Monday, October 30, 2017

Letting Go

I love this set.  I find the blue and black mingling of colors, with other shadings subtly creeping in, to be absolutely stunning.  I remember the shopping trip when we picked this set out, in a Target near Largo, Maryland in early 2011.

It may not seem like a big deal, but every time I look at this set, it hurts a little.  That loss of what was in most respects a wonderful relationship, and loss of a someone who had become one of my dearest, closest friends, hurts.
 As much as I treasured that relationship, it's time to stop reminding myself daily that life is not As It Was.

Life is change.  There are new seasons, as certainly as old ones fade and recede.  And life goes on.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Dice jalapenos.

 Cut two slices of bacon into strips about 4" long, and saute.  Add jalapenos and about a tablespoon of diced onions after the bacon is halfway cooked.  When the onion is browned, turn the heat up briefly and add either 1 whipped egg or 3 tablespoons of egg white.  After about 40 seconds, reduce heat and add a tablespoon of shredded 2% cheese.  Cover.

Toast a sliced bagel or another bread about the same size.  I used a sesame kaiser roll.

Fold edges, flip.  Cut heat off.

Pull toast out of toaster over, and apply a thin coating of Greek cream cheese to each side.  Place your mini omelette atop your toast.  Enjoy.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Kill 'Em All

On Tuesday, there was a horrible attack in Brussels.  At least 30 people have been killed, and hundreds injured.  It's a tragedy and an outrage.*
Carl Court / Getty Images
After shocking events like this, the phrase "Kill 'Em All" is frequently uttered.  We should kill them all.  Those terrorists.  Frequently, the phrase is directed towards a larger social group the terrorists sprang from, whether it's Arabs, Muslims, Latinos, homosexuals, neocons, "liberals" or whatever the scapegoat du jour.

That's natural, right?  That we should want to kill them all.  To be sure we get all the ones who hate and are trying to hurt us.  Because they're terrorists, and they have it coming, and if some people who are actually completely innocent are killed in the process, oh, well.  At least we'll get the terrorists.

On 22 July, 1209, every human in Béziers was slaughtered.  It was claimed that the Abbot of Cîteaux, when ordering the attack, said, “Kill them all! God will know his own!”  Whether he said it or not, all of the townsfolk were slaughtered, all 20,000 of them.

When people say, "Kill 'em all, let God sort them out," they mean they are willing to kill innocent people, so long as the target is eliminated, as well.  Declaring an intent to wage war on a group that includes an innocent population meets the US definition of terrorism.  People saying this are declaring their own willingness to be terrorists.  They are declaring themselves my enemy.

So, consider adjusting your rhetoric to be sure your theoretical "fire on target" is on the actual bad guys, and that you are not, in fact, declaring yourself to be a terrorist.  I don't like terrorists.  I really want to kill them all.

Albigensian Crusade
Cathar Wars
Kill Them All

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On Shariah Law

I would like to think of myself as relatively enlightened.  I'm a live-and-let-live sort of guy.  I don't really care, ultimately, what religion any person gives lip service to, or not.  What I do care about, is whether any person treats other people well, because, as one revered religious teacher is quoted as saying a couple of thousand years ago, "By their fruits" (the actions people take) "you will know them."

Shariah law is law based upon Islam.  I am not a Muslim, but even if I was, I don't think others should be required to live according to my personal beliefs.  The people I hear most adamantly protesting about Shariah law are Christians,

but I also don't want to live under Shariah law.

