Arms’ Length

Let’s not stop killing. Let’s just do it from a distance.

Sometimes I wonder about the first hominid who intentionally killed another hominid. (And I’d bet my life it was a man.) Was he horrified at what he had done? Or did he look at it the same way he looked at hunting animals for food?

Here’s where it gets weird for me. If he was horrified, shouldn’t the natural instinct have been to say, “Right. That was scary and gross. Let’s try not to do that ever again.”              

Instead (and I find this very telling), Man went in a completely different direction as a result of that horror. What they actually seem to have thought was, “Right. That was scary and gross. Let’s try to come up with some way that we can do that without having to actually watch the light go out of their eyes as we get spattered with gore.”

In other words, let’s not stop killing. Let’s just do it from a greater distance.

And then, as everyone jumped on that bandwagon, the main goal was to come up with weapons that had a longer range than the other guys’, so you could win. And on it went, throughout history, to the point where today some kid in a uniform in a trailer in Nevada can take out a caravan of Afghani women and children without even having to break a sweat. And the guilt factor from that remove must be akin to knocking out your best friend’s Pokemon. Yay us.

The first murder was probably done with a stone or a tree branch. You could feel the vibration of the impact go down your arm. You could smell the copper in their blood. That was still the case when we progressed to swords and axes and maces. Now you just look at a computer screen, and go, “Oops. Well, they looked like bad guys…”

Children today don’t have to worry about sticks and stones breaking their bones. They have to worry about some nutjob with an AK-47 semi-automatic that can fire 40 rounds per minute as far as 380 yards. They’re not taught how to play musical chairs anymore. They’re taught to duck and cover. And, for what it’s worth, anyone who thinks this is the cross we all should bear so that they can maintain their 2nd Amendment rights is f***ed up beyond recognition.

Think about this. A blowpipe had a range of 60 feet. An atlatl could throw a spear 60-300 feet, but its accuracy rapidly diminished. An English Longbow could send a heavy arrow 819 feet, and light arrow as far as 1077 feet. Interestingly enough, a Brown Bess Musket, such as those that would have been used in the Revolutionary War, had an effective firing range of 900 feet. So our founding fathers hadn’t progressed much beyond the longbow, and probably assumed our progress would continue to be that slow. Such was the world when the second amendment was written.

Now, a light machine gun can go 3000 feet. A heavy one can go twice as far, which means, if you’re keeping track, that at this point we could kill each other from more than a mile away. And if you get ahold of an anti-tank missile, your range is 12,303 feet. Whereas an MLRS rocket artillery system has a range of 137,280 feet. That means you can kill someone 26 miles away, sit down to Sunday dinner, and say grace without even having to allow yourself a hint of irony. Can I get an Amen?

And we Americans invented the predator drones, which you can fire via a satellite uplink from the other side of the world. These drones are longer than a 3 story building is tall, and they can cruise around up there, like sharks searching for wounded fish, for 24 hours or more. One could be flying over you this very minute, and you’d never know. Nothing scary or gross about that, right?

Make no mistake: Humans are the most terrifying animals of all.

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Score One for Nature!

Even if it were true (and it’s most definitely not) that rhino horns held medicinal properties, that doesn’t give you the right to kill them.

I’m not a violent person. I don’t even believe in the death penalty. But when I stumbled across this article about three rhino poachers getting killed by a pride of lions, I have to say that I was kind of pleased by the justice that Mother Nature meted out.

Even if it were true (and it’s most definitely not) that rhino horns held medicinal properties, that doesn’t give you the right to kill them. And if you are stupid enough to break into a game PRESERVE full of wild animals to commit this crime, you certainly can’t blame the lions for viewing you as a delicious midnight snack. You were about to do what you do, so they did what they do. Fair’s fair.

You were committing a crime. You were in a place where you had no right to be. Nature stepped up, leaving nothing but your shoes and your gloves and one skull behind, along with the nefarious weapons you planned to use to commit your atrocity.

Sometimes justice balances the scale in unexpected ways. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If I didn’t believe so firmly in karma, I’d probably implode under the sheer weight of my righteous indignation. Fortunately, a little of that weight was lifted this time around.

Lions

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Deadly Little Toys

Needless to say, there’s been quite a bit of debate going on about gun control in the wake of the tragedy in Las Vegas. The GOP would have us not talk about it. It’s not the appropriate time, they say. Well, when is the appropriate time? Seriously. How much blood has to run in the streets before we get to talk about this?

