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Life On The Freeway: The Drivers We All Love To Hate

Posted on 2017.06.14 at 12:42
Current Location: Undisclosed location somewhere in North America
Current Mood: Mildly irritated and amused
Current Music: "No Particular Place To Go" - Chuck Berry
Tags: , , , , ,

Today is the day I graduate from Irene's Myomassology Institute.  It's been one heck of a year!  But one thing that changed drastically for me was a daily commute at a time when other traffic is on the road, also known as the dreaded "rush hour," where it's actually impossible to rush anywhere.  Because it's my nature, I began to observe the other drivers around me and came up with some basic types I encounter regularly.  Hey, what else did I have to do?  So here goes...

1. The Pace Car.  At the Indianapolis 500 and many other auto race events, one car is designated to set the pace of competitors as they warm up at the beginning of a race, and later on to limit the speed of competing cars if a caution flag is thrown, or if there's an accident, obstruction on the track, or bad weather.  Pace cars don't go at racing speed, but tend to bottleneck all the other cars until the race starts or hazards are cleared.

On the freeway, the unelected Pace Car is the one who lodges his/herself firmly into the far left passing lane and maintains speed limit or lower.  Oblivious to anyone behind him/her, they doddle along causing traffic to pass them on the right, if at all.  They have no clue as to why people behind them keep flashing their lights or get upset.  Or maybe they do, and simply take perverse pleasure at the anger they cause.  Denis Leary wrote a song about these people.

2. The Drone.  Drones have no brain; they just act, like insects.  Most drones sit in the extreme right lane, seemingly blind or oblivious to oncoming traffic, offgoing traffic or the speed of all the other drivers around them.  These are the people who, out west, would be getting tickets for driving UNDER the posted minimum speed.  Well-meaning drivers move behind these people and slow way down in order to get off at an exit, and then boggle as the drone sails right on by, never having intended to get off; they were just doddering along in their own bubble of obliviousness.  Occasionally the drone moves into other lanes where they're greeted by honks of horns and other, um... 'unfriendly gestures'... but don't seem to see or acknowledge them.

3. AOFs (Ass On Fire).  AOFs are people who seem to think that their speed is only limited by the traffic in front of them, and that speed limit signs are just "safety suggestions."  If they roar up behind you, absolutely no speed you can go is fast enough for them, and they will dart to one side or the other (they seem ignorant of, or hostile to, to the quaint old convention of passing on the left), perhaps even flashing you a not-so-friendly hand gesture and/or hollering a "colorful metaphor."  Drivers who use cruise control or otherwise maintain a constant speed may encounter the same AOF repeatedly, as they shoot way up ahead, are forced to slow and drop back by traffic, find another opening and shoot ahead, and repeat.  For all of their effort, they generally don't arrive at their destination even one minute earlier.  They do, however, maintain a very high blood adrenaline level, and provoke the same in everyone around them.

4. NNDs (No-Neck Drivers).  The NND seems, at first, adept enough, not driving too fast or slow, and using lanes properly, for the most part.  That is, until you are changing lanes with your blinker properly engaged.  That is when they, too, decide that it's time to move into that exact same space.  And as you rebound back into the lane you were trying to leave, it is then that you notice that they never once looked at you.  His/her head remained forward, metaphorically lodged firmly up his/her ass, never once employing the neck that nature bestowed upon them.  If they ever knew you were there at all, it is usually after you honk your horn and offer them a few 'friendly gestures' of your own.  But sometimes not even then.

5. The Multi-Tasker.  Study after study has proven that humans suck at multi-tasking.  While computers do this with extreme efficiency, we humans only simulate it by focusing on one thing at a time, but being able to switch between them very quickly.  But 'very quickly' isn't usually quick enough while driving.  These are the people who, at first glance seem to be doing very well, yet may wander for a pulse-quickening moment into your lane before jerking back, or be going a bit slower than everyone else seemingly oblivious to those around them (see "The Drone" above).  Unlike The Drone, they aren't oblivious; they're just overwhelmed and don't know it.  They're applying make-up, or eating the lunch they just grabbed at the local McFood outlet, they're chatting away with the office, spouse or BFF, and might even be attempting to text.  While some drivers can manage to drive and chat at the same time, the Multi-Tasker feels like they're wasting time if they're not also checking the latest feeds online, organizing the contents of their bag/purse or changing clothes.  In short, they're doing six different things, and doing none of them very well.  The Multi-Tasker is the most dangerous person you will ever meet.  This includes drug dealers.

