Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hey there! We have moved.

We have moved to a new domain: 

Thanks for being a reader of this blog! Please note that comments will no longer be moderated and I may not respond to comments on this site.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

New Site Going Live In December

As my tenure as a coal miner comes to a close, I have made the decision to part ways with this blog after a nice and gutty five years. The next blogs name? I'm not sure. Something that can mix the old Myspace blog with this place + the future. It'll be obscure at first, until the SEO picks up.

That's all I have to say, in the interim, if you haven't already, go like the Deskins Technologies Facebook Page! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Escaping Coal Mining

One does not simply leave the Appalachian coal industry.

Being a coal miner in West Virginia is something special. Encapsulated with state pride, and some sort of honor - like you're serving your country, or fighting the flames of a dire house fire. But... You're just mining coal. If you are lucky enough to score a job in the mines - you cling to that job like it's the first and only you will ever have.

The state, and, for the most part, greater Appalachia romanticizes the job of being a coal miner. Across the board, coal miners are held at the forefront of politics. We honor our brave coal miners. Women [and gay men] chase coal miners like they're a lucrative breed of sexual deviants, which leads to its own set of problems better sung in country songs. Hell, even businesses get involved in the romanticizing of coal miners. Texas Steakhouse offers an attractive 10% discount on the entire order from a mining family, for example.

So, some would ask, where do these stereotypes of hot miners come from, and, why would anyone ever want to leave this amazing industry and step out of the state limelight of being a coal miner?

To better explain and answer both of these questions, I am going to talk about something I rarely touch on in this blog: my own coal mining tenure.

I was a handsome devil on the rodeo circuit riding bulls and playing games with donkeys. When I wasn't trying to kill myself with adrenaline, I was working in the steel mills of Enid, Oklahoma. By late 2008, I made the decision to go underground. We were racing towards an economic collapse, and the steel mill was prepping for lay-offs. In a flight-by-night mission, I loaded up my Bronco and headed home to West Virginia, conceding ever establishing myself out west and accepting the fact that there was lots of money to be had under the mountains of home. I was unaware of the romanticized lifestyle of a coal miner, as I grew up in the coal absent County of Monroe in West Virginia's extreme Southeastern corner. I would learn quickly, however.

I went underground for the first time in my life on May 21, 2009. I was with a contractor out of Mount Hope, WV. I was about to get my first lesson in coal mining: Drugs are a serious problem in the industry. About midway through my shift my team had stopped working outright to snort pills off the power center. Being a naive redhat, I just watched, and declined to snort whatever bounty they had. After all; I was the honorary human mule, logging whatever steel contraption they needed to and fro to splice some belt. I needed a clean mind to focus on the new hazards I was being faced with.

By the completion of my first shift I was defeated. My thighs throbbed. My shoulders burned with the worst discomfort I had felt since my first day of football practice years ago. Sweat had dried coal dust on my face so thick I didn't recognize myself. Nor did my dog. This mule was gonna be a sore mule come 11pm.

My second shift began climbing 11 flights of stairs in the prep plant of ICG's Beckley-Pocahontas mine in Eccles, West Virginia. My second lesson was being taught as I climbed the stairs lugging all that heavy equipment: tired or sore, you gotta work. As I stood by a heater trying to calm the rigidness of my legs that were beginning to fail me from exhaustion, I told myself: only 106 more shifts to go!

Redhats must be a redhat for 6 months, and log 108 shifts to become a black hat experienced miner. It was my utmost goal - to survive redhat.

Time wore on and the days got easier by Summer, weed eating was an easy day. Hard nights involved doing two belt moves before 7am. After a solid month of laboring hauling that belt vulcanizing equipment, the hurt in my muscles subsided. And by August, I had become a stout motherfucker. The guys at work had nicknamed my arms "the torpedoes". I was ripping the sleeves out of my work shirts to allow my arms to have full unrestricted mobility in their swollen (sic: muscular) state.

