Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Apologies and whatnot

Okay, it's been far too long since I posted. I recently got a new job, and I had to work my old job for awhile. And we're stocking shelves and trying to get the store to open on time, which makes for long days and no time off.
Also, it's Cabela's. Which is awesome. I can't wait to buy things.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Higher ground?

According to this article, the right to bear arms shouldn't be infringed...unless it's to keep "unqualified" gun owners, criminals, and crazies from getting guns. Or to keep everyone else from getting bullets. Or if it is just a three-month wait. Or she doesn't feel comfortable with you having a gun.

Besides the spelling (than/then confusion caught my eye), grammar, punctuation, and word misuse (condone means to encourage, not discourage), the article lacks solid reasoning.

At one point, the author tells us that training is critical. Later, she says that guns owned for self-defense do not justify ammunition purchases, since you shouldn't be shooting in self-defense very often. She also completely misses the protection from tyranny side of the Second Amendment.

She cites gun laws and crime stats in other countries without citing sources or telling us the actual statistics. She tells us that the difference is in attitude, and that the American mentality is problematic. No evidence, of course. She even cites a Jodie Foster movie as proof of our problematic mindset. (By the way, for those who are unaware, Jodie Foster is very anti-gun.) A movie about vigilantism is her proof that Americans think that the solution to every problem is a gun.

The biggest argument in the article is that people "may not need a gun." Y'know, because you're certain to be safe everywhere you go. Because people aren't ever robbed, beaten, or raped by those who have no qualms with doing harm.

The worst part is that there are almost certainly people who will buy into this crap.

Thanks to War on Guns for pointing this out.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Increasingly irrelevant

Can we cause problems with something even more irrelevant? Why should Congress be making determinations as to which past events were genocides?

While I generally like meaningless debates in Congress, since it keeps them too busy to do much real damage, but this is ridiculous. Almost 100 years ago, many Armenians were killed by many Turks. It's a bit late to punish anyone, actually fix the problem, or do anything else of value. And with libs whining about how our policies make the world hate us, you'd think that they'd be more careful.

Uncommon knowledge

It seems to me that there is a dwindling supply of common knowledge. I could be wrong, but the more I talk to those only a bit younger than me, the less commonly known are the facts I had assumed everyone knew.

I can't make reference to Rorschach tests, Schrodinger's Cat, Atlas Shrugged, any Constitutional amendment after the first, or various other things without several quizzical looks and the need for long explanations. Spelling and grammar are lost arts, it seems. The apostrophe has invaded plurals and the semicolon has virtually disappeared.

If I start to talk about my favorite authors, some may have read the notes on a work or two; they are more interested, though, in whether I caught the latest episode of whatever's on TV. I'm far more likely to run across someone whose parents read Grisham than I am to run across someone who has ever read a book by choice.

It wasn't that long ago that I thought most people had been exposed to physics, math, literature, biology, history, and politics. Turns out they know a little about gravity, some addition and subtraction, how to read the TV Guide, enough about anatomy to reproduce, what happened in reruns of their favorite shows, and that Bush is President. Beyond that, I can't really assume much.

I may just be far more cynical than is necessary, but it's getting ridiculously frustrating to have to explain references I had once thought everyone knew. Newspeak, Alexander Hamilton's famous duel with Aaron Burr, and special relativity should all be at least familiar to college students these days, right?

I sure hope that working away from a university environment won't exacerbate this problem...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel-worthy?

I think I'm going to be sick. Al Gore apparently has a Nobel Peace Prize under his belt now. I didn't realize they handed them out for lying to the public and trying to induce hysteria.

You know his damned supporters will start throwing out the fact that he was awarded this prize. I can see it now:
"You do realize that NASA corrected the data, which now shows that the 1930s were the hottest decade on record, right?"
"Well, why did Gore when a Nobel Peace Prize, then?"
"That's irrelevant. His data has been proven flawed repeatedly."
"Do you have a Nobel Prize?"
"Also irrelevant."
"I believe the guy with the Nobel Prize."
"And I believe that you're going to be in intense pain soon."

I had already figured that it was kind of a joke at times when Carter got one, but I had hoped that was some sort of fluke. That hope is now broken.

As for the article, it doesn't surprise me that the NY Times would so readily pretend that this doesn't demean those who have actually deserved recognition.

