Friday, June 29, 2007
This Day in the History of Screwups
Whatcha Readin'? Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
Anyway, the book was published anonymously in 1912 (The edition I read was the reprint from 1970 and acknowledged openly in an introduction that the book was fictional--it also named Johnson as the author) and purported to be the story of a man born just after the Civil War to a young white Southern aristocrat and a former slave. The father moves the mother and child to Connecticut and the boy progresses to the middle grades in school before he finds out that he is one of the "negroes" in the class (I'll let you read the scene of discovery yourself--it actually mirrors a very old comedy routine, which only makes it nastier.)
I've read some autobiography from that period, like Frederick Douglass' account, but this one comes at things from a different angle. The protagonist has the option, right around the turn of the 20th century, of either using his considerable talents to bring credit to black people in America and thus help "build a race" . . . . . or, on account of his complexion, to pass as a white man and make a pile of money. Most good character-driven fiction comes from putting people into impossible positions like this and forcing them to make choices, and this one works.
The title is a grabber, to be sure. I'd never heard of this book or of Johnson, but I happened to notice the title as I wandered around the public library. If you read it in public, be prepared to discuss it with everyone you meet. I had a very good discussion my dentist between the time she expressed shock at the title and the time I couldn't talk anymore.
Aside from the racial questions he tries to address (always a big deal for an American audience whether it's 1912, 1970 or 2007) the most intriguing part of the narrative is the continuous thread of music--and this is something I haven't read any of the scholars addressing. Johnson was well-known as a composer and musician in New York, and so is his fictional counterpart. As a boy, growing up in Connecticut, he is known as a musical prodigy playing classical music. After he discovers that he's one of the "negroes" at his integrated school, he continues to play that music--but when his mother dies and he makes his way south and then to New York, he discovers rag time music and it becomes his total passion. He believes rag time is one of the only genuine American artistic innovations (it was--it became jazz--but saying so in 1912 was a bold prediction for Johnson) and is proud that it was developed by black musicians. He notes, for instance, that in Paris he heard rag time called "American music" more often than not, while in America it was still widely unknown outside large cities. During this time, when he's trying to make his way as a "negro" but still make a success of himself, he makes a name as a musician by blending rag time and classical music concepts, reinterpreting classical music in rag time style.
Near the end of the narrative, he makes his Faustian deal and decides to "pass." He'll become a white man. What finally seals his fate and makes it impossible for him to go back is falling in love with a beautiful white woman with an amazing singing voice--whom he woos by playing Chopin and his own classical compositions. No more rag time.
Even as the tale ends, the complexity of the choices he's made never lets up. It never becomes simple. At the end, he manages to be happy and regretful at the same time, in a believable way. This is something a lot of authors have their characters say, but it doesn't always ring true. You'll believe it in this story.
Anyway, this is a good read whether you really want to think about all the social implications or not. If you read it, though, he's going to break your heart several times. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Sitemeter is addictive
The "Referrals" page at Sitemeter is my favorite, though. I've even found some spots I didn't know existed, like MissouriCarry.com. That's a big help for me, because Missouri is the only state I visit regularly with a concealed carry permit (my CCW is no good in my home state--more on that later.)
Most of the search result referrals are about what you'd expect. People searching for "Illinois gun works" and "Dan Kotowski" get sent here (this page is one spot higher on the Google front page than Dan Kotowski's loving Wikipedia homage, and that's hilarious.)
Well, this morning, somebody Googled the phrase "investigate people questions they ask to school staff" at the British version of Google (www.google.co.uk) and found out that this blog is the internet's number one source for . . . . well, something. So they visited. I hope they found something interesting, and I hope they were just trying to investigate good schools and not under investigation. That would be no fun at all, but then again, I could be getting visits from wannabe pedophiles the way Ambulance Driver did.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Correcting Jesse Jackson
"I think people have the right to bear arms at a hunting reserve. But you're not hunting deer with semi-automatic weapons," Jackson said in a phone interview.
Luckily enough, Jesse, you don't make the rules, and nobody has to give a fig that you think "bear arms" means "go on a canned hunt on a preserve."
And by the way, Jesse, you don't know what the word "semi-automatic" means--and you're embarrassing yourself. I hunted deer with a semi-automatic weapon for years when I was a boy--it was a Remington 1100 Lightweight Youth. My grandpa still uses a full-size Model 1100 for deer every year.
If you want to have any credibility on guns, Jesse, call your local range and sign up for an NRA safety course as a bare minimum.
Monday, June 25, 2007
"Legitimate" Fortune-Tellers Only . . . .
It was bound to happen. In Salem, Massachusetts, the established, "legitimate" fortune tellers are upset that upstarts from out of town are allowed to share in the racket. Apparently Barnum was wrong; suckers are in limited supply and protectionist legislation is indicated. The established hucksters are going so far as to tell the city council that some of these newcomers might be—and I’m not saying I believe this slander, mind you, but—well . . . . faking their psychic readings. Unlike the responsible, trained, highly educated psychics who have worked so hard to represent their honorable profession in Salem, these newcomers may be incapable of using tea leaves and tarot cards to tell you what your dead grandmother thinks of your boyfriend. Shocking, I know.
I wish I were making this up, but I’m not: One of the psychics describes having to do a “genuine” psychic reading for a police officer before getting her license. Another describes having to use her aura-detecting machine to correct the damage done by an out-of-towner who’d told a client that her aura was black (you’ll be relieved to know that her aura was actually “blue and beautiful.”)
