Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life

November 10, 2013

Opinion

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My wife reported yesterday that she reduced her website loading time by a “humongous” two seconds. Of course, she is correct. This is the off-season for her site but she still gets 3000 hits per day. That’s 6000 seconds saved for her readers collectively each day, almost two hours. Wouldn’t it be cool if lawyers, family physicians, dentists, school administrators, and government bureaucrats valued the time of their clients, patients, students and customers similarly? (My doctor and dentist do not make me wait; it is one of the important reasons I do business with them.)

Managing time is somewhat different than managing money. Money is spent as time passes, but we trigger that phenomenon through contractual obligations. We can simply stop disbursements with money. We cannot add significantly to the high quality years of our lives, especially if we take care of ourselves. Our time as a resource is based on our lifespan. We can guess at its length, and may be lucky enough to extend it with good choices, but our control of it is limited. The big distinctions with time are we have no idea how many days remain in our life and we have limited control of how much we have. Thus, our only controls of it are using it well and not wasting it. Another peculiarity with time is that our perception of it changes as we age. It seems plentiful in youth, almost infinite, but in chronic short supply as we age. Money, with care, is quite the opposite for many of us. It is scarce in youth and more than adequate as we age – even for those who are not particularly wealthy.

I will not comment on the wise use of time. If you have read this far, you probably know more about its wise use than I. But not wasting it is bit harder to grasp. I no longer feel that failure to have a whole bunch of daily goals on a day off from work means that the day will be wasted. Examples of this abound. Walking the dog and spending time in the woods is not a waste of time. It is calming. It is exercise for my dog and me. He likes it. I like it. Posting is something I like to do. Perhaps it is good for my brain. It is free reading for you. Maybe my posts help you, even if you conclude that you disagree and have a better approach to an issue. I certainly do not get paid for doing this, and yet it is not a waste of time. A different kind of example of saving time is spending time and money in relatively large chunks today to save minutes every day. These activities take thought and calculation; they are not instinctive nor are they obvious. An example is manually trenching to install irrigation pipe for a suburban lawn. It saves money, is good exercise, and saves time in moving a hose about during the hot summer months. If you calculate the overall time savings, even at 3 minutes per day with automatic irrigation, you get a one or two year payback on the back-breaking work. And you will enjoy the microbrew as the lawn is watering automatically. The same analysis occurs by installing quarter-turn hose bibbs; and re-keying locks at your house so one key opens all the door locks, etc. Many people will say they do not have time to do these things. They should say they do not have time not to do them.

The drudgery work that is part of your passionate endeavors is not wasting time. It is the result of the pursuit of a free choice. This even includes mucking a chicken coop. It is okay. But it is insane, if there are other choices available, to watch twenty minutes of  commercials on television for each hour of programming,  to pick up the phone when someone is requesting a donation or trying to sell you something, to wait at a traffic light during a trip not needed , to sort mail each day to recycle the unsolicited trash, to buy a newspaper that is more than half advertising, and to engage in the many activities that are simply wasting our lives. We all need to take an active role in freeing ourselves to pursue meaningful lives. And that means taking an active part in limiting unsolicited intrusions and avoiding, to the extent possible, those people and companies who  waste our time.

June 9, 2013

How to, Miscellaneous Comment, Opinion

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First, I must make a confession. My wife is our chief dog trainer. My goal is to help her and not screw things up too much when I am with the dog. This is all very strange, because we both observe that the dog seems to have more affinity to me than her.

Our ACD is about 26 months old. He has taught me the following:

1. All dogs must learn the basics. These are sit, stay, down, come, heel, and no. They must, of course, be house-trained. Some training is needed for fun or to further their skills such as bird hunting for retrievers. A formal game of fetch comes to mind. Our ACD is not a natural at fetch, but he did learn it and does a good job. He can sit and wait while we throw. He retrieves the ball, returns it and drops it in our hand. Very good.

2. If you are training your dog and making no progress, do not assess what the dog is doing wrong. First look at what you, the trainer might be doing that is sub-optimum or, worse, simply wrong.

3. Be consistent and make your dog practice his training to make your lives (his and yours) easier. For example, our dog is always commanded to wait before entering the house and before jumping into my truck. We tell him to move off the trail when hiking and to sit and stay when we are about to encounter other hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. This usually works, despite never formally training him to move off the trail. The point here is to command the dog for behavior that is logical and prudent in the situation. He will begin to associate the needed behavior with your command.

4. Reward your dog a lot when he is learning a new trick. Our dog is big on food. Indeed, we already have to watch his weight. So, we do not always treat with food, and when he does get treats they are small and low calorie. Obviously, we want and seem to be getting a dog that likes praise and finds that to be adequately rewarding for doing the right thing as time progresses.

