Leonard Nimoy, RIP.

Ouch!

I’ve never met Mr. Nimoy. I only know him from the roles he has played on the screen, chiefly Spock, of course, but here and there elsewhere.

And yet I feel like I’ve lost a friend. Star Trek was such a big part of my life growing up.  Lots of people grew up wanting to be Kirk.  Frankly, I wanted to be Spock.

So, goodbye, Mr. Spock.  It may not be the Vulcan thing to do, but I’m going to go cry in a corner now.

Advertisements

"It Can’t Happen Here."

The Second Amendment is Obsolete, some say.  The idea that the United States could ever turn tyrannical is pure paranoia, some say.

Well, let’s look at that. Rounding up people and sending them to concentration camps (whether called “reservations” or “relocation centers”). Check. (Treatment of Native Americans.  Japanese-American “Relocation Centers” during World War II).

Illegal medical experiments involving infecting people with diseases, not treating them, and observing the effects done on people without their knowledge or consent. Check. (Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment–and particularly interesting how that was “explained” to the victims as they were getting free health care from the US Government.)

Arbitrary searches of American citizens’ households aimed at the seizure of property without either probable cause or any kind of warrant. Check. (post-Katrina gun Confiscation)

Laws passed allowing the indefinite detention of American Citizens without due process of law. Check. (NDAA 2012)

American citizens going about their daily business being stopped and searched again without probable cause or any kind of warrant (or even the “reasonably articulable suspicion” for a “Terry Stop”). Check. (TSA, not just at Airports, but at bus terminals, rail and subway terminals, highways, even High School Proms.)

“Can’t happen here?” It has and is happening here.

Tell me again how the Second Amendment is obsolete since it’s not needed to defend against tyranny.

But “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

Yet, still, “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Addendum Chicago police are instructed to shoot people for obeying the law. Background:  Illinois, the last state in the Union with no provision for legal handgun carry for self defense, had its “no carry” law struck down and was given a timeframe in which to come up with some kind of carry law before the existing law went away entirely.  So, Illinois now has provision for concealed carry.  But the Chicago police Chief vowed to train his officers to shoot people obeying that law.

Addendum 2 EPA exposes people, without informed consent, to high levels of toxic chemicals to track the effects.

Writers Write.

I started (not counted school assignments) when I was in fifth grade, mostly cheap Star Trek ripoffs, heavy on “Marty Stu”, oh, one retelling of Tom Sawyer that was practically an abridgement.  I didn’t finish any of them.  Really, I was trying to write novels and just didn’t have grounding for that.

My mother suggested that I try shorts but for some reason I never went anywhere with those back then.  Then, in the summer of 1977 (between my Freshman and Sophmore years of high school) I finished my first piece that was relatively substantial.  A screenplay.  A science fiction screenplay.  Okay, it was a ripoff of Star Wars.  It was a bad ripoff of star wars.  Written entirely by hand (I didn’t have a good typewriter at the time) there was only one copy in existence which was soon lost.  I wish I knew where it was.  Because, you know, if I knew where it was I could destroy it.  So long as I don’t know, the specter of somebody finding it and threatening to release it to the world unless I perform some unspeakable act for the finder hangs over me.

It was bad.

I was back to partially done stories for a while but at this point I started looking seriously at shorts.  I read collections (had not discovered the magazines yet) from the library–the “Orbit” anthology series, the “Nebula Winners” and others.

Then, in my senior year, I started writing a new piece.  It grew and grew.  Five hundred pages (still handwritten, but I had a rather small hand back then so it was novel length) I had a completed manuscript.  It was still bad, but it had some ideas in it that I may revisit someday.

From then I went into the Air Force.  I started writing more while in, not so much while I was in training or assigned overseas, but when I returned to the US for my last two years I got serious about it.  I started writing shorts.  I started submitting them (I’d discovered magazines by this point).  I started having them rejected.

It took another five years before I had my first sale.  I sold a handful to Analog, one to the late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, and a few non-fiction pieces.  While not much, this was enough, in fact, to get me exempted from the English language requirement at the college I attended (only person ever to do so).  But that’s the thing, when I started college I really didn’t have the time or energy (especially the energy) to write fiction much.  Then after college it was job and work.  For a while I worked on a webcomic (and I really suck as an artist).  But it was only in the last few years that I got serious about writing again.  I can’t say I write every day, but I write most days.  I have had a few professional sales (some we don’t talk about any more 😉 ) and a few pieces I’ve taken “Indie” which at least some people have enjoyed.

