Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mutare Tu Mente I: Reconstitute!

Anyone who's known me for a significant length of time knows that I don't do New Year's resolutions. Instead I go on either a 2-week or 1-month detox from all the lovely vices that for the most part aren't too terrible as long as they are not abused: No alcohol, no caffeine, no smoking (though that last one gets easier and easier to stop for far longer). Woof.

This new year though, a couple people I know are going to be doing some major body reconstitution and I'm on board to help. I figure, since I'm helping I might as well jump on the band wagon. Body reconstitution is a pretty popular New Year's Resolution (most people call it weight loss), so I thought I'd blog about some of the things I'll be doing in case it'll help anyone else out on the internets with their own resolution.

The first thing I'm working on is a mindset issue. Most people who go to the gym have a certain goal weight in mind, like, "I weigh 215, but I want to weigh 185 like when I was in high school." For someone like me, that was 17 years ago. As an issue purely of time, I gained (with minor fluctuations either way) 30 pounds over a span of almost 20 years. That's a long period of time that includes hundreds of small lifestyle changes. For instance, I'm stronger in the arms and chest than I was in high school, but weaker in the legs (I'm actually much more balanced now). If I start talking about  getting back to a weight I was in high school, I don't want to lose the muscle mass I've gained in my arms and chest, so really in order to reach my "goal weight" I need to be considerably more healthy than I was in high school.
So while a "goal weight" is not a bad route to go, it may not be the best route. When a person goes to the gym, they are not only burning fat, they are gaining muscle. And if they aren't making correct diet choices and using the equipment properly, the fat they burn and the muscle they gain come in extremely inefficient amounts. This causes most people who make a New Year's Resolution to give up after a month, because they aren't losing in a matter of weeks what they've built up over decades of time.

This is why I focus on the term "body reconstitution". For practically everyone, 20 pounds of body reconstitution is an immediately noticeable "holy shit, what have you been doing with/to yourself" reaction from others. But that 20 pounds doesn't necessarily reflect the changes happening when you step on a scale.

A couple years ago, I weighed about 225, the heaviest I've ever been. It was not healthy weight, either. I decided that my goal weight should be under 200 pounds, based on height and age and profession. I worked really hard and got down to about 210 pounds, and frustrated as hell that I was plateauing there. But everyone who saw me was saying how much more healthy I looked. For a birthday, everyone bought me food or restaurant gift cards because they thought I wasn't eating enough (though I was).
What had actually happened was that I reconstituted about 25 pounds.
I lost 20 pounds of soft, blubbery fat. But I also had gained 5 pounds of leaner, harder muscle. The scale was telling me I'd only lost 15 pounds, but visually I had changed by 25 pounds, a huge difference! At the time, I figured there was either something I was doing wrong or I'd never get below 200 ever again. But really, I was doing something right, and my weight-plateauing was from some other lifestyle issues.

What I think a focus for most people (including my friends making their resolution) should be is to reconstitute 20 pounds: Burn away 15 pounds of fat and gain 5 pounds of muscle, a change on the scale of 10 pounds.
I've heard plenty of people complain that they've gone to the gym regularly for 2-3 weeks, and gave up when they saw their weight wasn't going anywhere when they stepped on a scale, and they weren't seeing any visual differences.
5 pounds of body reconstitution is not going to make a big visual splash at all, but I'm nearly positive that most of those people who were giving up had lost some amount of fat and also gained some amount of muscle. It's entirely possible to burn 2 pounds of fat in 2 weeks, which is an amazing, healthy stride! It's also entirely possible to pack on 1-2 pounds of muscle in 2 weeks, also an incredibly healthy stride. But there isn't a huge visual change and the scale says there hasn't been any change. So people get frustrated and give up.

So all you internet folk out there, consider this your step one for "weight loss". Don't think about it in terms of pure pound reduction. Think about it more about how you want to reconstitute the weight you have.

Over the next couple weeks, I want to post some of the other mindset issues that people have about health and fitness, and where I think they could be doing things better. Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cor Tuum Enim Bono

*credit for the following bean recipe goes to The Pioneer Woman.

About a week ago, I looked in my freezer and saw a large pork tenderloin that desperately needed to be cooked. So the other day I thawed it out and thought, What the hell, and decided to brine the pork.

Brining is a cooking technique similar to marinating, where you soak your meat (or vegetables) for a long period of time in a salt solution. The solution seeps into the meat, locking in fluids, which makes the meat extra tender when eating. A good brine can make a pork chop fall right off the bone.

Brining also flavors the meat. For my brine, I mixed 1-ish cup each of salt and brown sugar in 2 cups of boiling water. After the granules are dissolved into the water, I removed the brine from the heat and mixed in about 1/3 cup of peppercorns and 1/3 cup of an Italian seasoning blend. I didn't have any bay leaves or else I would've tossed a few in as well.
Then I stirred in 4-ish more cups of cold water. You want the brine to cool off so when you soak the meat the liquid doesn't start cooking it.  Find a large, preferably air-tight container (or freezer bag) and soak the meat in the liquid for a long time. I soaked the tenderloin for around 12 hours. (*note to self, try brining a turkey with this mixture for Thanksgiving)

Then I made a dry-rub of brown sugar, paprika, and pepper to put on the meat when it was done. I woulda added mustard (the spice, not the condiment) but I didn't have any on hand.

Anyway, as it got closer towards removing the pork from the brine, I decided the best side dish to go with pork would be beans. Duh. But I didn't want to buy cans of baked beans from the store, since all manner of weird ingredients (mostly corn derivations) are contained therein. So I did a little research and made baked beans from scratch.

Take a pack of thick-cut bacon and cook it in a large skillet (or pot) just long enough to start rendering the fat. Don't overcook the bacon. Pull it from the skillet after the fat starts liquifying.
Why the bacon is cooking dice some onion (amount will vary depending on how much you want to make, I diced half an onion for two cans of beans) and a bell pepper (I used half of that as well).

Once the bacon has been pulled from the skillet (let them drain on some paper towels), throw in the diced onion and bell pepper and let it cook in all that bacon grease. Your kitchen is going to smell amazing right about now. Now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

After the onion starts to soften and clarify, thrown in your beans. I used a can of organic black beans and a can of pinto beans. Then add brown sugar (1/3 cup), barbecue sauce (I found a nonfat organic sauce at Trader Joes that is delicious, use about 1/2 cup for two cans), Dijon mustard (A heaping tablespoon), and a bit of apple-cider vinegar (around 2 teaspoons).