During one Facebook conversation on the topic, someone said, “The Left’s only solution is banning and confiscation.” Is that why you won’t come to the table, conservatives? Because let me clarify. I don’t know anyone on the left who wants the government to root around in your gun locker and take away your squirrel gun or your pistol. I swear to God. I promise.

We are not talking about taking away your ability to feel safe. (In spite of the fact that most guns in homes wind up harming the residents.) That’s your prerogative. We are also not talking about taking away your ability to hunt for food. Do your thing.

But you don’t need assault rifles, armor piercing bullets, silencers or a freakin’ arsenal to protect yourself or feed yourself. If you do, you aren’t living right. Can we at least agree on that? Please?

And why would you be offended about needing background checks? If you can’t pass one, then you have more problems than a gun can solve anyway. You’re okay with the need for drivers licenses, fishing licenses, and marriage licenses, right? Why is this any more intrusive?

We are the only country that isn’t addressing this issue, and we are the only country where incidents like the one in Las Vegas happen with such horrifying frequency. Other countries do not have anything close to this problem. Doesn’t that make you stop and think? Doesn’t that make you want to at least try to deal with this?

What is it going to take before you’re willing to come to the table and talk, and take action? How many people have to die?  We should be ashamed of ourselves as a nation.

Automatic weapons
That little orange sign says “You have EARNED this.” Maybe, but has the person you are aiming at earned it, too?

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Whoa, Star Trek is Violent. Who Knew?

So, I’ve been binge watching Star Trek: Enterprise on Hulu. It’s been a delightful dance down memory lane. A lot like visiting much-loved family after a long absence. Despite having the most irritating theme song of all the Star Trek series, it’s one of my favorites.

You have to understand, I grew up with Star Trek. The original series began a year after I was born. I can’t remember a time when someone wasn’t boldly going somewhere or other. So this show has worked itself deep into my psyche. I was watching it the whole time my brain was developing. That’s something to think about.

I guess it took me a Star Trek-less decade to work its magic out of my system. I achieved this by choosing not to have a television, and rarely getting around to going to the movies. It’s been a delightful media purge.

This time around I found myself looking at the whole franchise with a critical eye for the first time in my life. And my conclusion? Holy crap, but this show is violent.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh,” but I swear to you that this concept never crossed my mind before. Star Trek makes violence seem so… peaceful. Not an episode goes by where someone isn’t being shot or stunned or blown up. But no one ever bleeds.

Not even in the Wild West of Hollywood did people have to discharge weapons with such an alarming frequency. But all acts of aggression in Star Trek seem to be in self-defense (“He started it!”), and therefore appear justified. And the good guys always win. People die, yes, but mostly they make miraculous recoveries and are not even left with any disfigurement.

If there are, in fact, sentient beings on other planets, I hope they don’t mistake Star Trek for an adequate representation of our culture. If they do, they’ll think we are a lot more technologically advanced, and yet a lot more barbaric. That’s quite the dichotomy.

star-trek

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Who Thinks This is a Good Idea?

Ya know, just when you think you’ve seen it all, something new and stunning comes along. The award for the inventor who obviously hasn’t thought things through, in my opinion, has got to go to Kirk Kjellberg, the creator of Ideal Conceal.

Ideal conceal is a .380-caliber pistol that, when folded up, looks just like a cell phone. When I saw that, my first thought was, “What could possibly go wrong?” Oh, where to begin.

For a start, since with one click of the safety it opens and is ready to fire, I picture a lot of unintended injuries. Kids love to play with their parent’s phones. And do we really need a gun that reminds us of a transformer?

Also, as if it weren’t bad enough that cops are shooting people who may or may not be holding a weapon, now they’ll be viewing every cell phone as a possible weapon. So if you say, “Hold on, officer, let me call my lawyer,” you will now risk being blown away. And for the love of God, don’t take any selfies in their vicinity!

I won’t even get into the fact that you could get pretty darned far into an airport with one of these babies before an x-ray machine would reveal that you’re armed. Am I the only one who finds that disturbing? It’s almost as scary as the incredible interest the public has already shown in purchasing this thing.

I understand that a lot of people have concealed weapons permits. I get that. But if you have to have a gun so concealed that it’s right out there in plain sight and yet deceiving everyone around you, I’d be curious to know your motivation. I’d also like to avoid you.

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“It’s a leaf.”

I had some business to do at the courthouse. When I entered the building, I waited patiently in line like a good girl to pass through the metal detector. I couldn’t be more harmless if my life depended on it, but I’ve come to accept that this is a world in which one occasionally has to be metal detected.