6. The Family Circus.  This is the mini-van or SUV packed with passengers, kids and the family dog, who are visibly bounding around and frolicking while the driver tries to pay attention to the road.  While some actually do a fantastic job, most do not; they're more distracted than a pedophile at a Katy Perry concert.  If you're jammed up in stop-and-go, rush hour traffic, you do NOT want this person coming up behind you.  Keep a wary eye on them until they are well back in your rear-view mirror.

7. Mr. Hat.  Unlike Mr. Garrison's puppet from "South Park," Mr. Hat tends to be an older gentleman, but you might not be able to see him if it wasn't for the hat that peeks up above the seat.  Said older gentleman drives... well... like an old person.  Stunningly slow, this driver would've gotten where they're going just as easily taking surface streets, and everyone else would've been much happier about their decision to just stay the hell off of the freeway.  But gramps doesn't seem to notice that he's slowed down, and thinks that every other driver is "a maniac!"  Get behind this driver only if your exit is imminent or you need a break.

8. Q-Tip Head.  Related to Mr. Hat, the Q-Tip Head is a white-haired person who drives like one.  Now, as an older person myself now (how did THAT happen?!), I'm not being ageist when I say that, in general, if the driver in front of you looks at all like a Q-Tip, you're in for a Foghat song: Sloooooow Riiiiiide!  If the time you arrive is of no importance for you, like when you're on the clock making a delivery for work, then turn up the radio and relax!  For the rest of us, you want to avoid this black hole of stasis as much as possible.  And if it's rush hour, these people effectively set the pace for everyone.  Take a tranq and relax.  It's gonna be a while.

Got any to add?  Post your favorite driver profile in the comments below.  In the meantime, thanks for your eyeball time.


Why Massage?

Posted on 2016.12.26 at 16:43
Current Location: Stu's secret underground lair
Current Mood: enthralled
Current Music: Enya, Nakai and other tranquil music!
Tags: , , ,

This seems to be the #1 most often asked question I've been getting lately when friends find out I'm in massage school.  After all, at first glance it does seem like a departure for me, a 30+ year career disc jockey!  But in the end, it turns out it's not.  I'll tell you how in a moment.  For anyone interested, though, here's the answer to that question, which starts out with some amazing women I'm lucky to have in my life.

Sherry is part of my sci-fi group and one of my best friends.  She's an amazing cook, has a wicked sense of humor and us a real fighter; she gave us all a scare not long ago, undergoing treatment for cancer.  And, being Sherry, she kicked its ass.  She even got her hair back!  Sherry also has had on again/off again pain in her lower back and shoulders.  Even before becoming a massage therapist occurred to me, I was known among my group as the go-to guy for back rubs.  I could usually get pretty good results, but Sherry was beyond the reach of my meager, if well-meaning, powers.  So now you have "the set-up".

Then, around the beginning of August of 2015, another amazing woman I know unknowingly changed my world.  I met Samantha through another social group, DAM (Detroit Atheist Meetup).  She's a licensed, practicing LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist).  She's also had more than her fair share of dramatic upsets in her life, and at that point had posted a message on Facebook explaining her need for some help.  To paraphrase, she explained that rather than bothering friends and family for loans or doing some GoFundMe type campaign, she was just going to offer a great deal on an hour massage to her friends.  Being just days away from Sherry's birthday, I instantly thought, "What a great gift idea!"  So, after checking with Sherry that such a gift wouldn't be weird with her, I called Samantha and set up the appointment.  "Hey, isn't it YOUR birthday, too", Samantha asked?  Yes, busted (Sherry and I were born 4 days apart).  Wanting to help her out, I said, "Okay, make it two."  So, for the first time in my then 58 years on the planet, I received my first massage.

