Breed Bans

“End Breed Bans” – a bumper sticker I saw today with a stylized puppy logo.

There are certain breeds of dogs that have been historically engineered (bred) for aggression and winning-in-a-fight. They’re quick to anger, their jaws lock on when they bite, requiring some real effort to separate them. Kids have been savaged by these dog breeds. Individually, I’m sure every one of these dogs is a fine upstanding puppy, and I certainly have met a few real sweeties.

But I don’t think you can be for breed bans and against gun bans (or vice-versa).

There are certain types of guns that are engineered for winning-in-a-fight. Just like dogs.

It’s not the gun or the dog that’s the problem. It’s the owner. You take certain steps when you have a dangerous thing in the house, whether it’s a dog (solid training, training for people around the dog) or a gun (gun safe, ammo safe, ammo safe not in the gun safe, training for people around the guns, whatever other training you get for guns because I’m not trained for them). You take these steps because you acknowledge that what you have is dangerous and its scope for danger is much higher than other objects in its class (the dog is not necessarily more likely to bite when it gets angry but the bite could do more damage, or maybe it is more likely to bite because this breed is quick to anger. the gun is not more likely to go off, but uses bigger bullets that can really rip up a body). A responsible human recognizes extra dangers and takes steps to mitigate them.

The problem is that we’re not all responsible owners. And I can’t trust each one of you to be a responsible owner, whether of an especially dangerous gun type or of a fight winning dog breed.

I don’t think this is a reductio ad absurdum argument. Both things are subsets of a bigger group, and within that group, each class I’ve listed is engineered to be more dangerous than other items in that group. Each dangerous class requires special caution. I don’t think this is a strawman argument. I think there are people out there who are against puppy-bans and are pro gun-bans.

I’m just saying you should be consistent.

Personally, I’m against breed bans. But I’m more likely to worry if Miss K is over at a friends house and they have a (fighting dog breed) as opposed to a (non fighting dog breed) because I don’t trust the owners. I also think you should have whatever gun makes you happy, as long as you’re being safe with it. However, I’m not arguing for or against dogs or guns. I’m just saying that you should be consistent. Oh, also realistic. I don’t think we’re going to get the guns back into Pandora’s box.

Bookstores

I read today that Barnes and Noble is closing stores after a “terrible” Christmas season – store sales have declined almost 11% and NOOK sales have dropped 12.6%. This article partially blames Barnes and Noble itself, but specifically calls out “Showrooming” where people look at a book in the bookstore and then buy it at Amazon.

I’m not very conflicted about Amazon. I like it. I know they have shady employment practices, and they’re aggressively competitive with other bookstores, even other kinds of stores. I really like their Prime service, which enables me to order (cheap) gifts for random people and have them delivered for free. I usually like using their affiliate links to earn a few dollars here and there. (Last year I didn’t even clear $200, by the way, so don’t get the wrong idea). But their main competition is probably bookstores.

I love bookstores. Once upon a time I wanted to own a bookstore. In fact, if I ever won the lottery and decided to settle down somewhere (unlikely on both counts), I’d probably open a bookstore/internet cafe someplace warm near the water. Or even on the Oregon Coast. I think neighborhood bookstores are as much an integral part of a healthy city as a thriving nightlife. Nena, over at St Johns Books, has readings, book clubs, and parties, she supports the schools, she gives discounts to educators, she orders books for people. Powell’s has readings, book clubs, story times, all sorts of stuff.

I think, even though people enjoy Amazon, they should support their local bookstores. I don’t believe it’s an either-or situation, I think you can do both. But that requires a commitment to go to your bookstore and browse.

(I’m also a huge fan of public-domain books, like ones you find at Project Gutenberg)

Wedding Presents

I have a few friends and a family member getting married this summer. In all three cases, they’ve been living together or there’s two of them combining their houses and they have a lot of stuff.

When Ms B and I got married, we registered at Meier and Frank and they (M&F) gave us a little scanner to walk around and scan stuff for our registry. We “had” to have plates, bowls, all that stuff. But it didn’t really mean a lot to us as we went through the process. It was just this “thing” we did. What did mean a lot to us was having one person donate a platter of sandwiches, another person paying for the flowers- another person paid for the wedding dress. We felt that people were helping us get together without plunking down a bunch of cash.

So this summer, I look at this stack of invitations and I have to wonder; does this person really want a frying pan? Where did these people get registered and what do they really want? And I don’t see these other people often enough to know what to buy them. What if I just sent them cash – and did it before the wedding, so they could use it for wedding expenses.

