Charleston and Gun Control? Really?

Okay, I had wanted to not get political here, but sometimes it’s hard to stay mum.  I’m anti-gun-control, by the way.  I’m pro-common-sense and pro-Constitution.  So I’m pro-not-being-handled by misinformation.

It’s very hard to look at people being victimized and not feel outrage and empathy on their behalf.  And politicians, I’m sorry to say, capitalize in these very tragedies to exploit our emotional state with their narrative.  Unfortunately, most people don’t have enough first-hand experience, these days, with either firearms or deadly force encounters to understand the truth from the fiction.  Most people today gain their firearms experience from television and movies.  Those are fantasy, for the most part.  And you can pretty easily dismiss as nonsense most of what you see in television and movies as “not based in reality.”

I would say it takes about 3-5 years of firearms training for a civilian to start being aware of truth versus fiction in deadly force encounters.  This includes multiple 5-day training schools, perhaps some weekend competition, ongoing local training, and ongoing affiliation with other “gun people.”  It takes a fair amount of time to undo the bullshit factor we all inherit from Hollywood, and from untrained family and friends.  When you get your own concealed carry license, you begin to understand that a lot of what you hear in the media is partisan bullshit.  It’s designed to mold (manipulate) your opinion according to an external agenda.  It’s not designed to inform you at all.  So during this 3-5 years, you’re actually beginning to make sense of the national conversation about guns and gun control.  It’s been going on from a long time, long before our lifetimes, and it’s hard for us to make sense of it if we’re just coming from the outside.

First, I’ll say this gun conversation is not a conversation.  It’s an argument.  It’s a heated argument.  People are very divided on it, so there’s not a lot of open-mindedness that is apparent.  When you try and have an open-minded conversation, where reason rules, it oftentimes fails.  That’s just not the norm.  And the hugely partisan political nature of this argument doesn’t help at all.

Second, the conversation isn’t really about guns or violence in America.  If you listen carefully, you can get this yourself.  For example, the mass shootings that take place happen, for the most part, in “gun free zones.”  Basically, the people who do the mass shootings (and I refuse to learn their names), are disturbed individuals who want the world to feel their pain.  They choose gun-free zones specifically because they know ahead of time that they want a high body-count.  So gun-free zones are tailor-made for their purposes.  So, if you examine the so-called conversation about mass shootings, why does this point rarely come up?  Why do you not hear about those stories where some good person with a gun stopped an attacker before the body count got very high? And how is it that law-abiding weapons permit holders, who are able to pass a background check and who have no arrest record, become vilified after each and every one of these mass shootings?  Shouldn’t you be a little suspicious that the story is being spun for you?  Why does the story not enter into a discussion about mental health in America?  Why does it head straight into gun control, which tends to target law-abiding citizens rather than known criminals?

Perhaps a note of explanation is warranted here.  Gun control targets law-abiding citizens, not criminals.  Criminals never did obtain their guns through legal channels.  They bypass legal channels altogether.  Gun control measures focus on the legal acquisition of firearms and bypasses illegal channels.  So gun control doesn’t protect you from criminals with guns.  It “protects” you, as a law-abiding citizen,  from getting a gun yourself.

Third, gun control is about people control.  It’s part of a “progressive” political agenda that has been underway for well over a century.  The second amendment is a huge obstacle to this agenda.  The agenda’s main objective is to transfer political power from being diversely spread through out the American populace to being centralized in the hands of political elites.  The agenda is about changing how the country is governed.  That’s what’s behind the gun control conversation/argument.  One side believes the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are a wise foundation for political sovereignty.  The other side believes it’s naive to think humans can govern themselves.  Let the “experts” handle it.  Trouble is, the “experts” aren’t very expert after all.  Turns out they’re human too.

Basically, political elites don’t think we’re capable of governing ourselves.  They believe we must be handled.  And there’s large precedent for this, since we’re handled successfully at nearly every turn nowadays.  There are large segments of our society who believe, at this point in time, that it’s the government’s job to take care of them.  They believe that it’s not their responsibility to take care of themselves.  This belief makes them ripe for being manipulated and falling face first into this progressive/liberal agenda.

The Constitution was highly controversial when it was adopted, and it’s been that way ever since.  At its heart, its message is about the ideal of human self-control and the willingness to grow and be accountable to what recovery programs call “your high power.”  However you define that.  The Constitution is about a sort of “divine spark” in human beings that requires freedom to grow.  It requires the basic human protections identified in the Bill of Rights in order to flourish.  To protect these rights, government must be held back, it must be limited.  The checks and balances specified in the Constitution are the safeguards that prevent the government from growing into an all-controlling nightmare.  The framers of the Constitution recognized this dark potential and aimed at something better for this fresh new government.

