Saturday, February 13, 2016

Three Little Not-Piggies...

At the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mass v2

Seven and a half months ago, in the lead up to Halloween and both Canadian and American Thanksgiving, I wrote about a new eating schedule and how it was helping me reduce my mass.  Of course the holiday season immediately followed that post -- a notoriously difficult time of year to maintain weight, much less lose it.  In addition, right after Christmas Sara and I joined friends for a trip to England* and spend two weeks on the road -- another notoriously difficult thing regarding eating and weight.

*insert obligatory joke about how English food is awful and therefore traveling to England must be a good way to lose weight.  In fact, I had the best steak of my life while we were in London and ate quite well the entire trip, thank you very much.

In fact, I ended the holidays weighing slightly less than I entered them -- a pound or three -- nothing spectacular, but I consider that a significant victory.

This morning I passed another milestone.  I'm now 10 pounds under my black belt testing weight and have lost approximately 40 pounds*.  That's approaching losing 15% of my maximum body weight.  More importantly, my BP (on medication) has dropped this week into the very low end of normal.

*Disclaimer: any particular days mass reading is temporary.  I have spent more than a month bouncing around my last plateau, moving up and down (mostly) in about a three pound range in the high 250s.  I note edge cases for the very reason that they are extremes and thus rewarding.

As my mass decreases, my ability and inclination to exercise increases.  I still have a back problem, but I have added bicycling (using an electrically assisted bicycle).  I got my first 10 mile ride in this week and am trying (not yet managing) to get a short ride in every day I'm not at the gym.  The Faraday Porteur makes hills much less scary but can be ridden up and down easy grades and on the flat without draining the battery.  It makes it easy to carry  a grocery bag (or two) and I have panniers coming that should make bigger trips possible.  If my gaming didn't end late at night I'd seriously consider riding it over to Card Kingdom for PFS.

My antipathy for calories in, calories out is probably better documented than it warrants.  Tl;Dr is that it's a decent heuristic and a terrible plan.  What you eat is important because it affects how your body processes food and releases energy, and because it affects how much (and what) your body _wants_ to eat.  But the general goal of dieting or eating healthy is to encourage your body to eat less (and better) stuff and have more energy and inclination to expend that energy.

Six small meals* (I don't know a formal name for it but that's descriptive) -- eating a small amount (think custard cup, small muffin, or half banana sized) every three hours through the day -- seems to work for us.  We rarely get more than five in, for me one is often somewhat larger, but th basic idea is working.

*Honest to Goddess, we did this under medical supervision for the last 7-8 months.  Including monthly meetings with a nutritionist/dietician and a fitness counselor and periodic meetings with an MD and a psychologist.  They were not messing around.  I don't know how much that support mattered, but we definitely benefited from it.

Given that 90+% of dieters in the U.S. fail to lose weight long-term, any dieting discussion must begin with the thought that we don't really know what we're talking about around food and that this works for me.  And that whatever works for you is good.

This is working for us.

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Thoughts on the Apple Watch after less than 24 hours

1) it's a little strange to be wearing a watch again.

2) the apps screen gets full really really fast

3) I want to write complications for it.  Complications are the elements that can be configured in watch faces.  A quick google search has not turned up any information on creating them.

4) It was obvious that the watch was going to be a relatively simple i/o device attached to my phone. Brief experience bears that out -- with the exception of the watch face and complications (some of which DO depend upon the iPhone -- Weather, for instance) -- it's a new interface into existing apps on your iPhone.

As such, it creates a new category of interactions which used to be folded into your phone -- extremely brief ones for which you might have carried your phone in your hand (e.g., moving to the next song or changing the volume on your music -- exactly what buttons on your headphones or cable were intended to do) -- like incessantly checking the time, or a countdown timer you have in place.

So I'm not quite sure that I like the idea of games on the watch.  If you are sufficiently engaged in something to interact with it constantly, why not use your phone, which has a bigger screen and better UX?  The only game type I can see working on the watch is something where you make a very simple decision every few minutes or so.  Definitely NOT highly interactive systems.

5) Oddly, the watch is more intrusive than the phone for interacting, because it absolutely requires two hands.  There are a lot of things I can do on the iPhone with a single hand (the previously mentioned music manipulations, simple short texts or typing with one thumb, swiping, etc.) but I have to have my phone out and in one hand to do it.  The watch, which doesn't need to be taken out or put away, must be manipulated with the opposite hand.  It sounds small but it it weighing heavily right now -- partly because in each case the primary use hand is my right hand.  If i'm holding the phone to do one handed manipulations, it's in the right hand.  If I'm manipulating the watch in any way other than just flipping my wrist to the see currently displayed glance or app, I'm doing it with the right hand.  I assume that lefties will act correspondingly using the left hand.

Anyway, those are the first thoughts.  More later, I imagine.

Cross posted to Mischievous Ramblings II
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

But There's No Such Thing as Climate Change....

Image from below linked story.

From How Much More Rain Would California Need To End The Drought?:
Short answer: a whole lot.  
...the winter we need to escape drought conditions ... would have 150 percent of the average rainfall, or a storm like we've been getting every three to five days through spring. That, unfortunately, isn't very likely.
Additional coverage of the California drought on SFist.