But that’s what writers do.  Writers write.  Selling is a secondary consideration, a nice one, but not the core.  To be a writer you must write.

One of my great fears even well after I started was that I would “run out” of ideas. I lacked the confidence that I would be able to come up with new stuff consistently. So once a story had been rejected by all the pro and semi-pro markets (this was before indie was a realistic option) I would redo, rewrite, polish and try again. And again. And again. I kept hanging onto these old stories rather than going on to something new for fear that I’d “run out” that much sooner.

Eventually, I learned that some of the worlds I’d created just dripped story ideas. There were just so many things I could do moving forward or backward in time or to different locations in the same world. And then I found, thanks to that writing book Sarah recommended, that I could sit down cold, pick some starting point (say, “I want to set this story on the Moon, in my FTI world during the colonization phase, and maybe have a teenage protagonist”) and just noodle around until I’d generated a “story idea.”

Finally, I’d reached the point where I no longer had to worry that I’d run out of story ideas, that the time would come that I’d have to say “I’m done” because I had nothing left to write.

Only took me 37 years. 😉

So, when cons have that panel on “Mistakes beginning writers make” I almost always volunteer for it because I am one.  I’ve just been one for the last 37 (or more) years.

"License Guns Like Cars"

Just about every time the issue of gun control comes up someone will make the “we license cars, don’t we” and suggest that we need to license guns like we license cars.

Well, I’ll take that compromise right now.  Right. this. instant.

If we license guns like cars, then, first, licenses are only required for cars and the operators thereof, that will be operated on the public streets.  No license required for use on private property. (Note:  Don’t bother challenging me on this; I used to drive autocross and have not only seen, but driven, more than a few cars that are not licensed, titled, or otherwise registered because they were never intended for use on public streets.  In fact, most of them weren’t legal for public streets.)

Licenses will be available to individuals as young as 16, learners permits (for operating with supervision on the public streets) as young as 15 (depending on the State).

Licenses valid in all 50 States and every municipality within those States.

Licenses valid, by treaty, in most foreign nations (An “international drivers’ license” is simply a translation of your State drivers’ license into various foreign languages so the local law enforcement can know what your State licensed you to drive–has no legal weight in and of itself).

No federal license required for running a business buying and selling.

No background checks for purchase.  Indeed, if you don’t intend to operate it on public streets no paperwork at all beyond a bill of sale (and that’s just to protect you in case the previous owner wants to claim you stole it).

No license required to transport on public streets, concealed or not, (Those cars at the autocross?  They didn’t get there by apportation–they were all transported on public streets, many in ways that would count as “concealed” for firearms in at least some States).  Oh, and at least one state considered (transported in a vehicle) exactly the same, legally, as carried on ones person for firearms so it’s entirely valid to consider a trailered vehicle comparable to a firearm on ones person for purposes of comparison.  After all, if the State considers the comparison valid for one, then it’s valid for the other, if we’re really “licensing guns like cars”.

Dire emergence a valid proactive defense for an unlicensed operator.  If you have a real, life-threatening emergency that calls for the use of your item, then that justifies even an unlicensed user using an unlicensed item on the public streets.

No limits on size, power, or operating mechanism for items that are not to be used on the public streets.

Oh, and because it bears repeating:  no license required for item or operator if not being used on public streets, and even then “dire emergency” justifies non-licensed use on those public streets.

If we “licensed guns like cars” the only time you would ever need a license is if you were going to operate (drive , shoot ) the object (car, gun) on public property.  And dire, life-threatening emergency would be an affirmative defense of operation even without a license.

So, the only time a license would be needed would be for non-emergency use of the firearm.  I.e. hunting and sport shooting.  None would be required for self defense since that, by definition, is “dire emergency”.

“License guns like cars” would be an unqualified improvement on the current situation from the perspective of gun owners because in every aspect where cars are restricted, guns are restricted every bit as much.