Is that tacky? I vaguely remember someone telling me that giving cash is tacky. But as I age and as I compare my experiences with “tacky” against what other younger people are doing, I have to ask – do I really care if it’s low-class to hand out cash? Maybe it’s “tacky” to go to a reception without a present (which is the way I presented it to a friend: do you want this cash now, or a wedding present at your reception?)

I’m the first to admit that I don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around. I want people to have a great wedding day. If that means that I help pay for some flowers, then that means a lot more to me than buying them a frying pan.

I wish all my marrying friends to find the happiness that I’ve found with Ms B. What’s the best way for me to value their wedding day?

Circle Stays Unbroken

If your circle stays unbroken, then you’re a lucky man.
‘Cause it never never never has for me.

Ronnie James Dio

High School was lit by Dio and Led Zeppelin in some personal ways. But Dio’s words at the beginning of ‘Invisible’ were a special touchstone. I had a small circle of friends, and one was dying of cancer, one was being moved by her parents to some remote Alaskan town. And me? I broke my ankle and wound up moving here to Portland. My circle was shattered. I wouldn’t meet up with any of the fragments until I found Linda in a small Idaho town (and we’re back out of contact).

Today, my circle is expanded. The obvious reason is because of the Internet (and being an adult). I have friends all over the country. People I know who would stand at my back in a knife fight. Friends here in Portland, friends in Boston. I even have friends in Anchorage. But also because the rings interlock, or your circles intertwine.

What prompts this navel gazing?

There are some people in my circles who surprise me. Sean, a friend from College who is running a gaming store in Georgia now. When I met him, I didn’t go out of my way to talk to him, or commiserate, or what I would normally consider how you “make friends.” As far as I knew, we didn’t have much in common (other than a slight geekiness) and we didn’t go out and do stuff. But every time I ran into him, about once a month or once every two months, he’d remember me, he’d be excited to see me, and we’d have some good words together. Our friendship blossomed from those seeds he planted. But I don’t know why he chose me for his dirt.

I had coffee with my friend Chris. (Chris, if you read this, I’m not asking for an explanation). Chris has some technical challenges he’s facing at work and he thinks I can solve them. You can’t swing a dead CAT5 cable without hitting a web guy, but he thinks of me. We met through Drew, who had both of us working on his stuff (more or less at different offices), but I’m not sure what makes us click like we do. Yet, when he drives to town from Las Vegas, he wants to visit and chat. Sometimes it feels a little strange; why does Chris trust my judgement? What is in our songs that make them harmonize?

I have a bunch of terrific friends. Some, I can see the road to where we became friends (Erich, David T. David D., my usual crew) and some, the road comes up from a foggy dell, Chris B, Sean. Some are combinations of those (Matthew). I don’t appreciate any of them enaough. But the circle, if you want to call it that, isn’t really round, or even contiguous any more. It’s more like a fishing net with a bunch of holes in the pattern (no, I mean, a net should be regular but this net isn’t, not the normal holes in a net, don’t over analyze that analogy).

March into Depression

I think I hate March.

March is the tail end of winter, and it is usually cold and wet. It’s the end of the dark days and you’d think with the equinox, that we’d be happier about the days being longer than the nights. But it’s cold, wet and Eugene had six inches of snow. It having been so dark and gloomy, inspiration for creating new things and building up on old things is at a low point. It’s hard to go into work, hard to talk to clients, even hard to pay bills.

On the plus side, I saw daffodils in the side yard this weekend. The dog seems to be feeling better. The kids are definitely feeling better; they’ve had colds for a few days and Miss B even had a fever.

A few months ago, running in the rain was a badge of courage. Today, it’s a badge of insanity. It’s cold, wet, and the raindrops are little frozen needles banging you in the face.

Spring break is next week, and I hope they find something fun to do. Any suggestions?

A Shirt With A Provenance

I’ll have to post a picture of this great shirt I got for my birthday. My moms know that I enjoy bright Hawaiian shirts and went out of their way when they were in Hawaii to get me one. They bought it from someone who sells “used” shirts, collector’s items. I have no problem with this because I usually tell people to get me one from Goodwill — what I want is some bright thing of color I can wear and that’ll look stylish over my large belly and above my shorts and sandals. Or above my jeans. The brighter the better – I’ve learned that I don’t need to restrict my bright color wear to only SCA events.

So they bought me a shirt that normally sells for about $150, but it was used, so it was nowhere near that. That’s more than my running shoes. Even used, that’s more than any four pieces of my wardrobe. And it’s a collector’s item. This shirt has a provenance, like something you’d see at an antique store. But on the other hand, it’s a seriously cool shirt and I can’t wait to feel it on my body.