Much of the US is in an historic drought.  Drought leads to changes in food prices (almost always upward), increases costs of disposing of waste (due to cost of water and need for clean water when supplies diminish), and can literally make portions of the country uninhabitable without substantial efforts.  Any number of Southern California and Sun Belt cities are in locations that are incapable of supporting their population without massive influxes of foreign water, including the possibility of moving water from Canada.

The idea of "water wars" is nothing new, but with increasing drought throughout the US ("from Delaware to California" is a money quote from one story) the problem of who has water and who's willing to give up water is going to get nothing but more serious and contentious.

Who owns your water supply?
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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Other Voices on Guns

I found myself reading a collection of essays at The Fog of Policy on guns, gun control, and politics.  I found them well-written, balanced, and generally rational -- which is hard to say about a lot that is written about gun policy.  Here are links:

As usual, I don't expect anybody's mind to be changed, but I can hope for civil discourse, at least....
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Monday, December 8, 2014

Bowling Ball and Feathers, in a vacuum chamber

What is there to say? Science Rocks.

Sorry about the hiatus.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's Veterans Day...

"Veterans Day", by Tom Russell, performed by Johnny Cash,
 from the 1990 Album Boom Chicka Boom

It's Veterans Day.  November 11, derived from the ending (by armistice) of active hostilities during The Great War, at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918 (although formally, the state of war did not end for various combatants until between 1919 and 1924).

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed 11/11 to be Armistice Day:
"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"
In 1938, Congress
... made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I...
and in 1954
...after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Originally, Armistice Day was intended as a day for celebration and remembrance, with parades and public meetings.  Business would cease briefly at 11am.  By making Veterans Day a statutory holiday, Congress was more or less doubling up on Memorial Day (formerly known as Decoration Day) which had been instituted after the American Civil War.  The division of labour was essentially that Memorial Day was for veterans who had died, and Veterans Day was for all veterans.

In 1968, the US government attempted to "normalize" holiday celebration in order to create uniform three day weekends for federal employees, which resulted in several years of confusion until President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11.

As a result, Veterans Day (unlike Memorial Day, Presidents Day, and Columbus Day -- and incidentally, my mother's birthday, which until 1971 was always Memorial Day) is again celebrated on 11 November, no matter what the day of the week.  Partially because of this peculiarity, and probably largely because of the Vietnam War, Veterans Day parades are much rarer than they used to be.

That's wrong.

Lionizing the military and declaring everybody who serves to be a hero isn't right, but ignoring the service and sacrifice of our veterans isn't right either.  Jim Wright says it much better than I can:
...I concur with the bare gist of Masciotra's basic premise: i.e. calling everybody in uniform a "hero" is nothing but shallow mindless patriotism and, worse, waters down the sacrifices of those shining few who truly ARE heroes. Putting us military folks up on a pedestal is wrongheaded and counterproductive and blinds you to the very real, very human, problems. Heroes can do no wrong, they never kill the wrong people by accident, or on purpose, they never commit rape or harass their fellows, heroes never break their oaths for a book deal, do they? Heroes don't get PTSD. Heroes don't wake up at night, the sheet soaked with sweat, the screams ringing in their ears. Heroes certainly don't need help or counselling or medical care after they leave the service. Heroes don't end up dirty and hungry and addicted and living on the street. Regular people do, but not heroes. 
The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of us, me most definitely included, are NOT heroes. We are just ... people. We were just soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, trying to do our duty, doing the best we could with what we had under difficult conditions.
So, it's Veterans Day.  Do something nice for a veteran, if you can -- and do it some other day if you can't do it today.  At least be conscious that there are nearly 20 million Americans who signed up to go into harms way for the rest of us.  Try to be worthy of that.

And make sure that you, and your children if you have any, make it, at least once, to Arlington National Cemetery, or Colville-sur-Mer, so that you (and they) remember what war costs.

"Stones", Arlington National Cemetery,
by Evan Robinson

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sorry about that...

Urine Color Chart,,
Gunsite has pee color charts next to every toilet

I had hoped to get back to content-ful writing a little sooner than this.  My week of art for art's sake posts was the week I was at Gunsite Academy taking their Gunsite Scout Rifle class.  Hard, but fun.  Lots of stuff to learn and then practice.  I haven't checked my round count, but it was probably in the range of 400-500.  The simulators were fun, especially "Military Crest" and "The Scrambler".

Then came Friday lunch.  I had just finished Military Crest and was really happy to get a chance to sit and eat and continue to hydrate, which is a constant element of being at Gunsite.  The school is over 5000 feet and in the desert, so making sure that you have enough water and electrolytes is part of the drill.

I couldn't eat my lunch.  It's not that it was bad, I just couldn't eat it.  I made sure to drink a couple of pints of water at least and got a couple of cold sodas as well.  I was sloshing.

I drove back to the wrong range and was completely confused when no one was there.  It took me a few minutes to realize what had happened, and by the time I got to the right range, it was obvious to me that something was wrong.  I was physically and mentally slow, my guts didn't feel right, and I was just the slightest bit spacey.  So I took myself off the line -- I figured if I couldn't properly handle a car I shouldn't be handling a firearm.