I have nothing against statues and sculptures.1
I don't think people who swear should be executed.2
I don't even think cursing out your parents should be punishable by death.3
I'm a historian, and I think I should be able to discuss other gods.4

I don't think children should be held accountable for mistakes their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents made.5
I'm rather horrified at the thought of slaughtering animals to "atone" for mistakes.6
I think it's pretty silly to be allowed to eat grasshoppers but denied that most divine of foods, bacon.7, 8

I will plant more than one kind of grape in my garden if I damn well please.9

I think a human is as good as another human, until the actions of that human make him worth less than others.  I think a female is as good as a male, even if there is necessarily some sex-specific things each is better at, like climbing ladders or carrying a child to term.  Patriarchal systems that make it clear a woman is property instead of a real, actual person really piss me off.  Some things that would make me especially angry might include

Women having to leave the community while on their period.10
A married female slave being beaten for having been raped by her master (this one especially pisses me off!).11
I don't think a woman not bleeding on her wedding night is reason enough to stone her.12,13,14,15,16

Being forced to marry your rapist is just sick and sadistic (though the rapist does have to pay the father a fine for, you know, damaging his property).17,18

There are other things I don't agree with.  I think I should be able to wear clothing made of more than one type of thread,19 Wiccans may dress funny, but I don't think that alone is usually worthy of death,20 and if they're both adults and it's consensual, I certainly don't think same-sex relations should end with stoning the participants.21

I don't want Shariah law.  Of course, everything I've just described are commandments from the Bible, but I don't want Shariah law, either.



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Politician Sets New Record

How many lies can fit into a speech?
Let's see:
1. "(The USA is) the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn't happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close."

Truth: the US, when adjusted for population, is well behind the top 5 countries in mass shootings. All of these top 5 have somewhat or very restrictive firearms policies.

2. "There’s a general consensus in America about what needs to be done"

Truth: there is no "general consensus" about what needs to be done. Of random people I've discussed the topic with- NOT known supporters of my political views- no more than 1 in 3, at most, say anything about further restricting firearms access to the general US populace. More intensive scrutiny of incoming immigrants and better US mental health care are mentioned much more frequently.

3. "We don't need to be talking past one another. But we do have to feel a sense of urgency about it. In Dr. King’s words, we need to feel the “fierce urgency of now.” Because people are dying. And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do, no longer suffice."

Truth: the obvious insinuation is that violent crime is rising in the US. The FACT is that the most recent FBI data (2014) shows the exact opposite. I don't like graphs, but this makes the point at a glance: 

4. "To prove that the vast majority of Americans, even if our voices aren’t always the loudest or most extreme, care enough about a little boy like Daniel to come together and take common-sense steps to save lives and protect more of our children."

Truth: this is a two-fer, in which the President uses an emotional appeal to suggest that if you don't support his political agenda, you don't care about the lives of children, and adds the lie that his suggestion are "common sense" (which I'm pretty sure he wouldn't know if it bit him). This president may lie more per sentence than even Bill Clinton.

5. "I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around -- I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this."

Truth: "weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets." In other words, President Obama "believes in the Second Amendment", he just doesn't believe US citizens should have modern firearms. 
2012 Issues.

6. "We all believe in the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech, but we accept that you can’t yell “fire” in a theater. We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people. We cherish our right to privacy, but we accept that you have to go through metal detectors before being allowed to board a plane. It’s not because people like doing that, but we understand that that’s part of the price of living in a civilized society."

Truth: no matter how much US citizens may dislike it, airlines are private entities, and are entitled to whatever restrictions they wish to place on those who choose to use their service. Now, whether any US governmental agency should be allowed to dictate what policies must be enforced on all airline customers is a different question altogether, but the airlines themselves could enforce any restriction they wanted, so long as it was equally applied to all of their clients, without any infringement on Constitutional rights.

7. "If a father wants to teach his daughter how to hunt, he can walk into a gun store, get a background check, purchase his weapon...A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked."

Truth: this is one of the most blatant lies in recent history. This has not been legal since before Al Gore invented the internet. Selling modern firearms through the mail to anyone but licensed dealers except in very controlled circumstances ALSO requiring documentation has been illegal for almost 50 years. You get to choose whether you believe the President is willfully lying, or is ignorant of something I've known since before I was a teenager. Current law showing that firearms purchased from out of state and shipped must be received by a firearms dealer (FFL) is here.

8. "A recent study found that about one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records -- one out of 30 had a criminal record. We’re talking about individuals convicted of serious crimes -- aggravated assault, domestic violence, robbery, illegal gun possession."