“Salem Struggles to Sort Out ‘Psychic Free-For-All’”
“Fortune Tellers Did Not See Dead Raccoons, Car Vandalism in Salem’s Future”
Tip of the hat to James Randi, who notes in all seriousness that if any of these psychics are able to do the things they claim, they could simply demonstrate their powers and collect a cool $1,000,000 from the James Randi Educational Foundation.Somehow I think the money is safe for another day.
Mawwage . . .
"NEPOTISM!" I can hear some of you declaring shrilly. Well, you are wrong, sirs und madames. Here's what set the Steve and Sarah wedding apart and won the coveted prize:
- Sanity. A small, casual wedding held in a beautiful, shady backyard. No band, no frantic last-minute crises. Two groomsmen (Steve's brothers, Daryl and Daryl) and two bridesmaids. Kids allowed to play, guests in shorts.
- No DJ, no band. Here's a crazy idea--let's NOT pay a stranger to play the Chicken Dance and Cotton Eye Joe. Let's just put the speakers next to the kegs and pop in a CD of music the bride and groom actually like. We won't get to see grandma's face when "Smack My Bitch Up" comes on, but there are always costs to any plan.
- No drunk idiots. Beer was enjoyed by many, but nobody got drunk and yelled anything unfortunate in front of my kids. I liked that. We were among the last of the old folks/parents to trickle out about dusk or so, and the "All My Rowdy Friends" set was arriving as we left. I'm sure the kegs were empty and the staggering was mighty by midnight, but that's their business. My kids were home in bed by that time.
- Most importantly, I don't think there was one person at this wedding who didn't have fun and wasn't happy for Steve and Sarah. It's hard to stay bitter and bitchy when you're eating wedding cake in the grass on a beautiful day.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Snuffy and JJ Show On Hiatus
The death threat thing is so two weeks ago. Srsly u guyz, it has been done to death.
So all that left was to go in and get arrested. So they did.
Chicago Tribune Story with Video
Chicago ABC Channel 7 Story with Video
These two say John (the gun shop's owner) invited them inside, but they "feared for their safety." Uh huh. They also claim that they didn't block the entrance and that John "pushed Reverend Jackson." Their stories don't add up. While Pfleger was telling the TV cameras that the complaint said he entered the property, but he "never entered anything, I was on a sidewalk" his partner JJ was telling others that "the police believe he (John Riggio) has the right to lock us out."
If Pfleger were telling the truth, then Jackson's summary of the police position would be all wrong. He, too, would be protesting that they never entered "anything," not saying that he thought he was within his rights to do so. It's enough to make you wonder whether "property," like "snuff," is a word Father Pfleger never learned in school. Does he think property refers only to the building?
Well, whatever. John got to see Snuffy and JJ frog-marched off his property in handcuffs, which is a good day no matter how you slice it. And Pfleger and Jackson got to spend precious minutes surrounded by attentive reporters, so they're probably still breathing in contented little sighs, too.
Kotowski Death Threats Pt. 3: The Press Release
Anyway, here it is. Although Illinois Reason got this from Rich Miller, I don't think Miller posted the whole thing for public view, so I'm getting it from IR:
Illinois State Senator Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) says threatening phone calls, faxes, and letters his office received during the past few months were handed over to local law enforcement including the Illinois State Police.
Kotowski says, “When someone calls my office saying, ‘I have a gun. I am going to come and kill you’, I have to worry about my safety, and the safety of our staff.” Kotowski added, “That is why I followed proper procedure and forwarded any correspondence with threatening material to the Illinois State Police.”
A recent release by the Illinois State Rifle Association accuses Kotowski of infringing on the First Amendment Rights of our citizens but Kotowski says this is ridiculous and irresponsible. “You won’t find a bigger advocate for free speech in the legislature, but someone’s right to free speech stops when they threaten to kill you.”
Kotowski and his office staff received threats during the first few months of the Spring Legislative Session, most of which specifically referred to his sponsorship of gun safety legislation. “If Illinois State Rifle Association members were as law abiding and anti crime as they claim, then they would be the first to condemn these threats and help to champion the cause for measures designed to get guns away from those with criminal intent.”
Kotowski concluded, “I believe that everyone should have a voice in the legislative process, but the ISRA does their membership no favors by perpetuating suspicious threats, and standing up for those who have misguided intentions.”
I love the part where the ISRA should prove that it opposes assassination for political gain by joining Kotowski in sponsoring more gun control. Yeah, that would work.“I believe that everyone should have a voice in the legislative process, but the ISRA does their membership no favors by perpetuating suspicious threats, and standing up for those who have misguided intentions.”
Wait, what? Do you suppose Kotowski intended to accuse the ISRA of supporting and "perpetuating" (or the English-language equivalent) the people doing the threatening? And again, all this assumes there were any threats made in the first place, which Danny Boy still refuses to prove. The ISRA has so far supported and "perpetuated" one guy--Tom-of-the -Mysterious-Last-Name. They haven't supported anybody making any threats whatsoever. Kotowski wasn't in the Senate the last time a Senator claimed to have received death threats from a fanatical, evil gun nut, but I wouldn't be surprised if he'd been in the conference room that day as the President of the ICHV. If he was there, then he heard the ISRA's lobbyist , Todd Vandermyde, address the crowd of hundreds of the hardest-core activists in the Illinois pro-gun-rights movement. Unlike the other side, we weren't getting paid to be there; we had taken days off on short notice and driving ourselves to Springfield from all over the state. Vandermyde was the only "pro" or "staffer" in the room on our side.
The disgust and dismay in that crowd when we were told that a legislator had been threatened was palpable. The anger when we found out that we'd been lied to and the "threat" was no real threat wasn't exactly minor, either.