I'd always considered massage sort of "fru-fru" -- something rich people did on cruise ships -- and nothing I'd ever see myself doing.  Needless to say, this was far outside of my usual comfort zone.  But I wanted to help out Sherry, and I also wanted to help Samantha, so this is how I found myself on a massage table in my BFF's livingroom.  At the end of the session, she asked me, "So, what do you think?"  I replied, "I think I'm an idiot for not doing this a LONG time ago.  I feel fantastic!"  Knowing that I do back rubs, she said, "If you want to do this again, I can show you some cool things you can do for your back rubs."  Figuring she's just being a great self-promoter, I said I'd think about it.

The next morning, my back felt normal.  This was a surprise; for about the past three decades, I've had this back condition.  Sometimes I would do something -- move the wrong way or pick up something incorrectly -- or I'd simply feel it coming on for a few days, and then I'd have a REALLY bad day of near immobilizing pain.  Once started, it has always run its course.  Prior to my massage, I felt the familiar signs that a bad day was coming.  For the first time, it didn't run its course; Samantha had stopped it.  I quickly made another appointment.

During the next massage, she narrated, explaining everything she was doing and why she was doing it, and I was completely fascinated.  I had no idea that massage could be so therapeutic!  I wasn't grasping some of the things she said, as I was on my face at the time.  "It would be easier to show you if we had a third person," she suggested... which led to my bringing a friend (another one of my back rub victims) and a three-hour session where Samantha filled my head to bursting with techniques and methods.  Again, I geeked out, totally fascinated.  I decided that I MUST learn everything about this!  I began to investigate all of the various massage schools in the area.  Some $12,000.00 later, I enrolled at Irene's Myomassology Institute in June of 2016.

Over the months before school started, Samantha continued to mentor me from time to time.  I've also had some truly crazy runs of luck!  For instance, aside from meeting Samantha and this new lightbulb moment literally changing the course of my life, I also have a long-time friend who once tried massage school, but ended up dropping out for health reasons.  When he found out I had enrolled, he offered me his table and all of his massage gear.  I bought them wanting to help out another buddy, paying more than I thought it shoudl cost.  Looking online, however, I quickly saw that I had gotten the deal of a lifetime!  A top-notch table with all the gear for a relative pittance!  I'd also found a decent massage chair for a relative song on the internet.  The day I arrived for my first class at Irene's, I had all of the equipment I needed.  (I also later bought a back-up table dirt cheap from a Craigslist ad, which turned out to be the mother of a classmate!)  AND I had almost 70 hours of massage under my belt, unofficially, of course.

Needless to say, this has given me a tremendous "leg up"!

As if all of that weren't lucky enough, I also was in need of some cheaper transportation.  Driving to Southfield every day in my DJ truck was extremely expensive, to say the least!  But a new, or even decent used car was out of the question.  That is, until a mutual friend blasted on social media that he was donating his car to charity.  I had seen it before - a nice SUV - and asked him why.  He said that due to the high mileage, his dealership wouldn't give him anything for it, so he thought a $500.00 tax credit would be fine.  I asked him if I could take a look at it.  Mystified that I would be interested, he agreed.  I grabbed a buddy of mine who is mechanically inclined and we drove out to inspect the vehicle.  After about 15 minutes, his words to me were: "Stu, you would be stupid not to buy this."  So I did.

It did need some repairs.  We ordered the parts online and my buddy did them all.  It came to less than $300.00.  Crazy luck, right?  Now I've got a more economical way to drive to/from school, which also holds a massage table as if it were made for it.

As I mentioned at the outset, my pursuit of a career in massage therapy isn't all that much of a departure when you really think about it.  My DJ career, after all, is about making people feel better and forget about their troubles for a while.  My writing pursuits often do the same, and/or help to provide lasting benefits to the lives of my readers.  Aren't these things what massage therapy does?  The only difference is that I'm doing it one-on-one, rather than a lot of people at once.  And that's just fine with me.  That is my answer to "why massage?"  I can't think of a good reason why not!

To you, my reader, a safe, happy, prosperous and healthy 2017!


HEAD SNAP! My Life Is A Roller-coaster Ride.

Posted on 2016.10.02 at 13:25
Current Location: Stu's subterranean lair
Current Mood: Gobsmacked
Current Music: "Love Rollercoaster" - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Tags: , , , , , , ,
It’s called “head snap”.  And it has been my life since I entered massage school.

