Merry Christmas!

And the Christmas season begins! That’s right, I said BEGINS, you secular pseudo-Christian retail slaves. Also, now that the winter solstice has come and gone, the days are getting longer, so there is some hope of seeing sunlight again.

This image came from hdwallpapers.in, a site I know nothing about.

New Smoothie

Here’s the newest recipe from the evolution of my daily-fruit-intake smoothie.

A banana, cut up into pieces.

A handful of frozen fruit from a generic bag of mixed frozen fruit, slightly melted.

A bit of orange juice. Not so much for the orange but because I discovered that the orange juice makes the blending process work about a thousand times better.

Blend.

This makes a cupful of fruity beverage-ish that is about the consistency of a milkshake.

A Few Loose Ends

Here are a few more subjects that require commentary, beyond Meaningful Action and Sigh.

First I want to mention Thinking The Unthinkable, the widely circulated article that you may know better from its alternate, more SEO-friendly title, I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother. It’s a beautifully-written essay that vividly portrays the problems of raising children with mental health issues.

But.

I didn’t share it or comment on it because I am skeptical about it. Nobody, I mean nobody, asked the simple question, “Is this story actually true?” It was widely reported in fairly mainstream publications, and nobody made the slightest attempt to contact that author to do even a cursory verification or get more information. I read some of the other blog posts on her site, and noticed rather quickly that her latest post was quite different from the others. I would have thought that this author would have mentioned her troubled son at least in passing before. So I am waiting on a Snopes investigation on that one.

That aside, I think the article makes an extremely valid point, but I don’t know what the answer is.

This just in: Apparently she was on Today today in a carefully-controlled interview. So I guess it really was a real person and a real post. Now she’s in a Mommy Blog War with other moms. God help her.

The rest of this post is about how to solve this issue once and for all so it never happens again. (Spoiler alert: We can’t.)

I get that everyone is outraged and frustrated. I get that everyone thinks they have the perfect solution, but chances are, you’re not thinking straight and not thinking long-term. I know this from 20 years of software development experience. If you have an idea and just jump in and do it without thinking it through, you’ll probably run into a brick wall somewhere down the line and end up having to start over.

And yes, software development and dealing with the problems of modern society are exactly equivalent. Exactly I say!

On armed civilians: “This tragedy wouldn’t have happened if there had been armed civilians in the school.” This argument comes up after virtually every shooting, even though it’s quite rare to find accounts where armed civilians actually made a difference in mass shootings. (I can think of none offhand, but I vaguely recall an incident where someone got a gun out of their car and did something useful.) Now I don’t know anything about the layout of this school or the exact circumstances of the shooting (as far as I know, there has not been any comprehensive non-speculative report on what exactly happened) so this is pure conjecture. But suppose for a moment that one of those teachers had a concealed carry permit and had a loaded revolver at the ready. (I’m pretty sure that’s not legal in CT, but I might be wrong.)

I’ll grant that it’s possible this hypothetical teacher could have stopped the shooter at some point. This hypothetical teacher wouldn’t have known to do anything until the first shots were already fired, so of course s/he couldn’t have prevented all casualties. He or she would have had to have had the presence of mind to run toward the shooting, line up a shot–at relatively close range, under fire, from a semi-automatic rifle–and pull the trigger one or more times. And keep in mind the shooter was reportedly wearing a bullet-proof vest, which, if true, indicates he had considered the possibility that he might encounter resistance. True, a shot to a bullet-proof vest is probably going to hurt and maybe knock the guy down, but our hypothetical teacher would have then had to have had the sense to run up and shoot him in the head, because this guy is probably just going to get right back up and keep shooting. Again, it’s possible this hypothetical teacher could have stopped the shooter. But it’s far from the certainty that people would like to think. Unless our hypothetical teacher happened to be a combat veteran, I would guess that he or she would not have had the training and experience necessary to act coolly in a terrifying fog of war. The whole event took place in about fifteen minutes, if reports can be believed. And don’t forget it’s also possible our hypothetical teacher could have shot another teacher or a child by accident in the confusion.

Again, it’s possible an armed civilian could have stopped the shooter – but is it likely? I’m unconvinced.

And to be clear, I still think I should be able to buy a gun.

