brother became a computer guru almost before there were computers or gurus.  Through an odd string of circumstances, he was trained in computer science by the Navy, years before any colleges even used computers, much less taught anyone about them.  How that happened is a story unto itself, that we might visit at another time.  This is the 1960s, and he is one of only a few people with his level of knowledge about these huge machines—they literally filled large rooms, not something you hold in your hand.

After the Navy, he worked for several industries, oil and gas, nuclear and insurance.  Some of the first to use computer technology to define their businesses.  He had specialized knowledge and always made large sums for the times.  I was seven years younger than my brother, and for me the evidence of his earning power was his cars.  Wow, did he ever have great cars.  What he didn’t have was a college degree—this seemed to bother him; even though he was making more money than most college presidents.  His desire was an economics degree.

Economists were just becoming accepted within the halls of government.  Before, they had been mostly those strange people mumbling about things that seemed to be based on "theory" not fact---most people thought they should just be ignored.  Government started spending more and more time listening to these human barometers of behaviors that were hard to measure; mostly it was because they could predict outcomes based on certain theories.  And those predictions could be bent, twisted and stretched to reach just about any outcome your heart desired.  Politicians loved that--give me a scientific theory that supports my dumb-as-dirt idea and you are my hero.  Economic theory at the time would be what common folk would call “wild ass guesses.”

But all economic theories had one thing in common, they had to quantify everything.  You can’t measure, model, twist and turn human activity unless you can quantify it.  This fit my big brother.  Computers do not analyze thoughts or ideas, business transactions, or rocket trajectories—they analyze numbers.  It intrigued him how you could use computing machines to understand everyday human interactions. 

I admired my brother; although there were some days we probably didn’t like each other much, I always appreciated his intelligence.  I took a different path to a career.  Spent my twenties working for myself at many different types of endeavors—all the while going to school pursuing one degree after another.  I was curious about a lot of things, but not focused on much of anything.  After much longer than anyone should attend college, I selected a degree and graduated; as an accountant.

One of my first jobs was with a large retailer.  This was a time when department stores were the pinnacle of retail service.  This predates the boom of no-service discount stores.  Retail at all levels still valued good service, as did the employees who provided that service.  The company I worked for had thousands of attractively dressed, mostly older women who provided a level of service that would be considered intrusive today.  It worked.  Customers felt "taken care of" and appreciated with all of the attention; and it was expected.

Generally speaking, the economy was good.  The country was just starting to falter some, after years of economic growth following the end of WWII.  There was a lot of social unrest about race and war—the optimism of the 50s and early 60s was beginning to slip.  But customers were still demanding good service and spending money in expensive department stores.

Accountants are not economists.  Accountants count things—they are bookkeepers.  Seldom do they analyze the behavior of people in relationship to their economic activity.  Seldom, but not never.  After a very short time, my new employer asked me to do an analysis of the overall business—using numbers, what would I suggest they do to improve (maximize profits) the business.  They said hey wanted a "critical" overview of the business and their particular operation--I should have know they wanted praise.  This was my first corporate job and I had not learned, yet, how to suck-up.

Some of that was easy.  I was new and didn’t have a bias about certain functions and therefore saw things others overlooked, due to their acceptance of the status quo.  I looked at their warehousing operations and saw great opportunity for improvement.  That was only one of many things that could be improved based on some of my recommendations. These findings were based on my observations and conversations with people who actually ran the day-to-day operations.

I also looked at the company’s biggest asset, their employees, and saw great risk.  If service was how they distinguished themselves in the market place, they were treating the providers of that service like crap. These thousands of mostly women were taken for granted.  They were under paid and supervised by men.  The whole environment was more 1920s than 1970s.  The company thought of it as "tradition."

I suggested several solutions.  One in particular seemed to annoy everyone involved.  A business measures it’s value with a Balance Sheet.  This is an accounting document that lists all of the company’s assets, subtracts all its liabilities and the difference is Net Worth.  That is the accounting value of a business.  Of course everyone knows that’s not the real value, because of intangibles and other factors.  I suggested that their largest asset was not on their books and therefore, they treated it with less concern than panty hose inventory—that asset was people.  So the solution was to capitalize people.