I had this self-revelation recently when a friend of mine, a fellow roller coaster aficionado, came back to Michigan for a visit and to whisk me away to Cedar Point for one last ride on the Mean Streak, slated to be torn down and replaced next year.  They call it “Mean Streak” for a reason; it kicks your ass.  It’s intentionally rickety, shaking your teeth even on the straightaways, slamming you back-and-forth in the curves, and introducing your body parts to the safety restraints as you plunge down steep drops.  It’s not the “Cuddle Streak” or “Happy Streak”.  But it IS 100% awesomeness!  And I’m sad to see it go.  It’s a true classic.

Yet the affect that coaster had on my body is very similar to the affect my massage therapy classes have on my mind!  As you, my long-time reader may know, I’m a very left-brained, scientific, rational thinker, and there’s a virtual FEAST for the mind at my school; anatomy, physiology, business practices, ethics, effective treatments for various maladies and on and on.  Being a science nerd, I’m having a total BLAST in these classes.  Trouble is, they are often punctuated by voodoo.  Or, more precisely, pseudoscience and superstition, presented uncritically in a collegiate-style setting.

My first inkling of this was when I took an elective class on Table Shiatsu.  The instructor, trained in the East, incorporated ancient Eastern philosophy into the training, peppering the training with terms like “meridians” and “chakras”.  Where had I heard these before, I asked myself?  Ah – on a show called “Penn & Teller’s Bulls*it!”  But, always being the first person to advise others to keep an open mind, I went through all of the activities, learned everything I was asked to absorb, and came away with some great techniques… and more than a few questions, which drove me straight to Google.  This would become a pattern.

So next came the class on effective sciatica treatment, which was a feast of learning the mechanics of the human body, both the client’s AND the therapist’s!  After all, one doesn’t want to trash one’s own body while trying to heal another’s.  Classes like this one are what I signed-up for!  But that class was quickly followed by the next elective: Reiki I, a virtual bouillabaisse of “cosmic debris”, as Frank Zappa would’ve said.  HEAD SNAP!!!

Now I will accept the valid criticism that, yes, I DID choose to take the class, being an “elective” and all, but in my own defense, I’m required to take a certain number of hours as electives, and being a working DJ limits the classes that are available to me, since they’re always on a weekend.  Add to that the buzz among students how “awesome” said class is and how wonderful the treatment is!  And, silly me, I listened.  So here, once again, comes Mr. Open Mind to be spoon-fed utter bullshit for 16 hours over the course of two days.  And to add to my facepalm misery, the class didn’t even give me any good techniques or manipulations like the Shiatsu class did.  All I wanted was to make it stop.  And it did, eventually.  Painfully.

Back in the comfort of my physiology, anatomy and pathology classes, I scanned my upcoming elective schedule to see what other things I’d gotten myself into when I’d hastily chosen my electives last June.  And, lo and behold, there it was: Reflexology I and II.  Oh, for the luvva the Flying Spaghetti Monster, get me OUTTA this thing!  And I did; dropped the class, freed-up a weekend, and signed-up for much more sane, science-based electives in the upcoming weeks.  I’m still shy of all the hours I’ll need, but am on-pace.  Sometimes new classes are added, so I also want to leave some “wiggle room” because once I get all of the required hours in my back pocket, additional classes start costing additional money.

So, gang, if you saw me walking around in the middle of last September with a dazed look on my face, it was NOT from the roller coasters at Cedar Point!  (Those tend to result in goofy, week long smiles!)  No… it was the head-snap provided by my wonderful institution of higher learning; a place I love and am proud of, yet have learned to step through cautiously in order to avoid the potholes of wastes of time and the minefields of intruding on the faith, thoughts and aspirations of my less critical fellow students who see these approaches as having merit.  I’ve learned to love my classmates, so I’m determined to give them that respect.

As for me, I’m thinking that my stance will be the one thing that sets me apart from all the other massage therapists: keeping my practice firmly on scientific, rational ground!  I’ve been toying around with possible names, since the current one, SAHC Massage Therapy, lacks that “grab ya by the memory neurons” kind of appeal.  I’d be interested to hear good suggestions from any and all of my readers… all three of you!  As always, thanks for reading.


