Monthly Archives: January 2013

Proof of Life

Yes, despite the dearth of posts recently, I’m still with pulse and respiration.

Round two of my college career starts next week and I’ve been getting ready for that.

Student ID…check

Parking Pass…check

Books…check

Raped by cost of textbooks…check

Seriously, what a racket.  I thought the health care industry was bad but when the cost of the books for ONE of my classes is greater than the total cost of tuition/fees for said class…holy cow talk about inflating the value of your product.  I’m in the wrong line of work…forget novel writing, I’m going to write a textbook on how to artificially inflate value for your product and make out like a bandit.

In the news:  the gun debate is making me crazy.  Really kind of making my skin crawl and although I’ve posted before, I’m so frustrated that BOTH sides of this issue are leading with their nutcases that I am very pessimistic that a real solution to gun violence will be achieved in my lifetime.  I have never seen an issue where flight from reality is so readily accepted in the name of furthering one’s agenda.

Lastly, I took a few vacation days this week and am truly enjoying cleaning out some closets and getting some good bike rides in.  The weather is warming up and spring is around the corner….

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Dear Mr. Obama…

Obama And Biden Sworn In During Official Ceremony

…I congratulate you on your second term (I voted for you) and I join you in celebrating your inauguration today.  You presented us with another beautiful speech today…filled as always with hope, inspiration and the promise of a better world.

It is, in fact, your words and your promises that have moved me like no other President in my 51 years.  You are my J.F.K.  And I believe you are a good man.  I continue to believe you are a decent man who believes the words coming from within you.  I need to believe this, because you see Mr. President, I am deeply disturbed about some of the events that have transpired during your presidency.  Events, policies and executive orders that betray your words; indeed policies that betray the hope you have instilled within us.

Why, sir, are we confronted with the following deep and fundamental threats to our liberty that you so eloquently champion?

  • The National Defense Authorization Act (N.D.A.A.) allows the military to indefinitely detain American citizens suspected of supporting terrorism.  Due process? You ceded to congressional republicans on this one at the expense of our civil liberties Mr. President. A precedent was set and a frightening one at that.  As you rightfully championed the civil rights of LGBT Americans today, you have quietly usurped the core rights of all of us when you signed this Act.
  •  A policy certainly begun by another administration but exponentially expanded during yours, the use of unmanned drones continues to concern me.  I am in favor of minimizing risks to our troops through the use of this technology and am certainly far from prude when it comes to the sad necessity of collateral damage within the framework of the rules of war.  What raises the hair on the back of my neck is the seeming escalation of these so-called “targeted killings”.  I am more than happy to give you my trust when it comes to carrying out the business of war and protecting our country, but enough flags have been independently raised about this program that I believe you owe the American people an appropriate justification for the continued use and parameters of the program.
  • Aaron Swartz.  Your Justice Department presides over a system of law that is flawed and unfair at best.  The tragic death of Mr. Swartz represents the very worst of our system of jurisprudence and the inherent lack of balance within the halls of justice throughout our land.  Was his death collateral damage of N.D.A.A.?  Or just the predictable fallout of a broken system run amok?
  • I thoroughly applaud your efforts at reducing the tragic mass shootings such as Sandy Hook.  But as a liberal gun owner and supporter of the second amendment, I ask that you approach this issue pragmatically.  Ending these tragedies is the ultimate goal…please be realistic about the manner in which you approach the issue.  Guns, in and of themselves are simply instruments used by madmen to attain their sociopathic goal.  If banning weapons would solve the issue alone, I would support it.  It will not. Please continue to explore a multi-pronged social approach to this issue.  If it continues to be a “gun” issue, more of our fellow citizens will be lost.

I truly have no idea what it’s like to walk a few feet in your shoes.  The pressures, demands, politics, compromise and secret briefings about horrible topics, must take their toll.  I’d like to believe that in this second term, you will reward us with a glimpse of the guy you have promised, and who we want you to be:  a compassionate, strong, rightful leader who puts others ahead of his own interest.

