NRA: Shoot the bad guys for double points!

There is so much to say about today’s NRA statement in relation to the Sandy Hook shooting. But let us start with this. The NRA blames the shooting on a culture of violence. They call out video games (specific ones, I guess you know who your friends are now!), media, the government. It’s actually a pretty comprehensive (if slight) overview of the complex problems of childhood and games and television and mental health and the economy. I’d say bravo for recognizing that the issue is shades of grey upon shades of grey. Except…

Ironically, their answer is to present the fix to society’s ills as a video game:

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Wayne LaPierre, NRA Lobbyist

Bad guys. And good guys. Shoot the bad guys to save the children.

Well, I have some black and white rhetoric for you, too, Mr. LaPierre.

What is safer than a good guy in a school with a loaded firearm? No firearms. Not for good guys. Not for bad guys. Leave the firearms to the professionals who need them.

You should not have a gun

I heard about the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, hours after it happened. I was flying East that day, and hadn’t checked in with the news. I don’t know anyone involved, but I have two boys in elementary school, one a six-year-old first grader. I have been sad, confused, and angry in turns, sometimes all at once.

It has been several days, and I think I’ve come to some… conclusions about what I think. Buckle up.

First off, mental illness is a terrible problem. Unlike with guns, it is an almost unfathomably complicated topic, of enormous importance, that I am completely unqualified to speak to. I do think that, as a country, we should be able to tackle both guns and mental illness. Both clearly need the attention.

But, on guns, I think this:

  • I believe that people should only have access to guns if their profession requires it. Yeah, I’m a little left of Liberal on this. But there is no reason, in a civilized society, for individuals to own guns for any sort of recreational purpose. None. Try your best to give me a reason. I like them doesn’t count. I grew up with guns doesn’t count. I need to defend myself (from other people with guns) doesn’t count. I’m part of a well-regulated militia and I need them to defend myself from a future totalitarian/socialist government. Really? Guns kill, and you can’t tell me that killing is an acceptable end goal. Punto final.

  • If you own a gun for recreational purposes, I will be civil to you (lest you, you know, shoot me), but I will not be your friend. My children will not play at your house. You had better tell me now, and get it over with. You can unfriend me and we can go our separate ways. My children and I will be safer.

Sure, a full-on firearms ban will never fly in this country. I understand the practical problems with my stance. A ban on assault weapons, or on high-capacity magazines, or on bullets, is likely to be much more successful. But I remain convinced that you do not need a gun. You should not have a gun. You are not safer with a gun. I am not safer if you have a gun.

Gun-related deaths in 2010 in the United States, from the CDC:

  • unintentional firearm deaths: 606
  • homicide firearm deaths: 11,078
  • suicide firearm deaths: 19,392
  • total firearm deaths: 31,672

Gun related non-suicide deaths per 100,000 people:

  • United States, 2008-2010: 3.97
  • France, 2009: 0.68 (17.1% of US total)
  • Italy, 2009: 0.47 (11.8%)
  • Australia, 2008: 0.26 (6.5%)
  • Germany, 2010: 0.16 (4%)
  • United Kingdom, 2011: 0.07 (1.7%)
  • Norway, 2010: 0.06 (1.5%)

Yes, in the US, you are 56 times more likely to die from a gun than in the UK. That does not include suicides.

Once they come out of hiding, the NRA will trot out all their usual tropes: guns don’t kill people, gun safety training is very important, everyone should have gun locks, or gun safes, or unloaded guns, or something that makes your gun safer.

You know what is more effective than gun safety training? Not having a gun. You know what is more effective than gun locks? Not having a gun. You know what is more effective than gun safes? Not having a gun.

You know what is safer than having a gun? Not having a gun.

A Tax on People Who Are Bad at Math

Here is what is annoying about the lottery. If the two people who won yesterday had played the Powerball Simulator twice a week for the equivalent of 7,000 years (like I did yesterday), they would not have won (like I did not win). Then they would have said to themselves, “Self, them is some bad odds. I’m gonna go watch some TV.”

Arr. Probability, I hate you.

Make it easier for me, Amazon!