It Was More Than A Piece Of Glass

Posted on 2016.06.09 at 12:43
Current Location: SAHC World HQ
Current Mood: Reflective
Tags: , ,
My grandfather was DeWitt T. Stuart.  A photographer by trade, he owned Stuart Photography on Woodward Avenue in Detroit's glory days.  My earliest memories of him was as a tinkerer.  The basement of our home, at 9245 Cheyenne in Detroit, was his domain.  Naturally he had built a darkroom in a rear corner, and the main part was dominated by a huge, heavy, ornate table that may once have been in a dining room of a much larger home.  While the table usually remained clean and open as a work space, the shelves around the room were filled with all sorts of radios, televisions and other electronics that my grandpa had built, tore down or was working on.  He had several televisions back in a day when televisions were still fairly rare.  I remember one that had a round screen and gave a pinkish picture.  Naturally, all of them were black-and-white.  Well, maybe with the exception of that one.

My grandfather played a wicked harmonica.  I remember him playing "The Irish Washer Woman" once as my mother drove us around on a long ago St. Patrick's Day.  He gave me one once, but I was too young to appreciate the gift, and I'm guessing I managed to trash a pretty expensive instrument.  But he doted on my, always giving me gifts of some sort, and usually very personal ones.
One particularly hot summer day I was doing a lot of sweating and complaining.  The next day, sitting on my breakfast plate was a curious thing: a portable fan.  Now, this was pre-1966, and the stores didn't have such things, but my grandfather, being the tinkerer that he was, found a tiny fan blade, mounted it to a small electric motor, and mounted that to the top of a small cardboard box that jewelry might've one occupied.  The box served as a battery case.  It still had that cottony insert inside of it.  The fan worked extremely well!  I remember my friends being extremely jealous.  I also remember running through batteries like crazy!

Again, while I was too young to realize it on a conscious level, I could feel the man's love.  He looked for ways to surprise me, engage me and went out of his way to please.  And, yes, I was spoiled rotten.

But one of the gifts he gave me was a small, hand-held magnifying glass.  I had an early fascination with science and optics, and would play with the glass, projecting upside-down images of the living room window on the wall, looking at the dots in old newspaper photos and imperfections of the printed letters, and playing "Martian death ray" upon anthills outside.  (Being a boy in the '60s was very different from today!)  Seeing my fascination with the rather mundane thing, my grandpa offhandedly gave it to me for keeps!  I quickly unscrewed the handle, popping the glass out of the metal retaining hoop, and carried that glass around "just in case".  There were many adventures.

When I was a kid in Boy Scouts during a camp-out, my scoutmaster demonstrated the fine art of making a fire using sticks and strings.  As the other scouts struggled with the seemingly impossible feat, I gathered together some dry leaves, focused the sun on them with the glass and had a fire going long before the others.  (One of the first times an adult called me a "smartass".  And yeah, I guess I was.  But I had a fire and they didn't.)  Some time thereafter, on a more malicious note, I had gotten beaten up pretty badly by a bully from the vocational school that occupied the other half of the building where I attended Jr. High.  So, one day during a study hall, I went outside and found his car.  As the sun beat down, I used that glass to focus on his tires.  They made a loud "BANG!" when they finally popped.  I was probably lucky that they didn't blow rubber shards into my eyes.  I managed to pop all the tires on the non-shade side of his car.  Never saw the creep again, but I'd have loved to been a fly on that white wall when he discovered it!

In the 1970s, I got into lasers.  First the pulsed kind, using flash tubes and polished crystal rods, and later an Edmund Scientific HeNe gas laser.  I made and purchased holograms with it in a day and age when lasers were almost unheard of.  Grandpa's lens was often an integral part of my desktop setup.  It apparently was a much higher grade than is common these days.

Yes, many, many adventures.  Flash forward to recent years, my eyesight not being what it once was, I began to carry the glass once again in order to see fine print.  (And sometimes not-so-fine, depending on the day.)  I often wear a photographer's style vest, or carry a tactical tote bag (which I call my "man purse"), and carry that lens with me everywhere.  Or, I guess I should say, "carried".  It has gone missing.  Somehow, it has disappeared.

