Friday, November 04, 2016

Friendship and Forgiveness

When I was a meditating hippie, I wanted to be one of those avatars, the fully-realized human beings who, even though they could leave The Wheel, avoid further reincarnations, and join the Infinite Bliss? instead stayed on to help their suffering fellows, a shining beacon against the big darkness.

There were never more than a relative few of these exemplary people at any one time, so the story went, those who had found a true path, gotten their shit together, and shaken off the shackles of the usual to become something finer.

Haven't made it there, and when I look at my watch, I notice the hour has gotten late ...

One of my failings had to do with compassion, and forgiveness. I never got past the quid pro quo aspect of those. 

From time to time, I would get crosswise with friends or family. Harsh words exchanged, feelings hurt, feelings of betrayal, and the resulting anger simmered on, unresolved.

From where I sat, if such a thing happened, I needed to examine my thoughts and actions and see if -- where -- I had screwed up. If I saw that I had part (or all) of that, then my responsibility was clear: I had to apologize and try to make it right. 

Was it me? Why, yes, that happened a lot. 

Not always. If the person on the other side of the River of Outrage owned part or all of it? Then they, too,  had to tug the forelock and do one of two things: Apologize, or at least offer a reasonable explanation as to why they shouldn't need to do so.

If you sinned against me, you needed to say so and ask for forgiveness. I was willing to give it, but I had to hear you say you needed it.

Thus: Dude, I said some things I shouldn't have said, I was wrong, and I'm sorry. My fault.


Dude, let me tell you what I meant, and how I came to that position, okay?

If I accepted the apology (or they did); or listened to the explanation (or they did) and came to realize that maybe things weren't quite as we thought, then we could clean it up and move on. 

This wasn't how the fully-realized beings did it, mind you, because they had true compassion, but it was the level I had reached. 

If neither explanation nor expressed sorrow came when I believed it should? That bridge was burned, and whatever might remain of the connection was not going to be what it was.
The balm I needed to heal the wound was regret they had caused it, and if they wouldn't give it? Done.

And since time tends to make such things less painful, eventually the bleeding stops and there you go.

The window eventually closed, however. If you wanted to make it right, I needed to hear it, and ten years on? Or after I had to tell you it was due? Too late. 

Still haven't gotten past this, so my shining avatar elevation isn't on the schedule. I suspect this is how it is for many people. Something happens, and somebody who was a friend no longer is; somebody you'd go help bury the body, no questions asked, will have to deal with corpses they make on their own. 

Things change, worlds move.

Why this topic? Certain days in the fall, when the gray rules and the fog hangs on, bring up old memories, tapes etched so deep that time and overlays haven't erased them. 

Not to worry. It is a fleeting thing. Tomorrow is another day, the sun will come out ...

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gun Q&A

Got asked by somebody about what kind of gun they should get. Here is the long answer:

So, if you somehow feel the desire or need for a gun, you need to ask yourself some basic questions. One size does not fit all, and if you drill down to your primary reason for wanting boomware, that will answer the most important question.

1) Why do you want or need a firearm? 

Gun sport? Self- or home-defense? Hunting for food? Heroic fantasy?

Let me break those down. 

If you like going to the range and punching holes in paper targets, or making steel targets ring, or doing competition in scenario games, where you are a cowboy or a cop, then the activity determines the hardware.

If you want to see how close you can come to perfect score on paper targets, then you have to decide whether you want to do that close or far away. Close, get a handgun designed to be accurate. Far away, get a rifle. If you want to knock clay targets out of the air on the fly, you’ll need a shotgun.

How precise determines the weapon. Hitting a target the size of a man at seven meters needs less accuracy than hitting a dime at the same distance. A hundred-meter pistol shot at something the size of a pie place is doable. A thousand-meter shot with the same weapon and target? Not so much. You can plug it with a really accurate rifle more often than not. If, of course, you practice.

If you want to play cowboys in the action sports shooting games, you need cowboy guns, and they are defined in the rules. This kind of handgun, that kind of rifle, this here shotgun. Usually determined by the era the original saw use, and allowed-replicas have the same limitations.

If you are a hunter, the prey decides the weapon. You can hunt squirrels with an air rifle or a .22 or other small bore guns, hand- or long-guns. Close, you can use either. Far away, you need more accuracy. Knocking off ground squirrels at five hundred meters? You can do that, you want, but the tool will be specialized, and will include a scope so you can see shit. 

You can’t stop a big brown bear with a small bore gun unless some god is bored and wants to screw with your head. If you shoot a squirrel for the stewpot using your bear rifle, you won’t have anything left to cook. Bigger prey needs a bigger gun. 

I gave up hunting a long time ago. Didn’t need the meat, didn’t want the trophy, and I had all the advantages: the brain, the patience, and the weapon. Not my thing. 

Home-defense? Pretty much most pistols, rifles, or shotguns will do the job. Tiny caliber handguns, aka “mouse guns,” don’t have much relative stopping power, but the first rule of a gun fight is, bring a gun. Shoot something ten times with that target .22? It will give them pause. Stopping power aside, more people have been killed in civilian life with .22s than any other caliber.