I had become a sexy coal miner. The sex came and went easily, especially if we went to bar on a Friday that was deep into the coalfields, say McDowell or Logan Counties. I couldn't hold a relationship for longer than a couple months. I became arrogant, and before I knew it, I was plastering vinyl "crawling miners" all over the back glass of my trucks. I had become that stereotypical coal miner aforementioned several paragraphs ago.

The Sexy Coal Miner.

Now, not all coal miners are the "sexy coal miner" type. Only about 10% are. There's another 20% that could qualify, but they're painfully skinny and full of shit. The other 70% are middle-aged men about 50lbs overweight. Yup you've seen em, the guys with the beards that drive Chevys with that big ol gut. Yeah, those. They run equipment on the section and brag about cheating on their wives. Most of the younger guys privately doubt their stories as nothing more than fantasy. Har har.

By 2010, something else had caught my eye with the coal industry: politics.

I had moved away from the contractor work at ICG, and had scored a job in my native Greenbrier Valley, working at Midland Trail #2. This mine was weird, to say the least. The median age of the mine was super young, and "sexy coal miners" outnumbered the middle-aged guys by a ratio of 2:1. In truth, the median age was 32.1 in 2010. The average age of a coal miner in most mines is 46.4, to contrast. The oldest person on my shift (that wasn't a boss) was 30. The youngest? 19.

Midland was also much more relaxed about work affairs. Some miners were so drugged they fell asleep on the roof bolter. Nobody cared. Coal production was just 200 feet/day vs. the 680 feet/day at ICG. I was paid better and I carried half the work load.

This allowed me to play with politics. I ran for the House of Delegates to represent Greenbrier County, and moved to Alderson, West Virginia. My campaign began to pick up steam, with cross-party appeal. UBB, a sad travesty in the mining industry happened just days before the Democratic Primary. The romanticizing of coal miners hit fever pitch and started winning me strong support. The Republican incumbents caught wind and started running an offensive. The first order of business? Where was this guy working?

It wasn't long to find my mine of employment. And quickly the local politics soured against me. A Republican was my boss. Who took offense to a "nigger loving liberal" in his ranks. While he couldn't fire me for my political affiliation - he could tank my campaign by making choose the campaign and job. Obstructing political events with timed shift changes and belt/section moves. Outside of the debate I attended covered in coal dust, embarrassed, I missed most of the political game.

The Democratic establishment had predicted a weak showing for my campaign, about 3% of the vote. A distant failure in the Democratic primary. By election night I had scored 19.6% of the vote, within striking distance of winning - without ever campaigning. All the predictions and nay-sayers were running wild half the night trying to figure out where my vote support was coming from. The power of being a coal miner? Noted.

My co-workers also took note, and began asking me questions about everything from religion to economics. By years end, there was mounting pressure from my peers to get out of the mines and go to college, as they had determined I was "too smart" to be a coal miner.

In 2011, I went back to ICG this time on their roster, just before Arch bought out the company. I had left belt splicing and became an equipment operator. Which meant? I was a junior "middle-aged" miner. Though I haven't mastered how they get their guts so big, I am trying to learn. Little Debbie snack cakes are the devil.

I was laid off from a Canadian outfit in Summer 2012. This led to me to Tech Support with Frontier Communications. This was a huge and defining moment, as about mid-way through my employment there, there was a problem with my GED. While the State of West Virginia had conceded I had taken the test, there was no record of my Literature segment. So they shuttled me off to Garnett Career Center, a rough ABE place in downtown Charleston to take the missing segment.

My instructor was an old retired teacher named Mrs. Keeley from Mingo County. We talked casually about mining and being laid off. She was receptive of my career choice until she pulled my file. Unbeknownst to me, I had only missed three questions - on the entire GED test. She lamented my decision to be a coal miner, and begged me to take the STEM test they were holding the following week.

I obliged, and took the stupid test. I scored in the top 99% of test takers. Suddenly my coal mining career was in jeopardy. How could someone be so inclined in math and science settled for digging coal? I loved mining coal and decided I would wed the two together: I'd become a mining engineer.

In the Spring I left Frontier and went to work for Alpha at Marfork, that legendary mining operation in Whitesville, West Virginia. They were very receptive to my intentions of mining and doing college.

Realizing I had more opportunity if I didn't stay in Charleston, I applied to Penn State, WVU, and even explored Harvard. WVU readily accepted me to the fall term - without an ACT or SAT on file. Penn State also granted me general admission, as did University of Alaska - Fairbanks. I stayed true to sensibilities and picked WVU. I parted ways with Alpha.

By time we moved to Fairmont, I was overwhelmed - and broke financially, as the cost of living in the Morgantown area is absurd. I went from just wanting a job in the mines again to being a college student. I was fraught with confusion. And things were about to get more confusing.

While working at Frontier I had revived an old game I made in 2006 for the Dreamcast and ported it over to the PC with some co-workers who were intrigued by my computer knowledge, the game quietly existed on a forum download area, where it would gain a cult following. At some point, it had caught the attention of a guy named Dan Adelman. He was the overhead of talent acquisition at Nintendo.

I was unaware of Nintendo's knowledge that I even existed. And quietly went to work at Federal #2, a Union mine in Blacksville, West Virginia. It was there that I realized the UMWA is a joke, and that the Appalachian Coal Basin was dying. I accepted that coal mining was giving out, and I realized that we were losing men to the gas industry, while others went to work for AEP. In truth, most of the men were also coming to the terms I was: it's coming to an end.

Some conceded privately they were scared as shit and unsure what they were gonna do once it's over. Some pointed to me and my college as a possible route, asking me questions about the difficulty of mining and doing college together (strongly not advised). Others were exploring chasing the coal booms of Illinois and Wyoming, that somehow had evaded the "War on Coal" politics.

I too privately began to fret, realizing that Mining Engineering ties me to the industry, which was becoming Titanic listing into the cold dark waters. I had to make the decision to go into Electrical, Software or Mechanical Engineering, changing my major. I have a knack for building things, so Mechanical Engineering replaced Mining Engineering.

Then the bottom fell out April 3, 2014.

I get a call from some Washington State number. It's Nintendo of America. They have received my game, and impressed, they want to me make a game of similar style for their flailing Wii U system.

I suddenly saw an 'Exit >' sign for me from the Coal Industry. I would be leaving behind the worship of coal miners, the cheap sex, the brotherhood and forged friendships made 1000 feet into a mountain, and the nasty politics.

But I encapsulate a brighter future running a Tech Firm in West Virginia, than pretending the Appalachian Coal Basin is alive and well.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

West Virginia's Democratic Machine has Died.

And I  mean stone cold.

What was once unthinkable after the huge surge in 2012 when West Virginians rejected the existence of Barack Obama, Republicans managed to take the Legislature for the first time in almost 80 years.

Not only did they take it, they took it with a Super Majority. There are 64 Republican Delegates going to Charleston. Its the largest margin since 1920.

The upper house, State Senate, is tied. Many of the races were close, but they fell apart at the seams sending many Republicans to the Senate with just a margin of around 1000 voters.

Natalie Tennant's entire family was shut out. Her husband, Erik Wells, went down in defeat in his State Senate seat. While Natalie will remain the Secretary of State until 2016, it's a bad night to be in her family as Natalie not only lost to Senator-elect Capito, she lost every county, even her home county of Marion. Complete shutout of her brand.

Nick Rahall has also been relieved of duty, after surviving the Tea Party Revolution and Obama's re-election. Many Democrats felt it was time to let him go.

What happened? 

There was a Republican wave nationally, namely against Obama. I have a tough time believing that had much to do with what happened in West Virginia tonight. One thing did happen though:


The War on Coal has won the State's voters to the Republicans. This is exactly what the lobbyists and Coal Companies have fought tirelessly for since 2000 or so, when they first saw a weakness forming in the Democratic Machine that dominated the State Politics.

Make no mistake, nationally the War on Coal has been a dud. In Illinois, for example, there is a coal boom, and things are running smoothly in the Blackwater Basin. But tonight, in the struggling Appalachian Coalfields, the War on Coal campaign crushed the remnants of a broken, wounded, and fragmented Democratic Party that dominated this State for the better part of a century.

Though, I don't think giving Capito a promotion, and putting Republicans in Charleston or sending a Maryland native and Jenkins to Washington will save coal, as I have outlined before on this blog.

One thing will happen, though - with Joe Manchin being the lone Democrat in the State Delegation in Washington - when the bottom on the coal industry does finally collapse, it won't be on Democrats' watches. It'll fall on the same people who said they could save it.

This puts all the gains Republicans have made in their War on Coal campaign in jeopardy, as they run the risk of failing to deliver their hope and change in salvaging the 18,000 mining jobs left in the state. Think Obama and his hope and change and how tonight Republicans cleaned the board with everything nationally.

Of course, an entire generation has been turned off to Democrats and it remains to be seen if they will have amnesia when things go south.

West Virginia's Democratic Party

Is in severe despair. Many people with lots of money and energetic campaigns, lost. Many people who were thought to be safe, went down in defeat. Nobody thought the Republicans would take the State Senate, and they tied it, pending an Evan Jenkins-like Democrat to jump parties and give them the majority there as well.

Governor Tomblin has been a rather weak Governor, Tennant was shutdown tonight, and Manchin has his own problems after his failed gun control stunt that will most certainly cost him a headache in the least come 2016.

So the obvious question now is: Who steps up and rebuilds an obviously broken party?

Monday, November 3, 2014

We're Moving.

The site will soon move on to a new domain, and a new blog.

This just reflects some trouble I've had with Google, who lately has been hard assing me harder than a mine foreman with little guy syndrome. From youtube to Adsense to Android, they've been giving me a really big headache for some strange reason.

In the interim you can follow some tangents on my twitter, @aarondeskins

I forgot what my info was for Instagram, sadly.

Anyway. I still have some partially posted blogs in the pipelines that I will finish and wrap the year here on this blog before we make the switch over to a new domain. I'll announce and drive the updates home hard in December.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cows and Capitalism

This is old, but I still love it: 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Back Behind The Podium

"Remember, we have the EPA, MSHA, and all of these regulatory agencies because someone mistreated a group of people. Our Government has never been proactive; only legislating after the fact.

This 'someone' has historically been Corporate America. Greed drives deceit. You're gravely mistaken if you think Corporate America will suddenly start caring about the 'peasant' middle class and poor, and start behaving when there's nothing to make them. 

As for the Governments role - Democrat or Republican; we need to hold our Government accountable and balance the power of these agencies, as agencies overreaching their clout is no better than Corporate America assaulting the people."  - Aaron Deskins.

I have enjoyed the last few weeks, really talking with people and grassrooting for candidates this election. I am still very lackluster towards the Natalie Tennant camp, only because it's the most mismanaged ill-brokered campaign for Senate this cycle. It's easily comparable to some of the Republican blunders of 2012. 

Capito came out as an early favorite, but with the right campaign message, this was a winnable election. I have stopped giving money to the campaign long ago after it began falling apart like a dam collapsing on itself. I wasn't going to fund such a large-scale blunder. I am fairly confidant at the moment that Natalie had zero interest in being a Senator, much preferring the Governor's mansion in 2016. Or 2020. Regrettably I am not sure if Governor Tomblin can run again. Blame the new confusing law the Legislature passed to get Manchin in the Senate.

I am also beginning to think this is the end for Nick Rahall. Not that Evan Jenkins will safe in WV-03. The region still very much prefers Democrats and with Hillary likely running in 2016, he will likely be sent home. Nick's problem is the fact he's been in power for so long. And all of the foundering of southern West Virginia falls on his watch, as he has been Congressman through much of it. I think people have stopped believing he is anything but bad news.

Another race I wasn't paying attention to, but now am is this one, featuring this guy:

It's like something out of the 1960s. I have secured dozens of Republican voters' votes for his opponent, and the incumbent, Democrat Ron Miller. 

My podium isn't on a stage this time, but I am having fun talking behind the one I have built.