Tag Archives: Lifestyle

Let’s Talk About Guns

Thank you to ponsulak via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

photo credit: ponsulak via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What is there to say about guns?

I don’t own one. I never have. My grandfather owns what I think of as a rifle (although given what I’ve learned about how I think about different types of guns, that may not be a specific enough term*) and the running joke is that when he has stories about crows, deer and other animals getting into his garden, you can always bet the story will end with, “And then I shot it.”

It didn’t make sense to me that one of the reasons people defended the use of “assault weapons” was because they were necessary for hunting. So I did what any self-respecting geek does.

I asked about it on Twitter. The tweet has, of this writing, had 111 retweets and 59 favorites. It also sparked a storm of replies, the answering of which has sent me over my rate limit three times in the last 18 hours.



A lot of replies were from angry NRA members and tackled one of my favorite topics – the specificity of language, and how we make it impossible for ourselves to communicate. As it turns out, the phrase “assault weapons” is read as an umbrella term by those who know their stuff – and it covers both legal semi-automatics (which can be modified into full automatics, although this is illegal) and illegal, expensive fully automatic rifles.

And a lot of people do use legal, semi-automatic guns for hunting. First surprise of the night. But hardly the last.

While some people replied to the tweet and discussion with blatant trolling, others stopped to get involved in the chat. I’ve been trying to keep track of those people, and have made a public list called “Discussing Guns” on twitter; I’ll update that list as I go.

After the first day or so of discussion, there are some points we seem to have found consensus on, from both sides of the debate. They are:

1. The 2nd Amendment right to bear arms is as fundamental to the US as the right to free speech, or the separation of church and state. Some gun owners had fast reactions to the conversation that came out as, “Don’t take away my gun.” My interest in the discussion was in no way related to the idea of taking away any guns that are already in the hands of responsible gun owners.

2. More gun control is not the same as better gun control. There was widespread consensus that what we need are more effective laws, not more regulation.

3.  Participants had vastly different opinions on what steps can be taken to achieve better gun control in America. This is an area where we need to have further civil discussion/brainstorming, and where innovative responses may be required. Thus far the conversation has included ideas from policewomen, volunteer fire fighters, ex-military and other NRA members, as well as hearing those who do not own or participate in a culture that includes guns as part of their everyday life. Suggestions have included SROs and arming teachers, better mental health checks, the idea of “ammo cards” and more. I raised a question about what kinds of penalties are currently in place for people who own guns but don’t secure them properly, since there are cases where guns are stolen from licensed users. It was pointed out that there are already background and mental health checks in place, although a statistic was brought up regarding gun sales for cash at shows. Statistics were presented on gun deaths vs. other kinds of deaths, although they were from 1997.

One serious issue I’ve noticed in this region of the debate is that for many people who don’t use guns, having children in close proximity to guns makes the children less safe, whereas those who are familiar with “gun culture” feel that there is more safety with guns around than not. This is an area where compromise might be challenging. Many on one side feel it is there right not to be in the presence of guns. I personally agree with that point of view. I can’t scream “fire!” in a crowded building despite having free speech – where does the limit of one person’s freedom end, and another person’s freedom begin? I don’t know how we can dig into this area of the discussion, and we may not be that far along yet, but it’s definitely something that needs to be looked at by both sides if progress is going to be made.

4. Mental Health Care is coming up over and over again. Everyone seems to agree that more care needs to be available for those with mental illness, as part of a responsible culture that includes gun ownership and use. So far there has been no notable resistence to the idea of developing a system in tandem with increased access to mental health care, although there is not consensus on what form that might take. Some have raised the question of how mental health care services could be improved while also being paid for. Definitely an area worth further discussion, and as both NRA members and mental health activists have an interest in providing better care to our country’s mentally ill, it might be worth it for them to have a narrow discussion around that issue.

This has been a long discussion that shows little sign of slowing down, and the way in which people are participating is, for me (and hopefully others) clearing up a lot of the questions I had about why there aren’t easy solutions to what seemed, until yesterday, to be an obvious no-brainer. I’m grateful for the participation of those who’ve joined in so far and looking forward to seeing where this conversation goes.

Finally, since this is a summary of an extended and multi-faceted discussion, I encourage you to come over to twitter and check things out if you want to take part or have a fuller understanding of the live discussion. If you’ve been taking part and feel like I’ve missed a nuance, please point it out in the comments or let me know on Twitter and I’ll make an edit.

And finally, because we all need a smile right now, check out this BuzzFeed article: Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year.


 *EDIT: 12/17/2012) Are there solutions we overlooked in our initial conversation? Do you have new ideas about how to explore some of the areas of consensus found above? Please join the discussion via the comments, below; I ask that everyone take part civilly and in the interest of a useful exchange of ideas.

*EDIT 12:58 EST – Just spoke to @Texasartchick, a police officer and firearms instructor who has offered to provide a more specific definition about types of guns mentioned in this article at her earliest opportunity. Check back/subscribe for comments. Thank you! And BuzzFeed is on a role with this new post.

Like Riding a Bike

What’s that charming poster behind the bike helmet? Why, that’s the poster for the reading of HOT MESS we did back last Spring!