You do not need an assault rifle, and if you don't know what you are doing, you are going to do unintended damage if you start blasting away at the Beagle Boys  trying to steal your TV. The walls in most houses in which we live won't stop a .223 or .308, then won't even slow them down much. You could punch a hole in your wall, the next door neighbor's wall, and then kill the little old lady two doors down. 

If you are a homeowner with little experience as a shooter, you should get some, experiece, and probably stick to simple hardware that is easy to operate in a hurry. If it is a handgun, get a revolver in a caliber you can comfortably shoot, because if you scream and drop it when it goes off, that’s bad. I tell people looking for a home defense handgun to get a double-action .38 Special revolver. Recoil is relatively light, and it hits hard enough with good loads to stop most people most of the time. Revolvers mostly don’t have, nor need safeties, and it is either loaded or unloaded. Point it, pull the trigger, repeat as necessary.

If the .38 Special kicks too much for you? You can dial it down to a .32 or .22. First rule, and all.

How do you know if it is too much or not? Go to the range and rent one and see.

Semiautomatic pistols are more complicated. Enough so that it would take longer than I want to spend here explaining the ready-conditions alone. If you don't already know, don't get one.

If you would rather a long-gun? Get a shotgun and load it with birdshot. Doesn’t matter that the gauge is, but 12-gauge is the most common, and easily found. More than enough for a burglar, not as likely to go through your walls and kill the little old lady next door.

You can also load that 12-gauge with different kinds of ammunitions and hunt birds, squirrels, rabbits, and Kodiak bears.

If you need to carry a gun when you go out? Get a handgun. Handguns are a compromise. They are a trade-off, being more portable and concealable, but less powerful. 

The old joke goes: Why are you carrying a pistol? Are you expecting trouble?

No. If I were expecting trouble, I’d be carrying a rifle.

Or I’d stay home.

If you are walking around with a rifle in open-carry and down to the local Walmart? You are an asshole. Go away. 

For self-defense in the city, the mid-sized revolver is again the easiest, but there are a plethora of other portable ones. You have to think about this. If your hogleg weighs eight pounds, chances are you aren’t going to want to haul it around, and eventually, you will leave it at home. A mousegun in the pocket beats a rhino-stopper at home in the safe. 

A Desert Eagle in .44 Magnum will turn your purse into a bowling ball on a strap, and hiding it under your T-shirt and shorts? No. If you carry a big gun when it is a hot day, you have to hide it under a vest or in a belly pouch, and you also might as well carry a big, flashing, neon sign saying I HAVE A GUN! if you do that. 

Experts can carry what they want, cocked-and-locked and bells-and-whistles, but experts don’t need any advice from me. Experts will fight tooth and nail over which caliber beats which other one, and it is a holy war. Not going there.

Which brings us to the fantasy stuff. If you carry a gun around, or plan to use one at home, for defense, you need to learn how to shoot it. When to shoot it. The legality. Strategy and tactics. What happens to you at the mall when you whip it out to stop the loon with the M-4 and the police see you and think you are one of them. 

And you you have to be willing to point a killing weapon at somebody and, if need be, slay them. If you can’t live with that notion? Don’t carry a gun. It’s not a magic wand, and waving it won’t stop everybody all the time. Even shooting them might not do that, and afterward, you are going to have to explain what you did over and over and over, in the police station or in court. 

Any questions?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Leaping to Conclusions

Years ago, here in Oregon, there was a terrible event: A young mother, out driving with her children in Springfield, saw a curly-haired stranger on the side of the road trying to flag her down,  so she pulled over, and he tried to carjack her. Wound up shooting her three children and her. Killed one child, paralyzed another, caused the third to have a stroke. Her wound, to the arm, was less serious, and she managed to escape, get back into the car and flee, driving to the hospital.

Local paper ran the story, and Geezus, ain't it awful? What is the world coming to?

At the time, I got a strong whiff of fishy. What is the rest of the story?

Fishy it was, more than a tuna factory on Friday afternoon. 

Eventually, it was determined that Diane Downs, the young mother, shot her children, and wounded herself, because she had a boyfriend who didn't want kids.

Some of the video footage of the woman is bone-chilling, how she reacted to the shootings, what she had to say, while smiling ...

She's still in prison, still sociopathic, and scary to see and hear.

A lot of crap going on in our country these days, people being shot, and while I don't attribute the madness of Diane Downs to anybody shooting now, there is, because we have access to cell phone videos and instant social networking, a lot of rushing to judgement based on sketchy information.

Yeah, I have watched the vids. And surely, some of them look like executions, but I am reminded of Diane Downs. There is going to be more to some of these stories, and that information is apt to find the stony ground of already-formed opinions based on insufficient data.

Seen a couple more videos this week. Some woman at a rally talking to a TV crew, she's calm and well-spoken, and all of a moment, police grab her and drag her off.

