Saturday, October 15, 2016

Welcome To Arkham Tumblir ...

... where the truth is just Crazy Talk.

Racism is much discussed in recent months (years?). There is a dictionary definition, of course, and pretty much anyone you might care to ask can offer up an example of what racism is to them.

But what is it really?

Consider this; racism is Elitist Ideology taken to the broadest possible human application.

In religion there is a Supreme Being/God/Gods, one (or more) entities that are the ultimate Elitist(s) humans have so far been able to imagine.

In actual physical reality here on Earth, human history is just crammed full of various examples of Kings, individuals held up as the penultimate example of human superiority over other humans, at least by those who personally gain in some way by enforcing that "fact" on everyone else.

In less prosaic terms, Elitist Ideology holds that the elitist is superior to others as an intrinsic consequence of being one of the elite. It is simply assumed that the Elite accomplish more and greater things than do other, lesser humans.

As there can be only one king at a time, so too can there be only one Most Elite at one time. Which is something of a problem for all the also-rans. Not surprisingly, there is fierce competition to be acknowledged as The Elite, and less surprisingly still a hierarchy of Elites as well.

Do you see the connection yet? Each level of elitists requires some group of lesser elitists to acknowledge their superiority. This necessarily dilutes the standards required for one to become acknowledged as being Elitist enough to have an opinion of another's elitistness (totally a word) to make a public opinion worthwhile amongst Elitist circles.

Eventually we get to the most common of social competitiveness, Common Othering.

Basically, anyone you can identify as being in some measure (usually of a determinedly ephemeral qualification) less than you makes you among the Elitist Class ... in your own opinion at least. The real trick here is to convince others (no, not those Others) that they too are part of your Elitist Class also, if only they will recite the mantra you provide them with.

The slightest difference in appearance (or manner of speech, or ... well, pretty much anything can be used to make an artificial distinction, can't it? It's in the nature of an "artificial distinction", isn't it?) is by far the easiest and most common example of human Elitists demonstrating their superiority over others.

And there you have it. Racism is Elitist behavior taken to the broadest application within the species. More simply put, a racist is someone who uses superficial, external distinctions to claim superiority over those who display arbitrarily Other superficial, external features from him/her self. Just as an aside, you can often discover how far up the Elitist scale people consider themselves to be by how immaterial they hold the lesser standards to be. The true Elitist often doesn't consider external appearance in gauging the status of someone else - unless there isn't enough difference between them otherwise, then ...

There is no racism, there is only elitist self-aggrandizement, practiced by those who have no actual achievements by which to be measured against others to determine a status that is, at best, chimerical and entirely external to one's actual character.

Strive to be among the elite at whatever you do, and to never be elitist about anyone, yourself most especially.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

He Said? She Said? Here's What I Say

So, Donald Trump wants to be President of the United States, does he?

First and foremost, I think it only basic honesty to acknowledge that there is no public record of criminal rape charges ever being leveled against him. Which is not to say that several women haven't filed civil claims against him for adjudication. As is common legal practice in such circumstances, a settlement was reached by the several litigating parties in the two acknowledged instances (one involving the now-former Mrs Trump during their divorce proceedings and the other involving a husband and wife involved in publicizing a beauty pageant Trump owned), and there these matters are supposed to have ended. The fact these incidents remain matters of active public speculation is largely a result of Donald Trump running his mouth post-settlement from what I have read of the public record.

The more recent civil accusation against Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein is much more troubling. It is also a charge Donald Trump hasn't formally responded to yet, so any possible exculpatory evidence is presumably yet to be revealed. For the moment at least, it seems only proper to leave the matter to the courts for now. I think there is sufficient public scrutiny on the allegation that the legal process will proceed as it is expected to in this country.

For those who may be screaming at their computer screens about now, "You Trumpeter!", allow me to point out this slightly inconvenient matter of public record. Do please note the date I wrote that. Also, let it here be noted that the last time I voted for a Republican candidate was in the presidential election of 1984. Let it further be noted that Ronald Reagan did not fail to disappoint.

Because I believe in Due Process and the legal notion of Innocent Until Proven Guilty, I find it necessary, if only as an effort to achieve philosophical consistency, to stand behind those principles no matter how disgusting or trivial I may personally find anyone else's alleged behavior to be or have been. Even the behavior of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Political elections are, in there most fundamental sense, an exercise in the rendering of judgement as to the suitability of the candidates contending for the office, based upon those people's public record of accomplishment and personal character. Our judgement, as in We The People.