Stir everything together until it starts simmering. Remove from heat and pour into a baking dish (greased, if you like). Take the strips of bacon and place them on top of the beans.
Cook in the oven uncovered for around 2 hours. The sauce will thicken and the beans will soften and the bacon will blacken.

The timing is tricky, because you want your pork to be about 145 degrees in the center, if you want to try to time when to start baking the meat. Or you can pull the beans and cover them (a casserole dish works perfectly for this) and cook the meat at 350 degrees for about a half hour.

Once the pork is done, serve and enjoy the hell out of it. I know I did.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Amoris Medicum: Bibunt Biberunt Bibebant

Oh dear... Slate.com is an online news source that generally puts out really good, interesting articles. But today on their splash page was a link to this article with the tagline: "Being Drunk Puts Women At Higher Risk of Rape. Why Will No One Tell Them To Stop Getting Wasted?"
The article, by Emily Yoffe, seems at first glance to offer good counsel.
We are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them...when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart.
I'm a big fan of personal responsibility. I try to live my life by making good choices and encouraging others to make good choices. The difficulty in trying to teach people to make better choices, is that in the case of this article, it's difficult to avoid victim-blaming when talking about bad choices. And unfortunately, this article fails to avoid victim-blaming, essentially saying that drunk women who are sexually assaulted are at fault, because they were drunk. There are a few moments in the article where the author or people she quotes, write a version of "I'm not literally saying women are to blame, but I'm certainly implying it."
That "but" always takes your first defensive statement and negates it. "I'm not a racist, but...I'm about to say something racist."

And you know what's (figuratively) funny? I wouldn't have as many problems with the article at all if the point was to teach people, specifically in this case women, to be more careful about drinking alcohol. But the point of the article was rape. And there's a big difference (albeit on a fine line) between teaching people the dangers of making poor choices and implying it's your own fault if it happens to you.

Women don't rape themselves. Period.
Could some women have made better choices, or placed themselves in positions where their chances of being raped were lower? Perhaps. But articles like this one imply that rape prevention begins by telling women not to wear big signs around their neck that say "rape me", even though that isn't what is really happening at all.
Women don't think, "I'm gonna wear skimpy clothes, go to a party of strangers, and then drink myself into oblivion. I sure hope somebody rapes me." They don't even think "I sure hope nobody rapes me."

What made the article even more disappointing was there was no mention of the email sent out to members of Georgia Tech's Phi Kappa Tau fraternity titled "Luring Your Rapebait", which included helpful suggestions like "If anything ever fails, go get more alcohol."

But don't worry, frat boys, if you succeed, it's the woman's fault.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Nullam Infernus

Oh my goodness, have there been things to rant about! The government shutdown is the big one, obviously. I try to follow the developments (such as they are) as best I can, and nearly every day I think, Oh, I should blog about that.  I've been feeling guilty about not updating as much as I should, and I got stuff I'd like to write about. Part of the blame can be laid on my schedule. I've stuck a lot of pots on the fire, and while it means I got some good stuff cooking (to be announced soon!) it also means my attention is going elsewhere.
But also, my frustration with the system has risen to the level where I've been asking myself "What's the point?"
We could talk about who's to blame, or what the Affordable Care Act (which people mistakenly call Obamacare, since it was thought up by conservative group The Heritage Foundation in the late 80s and enacted by Massachusetts Republican governor Mitt Romney in 2006) really does and what the pros (and there are some) and cons (way more than there are pros) are. We could talk about the effect of the shutdown on America, or what will happen if America defaults (hint: it would be globally catastrophic).

That's all important discussion, but I think it's not nearly as important as discussing the system that made all this possible in the first place.
The dictionary gives it a fancy name like gerrymandering, but what all of our Representatives have done is consolidate their power. They restructure the borders of the district they represent so they will have the most supporters. Sound strange? It is a little. It's also horribly disingenuous.

Let's say you are a House Representative of the Democratic Party for California. The state of California has 53 members of the House, each Representative covering a district of the state. So let's say that while you garnered enough votes in your district to be elected, there was a sizeable section of your district that didn't vote for you and typically never votes Democrat. What gerrymandering does is redraw the lines of your district so that the section that never votes for you is cut out of your district and now included in the neighboring district, one that mostly votes Republican. With the majority of voters who don't or won't vote Democrat moved out of your district, you've made your seat in the House election-proof. You don't have to fear your constituency becoming so dissatisfied that they'll replace you.

I know a lot of champions of free-market capitalism who moan that without stiff job competition in the marketplace there's no impetus to excel in the marketplace. While I don't 100% agree with that statement I will admit that the House of Representatives provides a perfect example of that idea in action.
In our current situation, a bunch of hard-line ideologues, who are so confident their way is the right way they refuse to compromise right past the point of disaster, made extortionist demands of the government, and when the government refused to capitulate to their demands they followed through on their threats. I could only wish I was talking about al Qaeda here. For once, the Obama administration and Senate Democrats showed they actually had a spine and told these House terrorists to go to hell --unlike when they caved to extend the Bush-era tax cuts through to 2012, caved to offer spending cuts and a "super committee" and a sequester to lift the debt ceiling in 2011, caved to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000 to avoid the fiscal cliff, and then caved to offer "chained CPI" and Medicare cuts in 2013 (credit to Robert Reich for the list).
Any candidate running against these moronic assholes is doomed to fail in the election because of the gerrymandered districts, so they have little need to change their tune.

The only way out of this mess (because it goes both ways) is for the voters to change. We need to raise the common denominator to expect and demand more of our elected leaders. The only way to do that is by learning. Yes, the l-word. We need to stop relying on the media to tell us how to vote. We need to research our candidates, stop voting down the party line if the candidate at the bottom is broken, learn about the bills and laws that affect our districts, learn how an economy works, how the banking system (the real enemy) works, how taxes work. And then we need to come together as a community and tell these bastards that even if we disagree on the liberal or conservative details, we won't let our elected representatives sell off our personal, social, financial, and political security to the highest bidder.

As Dr. Timothy Leary said: "Think for yourself. Question authority."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Memorias II

The Time I Had Appendicitis
Every now and again, if I've been doing lots of walking or lifting, of if the weather is just right, I'll get an awful pain in my left hip. It's usually bad enough during those times that I'll walk with a pronounced limp.
"Why are you limping?" someone may ask.
"I tore my hip flexor back in high school, and it acts up sometimes," I'll say.
They wince. "Ouch. How'd you do that?"
Depending on how much I'd like to feel embarrassed that day, I'll say either, "Long story," or "I fell down a mountain and got appendicitis."
I realize that maybe saying "I fell down a mountain and got appendicitis" sounds a bit too incredible to be true, but I'm only slightly exaggerating.