Before anyone asks, yes, I have received death threats in the past and I do know what it's like. I'll grant you that Kotowski has a lot higher profile than I do, and I wouldn't blame him at all if he considered threats against him more serious than the ones I've gotten over the years, but that does not excuse using any threat he may actually receive as an excuse to send cops out to tell innocent people that they should "stop sending FAXes to Senator Kotowski."
Any way you slice it, that last bit is a HUGE allegation. I'd like to see Kotowski's evidence that the ISRA in any way supported, directed, or encouraged anyone to threaten to hurt Kotowski, his family, or anyone else. Let's see it, Danny Boy--unless that was unintentional, in which case a simple acknowledgment and change would do fine.
Kotowski Death Threats, Pt. 2
The gentleman who came forward after he was visited by the ISP provided some details to the NRA's "Cam & Company" radio show. Unfortunately, so far, I haven't been able to get transcripts, so I still don't know how to spell the gentleman's name. It sounds like "Tom Wardshaw" on the recording I heard. The replays are only live on the NRA News website for one day, but if I can get transcripts I'll try to get permission to repost them here in full. I did take some notes, and here's what I was able to get from the one interview I got to hear. These are paraphrased, but I'll post the notes unchanged in the comments. There's not much to them.
1. ISP detectives showed up on Tom's doorstep and asked to interview him. They asked questions about his mental health history, whether he took drugs for depression, that sort of thing. Basically, "Hello, sir. Are you the kind of violent wacko who would threaten to kill a guy for sponsoring a lousy law?"
"Why, no sir, I am not. But thanks a bunch for asking! Hugs!"
2. Tom stated:
”Uh, they didn’t say exactly who sent them, but they did tell me . . . . that I should stop faxing Senator Kotowski.” In other words, according to Tom, his FAXes were the issue as far as the ISP detectives were concerned, at least in Tom's case. Now, several bloggers, including Illinois Reason and Rich Miller at The Capitol Fax, have said that the ISRA is way off on this one because the FAXes were not the issue. Instead, they say, Kotowski was actually threatened by phone by other people. Well, that's just dandy as a reason to investigate Tom if and only if Kotowski or the ISP thought maybe Tom made the threatening phone calls or knew who did. But to hear Tom tell it, he wasn't asked about any of that. He was only asked about himself and warned about his FAXes. If I can ever find out this poor guy's name, maybe I can find out more about what happened from the horse's mouth. Whether the detectives liked or disliked their jobs that day, they seem to have had a clear understanding that their job was at least in part to warn Tom that his FAXes were bringing him the bad kind of attention. Of course, all this depends on the assumption that Tom is telling the truth.
3. Tom also states that his state Senator, Sen. Althoff, told him that the investigation "didn't amount to much" and that the investigators visited "over 500" other households. I'm not sure what to think of that; it doesn't strike me as reassuring. It also raises new questions--how many detectives does it take to make that many visits? How long does it take? Out of 500 people visited, did only one think to call the ISRA? What happened to to the others? Were they too intimidated to make a fuss, or were they all guilty, or is something else at work here? Let's hope it's not just apathy. I did get a gracious email from Sen. Althoff's office with her cell number, but I'll wait to call her until this afternoon. I hate to call on a saturday at all, but what are you gonna do?
4. Tom also claims that Danny Boy Kotowski called him at home to discuss his first few FAXes. He says Kotowski was polite and gave him the standard "Hey, let's just compromise until you don't have any guns anymore" speech. Pretty standard stuff among politicians, who often don't seem to get that this is not a game of Pokemon to see which party gets the most cards. For those of us who don't sit on $900 toilet seats, this is the real world, and the bills these people trade around like baseball cards have real-world consequences.
The next post will have Kotowski's press release.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I'm All A-Twitter Over Here
At that protest two weeks ago, Father Snuffy told the crowd they should drag John Riggio out of his legal place of business and "snuff him." Father Pfleger says he doesn't know what "snuff" means; he thought he was saying they would expose Riggio. Apparently they use an "exposer" instead of a "snuffer" to put out the candles in Snuffy's church.
But last week, Snuffy and Jesse took it on the road again and went right back to Chuck's Guns--because when you fall off a bicycle or openly call for the assassination of an innocent man, you've got to get right back on.
Now comes news that the Snuffy and Jesse Show is going back to Riverdale this weekend (June 23rd, I think.) I think there's a very real possibility that Snuffy and Jesse (or SNJ as the kids call them) can get through two peaceful demonstrations in a row without threatening anyone with brutal murder.
We may be seeing some real growth.
Dan Kotowski Better Have a Damn Good Explanation . . . .
ISRA Asks Senator Kotowski to Explain State Police Infringements on First Amendment Rights of Illinois Gun Owners
If you're not familiar with Dan Kotowski, that's OK. He's basically an anti-gun doofus who used to head the "Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (inexplicably abbreviated "ICHV" and not "ICAHV.") and managed to sneak into office as a state legislator here in Illinois. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to understand some of the rules of legislating in a republic. There's an important one that says voters get to tell their legislators what they think about legislation before legislators vote. Kotowski does NOT like that idea. It's hard to blame him for wanting to skip the comments from the peanut gallery, of course, after he got smacked down by the President of Armalite--at his own gun-hysteria press conference--for flat-out lying about Armalite's AR-50 rifles, but that's part of the job he signed up to do when he snuck into office. Theoretically, he's actually supposed to be representing all those unwashed proles, so theoretically, he should be taking their phone calls.