On armed guards: “This tragedy wouldn’t have happened if there had been armed police or security guards prominently on display in the school.” Okay, yes, this is much more likely to be true than the other argument, but the shooter probably would have simply moved on to another target. Which is great for the school, but not so great for whoever didn’t happen to be surrounded by armed guards for protection. And consider this: If the shooter meant to attack that particular school for whatever reason, remember he was prepared for resistance. Reports indicate that he was an intelligent person, so he might well have scoped out the exact positions of the guards, their patterns, their weaknesses, etc. He could still have caused quite a bit of damage. Any person determined to do harm is probably going to find a way to do some harm.

Okay so we agree that armed guards probably would have stopped it. Now let’s discuss the practicality of having armed guards at every school. Where are all these people going to come from? Sure, maybe it would provide much-needed jobs to a bunch of unemployed people (something I actually overheard), but do we really want to hand a bunch of loaded weapons to people who can’t otherwise get a job? And who’s going to pay their salaries? Hint: You and me. How much will we need to raise taxes to pay for that? Where are these weapons coming from? Who’s going to train them? We’ve already seen how the federal government handles a nationwide security project in the TSA–do we want to see them try to do that in schools? Besides, this is probably more in the jurisdiction of the local school boards anyway. Those people can’t even agree on a curriculum–you think they can agree on the logistics of armed guards?

And on a more philosophical note, I’d like to comment on what it would be like to live in a police state where armed guards need to patrol every elementary school in order for everyone to feel safe. Well, no, actually I don’t want to comment on that.

By now you probably think I’m for more gun control. But do I really think more gun control laws would have prevented this tragedy? Nope. No law can prevent people from being flawed human beings, and no law can eradicate every source of guns, like the black market or private traders or criminals.

Speaking of flaws, I do wonder if the shooter’s mother (who allegedly owned all of the guns) had these weapons properly secured. Most of the gun owners I know keep their arsenal in some kind of safe. But still, you need at least one gun out and loaded for home defense emergencies otherwise it’s kind of pointless to have them at all. In any case, we don’t know any details yet. It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. This wasn’t a random act of opportunity.

By the way, I overheard that gun stores are swamped again by people buying up stock before some possible new gun laws come into effect. I live in a virtual Wild West when it comes to guns, though, so it’s probably not like that everywhere. No, actually, it probably is. Remember the Twinkies?

Meaningful Action

I was pretty disappointed when I read reports that Obama had called for “meaningful action” following the shooting tragedy Friday. If you’re not familiar with the lively debate over the Second Amendment in this country, those words mean that he is planning to push through tough new laws to take away our rights to arm ourselves. It was disappointing to hear him say that, because I have always enjoyed giggling when I hear fear-mongerers misguidedly ascribe a radical left-wing communist agenda to the Obama regime.

I particularly enjoyed giggling when everyone sprinted to their local gun store to stock up on handguns after he was first elected, fearing he would ban all firearms on his first day of office. I’m pretty sure this happens whenever a Democrat is elected. As it turned out, he passed no radical left-wing gun control laws in his first four years, which is not very surprising since presidents can’t make laws. I expected the same for the next four years, but this talk of “meaningful action” disturbed me.

Until I finally sat down and actually watched the president’s brief news conference from Friday. As usual, the headlines gave a rather inaccurate portrayal of what he said.

First of all, Obama looked like hell. What a sucky job it must be to be president.

Second of all, the exact words he (or his speechwriter) used were, “…these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children, and we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics.”

That is a classic example of a statement from a politician that can be interpreted fifty thousand different ways and ultimately makes no promises or commitments in any direction. If you’re against guns, you could hear that and think, “Yeah! More guns off the streets!” If you’re for guns, you could hear that and think, “Yeah! Armed men in every classroom!”

Ultimately, I doubt there will be any meaningful action from the president. As for Congress, though… who knows?

Sigh

I first heard about the shooting around noon on Friday when I overheard a coworker telling his cube-neighbor about it. The second words out of his mouth were something about gun control, so I guess it’s never too soon to opine after a tragedy.

The world is very, very dangerous, and it is a miracle that any of us have survived this long. It’s easy to forget that.

It’s human nature to search for answers, but most of the time there aren’t any.

People who are qualified and trained to use weapons should be allowed to use weapons to protect themselves and others from danger. It would be especially great if they could form some sort of organized group or force to coordinate their efforts.