Went to buy something at Amazon tonight, and decided they really need to let us add a nickname or notes to our payment methods. I’d like to call my payment methods “Golf card” and “Regular card” and “White card,” but instead all I get to distinguish my credit cards are the last four numbers, which mean virtually nothing to me, but it mean a whole lot to my banks, and to my likelihood of having enough funds to buy what I wanted to buy tonight. Instead, I have to laboriously haul out the wallet. Make it easier for me, Amazon!

No more twitter here

I’m done. At least, I’m done with trying to include all my Twitticisms on this blog. You’ll just have to go to Twitter to get them (see the footer for directions). It was too… not easy, to keep them all here, and there, and display them nicely. So, screw it.

But, here are all my Tweets. Someone warn me when I start reaching 3200?

Dear Apple, do you hate my family?

Just “watched” Apple’s latest from their Worldwide Developers Conference, and they announced a lot of cool things, but they have left me, in the end, worried.

In a nutshell, Apple hates me (us).

Right now, we have one Mac, two iPhones and an iPad in the family (with another iPad on the way, we expect). We have music, movies, games, apps, etc. on all of these devices. (Note, “device” now includes Macs, as per Apple’s new nomenclature.) We have one happy Apple ID, and that Apple ID is tied to our service contracts for our hardware, our music purchases, our app purchases, and our device profiles. With so many devices, you’d think we’d pay a fortune buying songs for each one!

But Apple (or the old Apple, at least) was nice about this. Using our one Apple ID on all of our devices, we could buy an app once, or a song once, and use it on all our devices. They all connected to one account (on iTunes on the Mac) and if I didn’t want the iPad (which the kids use a lot) to have certain songs, or certain apps, then I could choose to leave them off. On subsequent connections, iTunes remembered that the iPad doesn’t get Cee Lo’s original recording, that my iPhone doesn’t get Sesame Street Live, and that my wife’s iPhone doesn’t get Solomon’s Keep.

Apple loved me and my family.

But now, I am not so sure.

Everything they just described today seems tied directly to your Apple ID. When I get a new iPhone, all I have to do is enter my Apple ID and my password, and whoosh, all my stuff is dropped in from the iCloud. And when I get a new iPad, whoosh! And when my wife gets a new iPhone, whoo..ait a minute. Does she have to have her own Apple ID? If she uses mine (ours) does she get all my (our) stuff? What if she doesn’t want that music, or those apps? What if I don’t want her (or the kids) to have that? Does all my mail show up on her phone? If we use the new iMessage (also tied to Apple ID, I think) are we just talking to ourselves?

No problem, you say, Apple IDs are free! She can get her own. And one for each of the kids, too! (And the dogs!) Okay, but then, does she have to buy all her own apps? Her own music? Has the gravy train come to a screeching halt?

Cause if that’s the case, you better betcha iCloud is free, buddy, since I’ll be spending beaucoup bucks catching all my “devices” up to where they were before the magic happened.

Here’s hoping they didn’t show us some kind of profile feature in iCloud.

One of the reasons I hate the conservatives

I was bitching this morning to my wife about the recent O’Donnell/Coons debate where she insisted the Constitution did not preclude the government from influencing religious preference, and about the conservative reaction to what she said (She’s right! It doesn’t actually say “separation of Church and State” in the Constitution!), and my seven year-old couldn’t really follow me, so I came up with an analogy. I paraphrase it here for an older audience, with Ms. O’Donnell and Mr. Coons standing in for the conservative response to our ridicule of her, and sanity, respectively:

O’Donnell: Is the sky blue?

Coons: Well, sure, but sometimes it is pink, and orange, sometimes it is black, or a really dark blue, and when it is cloudy, it’s gray, or white…

O’Donnell: So you’re saying the sky is not blue?

Coons: Well, it looks blue, but that’s actually the light reflecting off particles in the atmos…

O’Donnell: Is this the kind of person you want as your Senator? A man who says the sky is not blue?

Coons: Um…

O’Donnell: These are the basic truths that the Democrats deny! The hardworking workers of working America know the sky is blue. Yet you and your Government impose your views on what we know is undeniable. The sky, it is blue!