In short, to make it clear, if we “licensed guns like cars” the only time one would ever need a license is for shooting of guns on the public streets and an actual emergency (like, say, a self-defense situation) would still permit unlicensed use.  In short, there would be no need ever to license the ownership or carrying of guns.

Home Defense Firearms

When it comes to home defense, the best, the absolute best, weapon for defense against a home invasion is a compact semi-automatic rifle with certain, particular features.

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, criminals often continue to function after being shot, often after being shot several times. “The dead man’s ten seconds” is a phenomenon well and long known (the phrase comes from the Civil War). The criminal may be effectively dead from the first shot, but they still have the ability to do a great deal of harm before they’re stopped. Thus, it may take multiple shots to stop them. Maybe they’ll spend their entire “dead man’s ten seconds” staring down at the hole in their chest.” Maybe it’s easy for you to bet other people’s lives that that’s how it will go down but maybe instead they’ll use that ten seconds to hurt or kill the homeowner unless distracted by, oh, other holes being put in their body from repeat shots until they do stop.

We have repeated reports of people in military theaters shooting an individual multiple times and having them continue to fight.

And that’s not even counting that robberies are often committed by more than one person. Again, local news reports suggest that the majority of home invasions involve multiple attackers.

Now, maybe in the “average” it’s over after only a couple of shots. But one can drown in a stream that “averages” 6 inches deep if one happens to step in a hole that’s 8′ deep (the rest of the stream only being 4″ or so, so the “average” comes to 6″). But multiple attackers requiring multiple shots each to put down is one of the scenarios as “civilian” may face, and this without a partner, without backup on call, with just what they can grab ready to hand.

In high stress and fear situations human beings have certain common issues. One is that fine motor skills go to hell. Simply working the action of a rifle or handgun can become a thing of fumbling when one is in fear for ones life (a necessary condition of use of lethal force in all jurisdictions in the US). Much better a simple action of “aim, pull trigger, aim, pull trigger”. Thus, semi-automatic.

When an attack comes, you can’t be sure that everyone in your household is all together. You may, for example, have to go get the kids. This doesn’t involve hunting the “bad guys.” I don’t recommend that at all. Get your family together and defend them if the bad guys come to you, but “get your family together” may require some moving around. Now, when you’re moving around, you may have to do things like open doors or work light switches. Or maybe (it’s dark, say, and this occurred after everyone was in bed) you need one hand free to hold a flashlight. Maybe you have a light mounted on your rifle but, well, you’re looking for your kids. It would be good to have a light you can shine on things without pointing your gun at them, don’t you think? A “pistol grip” simply makes it easier to handle and keep control of the rifle in such circumstances. Also, a more “compact” design is easier to maneuver down hallways, through doors, and the like.

The attack happens at night? When you fire the muzzle flash blooms in front of you, temporarily blinding you. Who knows what can happen in the couple of seconds it takes your eyesight to recover. A flash suppressor/hider doesn’t actually suppress or hide the flash. It diverts it to the side where it interferes less with your vision allowing you to keep eyes on target allowing you to assess whether the attacker had been stopped or if you need to keep shooting, and if you do need to keep shooting you can aim rather than fire blindly (literally) and trust to luck.

A rifle is easier to aim accurately than any handgun. A centerfire rifle has more stopping power than any handgun.

Now, maybe you’re not the one to hand to grab the rifle.  Maybe it’s your wife who’s smaller than you.  Or maybe you sometimes use the rifle out in the cold while wearing heavy, thick clothing and sometimes when its warmer so you don’t have so much heavy clothes on.  A stock that can be adjusted for length helps size the rifle for easy, comfortable, accurate shooting.

Now note what I’ve just described: a compact rifle with a pistol grip, “large” capacity magazine (actually “standard” capacity since that’s what these rifles are designed for), flash hider, adjustable stock, and possibly a rail to which a light can be attached. While there’s no “shoulder thing that goes up” (Carolyn McCarthy can never be sufficiently mocked for that) what I’ve just described is an “assault weapon” per the media and folk like the Brady Campaign.

It also happens to describe the best tool for defending your family against one of the between 4 and 40 thousand home invasions that occur every year.

How many of those 4 to 40 thousand families, many with children, are you willing to sacrifice?