It'd be more true to say that I fell down part of an incline on a mountain and only had appendicitis while I was in the emergency room of the mountain hospital, but even that does not fully clarify what probably is on my list of Top Five Worst Days Ever.

So the summer after my Freshman year, I go up to Running Springs, CA for my church's summer camp for a week of prayer and worship and hiking and swimming. One of the activities we'd have is Quiet Time: an opportunity for you to spend time alone with God. You could go on a nature walk, find a corner in the sanctuary, wherever. As long as it was just you and Jesus. I always chose to take a walk, and listen to the way a Creator could speak to us through the rustle of leaves in a breeze, or in the babble of a stream, or in the calls of birds and beasts. And yeah, I'd do my share of praying. It was a different life back then.
A fairly accurate representation of what happens.

It took a long time for me to feel comfortable in my own skin. And especially in high school, I was not the most coordinated of individuals.
So I'm taking a hike one morning, and just outside of the main part of camp is a 45-degree-ish (totally guessing) incline down into more untamed forest (as opposed to the landscaped forest of the camp). It was off the more well-traveled paths, so I knew I wouldn't run into anybody, which was my goal in going that way.
Unfortunately, not running into anybody can be a problem when there's an accident.
I wasn't walking straight down the incline, but cutting across it at an angle to control my descent, when my right foot - the foot lower on the incline - hit a loose patch of dirt and started to slide downward. My left foot, rather than pulling inward to lower my center of gravity and control my slide, got caught on a rock. My right foot continued to slide until I ended up in the splits, at which point my left foot came free of the rock and I slid 20-30 yards down the incline in an incredibly uncomfortable position. That was the first and only time I've ever done the splits and needless to say, my hip flexor was FUBAR'd.

So I just messed up my hip and slid my crotch down thirty yards of mountain, and I need help. Naturally I had chosen to hike in a direction away from the well-travelled paths. What a fantastic moment to be alone with God! I'm able to painfully pull myself to my feet, but when I tried to climb back up towards the camp the pain was excruciating. There was no way I could get back up there by walking. So I crawled. Using both hands and one leg, I pulled myself back up to camp.
Once I made it back up to the flatter terrain of the camp grounds, I got my feet under me and limped to the nurse's station by the pool. Of course it's by the pool. By the time I get there, Quiet Time is over and Play Time has begun. I limp past the pretty and popular kids, who use the pool to flash a little Christian skin and flirt with Christian smiles, and tell the nurse what happened.
She fills a huge bag with ice and tells me to apply it to where it hurts. Of course, the bag covers significantly more than just where it hurts and I spend the next half hour applying ice to my balls in the pool area with my cheeks burning in embarrassment.
The pool area

That night I was awoken by a sharp, agonizing pain, not in my groin but in my abdomen. It would hit, then abate slightly, and then hit again, like I was being stabbed in the gut repeatedly. Each spasm of pain pulled a whimper from me, and soon the rest of my cabin was gathered around my bunk, wondering what to do.
"Get. Help." I gasped.
So one of them ran to get the nurse, and then together they all got me into her car, and we raced off to the Mountains Community Hospital in Lake Arrowhead, about thirty agonizing minutes away. We check in to the emergency center, and the night doctor says, "I'm pretty sure it's kidney stones."
He orders a bunch of tests and says a nurse will be in to hook me up to an I.V. filled with a soup of pain killers and muscle relaxers. I get an x-ray done, and then an older gentleman, that in my memory looks like Christopher Walken from The Prophecy movies, administers a rectal exam.
Now I was old enough to have a vague understanding of what a rectal exam was, but young enough to not understand what was actually required. He had me lay on my side and lower my pajama bottoms down past my ass. And then he jammed a vaguely lubed cold metal rod approximately the size of the Washington Monument into my rectum (damn near killed 'em!), with nothing in the way of warning. Not that a warning could have prepared for the steel tidal wave up my ass.
Anyone else notice how the two paths look like a scrotum?
Afterwards, I lay, still on my side, my knees pulled up towards my chest. I was pretty damn miserable at this point. I was looking forward to the I.V. full of drugs that was to come.
A kind-looking old lady opens my door and shuffles in. "I'm here to hook you up to your medication."
I roll onto my back, and she sets up shop next to my bed. She ties off some rubber tubing around my lower bicep, and pulls out the needle. She hovers over my arm, waiting for the vein to present itself. She presses on the vein in the crook of my elbow, on the vein in my wrist, and on the top of my hand.
"Hmmmm," she says.
My eyebrows start to go up. This was taking a while.
Finally, she settles on my wrist. She pushes the needle in.
"Whoops," she says.
She missed the vein! So she starts digging around with the needle while the damn thing was still in my wrist. At one point, I see my skin raise like a small creature was trying to push its way out of my arm. At this point, I'm more in shock than pain, but when she pulls out the needle and releases the tubing around my arm it sets in pretty good as the blood flow comes back into my arm.
She grabs a new needle, and then ties off the tubing onto my other arm. She finds the vein in my hand pretty quick, but when she pushes the needle in, she pushes it in straight down. The needle goes right through the vein and hits a bone.
With a yelp, I jerk my hand away. The poor old nurse, horribly flustered at this point, apologizes and shuffles out of the room. A new, younger nurse comes in and efficiently and more or less painlessly gets the I.V. hooked up to the vein in my wrist.

The doctor comes in with my test results, rubbing his chin. "Well," he says, "I don't see any kidney stones show up on your x-ray, but I'm sure that's what it is. I want to wait for the morning doctor to come in for a second opinion however, so make yourself comfortable."
An hour later, the morning doctor comes in, looking over my test results, rubbing his chin. "Well," he says. "It's not kidney stones."
Ok, that's good news, right?
He says, "It's appendicitis."

Unfortunately, the medication was making it difficult for him to perform any abdominal tests for confirmation. So they pulled me off I.V. and were going to wait for it to wear off to confirm, with the caveat that if the pain returns they would need to operate immediately in order to prevent the appendix from rupturing. A little while later, my mom showed up, having been contacted that there was an emergency. She looks at the doctors, and the facility, and says, "Come on, we're going to our doctor."
So they release me, and we drive down the mountain back to Orange County. I was leaving camp four days early.

