Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why have gun restrictions? We know who is naughty and nice.

I lightly trolled a Facebook friend's feed this morning regarding gun control advocacy. It was illuminating to me that two people against gun control could be so detached from elucidating their beliefs in any sort of concrete fashion. It reminded me of the GOP fiscal debates currently embroiling Washington. Details? Who needs details? I say it should be this way and therefore I am right. It got to the point where one of the people I was interacting with actually felt so bold as to imply that I may be a member of the the group of people who are violent gun owners.

Here is the relevant part of the conversation (all grammar and spelling original) with names eliminated and some bracketed comments of mine that I withheld from the original discussion so as not to further muddy the waters:
Commentator 1: I have the right to bear arms.

Me: How about land mines? Do you have a right to bear those arms?

Commentator 1: Not sure why Adam? [The confusion here lies with the lack of punctuation so I was not certain if this person was saying "Not sure why, Adam?" or "Not sure, why Adam?"]

Me: Just answer the question Commentator 1. Do you have the right to bear land mines?

Commentator 1: I did answer the question. I said I'm not sure. There are good and bad people and I think all the good people should be armed
Me: So, then you agree that there should be restrictions on weapons for U.S. citizens who are bad people? Or put another way, there should be restrictions on our rights to bear arms as U.S. citizens.
Commentator 1: No I said all good people should be armed.

Me: Is everyone good?

Me: Are all U.S. citizens good?

Commentator 1: No, but all the bad people are already armed. [I laughed out loud when I read this assertion.]

Me: Logic fail. Have a nice Sunday.

Commentator 2: The peeps with bad intentions don't give a $hit about getting their firearms legally.... So, let Good Americans arm themselves!! Just making it a little more even, that's all....

Commentator 2: Time for a hot breakfast!!

Me: Who are the good Americans again, just so I know which list is which?

Commentator 2: The folks who defend themselves and others from assholes like the one in the news.... Come On MAN!!!!

Commentator 1: Well put Commentator 2. I didn't realize my opinion would be so ill received. The good Americans would be the list that I am on, and my father who served and my son who just got back and Commentator 2.

Commentator 2: Peace out... Time to hit the sportsbar so, I can watch All the kick-ass morning games... Have a fab Sunday peeps!!

Me: So just to be clear, the only people who can legally bear arms in the US are people who have defended themselves from assholes featured on the news?

Commentator 2: Grey Matter is absent here. BYE!!

Commentator 1: No Adam your not listening and makes me wonder what list your on. [Always nice to run across a former teacher that can't make the you're/your distinction]

Me: I'll let you know if I'm on the naughty or nice list after Santa decides to visit my house or not. You two were a hoot this morning. Thanks!
Commentator 1: Yes. And back to [the original post], if I had all the answers I would still be teaching and Sandy Hook would never have happened.
Anyway, I really enjoyed listening to the claim that everyone should have the right to own guns except for the people who should not have the right to own guns but that there should essentially be no restrictions because those who should not have guns already have guns. There is some dizzying reasoning going on.

I would have loved to delve deeper into the use of anti-personnel land mines and the Ottawa Treaty (which the U.S. still hasn't signed) and the idea that if nations and their armies are willing to set rules of war and limit the kinds of weapons that are used (by virtue of their destructive power), why should it be any different for civilian rules? Unfortunately, Commentator 1 did not step into my trap by asserting that civilians should be able to have any and all weapons they want or that there should be reasonable restrictions on what weapons and how many they can own.

The St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868 restricted the use of explosive projectiles under 400 grams for small arms. Among other things, the Hague Convention of 1899 restricted the use of projectiles which release deleterious gasses and projectiles which flatten or expand in the human body. The Geneva Conventions went even further and the world's powers have continued to meet and address how weapons may be used with all kinds of treaties and declarations.

So, I ask again, if we're willing to agree to limitations on weapons use with our potential enemies, why is it so evil that we might agree to limitations on weapons use with ourselves?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Proposition 30

So, Molly Munger's Proposition 38 aside, many opponents of Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 claim that the money gained by the imposition of his suggested tax won't actually go to schools or students but to teacher pensions and such.

From the language of Proposition 30:

"Eleven percent of the moneys appropriated pursuant to this paragraph shall be allocated quarterly by the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges to community college districts to provide general purpose funding to community college districts in proportion to the amounts determined pursuant to Section 84750.5 of the Education Code, as that code section read upon voter approval of this section."