Should it become apparent at any point during that process of rendered judgement that any (pray never all, even if you are as agnostic on the topic of religion as I am, that circumstance truly would be politically catastrophic) of the candidates appear manifestly unsuited for the office, it is our duty as citizens to vote for some other candidate, however tertiary - or worse - their qualifications might in a more perfect world seem. This is not "choosing the lessor of two evils", it is selecting the best qualified candidate following due consideration of all of the available choices. Since no one can reliably predict the future accomplishments that might be achieved, we must necessarily make these judgements based upon the individual candidates prior display of character, to the degree we can reliably determine that to have been.

Rather than become incensed about this character defect or that previous action (or lack thereof), better I find to simply move on to the candidate that I judge to have fewest of the character traits I find objectionable. It has been my considered opinion that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are, simply as a result of their previous displays of unsuitable personal character, not qualified for the office of President of the United States. I encourage all of my fellow citizens to accept this circumstance and select the most qualified candidate for that office from those that remain eligible for us to vote for in 2016. Going forward, debate rightly ought to focus on our varied judgements of the remaining acceptable candidates qualifications for the office.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

He Said What!?!

Oh, the horrors ...

Or not.

Definitely "not".

So, 11 years ago (or there abouts - there seems to be a good deal of guessing about the actual timeline here), Donald Trump was on his way to be interviewed about some TV gig or other he had managed to get himself onto, and the "journalist" doing the interview sandbagged him about the microphones being on apparently. Or maybe The Donald was just that ate up with the hubristic stupid as to not care whether or not they were on.  Either way, he got recorded saying something pretty crass about the types of behavior "stars" can get away with. Not ever having been a "star" myself, I couldn't really say from direct experience, but having seen some pretty outrageous examples of public behavior by actual film and television stars over my lifetime (Dean Martin sloppy drunk and apparently trying out material for a late-night Vegas stage appearance on The Tonight Show when that was a live broadcast anyone?), I'm kinda surprised actual people found this particular example to be all that offensive (Sean Connery slapping some random American babe on her ass as she walks by on the street ring any bells anyone?).

Let's also be clear, I first became a US Navy sailor 45 years ago. Quite frankly, I can remember ... well, not conversations really ... call them verbal displays of one-up-manship that involved reputed incidents of inter-gender relationship behavior and much more crass and crude language than Donald Trump probably has ever heard uttered in his presence. Ever. Basically, Trump asserted a commonly held belief about celebrities as being true and, at the urging of the "journalist" you understand, proceeded to illustrate his point by mangling the Bowling Ball Joke. If you've been on Facebook recently, you can't have missed the rabid assertions of how this equals rape, or worse.

[See that search engine box in the corner of your screen? Type in the words "how are women like a bowling ball" for yourself. I mangle jokes when I try to tell them too.]

Fairly de riguer fare for The Friars Club, or so I understand. I've never been there either, sadly, so I couldn't say personally.

Don't get me wrong, a president, or even a presidential candidate, saying something this crudely in public is unacceptable behavior. The President doing so in private shows questionable judgement at the very least. That being said, some real estate guy playing up his reputation for outlandishness so as to invent a TV personality for himself to play in-between RE moguling (or more plainly stated, political rent seeking and tax farming)? Considering the moral level he was starting out from, we should all be grateful Donald Trump is this verbally lazy, if you ask me.

The American republic has survived alcoholics (Grant), flagrant racists (Wilson), and crass and crude boors (LBJ, Nixon) occupying the Oval Office before now; the country will likely survive Trump or another Clinton sullying the place again too.

Frankly, I'm more concerned about Barack Obama successfully getting us into a nuclear shooting war with Russia before the 45th President even has a chance to muff the Oath of Office. But let's all focus our attention on something said a decade ago, and get all outraged about what wasn't actually said while we're at it. The fact that I live over a hundred miles from any of the likely nuclear targets and their fallout patterns isn't as reassuring as you probably think it ought to be, given the Traitor-in-Chief's track record in office so far.

Monday, October 3, 2016

On Alliance, Part 2

Edit: Since there apparently exists an active opposition to even permitting discussion of the ideas I raise here on HEMA fora, this is published out of my sense of completeness and ease of future data retrieval.

In Part 1 of this series, I introduced the idea of an alliance between an established marketer of digital designs and engineering plans and the HEMA Alliance. Here I discuss to what end we might do so.

Over the last few years the generic rubric "3D printing" (which is actually referring to two separate steps in the design and additive manufacturing of objects) has become much more commonplace outside of science fiction novels as well as much more economically attainable to the average citizen. How do we who study and practice history become adepts at the bleeding edge of the future too?