We go to our hospital, and the doctors there perform all the same tests, though they were much more gentle and efficient, and after another hour of waiting, the doctor comes in to the room with a small smile on his face. "Well," he says. "It's not appendicitis."
Great, now what?
His smile gets a little wider. "It's not kidney stones either." He says, "you have a condition that we call F.O.S." he says, chuckling.
I blink, not getting it.
"Full Of Stool," he says, clarifying.
It still wasn't sinking in. I look at my mom. She says, "You're constipated, Mike."


I was only slightly mollified to learn that you can actually die from constipation, so I felt a little better that the stabbing pain in my guts was not merely me overreacting. Still, I was mortified. It felt like I was dying, and all I needed to do was poop!
The doctor prescribed magnesium sulfate, which is like Drano for humans, and by that afternoon I was no longer Full Of Anything.

Eventually, after a very long time, the story stopped being embarrassing and I started to find the humor in it the way everyone did right off the bat.
On the other hand, I do wish, every time my hip starts acting up, that the pain didn't remind me of one my Worst Days Ever.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Veritas Metaphorae I: The One About Fishing

On a bright, sunny day I sat by a lake and dangled my feet in the water. I was leaning back on my elbows, my face was raised to the sky, my eyes were closed, and a smile had snuck onto my mouth. I was taking a break from fishing, and enjoying the way the sun would heat the skin on my face until a cloud passed over, and the cooler shadow would make my skin tingle.
My fishing pole lay at my side, mostly forgotten. I'd been fishing for a while, and now the line was tangled and the hook was rusty.
From hdnaturepictures.com

My repose was broken at one point by something in the water brushing against my feet. I sat up and peered into the clear blue lake. To my surprise a fish had settled in the space between my feet. This wasn't an ordinary fish, either. It was...it was beautiful! Its golden scales were of such a saturated color they appeared almost black. The fins were long and soft; they were what I felt brushing my feet. They streamed and swirled out from the fish's body in long gossamer strands, so that it seemed almost that the ripples in the water were black against the clear blue of the lake.

I gazed in surprised awe on the fish, and it seemed as though she was meeting my gaze. Where did she come from? Why was she here, now, resting near my feet?
I looked at my bent, tangled fishing pole in disgust. I couldn't catch her with that. Besides, "catch" seemed like the wrong word. "Catch" implies pursuit. "Catch" implies possession. I had little doubt that many other fishermen had tried to capture this beautiful fish. I didn't want to capture; I didn't want to own.
I wanted the fish, but I wanted her to want me as well. Hopefully that was why she had taken refuge by my feet! I wanted a tacit agreement between us that we needed each other. Even if I had the best fishing pole in the world, with a lure guaranteed to attract attention, and bait impossible to withstand I wouldn't use it. I couldn't. She was worth more than that.

I looked at my hands. They are scarred and bent from age and use, but they'd do. They'd have to do. I would just slightly slip my hand into the water, so gentle and slow that it wouldn't startle her. I'd cup my fingers, creating a gentle sling to hold her with. Not like a belt, but more like a mattress. I'd let her get used to my presence there in the water with her. And then, after enough time, she'd slide onto my hand and rest herself with a sigh.

I could do this. I would do this. I carefully raised my hand and prepared to slip it down into the water. But before my fingers could actually breach the plain of the water, this incredibly beautiful fish - so special I could hardly stand it, appearing at such a serendipitous moment she seemed almost created just for me - she nuzzled my ankle lightly and then swam away.
Taken by jordi61 http://www.flickr.com/photos/35779190@N03/8489190301/

Monday, July 29, 2013

Memorias I

That One Time I Was Gay

God, I love the digital keyboard! Edits are easy, mistakes fixed with a copy taps of the backspace key or highlighted with a mouse and changed. When I'm writing, my mind moves way faster than my hands, and I'll go back and reread things I wrote and realize I left out letters or even words. With a keyboard, fixing those little oversights is easy. Which why I prefer it so much more than scrawling by hand with pen and paper. Especially pen.

So a little over 5 years ago, one of my good friends (one o' my best, really) got married. He and his wife pretty much are a perfect match. I was one of his roommates at the time and we all got along like gangbusters, in spite of an overwhelming number of "I'm the affair" jokes I made about his future wife.
I'm nearly 100% positive all those jokes were not the reason I wasn't in the wedding party and it had more to do with space in the group and how long other people had been friends and actually deserved to be in the wedding party. Besides, even though I didn't get to stand with the group or sit at the table, they never once treated me like I wasn't part of the group. (Christ, it sounds like I'm whining. I'm not. This is all the set up, that's all)
The happy couple.

Anyway, wedding was gorgeous and so was the reception. They had one of those photos at the church you could sign so that you'll always have a written record of who witnessed the occasion, or something. I'm not sure what the point of those photos are for, but a lot of weddings have em. The picture they chose was pretty silly and reminded me of their dog Bear.
Not Bear, but like Bear.
Bear was a Chow mixed-breed, who was usually fluffy except when they would shave a mohawk  from head to tail across his back. He was pretty fond of looking like he'd swallow your face whole, and he loved nipping at girls' asses. Dirty dog.
Well the photo they decided to take for people to sign looked like they were going to eat each other's face, kind of like this:
True love.
So while most people wrote something sweet and hopeful about their future together, I wrote a silly remark about Bear and told them that I loved them both.

Anyway, at the reception, the alcohol flowed in abundance. I never got quite to the stage of drunk, but I danced around the edges quite a bit. The reception was a lovely party where all the usual speeches, dances, and what-not occurred.
At one point, however, the Best Man walks up to me while I'm smoking a cigarette.
"Mike," he says, "I'm not sure why, but one of the groom's cousins is telling people you're gay."
"Really?" I ask. This seemed like a great opportunity for a bit of fun. I had no idea how this rumor got started but it seemed silly not to mess with people.
Then the Happy Couple approached, concerned. "Hey man," the groom says, "my cousin keeps telling people you're gay. I've tried to assure him you're not, but he's still spreading that around."
Not being The Guy That Starts Fights At Weddings, I told him it's no big deal. Sure, I was curious why he thought I was gay, and wondered if his cousin was making this assumption based on me not being in the wedding party.