God speed Mr. President and best of luck over the next four years…

 


A Bullet Point Primer on Guns

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As the debate about “guns” heats up and the administration is on the cusp of making their recommendations, I’d like to add my two cents and help frame the issue so that we are asking the right questions and seeking the solutions that we can all agree on:  reducing firearm related mass shootings.  After all, these tragedies are what has propelled the issue back into the national spotlight.

Let’s start with my prejudices:

  • I’m a registered Democrat and proud liberal
  • I’m a supporter of the second amendment
  • I’m a FORMER member of the N.R.A.
  • It’s my opinion that the N.R.A. believes promoting fear is their best strategy for keeping their constituents, the gun industry and millions of law-abiding gun owners, happy and secure in the “knowledge” that draconian government storm troopers will not be knocking their doors down to confiscate their weapons (I’m not making this up folks)

Let’s frame the debate:

  • We all want to stop these tragedies, but how?
  • This blog succinctly frames the overarching issues in this debate…is it about gun control or people control?
  • After considering the points listed in the blog cited above…now what about the guns?
  • A gun is an inanimate object…period.

Two of the most politically sexy methods of stopping these mass shootings are by banning “Military Style Assault Weapons” and the purchase/use of high-capacity magazines.

Let’s define these terms and look at some irrefutable facts:

  • This is a weapon commonly identified as a “Military Style Assault Weapon” 

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  • This is a weapon that is commonly identified, simply, as an autoloading hunting rifle:

750-prod

What is the COSMETIC difference between these two rifles?   

  • The assault rifle has a protruding handle for the right hand, the hunting rifle does not

What is the FUNCTIONAL difference between these two rifles?

  • NONE…they both fire one bullet each time the trigger is pulled.   I repeat, there is NO functional difference between these rifles

What is the downrange, or end use damage difference between these two rifles?

  • The assault rifle pictured (like the majority of the classified assault rifles, including the Sandy Hook weapon) are a .223 caliber weapon
  • The hunting rifle pictured is a .308 win caliber but is configurable in other calibers all more deadly than the .223
  • So the facts are that the hunting rifle, one not heretofore entered into the ban discussion, is actually a deadlier weapon than the so-called “assault” weapon (those experts on ballistics and terminal velocity will excuse my oversimplification)

Fact:

  • By a two-to-one margin, the majority of deaths in mass shooting are carried out by handguns
  • High-capacity magazines are classified as clips that contain more than 10 bullets.

I had my son time me this weekend.  How long, I wondered, would it take me to change the magazines on my .45 cal Semi-Automatic pistol:

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  • It took me 4.2 seconds, to clumsily I might add, change magazines and effectively double the capacity of this weapon.  Experienced marksmen, or those with even a little practice, can do this in under two seconds.
  • Two seconds (or 4.2 for a 51 y/o man with no practice) is what we are buying with the high-capacity magazine ban…fact

Some definitions and facts for those unfamiliar with firearms:

  • Automatic weapon:  trigger pulled once and gun fires a rapid stream of bullets
  • Semi-automatic weapon: trigger pulled once and gun fires one bullet.  It is not an automatic and cannot be legally modified as such
  • Single action weapon:  an additional function must be performed prior to pulling the trigger and firing one bullet (examples are pulling the hammer back on a single action revolver or pumping <racking> a pump-action shotgun)

Summary:

  • These mass killings make me sick to my stomach and makes my heart ache and I too want solutions
  • I am in favor of, and demand, background checks and waiting periods for any firearm purchase
  • I am willing to entertain bans on certain firearms if the argument is fact-based
  • Reducing these killings will require a multidisciplinary approach, but as it relates to firearms, unless the parties are willing to agree upon the aforementioned indisputable facts, the firearm component of this debate will continue to be steeped in prejudice and misinformation and further polarize extremists on both sides of this issue.

College English Assessment Test…WTF?

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Last Thursday night, I had the pleasure of experiencing my local community college’s English Assessment Test. This is a placement test designed to appropriately place incoming freshman in English classes.