Now comes Chris Byrne, former martial artist, former SCA fighter, former firearms manufacturer and repair specialist, former (still current?) NRA firearms safety instructor, banking (and other) industry network security administrator manager (he bosses the admins), cancer survivor, and current online instructor on computer network security. In private conversations, Chris has assured me that a 40 to 80 hour course of instruction would be more than ample to prepare an uneducated computer user to take and pass the Cisco CCNA 60 day course and thereby become employable in the computer network security field.

That's 1 month on the dole basically (two weeks of 40 hour days of prep training followed by two 30 hour weeks studying the CCNA course work), to go from computer network security zero to potential entry-level employable computer network security nerd. Or, you could be a more fully functional human and do the same over 4 months or so of evenings and weekends (9 nine hour weeks of prep studies and 8 eight hour weeks of CCNA). You could take longer of course, and probably should if you can afford to, but this isn't an impossibly heavy workload for such a limited period of time. You would then need to search out the location for the next scheduled CCNA test you can afford to get to and pay for to complete the process.

I haven't asked Chris to plot out a similar course of instruction for 3D printer operator (his next cancer surgery is scheduled for 29 September [edit: surgery went well apparently and he is progressing through the expected-to-be trying recovery process], so asking for any sort of time consuming favor is right out, as my Lincolnshire former in-laws would have said), but I can't imagine it would be that much more difficult to get into than the network security gig is. YouTube is loaded with videos about the subject. How hard can it really be?

That said, you have to ask yourself how reliable and accurate is your data source, and how specific is it to what you want to accomplish? Cue Michael Chidester here if there's any question regarding the critical nature of these questions. Having access to a course of instruction that takes into consideration the characteristics of the objects you are most likely to want to manufacture, as well as the materials you would most likely want to build with, would seem a useful attribute for such an instruction course to offer.

Were the HEMA Alliance Governing Council to negotiate with Chris' employer (or any of the reputable online instruction businesses that exist via the modern 'net) to develop a course of instruction for HEMA club members around the world to use to learn to make their own training weapons and safety gear, we in HEMA would have an alternative option to those that presently exist when it comes to gearing up. So, it should be pointed out, would our existing sources of supply gain options to expand their capability to meet our wants and needs. To complete our strategic Opportunity, we would also have a possible source of club (and personal) income going forward.

If the HEMA Alliance, in partnership with others, were to maintain a general database of digital designs and engineering plans for the membership to use (or license for commercial activity), we would have access to a source for individual construction of pretty much any HEMA-related historic object entered therein. By having successfully passed the suggested Additive Manufacturing Design and Construction instruction course maintained on the HEMA Alliance web page (whom we each would pay in order to take the course - HEMA is a non-profit, not a charity), we would learn the technical capability and design knowledge necessary to modify the additive construction process to incorporate personal variations to a generic design pattern. Our training gear would be both unique to us and uniform in structural design safety standards.

We would also have the means to contract with other businesses - large and small, local and international - to manufacture components for them. For the very modest fee our business agent Mr. Barzini, err ... the HEMA Alliance Governing Council will negotiate for us, of course (or at least arrange for a boilerplate contract form we could buy from them to use in contract negotiations with any company we might contract with).

No, we won't do this overnight, or even next year. No, it won't be anything like as easy to accomplish as this might seem to suggest - what of value ever is?

Discussion of plans is an inherent part of their development and improvement, so I offer here a suggested plan for we in HEMA to research and consider for development. No individual member, even a life member, should have the authority to decide such a complex and far reaching decision as that being suggested here. Thus, what I have suggested so far is at best mostly incomplete and lacking in many critical details.

In it's basic form though, I propose we consider arranging alliances and partnerships with those companies and individuals who can assist us in expanding our capabilities to support and extend our study and practice of HEMA, as generally outlined herein.

How say you all?

Monday, September 26, 2016

On Alliance, Part 1

We in HEMA are all too aware of the vast uncatalogued collection of historic arms and accouterments, along with the supporting documentation and instruction in its use, that exist in libraries, book stores, museums and personal collections that is known to exist around the world. The frustration we feel at our inability to translate so much of that into tangible items we can use is a near-constant experience. Those few items, swords mostly, that have been faithfully reproduced from historic specimens are, to be blunt, priced as the rare objects they are. The object of this series of posts is to suggest a means whereby we may alleviate that frustration, and quite possibly make a buck or two in the process, while at the same time safeguard our ability to continue doing so.