Anyway, I let the matter drop and focused on having a good time. I had work that evening, but it would be for only a couple hours and then I'd meet up with everyone at the after-party for more drinking. The reception, you see, was more for close friends and family. The after-party was for all the other good friends that couldn't fit into the reception.
When I got home from work, the party was in full swing. And by full swing I mean FULL SWING. There was much drunken debauchery going on. As I approached, one of the groomsmen was hosing his own vomit down the driveway towards the gutter (long story, but suffice to say, he earned it and rallied like a freakin' champ).

I go inside, drop off my stuff and grab a beer. As I drink my beer, I see on the kitchen counter the picture that everyone signed at the church. So I go over and start looking at what everyone wrote. I quickly saw my signature, where I wrote, just above their heads, "Great imitation of Bear! I love you guys!"

Except that wasn't what I wrote. And suddenly I realized why there was a rumor floating about the wedding that I was gay. Apparently my brain was moving faster than my pen, and I didn't write the word "you".

Monday, July 22, 2013

Oculus de Acu

In 1795, President George Washington ordered Ambassador David Humphreys to negotiate a treaty with the Muslim states along the Barbary Coast, who for the past three centuries had raided the seas as privateers. In 1797, under John Adams' presidency, the Treaty of Tripoli was unanimously ratified by the Senate. Article 11 of the Treaty that was ratified states,
“As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen (Muslims); and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
According to Historian Franklin T. Lambert, Article 11 assured Muslim nations "that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced."

The term "Separation of Church and State" first appeared in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship… I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
It's obvious to any student of history that our Founding Fathers came from a variety of beliefs, and they mostly all agreed that America should not have a national religion. President James Madison wrote in 1774 that “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” Almost twenty years later he addressed the general assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, saying, "Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?"

With our Founders so carefully considering religious freedom while simultaneously protecting against the establishment of religion as a national identity, I'm always a little boggled when I hear (quite often) that America was founded on Christianity or Christian principles.

What boggles my mind even more is that a poll by YouGov and HuffingtonPost came out showing that nearly 1/3 of Americans are in favor of a Constitutional amendment establishing Christianity as the national religion, with a little over 1/3 of Americans in favor of their state establishing Christianity as their state religion.
That's a lot of Americans -- more than 100 million -- who believe that Christianity as part of our national identity is the right way to go.

If that is true (and while a poll is not the most accurate statistic maker it's enough of one to say that it is mostly true) that 1/3 of Americans want the religion - or at least  the principles of Christianity - as part of the national identity, I'm kind of surprised there aren't more Socialists in America.

History clearly shows us that under Capitalism, wealth trends upwards and rewards the greedy which has the tendency to weaken the middle class and marginalize the lower class into some semblance of debt peonage. Christians should be very wary of greed, since Jesus taught that "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25).
Additionally, with so many Americans valuing Christianity as having a proper place in government, I'm surprised by the number of Christians who hate the government's social programs. Maybe they hate how those programs make them feel guilty, since they do what Jesus taught that his followers should do: feed the hungry, tend the sick, shelter the homeless, welcome the immigrants, clothe the naked.
"Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:34-36
Is that what they meant when they wanted to see America become a Christian nation? It sure doesn't sound like it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Interserere Faciem ad Palmis

Methinks Texas is not thinking this one through. After one hell of a filibuster by Wendy Davis earlier this week, Governor Dick Perry (yeah, the one with the hunting ranch called "Niggerhead") announced a special session called next week to pass SB5, an overhaul on abortion law which would ban all abortions after 20 weeks and close 90% of women's health clinics, effectively eliminating women's choice.
Let's set the moral and ethical arguments for abortion aside for a moment, and just acknowledge that most unwanted or untimed (whoops) pregnancies occur among lower income communities with a higher (as much as 20%) percentage of those pregnancies occurring among Black and Hispanic women. Hold that thought in your mind for a moment while I shift gears.

Also happening earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned several key components of The Voting Rights Act of 1965. What does Texas do the same day?
Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval.
Voter ID laws disproportionally affect the poor, and the poor are disproportionally non-White. Redistricting is the process by which lawmakers determine who their constituents are. It is also an oft-abused method to disenfranchise voters, particularly poor, Black, and Hispanics districts.
So officials had already blocked the Voter ID law in Texas because they felt it violated the Voting Rights Act. Rather than change the law so that it does not target minorities, Texas just waits for the VRA to be gutted.

Let's also set the moral and ethical implications of enacting the Voter ID law and partisan gerrymandering for a moment, and simply add what's been happening in Texas up. What they're doing is creating an increasingly disenfranchised populace and forcing them to have more children, meaning that the numbers of increasingly disenfranchised people will increase. How long do you think it'll take before that blows up in their face?

Setting morality and ethics aside, it's clear that Texas did not think this one through. Taking morality and ethics into consideration, it's clear that Texas is governed by assholes (Wendy Davis and certain other brain-using legislators notwithstanding).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Amoris Medicum II - Guides to Dating

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Someone is using crowd-sourcing to fund a book that is fairly reprehensible. My facebook feed has blown up (hyperbole, don't worry) with people expressing their distaste over this use of the crowd-sourcing site, asking me sign petitions (I did), and generally having the sort of conversations on social media that we're supposed to be having on social media.

The book is titled "Above The Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome With Women", and the author was asking for $2000 to help get his book published. By the time the project ended earlier this week, he had well over 500 backers and $16,000.
Some of the "helpful" advice the author gives in the guide is stuff like:
Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.
Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, grab her hand, and put it right on your dick.
Oh my. This sounds more like a guide to being a rapist. But in the interest of fairness, and to make sure that quotes were accurate and properly sourced, I dug around a little (I'm choosing not to link any of the sources because in the end I decided I didn't really want to drive traffic towards assholes). Not that I'm trying to defend rape-speech, but there have been plenty of instances (especially on social media) where something taken out of context sounds horrifying but in proper context is not as bad as it sounds.

In the case of this book, one quote is taken out of context and one quote isn't. The quote which ends with "Force her to rebuff your advances" was in the section on Flirting. The quote that says "Don't ask for permission, grab her hand, and put it right on your dick" was in the section on Sex.

Now this is a total assumption on my part, but the section on Sex I'm guessing is advice on what to do during sex. I know plenty of women who like a take-charge attitude in men in the bedroom, and if the idea in this section is that "Sex is happening", then in this context the worse-sounding quote is actually less problematic.
The section on Flirting is horrific, however. The only caveat the author gives is to learn the difference between "we should stop because this is naughty (so don't stop)" and "we should stop because you're making me uncomfortable" and be prepared to stop when it's the latter (the quotes are mine, not his, I'm paraphrasing). But then he goes on to say, "Stop for now, and come back to it later."

