words about things

What follows is my subtle attempt at honesty.

owl pellets : the carrot or the stick

Humans are unique among other animals in their use of idioms. One of the most well understood is "the carrot or the stick" it contrasts the use of rewards and punishments to convince someone to give you a desired result. IE: you can lead a donkey with the promise of a carrot or beat it in the direction you want with a stick. (This is some old testament bullshit as donkeys were prevalent in northern Africa for the last 6000 years and they made easy metaphors for human behavior) The point is, if you want to motivate simple animals (or simple people) you can either promise them a reward or chase them with pain until they do what you want. In nature, however, the carrot and the stick are not so easily separated. You can't give rewards if there are no punishments. Evolutionarily speaking, every reward risks punishment (there's that old testament thing again). Our simpler animal brethren understand that to pursue the rewards of life (such as breeding and eating) you run the risk of being eaten or denied the ability to breed.

The other day I was walking in the woods where I often see barred owls and noticed a thin young tree with a conspicuous branch about 9 feet off the ground and under said branch where several owl pellets (a mass of hair and bones that owls cough up after eating rodents and other small mammals). These masses of hair, teeth, and long bones reminded me that we humans face many, many dangers but none with feathers and talons.

So what does this have to do with idioms, carrots, or sticks? Well, as primates we face almost no avian dangers (with a couple of notable exceptions in South America). As humans we face very few predatory challenges (with a few notable feline exceptions in Africa and SE Asia). As modern men we face only other men as competitors for resources. But even in the absolute worst of circumstances there's no one who wants to eat us whole and cough up our teeth. If the greatest philosophers of the enlightenment could see us today they would note that we are almost all carrots and no sticks. Your worst experience was probably one in which someone promised you something you didn't want rather than hurting you until you capitulated. I am a little bit grateful that my worst enemies are humans and not owls.

how weird are black racers?

We often refer to the simplest part of ourselves as being driven by the "reptile brain". In an evolutionary sense that's a wonderful metaphor. Why do we demand monogamy in western marriage? Because sex is a primary desire that flaunts its power over logic at all times. Why is murder wrong but self defense okay? Because we understand the future is effected by not only our actions but our definable intentions to the people around us. (there's a long discussion to be had here about causality that I won't go into). As self aware creatures we are bound by the knowledge that we can trade today for tomorrow (even though every religion/philosophy tells us that tomorrow isn't promised). But still we return to our simplest, evolutionary programming as a base line for how much control we have over what we do. Loving your enemy requires a conscience, loving your child shows that you are a normal healthy person. All that being said, we tend to over simplify this idea of what constitutes the "reptile brain".  As it turns out we're not talking about phylogeny when we discuss reptiles we're actually talking about metabolisms. We identify with "cold blooded" creatures who are so easily defined by their metabolic behaviors that we only see how they kill and eat their prey...but today I ran into a unique exception to that homonym (so to speak). There exist in the southern extremities of the contiguous United States a couple of genus of snakes that operate on a completely different metabolic level and, as such, express completely unique typical behaviors. This example is the black racer (C. constrictor). While most members of its family (colubridae) react horrible to being picked up the black racer will throw a short lived fit and then lay still in your hands and stare at you. Initially they do all the disgusting stuff like releasing a horrible musky excrement but then they simple succumb to their fate and look up at you as if to say "why haven't you eaten me yet?" The other morning I found a young black racer lounging in a sun beam and I snatched him up to see how he'd settled down. The combination of being chilly and a rather reticent species led to the most interesting of behaviors : he hid his head. If you ever jumped into your bed in a dark room and pulled your feet under the covers to hide from the imaginary monsters who might be lurking in the dark, then you understand what this poor young snake is thinking. If I can't see them, they can't see me. Not true, but it makes the reptile brain feel better.

Catching up

Well, my job has been trying on a whole new level these last few months. I lost some key employees and the leadership doesn't seem to worry much about it. I assume because I havea history of getting things done. I'm genuinely tired of being angry and disappointed and I understand that my attitude is affecting the people around me. But enough about the present, let's talk about the past.

After a couple days of heavy rain, I went by the boss's pistol range to pick up some broken target mounts he wanted fixed (I am useful for such things)

when I looked down and saw this.


I checked with some experts Google recommended and Brandon over at projectilepoints.net replied with a wealth of interesting info. "This was probably used as a knife based on the one blade which is slightly incurvated while the other is slightly excurvated and the amount of resharpening of the blade. This appears characteristic of a Bulverde type point, (reduced shoulders due to resharpening). It is part of the Terminal Barbed Cluster which includes other similar points such as Delphi and Buck Creek." Thank God for Brandon! I honestly, love hearing from experienced and dedicated people who share real knowledge about things that actually motivate them. I'm going to stop this train of thought before I start ranting about how much I hate small talk.