"Eighty-nine percent of the moneys appropriated pursuant to this paragraph shall be allocated quarterly by the Superintendent of Public Instruction to provide general purpose funding to school districts, county offices of education, and state general-purpose funding to charter schools in proportion to the revenue limits calculated pursuant to Sections 2558 and 42238 of the Education Code and the amounts calculated pursuant to Section 47633 of the Education Code for county offices of education, school districts, and charter schools, respectively, as those sections read upon voter approval of this section."


"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the moneys deposited in the Education Protection Account shall not be used to pay any costs incurred by the Legislature, the Governor, or any agency of state government."


"A community college district, county office of education, school district, or charter school shall have sole authority to determine how the moneys received from the Education Protection Account are spent in the school or schools within its jurisdiction, provided, however, that the appropriate governing board or body shall make these spending determinations in open session of a public meeting of the governing board or body and shall not use any of the funds from the Education Protection Account for salaries or benefits of administrators or any other administrative costs. Each community college district, county office of education, school district, and charter school shall annually publish on its Internet Web site an accounting of how much money was received from the Education Protection Account and how that money was spent."

Based on that language, I'd say that yes it's a possibility but the law has transparency built into at the very least. But, even if it were the case, that the money will be spent on teacher's salaries, does that not free up other money for educational purposes?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Insomniac files

In last night's edition of Adam couldn't sleep so he watched the last hour or so of a movie he's never seen before: The English Patient.

Our movie begins with what looks to be a young Colin Firth behind a pair of old timey flight goggles piloting a biplane with Kristin Scott Thomas aboard. He appears to intentionally crash the plane in the direction of Ralph Fiennes who is standing in the middle of a vast desert (with a suitcase perhaps?) for no apparent reason.

Colin Firth or whoever is behind the goggles dies and Kristin Scott Thomas is injured but not mortally so. Ralph Fiennes leaves her in a cave with a fire and flashlight and wanders through the desert for three days before some British soldiers arrest him because he rants at them and has a funny name. He jumps off a train, finds some Germans who he gives maps to in exchange for a plane that he uses to retrieve the now dead body of Kristin Scott Thomas who "always loved" him. I think she was married to Colin Firth and there was a love triangle of sorts, hence the "I'll kill you with my biplane kamikaze skills."

Meanwhile, in the present, Willem Dafoe looks sullen while staring out of a window and Ralph Fiennes wears some heavy-handed 1990's style movie makeup indicating some sort of disaster that burned him badly. Juliette Binoche longs after a (Sikh?) man on a motorcycle but he has to leave. Then she cries a lot as Ralph Fiennes indicates to her that he'd like to die of a morphine overdose while she reads him the last letter Kristin Scott Thomas wrote to him before she died in a cave in the desert somewhere.


Then I watched Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's (Philosopher's for you Brits) Stone.

The end.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why preliminary prints say "Not For Construction"

In our first picture, we see a front elevation for a cabinet with shelving on top and cupboard doors on the bottom. You can see that it's drawn up in the Euro style without a face frame. In other words, the sides of the case are edge-banded or veneered 3/4" thick melamine or MDF or plywood.

In this elevation, rotated 90 degrees counter clockwise to the right side of the bookcase cupboard, you can see that another shorter cabinet runs into the end of the bookcase/cupboard and a panel detail is drawn. To sum up, the whole outside of the project is tiled with cherry panels, including the end of the bookcase (which is not evident from the first picture which shows only a 3/4" thickness.

Also, at the bottom of the picture, you can see where I circled a detail in pencil where the rubber cove base meets the paneling near the floor. At this angle, it's drawn without a toe kick or any sort of panel overhang at all.

And yet, in this detail which is labeled as "typical" (generally meaning the same throughout) you can see that the base panel is drawn in with another layer of 3/4" panel overlaid on top and then the 1/4" paneling on top of that which would mean that the paneling overhangs the cove base by 3/4-1".

So, here I am, sitting at my desk, redrawing the whole project so I have workable shop drawings that are accurate enough to devise cut lists from.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rummaging in someone else's past

My employer purchased a piece of adjoining property that has what is now a vacant house on the lot. It's previous residents were an aged couple, the last being a man who died in February at the age of 85. We were told that we could wander the house and take whatever we found to be useful or valuable. When I stepped into the garage with my coworker, I was not expecting what was there and to be honest, it kinda put me back on my heels.