5. Never punish your dog after he obeys the “come here” command. Even if you use the command in a stern, punitive voice, always praise your dog for coming to you.

6. ACD’s really do try to herd their owners by biting our heels. This is how they herd cattle. These natural behaviors are hard to break, but a little firmness here that works is better than a problem that is punished less firmly over many months. Any dog with biting, barking, or other problems that tend to hurt others and get the owner sued must be dealt with in a planned and firm manner by the owner.

7. If you are desperately struggling with barking, biting, herding (yes, our neighbors have cows), you might consider a shock collar. We did. When our dog goes into the neighbors cow pasture, he gets one call. If his excitement at herding overwhelms his obedience training, he gets a shock and then another call. And he comes and is rewarded for doing so. This punishes the bad behavior, herding the cattle of neighbors, while rewarding good behavior, coming to us. We do not have to do this much anymore. He is a smart dog, and when I used to get him from the field, I always told him not to visit the neighbor. Now when he goes in that direction, I say the same thing and the dog turns to look at me and pauses. It all works together.

8. Most of us want a dog that has basic obedience skills. Use as much positive reinforcement as possible, and as little punishment as necessary. Punishment has negative consequences, such as breaking the spirit of the animal, and can contribute to other manifestations of bad behavior. Today our dog disobeyed me. Instead of dragging him to his kennel, as I did  before when he disobeyed, I simply told him to enter the kennel. He did. He knew he had been bad. But because he entered under his own will, I released him in only a few minutes. He got the message.

9. A good dog is a great companion. He is a dog that generally obeys, but has moments of fun and exuberance that define his unique character. This is his spirit and personality, and is absolutely fine for pet dogs, even if a little annoying at times. This combination of traits defines our dog. He is what people call a good dog, and that is right.

 

 

May 25, 2013

Firearms, Opinion

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This week an extremist British citizen used knives and other bladed weapons to kill a British soldier. This was a daytime attack in public, with innocent spectators merely watching. Of course, the British, being duly civilized, had no guns available to stop the attacker. The citizens cannot carry guns nor have them at the ready in their homes. Even most of the police are unarmed; only a few armed police units are available. Reports vary on how long it took for armed personnel to arrive. The quickest time I heard (NPR) was 13 minutes. But we know the medics and unarmed police arrived first. And there are reports that an armed response took as much as 30 minutes. Whether an armed response occurred 13 minutes after the initial call by the public, or 13 minutes after the first responders arrived is unknown.

The British have done an excellent job of what American progressives think needs to be copied in the U.S. They have disarmed their citizens, and even most of the cops, to assure that the hoodlums, criminals, and bad guys have free reign to do harm. When attacks like this occur, or the Norwegian massacre of a few years ago, or the Newtown massacre, the facts point to faulty strategies for safety and survival by the victims, their guardians, and their governmental officials. Most of the gun control reforms proposed after Newtown confirm this view; there was almost no nexus between the legal changes proposed and the causes for the atrocious crimes committed. Fortunately, many of us understood that and made it known to our legislators, causing most of the proposed changes to fail.

May 20, 2013

Firearms, Opinion

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Back in the day when Chuck Schumer was a congressman from New York State, he regularly aligned with the likes of Ted Kennedy to ban an ill-defined group of handguns called “Saturday Night Specials.” He must have thought ridding the world of light-frame double-action revolvers and small, easily concealed inexpensive autoloaders would make us all safer. After all, thugs preferred these guns. The logic was really quite astute. If you couldn’t get a permit for carrying a gun, and decided to carry a large one anyway because small ones were no longer available, the cops would notice you leaning on your heavy side with a big bulge under your leisure suit.

I wonder what changed? Now Schumer is trying to ban guns and magazines that are basically too large to conceal, and cost north of $1000. The answer is simple. Anything that will sell to folks who oppose the private ownership of firearms, who know little of them, do not understand why owning a firearm is a fundamental and inalienable right, well that is good with Mr. Schumer. He cares little about principles, what the law is, etc.

And I do not mean this as antisemitic, but why do so many urban Jews support the notion of not having meaningful access to firearms? Certainly it was not in the best interest of the Jews that Adolph Hitler disarmed the Jews in the thirties. How can a people so abused by various governments throughout history oppose an inalienable right for them to carry useful protection from harm? It is an utterly astounding position.

May 18, 2013

Firearms, Opinion

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This post was sparked by an article concerning a study of countries for attributes of freedom. The study concluded that the ease of owning a gun does not correlate with freedom. Based on the false premise of the study, this finding is easy to believe. Countries like England, Canada and Australia have very few citizen rights with respect to firearms, and most commentators repeat the old rhetoric that these countries remain free.