Now, what does this expert info mean to me, the finder of an old rock? Well, you know what? All rocks are old. But this rock is different because it has a human connection.

This was someone's prized possession 5000 years ago! With this simple tool someone fed their family, clothed themselves, and reshaped the world around them into the one in which we can now put men on the moon and unleash the power of the atom! The man or woman who last held this had to compete with and fight off wolves and bears just for the right to live in and move around this country. I once had to go to the county tax assessor to bitch about the new evaluation on my house. See the difference?

But my interest in this ancient flint tool goes deeper. I am a tool user by trade. I disassemble, repair, and reassemble things all the time and here, in the sand, is proof that my compulsion and value to mankind is not a fluke. It's easy to say that all humans through out history are the same but try to put 3000BC mankind into perspective. IQ did not matter nor did religion or income. You were a part of your tribe for as long as you could be.

Life was, in the modern Hobbesian sense "Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short"...........but, to be fair that's based on our current ideas about society, not about individuals. The person who last held this flint tool knew he could count on his friends until they where stomped by a large mammal or eaten by a roving predator. Can you say that about your friends?

So, to wrap up, what have you made that 5,000 years from now will make people look at their friends and say "all I need is this thing I made and you"?

Sensational editing!

Sorry, I've been missing for a while but life is tricky. While I figure out what to say here's another confusing google search.

Which is it? Are we being over run or are we lagging behind on helping people?

catching up with summer

I'm one of those annoying people who makes everything a habit. To the people around me I seem inflexible and no one has ever called me "spontaneous". I do lots of "new things" and I have a wide variety of interests but I make them part of my daily routine and I NEVER do something once (even if I hate it). People talk about the time they took a vacation and went snow skiing. "Oh it was great!" they exclaim. "You should try it!" No f-ing way. The effort and cost to do something for 2 days that I can't go back and do again on my own next week makes me sick to my stomach. Go to the bar or out to a restaurant? Not without planning and setting it as "that thing I do on that night every week." I feel anxiety going to birthday parties and get-togethers. I like to have a list of things to do and I like to check that list off as I do them. The idea of "be at this place as 8pm for fun" isn't fun. (If that makes sense.)

I have changed my diet, my exercise, my work responsibilities, my clothing, my hobbies, my budget, my entertainment, and even my drinking over the course of the last year but I committed to all those changes and made them habits. That's how I roll.

For instance, when it got super hot this summer I set aside my bicycle in favor of running. I've worked my way up to running 2-3 miles 2-3 times per week. I'm not setting any records but I made it part of my schedule and I am seeing improvements. I feel good physically and psychologically after I run so there's a reward for having this task on my list. I have also committed to several important projects at home that are consuming a lot of time but I'm getting them done and that feels good.

Now, on to something that's not all about me.

Today while listening to the latest Adam Ruins Everything podcast I heard about the American Panorama. (Which also led me to the Atlas of Historical Geography.)  This is some cool stuff.

The American Panorama has several interactive maps. One traces the forced movement of slaves from 1810's to 1850's including narratives from actual slaves and freedmen. Some of the narratives are harder to read then others.  I would like to see a map like this for the movements of the freed slaves after 1860's. I feel like there's another tale to be told there.

The map that interested me the most was the one that tracks foreign born people in the US from 1850 to 2000. Considering the one-sided narrative of "immigration" as of late I think it's good to have a visual reminder that people move around. I picked a nearby city and checked out the data that was available. It's worth noting that through the mid to late 1800's the area has a steady stream of Germans Scots and English. Then in 1890 there's a flood of immigrants that is dominated (almost 2:1) by Italians. 50 years later there are no Italians moving to my area. That sounds like a story doesn't it?

One last thing. The Atlas of Historical Geography is an amazing resource that shows (primarily) how long travel took across out country over the decades. I doubt if any of you have ever spent more than 2 days in a car let alone 3 months walking on a trail. Think about how mad we get when we're stuck, over night, at the airport.  Then consider that a 6 week journey from New York to St Louis in 1800 was only a 3 week journey in 1830. And a 1930 railroad trip from New York to East Texas was only 2 days........I ship dozens of pallets all over the country every week and thanks to certain unions/regulations it takes LONGER than 2 days to get ANYTHING to New York in 2016 by truck or train. But that's a rant for another day.

OK. I have work to do. I'll type more later.

crazy people can't be expected to self regulate

I have been trying to right about gun control for weeks because of the shooting of Christina Grimmie and the subsequent Orlando night club shooting but man, is there a lot to discuss.