A whole garage work space that reminded me of a lot of garages, particularly my dad's, my grandpas' (yeah, both of 'em), and my own to some extent (I still haven't organized it really). I realized there was nothing of value to me in the place except for the scroll saw which we had already decided to adopt, so I opted to wander around and be archaeological; look for clues, tidbits, interesting things.

I caught myself getting choked up on several occasions. Here were things that hadn't been messed with since at least six months ago; possibly last touched by a man who's been long gone. I searched for items that had clearly been untouched by other visitors like myself. This collection of eye glasses was obviously collected and gathered together on a kitchen counter. It felt very unceremonious.

There were the obligatory food jars re-purposed to hold hardware; nails, nuts, bolts, screws, washers, cotter pins, and myriad other bits of loose hardware collected over the years. The box that reads "20 OLD" was a collection of chainsaw links that had been sharpened and resharpened to point that the man who lived there viewed them only as viable spare parts in case his better or newer chain developed a problem.

The classic pegboard was loaded with hooks and loops designed to hold shelves of solvents and adhesives as well as hand tools, most of the tool-holding loops were empty, previously raided by other coworkers or family members of the previous owners.

By the back door into the yard was a key ring holder that reads "Home is where the heart is," possibly an attempt by his wife to spruce the place up or maybe the work of an old softie who liked to be reminded of such things. Maybe it was just a utilitarian purchase at a yard sale down the street. The function is still there but the motivation behind the aesthetic will be lost to history.

A drawer full of electrical parts and projects, items stripped of valuable parts or in the midst of repair or waiting to be skeletonized for some future project.

This cupboard was the most interesting to me as it held binders filled with parts receipts from lawn mower repair to chainsaw sharpening to home decor purchases at Lowes. I flipped through his meticulous records and saw the copies and clippings of woodworking projects or landscaping projects that he endeavored to create. That was, of course, where I found his name. Being of the generation that I am, I immediately set to searching the internet for his name (a very unique one which made it easy to find his obituary).

He was born in Stamps, Arkansas on April 18, 1926 and died February 11, 2012 in Fresno. He served in the Army during WW II with a tour of duty in Europe. He moved to Bakersfield to be near his sister, and met his wife there where they married in 1958. He worked for United Grocers/Fleming and drove truck for 34 years. And he loved golf, baseball, and bowling, which is what tipped me off to his little Scottie made of golf balls with a golf tee tail that was tucked away on a high shelf above his work bench.

I also found this little figurine of a miner on a shelf above the bench. You can see him peeking out near the bottle of Elmer's glue in a picture above. This is actually the only thing I took from the garage. I don't know why but I was drawn to it.

Across from the bench was another shelf of hardware in reused bottles, jars, and cans as well as this clock radio and lamp on a spring-tension arm.

Near the side of the garage was the box for what probably ended up being one of the last bits of hardware he owned.

Near the back door, I found his yard work footwear and hat; years of grass and dirt built up where his jeans didn't overlap the leather of his boots.

The view from his workbench into the backyard.

The only book I found near his workbench, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. As Publisher's Weekly put it, "Former Secretary of Defense McNamara's controversial indictment of American policy in Vietnam."

And of course his chair, sturdy and waiting.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fresno on a good list

Fresno has a colorful history of ending up on shitty lists like "worst city to find a job" or "drunkest city." Well, here's a positive one. Fresno is number 14 (above Vegas, Portland, and San Francisco of all cities) when it comes to drawing in entrepreneurs. Why? Our multi-cultural makeup and often forgotten but surprisingly solid alliance with the GLBT community turns out to be a good thing in teaching those who are born here how to be more tolerant and tolerance leads to openness towards new and different ideas:
Even more than its natural resources and native ingenuity, what has stood at the heart and soul of U.S. prosperity historically has been its openness to hard working, ambitious, and talented immigrants of all stripes—doctors, engineers, and uneducated laborers alike. Roughly half of Silicon Valley start-ups have a foreign-born person among their founding team, according to several recent studies. Careful studies by the economist Giovanni Peri of the University of California at Davis have found that immigrants add rather than detract from American prosperity, for the simple reason that "the skill composition of immigrants is complementary to that of natives." At the low-skill end of the spectrum, immigrants specialize in "manual intensive tasks such as cooking, driving, and building" that their American counterparts tend not to do. At the high-skill end of the spectrum, immigrants bring scientific, technical, and entrepreneurial skills that are in short supply and vital for America’s innovative and entrepreneurial engine. A "more multicultural urban environment," Peri concludes, "makes U.S.-born citizens more productive."
As much as Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley get lambasted for being bastions of red-state conservatism, on a relative scale, this place is waaaaaay more tolerant than other places. I think that should be celebrated.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wait, the 1812 Overture isn't about the 4th of July?