When I was little, I used to like riding my bike really fast. I liked feeling the wind and speeding along and my heart pounding in my chest and working at the pedals really, really hard until I just couldn’t anymore and I’d coast.

As far as I could.

A couple years ago I had my parents bring my old bike down to the city. I knew I’d have to have someone go over it before I rode it again. This weekend, I finally got around to getting it fixed up. The tires were a bit bent, so they got straightened out. The chain was tested and came up with a gold star. The brakes were fine. We replaced the tubes and when I mentioned that the back tire had a habit of going flat, the mechanic suggested a couple bucks’ worth of tape around the inside of the tire, under the tube.

I didn’t have a bike helmet yet but I let myself indulge, and pedaled awkwardly home on the sidewalk, praying this didn’t wind up being a ticketable offense. The key to my bike lock had gone AWOL, so I couldn’t really go anywhere anyway.

I started looking for a helmet online, getting a few simple recommendations, but the plethora of choice was still completely paralyzing. On the advice of a friend, I popped into a sporting goods store and bought the cheapest thing they had that was certified and also fit my giant head. That was yesterday.

Today I went for my first bike ride in about ten years. The sun was setting over the Hudson and I teetered on my bike and tried to figure out the etiquette of riding in the city, sharing a path with scooters and roller bladers and pedestrians.   And I pedaled and braked and went around tight, right-angle corners, and every so often I got a clear moment and could take a look out over the water.

I reached a point where I thought, better head back now. And as I pedaled my way back, the paths were quieter, with the commuters largely having made their way to their destinations. Fewer people on the path; more opportunity to ride faster. Pedaling as hard as I could.

And then…I could coast.

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Finishing Something

I’ve nearly made half a dozen blog entries in the last couple days. I want to post about Julian Assange, I want to post about Ecuador, I want to post about Pussy Riot, I want to post about climate change, I want to post about Playing it Cool, I want to post about theater (this, at least, is out of my hands till next weekend, when I have a show booked).

I want to organize the things in my living room, put the books with the books and sort through the clothes and sweep and swiffer and take out the recycling and clean up my emails and work on my novella and read my friend’s novella and brag about having just finished copy editing another friend’s novel.

I have a to-do list as long as my arm full of things I don’t feel passionately about starting, and every so often I think, “Breakfast would be nice.”

But mostly I want to lie in bed and think about the play I saw earlier this week: Coriolanus at Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, a New York City institution currently being nurtured by The Drilling Company, whose Mangella I very much enjoyed when I saw it last year.

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot takes place down on the Lower East Side, at what must be one of the last publicly-owned parking lots in the city. Plastic chairs were set up in traverse-style, and there was a huge swell of blanket-dwellers beyond that.

I’ve never seen Coriolanus before. The imagery/rhetoric of Occupy was used to draw distinctions between the commoners, their representatives, and Coriolanus himself – a soldier returning home triumphant after long wars, whose utter disdain for the lower class would make Ayn Rand (and probably a Romney or two) proud. I was never quite sympathetic to Coriolanus, except in brief scenes with his mother, but the actor played him very well (and my apologies for not grabbing a program and therefore being unable to call out his name).

So now I’ve spoken about the theater stuff I saw the other night, at least.

Maybe breakfast isn’t the worst idea I’ve had all morning.

A Healthy Lifestyle – Lived Sustainably

When I started writing this blog, one of the big topics I talked about was maintaining a low sodium diet. Where am I with that, these days?

I’ll be honest. The whole fitness-eat-right-take-care-of-yourself thing is harder to sustain than you’d think. Or maybe it’s exactly as hard as you think; maybe you’re more realistic in this department than I am.

The point is, I’m trying: I still eat my zero-sodium bread, I don’t add salt to the food that I cook – but sometimes the demands of life get in the way. And as I get busier, my conscientiousness about my diet gets less of my attention. So I pick up a slice, I stop in at McDonald’s for a burger, I eat half a carton of ice cream, I hit the gym once a fortnight instead of three times a week. It’s showing.

Time to re-up my resolve, and keep actively striving for balance. Wish me luck.

Just Start

Back when I worked as a receptionist at an architecture and design firm, I sat in the front of the office at a long, black desk. The desk housed my computer, a bunch of binders, some folders, business cards, pens, papers, staplers, random antiques, and more. Because it was a fast-paced small business, it was easy for my desk to become – I don’t want to say “the office dumping ground,” but…let’s call it as we see it.

Needless to say, a cluttered reception desk is not a desired feature in an award-winning design firm’s front office, and from time to time a fresh start was needed. The challenge, when this happened, was to figure out where to begin.

It’s not unlike writing. I have a number of projects “on the go,” so to speak, and there are times when I know I have an hour or so to work and just cannot figure out what to work on first. My friend’s novel edits? My own fiction? Maybe I should work on restyling my website. Or is it actually the living room that needs cleaned, the bathtub that needs scrubbed out, the bookshelf that needs to be moved into the other room and re-organized so I have a peaceful writing nook in the corner?