This guy needs to have his dick cut off and his writing privileges revoked. Like all the other pick-up artists, his advice is all about scam and salesmanship. And like all other pick-up artists, his advice works (I've seen similar "artists" work), but it works in the hollowest and most misogynistic way imaginable and borders on sexual assault. That's why he should have his dick cut off.
His writing privileges need to be revoked because he's a horrible writer, where even the nominally good advice he gives is written poorly.

Look at the "Force her to rebuff your advances" line. This is part of the section on flirting, and the author mentions the concept of Escalation. Escalation is actually a very good guide to flirting. The idea is that you start small and build upon each success. If you're talking to someone, lean in a little closer. If they lean in too, then add something else, like when you laugh casually touch their shoulder or forearm to initiate harmless and platonic contact. If they do the same, then add something else. The idea is that you stack on little things one at a time so that you're not overwhelming the other person with too much physicality, and also you'll know where their limit is when they don't match your level of flirting. It can escalate all the way to the bedroom, but if at any point they don't match your level, they are "rebuff[ing] your advances".
But the way the author writes it, you should just work on overwhelming her natural shyness, coyness, or resistance until she tells you to stop. And then you pull back a little, for a little while, and then keep going. This asswipe needs to be the test subject at a dildo factory.

One of the main reasons I started the Amoris Medicum section of my blog was because I've seen, way too often, people treat the opposite sex like a puzzle or game where the right line or move will unlock the zipper of their pants or dress. And so much of the advice people give about how to pick up on the opposite sex treats them like objects to be toyed with. But if all you want is a warm hole or stick to hump go buy a fleshlight or a dildo. If you want to have a relationship with a human being, you have to treat them like a human being.

Monday, June 17, 2013

De Mendacio

The Lie

My breath forms mist in the air when I exhale
The mist becomes a dew when it hits her cheek
        As we lie in a tangled embrace

The dew becomes tears on her face when she exhales
The tears fall off her chin to feed a pool of sorrow beneath us
        As we lie in a tangled embrace

The pool overflows to streams with each beat of my heart
The streams become a river of pain coursing through my blood
        As we lie in a tangled embrace

The river becomes a rapids with each of her coughing sobs
The rapids feed an ocean of regret
        As we lie in a tangled embrace

The ocean makes waves that crash over my head
The waves become a tsunami of excuses
        As we lie in a tangled embrace

The tsunami washes everything away, leaving an empty beach behind
We fill that beach with falsehoods and delusions
        As we lie in a tangled embrace

*I wrote this a couple of years ago and promptly lost it. So it was a pleasant surprise to dig through an old file of stuff and find this tacked on to the end.*

Friday, May 3, 2013

Parsimonia Essentialium

This is how an economy works:

Let's say you make a product, and it costs you $5 to make this product and it takes 1 hour to make it. Now when you sell product, you want to be able to cover the cost of production, right? So you don't want to sell the product for $4, because you'll quickly run out of funds to be able to make your product. What would be great is if you could sell it for $10, so you make back the money on the initial cost, plus pay for the cost entire of a second product.
But let's say that your product is awesome and everyone wants one. Demand is high, so you raise your price to $15, because everyone wants one. As a bonus, you're able to streamline production and make two per hour. But after a while sales dip, and demand drops. In fact it drops to almost nothing. When demand was high, you could make 2 per hour and barely get them out fast enough. Now, with demand low, even making 1 per hour causes your product to start piling up on shelves in your garage. So you drop the price to encourage demand again.

Now, a national economy (or a global economy) is a lot more complex that my example, but the principle is essentially the same. Economy is all about supply and demand and the balance between the two. What makes an economy strong is the movement of money: purchasing power. You could also call it spending. A company spends money to make a product. A customer spends money to buy the product.

Ok, so let's broaden our example a bit:
Let's say that I have the materials you need to make your product, and that's why I charge you $5. Now, I'm a bigger company than you and have a lot of customers who want my materials. So my company is making $1,000 per day, but I also have 2 employees that I need to pay by the hour for making my materials. And those employees want to buy your product.
So your money goes to me, but some of my money goes to my employees, and some of their money goes to you when they buy a product.

This is called circulation. The money essential moved in a circle (in varying amounts). On a national scale, this circle is huge and complex, but the principle is the same. People get paid for a product or service, who then pay others for a product or service, and so on and so on.
Now, I could talk about how the strength of the economy is (or should be) proportional to the strength of the middle class or the danger of credit bubbles inflating the economy with borrowed money - and both topics deserve a look - but for now, let's keep it simple and say that a healthy economy is one in which people are spending money.

So what happens when the economy is unhealthy, in what is called a recession (the movement of money slows) or even a depression (the movement of money stops)? People aren't spending during these times, so how does the economy start moving again? Companies drop the price on their goods to encourage demand, but they also have a lot of product on shelves to move before they need to increase production again, so with low demand and high supply they don't need as many employees, especially since employees cost money. So companies start trimming. But those employees need their job to make money, so they can buy stuff, which will get the economy moving again. So without the purchasing power of those employees, demand drops even further, which causes a new round of contraction and more layoffs. It's a downward spiral in dire need of a lifeline.

Enter the government.
The government can help the economy in two ways: first, it can create social works projects to create demand. Infrastructure is a great example. The government decides to fix some roads, and contracts some companies to do the job. Those companies hire workers to fill the demand, and those workers get a paycheck that they use to buy stuff from other companies, and so the economy starts moving.
Second, the government creates social programs to help the truly desperate. When a worker is removed from their job, their ability to contribute to the economy disappears. So the government steps in and assists the worker, providing an unemployment check to the worker until they get back to work again.

But what about cuts? The government is spending a whole bunch of extra money trying to help companies and workers get the economy moving. What else can it do?
Could it lower interest rates. Companies could borrow money at a lower rate, and the infusion of capital will help get their production moving. Except that only affects the supply-side of the economy, and if a company's shelves are full of unbought product, why should it make more? Does having a supply of a thing create a demand for it? Not really.

The economy moves because of spending. If consumers can't or won't spend the government has to spend for them. It's the only way out of a recession.

What worries me is that somehow many policy makers seem to lack this incredibly basic understanding of economy. We're in the middle of a global recession, and the calls for spending cuts have never been louder or more fervent.
Now, I grant you, the government could certainly spend smarter. And I grant you, the government wastes a lot of money. But if the people aren't spending, then the government has to. That's the baseline rule.