That slow state lasted the rest of the day, which fortunately was not full, since we'd mostly finished everything we had to do.  I did go with the class to the Sconce and stuck it out for an hour or so there, because I'd missed the chance to see Col. Cooper's house the last time I was at Gunsite.

By the time I got back to the room it was clear to both me and Sara that something was wrong.  In all probability I had heat exhaustion.  My brain slowed down even more and I had trouble keeping track of, well, pretty much anything.  A cool shower made me feel a little better but afterwards I was cycling rapidly between too hot and too cold, tossing covers off and desperately holding them around me to stop shivering.

I ended up in the ER, where they gave me drugs for nausea and at least a liter of saline IV.  They took a pile of blood samples and asked a lot about flu and fevers and such.  In the end, after about 3 hours, they decided that I was, in fact, dehydrated.  Gatorade ensued -- and you know there's something wrong with you when Gatorade tastes good!

Days later I am still a bit slow physically, although I might now be able to blame that on 3 days of driving (about 1500 miles total) :-).

Lesson Learned: Drinking a lot of liquids is not enough -- if you are not sweating, you are not OK!
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Friday, October 31, 2014

ars gratia artis

Bristlecone Pine, White Mountains, California
photograph by Evan Robinson

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

ars gratia artis

Tulips, Seattle, Washington
photograph by Evan Robinson

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ars gratia artis

Fireworks, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
photograph by Evan Robinson

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ars gratia artis

Old Engine, Bodie, California
photograph by Evan Robinson

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Monday, October 27, 2014

ars gratia artis

Periwinkle, Half Moon Bay, California
photograph by Evan Robinson
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Sunday, October 26, 2014

ars gratia artis

Bishop Creek near South Lake, Bishop, CA
photograph by Evan Robinson

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

ars gratia artis

Watson Lake Reflection, Prescott, AZ
photograph by Evan Robinson

Prescott is not the "look everywhere and see spectacular landscapes" location that the Eastern Sierra is this time of year, but there are places...
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Friday, October 24, 2014

"Government Didn't Build My Business, I Did"

The Coffee Cup Cafe & Cantina, Boulder City, NV
photograph by Evan Robinson

We stopped for breakfast (for Sara) and lunch (for me) at this cute little place in Boulder City, Nevada, just down the street from the bust of Frank Crowe, who honcho'd the whole damn Dam.

Nice place, and I almost didn't walk in when I saw the sticker on the front door: "Government Didn't Build My Business, I Did".

In Boulder City, Nevada.  A town that owes its entire existence to a government run public works project, Hoover Dam -- and which was government owned and run until 1959, more than two decades after the Dam was completed.  The Dam and associated recreation looms so large in Boulder City that it is one of only two municipalities in Nevada that ban gambling.

But he/she/they built their business all on their own lonesome without any contribution by the big evil gubmint.  Not the utilities they use, not the road that passes in front of the place, not the sidewalk they put tables on or next to, not the police and fire protection they enjoy, and especially, most especially, not that damnable Dam and the lake next door that just attracts oh, their entire f*cking clientele*.

So, "Al and the Stevens family", it's so good to know that you are standing on your own feet and not taking any handouts.

Because government didn't just help you build your business, Government Built Your Whole F*cking Town!

* Because nobody would be living in this godforsaken desert if it weren't for the power and water provided by Hoover Dam, not to mention that all their "Local Boulder City folks" who are "their mainstay" wouldn't have a town to live in if the Dam weren't there.
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Florida Jerk Gets Life in Prison

From ABC News:

A Florida man convicted of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a teenager in an argument over loud music outside a Jacksonville convenience store has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Michael Dunn, the Florida concealed carrier who shot and killed Jordan Davis at a gas station, is going to jail for the rest of his life.


Dunn had words with Davis and his friends about their music and somehow felt compelled to draw his (legally carried) handgun and shoot Davis to death.  Dunn and his girlfriend left the scene and did not report the shooting to police.

Asshole (Dunn, just to be clear) got what he deserved.  At least.

Dunn fucked up in so many ways it's hard to count them.

If you are carrying, you cannot afford to instigate a conflict.  Not even a little one.  Heinlein's quote about an armed society being a polite society is prescriptive, not descriptive.  He fled the scene (and not, apparently, because it wasn't a safe place).  He didn't call the police (which any rational person would do if they'd been threatened with a shotgun, as he claimed he was).  He fucking went back to his hotel and ordered a pizza.


When I was training at Gunsite for a week, I put my gun on in the morning at the hotel and wore it until I get back at night.  Largely to get used to the equipment and weight -- adding a couple of pounds of pistol and ammunition to opposite sides of the belt is not comfortable*.  That 30 minute drive first think in the morning and last thing at night was one of the most uncomfortable hours of my life each day.  I was constantly aware that I was carrying.  I found myself at the gas station or Walgreen's worrying about placing my right side to a barrier so that no one could grab for the pistol.  Yes, apparently wearing a firearm makes you paranoid!  :-)

*Clint Smith, who runs Thunder Ranch in Oregon, says carrying "is not meant to be comfortable -- it's meant to be comforting"

Seriously, by the end of the week it was beginning to normalize in terms of that sort of random fear.  But the sense of awe did not go away.  The sense of responsibility and requirement that I "maintain an even strain" did not leave me.  I drove more cautiously.  I responded more kindly to offensive driving.