Truth: if you read carefully, and think about it, you'll see that the President suggests one in 30 people looking at this website have a violent or disqualifying criminal record, but THAT'S NOT WHAT HE SAID. Most of you reading this have a "criminal record", even if it's only for speeding. You've probably looked at one or more gun sites, too, you criminal.

9. "So we’ve created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys his or her gun the right way and subjects themselves to a background check."

Truth: repetition of previous blatant lie.

10. "Senator John McCain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole."

Truth: there is no "gun show loophole". Requirements for licensed gun dealers are the same whether they are selling from their shop or at a show. Here are the ATF requirements, which the President is either blissfully ignorant of, or is lying about:  It would be statistically improbable that almost every so-called gun control advocate would be ignorant of the truth, so the obvious conclusion is that they are all lying.

11. "Some of you may recall, at the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill -- with a knife -- a bunch of children in China. But most of them survived because he didn’t have access to a powerful weapon. We maybe can’t save everybody, but we could save some."

Truth: the suggestion is being made that firearms are very dangerous weapons, the most dangerous weapons an ordinary citizen might have access to. Not a claim that stands up to scrutiny when comparing a projectile with from about 190 up to about 2400 ft-lbs of energy (common firearm caliber projectile energy at the muzzle) with any car. A Smart Car FourTwo with a single passenger, traveling at only 30 mph has 60,500 ft-lbs of energy.

12. "we know that background checks make a difference. After Connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40 percent -- 40 percent. Meanwhile, since Missouri repealed a law requiring comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, gun deaths have increased to almost 50 percent higher than the national average. One study found, unsurprisingly, that criminals in Missouri now have easier access to guns."

Truth: the Connecticut violent crime rate has been declining since at least 2009, with an uptick due to the 2012 Newtown killings. The rate of decline from 2012-2013 is very similar to the rate from 2010-2011.

The President conveniently "forgot" to give any authentic sources for his fuzzy facts.

13. "And the evidence tells us that in states that require background checks, law-abiding Americans don’t find it any harder to purchase guns whatsoever."

Truth: Analysis of NICS flags (denials to purchase) in 2009 show about 94% of the flags were false. Described another way, out of 71,010 initial denials, 77 people were prosecuted for attempting to illegally purchase a firearm.

14. "The evidence tells us that in states that require background checks, law-abiding Americans don’t find it any harder to purchase guns whatsoever. Their guns have not been confiscated. Their rights have not been infringed."

Truth: in California, in particular, laws passed in 2013 and 2015 have resulted in seizures of legally purchased firearms, sometimes due to complaints filed by parties who had other disputes with the firearm owners. Veteran Rick Bailey had his firearms seized after a neighbor filed a harassment charge against Bailey as a result of Bailey's complaints to the city about the neighbor's waste disposal business.
The 2015 law allows local authorities to seize guns for up to 21 days while a determination is made as to whether the gun owner is fit to possess them.

15. "When it comes to an inherently deadly weapon -- nobody argues that guns are potentially deadly -- weapons that kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, Congress actually voted to make it harder for public health experts to conduct research into gun violence; made it harder to collect data and facts and develop strategies to reduce gun violence. Even after San Bernardino, they’ve refused to make it harder for terror suspects who can’t get on a plane to buy semi-automatic weapons."

Truth: according to the FBI, there were 8,124 murders with firearms in the US in 2014. There were 721 justifiable homicides.
According to the CDC, in 2014 there were 586 accidental shootings and 21,334 suicides with firearms. This is a grand total of 30,765 deaths caused with a firearm in 2014. Oddly enough, this is less than the number of traffic fatalities (33,736) and considerably less than poisoning fatalities (42,032). and even a bit less than deaths from unintentional falls (31,959), but the President refuses to call for more "common-sense" regulations of motor vehicles, deadly chemicals and ladders. Where is the outrage?

Those "terror suspects" the President references include US National News Anchors who travel worldwide. You know- to report stories. Because that's their job.

16. "Number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions."