Coons: Fuck you.

The previous statements are not actually by Ms. O’Donnell or Mr. Coons, as I think she came off better in the above than in the actual debate.

Dumb Challenge Questions

So, my place of employment (a quick Google search should clear up the mystery) has just implemented challenge questions for their new password retrieval system. Now, on top of auto-expiring our passwords every six months (Grrr!), we are required to know the answers to odd questions. This is becoming common practice everywhere, so I guess there’s no getting away from it. But other places (like my bank) let me choose two questions from a list of thirty or so. Not here. No, I must provide:

  1. My favorite historical figure.
  2. My best friend in grade school.

No choices, those are the questions.

They do let you create your own challenge questions, too, but you must also fill out the two they require. So, while some of you may be able to nail down your favorite historical figure, and some of you may have kept in touch with some chum from when you were seven (and I expect the misbegotten programmer who chose these two questions can do both), I can’t, and I haven’t. Which means, I have to choose a historical figure, and designate him or her as “likely to have been picked as my favorite”. Same with my grade school pal.

Of course, the obvious answer for the historical figure is Jesus, and I would be willing to bet that a large majority of our white, Christian community has chosen Jesus. For that matter, the answer to the second question could readily be Jesus, too. Which led me to think about the two DIY challenge questions, and how I might make it easier on myself if I should forget my password…

  1. My favorite historical figure: Jesus
  2. My best friend in grade school: Jesus
  3. The Son of God: Jesus
  4. The answer to all these damn questions: Jesus

Try it, you might get lucky.

The problem with Google

I do love me Google. A lot. I use it exclusively, and whenever I present to the hoi polloi on “Searching teh Intarwebs” I use Google to do it. But there is one thing they need to fix, between adding more one boxes and putting little arrows at the end of my customized search results. They need a decent timeline selector.

Often, and more often lately, when I search for something, I want to know what Google has found for this in the last day, or two days, or week, or not this week, but last week, but not as long ago as last month. And there is no easy way to do this.

Sure, there’s the Advanced Search, with its limited selection of dates. Or I can use the News filter, or the Blogs filter, but none of that would be as easy to use, or as accurate, as a handy slider. Google has many examples in their own products of temporal selectors, from the stocks charts in Finance to the calendar pickers in Analytics. It is time to bring one of those to the mothership, Big G.

Courtesy of US Airways

Today I am flying to Philadelphia for a brief weekend visit with my parents and a couple of my sisters. Or rather, I am trying to.

Let me preface all of this with a warning so dire, you would be foolhardy to ignore it: fly not on US Airways.

This morning, while I was relaxing at home, wife safely off to work, children in her care for the next 54 hours, I got a call. It was a recording, and I almost hung up in a reflex honed during this past electoral season.

But just as soon as I had determined that this was not a Real Person on the other end, a multi-phonic chime of the sort you hear in an airport told me that while not Real, this was probably a call I should listen to. US Airways was informing me that my flight had been cancelled. Nothing else beyond an 800 number if, IF!, I had any questions. Like, what was I supposed to do now?

The young woman on the other end of the 800 number helpfully got me a seat on another flight leaving at 2:30, two hours later than my original, arriving in Philadelphia at 9:30, five hours later than I was supposed to be there, with a stop in Washington, DC. Did I want that flight, she asked helpfully. And I refrained from suggesting that my other option seemed to be handing her my ticket money and staying home.

When I got to the airport, I was informed that my 2:30 flight was now going to be taking off at 4:00, and that I might have to run in DC. This with a helpful smile.

In the end, the flight wasn’t so bad once I got off the ground. Reagan National Airport even managed to provide a vanilla milkshake in the terminal, which can’t be all bad. I sat next to a nice young woman from a company called… Vangard? Vagrant? I thought I’d remember it, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Vagrant. And then next to a very serious young man in a suit, who reminded me a little frighteningly of Pee Wee Herman crossed with Tim Roth. He spent the whole flight in zen-crazy mode, hands flat on his thighs, staring straight ahead. Though I did catch him nodding off a little.