That's how an economy works.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Amoris Medicum I

A friend posted a link on facebook: "100 Ways to Flirt With Guys". Number 92 says, "Flirt with someone at a bookstore by slapping the book out of their hands and whispering 'books are word prisons!' Then karate chop the air and saunter away." While I agreed with a couple other friends that this method would totally work on me, it's fairly clear that this is a joke post making fun of the teen girl how-to magazines (I hope so! "Bake him a salad" sounds like a joke, but there are a lot of idiots).

And then a friend (a girl) mentioned how at least these suggestions are better than the line, "can I buy you a drink?"

That line always bothered me too, though I never thought about why until today. And then I realized that it's because that statement is not a pick-up line. Not really.
It's an offer.

Here's how a lot of guys think it works: Guy sees girl at the bar, finds girl attractive. He walks over, asks "Can I buy you a drink?" If the girl says yes, she must be into him. If she says no, then no harm done, move along.
Let's look at it from a different perspective: Girl is seated at the bar, a random guy walks up out of the blue and asks "Can I buy you a drink?" Girl gets creeped out by a stranger trying to ply her with alcohol with the intention of getting her drunk enough to take home.

Guys, if "can I buy you a drink" is your opener, you got problems. Because in my experience, the girl you'd rather take home is the one who'd say "no" to an opener like that.

But like I said, "Can I buy you a drink" is an offer. And there is totally a correct time to use the line: after the two of you are already talking.
Here's the thing: lots of people, men and women, go to bars to meet people. So a strange man walking up to a girl is to be expected, that's how people meet (there are occasions, of course, where it should be perfectly obvious to anyone not blitzed out of their gourd that the girl just wants to be left alone). With a reasonable amount of charisma, confidence, and humor (some combination of at least two of the three) any guy can spark up a conversation with any girl at a bar (notice how I didn't mention how a guy or girl looks? That's because, at least initially, it doesn't matter). That's why the girl went to the bar. Drinking at home is cheaper, safer, and easier to avoid talking with strange men.

So get the girl talking. Have a conversation. Don't mention how she looked so hot that you just had to come over and talk to her. She already knows, because you came over and talked to her. If she is already drinking, wait for her to finish. If she isn't drinking and you are, wait until you finish.
Then, and only then, do you say some variation of, "let me get the next round."
The idea you are trying to present is that you would like to continue talking, over drinks. What you are offering her at that point, is the opportunity to assess you and determine whether she wants the conversation to continue.
That's what I mean when I say "can I buy you a drink" is an offer. It's a poor way to start a conversation, but it's a great way to keep the conversation going.

Girls know within 30 seconds whether or not they want to talk to you and they know within 5 minutes whether or not they might be game for the possibility of more than talking. Be patient, be confident, smile and laugh. Compliment her (or tease her if she's being self-deprecating) when she talks about herself and don't be afraid to brag a little when she asks about you.
If she's told you three things about herself and asked three things about you, she's probably going to let you buy her next round.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cogitata Magnus et Potens

So Oz the Great and Powerful, eh? It's been getting some incredibly mixed reviews, including some that are downright loathing. One review in particular, though, had me scratching my head. (Oh, and by the way, I'll be talking spoilers, but since it's a prequel to the incredibly famous 1939 film if you have a problem get over it.)

A friend linked the review on facebook from Jezebel, an e-magazine about celebrity, sex, and fashion with a decidedly feminist slant (Ok, so really the only articles that I've seen linked to the site have been feminist and I'm judging the entire site by that). The review originally appeared here, though, so I'll source it proper. It's titled "Why 'Oz the Great and Powerful' is a Major Step Back For Witches and Women", written by Elisabeth Rappe.
Now just so we're clear, I'm a feminist. But there were a lot of things about Rappe's review that had me scratching my head.

In the very first paragraph, Rappe writes,
[The Wizard of OZ] is such a massive piece of film iconography that it has become the definitive version of this tale, and outstripped the Baum book itself. It doesn't matter that it’s a loose adaptation of Baum’s work, it is *the* adaptation, and any filmmaker itching to make a more authentic version has their hands permanently tied. The outcry – “How dare you remake The Wizard of Oz!” – would be deafening, no matter how illogical the idea  (“Hamlet” can survive a hundred versions, but not the adventures of Dorothy!).
 Hunh? Apparently it didn't stop Hollywood from making The Wiz in 1978 (with Diana Ross and Dorothy, Michael Jackson as The Scarecrow, and Richard Pryor as The Wiz!). It also apparently doesn't bother the throngs who've seen Wicked (though the book was better). This may seem a tad nitpicky, but the argument that The Wizard of Oz is somehow sacred becomes the jumping off point for the rest of the review and obviously Hollywood does not view Oz (or much of anything, for that matter) as sacred.

But the real point that bugged me was how disappointed Rappe was that the hero was male. She writes, "as you go through the Oz series, one fact can't help but jump out at you: the feisty, heroic characters of Oz are all women."
It's a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz" (and Hollywood is loving its prequels right now), so exactly how should the gender of the hero not be male? She's also ignoring that in Baum's stories he created ensembles of heroes, written from (usually) one girl's perspective. She's also ignoring that Hollywood decided to make a prequel about what is essentially a minor villain from the 1939 movie.

The Wizard is not a wizard at all. He's pretty much just a blustery con man. And that's before Hollywood got their hands on him. So when Hollywood decides to make a movie where this guy is the central character, how are you supposed to take the movie seriously?

The correct answer is, of course, that you can't. Which is why Sam Raimi was a perfect director for the film. I laughed (and at times outright guffawed) my way through the movie. Sorry, Rappe, but a feminist lament of this film was a waste of your time. There are a few reviews (such as this one) that say that "Oz the Great and Powerful" is essentially family-friendly, Disney version of Raimi's 1992 cult classic "Army of Darkness". The comparison is highly apt.

If your eyes can handle it, go see it in 3D. I saw it in 2D, and from the moments the credits rolled I wished I'd shelled out the extra bucks for 3D. It's a gorgeous movie that never forgets that it's based on the unmatchable 1939 masterpiece, but it also doesn't ever take itself seriously enough to try to match it. There are plenty of nods and cameos to the original, plenty of nods to the books (such as the little china girl), a few subtle twists (such as the barest hint that The Wizard was actually Dorothy's father*), and tons of laughs.

But only if you're going for laughs. The friend I saw it with hated the movie and didn't laugh once, but they also had high expectations for a movie that took itself a bit more seriously. (They also complained that Disney totally setting themselves up for a sequel, at which point I laughed and said MGM already made the sequel in 1939.)