Come now Mr Marty Daniel and his company Daniel Defense, makers of components, and in recent years complete firearms, for the modular AR rifle platform. Some years ago now, Mr. Daniel began posting construction designs and engineering plans for 3-D construction of the components of an AR-platform rifle for sale to individual customers from his company's website. A recent court ruling has forced Mr. Daniel, along with others in the firearms and 3D, or additive, manufacturing industry to shutter his company's webpage link to online sales of "instructions and manuals".

I submit that this confluence of mutual interests presents all parties with a classical strategy Opportunity of such proportions as would make Sun Tzu himself drool, at least a little.

Daniel Defense is an established manufacturing business with a proven model for online sales of digital designs and engineering plans. HEMA Alliance, through its members, possesses a trove of historic designs for both (A) weapons that do not violate current legal interpretation regarding international distribution or personal ownership (yet) and (B) the safety equipment desirable for training and usage of those historic weapons in a regulated and competitive environment.

Were the HEMA Alliance Governing Council to contact Mr. Daniel and arrange a partnership between the HEMA membership and his company, he would benefit by rather quickly (12 to 18 months?) developing an effective counter-argument for his attorneys to beat the US State department over the head with in court ("Your Honor, here is 1001 weapons and armor designs and plans that don't violate existing law and treaty due solely to the age of the design. How can free discussion of improved versions of these historic designs not be regarded as being exactly the same under the law?"), while we in HEMA obtain access to modern digital design and engineering plans (which we can license at a discounted rate for commercial purposes, but have free access to for our individual personal use) of all of the historic items which we can identify and help translate.

The Devil is said to be in the details, and I will point out at least a few of those in Part 2. On a more philosophical level of discussion, I submit that if the US State department can decide on its own that enforcement of a UN Arms Treaty extends to individual purchase of weapon component designs and plans (speech), is it that much of a stretch of the imagination to suppose the same people might decide the same prohibition can be extended to less modern examples of weapons and their design and sale? If we cannot discuss historic weapon design, nor sell historic weapon replicas for training and competition purposes - without previously purchasing the requisite national and international licensing approvals to be international arms dealers - I think we would find ourselves confronted with the end of HEMA (and SCA, LARP, War of the Nations, etc) as a functional organisation on anything beyond the immediately local level of activity. Certainly all HEMA Facebook and other web pages would have to be shut down immediately, judging by the extant example cited above (cross-national border communication of weapons technology being the pertinent action the court has ruled against and the treaty forbids).

Maybe the Powers That Be won't notice us. Maybe they'll continue to look on us with amused condescension. Or, maybe, some "political activist" of the more direct action persuasion will pull off a more extravagant act of violence with a bladed weapon than has occurred so far in a street or mall somewhere.

Then, I suspect the regulatory hand may come down on us very hard. Or perhaps not.

Whatever any of our personal opinions regarding modern weapons (and firearms specifically) and protective armor might be, we need to do what we can to protect our ability to pursue our martial art and history research in as unimpeded a fashion as we can arrange. Arranging an alliance with an independent business entity that mutually benefits all parties seems a reasonable topic for us to begin to consider and investigate.

We also need to begin developing our ability to equip ourselves in a more dispersed and individual fashion.

More on that in Part 2.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Questions

Oh my soul is troubled, Oh my will is worn,

Tired and discouraged, trampled on and torn,

Every breath a battle, every step a war,

My heart a broken vessel, this night an angry storm.

When sadness crashes like an ocean, 

When fear is deeper than the sea, 

When I am swallowed by the darkness, 

Will you come and anchor me?

I cannot see through this, can you be my eyes?

I'm completely hopeless, can you shine a light?

I have no more strength left, can you stand and fight?

I'm dying in this doubt, can you be my faith tonight?

When sadness crashes like an ocean,

When fear is deeper than the sea,

When I am swallowed by the darkness,

Will you come and anchor me?

The Tenors

There is one who knows the answers.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

On Pain

I'm not certain now when I first heard the phrase, "Are you hurt, or are you injured?" Probably in some otherwise mostly forgettable football movie since this caliber of dialogue is pretty non-standard IRL. Or, maybe, this sort of question is more a reflection on just how non-standard my life has mostly been. Something to that last bit, regardless.

In any case, a practicing student of martial arts should be familiar with the distinction between the two conditions. And if this doesn't describe you yet, keep showing up.