Truth: anyone who sells functional modern firearms (made after 1899) must have a license and comply with state background check law, which either requires a per-transaction background, or that the purchaser hold a firearm permit which required a background check, depending on the state. President Obama does not specifically state that businesses selling firearms currently may not possess FFLs, but he does insinuate it.

17. "We’re also expanding background checks to cover violent criminals who try to buy some of the most dangerous firearms by hiding behind trusts and corporations and various cutouts."

Truth: trusts can be set up to make firearms purchase and transfer easier and less hassle, but a violent criminal (any felon or someone convicted of domestic violence) may still not legally purchase or use any modern firearm.

18. "We're going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis."

Truth: FFLs are required to report lost or stolen firearms within 48 hours.

19. "We’re going to ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check system, and remove barriers that prevent states from reporting relevant information."

Truth: what the President is describing is a violation of current Federal law. "Mental health records" are protected just like any other medical information, and the fact that the President wants to take your confidential information and put it in government databases should alarm everyone. The Department of Health and Human Services has already clarified that health providers are allowed to give patient information to " law enforcement, family members of the patient, or other persons, when you believe the patient presents a serious danger to himself or other people".

Some veterans are already losing their firearms or are being denied firearms purchases because of VA reporting, such as veteran John Arnold being entered into NICS as ineligible after he suffered a stroke. President Obama wants to expand this reporting, which is already clearly causing problems for some fully competent lawful Americans.

20. "Nearly two in three gun deaths are from suicides."

Truth: this is absolutely true, and it's nice that President Obama managed to say at least one true statement during this recitation of lies, insinuations, and half-truths. Mr. Obama does not, however, mention that only half of suicides are committed with firearms. What about the rest, Mr. President?

So, there you have it. There are even more untrue or, at best, deceptive statements in what President Obama said, but I'm just too tired to point out any more, and if you're honest, you've already been convinced that the President is deliberately lying to the American people. He does want to restrict your firearms freedoms, he does not want you to have capable modern firearms, and he is perfectly willing to take your confidential medical information and put it in a Federal database, which we have seen even this year is fully susceptible to access by hackers. Because screw freedom.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Late Shopping

It's three days until Christmas, and you're almost out of time.  What to do?

It may already be too late for some options, but Amazon may still save you.

It's hard to go wrong with a good water bottle, and Camelback makes a very good one.  Mine lasted for several years of use.  Pay no attention to the rumors that its demise were hastened by putting beer in it on more than one occasion.

When you care about people, you want to help them through the dark places.  The little Fenix and Pelican lights are good ways to do that.

The Fenix is a very compact, inexpensive light that's good for keychains.

The Pelican is an exceptionally good light that is slightly larger and more expensive, with a push button on/off.  It's suited for pocket carry, and still economical.

The Boker Magnum Li'l Friend Micro is a tiny, cute knife for less than $20.  It has 440A steel, which isn't great but also isn't terrible on a knife that will probably be mostly used for opening mail.  The Li'l Friend comes with a ball bead chain for neck carry, or it can be put on keys, or carried in or on packs.  This is a useful small knife for things you don't need bigger knives for.  It's also a good gateway drug to begin to acclimate people who are afraid of tools.

The Kershaw Cryo is a very nice folder with a "flipper" at an attractive price.  Smooth scales, "deep carry" pocket clip, and relatively thin despite heavy duty construction mean you can carry this even in nice pants at most jobs.

The Byrd brand is Spyderco's super bargain line of knives, made in the PRC with Spyderco quality control.  The consumer gets Spyderco quality and ergonomics for what you would expect to pay for a crappy Winchester knife.  The Cara Cara is the Byrd version of Spyderco's very popular and strong but light for size Endura.  It's a bargain for less than $25.00

The smaller, Delica-sized Meadowlark  is less than $20. 

If you have more discretionary income, the Spyderco Manix 2 LW black is my favorite folding knife in the entire world.  It is light and strong, has good steel that resharpens extremely easily, is fast into action, and has a good grip but won't eat your pants like G10 models can.  Not "cheap" at a bit over $70, but I think still a bargain for what you get.