At times like these, I think of one time when I needed to clear off the reception desk. We’d received a special Magic 8 Ball as a Christmas present from one of our contacts, and I had made it my own, keeping it nearby because instead of the standard Magic 8 Ball answers, the company had had it customized with their own funny sayings and pieces of advice. As I stood and stared at the pile of papers, files, books, my boss’ personal belongings, stacks of business cards and more, I remember feeling that same richocheting feeling of desperation for prioritization.

I picked up the Magic 8 Ball and spun it around in my hands for a few seconds, more to give my mind something else to focus on than anything else, and said in a quiet voice:

“Where do I even start with this mess?!”

I flipped the 8 Ball over and waited for the geometric bubble inside to settle on which face held my fortune. When it did, I laughed out loud. What was the Magic 8 Ball’s advice?

“Just start.”

I try to think of that advice when I can’t decide which project to give priority to. Just start. Just get something moving. When there are forty thousand things that need to be done, doing one of them takes it down to 39,999 things. Which is still a lot of things, but is one fewer thing than you had to do before.

I try to remember that now, when I hit moments like this morning: up two hours before my alarm, trying to make the best of my time because I know I’ll be tired by the end of the day.

Just start.

Ninety minutes later, I’ve edited another 5-6 pages of a friend’s novel, written a thousand words on Electalytics, and finished this blog entry.

So if you, like me, are feeling overwhelmed, I share with you the advice from that Magic 8 Ball:

Just start.

Inspirational Poetry 101: Ithaca by Constantine Cavafy

I was talking to a friend and brought up an allusion to a poem they were unfamiliar with: Ithaca, by Constantine Cavafy.

I’ve had a printout of this poem on my door at my parents’ house, probably since I was about thirteen years old. Every time I went into my room I saw it, every time I came out I saw it. I didn’t always read the whole thing. Sometimes my eye would just catch a line as I walked by. Other times I’d miss the oval-shaped paper cutout entirely, focusing on one of the other bits of paper I’d stuck up with blu-tack to give my door some personality.

When I was living in London, I remember my mom saying, as we talked about homesickness and missing each other, she’d read the poem on my door for the first time. I think she was suprised to see it there.

In this line of work called writing, payoffs are hard-won and oft-delayed. As I said to my friend, the best we, as authors, can hope for is that a) we’ve picked the right language to be born into or learn and b) X-thousand years after we die, somebody might read and be affected by our words.

At any rate, Ithaca is one of those poems that’s worked its way into the canon of my historic and literary references, so I wanted to share it with all of you. Below is the text of the translation of Ithaca from the Wikipedia page above. You can also check out this link for a reading in the original Greek (link also gakked from Wikipedia.) Written over 100 years ago.

By Constantine Cavafy

When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
an angry Poseidon — do not fear.
You will never find such on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, and your spirit
and body are touched by a fine emotion.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
a savage Poseidon you will not encounter,
if you do not carry them within your spirit,
if your spirit does not place them before you.
Wish for the road to be long.
Many the summer mornings to be when
with what pleasure, what joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time.
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase the fine goods,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and exquisite perfumes of all sorts,
the most delicate fragrances you can find.
To many Egyptian cities you must go,
to learn and learn from the cultivated.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better for it to last many years,
and when old to rest in the island,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to offer you wealth.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful journey.
Without her you would not have set out on the road.
Nothing more does she have to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.
This has become one of the blog’s more popular posts: so much so that I decided to look for a photo to add to it. In addition to that, I came up with this video, which is a lovely reading and I encourage you to take a moment and watch it. This and many more of his poems are available to listen to here.

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So, About This Guy.

Ever seen “Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy“? No? It’s fun. Dean Cain and Zach Braff, back after Superman and kind of before Scrubs. Also, John Mahoney. Oh! Oh! And TIMOTHY OLYPHANT. Not the topic of this blog. But:

The friends in the film have a convention of adding a descriptor to a name to identify the gentlemen who they get friendli…er…with. Like, “J. Crew guy,” a hottie in a J. Crew sweater. And that is the background to this post.

There’s this dating website that I’m on where you suggest going to do something, and then other people say yeah, that sounds cool, and you pick which responder you want to meet. Then you go do the cool thing. It’s great. You have something to do that you wanted to do Not By Yourself anyway, there’s plenty to chat about because, you know, you’re doing stuff, and because there’s a set activity, you’re not casting around looking for ways to prolong or shorten the date.

So I had a date on Saturday and it was fun, he helped me with an errand I’d needed to run for a while now, and at the end he helped me load up the stuff I’d bought into a taxi and we talked about getting drinks, maybe, one day later in the week.

Well, that’s all still the plan, but earlier today something came Totally Out Of Left Fucking Field, because earlier today he texted me to let me know he was sorry for not having texted sooner, but on Tuesday afternoon he was told he was being let go from his job. Which is enough of a bitch in the best of times, and definitely less pleasant in any year after 2008. Adding to the “laid off from work” stress and the “laid off in a recession” stress was, however, another wrinkle: “lose my visa ’cause I was laid off from work” stress.

I thought I was hanging out with Ikea Guy. Turns out, he’s Deportable Guy. Le sigh!