As Joni Mitchell once sang, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone".  Although it was a simple piece of glass, cheap even when it was new, it has been a constant companion throughout my life.  I could show you the minuscule chip on one edge where I dropped it one year at Cedar Point.  It literally went everywhere with me, but more importantly, it was a direct connection to my grandfather, who I still see through my five-year-old eyes and miss even more with each passing year.  Maybe it's a bit of an irony that it turns-up missing right around Father's Day, and although I can't be certain, I'd also guess that this year may well be the 50th anniversary of the day he gave it to me in the first place.

So on this Father's Day, I give mad props to the most kind-hearted man I've ever known, who loved me unconditionally despite his (and most of my family's) extreme... dislike... of my actual father (who was divorced from my mom before I became aware of who was who and what they were doing).  I can only hope that I've lived-up to whatever it was he saw in me.  The object is gone, but the memories, and the love, remains.


Repair Cascade (or How Things Get Fixed To Death)

Posted on 2016.05.12 at 22:23
Current Location: The parking lot of Stu's World HQ
Current Mood: Annoyed n' broke!
Current Music: "Shade Tree Mechanic" - ZZ Hill
Tags: , , , ,
“One thing leads to another…” – The Fixx

Something breaks.  That’s the nature of our universe; things break.  Entropy must take its toll.  Fine.  But if what breaks is something we need, then we must fix it or replace it.  And this is where we wish we were psychic.

I made the decision, after looking over vehicle prices, to refurbish, rather than replace, my good ol’, trusty box truck (oversized van).  It’s got less than 80,000 original miles, which ain’t bad for a ’96, and I’ve been the sole owner.  I’ve also been pretty good about keeping it maintained.  Still, age takes its toll, as does weather, the bumps n’ battering of the road and other abuses, so I had a LOT of repair to do.  Namely about six grand of mechanicals (under the hood), another six grand to refurbish the exterior fiberglass body, and about $1,500.00 for a new roll-up rear door, the original wooden one having rotted to oblivion.  Should be like new, right?  Well, here’s how repairs can be self-defeating.

With large trucks, you’re going to burn up brakes at a faster rate than with the family sedan.  The truck simply weighs more, so it takes more to stop it.  When mine needed fixing, I called a buddy who has a mobile “garage”, and he can come and service your car as you work in your office or lounge at your kitchen table.  He’s done some good work for me in the past, so I had no doubt he’d do a great job on my brakes.  And he did; they work.  The van stops like nobody’s business.  Just one thing… while he was up under the hood, somewhere along the line, an air conditioner line got punctured.  Now the AC doesn’t work, and can’t be recharged until the puncture is tracked down and repaired.  I have no clue what that is going to cost.  Being non-essential, that’s been put off for the time being.

Something like that is annoying, but not horrific.  It’s a bit like the time I bought a new set of tires.  I went to a local shop and it was near the end of the day.  They were happy to have something to do – it was a slow day – but they were also anxious to bust out of work, as it was a Friday night.  So in their haste to install all six tires on my van (it has dual wheels at each end of the rear axle), a floor jack must’ve knocked into my exhaust system.  When I fired-up the truck to leave, a loud “VROOM!” filled the garage.  I turned it off and got out.  “What’s the matter”, they asked?  I replied, “Well, it didn’t sound like that when I arrived”!  The manager apologized, pointed out that my exhaust system was far from perfect when I brought it in, but admitted his guys drastically shortened its life, so he set me up with a new one and offered to split the cost.  That turned out to be a decent day.  Still, it was one of the first repair cascades I had experienced.

When I decided to refurbish the van’s outer shell, I hired a refinishing company with a great online rep.  Yet they tied the van up for weeks – far longer than originally quoted – and while the work was good in the end, there was one odd thing that now needs repair.  When they went to paint the beast, I guess they decided to remove the rear hand-holds on either side of the back roll-up door.  Unscrewing the first bolt, they found that this wasn’t going to be possible, as the rear nut is enclosed in a boxed column.  Instead of telling me about it, or even trying to fix it, I’m guessing they masked the hand-holds, painted the van, and handed it back over to me.  I didn’t discover what they’d done until actually using the van and grabbing onto said hold.  The top nearly pulled out, as it is secured by nothing.  Now I’ve got to find some way to re-attach it.  Once again, one fix generates one new repair.  If you’re keeping score, I’m now 2 for 3.