It's kind of funny, though, to read such passages as "author of dozens of works from short stories to science fiction" (about the winner for literature). I wouldn't really consider this a range of works...in fact, I've read enough sci-fi short stories to believe that it's possible for this range to encompass the smallest variety I've ever seen encompassed by this sort of wording. You can't really define a range by a style and a genre...Were it defined as sci-fi novels to historical short stories, it would encompass something. Oh, well...the Times can't be bothered to actually learn about writing anything other than propaganda.

Lacey CItizen's Academy

A friend of mine is taking a citizen's academy from the Lacey Police Department. Most of it sounds as though it's the basic stuff--watchful eye, mark your possessions, write down serial numbers, etc. Apparently, though, they recently discussed guns.

I groaned when he told me this, then let him tell me what he had learned. They apparently went over the difference between automatic and semi-auto, as well as the difference between centerfire and rimfire (not the sort of thing I would expect). They learned how to unload a gun and check the chamber.

Best of all, they learned that open carry is legal in the state of Washington. Sure, it's only one cop that was telling them this, but the fact that he did so means that Lacey PD is coming around. He did, of course, make a comment about it being the "Wild West" around here, which leads me to believe he's not happy with open carry, but he admitted that it was entirely legal.

He also mentioned Opencarry.org, according to my information. He talked about how the group is fighting to make open carry a socially acceptable choice. My friend was surprised that he'd mention that, since I was the only person he'd ever heard of it from before that.

Sure, it's not going to stop people from being shocked by my gun, but it means I'm less likely to end up forced to fight a legal battle over it. It's a start.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Not quite the Taggart Comet

The Amtrak line that runs near my house (between Seattle and Portland) makes me really think about our views on mass transportation. It apparently broke down at least twice yesterday. In one case, they apparently paid for taxis to transport the passengers up to Seattle. In the other, a train that was scheduled to depart at 1930 hrs (I believe--it may have even been a 1900 train) didn't arrive at the station until about 2105.

The liberals would say that this means we should pump tax dollars into mass transportation. They'd point out that the trains can't be expected to run on time unless we keep them in good repair. "Think of those people who paid for a ticket and had to wait so long!" they'd cry.

I do think of those people who paid $60 for a trip from Olympia to Portland. I think that a train asking that kind of money for a ticket should be able to afford to stay in good repair. I think those people are being hosed by something that isn't held accountable. And subsidies have only made the problem worse. Any time you supply an income that isn't tied to actually providing goods or services, you have lessened the motivation to provide the highest possible quality in those goods or services. And when the solution to poor service is to increase that subsidy, you create incentive to provide only enough service to avoid being entirely shut down.

I guess I rant about this plenty, but today just made me think of the Taggart Transcontinental. I know that our monopoly lawsuits against anyone who provides the best product they can are even more like that, but the fact that my example for the day was a train really made it hit me even more profoundly. If only I had the courage and talent to attempt to be John Galt.

Memories

Whenever I reach a point where I have to change something major in my life, I get a bit more sentimental than I probably should. Things that weren't all that great start to look like they were good, and I find myself kind of regretting the change, even if it is 100% for the better. The job change I'm about to go through is no exception to this.

At my current job, which will soon be done, I have had to put up with constantly being expected to come in at a moment's notice, be scheduled by someone with an active grudge, "adjust" my time card so as not to end up with overtime, perform all sorts of extra duties with no extra compensation, take work home with me despite signing on to do security work, be passed up for the only title with a raise because my boss thought I didn't want it (I don't go whining for more money often), have low (for WA) wages with no benefits, and my grades suffered when I was a student because I was constantly called in for extra night shifts.

But I focus entirely upon the good sometimes. I've been able to blog at work (doing so right now), people can keep me company for a good three hours of the shift, everyone knows me, my boss sometimes buys me breakfast, work is the most social I ever get, I have some fun work stories, and I wouldn't know where to meet a decent woman outside a college setting.

I'm moving to a position with better pay, some benefits, and the chance to be around my favorite hobby all day long. I shouldn't wonder whether it's a good move. But I keep weighing the good of my current job against an imagined and arbitrary definition of the new. Oh, well. I guess it just means that, with all the bad, the last few years haven't been a total mistake.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Edutainment

I sometimes read MSN articles if they happen to catch my attention. My favorites are the ones that give dating tips psychologists offer. Not because they're useful, mind you...they are full of such inane and worthless minutiae.

