Aug 15

A welcome outbreak of sanity

Instapundit links to this interesting news story: Texas school district lets teachers, staff pack pistols. While this is a step in the right direction, I think it does not go far enough.

I think all teachers, day-care staff, and other adults in loco parentis for groups of children should be required to carry firearms on the job. Maintaining continued proficiency at rapid-reaction tactical shooting should be a condition of their continued employment. Their job is to protect children; if they are not physically, mentally, and morally competent to do that job, they don’t belong in it.

I doubt any explanation of the threat model is needed. But I will point out that the Israelis require schoolteachers to be armed – and the only successful terrorist attack in memory on a group of Israeli schoolkids happened after the teachers, on a field trip, allowed themselves to be disarmed at a Jordanian border post.

Aug 14

Deducing From What Isn’t Reported

There are a couple of things we can deduce from what the national press is not reporting about the killing of Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney:

  1. The killer has no particular ties to the Republican Party or any other right-wing political organization. How do we know this? Because that is without question what the national media went looking for before the corpse had cooled, desperately hoping they’d hit. If they’d found anything, they’d be screaming it from the rooftops now.

  2. The killer has no particular ties to the Democratic Party’s activist left or any other left-wing political organization. How do we know this? Because that is without question the second thing the national media went looking for, desperately hoping they’d miss. If they’d found anything, Gwatney’s death would be a non-story now.

Just another note in a series that probably should have included “How much sooner would the Hunter affair have been broken if John Edwards were a Republican?” Of course, such questions almost answer themselves.

Aug 11

George Lakoff Framed Himself

I’ve been a fan of George Lakoff’s writings on cognitive linguistics since reading Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things around 1990. Later, I observed his foray into political advocacy with increasing concern for him as the trajectory from expected savior to derided scapegoat became increasingly obvious. Now, the Chronicle of Higher Education gives us a retrospective, Who Framed George Lakoff, on Lakoff’s failure and eventual flameout as a political philosopher.

But the Chronicle stops short of the conclusion it could and should have reached, which is that George Lakoff framed himself. The man is a brilliant linguist, but never delivered better than an idiot’s travesty of his own best work when he tried to apply it to winning political campaigns.

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Aug 04

On Enjoying a Fight – a Genetic Speculation

Sword Camp 2008 reminded me how much I enjoy fighting. I’m not speaking abstractly, here; by “fighting” I mean physical hand-to-hand combat.

Now, on one level, this revelation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who knows what I do for fun. I’ve trained to black belt level in tae kwon do, studied aikido and wing chun kung fu, fought battle-line in the SCA, and achieved considerable proficiency in Sicilian cut-and-thrust swordfighting. One doesn’t do all that unless there’s some pretty hefty primary reward in there.

But I’ve actually had quite an interior struggle with this. It used to bother me that I like fighting. I had internalized the idea that while combat may sometimes be an ethical necessity, enjoying it is wrong — or at least dubious.

So I half-hid my delight from myself behind a screen of words about seeking self-perfection and focus and meditation in motion. Those words were all true; I do value the quasi-mystical aspects of the fighting arts very much. But the visceral reality underneath them, for me, was the joy of battle.

In 2005 I finally came to understand why I enjoy fighting. And — I know this will sound corny — I’m much more at peace with myself now. I’m writing this explanation because I think I am not alone — I don’t think my confusion and struggle was unique. There may be lessons here for others as well as myself, and even an insight into evolutionary biology.

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Aug 02

Sword Camp 2008: Graduation Day, Day Seven

The final day of Sword Camp. We spent our morning learning advanced field medical techniques, up to and including learning how to suture a wound by stitching together a slash through the skin of a banana with actual surgical sutures. We also learned how to use a trach tube for clearing an airway in cases of anaphylactic shock or gasoline inhalation or whatever.

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Aug 01

Sword Camp 2008: Live Steel Day, Day Six

Live Steel Day arrived, and we spent the first half of the morning attacking a couch.

This is a much less trivial exercise than it sounds. Couches are tough, full of padding and wood and springs and more difficult to cut than flesh. We had a tablefull of weapons — machetes, a parang, a couple of swords, a tire iron, a crowbar, miscellaneous stabbing and slicing knives, and a couple of axes. The objective: destroy. It was hard work, even for eight sword students who knew a lot about exerting force with a weapon.