This suggestion was met with some less than positive comments; and suffice it to say I was not nominated for employee of the month.  Most people thought I was a wiseass who didn’t understand the seriousness of selling perfume, appliances and towels to the semi-rich.  It is very possible that was an accurate assessment.  A lot of my other ideas, which were more conventional, were not implemented because of the uproar over the capitalizing people idea.  Even the hint of humor in accountants is not appreciated.

Economists eventually became some of the most respected and important people in making decisions about taxes and government responsibility.  They soon began to analyze government programs using a cost vs. benefit analysis.  This was to assist politicians in making the smartest decisions on how to spend money and on whom to spend it.  Of course politicians already knew what they wanted they just needed someone to agree to their boondoggles.

Economists no doubt knew the politicians were just using them to hide their true intentions; but they did not care, because they had gained respect.  One of the things that the economists needed to know to be able to do their analysis of cost benefits was to measure the value of a human life.  X dollars equals one dead human.  With that data they can decide if this program, or that one, has any merit.  My idea of placing a value of each human employee on a business’ Balance Sheet may have been flawed, but at least it established a “value” not a cost. 

With this new found cost of human beings; economists now could establish the overall costs verses benefits of everything.  In many ways this was a necessary part of depersonalizing value analysis of human activity and government responsibility for such activity.  Necessary, maybe; but still troubling.

My brother, so many years ago, wanted to use technology and economics to make life better for everyone; today some economists seem to want to help government maximize net worth.  Good government should not be swayed by economic theory that at one time resembled nothing more than a “wild ass guess.”  There are a lot of other factors, besides economic, to consider in the "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" goals that were established in the United States Declaration of Independence. That “pursuit of Happiness” phrase has yet to be well defined, but it would seem to be obvious it is more than just sound economic policy.
Many of my books focus on “the pursuit of Happiness.”  Tommy Jacks in the Muckraker series is pursuing his happiness when he follows up on political corruption and exposes it in the newspaper.  He is driven to make life better for the most people—an idealist.  Why do people do that?  They do it, because it makes them happy!

Vincent Malone had fallen as far as a person could fall but still managed to find his “happiness” in Santa Fe across a bar in the person of the lovely Nancy.  Love is happiness—pretty sure hate isn’t.  Vincent had spent a lot of time hating, now he was changing and feeling happy.

Ray Pacheco retired to wait for death but also found a new love—no not the dog Happy—it was Sue.  Maybe happiness is not being alone, or maybe it is?

I write books and while I’m in the process, I bitch and moan about every little blip.  I battle a new book every day for months, always sure it will turn out to be a disaster.  I’m not happy.  But then I finish; and its good.  Now I’m happy.  It could be my pursuit of happiness is the journey to a completed book; even if the trip is not so happy.

I think one thing we can agree on; happiness is personal and unique to each person.  Economics may be a portion of happy but it’s not all.  Maybe we should be equally concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to only material or physical needs.  How about a new cabinet position: Secretary of Happiness? 

FEATURED ARTIST: Charlie Carrillo
Before I discovered the great creative opportunities in accounting I wanted to be an artist.  My dream was to live and work in Santa Fe, New Mexico.   It was not a realistic dream and no one (probably including myself) took it seriously.  However, to this day I have great affection for Santa Fe and Southwestern art.  Some of that art is very traditional and deeply connected to the culture of northern New Mexico.  Much of this art is religious art that is carved in traditional ways and many of the artists today are famous for their dedication to the authenticity of their creations.

One of those artists is Charlie Carrillo.  What is very remarkable about this connection is that Charlie is my grandson's uncle.  I have been featuring authors in this newsletter and will expand this section to include artists--especially southwestern artists.  Which may from time to time include some of my "stuff."
Amazon book about Charlie's art.
Charlie Carrillo, an award-winning santero, is one of the masters of contemporary northern New Mexico devotional art. This beautifully-illustrated book documents his major works since 1978, as well as all of his award-winning retablos (flat pictures of saints) and bultos (three-dimensional statues). Throughout, terms and concepts associated with this lovely artform are defined.

Durango Restaurants
Durango, Colorado, is featured in the Vincent Malone books.  Vincent teams up with a Durango attorney, George Younger, in Blue Flower Red Thorns.  They first meet at Steamworks Brewing Company.  Two tough guys enjoying beer and bar food--it was heaven.

Steamworks Brewing Co.