Early on in the film, Oscar (who becomes known as the Wizard) says, "I don't want to be a good man, I want to be a great one!" And then it turns out that in the end (and Glinda says it point blank) he's not a great man, but he is a good one.
I think that idea matches the movie perfectly.

*a lot of people seem to be missing this clue, but it's there, I promise you. If anyone is curious, I'll bring it up in the comments.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Solummodo Rerum. Et logica.

Well the gun-control debate has been spiraling into the same mess of soundbites and memes as any other political discussion. Now there's a growing discussion that the Sandy Hook massacre is a hoax, and meanwhile everyone is trying to find statistics that support their point of view. Such as the FBI report that violent crime decrease in 2011 by almost 4%, following a five year trend demonstrated by this graph:
What the graph says is that nationwide, a little over 1.2million violent crimes were committed in 2011. Many pro-gun websites are using this report, along with a report of increased gun sales, to demonstrate that violent crime dropped because more people are carrying weapons. Their preferred soundbite: "More guns equals less crime."

The problem with that soundbite is that it is not necessarily true. For one thing, the report on gun sales is actually a report on background checks. Given the variety of reasons a background check may be called for (and the possibility that some people may fail their background check) it's actually incredibly difficult to determine how gun sales are doing.
It's also incredibly difficult to determine the effect gun sales have on crime. I couldn't find a website that showed the statistics on that, which isn't surprising given how difficult it is. You'd have to display crime statistics by region and match it with gun sales data for the same region in order to get anything resembling an accurate picture. And that still wouldn't be proof that more guns equal less crime because we don't have any way of knowing how many crimes would have been committed if there were less guns.

Here are some actual facts, that I think bear mentioning:

  • According to a 2007 Small Arms Survey, The rate of private gun ownership in the United States is 88.8 firearms per 100 people, ranking them number 1 out of 178 countries for private gun ownership and private gun ownership per 100 people.
  • There are 51,438 are retail gun stores and only 36,569 grocery stores and 14,098 MacDonald's restaurants in the U.S. It's statistically easier to buy a gun than a Big Mac or groceries.
  • According to Fatal and non-Fatal Injury data by the CDC, over the 5 year period between 2006 and 2010, the number deaths and injuries during an assault where a gun was involved hasn't moved much. In 2006 65,539 people were killed or injured by a gun during an assault, while in 2010 the number was 64,816. While that seems to show a downward trend, in 2008 there were 68,805 people killed or injured, so not really. The number of homicides by a gun are close to 2/3 of all homicides.
  • Also according to data by the CDC during the same time period, the number of dead or injured due to suicide or intentional self harm from a gun increased each year, from 20,073 in 2006 to 24,035 in 2010. One of those fatalities in 2010 was a child under the age of 10. The number of suicides by a gun are just about half of all suicides.
  • Unintentional fatalities or injuries from a gun during that same period trended upwards from 15,540 in 2006 to 19,396 in 2009, though the numbers dropped to 15,019 in 2010.

What do all these figures mean? Not much, besides the fact that guns are dangerous. How do these figures relate to the gun-control debate? I'm not sure they do. I'm not sure any facts relate. Because at the heart of things the gun-control debate is entire subjective. One side says "I feel safer with guns around" and the other side says "I feel less safe."

Here's what doing all this research has taught me: More guns do not equal less crime, and there's a chance that if you own a gun it will be used against another person.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Et Scripsi Super Murus

It's 2013! Wow, time is flying. A lot's been going on, and there's a lot still to come.

Before we get too crazy about things to come though, I wanted to share about what's going on.

#1. Rue
Rue is a stand-alone graphic novel I co-wrote with Marcel Losada, James Ninness, and Joe Pezzula. This book originally came about because we wanted to have something to showcase our work at conventions. We were going to partner up with Forbidden Panel to put out a book and create some buzz. They are some good people and the collaborative effort of comic book-making is all about networking and so it was win-win.

Or so we thought. After we crafted our spaghetti-western inspired story, the artist dropped the project because he felt some of the content went against his religious beliefs. The violence was okay, but he had a problem with (*spoiler/disclaimer alert) nudity. I know, I know, it seems hypocritical. But consider that one of the most heinous and torturous forms of capital punishment ever invented has become the most famous religious icon in the world. Nailing a person to a board and watching them suffocate to death? Awesome! Let's wear a picture of that around our necks. Boobies? Keep those sinful images away!

Sorry. Rant's over. And I want to be clear that the people at Forbidden Panel are awesome, and I'd totally work with them. Just not with that artist. That bridge was burned.

Anyway. So we lost the artist and missed the opportunity to get our book out for conventions. But we felt we'd crafted a fun revenge story and didn't want to give up on it. So we decided to produce it ourselves.

Enter Scott Irwin. We found him through a different project we're working on (more on that in a few weeks), and realized he was perfect. So we put our heads together, scraped up some funds to pay him, and got thirty great pages of story.
Then Shannon Forrey put together the design of the book and Ben Glibert took care of the lettering, and now the book is done and available.

Yep. I said available. We decided against printing the book and instead made it available digitally. It saved our butts on production costs and also allowed it to be available to readers for $1.50.
James was already putting together his website to sell his own books, and graciously offered to host our group project as well.
I'm proud of this book. Do yourself a favor a pick-up Rue.

#2. The Get Up
Some of you may remember, a little less than a year ago, a kickstarter campaign for this series. It's a four-issue comic book written by me, James, Joe, and Marcel with art by Chris Burkheart, ink washes by James Hiralez, design by Shannon, and letters by Ben.

Well, the kickstarter was successful and we got the pitch done.

The Get Up is a fun sci-fi romp across the universe and it's still looking for a home. Hopefully as the year goes on I'll have some good news about it.

I really want to share this story with you.

#3 Con Jure
Con Jure is another book I really hope I get to share with you. Our kickstarter for The Get Up was successful enough that we were able to put together the funds to pitch this book as well. The usual suspects all worked on this book, but the art this time the artist is the incredibly talented Joel Gomez.

Joel knocked it out of the park. We wanted to do a crime book set in a world as contemporary as the real one, except that the driving force behind technology was magic instead of science. (Con Jure, get it? Because in Latin it means "against the law" and it's a crime book with magic and oh nevermind)

The pitch for this book is done as well, and we're hoping to find a home for this gritty four-issue story soon as well. I'll keep you posted. Trust me.