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SCOTUS ruling on independent redistricting commissions

June 30, 2015

This is amazing. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that states can take the power of redistricting away from the people likely to rig that system in their own favor. What that means is, I hope, gerrymandering may soon* be a thing of the past.

Gerrymandering: one of the biggest, dirtiest, dishonest cheats in American politics. I never understood, even my school days, how such a thing could be allowed to continue. May it die quickly.

*”Soon” is relative.

Change in half/full marathon training schedules

June 24, 2015

Breaking in new socks

New day, new idea about running schedules.

I’m in week 3 of a 17 week half-marathon training plan. It’ll finish up October 4. I had originally planned on taking several weeks “off” (just maintenance runs, basically) before starting on a marathon training plan, but, the Dallas Marathon is about 10 weeks after this cycle ends!

The Dallas Marathon was really cool.

I want to do it again.

Therefore, the new training plan is this:

  • Half marathon training as planned, ending Oct 4.
  • Two weeks downtime / recovery time, mostly easy runs and whatnot.
  • Eight weeks marathon training.
  • Dallas Marathon December 13!

I want to do the marathon, even if I have to do a walk/run due to not enough training.

So, thoughts and comments?

Guns, guns, guns – part 1

June 23, 2015

We talked about guns on Twitter. And a very-pro-gun friend chimed in with a link to an article. Here’s my response to the first part of the article, which is longer than route 66 on a hot day when you’re on foot.

The article:


“…tragedy on the news that can be milked.”

This already puts me off. When there’s a tragedy on the TV, I personally don’t “milk” it for anything. I have an honest, upset reaction. And I form opinions about what happened, based on what I know about the even. I don’t “milk” jack shit. So we’ll assume the author meant politicians and TV personalities with the “milked” thing, and not any old “anti-gun person”, which was the group of people mentioned in the previous sentence.


“When I hear people tell me the gun industry is unregulated, I have to resist the urge to laugh in their face.”

I can see how that would be for a person who owned a gun store that dealt in machine guns, supresors, and “everything except for explosives”. I wouldn’t say the industry is unregulated. I would say that it’s far too easy to get guns, and there are far too powerful guns on the open market.


“I have certified thousands of people to carry guns.”

In Texas, at least, one does need a certification to carry a gun, but none to buy one. Or, you know, a dozen. While I do have concerns with “normal” folk buying guns by the barrelfull, I’m at present more concerned with the folks who have a criminal history, warrants, restraining orders, crazy freaking manifestos, and the like buying guns.


“Basically for most of my adult life, I have been up to my eyeballs in guns, self-defense instruction, and the laws relating to those things.”

I can totally respect that. Good, you’re educated about guns. I would like to point out that this person has no actual experience in law enforcement, military engagements, or immediate shooting hazards of any kind. There’s a difference between extensive classroom study, and oh-shit-here-it-comes situations. To be fair, neither do I, but I’m also not making the case to be an expert in all things guns. I’m just another asshole citizen with opinions. But my opinions matter, too…I live in this place.


“Until this national conversation is willing to entertain allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons, then it isn’t a conversation at all, it is a lecture.”

Well, that’s complete bullshit. That’s up there with “Until we’re willing to entertain allowing me to bang your sister, then this isn’t a conversation about commitment at all.” I mean, sure, you can refuse to come to the table. But then it’s you preventing the conversation.

As a side note, if “The single best way to respond to a mass shooter is with an immediate, violent response,” then why don’t we start arming teachers with tasers? At the very least, a trigger-happy teacher with a taser is far less likely to acidentally kill one of his charges. And, an asshole high school kid that jimmies the teacher’s desk will get an article of mayhem, not one of death.


“The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by law enforcement: 14. The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by civilians: 2.5.”

I’d like to see the source of these statistcs, please.


“Worst case scenario, the armed staff provides a distraction, and while he’s concentrating on killing them, he’s not killing more children.”

No, worst case scenario likely happens when there’s no terrorist in the building. It’s the misuse of the gun. It’s the teacher that threatens the kids, loses the gun, doesn’t lock it up properly. Do you really trust every single teacher in the united states to be responsible AND a good person AND patient as hell? I don’t. They’re people, and they’re specifically in charge of kids.

You’re trading the rare threat of a school shooting for the day-to-day danger of guns in schools. (You know what I mean by rare: there are a handful of mass shootings per year. Those are horrible, but I do not expect my kids’ schools to have a shooting any time in the next 10 years.) Politifact article about shootings:


“The teacher doesn’t need to be a SWAT cop or Navy SEAL. They need to be speed bumps.”

Here the author may begin addressing some of the things I’ve said. (No, I don’t expect I’ve said anything new. I’m just explaining my position.)

“Don’t make it mandatory” for teachers to carry guns. Well, duh, I didn’t figure anyone would.

“Then they’ll say that this is impossible, and give me all sorts of terrible worst case scenarios about all of the horrors that will happen with a gun in the classroom… No problem, because this has happened before.” So it’s okay, because it’s already happening? This is completely ridiculous.


“Permit holders are not cops. The mistake many people make is that they think permit holders are supposed to be cops or junior danger rangers. Not at all. Their only responsibility is simple. If someone is threatening to cause them or a third person serious bodily harm, and that someone has the ability, opportunity, and is acting in a manner which suggest they are a legitimate threat, then that permit holder is allowed to use lethal force against them.”

Man, if only it were as simple as in the movies. I get that the cases of guys walking into schools with guns are pretty clear cut. Unless, you know, a scared shitless armed citizen peeks out of their class doorway and shoots someone running at the far end of the hall.  Or they take aim at the shooter and hit a couple of kids running away behind him. And so on.

BTW, a quick google turns up several articles like this one from Mother Jones, about how seldom armed (armed, non-military, non-police) citizens actually make a difference in shooting situations:


Holy crap, we’re just now to “gun free zones”. I have to go do work now…



The Summer of Smoothies

June 21, 2015

Ben just decided that we should make smoothies. I wanted to record his recipe and Eric’s recipe for posterity.

Ben’s Smoothie

Serves 2. Ingredients:

  • 2 large strawberries, cored
  • 1/3 apple, chopped
  • 8 grapes
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey (we used cinnamon honey)

Put everything in a blender and blend well. (Or, do what we did, and put it all in a big cup and blend with a stick blender.)

Verdict: Delicious!

Eric’s Smoothie

Serves 1. Ingredients:

  • 1 large strawberry, cored
  • 1/4 apple, chopped
  • 5 grapes
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey (he used regular honey)

Put everything in a blender and blend well. (Or, do what we did, and put it all in a big cup and blend with a stick blender.)

Verdict: Delicious!

Knowing things

June 5, 2015

I’m stunned again by the wealth of information at hand today.

When I was my son’s age, if I wanted to learn about (say) the Tiananmen Square massacre, I could look in an encyclopedia, if we had one. I could go to the library and riffle through card catalogs to see if there are any books about Tiananmen Square, or if there are any books that made mention of it. If I was particularly resourceful, I could find old newspaper articles about it on microfiche.

Today is the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 – specifically, of the day it got really bloody – and I realized how very little I knew about it. (A Reddit user posted several very gory pictures of the incident, and it got me curious.) What can I do today? I can read about it on Wikipedia. I can search for pictures and videos, rare though they are. I can look for first hand accounts of the incident. I can see an entire documentary on YouTube. I can buy ebooks about it and start reading right away. I can look at satellite photos and tourist photos and official photos and guidebook photos of the square itself. My god, I can instantly search for the biographies of everyone that was in charge of the Chinese government at the time (and those who lost their jobs soon after the event for being too sympathetic to the protesters).

It’s a sad way to get at this realization. But in truth, what greater power is there, than to gather up a million words and images about a piece of history….and make it real to me, today?

What power is there to learn from the past? What intelligence could we build up from looking at what happened then and there and another time? I don’t have the optimism I once had, but it’s a glorious thought: the sharing, and knowing, and connecting that we have created.


May 30, 2015

So I’m going to tell you about something bloody amazing that just happened.

jenoculusWe’re at SQL Saturday in NYC, and one of the guys here has a developer version of Oculus, the virtual reality goggles. He set me up with the demonstration, which takes you on a slow ride past several screens, then puts you in a room.  You can turn your head and look all around. your brain really tells you that wall is just a couple steps away.

After several demonstrations, at the end, the door in front of you opens up onto the entire Earth. You look behind you, and you see the starfield of open space. Left, and you’re staring into the sun. I cried. It was so amazing. It was so very Ready Player One. They even had you sitting in a home game room at one point, watching a TV from a couch. THERE WERE OLD VIDEO GAME POSTERS ON THE WAY, AND A JOUST MACHINE IN THE CORNER.

This, and I remember getting our first Apple ][ back in 1986 or so. This, in my lifetime. I’m so touched I can’t even put it into words adequately.


May 18, 2015

This is the best thing to happen on Twitter in a while. President Obama got his own Twitter handle today, and tweeted for the first time. Then this happened.


Okay, that was Key-and-Peele-worthy.


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