If you want to know whether the date's going well, these articles say, watch where the other person puts her/his jacket, look at foot angles and positions, watch for leaning over or straightening up, and check where they've chosen to sit. If they've got a drink to stir, are they stirring the same way they would if they were alone?

Whatever happened to just going with the flow? Do we really need to watch feet, stirring, and hand positions? Can't you just ask whether the person would like to see you again?

Ah, well, it still kind of amuses me, and I get bored. I guess these articles serve a purpose.

Anger

Why can't women just get anger out of their system? Guys will punch each other, tell each other off, yell, or whatever else, and the anger's gone. Hell, I've seen guys physically fight and immediately go get a beer together. Women, on the other hand, sit there and seethe. They'll do the silent treatment, the sulking, and anything else that doesn't actively address the problem, and they'll keep it up for days.

The worst part is that they won't just direct that anger at the intended target. They get into a bad mood, and everyone's supposed to suffer. The target may be the focus, but anyone else is fair game for the anger, especially if they had the misfortune of being friendly with the target.

The funny thing is that the target would often be willing to atone and change, but women won't just address the issue, generally. They hold a grudge for awhile, and everyone suffers. Sure, guys don't generally fix the actual problem, but we focus our anger, get it out, and move on.

Yes, I'm aware that I've generalized this issue and there are more complex things to consider, but it just gets me every time...especially when I can't even figure out what has a woman so pissed off.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Evolution of the Ramblings

Hammer's post of the blog evolution meme got me thinking. I haven't been running this blog for all that long, but it has changed in many ways I wouldn't have guessed. When it was over at Eponym, I mostly did commentary on news stories posted by others. I felt like I was doing something by analyzing them more in-depth than was probably necessary.

This one started mostly because I had a friend looking to get into blogging, and it started out as mostly reposts of stuff I put on Eponym, but it didn't get updated too often. And my friend posted about three times before he lost interest and willpower.

When Eponym stopped providing a free service, I renamed this one (it had been Republitarian Rants before, but I always liked this name when I was on Eponym). It slowly became a place where I did commentary on the broader issues rather than specific news stories.

Well, that only lasts so long. It soon became commentary on political issues based on personal anecdotes. Pretty soon, the personal anecdotes were becoming less political. Now I just rant about whatever.

I wonder if I'll hit the point where I start talking about my childhood. I doubt it, since it was kind of boring, in my opinion, but we'll see where it goes from here.

I won't tag anyone, since I just kind of stole the meme. But I definitely encourage you to steal it like I did.

Luck and such

My luck is like a pendulum that just can't be controlled. It's ridiculous. Something good happens, something bad happens, good, bad, good, bad, etc.

In the past week and a half I had the following random luck:

At work, a new position seems to be opening up, creating upward possibilities.
My muse wanders off.
I start going out with an amazing girl.
Said amazing girl decides she jumped back into relationships too soon, so we should just be friends for now.
The day after that shock, she decides she wants to do something Saturday.
Then she decides to bring a friend.
Cabela's offers me a halfway decent job at the gun counter as Special Order Specialist.
I'm starting to get sick.

Now, mind you, I know that some of this is actually within my control a bit, so it might not seem like luck. Since I believe luck and fate are intertwined thoroughly with free will, I just count it all the same. Although I leave out stupid crap like punching something hard enough that I think I have a broken knuckle. Because that's just me creating problems for myself.

I'm fairly certain that there's a miniaturized version of me somewhere in the dark reaches of my mind, flipping a luck switch on and off trying to figure out which light it turns on.

Quick household lesson

Do your dishes come out of the dishwasher with food still caked on? Do people recoil at the odor around your sink? Are your dishes and silverware degrading at an accelerated pace? Do those you live with avoid doing your dishes at all costs?
Then you might be my roommates! I mean...you might need to learn to rinse.

Seriously, is rinsing a lost art these days? Did no one have parents? How the hell hard is it to look at a dish that still has crap stuck on it and realize you haven't rinsed it. Well, the past few roommates I've had seem to have trouble, so here's a handy little guide:

Step 1: Scrape any largish chunks of food off of the plate and into the garbage. A chicken bone should not be left out on a plate or put in the sink.
Step 2: Get the dish to the damned sink. This should easily be a given, but I have found that it's an easily missed step. And when you miss this one, you miss all of them.
Step 3: Run water over the dish, knocking off a lot of the smallish food debris that you missed in step one. You know, a little gravy or whatnot.
Step 4: Contrary to popular belief, this is not the time to leave some water in the dish and hope for some pixie magic. If there's anything not quickly knocked off by water, scrape a little or grab a sponge. Because I know you're not going to run the dishwasher before that crap dries on thoroughly.
Step 5: Either wash by hand or throw it in the dishwasher. And you're done! You have successfully made your residence a little less gross.