I was working on some pub quiz stuff for last night because I played the 1812 Overture as one of our round songs. I was trying to figure out why the song is often tied to the U.S. Independence Day since Tchaikovsky was a Russian dude. This bit of Wiki info helps with the basis for the overture:

Beginning with the plaintive Slavic Orthodox Troparion of the Holy Cross played by four cellos and two violas, the piece moves through a mixture of pastoral and martial themes portraying the increasing distress of the Russian people at the hands of the invading French. This passage includes a Russian folk dance, At the Gate, at my Gate (U Vorot, Vorot").[5] At the turning point of the invasion—the Battle of Borodino—the score calls for five Russian cannon shots confronting a boastfully repetitive fragment of La Marseillaise. A descending string passage represents the subsequent retreat of the French forces, followed by victory bells and a triumphant repetition of God Preserve Thy People as Moscow burns to deny winter quarters to the French. A musical chase scene appears, out of which emerges the anthem God Save the Tsar! thundering with eleven more precisely scored shots. The overture utilizes counterpoint to reinforce the appearance of the leitmotif that represents the Russian forces throughout the piece.[6] A total of sixteen cannon shots are written into the score of the Overture.

The music can be interpreted as a fairly literal depiction of the campaign: in June 1812, the previously undefeated French Allied Army of over half a million battle-hardened soldiers and almost 1,200 state-of-the-art guns (cannons, artillery pieces) crossed the Niemen River into Lithuania on its way to Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Patriarch of All the Russias, aware that the Russian Imperial Army could field a force only a fraction of this size, inexperienced and poorly equipped, called on the people to pray for deliverance and peace. The Russian people responded en masse, gathering in churches all across the Empire and offering their heartfelt prayers for divine intervention (the opening hymn). Next we hear the ominous notes of approaching conflict and preparation for battle with a hint of desperation but great enthusiasm, followed by the distant strains of La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem, as the French approach. Skirmishes follow, and the battle goes back and forth, but the French continue to advance and La Marseillaise becomes more prominent and victorious – almost invincible. The Tsar desperately appeals to the spirit of the Russian people in an eloquent plea to come forward and defend the Rodina (Motherland). As the people in their villages consider his impassioned plea, we hear traditional Russian folk music. La Marseillaise returns in force with great sounds of battle as the French approach Moscow. The Russian people now begin to stream out of their villages and towns toward Moscow to the increasing strains of folk music and, as they gather together, there is even a hint of celebration. Now, La Marseillaise is heard in counterpoint to the folk music as the great armies clash on the plains west of Moscow, and Moscow burns. Just at the moment that Moscow is occupied and all seems hopeless, the hymn which opens the piece is heard again as God intervenes, bringing an unprecedented deep freeze with which the French cannot contend (one can hear the winter winds blowing in the music). The French attempt to retreat, but their guns, stuck in the freezing ground, are captured by the Russians and turned against them. Finally, the guns are fired in celebration and church bells all across the land peal in grateful honor of their deliverance from their "treacherous and cruel enemies."

If you read that while listening to the full 15 minute overture, it's a pretty awesome visualization.

I still couldn't figure out why the 4th of July is so intertwined until I started doing some research on the Boston Pops. Turns out that in the 70s, attendance for their shows was dropping and Arthur Fiedler was trying to figure out how to get butts in the seats. He decided that a piece of music scored with cannon couldn't miss with American audiences so in 1974, he included it in the program with a synchronized fireworks show and there you have it. For the last nearly 40 years, Americans have been associating the bombastic finale with our own independence and/or our war with England but it has nothing to do with those things and everything to do with our predilection for explosions and loud music.

I hope you all have a happy 4th!