Many years ago I hated guns and I said as much in my blog. Friends of mine who were pro-Second-Amendment, however, talked me down and convinced me that guns handled responsibly by responsible gun owners are safe; that “assault weapon” is a loaded term and an arbitrary classification; that people need firearms to hunt and to protect themselves; that a gun license is more regulated and harder to get than a driver’s license. That guns themselves are not the cause, that people will always find ways to hurt each other even if they have no guns, that there are other underlying issues that need to be addressed instead.
But, you know what? I’m fed up with news stories about somebody armed to the teeth going into a public place, ruining lives, and then usually ending his own. I was listening to a discussion on NPR about how schools should be better fortified like the TSA checkpoint at an airport, and I thought about how much better it would be if that money could be put towards paying teachers and buying resources instead, so how could we prevent guns from getting to schools? How could we prevent them from leaving people’s homes? Why in the first place do people need firearms that can spray bullets at people?
I was listening to an interview on NPR with the president of the American Enterprise Institute (a conservative thinktank), who said:
You know, one of the things that I ask when I’m in front of audiences is to do a little thought experiment: What would happen if all of the poor people in America just disappeared? Would you know it if all the poor people in America suddenly disappeared? I daresay that most people listening to us today wouldn’t even know about it immediately. They have no emotional or moral connection to them. … We’ve gotten incredibly good at helping poor people. We could be better, of course. But we’ve gotten terrible at needing people.
And then Jill and I were watching John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” on HBO Now, where he briefly turned the discussion away from politics:
I know the world is a bleak place right now. So we wanted to leave you with a happy story. And it involves Bolivia. [map of South America appears, with a country highlighted as Bolivia] A country you think about so little you don’t even realize that’s not Bolivia, that’s Columbia, except it isn’t, that’s Venezuela [map updates], THAT is Columbia [map updates again], except it isn’t, that’s Bolivia, which is the one we were looking for in the first place. Which one’s Columbia? There is simply no way to know.
I feel sad and ashamed that even though the world is so small these days, I still don’t know very many people in it.
“Have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong? Were you scared? What ended up happening?”
Every time I see a television drama about a bunch of people on an airplane and the pilot is incapacitated and they have to figure out how to land it, I always fantasize about how I would do it. (The Canadian television show “The Aviators” has an episode on this, where they put someone at the controls of a passenger jet simulator and “talk him down.”)
Every time I see a news story about attacks or hostages or some other disaster, I always try to imagine how I could have helped if I were there. And I work for a company that has a lot of contact with the public, so every time I’m out and about I try to keep an eye out for anything going wrong that I could help put right.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, so my imaginings while I’m watching the TV news probably aren’t realistic. And when I’m out in public there are people far better trained out there for anything that could happen. So no, I’ve never seen anything going wrong that I would speak up about. Though I’d like to think that if I did, I could handle it.
Just about the only time I feel inclined to speak up is about our software projects at work, where management continually pushes for new features instead of ever allowing us time to go back and clean up what we’ve got, and frequently I try to convince people that this is just making what we’ve got harder and harder to maintain. But I’m not good at convincing people, especially where money is involved, so I usually refer to this as “tilting at windmills.”
I just kept a scammer on the phone for more than half an hour.
I knew how this was going to play out as soon as I answered the phone and was greeted by a gentleman who said in a thick Indian accent: Hello sir? This is Windows Technical Department. Your computer is causing many errors and I am calling to fix them for you. Are you in front of your computer?
I want to use my X-Plane flight simulator to learn to fly.
I want to build a miniature replica of downtown Celebration out of Lego.
I want to write a great fiction novel.
I want to learn the new Swift programming language and write a iPhone program.
I want to learn Japanese.
I want to figure out the Traktor software and learn how to DJ.
I want to connect my Raspberry Pi to my Lego Mindstorms and program a robot.
I want to become a better puppeteer.