I didn’t know much about Christina Grimmie but her murder raises some serious questions about the modern age of minor celebrity, the culture of isolation in a country with a dense population, and mental illness to name just a few topics. It was pointed out in a video I watched on the subject of her murder that this guy stood in line and waited his turn to see her just to shoot her.

The Orlando night club shooting brings up radical Islam again, violence against homosexuals, the ever present specter of firearms, the mental illness issue (of course) and we could get into the topics of how nutty a political party has to be to either ignore the fundamentalist religion that encourages killing people for their sexuality and how you can make an anti-immigration argument out of the actions of a natural born US citizen.

Those are all intense, legitimate topics to discuss but instead I want to talk about my frustration with my country’s inability to figure out how to regulate firearms without

a)      Stomping on the 2nd amendment

b)      Allowing the unfettered flow of hundreds of millions of firearms to almost anyone

Personally, when it comes to guns, I have always liked the car argument. Treat guns like cars. Let everyone, who wants to, have guns but require that they get trained, licensed, registered, and maybe even insured. That would work great in a Utopia where no tyrant would ever come along, load us on trains, drive us to the border and fill the ditches with our freshly shot bodies. If we abandon that concern, then why not simply encourage the states to regulate firearms like cars and trucks? If you want to drive a tractor-trailer there are different rules, regulations and requirements than for driving a passenger vehicle. Do that for types of firearms. If you sell your car the new person who wants to drive it has to register and insure it. You’d have to prevent it from becoming prohibitively expensive (which would be exactly what anti-gun people would like to do) but a model like that could work if we all worked together.

Wow. I sound naïve as Hell don’t I? Yeah, I know it’s all more complex than that and we always hit the snag that the 2nd amendment says “shall make no law”. So why don't they amend the constitution? Well, prohibition hasn't really ever worked has it?

So, let me hit on something I think is more important in this debate: situational and regional regulations. What absolutely terrifies me about gun control and gun violence is that I have chosen to live in a place and a way that allows me to safely own and use all types of firearms for all types of purposes with a minimum of risk that I will add to crime or feed mass violence. If I lived in an urban or suburban area my firearms would be more dangerous if accidentally discharged, more likely to be stolen and used for crime, and more likely to feed the general feeling of unease in my neighbors. So why does everyone want broad rules to help reduce gun violence in populated places that will infringe on me in an underpopulated place? Well, I guess it has to do with majority rule. If you have millions of neighbors and one crazy one can kill dozens of you, you aren’t worried about my rights. I am the minority here.

Why can’t we have laws that apply to urban areas, laws that apply to suburban areas and other laws that apply to rural areas? Well, we can and we do about a lot of things, like what you can build on your property, what animals or livestock you can have, and what emissions are allowable from your vehicle. But to pass regionally appropriate gun control would require building up responsible laws at the local level, monitoring and regulating them at a state (or district) level, and recognizing the authority of regions to be self-regulating at a national level. We’re ass backwards on this right now. We want the edict to come from on high! (Assuming we like the edict.)

I feel like, historically, Americans have resisted broad sweeping legislation, but I guess the truth is that most Americans don’t care about most laws. The trick is we live in a place where the minority of people who do care about the law can be as resistant to it and vocal about it as they want without being massacred by the powers that be. So, with that in mind, why don’t the law abiding gun owners want to regulate their own firearms? The slippery slope, my friends! We are told that any restriction sets the precedent for future prohibition (and I believe that is correct under the current system) but the reality is also that if you do not regulate yourselves, eventually the other vocal minority (the one that disagree with your minority) becomes a majority and you end up with someone who hates what you love writing the laws by which you must live. Not a good situation.

That’s why I think gun owners should lead the way when it comes to gun legislation (and they do some times). The people who want gun control don’t want to ensure our future ability to possess and use firearms, they want to get rid of them. We have spent decades going over and over the same arguments about crime, accidents, suicide, hunting, personal protection, and constitutional rights. If someone had the right answer we’d have been done with this debate long ago.  The reality is both sides have their points but neither will concede anything.

The gun control argument in one sentence: Guns make many bad situations worse.

It’s that simple. I can agree with that. If we look at the places with the highest occurrences of the types of bad situations that are made worse by guns and took real steps to reduce the firearms in those places things could get better. But the argument will always be, “people will get guns from the places where they are legal” Okay, good point but let’s look at that pro-gun argument

The pro-gun argument in one sentence: No technology, once produced, has ever been successfully removed from a society until it was replaced by something more efficient or the need for it disappeared.