All good.

So the morning of the test, I go online and take advantage of the “Practice Assessment Test”. The practice test consists of one reading comprehension question example. So off I go to a full day at work, looking forward to getting off and beginning part two of my college career. It was not without a great deal of whimsy and reflection that I drove to the college that night remembering making the same trip only 34 years earlier. I am enrolling at the same college that I took my first college course in 1979.

Long day at work ends and I head out early as I head to the school. The website advises to plan on a 2.5 hour test and bring a #2 pencil and student I.D. Check.

I arrive and check in and am seated next to a stunningly beautiful woman near my age who could have easily been a high-fashion model in her earlier years.  High cheekbones, laser-like hazel eyes and pencil thin, perfectly formed lips. O.K., I’m off to a good start.

Here’s where the train starts to feel like it’s coming off the tracks. As we are led into the room, and I seat myself across from my future wife (I have an astonishing ability to ignore the massive diamond ring on her wedding finger) the proctor hands out part one of FIVE separate tests. And guess what Sparky? It’s a friggin’ ESSAY test! At this point I’m starting to scream bait-and-switch in my head but I’m game so here goes…

Choose one question, address all the issues, keep your answers succinct and within the two blank pages given. And WRITE your response with your #2 pencil. What.The.Hell????  I have not written two pages of ANYTHING with a hand writing instrument in at least two decades. Much less with a damn #2 pencil.  And I stopped using cursive nearly 30 years ago as all my writing was done block style on computer scanned reports.  EVERYTHING I’ve composed in the last generation has been typed.  Oh joy…

I choose the more controversial of the two topics and begin to panic a little as I struggle to recall appropriate college level essay construction (remember I was only prepared for reading comp questions). As my panic spreads, I force myself to relax and simply attack the topic as I would a blog post. This immediately calms me down and reminds me that if I do need a refresher in these areas, an honest effort on the essay will be best.

I knock out a very tight 1 1/4 pages that I’m happy with and end with about 5 minutes to spare. My pencil lead is a nub and my hand hurts. It does allow me to steal glances at my partner across the table who seems to be struggling with her work…alternately frantically writing and erasing. I feel more at ease.

The next four components of the test do indeed include a reading comp section and three syntax/sentence structure and vocabulary areas. All mind-numbingly easy and frankly I’d be surprised if I didn’t ace it.

Test over, I finish early and leave my future wife with her scantron as I walk out into the cold air of the parking lot around 11 p.m. What have I learned?

  • Don’t trust “practice” tests
  • Plan on upping the strength on my reading glasses…those small words get blurrier after a long day at work
  • Enjoy the ride and welcome to part two of my future

“Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”~Ferris Bueller

I had one of those moments last night.  Minding my business, immersed in a video game, my text alert on my phone went off at close to 11p.m.  With a daughter home from college and a son out with his friends, both of whom feeling their oats and getting their parties on so to speak, text at this time of night are an immediate epinephrine rush through my system…fight or flight.

Here’s what it said:

“…your son is such a fine young man.  Your son is hanging out over here and my wife and I  were just saying that it has been way too long since he has been here.  We just love that kid.  So glad he and our son are best buds.”

From the father of his lifelong best friend.  I am choking up even as I write this.  Some time ago, I lamented the fact that I wondered if my kids recognized the sacrifices I’ve made on their behalf or if they truly know the truth about my divorce from their mother and the hardship I have endured.  This text answered that question.

There are countless parents this morning that got text last night with dramatically different messages.  “Dad, I’m in jail…dad, I just got busted for DUI…dad, my friend has been in an accident.”

Not me.  I got this text.

I couldn’t look around or smell the roses any harder this morning.

Thanks to whatever higher power exists in my life that allowed me the opportunity to experience this…and thanks to the father of my son’s friend for taking the time to make my day.  Sometimes life does move pretty fast….

L-R: My son's BFF, my son's girlfriend, my son.

L-R: My son’s BFF, my son’s girlfriend, my son.


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