I can’t even wear my $30 silk shirt without worrying about dumping something on it. This is probably residue of a job interview I had at Pacific Coast Fruit a million and a half years ago, where I stopped at the Day Care and collected a good luck hug from Ms B that came with a mouthful of ketchup all over my white shirt. I got the job anyway- Don must have been blind.

What else did I get for my birthday? My friends Rachel and Bob got me a shirt from Woot and a fantastic watch/heart monitor thing that will be interesting to use on my runs. My family got me some t-shirts, a copy of The Wise Man’s Fear, and some shorts. And David showed up with some beer! It was a great birthday.

Running Butt-Sniffing

I’ve recently decided that it’s ok to talk about myself as a “Runner.” I mean, really- I’m running three times most weeks, I have a goal of 500 miles in 2012 (which is totally doable if I can keep my average above 10 miles a week or 3.5 miles a run). And one of the guys in the office said that he’s a runner too.

There’s this thing we nerds do, establishing credentials, I call it “Technical Butt-Sniffing.” It usually sounds like “I develop web sites with PHP and MySQL” and then the other nerd says “Oh, really, have you heard of Rails?” and the first nerd says “Yeah, it’s ok but can be a pain to deploy for the first time to a shared host” and then they laugh together because they both have an idea of the other nerd’s aptitude. If you’re not following the analogy, it’s like dogs meeting at the park. You can see the process play out in every social group.

So, back to running. One of the guys in the office said “Oh, really? I’m a runner too!” and then … I’m at a loss. I read running blogs or websites and I don’t really know how to talk to another runner. And I had to stop myself. The first questions out of my mouth were “Oh, really, how far do you run? How fast do you go?” Because those are the questions I ask myself (for the record, about 3-5 miles per run, about 11 minutes per mile). But those are also judgement-laden questions. I don’t really care how far or fast he runs, I just want to have a conversation about running and our shared experience of, you know, putting our feet to the ground in some careful pattern of broken falling.

So I stopped him, and said that. I said “You know, I don’t really care how fast or far you run, but I do want to establish this rapport. What questions do I ask to make a conversation, so that we can talk about this?” And he responded with “Why do you run?” which is a great question. Also a great butt-sniffing question. So I asked him, why he runs. He runs because he can do it right after work and it works out great for him. Another guy in the office runs because he hates any other form of exercise. And we could all talk about that. (I run mostly because I’m cheap and running I can do with shoes and anywhere.)

What if other conversation-starters did that? “I build websites with PHP and MySQL?” “Oh really, why do you build websites?” It sounds much less like you’re passing judgement. Pretty nice, huh?

Couldn’t Happen To Me

Well, that was a mistake.

I’m pretty lax on “card security.” I order a lot of things online and I use my debit card in lots of places. I suppose that’s going to have to change; I went to balance my checkbook today and found $250 in fraudulent charges originating in Canada.

I’ve never even been to Montreal!

After a ten minute stress-filled call to Keybank, the card’s been cancelled, the charges have been disputed (and the phone operator was very helpful about specifying which charges I disputed. Guy, seriously, anything in Canada? It’s fraud!). I have to file a police report. And in 10 business days or so, I’ll “probably” get my money back. They even denied one $250 charge, although I’m not sure why Key let the others through.

I’m not sure where the numbers leaked. It’s possible, though unlikely, that whomever stole the numbers also stole other personal info and opened an account somewhere else. I have to contact the credit report places and put an alert of some sort on that thing too.

What a pain in the patootie. But it could have been much worse.

Helping Your Kid Escape Boxes

Miss K had a tough question this morning for me. As we’re getting ready for school, she came into the bedroom with the hairbrush. “Dad,” she asked, “am I a geek, or a nerd, or what?”

Wow. My first thought was kind of flippant; “tell her she’s seven, and that’s all she needs to be right now.” But she was obviously serious about this, and deserved a straight answer.

“Well, kid, that’s a pretty serious question first thing in the morning. I think when a person says they’re a nerd, they mean a whole bunch of things about themselves, and I don’t like just plunking all those onto you. You’re good with computers, you like to read, sure. But on the other hand, you like to run and play soccer, you enjoy talking to people. There’s a bunch of things that people think a “nerd” is that you are and you aren’t. I’m not a fan of saying a person is this thing or this other thing like they can’t share interests. I think you should leave this open.”

We’re a family of nerds. I’m a big nerd, Ms B is a smaller nerd, Miss B is a smaller nerd. Miss K was looking for some kind of context. I’m not sure, however, that this didn’t come from someone at school.

She’s seven, so we’re getting a bunch of clarifing “find yourself” kinds of questions. How do you work this out?