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.