Danny Boy managed to tick off a whole lot of Illinois voters by pushing for lots and lots of onerous gun control . . . so lots of people sent him faxes and letters asking him to knock it off. He apparently is alleging that some of those people were threatening his august person, and going so far as to send detectives of the Illinois State Police to interview people at their homes.
The Illinois State Rifle Association seems to think that this means Kotowski is probably more interested in intimidating the voters into shutting up than anything else. Now, maybe Kotowski has some evidence to show that what he's done here is reasonable, but the ISRA has interviewed at least one person who was questioned by ISP detectives, and they seem convinced that he didn't do anything to warrant that scrutiny.
So at this point, the ball is in Danny Boy's court. Do you have any evidence, Danny? Anything at all? Or are you screwing the Illinois State Police AND Illinois voters?
This wouldn't be the first time we've gotten screwed by an anti-gun legislator telling bold lies about being threatened. A few years ago, during Dickie Daley's annual push for gun control, a hearing got postponed after hundreds of gun owners took off work to be there. The excuse was that a female legislator had been threatened. Todd Vandermyde actually felt it necessary to come out and tell the gathered crowd that death threats did not serve our cause. We all believed that some idiot had done something incredibly stupid and shamed us all. We were contrite.
Until we found out that the "death threat" was a message from a guy who told the legislator that she had spit on him by trying to take his guns and he would spit on her if the bill passed. Stupid, crude, even thuggish--but no threat of any kind of harm except to dignity.
John Ross, author of Unintended Consequences, recounts a similar tale with a somewhat more flamboyant character in Missouri during the fight for concealed carry in that state:
"In any event, Banks' opposition to our bill turned out to be more than superficial. A lot more. When it became obvious that the bill was going to pass in the Senate the next day (which was the last day of the session), that night he called the Highway Patrol and reported that one of the grassroots concealed carry supporters had threatened to kill him. The next morning the Capitol was crawling with Police and Highway Patrol, all armed and unsmiling. The Senate decided they couldn't act on the measure at "such a sensitive time." Five hours later the session was over for the year. I later discovered several things: First, the "death threat" came from the husband of Banks' goddaughter, a supporter of concealed carry who IIRC had had the foresight to tape the phone conversation, because the police immediately came a-knocking. His words were something like "You will lose all your credibility in the eyes of your fellow senators if you kill this bill." The police concluded that there had been a "misunderstanding" on Banks' part, but wouldn't charge him with filing a false police report."For the record, here's my threat to Danny Boy Kotowski: I'm going to see you booted out of your cushy legislative job in disgrace. Frankly, this is going to happen whether you produce any evidence of threats or not. I was resolved on this course long before this State Police issue came up; this is just another nudge. Enjoy your perks while you can, kiddo.
I'll tell you right now, Danny Boy, there's no sense sending the ISP after me. If they show up, I'll serve 'em lemonade on the porch and we'll have a good laugh at your expense while they get paid to smoke cigars and look at baby pictures. You know very well the average detective with the ISP can't stand you or the wishful thinking approach to crime control you stand for. (Now you've made me dangle a preposition, you little punk-pimple. Of all your misdeeds, history will record this as the blackest.)
I can't wait to see the evidence, Danny . . . . the clock is running.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Lawd, What a Woman!
Your Intrepid Hero: "Thanks, Honey!"
LML: "I also cleaned it out. And vacuumed."
YIH: "Wow . . . thanks, Honey!"
LML: "And I tried to put the book back in the glove box, but I couldn't."
*** Pregnant Pause ***
LML: "Because there was a huge wad of cash in the glovebox!"
YIH: "Oh, yeah!"
LML: "Why is there a huge wad of cash in the glovebox?"
LML: "Yes. Why?"
YIH: "Well, I told you I was saving up EMS paychecks . . . you know, to go to that course."
LML: "How much does 'that course' cost?"
YIH: "Uh . . . The Farnam course?"
LML: "Yes. How much does it cost?"
YIH: "Uh . . . about . . . . $400?"
YIH: "Do you want me to skip it?"
LML: "Nope. But I'm glad you locked the glovebox."
(There's a kiss here and it gets kind of mushy. You see, this is my Father's Day present. For Father's Day this year, I am allowed to save up my ambulance-driving paychecks to pay for a shooting course. I wanted to do LFI-1 this year, but I got around to it too late. This course is probably actually better for me, relatively untrained n00b that I am, but it's more expensive--and although I wouldn't have lied to her about it, I figured it would be easier to explain after the money order had been sent. That was dumb. She's a hell of a woman.)
Sunday, June 17, 2007
I made a lot of extravagant promises about sickness and health, and then we put on rings and had a party in a barn. It was a lot more appropriate than it sounds. Our twin sons even danced at our wedding, which probably sounds a little trashy to some of you, but they weren't our sons back then, so, you know, it's all very normal.
She's amazing. I don't really know why she married me, but she did. We agreed not to get each other presents, so today all I gave her was a bag of chocolate-chip cookies--I owed her one, 'cuz I demolished her super-secret stash the other day. Later this week, when she least expects it, though--BAM! Present city comin' down on ya. See, your wife can say she doesn't want a present on her anniversary, but she's still going to think about what you might get her. She's going to wonder whether you'll really refrain from buying a present this year. It's best if you don't.
Some time this week, I'll get out and go shooting. But today was my anniversary and Father's Day, and time just slips away too fast. Watching the baby change every day has made me realize that the boys are changing daily, too, even if I sometimes don't notice it. They're almost 11 years old now . . . . they'll be out on their own in no time. There will only be a few more Father's Days with my boys before they're my men.