And I never, ever, not once considered starting a fight, even a verbal one, with anybody*.

Because I was carrying a gun.

*Not that I'm terribly belligerent in general, but my wife will tell you that I have my moments.

That 5 hours of experience driving to and from class at Gunsite looms large in considering whether or not to carry.  And in how I think about other people considering whether or not they should carry.  My favorite thought about it comes from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
... and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes ...
If Michael Dunn had thought "reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God" before he decided to carry that handgun, we'd all be better off.  And Jordan Davis would still be alive.
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why Not Regulate Guns Like Cars?

Why Not Regulate Guns Like Cars?

One of the common questions asked by gun control people is "how is it that guns are less regulated than cars" or "why is it that it's easier to buy a gun than a car" or word to that effect -- cars are regulated (you need a license to drive them on public roads) and registered (the government maintains a list of who owns which car) and insured (you need car insurance to drive them on public roads).  Why not guns?

Answer One: Constitutionality

The first common answer from People Of The Gun (POTG) is "because cars aren't in the Constitution and guns are".  Which is factually wrong, of course.    Cars are in the Constitution!  Oh wait, no they aren't.  Wait!  Cars aren't in the Constitution, but neither are guns.  Guns are, in fact, in the Bill of Rights!

OK, enough silliness.  Cars aren't in the Bill of Rights and guns are.  Answer one.  My response would be that free travel is considered a constitutional right and that should penumbrally cover modes of transportation.  This answer, BTW, is why I prefer to discuss the intersection of regulations on guns and regulations on voting.

Answer Two: Bring It On

The second (increasingly) common answer from POTG is "sure, bring it on!", because the comparison about purchase and operation and insurance isn't as favorable to the gun control side as you might think.  For instance, there is no legal requirement (at least in most states) to have a driver's license (for which you need to pass a test) to own a car.  Just to operate it on public roads.  A comparable statute for guns would be no test or other barrier to buy a gun, just to carry it in public.  Likewise, cars are generally registered as part of making it legal to drive them in public.  If (like some farm vehicles) they are used exclusively on private property, registration is not required.  Insurance is a bit dicier but I believe it works the same way -- you do not need to insure a vehicle which is not being operated on the public roads.  All of these comparisons work in the direction that POTG (even the most extreme) like.

And then there's the big one: reciprocity.  If you have a driver's license from any state (and some countries), it's good everywhere in the US, and there is substantial uniformity in driving laws.  POTG presume that "Regulating Guns Like Cars" would include this reciprocity for concealed carry and uniformity of carry and transport and ownership laws, which means a significant win for POTG and the cause of gun rights.

My response?  I actually like the idea of uniform regulations for ownership, carry, and transport.  I'm not terribly afraid of confiscation via registration, but I understand that I may not be representative of gun owners in that regard.  Then again, I might.

Answer Three: Danger Level

Now let's get to what I want to talk about: the relative risk of Cars and Guns in America.  Some basic facts (all figures rounded for convenience):

On initial look, cars kill about the same number of people annually as guns do.  It's arguable that suicides are different from homicides, but CDC does not track intentional vehicular homicide versus accidental vehicular homicide, nor does it apparently track suicide by vehicle.

On second look, the old saw "guns don't kill people, people kill people" has a lot of meaning in it.  Fewer than 2% of deaths by gun are accidental*.  Essentially 100% of deaths caused by cars are -- or at least are assumed to be.  The vast majority of gun deaths are with intent -- directed outward or inward.  That's why lots of effort is put into making cars safer and almost no effort is put into making guns safer -- because guns do not kill a substantial number of people by accident.

* Some of the victims of homicide are undoubtedly unintentional victims -- they are "accidental" in the sense that the shooter intended to shoot someone else.  However, the shooter intended to shoot someone, so a bystander shot to death is still, in this context, an intentional death.  That is inherent in the numbers as gathered.  I don't know what percentage of homicide victims are unintended victims, but their deaths are still with intent and not actually accidental.

Time In Proximity

A more valid argument is that people spend more time interacting with cars than they do with guns ("time in proximity").  Considering that gun control advocates speak of guns as if they were sentient and had volition, I'm not impressed with their use of this argument.  As a seeker of reality, however, I think it has some merit because it doesn't matter how many guns there are in the US if they are all locked up or unloaded, and it doesn't matter how many cars there are if they are all garaged and out of gas.  Even a gun owner (who doesn't carry a gun routinely, which is most of us) probably doesn't spend as much time touching a gun daily as they do touching a car.  Or being in close proximity (defined as a few feet).

But when you consider that, in military parlance, a gun exercises control over a space from 50 yards (a handgun) to 1000 yards (a deer or sniper rifle) in radius, a whole lot of people are within the area of control of each gun.  Especially guns owned in urban areas.  You may be sitting in effective range of 100 guns right now and have no idea.  I know that I'm sitting within effective range of any guns I own even though they are safely safed.

Aside from storage, nearly half a million Washingtonians (the state, not DC) have Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPLs -- what the state of Washington calls a concealed carry permit).  That's about 6.5% of the total population and about 8.3% of the over-18 population (Washington limits CPLs to those over 21).  So about 1 in 12 adult Washingtonians has the legal right to concealed carry.  I don't know what percentage of those who may carry do, but it's not zero because I know at least one.  Each of those carriers is within range of anybody within about 50 yards.  And almost none of those people know they are "in proximity" to a firearm.