Pain is how our bodies tell us we're doing something in a less-than-optimal way. In martial arts, feeling pain makes it frequently necessary for us to make a quick self-diagnosis between hurt and injury. The primary distinction I make between the two conditions is, does this pain require invasive (surgical) or restrictive (plaster of paris cast or neck brace for example) intervention by a medical professional for me to continue? If so, I'm injured.

Much of the time though, I'm "only" hurt. Hurt is a condition that a brief-ish period of recovery will alleviate sufficiently for me to continue with the practice/bout/game/etc. Allow me to illustrate by recounting a recent incident from HEMA practice.

We were practicing the basics of falls and rolls. Following a simple leg sweep (or trip), we were to fall into a rolling break-fall. I managed to land on the top of my shoulder in a very unglamorous pile of OUCH! instead. Due to my several-years-long relationship with my physical therapist (and there's a non-standard friendship for you), I am aware of the structure of the shoulder - I am, in fact, in the process of relieving an impingement (her word) of the ACL in the same shoulder (of course) - and discovered I still had basic joint integrity while I was un-piling onto my back by the simple expedient of using the same arm to move with. She, at least, will not be shocked by my choice of diagnostic technique.

The point being that it was immediately apparent to me that I was "only hurt" and not injured.

In our study of the historical treatises, it is just basic good sense to also make a study of the current best understanding of our own human anatomy (and never mind what the cutting edge thinking on matters medical was "back in the day"). Knowing how a wrist joint is structured, or the bones in the hand, would probably apply fairly directly to at least half of all HEMA-related injuries - and is pretty critical knowledge to making a self-diagnosis that won't get you sued for malpractice later.

By its very nature, HEMA involves experiencing pain - the hopefully modest pain of physical exertion, if nothing else. Having a conscious mechanism whereby we can categorize the nature and degree of the pain we will undergo seems a useful capability for us to develop.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Belief vs Knowledge

People mostly believe they understand what they know.

Take "Free Trade", for example. It's held as common knowledge that import levees, export duties, taxes and the like are contributing factors to measuring the degree of free trade between countries.

"Free Trade" is a myth.

Or more precisely, "Free Trade" is an arbitrary, hypothetical metric that establishes an unattainable standard of uninhibited trade between distinct market entities. Arbitrary, because there has never been a documented example to reference against. Hypothetical, because no one can describe how to realistically achieve such a transaction. Unattainable, because no transaction can be cost free.

"Free Trade" is a fictional economic standard to be forever striven for. As such, it serves as a mechanism whereby all trade can be comparatively analyzed to measure the relative costs of separate and otherwise incompatible transactions. From this, the actual transaction costs can be distinguished from the rest of the component costs that contribute to "value" (itself a largely individual standard irrespective of the item(s) being measured).

Free trade is also frequently a political illusion, served up to distract the voters from the blatant manipulations imposed on trade transactions by, or in response to, government.

Of course, if government went away with the morning sunrise, free trade would still be unattainable since all parties to a transaction would still have to exert some measure of expense in order to effect a transaction at all. Government makes sure the traders aren't the only one's to get something from the deal. Theoretically, in exchange for that added cost, government provides an independent recourse for dis-satisfied traders to seek recompense less directly than might otherwise be the case.

Because free trade is something people believe in, they think it must also be "real" in the same sense items being offered for trade are. Just because we know trade exists, doesn't mean we understand it.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

How Did That George Carlin Line Go?

"I stand here before you, completely behind you, ..."?

Sorry Gary Johnson, I had to stand with my DV Brethren and Sisteren on this one.

Catch you in November.

NBC Poll results

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Strategy Of Ideology

From my Facebook timeline.

In classical strategy, Advantage is pursued by everyone to advance one's Position (remember, Position is measured as a constantly varying relative value against other's, as well as your own, existing condition). A common technique used to achieve such advancement is Misdirection - saying or doing something in an apparent effort that disguises your own benefit from other's view (and the reason there really are essentially no "unintended consequences"). If you want to avoid imposing possibly misleading or simply incorrect value judgements on the actions of others - and your reactions to them, I recommend applying the above metrics to all aspects of your life.
Political ideology is rife with misdirection, both to gain and retain adherents as well as defeat the efforts of competitors in their positional maneuvering. The temptation to address ideological arguments in ideological terms is a two-fold mistake, you limit the structure of your own arguments to meet the assumptions of your opponents ideology.
The linked blog post below is an excellent example of a fact-loaded ideological argument that ultimately fails of its full potential due to the acceptance of the ideological terminology it confines itself to. That it succeeds to the extent it does (and I find the underlying observation inescapable personally) is testament to the authors writing skills: