Sunday, September 30, 2007

Perceptions

It's funny how quickly some perceptions can change. School has been in session for about a month. The freshmen here found out that I openly carry a firearm around two weeks ago. At first, a lot of them were either a little afraid of me or they wanted to know if I was packing wherever I was.

Now, they just know I'm a gun guy. Some may avoid me, but it's largely a non-issue. They've realized that I'm not too violent, nor am I crazy. It has lost the novelty, and it has lost the scare factor.

I'm kind of proud of myself. I don't generally have much patience when I'm around idiots, but it paid off to go ahead and play nice. My perceptions of some of them have also changed, of course. I figured some of them were the sort who'd be against me forever, and it turned out they were fairly open-minded, and all they needed was exposure to gun owners.

Overall, while there are a lot of things I know I won't ever agree with them on (flat-billed ball caps, piercings, etc.), I know that they aren't going to end up being as much of an annoyance to me as I had expected. I also found some of them that I would actively choose to be around. On a moderately related note, I examined my thoughts on age gaps for dating and adjusted them, too. But that's not really the sort of thing that belongs in this blog, I figure.

I'll try to write something better soon. I need my muse to return, though.

Sorry

Take one part still-missing muse, two parts hectic workdays, two parts new relationship, and a dash of internet problems, and you've got me updating the blog far less frequently than I should.
Sorry, folks. I'd like to say that I have it under control and posting will resume as normal immediately, but that's not true.
I'll try to put a little more effort into it, though. There'll be another post later tonight. Once again, I beg your forgiveness.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Country and students

As some of you might have guessed, I listen to country music a lot. Rock, ska, jazz, blues, etc. all hit my playlists quite a bit, but country is my primary choice. While I'm at work, I like to have music playing, which garners reactions from some of the students.

The other night, a Garth Brooks song was playing, and one kid commented to his friend that it was Garth Brooks. Once out of sight, he loudly told his friend that the best Garth Brooks song was track twelve of some certain CD. It was said in a let's laugh at the security guard tone of voice. I didn't really give a damn. Later that night, the same pair came in, and the same kid pretended he was arguing the point still. He thought he was out of earshot when he broke down laughing. I don't care what he thinks of my music, but it just didn't even seem like a funny way to mock it.

Others come through and hear something by Big and Rich and proclaim that they love country. Sorry, kids, but that ain't really very country. I like some of it, but it's rock or something. Same kids don't bat an eye when it's Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, or Chris Ledoux. It always makes me laugh a little, since I'm certain they don't recognize them as country, even though all the country singers like to mention Hank, Waylon, and Chris once in awhile.

Still others say they don't like country, but they like my selections (I often keep it to the more upbeat stuff, since I don't need to be lulled out of my senses). These ones don't start singing along, but they might stick around and listen a minute.

Finally, there are those couple of kids who sing along, ask if I've got anything by [insert new country artist here] and generally try to make it clear that they like country. One girl was telling her friends that she was just about the only student in the dorms who liked country, and I couldn't resist making a comment. I resisted the urge to tell her she wasn't, and instead asked one little question: "Do they not like Hank Williams and his era, or is it the new stuff they don't like?" I, of course, figured she'd end up admitting that she really only liked the new stuff. Instead, without any hesitation, she announced to her friends with authority: "There IS a difference. And no one seems to like either around here." She had never once seemed to notice anything that wasn't newer country, but I couldn't say much at that point. I'd just let her make a point to her friends, apparently, and I think she felt she was impressing me. Ah, well.

And, yeah, I know that this isn't much like my usual stuff, but my muse has wandered off. I strongly suspect Farmgirl's muse of kidnapping mine, but I can't prove anything.

Sorry

Sorry I haven't been posting. It's been a rough couple weeks at work. Working way late, dealing with all sorts of emergency-type situations, and being kind of sick, to boot. I'll try to put a post together sometime within the next couple hours.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Competition?

Europe has acted, hearing software companies crying "no fair!" They've fined Microsoft, and made them share code they've created with their competitors. This stems from Real Networks losing their share of the market and getting whiny.

Let's pretend that this is about something physical, rather than software. I build engines, let's say. You build transmissions. Well, I decide to get into the transmission business, and I start including my improved transmissions in the engines. You cry foul and demand that I provide you the plans and some of the parts to make those transmissions. Well, I designed them, I've built them, and you are a competitor. Is it competitive behavior to help my competitor beat me? Or is it competitive to make the best transmission I can and hope that the folks who use my engine like mine better?

Now, when we apply that to Windows Media Player and the way it crushed Real Player, Europe comes to an interesting conclusion. They figure that Microsoft shouldn't include features such as media players in their software, and that they should, in fact, give up source code to help competitors improve their software. Having tried Real Player (and many other media players), I'd have to say that I was never a fan. And others apparently found that it didn't suit their needs, either, since it lost the market. But, of course, Europe's courts feel that it's sad to see the loss of market share.

The goal is to "significantly" reduce Microsoft's market share, according to the European Competition Commisioner (doesn't this title make her sound more like she should be setting up sporting events?). Where do we go from here? Do they start requiring all computers be loaded with Windows, the Mac OS, and Linux? Do they decide that only a certain number of Windows PCs can be sold each year? Or do they simply begin subsidizing the other companies in order to equalize things?

Kinda reminds me of Rearden Steel and the Taggart Transcontinental. Will it get that bad? Will we end up with the mind on strike? Who is John Galt?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Groups again?

In the ongoing saga of my experiences with people, my roommate invited people over again. I had my XD45 on my hip, as usual, and some of the people were the same ones who'd been over for the barbecue.

One of them, realizing we weren't out in public this time, asked if he could see the gun. Somebody gasped as I unholstered, dropped the mag, and racked the chambered round out. There were murmurs of it being not only loaded, but cocked. "Can I cock it?" "Well, you should work the slide anyway, since you should always make sure any gun you've been handed is clear." "Can I pull the trigger?" "Well, since I know it's clear, as do you, point it in a safe direction." He happily pulled the trigger, much to the chagrin of a girl who thought it was cute to cower. He handed it back, somebody else wanted to see it, and people realized I wasn't going to hurt them. The questions started rolling then.

"Why do you carry in the safety of your own home?" "How do I get a concealed carry permit?" "How much did the gun cost?" "Have you ever had to use it?" "How do door-to-door salesmen react?"

They were coming pretty rapid-fire from around the room, so it was hard to even finish answering any of them. The first and last, though, are worth some discussion.

I carry in my own home because you never know what will happen, because it's more convenient than having all my guns upstairs, and because it feels natural to constantly have a gun on. People who wear their gun more of the time are less likely to feel awkward when they carry publicly, and are less likely to leave the gun at home all the time.

As for salesmen, they react to the way you treat them, not the gun. I've had them joke about me shooting them, I've had house alarm guys use it as an in, saying that I care about safety. Other alarm guys give up easily, since I cover my home security needs. I've never had any of them really put off by my gun, mostly because I'm a generally friendly guy.

I don't know what point of view the group walked away with, but I'm pretty sure that they went away with a more positive view of guns than they came in with, even with me a little stressed about so many people in my home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another reason I don't do groups

You may remember my little story about a campfire incident. Well, I left out the part where I'm living with a member of the group that put the event on. Well, they wanted to have a barbecue, and we have a house with a little park out front. I wasn't asked, but given about 20 hours of warning that they were going to be there.

Fantastic. Not only did I not really want some of them to know where I live, I definitely didn't want a bunch of people wandering into, out of, and through the house. One friend suggested I set up a TV outside my room and watch with a shotgun across my lap. Since I have stuff I don't want them touching in various places in the house, I opted not to just stay upstairs.

Idiots or not, I tend to openly carry my XD45 in a Serpa holster. This barbecue was no exception. As people arrived, they could not seem to resist yelling things like "he's got a gun!" across the little park. Oddly enough, no one called the cops after hearing those yells, or the cops knew to ignore such things.

I, of course, was met with questions regarding the legality, purpose, model, etc. of the gun on my hip, and some of them thought it was a good joke to constantly reference it. "Betcha can't hit that kid from here." "Dude, you should play football with us." "Hey, nobody will try to tackle the guy with a gun." I mostly just stood around and watched everyone and ate some of their food.

Late in the event, one of their members came in his army fatigues and immediately asked "Are you carrying your gun?" Since he was looking directly at it and I was tired of people (also, he's pretty against the carry of guns, and I've had numerous head against the wall discussions with him), I said, "No, it's an optical illusion." "Is it loaded?" "Yeah." "It's even cocked, isn't it!?!?!" "Yeah." At this point, someone told him to stop freaking out about it, but the kid couldn't seem to see the problem.

Another kid went and sat on a porch a few doors down, which I hadn't noticed until a woman opened the door and asked him why he was there. He talked to her for a second, after which she went back inside and he sat back down. She is attractive, so he then kept trying to badger those of us living here to tell him who she was (I didn't know, but I wouldn't have told him, anyway).

Luckily, none of them messed anything up too badly. A frisbee (not mine, of course) is probably lost in a neighbor's yard, and a few cars had frisbees and footballs hit them, but no real damage was done. I do think that my roommate may now know that I don't really welcome this sort of event. I'm just glad that I didn't need to go anywhere during it, since I would've had to load up at least all my guns (though they weren't supposed to go to my room, I don't trust these guys to not go mess with my guns).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 Memorials

It seems that you need two of the following three things in order to properly memorialize 9/11 these days:
1. Small American flags, preferable a lot of them.
2. A moment of silence, most likely not related to the time of any significant event; 0911 seems to be a time that people find relevant.
3. A slogan such as "We Remember."

Now, don't get me wrong, these are all fine things. American flags are always a welcome addition to places like college campuses, where they are rarely seen. I'd prefer we pointed out that the flag still flies for freedom, despite the attempt to destroy that. A moment of silence is a fine way to reflect on the lives lost and the reminder that freedom must be preserved, even if the cost is high. It'd be nice if we tried to have it at a more meaningful time (0911 just seems a little hokey to me). And, of course, an easily remembered slogan helps keep it on everyone's mind. It also trivializes it a bit.

Problem is, it has become meaningless. We are now to remember it as a meaningless tragedy. These memorials memorialize the lives lost as though they were lost in some sort of natural disaster. Even with the tiny American flags, people just mourn the lives lost on that day.

It's bigger than that. I'm not trying to trivialize a single one of those lives, but it's far larger than the number of lives lost that day. Terrorism remains a real threat to democracy and Muslim extremism still threatens Western ideals. We should remember 9/11 with both sadness and anger. Those lives weren't just lost--they were brutally snatched up by those terrorists and the groups that sacrificed the terrorists in their war on Western civilization.

My heart still goes out to those who lost loved ones. It must be terribly difficult to be reminded by all the memorials each year. I truly cannot imagine the pain you go through. But I'm sure many of you still burn with righteous anger toward those to blame for the tragedy, as we all should. These memorials would mean a lot more if we acknowledged that part of it. We need to remember that these Muslim extremists declared war on not just the US, but freedom. And they were willing to kill all these innocent people in their war. There's room for a little anger with the sadness.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Willful incompetence

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's willful incompetence (there are actually more things I can't stand, as you probably suspected). If you are doing a job, even doing it half-assed, you should do it right, even if you're just doing the minimums. Don't screw things up for everyone else. If asked to perform a task, do it. If you don't want to go above and beyond the minimum acceptable requirement for the task, don't, but don't willfully screw it up or ignore it.

I work with people who think that the best method to get through the day is to do as little work as possible and kiss enough ass to make it look good. Unfortunately, this works well enough. Meanwhile, others are busting their asses and get jumped on for a simple mistake.

Our office was asked to provide a shuttle service to and from two off-campus locations. One of my coworkers remarked that he wouldn't drive it because "I don't get paid enough to do that. I pretty much just get paid enough to sit around and play video games." He further commented that he would refuse if directly asked.

This same employee will then come up with some sort of "helpful suggestion" to make the office run more smoothly. These ideas conveniently spring up when the boss is around, and he never actually follows through. On the other hand, several employees have fixed problems themselves whenever they saw a way to make things work better.

He also leaves whenever his relief shows up, be it 5 minutes before quitting time or 45. He does this without apprising the relief of the current status of the various buildings on campus, saying so much as a "thank you" for getting there early (something he never does), or really doing anything other than bitching about having to work.

If the patrol car needs to be fueled at the beginning of his shift, you can be damn sure his relief is going to need to fill it, since he won't.

I know that every workplace has at least one of this guy, but it really ticks me off when the boss doesn't realize or seem to care. But I guess I should just do my job and let everyone else worry about doing theirs, even if I know they won't.

Another sort of willful incompetence is found in the Assistant Director of our little office. She doesn't answer her phone, takes off early and arrives late, parks in the fire lane, and reams anyone who does something differently than she'd like it done. She does things wrong just because she doesn't like the boss, and she's been trying to get me fired ever since I made it clear that I don't put up with crap.

At least I kind of see why she's that way, though. She's got some problems she needs to deal with. The other guy, though, is just a dick.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Which guns to ban?

You know, the gun grabbers always look for a way to appease some gun owners while banning the favorite weapons of others. I figured I'd try to help them find some guns they could actually ban.

Automatics: Though they're already all but banned (can't get new ones and the existing ones are prohibitively expensive), I'm pretending we're starting from scratch. These are the sorts of weapons that would be effective in fighting tyranny, which puts them in perfect line with the intent of the Second Amendment. Constitutionally, then, these should be some of the most protected guns. Better not ban them.

Semiautomatic "Assault Weapons": Well, it's a lot of work to define these, especially if we want to allow "sporting" rifles. In fact, the gun grabbers can't even agree on the proper specs to define "assault weapons." Most of the features they tend to want to ban are safety features, anyway. Better look for something else to ban.

Handguns: While we could separate autoloaders and revolvers, let's face facts: handguns, in total, are concealable and portable. This makes them the perfect defense against street crime. It also makes them the weapon of choice for thugs, but law-abiding citizens need some means of defending themselves, especially the often-targeted elderly and women. The handgun is the perfect equalizer: linebacker or little old lady, you can handle a gun, and a gun will eliminate the threat posed by either.

Semiautomatic "Sporting Arms": Well, if we can't ban semiauto "assault rifles," we can't really ban something that provides the same function but looks friendlier. And banning semiautos as a group is really a huge leap. It would affect hunters, militiamen, and many people's home defense weapons. Can't risk alienating that many groups, now can we?

Bolt Action "Sniper" Rifles: We'd get the hunters angry, as well as those who would have a large caliber rifle for homeland defense. And, since sniper rifles would be effective in a fight against tyranny, we run into the same problem as banning autos.

Black Powder: Well, these aren't really "crime" weapons, and historians love working replicas of old weapons...and hunters like the challenge they can bring. I guess they're out.

Whoops, I guess it's hard to justify any bans on weapons, isn't it?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Reasoned Approach?

Over at War on Guns, I was pointed to this little bit of blather. David wrote a nice, succinct response, pointing out that there is a right way to interpret the Second Amendment. I cannot seem to be as concise.
Likewise, in one of the few thundering blunders made by the Founding Dads, we have the Second Amendment, in my humble opinion, a veritable smorgasbord of words that can be construed to arrive at any conclusion one wants. What the hell does it mean?

Arrive at any conclusion you want, huh? Well, I guess that's true. If you told me you would like a glass of water, I could arrive at the conclusion that you really wanted to be kicked in the groin, if I wanted to. Problem with coming to any conclusion you want is that you have to overlook the idea of a correct conclusion.

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." Let's see if I can muddle through this "veritable smorgasbord" and find some meaning. Well-regulated, much to the chagrin of those who claim state control is necessary, means that the militia should remain in practice with their weapons. And even current code recognizes that the militia is comprised of all able-bodied males. The "security of a free State," of course, reminds us that we must remain ready to defend our freedom. The writings of the founding fathers should clarify that for you if you need a reminder. They were worried about home-grown tyranny more than they were about outside threats. The people, of course, refers to the populus as individuals. And, well, "shall not be infringed" means just that--the government is not to restrict the God-given right to self-defense.
If one focuses on the first two phrases, it's clear that gun ownership applies to the state's militia, probably as protection against feared federal hegemony, although it didn't work all that well in the Civil War. If one focuses on the last phrase, it's clear that the people's right to own veritable arsenals can never be withdrawn. Put the two together, and you have... mush.

First, it is never "clear" that gun ownership is to be left to the "state's militia." No, the first statements emphasize the why, not the who. The people are promised the right to keep and bear arms, not the states. There's no mush, unless you're referring to the area between your ears.

A case in D.C. may wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The District passed a law banning all hand guns except for current and former police while allowing rifles and shotguns as long as they're either "unloaded and disassembled or bound by trigger locks." An appeals court killed the law, and the city has asked the Supreme Court to hear it. Surprise, surprise, the Bush Administration opposes the law.

The gun ban in DC is ridiculous, illegal, and immoral. It was struck down legitimately, and the Supreme Court should hear the case and establish good precedent. It really doesn't matter whose administration dislikes which cities' laws, and I really think that throwing any administration into this is meant only to adjust certain perceptions by readers who may not like certain people.

Let us begin by acknowledging that the other side (whichever side you're on) has deep, powerful, often unconscious emotional reasons for their positions. And, while you're at it, admit you're in the same quandary. We pretend to argue logic and reason, but what's driving those arguments are perceived threats to important personal values. If we could talk about those values and those emotions, we'd at least make a start at having a discussion rather than a televised political debate among Presidential wannabes. We may even find that we have some of those values (self-preservation, family protection, security) in common but that the triggers for those values are different.

Not everyone "pretends" logic. In fact, many people have come to their opinions via reason and logic. Also, going to the root values and finding the differing triggers only shows whether someone uses logic. An irrational fear of an inanimate object isn't a rational response to a stimulus.
Next, how about we throw the 2nd Amendment into the trash heap of well-meant but stupid historical statements. There is no right way to interpret it, and we're just being intellectually dishonest if we pretend there is.

Again, I'll point you to the discussion above. There's a correct interpretation, and you are being intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise.
Then, given common values and no Constitutional guidelines, we seek compromise. The pro-gunners fear that banning handguns is but the first step in taking away all their guns. How are the anti-gunners going to assure them that isn't the case? (There are anti-gunners who do take that position; you probably don't want them in the room when you're negotiating.) The moderate anti-gunners focus on handguns because they're most easily misused by children, adults engaged in a free-for-all, or a simple, stupid, tragic accident. Plus, it's a lot harder to carry around a concealed shotgun than pistol.

It's always fun to get rid of pesky little things like the Bill of Rights, huh? Also, whether it's a step toward banning all guns or not, I'm not willing to give up my handguns. You see, it's exactly the ease of carry you dislike about them that makes them great for personal protection. Their misuse is a problem of education. You see, with the way people are told to hide their guns from children, kids aren't exposed to them and taught about gun safety. Don't trust the parents? Get gun safety into schools. I'll tell you what compromise I can live with here: if you don't want a handgun, don't buy one.
Except for vegetablearians, the blather about hunting is just so much, well, blather. Eat a steak you got from your local supermarket or kill a deer and eat the deer. There's no difference. I admit to being nauseated by those who trophy hunt, who simply kill for the sport of it. If that's a sport, so is smoking and drinking. But I wouldn't let my personal distaste for those chickens (like there's real danger in going after deer) interfere with my desire to strike a compromise with the pro-gunners that guarantees their right to rifles and shotguns.

And we've again pretended that guns are only used in hunting. Also, go to any college campus: drinking is a sport, and a competitive one at that (couldn't resist).
Of course, we have to address the automatic vs. semi-automatic issue as well as
the increasing number of guns that resemble Rambo's favorite wartime toys, but
once we're engaged in good faith efforts, one can hope that we can isolate the
extremists on both sides. I can't believe that every pro-gunner wants an Uzi...
or at least I hope not.

Actually, there's a large group that would get rid of semi-auto, too. And there's the fact that an automatic weapon is a better tool for tyranny prevention, bringing it more in line with the intent of the founders. Guns resembling those used by John Rambo are no more or less dangerous than wood-stocked guns with the same general mechanisms. And, no, I don't want an Uzi. I'd prefer a quality select-fire rifle to an SMG. And the Uzi is far from my first SMG choice.
See, not so hard. Sure. Actually, what's hardest is the first step, the discussions where people listen to each other with an open mind, seek areas of agreement, begin to develop a bit of trust in the good faith of their opponents.

Y'know, saying a bunch of things without any sort of debate doesn't prove that it would be easy to reach your "compromise." What's hardest for you is to admit that there may be a right side and a wrong side sometimes.

And y'know, I'll stick with the right side.

Monday, September 03, 2007

NRA, gun guys, and lunacy

Over at Keep and Bear Arms, they linked to a "Gun Guys" article that bashed those who don't kneel at the feet of the NRA and willingly allow rights to be whittled down to nothing.

Of course, they first have to pretend that the BATFE is in the right in their attempts to shut down Red's Trading Post. They make reference to The Gang as a "black helicopter" film and accuse all supporters of Red's of being unstable loonies.

Then, they point out that some of us yearn for the ability to buy military weapons, since those are the most effective for fighting tyranny. They quote Aaron Zelman of the JPFO and then make comments to the effect of dismissing full-auto weapons and cannons (used as historical reference) as being sheer lunacy.

We are accused of trying to "out crazy" the NRA, and are dismissed off-hand. Now, the "Gun Guys" have never been our friends, mind you. They have a banner ad for a site called "stopgundeaths.org" at the top of their pages, and they fight for more anti-gun laws. They aren't "gun guys" in any sense we would expect around here, but the surprise here isn't their opinion, but the responses on Keep and Bear Arms.

There were a few who fed everyone lines about the NRA being the "premier gun rights organization," as I hear so often. I expect that sort of thing, so it was a minor annoyance. The ones that got me were those who said that those of us unhappy with the NRA shouldn't go to other, less negotiating organizations, but should pay dues and be voting members.

Here's where I have to draw the line. They don't get to use my money to negotiate which rights they'll give up for me. The NRA, believe it or not, is not the only group out there that claims to fight for gun rights. There are others that do so and don't feel the need to give some of them up to preserve sporting firearms and whatnot. GOA, JPFO, and various other groups fight for the SECOND AMENDMENT, not "reasonable" gun laws. The NRA may be the name people remember, but they'll need to start offering a real service before they'll get my dues.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I don't do groups

I really can't deal well with people for extended periods. Especially groups. They put me on edge and tend to do/say stupid things.

Last night, I went to a get-together with a group of people. It was set around a campfire. I don't look directly at campfires, mostly because it compromises my ability to see my surroundings. I think I was the only one there who didn't stare into it, and I was asked why I worked to avoid facing directly into it. I answered honestly, and everyone looked at me funny. They then asked, "what, is a bear going to come eat us?" I explained that nothing was overly likely, though we had seen others drive by and take a good look. A little too good.

Then there was the kid that was trying to start crap. He even admitted this intention. I don't anger easily, but I did warn him that if he started a fight, I was prepared to defend myself however necessary. This sort of response generally calms these sorts of guys. He told me "if you pull a gun, I'll beat the sh*t out of you." At one point, he pulled out a knife, so I grabbed my gun (I didn't have to draw, though--glad the guy was sitting when he pulled the knife, since people get a little upset if a gun is drawn). He put it away, but he was still talking crap about how fast he could run and how I'd miss because ".45s are so inaccurate."

Then, shortly before I left, a guy threw linoleum onto the fire. No one's quite sure how it got into the pile of palettes, but it was not the sort of thing we should be burning. He apparently couldn't tell the difference in weight and texture between linoleum and plywood.

Yeah, I had to leave before there was some sort of actual trouble. I honestly knew better than to go in the first place, but I didn't expect quite the sort of idiocy I found. Next time I'm around a campfire in the woods, it's not going to be around a bunch of damned people.