As a last resort, you can always email them an Amazon gift card.  That way, you know they'll have it on Christmas.

Happy Holidays, y'all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I knew veterans, growing up.  My mother’s father had served in the Army Air Corps in World War II.  My mother’s stepfather had been a sailor in the same conflict.  My father’s father had been a Soldier in World War II, and my father’s older brother had fought in Korea as a paratrooper.  I admired the service of these men, and eagerly listened anytime they felt like talking about their experiences.  My maternal grandfather had been a navigator on bombers, and his stories mostly involved pleasant experiences in the air and while training in Florida.  My paternal grandfather was a man of his hands, and he would talk about the guns he used, and what they could do, while my mother’s stepfather never talked about his service.  My mother explained that he had served on destroyers, and was haunted by the screams of men who had drowned when their sealed compartment had flooded.  Service clearly left survivors with stories, but some of them no-one would want.

I was very interested in the service, but was talked out of joining when I was nearing high school graduation.  I went into the civilian workforce.  When I was about 28, I again considered enlisting, but decided military service would not help me further my goals.

I had been working for a telecom company for several years by September of 2001.  On the morning of September 9, one of my coworker friends called me as I was about to leave for work.  He said a light airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  I headed into work.
At the call center, we had overhead monitors hung where they were visible by everyone.  Most of the time, the monitors displayed call center stats or regional information, but today they played the news.  We saw the second airplane go in moments after it happened, and then saw it from different angles as more footage came in.  We hoped and prayed for the lives of thousands trapped in the enormous buildings as they burned, and then crumbled.  As the events of the day continued to unfold, I fielded many calls that my care reps were struggling to handle.  I found myself explaining again and again to callers desperate to reach friends and family in New York the problems we were facing: a phone system flooded with calls, antennas lost on the World Trade Center, and available signal in use by thousands of emergency responders. 

When the day was over, I waited to see what my country’s leadership would do.  I admired President Bush’s strong stance, while being alarmed at his “with us or against us” national rhetoric.  I waited to see if we would take substantive action, or just fire some cruise missiles as token retribution for our thousands of innocent dead.  I supported a strong national response, believing that forceful action was necessary to deter future attacks on my civilian countrymen.

When it became clear that the US would respond with major force, I went to talk to a recruiter.  The recruiters looked at my test scores, and suggested high-tech specialties, but I knew what I wanted.  A new young soldier at the recruiting station tried to persuade me to choose Psychological Operations, telling me the day of the foot soldier had passed.  I knew better.

Superior vehicles make a difference.  Air superiority can crush infrastructure.  But winning a war, now and in the foreseeable future, requires Soldiers on the ground.  I arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia for Basic Training the month before my 30th birthday.

Service is a gift, and a burden.  Service members may be called upon to give their everything, and are expected to do it without question.  In return, we get a family that will die for us, if need be.  We forge bonds that will last a lifetime.  We see places, and do great things, and boring things, and horrible things, and at the end of the day, we have our conscience and our duty.

War is mud and blood, months of boredom and work, and seconds and minutes of adrenaline, muscles screaming as they are pushed to the limit to enable an overwhelming response to silence the enemy, and protect our brothers and sisters in uniform. 

I know a lot of things I didn’t know when I enlisted.  I learned that pain alone is not reason to quit, that I have mental and physical reserves that can carry me if I build them up, and that I have to stay strong enough to carry my fellow Soldiers.  I learned that training is better than raw courage, that you always need more water than you thought, and that a good plan executed at the right time beats a great plan that starts too late.  I learned that two soldiers are four times as effective as one, SPORTS, General Order Number One.

I learned that I was weaker than I had thought, and much stronger.  I learned that I would never be truly alone, that if I ever became separated from my team, millions of my countrymen would keep looking for me until I was found.  I learned that officers eat last.  I learned that some of the toughest soldiers need an encouraging word now and then.  I will never stop learning, because there is always more to learn, but I know the most important things.

My name is John, and I am a Soldier of the United States of America.