But this approach is messy.  First, the very people who are attracted to political office are usually some sort of narcissistic control freaks who love to hear themselves talk and who love an audience.  They truly believe they are smarter than you and I are.  They’re often the very last people who are selflessly devoted to the common good.  The Constitution specified ways to prevent them from consolidating power by competing with each other and protecting their own self-interest.  Second, the most responsible, self-governed people don’t really need government.  Government spends most of its time dealing with people who struggle with making it on their own.  If everyone, for example, were as powerful as a multi-national corporation, there would be no victims of corporate abuse.  But many of us just want to lead a simple life doing that “pursuit of happiness” thing that may or may not involve getting financially rich or politically powerful.  In short, we are not control freaks.  We just want to lead a peaceful life.

So this decision about who tells us what to do is really what’s going on behind the whole gun control argument/conversation.  Are we too stupid to take care of ourselves?  (Some people apparently are.)  Or are we responsible enough to deserve the liberties in the Bill of Rights?  (Which the Constitution says are rights, not liberties.)  Are those liberties rights or liberties?  Another conversation.

These are heady questions.  But realize that you’re not going to get an objective conversation about them when the camera crew is standing in front of a pile of dead victims from the latest mass shooter.  That’s as pure an example of us “being handled” as ever existed.

If you’re not trained in deadly force, if the term “deadly force” is repugnant to you, that simply means you have a lot of homework to do to catch up to the gun control conversation.  It means that the darker aspects of human nature, which the law has had to deal with all the way back to the first century AD, and before, is something you haven’t really given much thought to.  It means that, probably, you have learned about violence from movies and television rather than from self-discovery.

I will say that, from my perspective, violence is almost always the wrong answer to any question.  However, in those rare instances when violence is not the wrong answer, immediate and decisive violence is usually the only workable answer.  When someone else escalates a confrontation to deadly force, your decision is reduced to survival alone.  Your options are to die or survive.  And after he kills you, the chances are good that he will use violence on someone else after you are dead.

That’s what I’ve learned from my own self-defense training.  And there’s a whole lot of psychological inquiry and personal evolving that goes along with that training.  Because, as humans, we’re hard-wired for love and connection with each other.  We don’t do well when we lose connection with each other.  When we do feel connected and understood together, we are much more resilient as human beings.  We tend to be much happier.  I believe emotionally intimate personal connection is a requirement for happiness.

So, if you’ve read this far, I hope you can begin to see that maybe the gun control conversation is not really about gun control.  Gun control is a smokescreen that conceals a far larger conversation in our culture.

The hidden conversation is about collective and personal responsibility.  It’s about self-governance and personal growth.

The underpinnings of America are based in rational inquiry and actual conversation rather than partisan arguments.   In fact, I will say that any argument that attempts to bypass your best judgment is probably an attempt to manipulate you.  And there’s a lot of that going around these days.  America was founded on the idea that if we try and stay rational and have empathy for each other, we could pull off this idea of self-governing.  If we don’t work together, we’ll eventually lose the liberties that our forefathers strove to create and protect.


The Happy Movie


I just watched this move entitled, simply, Happy.  I was very pleased.  I happen to be one of those people who gets down in the dumps sometimes, and I really have almost nothing to complain about.  I simply don’t use my mind resourcefully.  I think a lot about things that aren’t very important in the grand scheme of things.  And most importantly, I tend to isolate from other people.

That seems to be a biggy when it comes to happiness.

This movie challenges our cultural habit of pursuing external sources for happiness instead of internal sources.  It looks at people in our culture and in other cultures who are happy.  Who consider themselves happy.  Who have deep connections to friends and family.  And who find great meaning in their own lives.  And who enjoy living every single day.

I have always dismissed people who say they are happy as being slightly deluded or just plain simple in the Forest Gump sort of way.  But this movie makes me change my opinion.  I think now it is me who could learn to use his brain more resourcefully.

Apparently, if you don’t use your brain and “do” happiness, your brain adapts and is less able to do happiness.  Just like a muscle, our brain appears to adapt to being happy.

I think it’s odd that when I am with people, I usually have a relatively easy time connecting.  And yet, I spend most of my time not connecting with people.  I connect with machines instead.  But machines are rather unable to make me feel connected.  Yet, I guess I have trust issues about being accepted.  I suppose I am keen on noticing differences between people rather than noticing similarities.  And I fear that those differences will eventually lead to my being rejected.  I can’t recall that ever happening, me being rejected.  Perhaps in high school or grade school, but otherwise not so much.  Yet, I go on isolating.  By default, anyway.