Finally it was my turn. I put my keys in the little plastic tray. I walked through the detector. No beep. Why am I always relieved? I went to gather my keys and go about my business when a guard grabbed me by my forearm.

“Is this a weapon?” he asked.

“What, my keys?” I was totally confused.

“No, that. That!” he said, pointing to my keychain.

“Uh… no,” I said, stupidly, “It’s a leaf.”

He looked at it more closely. “Okay. Move along.”

With that I was dismissed like a disciplined school child. It took me a minute to regain my equilibrium.

I looked down at my keychain and remembered where I got it. I was watching a demonstration of the dying art of blacksmithing. I like to support artisans whenever I can, so I bought the keychain, which is a little curved iron leaf, less than the size of my thumb. It would never have occurred to me to attempt to use it as a weapon. The keys on the ring are probably more lethal, if it came to that, as are my teeth and my overall determination not to be f***ed with.

But what rattled me was that a guard could see a leaf and see me, and conclude that there was potential danger there, even if only for a second. That pretty much sums up the state of American paranoia these days. It makes me sad.

It reminded me of the time my nail clippers got confiscated at the airport. Again, my keys were left untouched. So was my laptop, which I could easily use to knock someone out if the spirit moved me. But those nail clippers? Lethal, I tell you! (Images of a terrorist holding a nail clipper to a hostage’s throat and saying, “One false move, and I’ll clip her! I swear to GOD I will!”)

You want to know what we really should be afraid of? The fact that the very people who would have us all hand over our nail clippers and artistic keychains are the same ones who feel that depriving the general populous of automatic weapons is an outrageous civil rights violation.

Heaven help us all.

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Silly Thoughts

Quite often I have too much time on my hands and my mind wanders. I never quite know where it will go. You might say I suffer from a preponderance of ponderings.

After a while I’ll wind up with so many unanswered questions rattling around in my brain that they cause me to lose sleep. What follows are three of my typical trains of thought that seem to have recently jumped the tracks.

  • Who was the first person who thought it would be a good idea to put a tiny little umbrella in a cocktail? Why? Did they want to keep the ice cubes cool? Why did they think this would be more attractive than, say, a flower? There must be companies out there that do nothing but make little tiny umbrellas all day. Do they have a special holiday for the inventor of this frivolity? Is his or her picture on their factory wall? How many acres of rain forest have been destroyed so we can have tiny little umbrellas?
  • On several occasions I’ve read mystery novels or seen movies in which the detectives notice that there’s a knife absent from the victim’s knife block, so surely that must be the missing murder weapon. If that’s the case, if a detective ever visits me, he’s going to think there’s been a massacre. My knife block has several empty slots, which I’ve filled with knives from other incomplete sets. Am I the only one who has a knife block deficit? What do other people do, throw out the whole set when one knife goes missing? Wouldn’t that provide the general populous with even more murder weapons?
  • The other day I was packing my suitcase and it occurred to me that suitcases must have originally been cases for suits. I can only think of one occasion in which I’ve packed a suit in a suitcase. I suppose people must still do so when they are going on business trips, but thank God the concept of formal wear in office environments seems to be slowly going the way of the dodo bird. As I stuff my sweat pants and jeans and t-shirts into my suitcase, I get a little thrill that I’m misusing this handy device, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that I don’t need hat boxes, and will never have to worry about gloves, high heels, panty hose, and corsets.

Now, get out of my head. It’s already crowded enough. Here. Have a cocktail.

[Image credit: myrtlebeachholidayinn.com]
[Image credit: myrtlebeachholidayinn.com]

Time Machines

I was sitting with a couple of friends the other day (waving at Caly and Mor) and we embarked on a flight of fancy, a sort of thought experiment about time machines. And now I can’t get it out of my head. I don’t know if this will reveal as much about the subject matter as it does about how my mind works and how I view society, but there you have it.

In most science fiction stories that I’ve read about time travel, the main concerns seem to be changing the future and/or running into yourself. I think there is a lot more to worry about than that. A whole lot more.

I sincerely believe that humanity’s main motivator is greed, so the first thing that people would do is try to figure out a way to make money from this invention. And at first it wouldn’t be very hard. Since today’s money would buy a lot more yesterday, you’d simply have to convert to the gold standard to avoid pesky questions like, “What’s a Euro?” from the people of the 1400’s, and then buy up everything in sight.

Of course, as all the gold flooded into the past, that would make the present time economy rather hard to navigate. So the next step would be making sure that you and yours were well positioned, and the best way to do that would be to give your ancestors an unfair advantage. Get them the gold, have them buy up the real estate, and when the gold runs out, then it’s time to give them modern day weapons. That would make for some scary times. If my AK47 encounters your bow and arrow, who do you think would win?

