Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage for all.

SCOTUS rulez Congress droolz!

I wrote about this in 2007..
If a Missouri redneck living in the big city could see the writing on the wall 8 years ago,  I'm not sure what took us so long.

Some folks aren't happy.
But they can get bent.

Good day America.. good week.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The second amendment, open carry and the politics of a snarling dog.

My views on gun ownership are complicated. Please read the whole thing because I'm gonna tread on both sides of this topic.
On one hand I don't believe that the framers of the Bill of Rights intended for individual ownership of military firepower. I think the "any one, any gun" interpretation is dead wrong. The phrasing of the amendment clearly intends for military arms to be per view of  "well regulated Militia" to whit regulated is an important modifier of Militia. Military arms should be regulated. Small arms, shot guns and sporting arms those are a different story. The current interpretation that citizens can all own firearms, with some restrictions on capacity, caliber, and rate of fire is quite reasonable (and where to draw those lines is to get into minutiae far beyond the scope of this post)
I think the vast majority of Americans should own a fire arm and be well practiced in its use. Public schools and police departments should offer free firearm safety training much like driver's education is offered. A lot of the issues we have with folks carrying and carrying unsafely comes from guns being unfamiliar. Having grown up in Missouri surrounded by guns I fully understood and understand the devastating power they have, but I also had no interest in fooling around with one. I enjoyed hunting and shooting, but I had no desire to "show off" guns to my peers, and they'd have likely had no interest in fooling with arms that they saw around their own homes. The vast divide surrounding arms in this country comes from too few people being well versed in the safe and intended use of a firearm. This unfamiliarity leads some people to fear their very existence, and some to fetishise their power. This would be resolved by giving the former folks some information, and the latter needs to have a bit of red tape and monotony to wade through to take some of the shine off of guns and gun ownership.
To accomplish this we need training publicly available and free of charge, but also in order to operate a gun you must be licensed. No one is going to take down the serial numbers, makes or models of your gun, but if you purchase a weapon, ammo, enter a firing range, or are observed by police with a firearm you must have a license. Same as operating a motor vehicle, same as buying a hunting license.
To go bow hunting this fall, I had to take a 12 hour hunter and firearm safety course. Why not push that information to all gun owners? It doesn't seem to me to high a bar to leap, if the vast majority of people are licensed then there is no "big brother gonna take my guns" paranoia, and if people are safely trained then at least we'll be down to intentional shooters with the social skills to sit through the class and pass a test. This would be at least better than the current non-system.
If you live in a rural area, and think this a ridiculous requirement, please bare with me. Having lived in major cities the past 15 years you would not believe the number of gun owners I have seen who do not have a basic understanding of firearm safety, discipline, let alone basic efficacy behind the trigger. If you're former Military, or can pass the basic test, you're good.
Which brings me to open carry. If you open carry, you are (pardon my language) an asshole. Do you have the legal right to be an asshole? You certainly do. I will assert that you are doing much more harm than good. By way of explanation I'll tell you a story:
A few years ago we had a big snow and ice storm here in Seattle. The roads were icy as all hell and this city is really hilly. I needed to get a couple things from the store and there was a small grocery a maybe half a mile from my house. On my walk to the store I meet up with what I think was a Belgian Tervuren his owners were not quite a block away. The dog, I'll call him fluffy, because he was. Fluffy loped up to me, while I was standing on the icy sidewalk. I generally like dogs so I say "Hey pooch" in a friendly voice. The dog gets within a couple feet of me, it's hackles raise and it bares it's teeth and it growls. Uh oh. "Hello," I say to the owners "can you come and get your dog?"  "Oh he's super friendly!" they tell me. As Fluffy barks twice and then growls some more. I am not feeling like fluffy is friendly. I am feeling threatened, and like I am in danger. It's too slippery for me to move well. This dog is snarling at me. He is big and has lots of teeth. I have no idea of it's just bluster, or if it's really going to try and hurt me. I end up sliding away without getting bit, but that encounter did not leave me with a favorable opinion of those dogs or their owners. Fluffy's owner assured me; that I was safe, that fluffy was friendly, but the outward appearance was threatening.
Which brings me back to open carry. You may be a law abiding citizen. You may be just doing some grocery shopping, but all the rest of us see is a snarling dog, and no one wants to get bit. If you want to concealed carry, then by all means get a CCW and do so. However, the open carry folks, you can couch it in whatever rhetoric you like but you're threatening your neighbors, and that makes you an asshole. The way to convince people that the second amendment should allow private gun ownership is to be a reasonable person, AND a gun owner. Take precautions to keep your guns out of dangerous hands, To take people to the range, take people hunting, teach your kids about guns, and most of all don't be an asshole! The more interactions people have with reasonable, non-threatening gun owners the more support there will be for gun ownership Conversely every time there is an "open carry event" more people on the fence see gun ownership as a fringe activity. It leaves a bad taste in their mouths and keeps them from being open to more reasonable interactions. It closes doors.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner, Affectation and appropriation vs transition.