There is no indicator for freedom better than exercise by citizens of their right to bear arms. Perhaps freedom of speech is a close proxy, but it is harder to measure due to various degrees of that freedom.  Firearms are a strong indicator of restrained government. The right to own handguns and carry them about correlates well with the American notion of freedom. So are we doing well in the United States with the best measure of freedom? A simple yes is not possible for all of us. Here are some facts to ponder:

Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 35 state laws are “shall issue” with respect to handguns, and five states (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Vermont and Wyoming) allow concealed carry without a permit. Approximately 210 million people live in these 40 states, or two thirds of the population.

The “may issue” states are roughly Alabama,  California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The other jurisdiction in this group is the District of Columbia.  Three states of this group issue permits to qualified persons: Alabama, Connecticut and Delaware. I cannot verify that this will remain so with Connecticut’s new law. The reason this list is called rough are numerous. Illinois has no concealed carry law. To satisfy an order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the legislature is working on a law that will likely be a restrictive “may issue” law. There are some states and jurisdictions where a citizen cannot acquire a permit to carry in public regardless of character, wealth or any other attribute – permits for the average citizen to carry a weapon in public will not issue. They are New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, New York City and Washington, D.C.

It is fair to say some portions of the United States are free. Other jurisdictions, fortunately a minority, are paternalistic and allow very little power to remain with their citizens. To say those citizens are meaningfully free is something I fail to understand.

P.S. Alabama will soon become a “shall issue” state. That leaves only 9 states and the District of Columbia with laws that restrict the fundamental right to bear arms excessively. (5/25/2014)

P.P.S. The governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, has a “shall issue” bill on his desk now. He is reluctant to sign it. We will see what happens, but I am sure the pressure on him from both extremes is incredible. Of course, he needs to sign this and make this well negotiated and strong bill a law. The extremists in the legislature negotiated in good faith at developing a bill that requires training for permit holders; is “shall issue,” but with a safety valve allowing the police to stop issuance; and provides a due process hearing for those subject to non-issuance. Illinois law could be close to a model bill for states, especially those with “may issue” laws.

P.P.P.S. The governor of Illinois partially vetoed the bill, but the legislature overruled his veto! Illinois is now a shall-issue state, making the total 42. Progress.

 

 

December 23, 2012

Opinion

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The past week or so has been tough. We had the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. This was followed by numerous unverified and incorrect news reports, such as Adam Lanza being let into the school by the principal and his mother being a teacher at the school. The press hit us with reports from the gun control advocates and did not challenge their errors or balance the views they expressed. Public television’s Newshour invited Dianne Feinstein to speak at length, and followed her presentation with a panel of three, only one of whom thought that an assault weapons ban will not work. And Dianne Feinstein pulled out all the stops, referring to semiautomatic firearms as automatic, referring to magazines as clips, and stating that semiautomatic firearms were only meant to kill and had no legitimate use in our society, sporting or otherwise. Then, later in the week, we had a thorough bashing of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA by many who neither listened to his speech nor bothered to read his transcript. Mr. LaPierre was vilified by Mayor Bloomberg for his complete misunderstanding of the problem of violence, yet it is Mr. Bloomberg who advocates that we pass laws that violate our Constitution. Bloomberg is the chief executive of New York City, where it costs a citizen over $400 per year for a license to own a pistol. That is how NYC abides by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that recognizes the 2d Amendment grants New Yorkers the right to keep pistols in their homes.

It is indeed ironic that we have to live with a press that is biased, whose reports are erroneous, who report with an orientation of advocacy and not education or care with the facts, all of which is protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, and in doing so they are in full frontal attack of the 2d Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

December 23, 2012

Firearms, Opinion

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I purchased my Glock Model 19 between 1994 and 2004, when 15 round magazines were not manufactured for private ownership in the United States. It came with two ten-round magazines. There were numerous solutions to get around the restriction, all of which I embraced when I carried a firearm for personal defense, such as in the woods near my home.

1. I purchased after-market 15 round magazines that had been manufactured before the ban. This was lawful. Most of these were plastic, but they work well.

2. If I wanted more than 10 rounds using 10 round magazines, I carried a second firearm. The back-up gun improves reliability compared to a single high capacity magazine anyway.

I generally carry my Glock with 13 rounds, one chambered and 12 in the magazine. Keeping no more than 12 rounds in the magazine keeps the magazine spring from being fully compressed, likely leading to the automatic loading of the round being slower but more reliable than with a fully compressed spring. Also, the life of the spring is improved.

For loading my personal defense pistol, the chambered round is a hollow point. The next one up is a round point to decrease the probability of a jam, which is low in Glocks anyway. Then I alternate.

You might ask why I carry with a round chambered. I am confident in the Glock design; it will not fire unless the trigger is pulled. Also, my holsters cover the trigger and my firearm is holstered when I carry it.