Realistically, people are simply unaware of their proximity to guns.  Public delicacy, if not legality, convinces most gun owners to keep their guns out of sight when not actively in use.  Consequently, the question of time spent in proximity -- whether you are more exposed to cars or to guns -- is currently unanswerable with any certainty.

The Major Difference (Deaths)

So cars and guns kill about the same number of people annually, but there is a qualitative difference in the perpetrators of the violence.  Broadly speaking, perpetrators of gun violence have intent and perpetrators of car violence lack intent.


Where there is a huge quantitative difference, however, is in injuries.  Guns injure fewer than 100K people in America annually.  Cars injure over 2 million.  End of comparison.

Not enough?  Some percentage of those injuries are intentional.  Not everyone who tries to commit suicide succeeds, not everyone who tries to kill an assailant succeeds, not everyone who attempts to murder a rival succeeds.  So not all of those fewer than 100K gun injuries are accidents.  Some are failures.  If you assume survival rates like Iraq, a lot of them are failures.  OTOH, 100% (or very close to it) of the 2.2M car injuries are accidental.

Once again, we get to the difference between intention and accident.

What's It All Mean?

No one is going to be convinced by this argument.  The lines are already too clearly drawn.  But the reality (leaving the time in proximity issue aside for now) is that cars are far more dangerous to the average law abiding non-suicidal American than guns are.  Gun violence is concentrated in socioeconomic classes -- notably criminals, although spouses of violent individuals (often criminals) are also common victims.  Even "random gun violence" is not terribly random with respect to socioeconomic class.  Car violence is very random and widespread.  There may be higher accident rates associated with vehicular failure in lower economic classes but even poor people drive near richer people.

Car violence is also different from gun violence because car violence is usually accidental.  Efforts to reduce car violence must go toward more reliable vehicular systems and improved training for operators.

Gun violence is largely (98% of deaths) deliberate.  "Making guns safer" is not a primary issue because the only way to make a gun safe against deliberate use is to make it inoperative.  The low number of accidental gun deaths makes it clear that, while operator training* may move people from the injured category to the dead category, it will likely not reduce the total number of gun deaths and injuries.

*I'm a fan of training.  Aside from the expense, I love it.  All the training I've had has been well recommended and I think beneficial.  Not all training is worth doing.  Regardless, training with guns has two distinct branches: safety and effectiveness.  When gun control advocates think "training", they think "safety training".  When POTG think training, they think "effectiveness".  All effectiveness training I have taken included safety training, and some of the RSOs are draconian about it.  I like that.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I try to think of my mass as "just a number" and worry more about my capabilities.  But as I age and get creakier (back, knee, hips, shoulders, elbows -- hell, everything!) it's clear that less mass would be a good thing.

I've had a struggle with my mass for most of my mid-adult life.  I've tried various plans and mechanisms for reducing it, and have found one that works, but is too hard to maintain for an extended period.

That is low-carb eating.  I can eat as much beef, pork, and chicken as I want, and if I don't eat any carbs (I think it's actually carbs that breakdown quickly -- no bread, no sugar, etc. -- but most veggies are OK) I will lose about 1 pound a week.

Unfortunately for this plan, I love bread.  It's not too hard to avoid when I'm eating at home, but nigh-impossible for me to stay low-carb when I'm on the road, and since leaving Amazon last November I've been on the road a lot (Iceland, Vegas/Arizona, China, Chicago/DC/Blue Ridge, Bishop) this year.

But a couple of months ago, I found a new paradigm to attempt: six small meals per day.  I know that this is a current diet fad and that it's being debunked by, well, everybody who's not pushing it.  I won't go into how I found it or what the reasoning is, I'll just say that it seems to work for me.

Ideally, I'd be eating roughly a custard cup (or muffin tin) of food (emphasis on protein) at 9am, 12n, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm and either 6am or 12m.  I never make either of those last two, so it turns out to be five small meals per day.  And realistically there's something emotionally satisfying about a larger meal in there, so it's really four small meals and an almost-normal sized meal daily.

It seems to be sustainable and it seems to work for me on the road, which is really remarkable.  And I've lost more than 5% of my body weight, and on my last road trip (Bishop for a photo workshop) I crashed through my most recent plateau of 283 and this morning I weighed in at 275.

On top of the eating Sara and I have been working with a personal trainer three days a week -- usually 15-30 minutes of cardio/warm up and 30 minutes of training (something like CrossFit light).  We've been doing this for nearly a year now and both notice our bodies firming and getting stronger.  I can do things (like climb around at 10,000 feet) -- not as well as when I was younger and lighter, but well enough -- better than I expect to.