Happy Father's Day
He and mom were down the road apiece this weekend, at the big antique show in Bloomington, IL. There's a slight link there to my Father's Day present, but more about that later. Instead, we took the kids out to lunch and decided on the spur of the moment to go see my grandparents. They played with the boys and the baby for hours and a good time was had by all. I went on call at 6:00 p.m., but so far nobody has had the bad manners to call for an ambulance.
I learned a lot from my dad over the years, but when you're young, you don't really know what learning is. You don't see it happening until you can look back at it. Dad taught me some important stuff, mostly by example. This was necessary because I never listened to a word he said. What did I learn?
1. Nothing is so bad you can't laugh, shake your head, and go back in and finish. When you've got the engine out of the car, it's almost ready to drop into the next one, and you realize the dipstick's on the wrong side, you can either curse and yell and wait a few weeks for the right oil pan, or you can laugh, shake your head, and get to work fabricating the part you need. The job isn't going to go away, so get it done.
2. A deal is a deal. This includes deals that turn out not to be something for nothing, deals that turn out to benefit the other guy more than you, and deals that turn out to have been bad ideas (note the plural.)
3. If you get shrill, you lose--and people are glad you lost.
4. When opportunity presents itself, grab it. If you're scared, you're probably on the right track.
5. Mind your own business and 90% of life's problems melt away like magic.
6. If you're a Fixer . . . . a guy who can Make Things Work . . . . there will always be a place for you somewhere no matter how much technology, society, or education change. Somebody's got to make the world go around so the eggheads have a place to theorize.
7. Don't be afraid to sit quietly with someone you love and just be near him. Comfortable silence is underrated. Awkward small talk is highly overrated.
8. You can get away with just about anything if you know how to smile with your eyes.
9. Nobody promised you a fair shake. You aren't going to get one by whining.
10. Find a good woman and make sure more than once before you marry her--and once you're married, it's your job to make sure she has a good life. No excuses, no whining. Stand by her, love her, respect her. Be a husband.
This one's important.
He's a hell of a dad, and what I said here is just the brief highlights. Happy Father's Day, dad. We'll get your present to you tomorrow. I'll give you all a hint tonight: Mermaids and Guns, two of dad's favorite things.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Radio Free New Jersey
Anyway, there's a blogger out there covering this and doing a better, more thoughtful job than I'm doing on Illinois. I found him through Oleg Volk (another guy you should be paying a lot of attention to!) and he's worth a look.
Radio Free Joizy Over Heah
When I was a bit younger, my mother worked for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. We live near Springfield, which the natives will try to tell you is the capital of Illinois (in which the capitol is located.) Every summer, Springfield hosts the Illinois State Fair, since, as the capital of Illinois, it includes the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Remember all that, there will be a test later.
Anyway, that year, mom was calling volunteers from other DNR offices around the state who had signed up to work at the DNR tent at the State Fair. DNR runs the "Conservation World" area of the fair--you can paddle French voyageur canoes, shoot BB guns, watch pro lumberjack shows--all the cool stuff. Mom called the Chicago office and spoke to a very nice young lady who was simply bubbling with enthusiasm:
Don's Mom: So, we'll see you on the 15th then?
Really Nice Chicago Lady: Perfect, I can't wait to get out of here for a few days.
DM: Is the city life wearing on you a little?
RNCL: No, I do love it here, but I'm really excited about this trip! I've never been out of the state before!
DM: . . . . uh . . . . well, you know we're talking about the Illinois State Fair, right?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Computer Geek Alpha Force Assemble!
Anyway, now I need a new computer, and I'm out of date. My wife's laptop is OK, but I'm getting broadband next week and I don't think this old workhorse is going to handle it so well. Just so you know how long I tend to keep things, I bought this desktop when I graduated college in 2000. It's a Compaq with a 533Mhz AMD Athlon K2, 512 Ram upgrade (PC100) and some no-name video card, power supply (the original was good for a whopping 85 watts!) In short, I've upgraded just about as far as I can. It still handles dialup internet (most of the time) and my photos. I don't need a monitor, speakers or printer--mine are awesome.
I don't play games and don't intend to start. Most of what I do won't stress any modern machine much. The only exception is that I want to edit video. I have a nice little digicam, two boys and a baby, but at the moment I don't have a good way to edit video into a nicer finished product.
So, I'm looking for just a desktop machine, nothing expensive, nothing fancy except that I need power to edit video. So I'm thinking dual-core Athlon X64's are cheap now and stuff, a gig of ram is cheap too, so how hard can it be?
Vote for one of these choices or supply your own:
1. Build my own. I've got a DVD +-RW drive sitting around in a case, a 160GB hard drive, and great peripherals. Buy a case, processor, RAM, vid card, etc. and build something.
2. Buy something cheap. I'm thinking about a refurbished Dell. I used to hate Dell, but Ogre swears by his, and when I looked into it, I found that the company actually tried very hard to make things right for Jack Weigand.
Right now, the manager at the Best Buy store where I worked is sensing a great disturbance in The Force, but my loyalty is directly tied to my employee discount. You charge me full price for my batteries and my PRIDE FC DVD sets, buddy, you're on your own.
. . . For Next Trick, I Offend You On Purpose
I really don't intend to insult anyone, but I know at least some of the good folks who read these words are going to be devout Christians. Unfortunately, the article linked above is too ridiculous not to be ridiculed, so I'm going to have to step up.
I'll let you read it for yourself . . . . but I just have to quote this one little tidbit:
A survey last year by the Pew Research Center found that 78 percent of Americans view the Bible as the word of God, though only 35 percent believe the Bible is literally true.