December 22, 2012

Current Events, Firearms, Opinion

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The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut has brought out the gun control extremists, people like Dianne Feinstein, who is either very naive or believes the citizens of the United States are extremely gullible. With all the renewed demands for a new ban on semiautomatic firearms and high capacity magazines, I thought it wise to check some statistics. I compared homicide data in the United States with the same information from Canada. I chose Canada because its gun laws are very restrictive and its homicide rate is similar to those found in the western European countries, where severe restrictions on ownership and carrying of firearms are common.

The United States has a homicide rate of 4.8, which is 4.8 deaths per hundred thousand population. Roughly two-thirds of those deaths are with firearms, mostly handguns. Long guns (rifles and shotguns) accounted for only a few percent of homicides. No reliable statistics are available for homicides by what were called assault weapons, but some analysts use homicides with rifles as a proxy for homicide by assault weapons, and conclude that homicides with assault weapons do not exceed 2 or 3%. Approximately half of all homicides are by black Americans. The homicide rate has declined for several decades, even after the 1994 to 2004 assault weapons ban expired. Homicide rates are very high in some American cities, such as Detroit, New Orleans, Newark, and Washington, D.C. Homicide rates are generally lower in places where carrying guns concealed is not highly regulated, although this is not a perfect correlation. Washington, D.C. is very restrictive on concealed weapons and has a high murder rate; New York City is also very restrictive but follows national norms on homicides.

Canada has a homicide rate of 1.6, with one-third caused by firearms.

Recall that half of homicides are committed by black Americans, who comprise a little more than 13% of the U.S. population. Normalizing for that disparate contribution and assuming that this group should contribute to homicides at a rate no greater than other Americans, I calculate a homicide rate equal to: (4.8/2) + (0.13)(2.4) = 2.7

Adjusting for the disparate affect of black homicides in the United States, and subtracting all firearm related homicides in both the United States and Canada at the Canadian rate of one third (assuming U.S. laws became equally restrictive, and that there was no substitution of weapons for those murders), you get a homicide rate of 1.1 for Canada and 1 .8 for the United States. You can draw conclusions about differences between Americans and Canadians from the statistics:

The American homicide rate would likely be greater than that in Canada even if Americans had the same laws concerning firearms as Canadians. The American homicide rate would be at least 50% greater than Canada’s, suggesting Americans are considerably more violent than Canadians.

The assault weapons ban and its expiration did not seem to affect the steady decline in homicides in the United States and appears to be more aimed at banning weapons in a method most likely to garner legislative support. The ban is not a safety measure; it is a first step in what will be a continuing effort to limit gun ownership in the United States.

Decreasing homicides in the U.S. through restricting firearms rights will require such extensive regulation as to leave the 2d Amendment a useless relic, like the rights in the constitution enjoyed by the citizens of the defunct Soviet Union.

The way to reduce violence in the United States is to do the hard work needed to, well, reduce violence. I am not a sociologist, but that probably means better education systems, more recreational opportunities for youth, better dispute resolution training and systems, better functioning police and courts, better laws (such as making sure the laws on the books are important to safety and are actually applied), better urban and suburban design, more public recreational spaces in urban areas, and more job opportunities for all groups in our society.

August 24, 2012

Opinion

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Have you noticed the skill of the fellows on TV who show us each week how working with wood is so easy? The work yields uniform shavings when they create a perfect mortise with a set of chisels. When I try it, I wonder whether I can find an exterior grade putty that will hide the void I just created. Despite my chisels being sharp, my skill with them is akin to creating a key hole in pottery after it is removed from the kiln.

I am building a 4×5 porch and stairs to my “barn,” a gambrel-roofed storage building. The deck will have railings and all the goodies; the materials alone cost just under $500 at Home Depot. I know I am getting old; my estimate would have been half that, based on the prices we paid 20 years ago. Those are the prices that are firmly ingrained in my memory. I will post a picture once the stain and putty are applied.

 

 

August 18, 2012

Current Events, Opinion

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We face a clear choice in the presidential election. Romney and Ryan are fiscally and socially conservative. Obama seems infatuated with the progressive politics of the day. It feels as though Romney and Ryan are advocating short-term controlled pain in exchange for long-term prosperity, while Obama and Biden propose business as usual, unbridled spending, and an uncontrollable and harsh financial day of reckoning at some point in the future, when they are being paid dearly by us in retirement.

Victory for Romney and Ryan can be achieved by countering Obama’s condescending rhetoric with data, moving to the center on taxes for the rich while maintaining a conservative fiscal agenda, assuring us of maintaining social freedom, and advocating for environmental health. Some of these things will annoy the party extremists in the Republican party, but who will they vote for if they abandon Romney?

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