Freedom Isn’t Free. It applies to civilians, too.

The media still lacks basic journalism skills. Yet again, they leaped to vilify someone they found on Facebook. Are you kidding me?

This incident reminds me of my theory that mass communication is generally bad for society. Horrible tragedies have happened repeatedly throughout human history, but in the past, we only heard about them if we happened to live in the immediate vicinity or, in the last two hundred years or so, if we read a newspaper. Now we witness them all the time because we have the unprecedented luxury of being able to see and hear and record everything that happens on every square inch of populated territory.

If the lesson you take from this tragedy is to get to know the introverts in your life better because you fear they are hurting inside and planning a mass murder, you, sir or madam, are an idiot. Read this book.

Playing the Age Card on Facebook

I saw a post on Facebook advising people to look at the first three digits of UPC codes in the grocery store to find out whether you’re really buying American or not (and the government is covering up this secret to keep the people from blah, blah, blah). I saw this and thought, huh, that’s interesting, I wonder if it’s true? So I went to snopes.com and searched on “barcode country” and found out in five seconds that it’s not precisely true: The first two or three digits of a UPC code only tells you the country in which the UPC code was issued. It *might* be the same country in which the product was manufactured, but it also might not be. The bottom line is that it’s not a reliable shortcut.

None of that is the point of this post. The point is that I see these kinds of things on Facebook with disturbing regularity. (“These things” being inaccurate misinformation that takes 5 seconds to check.) Most of the time I let it slide, but in this particular case I chose to leave a comment with the snopes link.

Why this time? I’m not sure. I think it’s because the person who posted it is a young-ish person. The only other time I commented on something like this was also on a young-ish person’s post. Perhaps part of me thinks that maybe there’s still a chance that these young-ish people can learn to be skeptical of these kinds of posts, whereas I see the people my age and above as too far gone to accept further education.

It could also be that innate human sense that older people are supposed to inform younger people, but younger people are supposed to shut up and listen to older people. This is a concept that I personally find extremely annoying. For some strange reason, I’ve always found myself around people that are older than me, and older people (as in, people in the next decade of life or more) pretty much always think they are wiser than younger people. Sometimes that is actually true, but in my experience, it’s kind of rare.

If you spend most of your time around younger people or people your own age, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. But you can see this effect whenever you reach an age milestone. If you’re in a mixed age environment and you say something like, “I’m 30 today, boy do I feel old.” Somebody is inevitably going to say, “You think that’s bad, wait until you get to 40!” (It might be me, at this stage of my life.) The unspoken subtext is that the 30-year-old’s feelings are irrelevant because the 40-year-old’s are more important. And then someone else will say, “You think 40’s bad, wait until you hit 50!” and the balance of power shifts from the 40-year-old to the 50-year-old.

And then that 50-year-old will cheerfully go home and forward a Facebook note telling all of their friends that the phone company is about to release everyone’s cell phone numbers to telemarketers if you don’t add your number to the national do-not-call list. And I will see it and spend 5 seconds determining it’s complete bunk, and has been the ten other times I’ve seen it over the years, and I’ll have to grit my teeth and not say anything, because if I do, the 50-year-old will get all embarrassed and defensive and scared and say, “But I heard it from my sister and she would never lie to me! Is my entire world crumbling around me??” and I would have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “Your sister isn’t lying to you, she just has no critical thinking skills and no ready access to Google, traits which you both seem to share.”

Ahem. Anyway. My point is that I was probably so overwhelmed with glee at the chance to finally use the “I’m older so I must be wiser” card that I couldn’t stop myself. I try not to do that because that card is constantly played on me so I happen to know it’s really annoying.

But I’m still right. 🙂

My First Smoothie

Cut up one apple and break up one banana and put the pieces into a blender. Add a handful of ice. Blend.

I immediately discovered that my new blender kind of sucks for this task, since the blades didn’t hit anything at first. Next time I guess I will cut the pieces a little smaller. Or possibly do a little research on what kind of blender to buy instead of randomly picking one from Target.

Result: One cup containing a pulpy mush that is one day’s worth of fruit that you can “eat” while still doing stuff on the computer! And it’s actually pretty good, too. Because, you know, fruit tastes good.