Now, by no means am I a neat freak. I have a lot of clutter, much of which I should just throw out, but clutter isn't gross. It just kind of makes me look even more lazy than I am. Seriously, though, who can't figure out that putting water into a bowl and letting stuff float around in it is disgusting? (My roommates, apparently.)

Slang and small-town dictionary

I don't get slang. At all. There are a few phrases and words I understand in some way, but that doesn't mean I have any idea why they seem so acceptable to so many people.

"My bad": Of course it was your damned mistake. Now apologize for it. Owning up to it is not the same as feeling even a little remorse.

"Grill": Yeah, I get that you're comparing your teeth to the grill on your car. I just don't understand why. I guess your car's grill would be the teeth if it had a face...but that's not a good reason. It just seems ignorant when I hear that somebody "messed up" someone else's "grill." Unless, of course, you damaged their propane or charcoal barbecue setup or the front of their car.

"Strapped": The first time someone asked whether I was strapped, it took several seconds and a little bit of body language reading to figure out that they were asking whether I was armed. I'm much more accustomed to things like being "strapped for cash."

"Off the hook": I know what it means, but I have no idea why it means that something's cool.

Now, mind you, some of my lingo might confuse those who use the slang that confuses me. SO I've come up with a handy guide to a few of my more common ones.

"Yonder": Over there. Distance can vary depending on the circumstances. "Over yonder" might be a few feet away in a room or a pretty good distance outdoors. You'll need to look where I'm pointing, though, since it does not indicate direction within the speech.

"Y'all": Contraction for "you all" or the plural of "you." Yes, I am aware that I'm from the northwest. It's still a useful term. I like being able to differentiate singular and plural "you."

"Ky-oat" (yes, this is a weird way of writing my pronunciation. I'm tired. Live with it.): You city folks pronounce coyote funny. "Ky-oatee" isn't my usual method of pronouncing coyote. They are still the same critter, so don't ask me how it's different from what you're talking about.

"City": Anything big enough to have a couple stoplights. You see, where I'm from, we didn't even have one of those blinker lights. When you call places like the outskirts of Puyallup rural while I can see multiple car dealerships, I get confused, just like you do when I call suburbs cities.

There's more, but I'm tired. There may be another installment soon.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Gun crazy?

Ah, another of these sorts of editorials. I'll take it step by step.
Even the National Rifle Association admitted after the Virginia Tech massacre that federal guns laws had to be tightened to keep weapons out of the hands of people who were demonstrably mentally ill.
That's one of the many reasons I cannot trust the NRA. Especially since background checks already disqualify those adjudicated mentally defective, even if they are still considered capable of taking care of themselves.
Could anyone oppose background checks to determine whether a would-be gun buyer had ever been deemed dangerously disturbed?
"Ever been" is important here. As is the definition of "dangerously disturbed." If a person has been deemed mentally stable again, there's a lot to go through to get their rights back. And which mental illnesses make someone dangerously disturbed? Say I had a bout with depression a few years back. Would that mean I had once been dangerously disturbed? What about the biases of those making the determination? I'd like to own more guns, which would lead some people to believe I'm not qualified to own any.
There is one such fanatic in the U.S. Senate: Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn has irresponsibly blocked a measure that sailed through the House after Seung-Hui Cho, a Virginia Tech student with a history of mental illness, bought firearms and used them to slaughter 32 people at the university.
Senator Tom Coburn knows that a knee-jerk reaction is not generally the best option, and he knows that rights are not to be revoked. Calling him an irresponsible fanatic is ludicrous. As for Cho's history of mental illness, unless I am mistaken, he was never adjudicated a danger to himself and others, nor was he ever confined to an institution. Most of his mental illness history comes to us in the form of anecdotes. I'm not 100% sure on this, of course, since I don't care all that much. Any free man or woman should never be barred the use of guns. If you can be allowed to live unsupervised, you can be allowed to own firearms.
The case revealed huge gaps in a federal database that is supposed to give gun dealers an instant read on whether purchasers are disqualified by virtue of criminal or mental histories.
In other words, the fact that this was one of few cases in which the guns were acquired legally has people up in arms.
Long Island Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was murdered by the deranged Long Island Rail Road gunman, pushed a loophole-closing measure through the House, only to have Coburn shoot a companion bill down in the Senate.
Ah, McCarthy. She's certainly a model of sanity, isn't she? And what loopholes was she closing? Oh, yeah, she pretty much wanted to keep anyone who's seen a shrink from handling a gun. Also, the fact that her husband was murdered actually clouds her judgment, I'd say, rather than lending any credibility.
Coburn made use of a Senate rule that lets any senator put an indefinite hold on any piece of legislation. He asserts that the bill would be costly to implement and could wind up depriving some people of their right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.
He's right. How many veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD? How many people have gotten treatment for a mental illness, thus keeping themselves from ever becoming a danger. I would further say that a bill like this might prevent people from seeking the treatment they need.
Coburn is guilty of extremism at its worst. By blocking the proposed law, he is all but certainly ensuring that some Americans will be deprived of their lives by maniacs with guns.
Who is guilty of extremism? Senator Coburn is blocking an expensive piece of legislation that will deny Americans one of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. That's not extremism in the least.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lessons I'll never really learn