There are a lot of straight white dudes who are absolutely losing their minds over these two individuals. A number of us straight white folks are having a problem understanding why Dolezal has been vilified while Jenner has been lauded. I am here to talk to my fellow white folks who "just don't understand."

Race is different from gender. I know you know this, but we're starting at the beginning. One of the biggest problems right now, post civil rights act, post MLK.. but decidedly NOT post-racial is that white folks think they can multiply the worst interaction they've ever had with law enforcement by that time they were poor in college, add that unpleasantness with the bank manager that one time and divide by the number of hip hop albums they own and come up with a mathematical formula for the life experiences of folks of color. It simply doesn't work that way. This deafness to what people of color say, and the bone-headed ignorance of the very simple fact that if it were that goddamn simple people of color would have done that by now. Is the festering heart of institutional racism. So for a white woman to engage in a decade of lying and subterfuge to pretend to be black. To make her living off of the struggle of African American and Latino folks, to tell a Latina student "you don't look Hispanic enough" is precisely this deafness, this denial of black and brown people's own agency. You simply don't get to come in and "identify as black." There is a culture and an experience that you have never had that is precisely what it means to be a racial minority in America. To think you know what that is and what it means is the epitome of racism.

Jenner is completely different. She has never tried to explain what it means to be a woman. Before he transitioned, everything was completely out in the open. There was absolutely no subterfuge. No pretense that Caitlyn was never Bruce. If Dolezal had been that open, if she had been a white ally instead of pretending to be black, if she'd have listened to those who had that experience and then spoke from her own experience.. there'd have been no problem.

In short Caitlyn Jenner is trying to be who she is, Rachael Dolezal is trying to be someone else and that is the difference.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A modest proposal for the jiu jitsu community.

I, as a jiu jitsu black belt and member of the community, am sick to death of hearing that a black belt instructor, one who should be a role model and paragon of our community, has raped, abused, and/or sexually assaulted someone. I cannot overstate how pissed off I am at the general shrug of the shoulders from the community and deafening silence coming from our supposed leadership. Its nauseating. I want it to stop.
I have a solution:
If a black belt is indicted of any sexual crime or domestic abuse that individual loses their rank. Not only does that individual lose their black belt, but whomever they received their belt from ALSO loses their rank. So too does everyone either of those individuals have given rank. All IBJJF timelines for promotion apply beginning from the date of indictment. All individuals who have been specifically "de-ranked" are no longer allowed to compete at any rank. Individuals who have lost their rank because their instructors have been stripped of their belt are not allowed to compete until they once again climb the belt ladder to their previous rank.
So if Ze da Silva ranks John Doe to black belt. John starts his own academy ranks Dana and Joe to purple belt, and Steve to black belt. Meanwhile Ze ranks Mike to black belt. Mike then ranks Sue and Jane to brown and blue belts respectively. If John gets indicted for sexual assault, EVERYONE becomes and instant white belt. And because the IBJJF has time standards at each belt even Jane and Joe have several years in purgatory before they can compete again. Ze and John can never compete. If Ze has an affiliation it's functionally dissolute.
If this policy were in place folks would be much more careful about whom they accept belts from and who they give them to. No one wants to end up an instant white belt and spend the next 5 or so years climbing back up the ladder again (assuming they can find someone to give them the belts in question).
The only legitimate concern I would have about a policy like this is that it would create a culture of "shut up or we'll all lose our belts" but truthfully the culture in jiu jitsu right now is such that it couldn't get much more repressive of victims. So that objection is functionally moot.
Lets not mince words, this is absolutely a nuclear option. Total scorched earth policy. I have no delusions that the IBJJF or anyone else will ever implement this, but my question is: why not? If you find yourself uncomfortable with this idea, what are you afraid of? If you have given or received a belt from someone you are not 100% sure might not rape, assault, or molest someone, why are you training with that person? If you are teaching people and awarding the rank of black belt someone you suspect could be a rapist why are you teaching them to more effectively hold someone to the ground?