If I'm reading that right, then a little over half the people who said that the Bible is "the word of God" also said that it's not true. Now, it's possible that those are mostly people who rationalize their choice in some way, such as saying that God spoke to us through allegory, so that while the Bible reveals God's word, it is not "literally" true. But I can't shake the mental picture of some guy in his La-Z-Boy telling a pollster, "See, the thing about that is, this is the thing about that: the Bible is the revealed word of Yahweh, the omniscient and omnipotent Father and Creator of the universe. But, see, that guy lies like a cheap rug. He still owes me $5 I ain't never gonna see!"
Before anyone asks, most Christians would probably consider me an atheist. I call myself agnostic only because I don't actually deny that God exists; I simply don't believe in Him without evidence. I have friends who are Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews, and that's fine for them. I don't agree with them. I'm not looking to convert you to agnostic thought and I don't mind if you want to discuss--politely--your faith. Just don't be surprised that I don't share it. After all, if you're a Christian, for example, you probably aren't shocked that I don't have a prayer rug or a Koran. If you're a Jew, you probably don't think it's weird that I don't light incense to my ancestors or spin prayer wheels or sit in zazen meditation for hours and hours on end.
Even if you're the most devout believer in the world, you disbelieve in a lot more religions than you believe in. I just discount one more than a believer does.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Some days are weirder than others . . .
Anyway, sometimes we do the wrong thing without any bad intentions. I posted a person's real name publicly recently without a second thought (it's gone down the memory hole now, don't bother.) I've been going by my real name for years now, ever since I realized that 99% of the people on the internet thought "Gwinnydapooh" was a girl. And thought they had a shot with her.
It hasn't been a big deal for me except that guys on the internet stopped agreeing with me so much. In fact, there have been some downright liberating moments, like the time a neo-Nazi called "Micetrap" posted my named and address on his website. Having posted them myself on my site, I was entitled to yawn in a dismissive fashion. But a lot of folks on the internet couldn't write what they do if their friends, families or even enemies knew who they were.
So sometimes, you're brilliant. Sometimes, you're not. And sometimes, you're lunching on the veranda when your cell phone rings from a completely unfamiliar area code, and a deep, somewhat unsettling voice intones:
". . . not smart enough for *&%$@ing Callwa- . . . YOU'RE PIERCING THE VEIL, DON."
The DUH Files . . .
The good folks at the U.K.'s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have today found it necessary to point out to society at large that it can actually be good for children to play outside, even if they get "bumps and bruises."
Well, duh. Ya think? If you're reading this, you probably think that's pretty obvious, akin to observing that children shouldn't play with plasma cannons, even though the children of today are the discerning consumers of military-grade weapons technology of tomorrow. However, the RoSPA, being nothing if not properly data-driven, has done the research:
" Research for the Children’s Society suggests that 43 per cent of adults think children should not be allowed out with friends until they are at least 14."
Mr Cornall said that the disappearance of Madeleine McCann would heighten parents’ fears. “You can see why parents are so concerned because of the fears highlighted in the media. But it’s not right. It’s detrimental to children’s development,” he said. “It also means that when they get to 13 or 14 when they are allowed out, they more or less have an accident straight away because they suddenly have all this freedom.”
Oh, well, that makes more . . . wait, what?
I feel for Madeleine McCann's parents, but isn't she three years old? And didn't she disappear when her parents left her alone in a hotel room in Portugal? Apples and hand grenades.
RoSPA, which is due to hold its International Play Safety Conference on Thursday, wants parents to discuss risk and play with their children.
Madness! Discuss risks with your children? I mean, after their phenomenal work on melon-baller safety, I swore I'd never question the RoSPA again, but talking to my children is a little extreme. Isn't there a PSA they could watch or something?
When reading Mr. Cornall's recitation of the obvious, I find it helps to read aloud in Eric Idle's voice, if you can:
“Parents and children must not be frightened about venturing outside. When children spend time in the great outdoors, getting muddy, getting wet, getting stung by nettles, they learn important lessons – what hurts, what is slippery, what you can trip over or fall from. . . . .We believe that children can learn valuable lifelong lessons, particularly about risks and how to deal with them, from playing in the natural environment, and that parents have to accept that their children may get injured. Bumps, bruises and grazes are not serious injuries and are part of growing up.”
I quite agree, old chap.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Now for Serious Business.
The handsome devil holding young Sean here (as a newborn) is Kane. Kane came to us when he was six years old, along with his twin brother, Donovan. Back then, Kane was tiny. Donovan was the dominant twin, and he was bigger, stronger, and cognitively less delayed. We were the boys' third foster home when we took them. Matt made that sound like noble self-sacrifice, but the deal with the boys is that their biological mother is my wife's cousin. I'm sure you all have at least one of "those" cousins, so I'll spare you the details. When the boys had to be taken from her, they went to her grandmother, then when she couldn't do it anymore, then to my wife's parents. We wanted to take them then, but we weren't even married yet--we were still in college living dorms without real jobs. The state wouldn't have allowed it even if we'd been dumb enough to do it.
When my in-laws couldn't take it anymore, they passed the boys to us--and by that time, we were married with a home and jobs. We went out and got a set of bunk beds and we were in business in no time.