Another advantage would be in the form of increased health. If you could make sure your relatives thrive during the plague, wouldn’t you do it? And that would definitely put them in positions of power and influence.

And then, of course, there’s the ability to foretell the “future”. As in, you might not want to be in San Francisco on April 18, 1906, when the great earthquake is going to hit. But on the other hand, you could make a fortune selling tents, food and water in the aftermath.

But while predicting natural disasters would remain constant, what would change drastically is human events, as the future would be in a constant state of flux. For example, would World War II occur if a different group of people survived the black plague and produced an entirely different population?

I for one am glad that the laws of physics make it highly unlikely that we’ll overcome the concept of time, because we humans have a knack for mucking things up. I certainly wouldn’t want to be around to see the consequences.

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Ways to Increase Your Safety

I take the issue of safety very seriously, perhaps more so than the average person. Due to some abuse I experienced in my childhood, I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It gets triggered when I feel as if people in positions of authority don’t have my best interests at heart, or when I don’t feel safe for whatever reason.

Given my history, I could have chosen to live my life in fear and hide from the world, or I could have become clingy, assumed a victim mentality and placed my security in the hands of others, but I choose not to hide behind some man. First of all, you can’t always count on the fact that one will be there when you need him. Second, if you spend all your time cowering behind someone else, your view ahead is very limited. You could miss a lot of good stuff that way.

So here are some tricks I’ve picked up over the years, either through safety classes put on by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, instructional videos, common sense, or learning from the mistakes of others. I hope these tips help others live more independent lives as well.