Industrial meets ski lodge at this popular microbrewery, with high sloping rafters and metal pipes. It has a large bar area, as well as a separate dining room with a Cajun-influenced menu. At night there are DJs and live music. This is a local institution that shouldn't be missed.
The Ore House welcomes weary travelers, intrepid foodies and anyone craving authentic mountain-town cuisine to settle in for a fine-dining experience in the heart of Durango. Acclaimed for their steaks and seafood, the Ore House also boasts a full bar, excellent wine cellar and stellar staff. Whether you’re in town for vacation or celebrating a momentous occasion, you’re invited to kick back and raise a glass to good food and great times at Durango’s favorite steakhouse
Giant burritos, grilled quesadillas, and delicious tacos in a funky, casual Mexican atmosphere. Try a mango margarita or one of their local beers. everything is made fresh daily! “We ate here on the recommendation of locals. Great little patio area for outdoor dining and excellent food. We had fish tacos and enchiladas with several home-made salsas that were terrific.”
Ted Clifton (short) bio
Ted Clifton, award winning author, is currently writing in three mystery series—Pacheco & Chino Mystery series, the Muckraker Mystery series and the Vincent Malone series.  Clifton’s focus is on strong character development with unusual backdrops.  His books take place in Southwest settings with some of his stories happening in the 1960s, 1980s and current times.  The settings are places Clifton has lived and knows well, giving great authenticity to his narratives.  Clifton has received the IBPA Benjamin Franklin award and the CIPA EVVY award--twice.  Today Clifton and his wife reside in Denver, Colorado, with frequent visits to one of their favorite destinations, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Book Updates

Four Corners War.  New release--Ray Pacheco and Tyee Chino in their latest adventure unraveling a maze of misdeeds.  Money, sex and all known sins come into play in a small town drama that will take Pacheco and Chino into a conflict that will involve many of the good citizens of Farmington and the nearby Navajo Nation.

Durango Two Step.  This is my current project.  No completion date yet--but starting to look like 2020.
Doctor Hightower.  On hold.  For a while I was writing on this and DTS--that didn't work; so Hightower will happen after DTS is finished.

Santa Fe Mojo - audio.  This project is being done by someone else and completely out of my hands.  The latest update is mid-October.

Muckraker Series.  Should have some news regarding this series in a few weeks.
Odds and Ends

What’s in a Name (or label)?

I categorize all of my books as mysteries.  Started thinking maybe they are and maybe they’re not.  There are three categories my books would fit in 1. Great International Literature (oops—that must be one I’m writing).  Let’s start over.  The three categories are 1. Mystery 2. Thriller and 3. Suspense.  So what is the difference?
A knowledgeable industry person defined them as:

mystery: the main character is occupied in tracking down the truth about an event, usually a murder. If the protagonist is in any danger, it is usually moderate, and becomes a problem only as the detective approaches the truth.
thriller: the protagonist is in danger from the outset.
suspense: the main character may become aware of danger only gradually. In a mystery, the reader is exposed to the same information as the detective, but in a suspense story, the reader is aware of things unknown to the protagonist. The reader sees the bad guy plant the bomb, and then suffers the suspense of wondering when or if it will explode.

Those make sense to me.  You could have a novel that would have all of those elements or maybe two or just one.  This is not science so what you label your book is very subjective and can change with the authors mood or some other reason.

Now to review my books:
The Bootlegger’s Legacy.  This book is the only one that might be general fiction.  But also there are aspects of mystery—as the main characters’ search for the truth about the past and the existence of the treasure—but it’s not a murder mystery.  There is another sub-category that pops up on Amazon and that is adventure.  This might be an adventure book?  But for this piece I’m sticking with mystery.
Pacheco & Chino.  Well this series definitely has aspects of all three.  But defiantly a murder mystery.
Vincent Malone.  PI looking for murderer.  No mystery on what this is.
Muckraker Series.  These books have been listed as a mystery and in some ways they are—especially the first book.  But I believe these are really thrillers.  Tommy Jacks is in danger almost from the beginning and it only get worse in each book.

Categories of books can impact their sales and even the ability to find them—but other than tracking purposes they are very arbitrary and left up to the author.  I have read that a mystery book should be shorter than a thriller or a general fiction book—it really makes you wonder where this person who makes this stuff up hides?  So a book of x words should be listed as a mystery book but 2x is a thriller--how can that make any sense at all?
Thanks everyone for being a reader!
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