This guy on the left is Donovan, Kane's twin brother. This picture doesn't look like much, probably, but it is. It's a huge deal to us. You can probably imagine how hard it is to make connections and relate to other people when you've grown up the way these two have (and I've left the details of their early life vague on purpose, so feel free to ask but don't take it personally if I refuse to answer some questions.) Donovan has great difficulty with this partly because he was a lot more aware during the worst parts of their life. The boys used to speak their own dialect, which they created between themselves during long periods of isolation when they were learning to talk. It just sounds like a speech impediment now, but years ago it was a different language. They had their own words, and sounds were substituted. The syntax was more or less consistent, but it wasn't English. Donovan used to translate everything Kane said and just more or less take care of his brother in every way. Now he has a hard time understanding that he's not the unquestioned master of the universe whose whims are commands, but we're working on it. Anyway, this picture is from when Sean was about a month old. Donovan's picture is that much newer than Kane's because Donovan refused to hold the baby for the first month of Sean's life. He had even refused to look at sonograms. That first time broke something loose, and now he's Sean's big brother in every way.
Now, these kids have their problems just like anyone, and some of their problems are pretty extreme, but when you get down to it they're just three great kids. I appreciate the accolades from Matt and others, really I do, but there's nothing heroic about it; we just raise our kids.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Gun Law Primer Part 1.1
Illinois population in the 2000 census:
11,430,602 (I presume this does not include known illegal aliens, but I don't pretend to know.)
Population of Macoupin County, my home sweet home:
47,679 ( Not everybody wants to move here. Y'all wanna be a hog farmer or a coal miner?)
Population of Cook County: (home of Chicago)
5,105,044 (Are you beginning to see the issue here? In terms of total population, almost 45% of Illinois lives in Cook County.)
If we take Cook County and add in Lake (516,418), McHenry (183,241), Kane (317,471), Dupage (781,689) and Will (357,313) counties (commonly called the Collar Counties because they border Cook and are considered the "Chicago Metropolitan area) we get a figure of 7,261,176.
Why does that matter? As I said in the last post, Chicago is the key to Illinois. Allow our enemies to propagandize 7.25 million out of 11.4 million Illinois citizens (that's 64%!) without at least trying to counter and refute their message, and we have no right to act surprised that they beat us up all the time. But we do worse than that, because we tend to antagonize those Chicago folks every chance we get. The only thing that saves us is that our opponents are deliriously arrogant and they tend to destroy their own best efforts. If Richard Daley and Rod Blagojevich had any idea how to work with downstate legislators (or each other, for that matter) we'd be in much worse trouble in Illinois than we are. As it is, we're beating back their attempts at additional gun control and poised on the brink of pushing for meaningful concealed carry in Illinois. To get to where we want to be, we need to find a way to enlist at least some of those Chicago voters.
Illinois Gun Law Primer, Part I
Well, the answer is yes, but there are a lot of qualifiers before we get to the yes. Illinois gun laws are so complicated that most residents of Illinois don't know how they work--and even gun owners and police officers have been known to get a sort of vacant stare at times. Maybe some explanation is in order for those of you who don't live in Illinois. In fact, Sitemeter says I've already gotten visits from Hong Kong, Australia, Sweden and Germany, so it might be interesting to see how different the regions and states of the U.S. can be. I'm sure some of our foreign friends think of the U.S.A. as the place where cowboys roam free and guns litter the sidewalks, but the difference between places like Vermont or Texas and places like Illinois or New Jersey can be staggering. The stuff I'm going to describe really only applies to Illinois.
The single most important fact of life for Illinois gun owners to keep in mind is that Chicago does in fact control the state. Chicago residents are roughly two-thirds of Illinois' population, and that doesn't count the so-called "Collar Counties" around Chicago, which tend to share the same politics even though they are nominally Republican while Chicago is nominally Democrat. In other words, if 50% of Chicago voters vote Yes on Prop Z, and 90% of the rest of the state vote No, Prop Z passes by a healthy margin. None of what I'm about to describe will EVER change unless Chicago is changed.
This situation arose because Illinois is by and large a rural state of small towns and farms, with the attitudes toward guns that you'd expect rural Americans to have. I live in the rural part of the state, which doesn't tell you much because geographically, that's almost the whole place. The catch is that Cook County, the county in which the city of Chicago is located, contains such a dense population that they outnumber the rest of us roughly two to one. This means there are, politically, two Illinois states. In the urban Illinois, both Democrats and Republicans are what most people today call "liberals." In the rural Illinois, both Democrats and Republicans are what most people today call "conservatives," at least in the United States. My state legislator is a Democrat who is staunchly pro-gun. He's a loyal Democrat with an important leadership position in the state government, but he's from a rural district and he wouldn't have been elected in either party by trying to ban guns.
This dichotomy goes even further. Within the same political party, urban and "downstate" officials are rivals with different goals, and sometimes they truly hate each other. Our Governor, Rod Blagojevich, was more or less openly placed as the Democratic party's candidate by his father-in-law, a powerful member of the Chicago City Council. As such, he's seen as representing Chicago interests. He has only increased the perception by refusing to move into the Governor's Mansion in Springfield (no, Chicago is NOT the capital of Illinois) and instead commuting by airplane a few times per week. The President of the Senate, Emil Jones, doesn't think much of the Good Hair Governor. He does, however, seem to prefer him to the Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, and the Attorney General, Lisa Madigan (Yes, the Attorney General of Illinois is the daughter of the Speaker of the House. No kidding.) The Madigans, for their part, despise both Blagojevich and Jones.
Now, the interesting part is that all these people are leaders in the same party. They don't have to hate the Republicans, because the Republicans in Illinois can't win for losing in the past 5-10 years and they know it.