  • Make sure you have efficient locks on all your windows and doors, and adequate lighting. Put a chain on your door that isn’t too long.
  • Never open your door to a stranger. Talk through the door if necessary. If you know you’re going to have to open the door, for example, if you’re expecting a pizza delivery, shout loudly over your shoulder, “I’ll get it!” You never want someone to think you’re alone.
  • Never sit in your car in a parking lot with the doors unlocked.
  • If someone walks up to you and you’re getting a bad vibe, before they’re too close, say, “Don’t I know your mother?” Criminals do not like to be known.
  • If you aren’t feeling comfortable, and you can have a friend watch out for you when you’re walking to your car, for example, don’t be hesitant to ask. You would do the same for them, wouldn’t you? Don’t let your pride override your instincts. But also don’t live your life counting on that person to be there. Accept your limitations, but also try to reduce them whenever possible. Your safety is your own responsibility.
  • Avoid “sliders”. This is a new phenomenon. When pumping gas, many women leave their purse on the seat in the unlocked car. Sliders will drive up beside your passenger side, hop out, quietly open your passenger door and steal your purse. So when pumping gas, keep your purse with you or lock your doors.
  • Never open your door to leave the house before first looking out the window or peep hole. You never know who might be standing there.
  • Carry keys in your hand. Don’t fumble for keys at your door. Keys can also make an effective weapon when interwoven between your fingers.
  • If you can avoid carrying a purse, do so. Pockets are better than fanny packs, which are better than purses. If you have to carry a purse, keep the zipper closed, the flap turned inward toward your body, in front of you and away from the street, and rest your hand on it as you walk. Never leave a purse hanging behind you on a chair in a restaurant.
  • If you have to carry a large amount of money, divide it up and carry it in several compartments.
  • Never enter an elevator with a stranger who makes you feel uncomfortable. When you do ride in an elevator, locate the alarm button in case you need it. Stand next to the control panel. If you suspect trouble, push that alarm button and as many other buttons as possible. Trust your instincts. Allow the other passengers to push the button for their floors, THEN push yours. If you’re feeling at risk, get off at an earlier floor if necessary.
  • When you leave a store, pause at the door and scan the parking lot before heading toward your car. Parking lots are high crime areas.
  • If you’re approached when you’re in your car, lay on the horn, long and loud. Flash your lights. Rev your engine. Step on your brakes. Put on your flashers. Set off the alarm. Do anything to draw attention.
  • Carry a flashlight at night.
  • If someone taps your shoulder, turn, yes, but keep walking, backward, away from him. Talk with your hands up at shoulder level so you can take action if necessary.
  • Always carry a well charged cell phone.
  • Never assume that clean cut young man is a good guy. Bad guys come in all shapes and sizes. The vast majority of criminals, however, are males between the ages of 15 and 25, so pay particular attention to them.
  • If someone pulls a weapon on you and says, “Give me your wallet,” by all means, give it to them. But don’t just hand it over. Throw it and run in the opposite direction.
  • Take self-defense classes if you can. There are all sorts of nifty wrist releases that you can learn that are beyond the scope of this blog entry. There are also a ton of wrist release and self-defense videos on Youtube. Check them out and practice with a friend.
  • Don’t be afraid to use your voice. Scream. Sadly, you’ll be more likely to get attention if you scream “Fire!” as opposed to “Help!” or “Rape!”.
  • People assume women will be quiet and polite. More than once I’ve turned to a potential bad guy and shouted, “BACK OFF!!!” They all practically soiled themselves while running away.
  • People also don’t expect a “normal” looking person to act crazy. So don’t be afraid to babble, foam at the mouth, twitch, even rub dirt in your hair and eat grass if you have to. It will freak them out, which will give you the psychological upper hand.
  • If someone grabs you, don’t struggle with the grabbed hand. While it’s holding you, you are also holding it. Worry about the other hand.
  • If someone pushes you, they will expect you to resist the push. So don’t. Pull. It will throw them off balance. Similarly, if someone pulls you, don’t resist the pull. Push.
  • Strike straight ahead if possible. It will block their vision. And go for the chin and nose.
  • Anything can be a weapon. A rolled up magazine to the Adam’s apple or a credit card or some folded glasses to the eyeball can do a lot of damage.
  • If your car breaks down and a stranger approaches, tell him or her that someone has already called the police and they’re on their way. Keep your cell phone to your ear and pretend to be talking on it. Or, if you let a good Samaritan change a tire for you, they shouldn’t be offended if you stay in the locked car while they do so.
  • Whenever possible, vary your routine. Try not to be predictable. But at the same time, if you’ll be doing something unusual, let someone you trust know where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.
  • If your state has a sex offender database, look up the locations of the sex offenders in your neighborhood. If you live in an urban area, you’ll most likely be horrified. I have 15 living in a two mile radius of me. Mostly these people like to prey on small children. But lawbreakers are lawbreakers, and some sex offenders like to steal identities so they can hide. Get to know their faces.
  • If you have a chance, chat with the beat cop who works in your neighborhood. He can tell you about hot spots, gang activity, crime trends, things to look out for. It never hurts to be on a first name basis with your beat cop.
  • If you ever have to give your car key to someone, like a parking attendant or an oil change clerk, ALWAYS remove the key from your key chain. Never hand your house keys to anyone. They can be copied.
  • Create the illusion of multiple occupants in your home. People are less apt to break into a home if there’s a chance that someone is there.
  • Put a sign by your doorbell that says, “One person in this house works nights and sleeps during the day. Please do not disturb.”
  • Leave some old muddy work boots on your front porch. (Although I have to say that the last time I did this, the boots were, ironically, stolen.)
  • If you go out at night, leave some lights on in the house. You can even get timers so they will go off and on at preset times.
  • Get a dog. It doesn’t even have to be a big one. Just a noisy one. Bad guys hate noise. If you can’t have a dog, create the illusion of one. Put up beware of dog signs. Leave a BIG water bowl and a heavy duty chain in a visible place. Buy some toys, have a friend’s dog chew on them so they look used, and then leave those toys scattered in the yard.
  • If you can’t afford a security system, you can buy a motion detector alarm from Radio Shack, and place it high enough up in a room that it won’t be triggered by children or pets, but it will alert you if anyone enters the front part of your house while you sleep.
  • Keep your shades down at night.
  • If you have a remote entry to your car, you can always trigger your car alarm from inside the house if you need to draw attention.
  • If you have keyless entry to you car, make sure you block the keypad with your body so no one nearby can see your entry code. And of course do the same thing at the ATM machine.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Scope out potential hiding places: shrubs, parked cars, blind alleys, dark corners. Give them a wide berth. Be alert. Don’t get distracted by your cell phone. Look around and also use your peripheral vision. Listen for movement behind you, too. If you can’t avoid dangerous places, have your tear gas in your hand and ready to be used.
  • Talk to your friends and family about safety. Share ideas. Share this blog entry. And if you have any other safety tips, please include them in the comments section below. Knowledge is power.

Remember, only you can assume complete mental and physical responsibility for your well-being. I can’t guarantee that any of the above ideas will work, but I certainly hope they’ll reduce your risk. It would be nice if there were always some big strong guy to come to your rescue, but relying on that creates a false sense of security. If you put your welfare solely in someone else’s hands, you’re living in a fool’s paradise. Be alert. Be safe.

Female self defense

[Image credit: rawfitnesssaratoga.com]