If you found out your instructor, or one of your peers raped, molested, assaulted someone would you feel that same pride in your belt? I am 2-3 degrees removed from an instance where an instructor raped a young girl. It makes me ill to see my association in the same article as rape. I didn't want to train for months. I got depressed every time I trained. If it were someone in the same school I'm sure no one would have to take my belt away.
Maybe this is too much, too far, but something needs to be done. We need leadership. People to stand up and say "This is not OK!" So far the silence is deafening. Maybe we should all act as if this policy were already in place. We should level a degree of scrutiny on each other. We should stop promoting evil scumbags to the highest rank in our sport. What could possibly go wrong? Comment and let me know, because I can't think of a single thing.


PS: Ze da Silva is the equivalent to John Doe in Portuguese and is not a reference to anyone.. so says Wikipedia any way. I'm sure if I'm wrong I'll hear about it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Newer gear, better performance and an error in judgement.

The Alpine archery bow I have been shooting was too short. I kind of knew that, but as I got more practiced I started missing shots as my overly bent lead arm began to 'jerk' after the release. I have been struggling a bit too with snapping the trigger pull, and wanted to change from a wrist strap release to a four finger release (more on that later) but I was worried that would make the problem even worse. So I started trolling archery-talk and craigslist for a new(er) bow with at least a 30" draw, and much to my surprise and joy, I found one. A Mathews z7 xtreme. Super cool bow, very fast, very quiet, all of the reviews on this bow are exemplary, and what's more I got it for cheap.
The gentleman who was selling it didn't have a paypal account, couldn't use google wallet, and wanted a check delivered via post before he would ship the bow. This could have set me up to get ripped off, but a couple things are in my favor: 1) I have friends that live within driving distance of his house. 2) I looked his house up on google maps (nice place, new(ish) vehicles in the driveway. 3) When I offered to have my brother pay him in cash and pick it up, he didn't balk. So I took a risk and sent the check. I don't regret it for a second.
I got the bow and saw immediate improvement in my shooting. I had no idea how much I was compensating for the shorter bow. It was terrible.
new release on top, old on bottom
From there I decided to go ahead with switching my release. I had confidence that I was shooting well, and decided to change my release as well. This gets a bit convoluted. When I started this debacle I had no idea what releases really were available. I simply took the advice of the archery shop on what to use. Most hunters use a release that straps to your wrist, then two small jaws clamp on to a loop that hooks on your string. You pull back on the wrist strap, settle in, and pull the trigger with your index finger. The good things about this are you are completely connected to your string, the release can't be lost because it is hooked to you. The downside is your index finger is connected to your hand. It can be hard to move your finger without moving your hand, I have a problem with it.
The four finger release is a small hand held grip that has a hook that sticks between your index and middle fingers. with a button for your thumb to release the arrow. I have found that with a four finger release I am considerably more accurate. This is not true for everyone. I have seen experienced archers who could not use the four finger to even draw their bow. It is very different, but for me, it is better. The down side to the four finger is that if it slips out of your hand you have just released an aluminum projectile into the heart of your bow.. which happened to me. There is a safety strap that goes around your wrist, but in my hubris I didn't use it. I got lucky. My new bow (one that I cannot afford to replace) was fine, but the rest was broken.What could have been a catastrophic mistake ended up being a $30 lesson. It did ruin my day though.
the up side is I'm shooting really well with the new rig.
 the picture is right side up, I have the target upside down to try and get some of the filling in the top to compress a bit. 5 arrows from 20 yards good tight groups. I'm super happy with that (it's not Olympic caliber archery, but it's progress) I've got some new arrows on order for two reasons. 1) I'm selling my old bow and if I include a few arrows it'll be more likely to sell, and 2) The arrows I have are cut a bit too short. They work, but it is a little dangerous to shoot a broadhead with a short arrow.
Once I get them wrapped and fletched I'll talk you through the process.