What does this mean for gun owners? It means you can't just watch the legislature. The Mayor of Chicago has more power in this state than the Governor in some ways, and certainly far more than all but a few of the state legislators in either house. Most proposed gun control comes from Chicago City Hall, and Chicago is the reason we don't have concealed carry in this state. More on that later.
Now, pay close attention, because you'll see this material again:
The only way Illinois gun owners will ever make significant progress and get back onto the offensive is to take the fight to Chicago and win. It's that simple. We need a significant number of Chicago voters on our side and willing to vote that way. We like to badmouth Chicago, and that's fine as far as it goes, but we could win every voter downstate and still lose in a landslide without Chicago. The established gun rights organizations are just beginning to wake up to this reality.
Next time: We'll look at the FOID card and some other restrictions on gun owners, unless someone asks a question I find more interesting in the meantime.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
First the Ambulance Driver . . . Now the Mad Ogre
Anyway, I've thought about it, and I've decided that the segment of my writing that was best-received by the public was the part where I shamelessly name-dropped some of my friends (and a few strangers like Ambulance Driver) and used their hard-won popularity to make myself look good. Today I will use the popularity of George Hill, the Mad Ogre to boost my own.
If you're not familiar with George, I can't imagine what possessed you to read my stuff, but you'd better click on that link and take a look. I'll wait, but seriously, come back, because it's not like this all the way through.
OK, you back? You get the whole "Mad Ogre" thing? Vitriol, Vitamins, Vegemite . . . . well, something like that. Well, here's the thing. I'd love to call myself an ogre. I wouldn't have to be mad, either. I could easily pull off a Grumpy Ogre, a Cuddly Ogre or even an Over-Educated Ogre. But this Hill guy, he's like the Hillary Clinton of ogres. He's sucked all the oxygen out of the room. You can't pull off the ogre thing anymore; everywhere you go, people just say "Oh, yeah, so you're basically like that Mad Ogre guy, right?"
Even that wouldn't be so bad, except that then you have to run through the litany of ways in which you are less cool than George Hill. You're just standing there telling this stranger all about how you don't have five boys and you're not married to a dancer who likes to shoot guns in the desert and you don't have a huge green 4x4 and you've never actually owned a pet wolf, nor have you ever once in your sad little life been employed as a cop, a soldier, or a gunslinger, and by now you just want to pay for your colby cheese and your paper plates and go.
I mean, the guy was a gunslinger, people. I can't compete with that. Did you know he got shot right in the chest with a .45 once? He totally did. I mean, I have a beard and everything--I'm manly, don't get me wrong--but I'm not in that league. Neither are you, so don't get smug.
There is one, and only one, important respect in which my ogreness* is competitive with that of George Hill, and that is the all-important candid photo category. Observe:
Now these are Ogres. And, seriously you guys, George's wife is a hot dancer and that's great and all, but is she an ogre?**
I submit to you that even George would admit that she is not.
Tune in Monday when I'll explain that I can deadlift more than Tamara from View from the Porch. I think.
*Apparently the narrow-minded bean pluckers who created Firefox's spell check function don't think "ogreness" is a word. No wonder the Japanese are eating our lunch.
**Actual photo, no Photoshop or retouching.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Here I am. You may adore and venerate my person now.
But I got nothin' much to say, so I guess I'll just answer some imaginary questions that nobody asked.
Ummm . . . . aren't you going to get fired for calling yourself an "armed school teacher?"
Well . . . . uh . . . . gee, I hope not. Obviously I'm not going around armed while I'm at school. That's illegal and frankly unnecessary. I'd like to see CCW for teachers approved, but I'm not afraid to teach school without it. The reality is that American schools are not likely places to get shot. We get a lot of threats and assorted silly posturing nowadays, because that's what adolescents do, but my job doesn't involve any more rational fear of some kid with a gun than yours does, because the actual shootings are so very rare.
All that said, I don't make any secret of the fact that I'm a shooter and a knife collector. My bosses know this about me. They really couldn't care less as long as I do a good job of teaching children.
What's with the hat?
If you have to ask, you'd be better off googling "Firefly browncoat" and reading up a little.
If you knew that was Jayne's cunning hat, know this too: that hat was my Christmas present from my beautiful wife last year. She learned to knit so she could knit me Jayne's hat in my size (XXXHuge) by hand. She knows me well. I don't think she expected it to be my daily wear hat, though.
Why guns? Don't you think guns cause too much death and violence? You can't hug your children with nuclear arms, you know.
Why guns? Because I like guns. I enjoy the engineering that goes into a firearm, and I love the capability-and the difficulty--of smacking a target, especially a moving one. I have a modest collection compared to many, but then again, all my guns are shooters. Some are very old, but I own NO safe queens.
Are you really an ambulance driver?
I am; I drive for Prairieland Ambulance Company in Virden, IL . . . . as dismaying a bunch of rejects and misfits as one is likely to find this far from the Illinois State Legislature. I actually get paid a small stipend, which pays for some of our small luxuries like taking the kids to the movies.
Here I have a bone to pick with "Ambulance Driver."
That guy is not an ambulance driver. I am an ambulance driver. The difference is one of skills and training and dedication. You see, I drive an ambulance. That's it. I am not an EMT-B. I am not an EMT-B. I am not, like that faker, a paramedic. In short, I'm not qualified to recommend aspirin for your headache, and under no circumstances am I allowed to treat patients, advise patients, or look patients directly in the face. My job description reads, and I quote:
"Shut up, drive the rig, and make sure you have it spotless by the time it's time to go back in service, plebe."
OK, I haven't read it, but that's how I see it in my mind's eye.
Maybe I'll post more later. Then again, maybe not.