Another of a woman holding a sign that says "Love" at a rally, and the next image is of her being grabbed by the throat and arrested by armored cops.

And finally, a video of a perpetual motion machine. A small bladed fan, upon which somebody attaches magnets and metal plates and then spins it up to twirl without any source of power.

We aren't seeing the whole picture in any of these events. What happened before, or off-camera, and that makes a difference. Schrodinger's Cat.

This is not to say there aren't grievous injustices taking place. There are bad cops, and they do bad things, and there are psychotic killers, some of them religious nuts, I am not trying to excuse any of them. I am just pointing out that in many cases, what we are shown is only the tip of an iceberg, and before we think we know what happened, we ought to collect more information. 

The world is full of clickbait. Proceed with caution.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Shadow Knows

I was raised from the age of two to thirteen in Baton Rouge, in a middle-class neighborhood called Brookstown. Small houses, mostly blue-collar families, lots of kids and dogs and early 1950's sensibilities. (Look at Google Street View now? It's a barely-recognizable, impoverished third-world country, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. You can't go home again.)

In the summer, sometimes a friend and I would find a plum tree and, once the fruit was just past a particular shade of green, we would stage a raid. 

Hop the fence, put an old sheet on the ground under the tree, grab and vigorously shake a couple of branches, collect the sheet and flee with our stolen loot.

Something a nine-year-old-boy used to do without much thought about the legality of the process.

We knew it was wrong, but we did it anyhow.

One fine early summer day, my partner in theft, Ted Long, and I cased a yard. Plums were ready enough, we had our old sheet. We hopped the fence, laid out the collection cloth, and proceeded to start shaking branches.

"What are you doing?" a woman's voice came

Oh, crap! The homeowner! We were caught!

The woman looked at me. "What is your name?" she demanded.

We had not anticipated actually being caught. We had discussed the notion in theory. What if somebody catches us? 

Why, we figured, we would just give them a phony name, and be off and about our business.

We had not thought it through, but that seemed enough at the time.

Ah, but here we were, facing the irate owner of the plum tree, and the unexpected shock threw me into a full-blown panic. 

"What is your name?" she said, glaring at me.

And in my bowel-quivering fear, my mind went blank and I blurted out the only name not my own I could remember:

"T-T-T-Ted Long!"

You can imagine the expression on Ted's face. His shocked gaze at me. What?!

So, you can also guess what Ted said when she asked his name, can't you?

Thus I found that I was not cut out for a life of crime ...

Friday, May 27, 2016

Mary Jane Blues

Mary Jane Blues (12-bar blues, in D) 

Oh, the bugs ate my marijuana plant, they ate her right down to the ground/ 

A                                                                         D
Oh, the bugs ate my marijuana plant, they ate her right down to the ground/

You know I can’t get high no more, ‘cause I’m feeling so low down.

I called her Mary Jane, and she was tall and green/
Yes, I called her Mary Jane, and she was tall and green/
When I woke up this morning and she was gone, it was the worst thing I’d ever seen

(Instrumental Break) 

I sprayed Dr. Bronner’s to save her, but it too late/
Yeah, I sprayed Dr. Bronner’s to save her, but it too late/
I’m gonna get ten gallons of Blag Flag, and kill all them bugs I hate.

4. Repeat verse 1. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Double Entendre Blues

Double Entendre Blues 

Well, my woman drives a pickup, drives a pickup, drives a pickup, and she drives it real good/
 A/A7                                                                                     E/E7
Yeah, my woman drives a pickup, drives a pickup, drives a pickup, and she drives it real good/ 
              B7               (B7,B-flat,A)            E
She keeps it oiled and lubed up, just like a good woman should.

 (turnaround: E,A,E,B7)

It’s got big round bumpers, big round bumpers, big round bumpers, and headlights set way up high/
A/A7                                                                                       E/E7
It’s got big round bumpers, big round bumpers, big round bumpers, and headlights set way up high/
                   B7             (B7,B-flat,A)     E
The tailpipe is so tight, makes a grown man want to cry.

The bed’s big enough, big enough, big enough to hold a telephone pole/
A/A7                                                             E/E7
The bed’s big enough, big enough, big enough to hold a telephone pole/
                   B7             (B7,B-flat,A)     E
The heater is so hot, you will never ever ever ever get cold.

If you ask her real nice, real nice, real nice, she might give you a ride/
A/A7                                                                       E/E7
Yeah, If you ask her real nice, real nice, real nice, she might give you a ride/
                              B7            (B7,B-flat,A)                   E
When she grabs that gearshift lever, you’ll think you’ve gone to heaven and died.

Well, my woman drives a pickup, drives a pickup, drives a pickup, and she drives it real good/
 A/A7                                                                                     E/E7
Yeah, my woman drives a pickup, drives a pickup, drives a pickup, and she drives it real good/ 
               B7             (B7,B-flat,A)             E
She keeps it oiled and lubed up, just like a good woman should.