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Jul 30

Sword Camp 2008: Zompocalypse, Day Five

The first word of the Zombie Apocalypse reached us at approximately 10:30 this morning. Sal calls those of us who had driven to the site that morning into his office and informs us that the radio news is carrying reports of heavy rioting in Flint, spreading to northern Detroit. US123 and I75 are closed, I69 has been designated as an evacuation route. A news crew has been attacked and taken down by the mob; last footage to go out shows a boot coming at the camera. In the background: The Foo Fighters’ “No One Here Gets Out Alive” and White Zombie’s “Dracula”

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Jul 28

Sword Camp 2008: Firearms Day, Day Three

Monday was the day things went bang. Firearms, basic and advanced. We began with safety instruction and refresher by the lovely Lynda, emphasizing three basic rules: (1) Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, (2) Finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, and (3) keep ammunition separated from weapons until you are at the firing line with the range hot. We were instructed in how to check and clear weapons.

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Jul 26

Sword Camp 2008: Skills, Day One

Saturday was designated Skills Day. The plan had been for the Basics — the beginner-level class — to be taken in hand and run through a compressed version of the first six months of training while the rest of us — Intermediate and Advanced students — got to choose from a casual smorgasbord of specials skills topics offered by the instructors.

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Jul 26

Sword Camp 2008: And So, It Begins…

OK, so imagine you could go on vacation with a bunch of your best friends, all of whom are either (a) science fiction fans, (b) software geeks, (c) advanced martial artists, or (d) usually, some combination of the above. Now imagine that you get to spend a solid week with these people learning stuff like how to fight with a sword, military tactical hand signals, pistolcraft, stealthy movement in wooded country, emergency field medicine, and how to improvise an incendiary mortar with soda cans and gasoline-soaked tennis balls.

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Jul 25

On the road in Michigan

Blogging (and my responses to comments) will be light for the next two weeks. I’m on the road in Michigan, attending a week-long swordfighting intensive that starts tomorrow, then I’ll be at the World Boardgaming Championships for a week after that.

Jul 21

What D&D character am I?

Most what-kind-of-X-are-you quizzes are superficial jokes. I just found one that seems better constructed than the average, and as an old-time D&D fan I couldn’t resist it. Here’s the paste from my results, with a link:

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Wizard (7th Level)

Ability Scores:

Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard’s strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

The stats seem pretty accurate on the whole, though I wonder which answers made them underestimate my Intelligence. And I’ve never been about limiting the actions of the truly capable.

And here are my results from another interesting quiz auditing for Asperger’s Syndrome traits:

No surprise there, I already knew I wasn’t an Asperger’s Syndrome case; if anything, my neurological bent resembles subclinical Tourette’s Syndrome. But here I come out as a neurotypical with a balance of intellectual and physical talents, which seems about right.

Jul 19

A Brief History of Firearms Policy Fraud

The Heller vs. D.C. ruling affirming that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms was a major civil-rights victory building on 15 years of constitutional scholarship. Accordingly, we owe a great deal of thanks to principled and dedicated legal academics including Don Kates, Dave Kopel, and the blogosphere’s own InstaPundit (aka Glenn Harlan Reynolds) for their work on the Standard Model of the Second Amendment.

But there was another trend at work; the beginning of public recognition, after the year 2000, that anti-firearms activism has been founded on systematic errors and widespread fraud in the academic literature on gun policy.

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Jul 17

Slang for the Galaxy

It’s no news to any serious strategy gamer that Race For The Galaxy has rapidly become one of the most popular and frequently played designs of recent years. My gaming group plays it often enough that we’ve developed our own slang terms for certain frequently-occurring tactics and situations. In the hope that other players may find these enjoyable and useful, here they are:

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Jul 16

Deism and the Founding Fathers

There is a belief abroad in many conservative circles that the U.S. is “a Christian nation”. This belief is found in perhaps its most extreme form in the Mormon doctrine that the Constitution of the United States is a divinely inspired document. Less extreme versions hold that Christian piety was an shaping influence on the thinking and writing of the Founding Fathers, and Christianity therefore has (or ought to have) a privileged position in the political and cultural life of the U.S.

The Mormon doctrine is unfalsifiable. But claims about the beliefs and intentions of the Founding Fathers are not, and the record is clear: they explicitly rejected the establishment of Christianity as the preferred or natural religion of their infant nation.

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Jul 09

Patriotism And Its Pathologies

Once upon a time, patriotism was a fairly simple thing. It was tribal identification writ large, an emotional attachment to a people and their land. In most of the world, where patriotism exists at all it’s still like this — tribal patriotism, blood-and-soil emotionalism.

A different kind of patriotism emerged from the American and French revolutions. While American patriotism sometimes taps into tribal emotion, it is not fundamentally of that kind. Far more American is the sentiment Benjamin Franklin expressed: “Where liberty dwells, there is my country”

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