I've learned (relearned, in most cases) a few valuable lessons today.

1. When I start to think things are going downhill, I should trust my gut instinct. Telling myself that I'm just a pessimist just gets my hopes up.
2. I should not punch objects that are more durable than my fists.
2a. As far as coping mechanisms go, experiencing physical pain doesn't help as much as one might hope.
3. I should really think things through before sending emails to folks.
4. Going out and about doesn't actually keep my mind of things. It only distracts me for fleeting moments.
5. I know quantum mechanics, literature, guns, history, etc. I do not know a damned thing about people.
5a. Trying to figure people out just makes me end up being an idiot.

I'll try to post something better soon. Maybe it'll have to wait 'til tomorrow, though.

Guns in schools

With all the talk lately of guns in schools (some of it due to the OR teacher fighting for what should be assumed rights), there's a lot of talk out there about why they aren't a good idea:

Students will find them. If a teacher keeps his/her gun on his/her person, s/he shouldn't have to worry about a student finding it.
What about crossfire? A teacher firing back increases the odds of hitting an unintended target, perhaps, but only if the teacher doesn't wait for a clean shot. Also, if someone's dead set on killing folks, s/he needs to be taken down. More lives are risked by waiting than are risked by firing back.
What if the student takes it from the defending teacher? The odds of a student being able to take away a gun are pretty low, especially if the teacher has chosen to deploy the weapon.
Teachers aren't supposed to fight, but to teach. Well, there's certainly a little truth to this one, but we don't live in a utopia. You can't teach the dead, so you'd better protect the living.

Feel free to disagree with me, but I think that incidents could be stopped quickly if a few armed people were available, rather than having a "weapon-free" environment.

Monday, October 01, 2007

I'm a token redneck, I think

Working at a college, you run across a lot of city folk who just have absolutely no idea what it's like to be anywhere but big cities. They've never seen coyotes, elk, or sometimes even deer. Our campus is a nice one, with some wooded areas and some undeveloped land, so these kids are in for quite a shock. I've heard of questions about whether the deer are dangerous, sometimes including a second question about whether they're dangerous in mating season.

Well, sometimes these people find out that I'm from out in the boondocks. They have all sorts of questions. This weekend, a coworker decided to grill me with questions. He was amazed to learn that not all towns have stoplights, fast food, or even a few stores. He couldn't seem to understand how I could easily live with having to drive 15-20 minutes to get to school, not having hundreds of TV channels (I still don't have that), and not having a mall within ten minutes (closest was about an hour, which was plenty close for us).

He wanted to know if "rednecks" have "street cred," and tried to figure out the country equivalent of various rappers. He can't understand why I think of my knife as a tool, rather than a weapon or toy, and he certainly doesn't see a gun the same way I do. I generally pronounce coyote with a silent e, say ain't, howdy, and even y'all, and use terms like "over yonder" to describe locations I'm pointing at, and he just laughs at me like I'm the only person in the world who speaks that way. I tried to explain to him that a man should have a knife and a means of making fire on his person all the time, and he couldn't understand it.

I could probably really blow the kid's mind by telling him about how Mineral sometimes has multi-day power outages in the winter. I especially shouldn't tell him that those outages, though inconvenient, don't stop people from living their normal lives.