It could also be that I change a lot.  At least parts of me change.  And perhaps I fear that those changes make me a riskier person to love, because what you love in me today might be gone tomorrow.  For example, in life I do a crazy Ivan every so often.  If you’ll remember from Tom Clancy’s book, The Hunt for Red October, the American fast attack subs would follow the Russian boomers, and just to make sure that no one was following them, the Russian subs would do a spontaneous 360 degree turn with their active sonar array in tow, and anyone in their rear “blind spot” would be discovered.  I like that metaphore for life.  I think we all have our blind spots, and it’s a good idea to do something different, like some sort of 360 degree turn, where you look at your fundamental value systems and try to see your own blind spots as best you can.  Or at least see something that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see in your day-to-day life.

I recently did that with competitive shooting sports.  I decided that I was spending too much energy getting really good at shooting paper targets so that I could perform skillfully in a real-world shooting, that I was spending too much time being afraid and too little time being compassionate and loving of my fellow human beings.  I also had gotten lead poisoning in my blood.  It was affecting my cognitive functions.  Well, I’ve since gotten the lead out, and I look at shooting sports primarily as a social outlet now.  And it’s fun.

But that was a change.  A rather big change for me, at least on the inside.  Also, I recently started studying programming.  Python programming to be exact.  I think I’ve put programmers up on a sort of pedistal, and I’ve not taken the challenge of taking programming classes myself.  I’ve been a self-taught, book learning sort of shell scripter, but since November of last year, I’ve taken the O’Reilly School of Technology courses on Python.  We’re getting into the language quite a big; I’ll be starting the fourth class–Advanced Python.  It’s an adjustment starting to consider that my level of knowlege of the Python language is advanced.  Not my experience, but at least my classroom learning, so to speak.  Cool.  But it’s an adjustment.  We’ll see how I do in the real world when I get a job!  🙂

In thinking about my own failings when it comes to happiness, I seem to look to external sources for happiness by default–which is a mistake.  Also, connecting to friends and family needs to be a huge priority rather than a hobby or peripheral task.  That would be one of the biggest changes of all for me!

MATE customizations…


One Panel on the Desktop…

As you can see, I moved everything to just one panel and put it at the top of the screen.  It can get a little crowded up there.  But It feels cleaner to me to not have anything dock-like lingering at the bottom of the screen.  I don’t have to do a double take to find my stuff.  I look one place, and if it isn’t there, it isn’t there.  Nice!  I like that.

Python Course 3 at Oreilly

In other news I finished my third Python course at O’Reilly School of Technology.  It went pretty quickly.  The course focused a lot on creating and using classes and on their internal and magic methods, how they work and how you can use them.  It’s mostly all object-oriented stuff, but you can always use it procedurally.

The last lesson was about using time-based computations, which seemed like we already covered at the end of the database series.  We generated a bunch of emails that got slurped into a mysql database, and we had to measure the difference in time between 50 db-commits and 1000 db-commits from various perspectives.  So we got used to the datetime and timedelta libraries.  But the last three lessons of this most recent course focused on engineering your classes and using logging and argument parsing on the command line, both of which require some external libraries.  So it’s always good to get familiar with the standard library.  Plenty to learn there!

At this point in time, I’m thinking about Python as a really elegant layer on top of C.  There’s lots and lots of speed and genius built into Python.  I’m sure there are other excellent scripting languages, but Python holds a special top-shelf location in my mind.  I think, perhaps, one of the reasons is that there are some philosophical differences that tend to make it unique.  One of the biggest is a divergence from TMTOWTDI (There’s More Than One Way To Do It).  TMTOWTDI is one of the battle cries of Perl programmers, for instance, a language I am very fond of.  However, when you have a single ‘Pythonic’ way of doing things or an infinite number of WTDI, it can get painful to try and read the code.   If I go back and read my Perl code from a year ago, and go back and read my Python code from a year ago, I’m going to have an easier time understanding what I meant with my Python code.  I think it will be easier for anyone else also.  I think this is a major advantage that Python has over just about any other scripting language.

Being sort of a free spirit, I would have thought I’d recoil at the thought of one orthodox way of doing something.  But in practice, I kind of like it when it comes to programming.  It’s sort of like using “Standard English.”  I was an English major many years ago, and there are times when orthodoxy is a good thing.  Like when you’re trying to publish a scholastic journal, for example.  Or even Mama’s Cooking Newsletter!  It sucks to have to be creative every single day; mostly, it’s easier to save your creativity for stuff that isn’t mundane, or stuff that is an art form.   Programming is very practical at its core, and it has lots of work to do.  Too much creativity can get in the way.  Just as with English, it would suck if everything had to be a sonnet or haiku.  Sometimes, you just need directions to the john!

So there’s a “Pythonic” way of doing things in Python.  I’m learning that.  Getting better at it.  And I’m sure I can write beautiful and elegant code in a Pythonic way also.  And in another few weeks I’ll be done with Course 4!  If it isn’t too hard, that is.  If it is too hard, it will just be a few weeks longer!

Meanwhile, it will all be a little easier to do with a clean desktop like MATE!