I have a reasonably well documented antipathy to "calories in, calories out" as a mechanism for weight loss.  The primary reason is that it doesn't work, as well as suffering from an increasing amount of scientific evidence that it is a flawed theory and shouldn't work.  I don't know the theory behind lots of small meals per day -- although I hear mumblings about "activating the metabolism" -- but if it works, I don't really care.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Eastern Sierra Fall Color Photo Workshop at Mountain Light Gallery

I took my very first photography workshop last week.  Sara and I went to her home town, Bishop, California, between Death Valley and Mono Lake on the east side of the Sierra.  It used to be Galen Rowell's stomping grounds, and his business the Mountain Light Gallery is still there.  Last time we visited Bishop I noticed that the gallery had workshops and signed up for this one.  It was led by Gordon Wiltsie, a noted adventure photographer who did a great deal of fantastic work for National Geographic and many other publications.  He was ably assisted by Jerry Dodrill, also an adventure photographer and climber, who used to work for Galen Rowell at the Mountain Light Gallery.

The workshop ran from 2 October to 5 October with an evening kickoff and an afternoon finish.  Each day in between we were up and out before sunrise to local locations to catch the morning light and Friday and Saturday nights we were out late for sunset shooting as well.  We shot at North Lake, on the road to South Lake, out by the Owens River on 5 Bridges Road, near Big Alkali Lake off Benton Crossing Road near Lake Crowley, Convict Lake, Bishop Creek, and up in the White Mountains near the Schulman Grove.

In between Gordon and Jerry provided instruction via slideshow, critique, and Lightroom training.  On location they were very hands on, suggesting locations, shots, techniques, and always answering questions.

It was great.  Here are six images I took:

North Lake Dawn, Evan Robinson,
near Bishop, California

Sunset Tree, Evan Robinson,
near Bishop, California

Mountain Rays, Evan Robinson,
Owens River Valley, near Bishop, California

Dawn Mirror, Evan Robinson,
near Mammoth Lakes, California

Mounts Morrison and Laurel, Evan Robinson,
near Mammoth Lakes, California

Ancient Sunset, Evan Robinson,
near Schulman Grove, White Mountains, California
It occurs to me that each of these pictures is looking west.  That's where the light is, I guess :-).

I took about 700 images.  I have 30-ish that I think are pretty good, many of which I think are among the best images I've ever taken.  I look forward with trepidation to going over my ~30K previous images with my new eyes.  To be fair, I was going to have to do that anyway since my workflow is moving from Aperture to Lightroom because of Aperture's demise.

Right now I feel like I learned a lot.  But the real test will be what images I'm creating next month.  Regardless, this workshop was a test of whether I would enjoy workshops and learn from them.  I did and I did, so I'll be doing more of them.
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Monday, September 29, 2014

How Dangerous is Being a Cop in the US?

I saw a posting on Facebook (which I can no longer find, because Facebook posts are ephemeral and the algorithm used to put things on your timeline is apparently unstable) talking about the cost/person of police departments in major cities throughout the US.  In the comments was the question "how much do you pay someone to risk getting shot every day?" with the implication that your average police officer in the US faces a substantial risk of death by gunfire daily, and therefore whatever the costs were, they were a good value.

And that got me thinking.  Always a dangerous place for me to go.

How dangerous is it to be a police officer in the US?  Is there significant risk of dying by gunfire?  How does it compare with other occupations?

So let's go.

How many police officers are there in the US?  How is that number changing annually?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 780,000 "Police and Detectives" in the US in 2012.  That's our baseline.  That number, BTW, is expected to grow by 5% by 2022, totaling about 821,000 by then.  I'd love more data about this, but it's all I could find in a quick search, so we'll consider 780K as our baseline number of police in the US.

How many police officers died in the line of duty in 2012?  Was that number "typical" for the years around it?
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 122 officers died in the line of duty in 2012.  That number is low compared to 2010 (161) and 2011 (171), but high compared to 2013 (100), so let's dig a little deeper with a graph:

Police Deaths by Year 1990-2013
Graph by Evan Robinson

Frankly, I think I see a slight downward trend in the data, but the math says otherwise.  There's virtually no correlation between passage of time and number of police deaths.  I note that 2001 (241) is quite an outlier.  You have to go back to 1981 to get another year where more than 200 police died, but in the 70s, only 1977 (192) had fewer than 200 police deaths.  The 70s were far worse than the 60s, which were worse than the 50s.

What's the chance of death in the line of duty for a police officer in the US?  What's the chance of death by gunfire?
If there are 780,000 police officers in the US and 159.4 die annually (the mean from 1990 and 2013 inclusive), the chance of dying is 159.4 in 780,000 or 1 in 4892.8 or .0002.  That's about 2 hundredths of a percent.  Specifically taking 2012 numbers, it's 122 in 780,000 or 1 in 6393 or .00016, or about 16 thousandths of a percent.  But let's take the higher number of 1 in about 4890, again .0002.  Expressed as a death rate per 100,000, that is 20.4 -- that is, 20.4 of every 100,000 police officers in the US die annually from line-of-duty causes.

The overall annual death rate in the US for 2010 (the most recent final value I can find according to the Department of Health and Human Services, at the CDC website) was 747.0, with a preliminary value of 740.6 for 2011.  So police line-of-duty death rates are about 3% of total mean death rates.

Police line-of-duty deaths, while tragic, are not a significant risk compared to mean death rates in the US.

But wait, we want to talk about gun-related police deaths, right?  Again according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, in 2012 50/122 officers killed died from gunfire.  Over the past decade, the mean percentage of officer deaths from gunfire was 36%.  So the gun-related death rate is 20.4*.36 = 7.4 per 100,000.