Wait. What? Yes, that’s the angle I’m going to take here. I spent a lot of time trying to think about how to reduce the pro-gun argument to its simplest state and that really is it. It’s the simple evolutionarily driven desire to control resources through the use of tools. The hunting, self-defense, sporting and heritage arguments are all about the ability our tools give us to do things we could not do the same way without them. We are tool users, guns are tools, and you can’t convince the majority of people to give them up until we don’t need them to get the job done. It’s that f*&king simple. American cities are filled with guys who have never used a hammer or a screw driver to build or fix anything but they own them.  A human built this toaster, so I, another human, can repair it! Logic! Why do some guys buy fast cars they can’t drive fast? Why do some women buy clothes they only wear once? Why do so many people buy so much food that they have to throw some of it away? Humans feel obligated to have things that they CAN use even if they NEVER use them. The American fascination with guns is part of this same evolutionary mechanism.

I know my logic seems reductive and overly simplistic, but I think, at its core, the pro-gun argument is exactly that simple. I base this on things like the reactionary buying and hording of firearms and ammunition over the last 8 years. This coincided with both a swing to a democratically controlled congress (for a while) and the election (twice) of a president who is considered to be very liberal by conservatives and also happens to be black.  If you think the black thing doesn’t matter you should talk to the people I’ve been talking to. Racism is alive and well and it spends money on guns. This is an example of resource management. The majority white Americans didn’t buy guns at this pace through the 80’s and 90’s when crime was, historically, high. Okay, I’m getting off topic. Back to my point.

The second amendment to the constitution states: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The gun-control crowd loves to point out that the 2nd amendment does not say “guns” and that the “militia” is the National Guard (or something) and not the wannabe vigilantes living on your cul-de-sac. The reality is that right now arms = guns and the militia = people who are not being paid to take orders from an elected official.

So, if we are the people and our ability to get guns isn’t infringed then we should all be happy right? (Does that follow? Did I do that right?)

Then why aren’t more pro-gun people upset about how heavily regulated and restricted automatic weapons and explosives are? Maybe the people who grew up shooting a deer rifle and not a machine gun aren’t worried about the slippery slope caused by the National Firearms Act of 1934 or the people who buy miracle grow for their tomato plants don’t care about the restriction of your God given right to buy all the fertilizer you want without going on a watch list! (There’s some sarcasm in there, in case you missed it.) BTW: Timothy McVeigh killed more than 3 times more people with a truck full of fertilizer and a dislike of the government than the Orlando shooter did with an assault rifle and all the hatred of gays he could muster.

So, why are we so worked up about gun control when we already have a ton of restrictions that mean the “people” are sorely out gunned and out equipped by the local law enforcement and the military? The pro-gun argument seems pretty hypocritical from the 2nd amendment side of things unless you are pushing to remove the existing restrictions (which, you could argue, the average firearms owner is not).

A more plausible idea is that we don’t want to give up the tools that are currently available. If my neighbor can buy and AR-style rifle on Friday I want one on Saturday. It’s an unmanaged resource and I want my share. My neighbor can’t buy a fully automatic firearm without tons of paperwork which I’m not willing to do so I’m not worried about that. The army has hand grenades, organized crime can get them if they really want them, the crack dealer on the corner doesn’t have the means or motivation, and my neighbor can’t get one at all. I accept that as being the way things are and therefore I do not complain that my right to have hand grenades is being threatened by moderates willing to send my freedom down the slippery slope of the gun-ban leftist liberal agenda. But if I want to sell you one of my guns and we are required to fill out a form, well, that is the mark of the beast.

Final thoughts: I really do think that the US could make a lot of improvements with some common sense gun legislation. I really do think that it should be regional and varied based on practicality. I really do think that gun owners should be the ones to regulate themselves. If pro-gun people can work out a responsible way to track and regulate their firearms and their qualifications they could, theoretically, make a more solid, unified pro-gun base. Like it or not, in a democracy, eventually the anti-gun sentiment will dominate and, in fact, it already does in many areas. This will spread until the existing restrictions are used as precedent for all the horrible legislation that NRA types fear. I don’t want to lose my guns. I like shooting and want to be shooting when I’m an old man. I took my concealed handgun course; I did my FBI back ground check and paid my fees. My fingerprints are on file and I buy my guns (as often as possible) from licensed FFL dealers who filled out all the required forms. I am not afraid to follow the rules to participate in something that I love but every time some asshat shoots up a club we get one vote closer to having people who hate our guns getting their way and letting people who dislike something about your life make laws that affect you never works out well. Just ask anyone who was Jewish in Poland in the late 1930’s (I made it all the way to the end before I made a Nazi reference. Aren’t you proud of me? Oops. I forgot about that being loaded on trains thing back in the 4th paragraph )