Mate 1.10 on Slackware 14.1 –Current


I was happy to check out Mate on Slackware.  I checked out the git repository of the latest Mate and it built like a dream on my 32-bit Slackware box.  For those who haven’t used Mate before (pronounced MAH, tay), it’s a fork of the Gnome 2 Desktop Environment (DE).  Many people preferred the simplicity of the Old Way and weren’t interested in changing their way of operating to GNOME 3.  Interestingly, another project, called the Cinnamon DE, forked the GNOME 3 code toward a very MATE-like project–at least in appearance.  Cinnamon uses GNOME 3 libraries, and MATE uses new and improved GNOME 2 libraries, if I understand correctly.  Confusing, huh?  Hey, people don’t always agree, and with Open Source, if you don’t agree, you can start your own project!  Truth be told, I didn’t care for the new GNOME 3 stuff either.  It just seemed a little too new and improved.  Both Cinnamon and MATE are much more to my liking.

MATE does not ship with Slackware.  Neither does Cinnamon.  and Chess Griffen are Slackware fans who have created SlackBuild scripts and a Git repository of MATE sources so Slackers can build and install their own packages for their systems.  That’s what I did.  I downloaded a zip file of the entire repository, which is not very big, by the way.  I ran the build scripts, and poof!  After about 30 minutes of chugging away in a terminal window, I had MATE 1.10 installed on my Slackware –Current box.  I’m running it now.

Mate is very pretty.  So is XFCE, which is included in the standard Slackware distribution.  But I don’t really care for KDE, and I reserve desktops like Fluxbox and so forth for smaller, humbler machines.  When I have a machine that is a little bit faster, I prefer to run a desktop that has a few bells and whistles and that lets me spread out.  MATE is probably as fast or faster than XFCE on this machine, and it seems to be stable.  It’s at least as pretty as XFCE as well, and I just like it.  I’m very comfortable with it.  I’ve been running it on a couple of Ubuntu boxes for a good while now.  So it’s a nice option for my desktop.

I downloaded and tried installing MATE version 1.8, and it wouldn’t build for me.   Libunique, which is a dependency, wouldn’t compile.  So I went on IRC on the Freenode network, into the #msb chat room, and Willy was there to help me out.  I told him what error I got, and he suggested I go ahead and get the 1.10 version, which had fixed that little problem on Slackware -CURRENT machines.  He was right.  It built just right, and I haven’t seen a sign of a problem yet.

So, I’ll keep my eyes open for any difficulties, but I won’t hold my breath.  This DE seems as stable as I could want a production desktop machine to be.  Feel free to try it for yourself!

Slackware Upgrade


I’m still using –current, but I made a boo boo that cost me some time.  The basic syntax for slackpkg is

# slackpkg update && slackpkg install-new && slackpkg upgrade-all && slackpkg clean-system

Well, that last one can get ya.  Especially if you have some extra packages on your system that aren’t an official part of Slackware.  (And who doesn’t?)  These would be things like a flash plugin for Firefox or maybe another window manager that you like, and maybe some extra tools (like screenfetch and scrot) that you just prefer.  How about LibreOffice for example?  Well, “clean-system” will remove all those too.

The thing to do, apparently, is to “blacklist” the packages you don’t want slackpkg to touch.  This list lives in /etc/slackpkg/blacklist

On the positive side, everything else in the upgrade went very smoothly.  There were a bunch of config files in /etc/*.new /etc/*/*.new /etc/*/*/*.new but most of those were no big changes. Of course, there are files in /etc that truly deserve to be edited by hand or at least diff -c configgy.conf to see what has changed. Files such as /etc/passwd /etc/group /etc/shadow and so on are not good candidates for automated overwrites. These you should copy the edits by hand and ensure that only what you approve goes into those files. The rest are scriptable.  After the upgrade and cleanup, it’s still a good idea to check out /var/log/removed_packages and ensure nothing you want has been removed. I had lost giblib and imlib, which scrot requires.  That’s okay, I still had the packages nearby.  In the future, I’ll have those items blacklisted.  Meanwhile, isn’t that a cool wallpaper? It can be found here. Nice job, Piotr!

By the way, I simply added a few more filenames to the script that usually gets reprinted in UPGRADE.TXT, and here is that script that helps me during larger upgrades:


cd /etc
find . -name “*.new” | while read configfile ; do
if [ ! “$configfile” = “./rc.d/” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./rc.d/” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” \
-a ! “$configfile” = “./” ]; then
cp -a $(echo $configfile | rev | cut -f 2- -d . | rev) \
$(echo $configfile | rev | cut -f 2- -d . | rev).bak 2> /dev/null
mv $configfile $(echo $configfile | rev | cut -f 2- -d . | rev)

So, that’s it! And great thanks and praise to the Slackware team for delivering another excellent –current experience!