How do these death rates compare with other ages, causes, and professions?
In 2008 (the most recent year for which data in a complete Statistical Abstract of the United States is available), the only age range to have a death rate anywhere near that low is 5-14, where the male death rate was 24 and the female death rate was 12.  Police officer line-of-duty deaths are therefore less common (statistically) than any death of 5-14 year old boys, although more common than 5-14 year old girls.  Line-of-duty gun deaths are about one-third as common as all deaths of 5-14 year old boys and about half as common as all deaths of 5-14 year old girls.  In 2008, the mean death rate for males 25-35 (in which age range I imagine many police officers fall) was 225.  For males 35-44 it was 348.  So depending upon their age range, police officers are between 10x and 17x more likely to die from non-work-related causes than line-of-duty causes.  And 30x to 47x more likely to die from non-work-related causes than line-of-duty gunfire.

In 2006, comparable causes of death to all line-of-duty deaths include: Heart Failure (excluding ischemic heart disease aka "a heart attack") at 20.2; NonTransport Accidents (including falls, drowning, smoke inhalation, fire/flames, and poisoning) at 24.4; Diabetes at 24.2; Alzheimer's disease at 24.2; Drug and Alcohol induced deaths (combined) at 20.2.

Also in 2006, comparable causes of death to gun-related line-of-duty deaths include: prostate cancer at 9.5; Leukemia at 7.3; Falls at 7.0; Alcohol induced deaths at 7.4.

According to preliminary data for 2013 (see page 14), the rate of "fatal occupational injuries" in Construction is 9.4 per 100,000; Transportation and Warehousing is 13.1; Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting is 22.2; Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction is 12.3.

In other words, it's as dangerous to be a police officer as it is to be a farmer (3 million people), forester or logger (1.7 million people), commercial fisherman (1 million people) or hunter (about 14,000 people).  So there are over 5.7 million jobs in the US more dangerous than being a police officer.  And another 6 million in construction, which has a higher death rate than police gun-related deaths.

What's it all mean?
So yeah, being a police officer is a dangerous job, but the job-related danger is much less than your basic life-related danger (health problems, general accidents, etc.).  And there are about 7 times more people doing Ag-related jobs which are more dangerous than being a police officer.

So what do we have to pay these people to risk being shot every day?  I'd say a mean of about $57K per year, which is what they get.  Maybe we need to raise the pay of the people in Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, who get mean annual wages in the $18K - $41K range for more dangerous jobs.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
I realize that putting the TL;DR way down here kind of defeats the purpose, but it allows me to put the conclusion after the work, which I like.

Being a police officer is a dangerous occupation.  But there are plenty of people in the US who do more dangerous jobs for far less pay.  Police line of duty death rates are comparable to death rates from Diabetes and Alzheimer's disease or the combination of drug and alcohol induced deaths.  Police line of duty shooting death rates are comparable to alcohol induced deaths, Leukemia, or death by falling.  A male police officer between 25 and 44 is many times (10x - 17x) more likely to die from a non-work-related cause than to die in the line of duty.  And only about one-third of those line-of-duty deaths are gun-related.

And here's something else to think about
On average a police officer dies in the line of duty in the US about every 55 hours (everything you need for this calculation is above so I'm not going to insult your intelligence by including it).  On average a police officer kills a civilian (about 400 annually) about every 22 hours.  So I think we have more to worry about from them than they do from us.
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

War Surplus

War Surplus Baby
Jim Carroll & William Danoff, 1976
(as performed by Starland Vocal Band)

She's a war surplus baby from Salvation's Army
She plays tambourine and wants to be a star

She stepped out of the Sixties
From a dream world to fix these 
Broken promises I play on my guitar

And we made it through somehow
For the bad and good
She always knew we would

See, she believes in miracles and romance,
In learning how to slow dance
In sacrifice, in freedom, and in pain

Yes, she believes in magic
And she tells me the tragic
Side of something beautiful that never ends in vain

Barefoot and sadness
Bell bottom eyes
We did what needed to be done
So marched all the marches
Ended all the wars
All the time believing that we won

Don't the times keep on changing
The stakes get much higher
It's out of the frying pan into the fire

(made it through somehow)
And we made it through somehow
For the bad and good
She always knew we would

And she still believes 
In love in the morning
And love when you need it
If your soul gets hungry you've got to feed it

She's a war surplus treasure
Her peace is her pleasure
In spite of all this madness

Life Goes On
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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Losing a Toccoan...

William "Wild Bill" Guarnere, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles", 
1923.04.28 - 2014.03.08, image from

One of the "Band of Brothers" died yesterday at the age of 90.  William "Wild Bill" Guarnere, who was portrayed by Frank John Hughes in the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers", died of a ruptured aneurysm at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.  Guarnere received the Silver Star, Bronze Star with cluster, Purple Heart with two clusters, and the Croix de guerre with palm, among other decorations.

Guarnere was one of the authors of a best-selling memoir about Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne: Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends.  Edward J. "Babe" Heffron, Guarnere's co-author, died 96 days ago (on 2 December 2013), also at the age of 90.

The exploits of Easy Company, 506th PIR were popularized by Stephen Ambrose's book Band of Brothers and the HBO miniseries made from it.

If you read, you should read Band of Brothers.  If you don't read, watch the miniseries, then read the book.  If it interests you, read Donald Burgett's Currahee! and its sequels as well.  They are sanitized, as many stories of war are, but they are also powerful.  I prefer Burgett's books to Ambrose, but that may be because I read Currahee! decades before Band of Brothers was written.

I went to Normandy in 2009. I went through my images (how I wish I'd taken the good camera gear!) and found these:

Place Toccoa in Angoville-au-Plain, by Evan Robinson

The 506th PIR first trained at Camp Toccoa in Georgia.  They adopted "Currahee!" a Cherokee word which they believed meant "we stand alone" as their regimental motto.  They did training runs up Currahee Mountain.  When we were visiting Normandy, our guide suddenly turned off the main road and took us to Angoville-au-Plain.

Church at Place Toccoa in Angoville-au-Plain, by Evan Robinson

According to our guide, the church at Place Toccoa in Angoville-au-Plain become a medic post where two American medics from the 501st PIR set up shop.  Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore, both of the 2nd Battalion treated anyone who needed it, so long as they left their weapons outside.  During the night, at least one bomb pierced the roof of the structure and hit the floor, but did not explode.  For reasons unexplained, the church was shut almost immediately after the war and remained so for many years.  It is alleged that the pews still show the bloodstains of the soldiers treated here.  I can vouch only that they have dark stains.

Stained Glass, Church at Place Toccoa in Angoville-au-Plain, by Evan Robinson

Inside the church are several stained glass windows, one of which depicts an American paratrooper.

Stained Glass at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, by Evan Robinson

Stained glass in the church at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, also showing American paratroopers.

Ardean D. Vernatter, Private, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles", Colleville-sur-Mer, by Evan Robinson

Private Ardean Vernatter from the 506th didn't make it past D-Day.

This stone is in the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach.  According to our guide, every year about 1,400,000 visitors come to this little piece of America in France.  Eight hundred thousand of those visitors are French, four hundred thousand are American, and many of the remainder are German.  According to the visitors brochure (PDF), the cemetery is 172 acres in size and has 9387 stones (9238 crosses, 149 stars of David), including 41 sets of brothers (I erroneously indicated 33 in my previous post) and 3 Medal of Honor recipients, whose names are lined with gold leaf.  The names of 1557 MIA soldiers are engraved in the Garden of the Missing.

It's worth the trip all by itself, but while you're there, walk down to Omaha Beach, too.

Omaha Beach near low tide, Colleville-sur-Mer, by Evan Robinson

This is the view of the beach out to sea -- roughly what the defenders might have seen at low tide.

Omaha Beach looking inland toward the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, by Evan Robinson

And this is the view up the hill.

Just stand and listen.  Try to imagine what it must have looked and sounded like as 50000 soldiers with their landing craft, vehicles, rifles, mortars, and explosives lay on this beach under withering fire.  Can you hear the screams?  Can you hear the prayers?  Close your eyes.  Can you see the blood they claim still comes from the rocks?  Can you see and hear the fear, the anger, the pain, the dying? 

Some people think that the raw emotion of awful things can stay in a place.  I think it might be true here.

Godspeed, Wild Bill.  Godspeed.  You deserve Valhalla.
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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Red Hot Chilli Pipers at Admiral Theatre, Bremerton, WA

Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Admiral Theatre, Bremerton, WA, 2014-03-07

What can I say?

It's quite a show.  I was surprised by the audience demographics, which skewed older than I expected, but when you consider that RHCP riffs off classic rock, maybe I was misexpecting.

They're in Federal Way, WA tonight, but I suspect the show is sold out.  I haven't been able to find a list of their tour venues, so check your local listings if you're interested.

Bagrock On!

OK, that's not quite fair.  If I'm going to drop this on you, I should at least provide a reasonable review...

The venue wasn't terribly large, but it was full.  The crowd ranged from kids to (I'd guess) late 60s, skewed older than I expected (as noted above) and required a little encouragement to get rocking at the beginning of the show but were pretty into it by the end.  I'm not even going to try for a setlist, but I'd guess it was about 25% classic rock pieces (which are intermixed with bagpipe pieces in short sets), 25% newer rock ("Clocks" by Coldplay, for example), and about half bagpipe or solo vehicles.  I will call out "Amazing Grace", "Don't Stop Believing", "Smoke on the Water", and "We Will Rock You".

The band has a pleasant and friendly stage presence, with several members taking the mike to work the crowd.  Their guitarist is having too much fun out there -- perhaps the pipers are more limited in their movement repertoire?  Drummers are fantastic, with Stephen Graham the snaresman absolutely amazing.

Good tour swag, although I'd love to get my hands on one of those flaming red sporrans.  And a hint -- you should change the red tassels into chili peppers, maybe taken from a chili ristra string of christmas lights?

If you get a chance, you should check these guys out.  Their music is in the iTunes Music Store, available on Amazon, and videos are on YouTube.  You have no excuse.
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Maria von Trapp dies at 99

Maria von Trapp (portrayed as Louisa in the musical and film) died at the age of 99 at her home in Stowe, VT on Tuesday.  Although she was the last surviving member of the singing Trapps, she is survived by at least one half-sibling (born to the Baron Georg and his wife Maria).
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