Not long ago, I had a bit of a long-haul ahead, having an appointment more than 30 miles distant.  Spring had sprung, and I noticed my tires were a bit low.  So I headed off to my (formerly) favorite tire shop, Discount Tire.  There I was informed that they would NOT fill them up for me.  Why?  Because of the date stamp on the tires.  Seems as if the stuff tires are made of is SO shitty that, over time, even when they’re gently used and well-maintained, that “I don’t want to risk them exploding on my guys” is a thing.  This sounded like a naked ploy to sell me new tires.  Mine DID have some age on ‘em, but it’s not like they were from the 1960s or anything!  All were less than 10-years-old.  But these guys would rather send ME out onto a freeway with poorly inflated tires rather than “risk” them popping.  Such bravery and concern!  Assholes.

But what did I do?  Bought new tires.  Yes, I did.  Why not?  They’re a business expense, so I can write ‘em off, and at least I’m safer.  That’s the theory, anyway.

So how, you might be wondering, can THAT lead to repair cascade?  Suffice it to say, it took some creative dumbfuckery, to be sure.  Flash forward to last Tuesday when I’m parked at my massage therapist’s place.  “Your truck is leaking oil”, I’m told.  Sure enough, she was right.  I was down two quarts.  WTF?  I just had all that under-the-hood work done, a big chunk of which was a new oil pan.  (They tend to rust out on my particular van.)  So how in hell was it leaking?  I was due for an oil change, so I took it to a local shop.  There, they discovered the problem: someone had missed with a wrench or other object and punctured my oil filter.  The guys had noted the new tires, and speculated that it might’ve happened then.  Yes, kids: repair cascade strikes again!

Lucky for me, an oil filter is cheap and I needed the change anyway.  So I did that, and I also had the shop replace some burned-out marker lights, which I’d already gotten a warning about from a nice law enforcement professional one night.  So, for this one, I knocked down two problems for the price of one.  Except…

While they had it on the hoist, they discovered an alarming situation: they could move my wheels with their hands by about an inch to either side.  Yes, kids, I’m buying new ball joints!  All four of ‘em.  The better part of a C-note.  Now, I’m happy that they discovered this possible disaster-in-the-making before I wound-up broken down on a roadside or worse!  AND this particular bugaboo didn’t happen because a previous repair broke something else.  So what might I call this?  Fix cascade?

You might understand my trepidation, then, as I look at the few minor repairs I have coming up.  The AC still needs fixing.  So does that hand-hold.  I also have a deck strip in the back – a piece of steel at the rear edge of the floor where the back door seats – which is rusting to dust and needs replacement.  I’m thinking of pinching a buddy with great mechanical skills to maybe help me with it, since he does great work on his own stuff.  Unlike science, where you actually want new discoveries to provoke new questions, the goal of repair is NOT to provoke even more repairs!  The finish line is in sight.  I only hope it stays put!


Oh, Yeah... My Blog...

Posted on 2016.04.17 at 00:15
Current Location: Stu's Mighty Fortress of Solitude
Current Mood: Chatty!
Current Music: The "Soundscapes" channel
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So... I get a response to one of my rants from 2009 == wow... I wrote that over SIX years ago?  I'm aghast! -- and I realized that I haven't posted here in a good long while.  Not that there isn't anything to talk about; far from it!  But this is where my FREE writing goes, and since nobody pays me to blurt here, well, it gets neglected, as you can imagine.

So to you, my steady reader (and anyone else not married to me who is contractually obligated to read this), my thanks for your patience, loyalty and outstanding taste in authors.

The stream of life has taken me in yet more new directions, and some old, familiar ones, albeit with a new twist.  I guess I should begin there.


The rebuilding of my DJ business, which has been dragging on far, far longer than I ever imagined it would take, has none the less made steady progress.  Having just done my taxes and recording my lowest number of actual gigs since I started keeping records, I might feel a bit deflated if it wasn't for the fact that I've done ZERO in the way of marketing, branding or sales for several years.  Some might look at the amount of work I DID manage to do and consider it outstanding in that light!  But phase I and II of the rebuilding process are now complete (or almost), so this summer I'll be moving on to marketing/sales.  Phase I, updating and rebuilding my DJ systems, is more or less complete, aside from some back-up gear soon to be ordered.  Phase II, refurbishing the mighty Stuvan, Vanzilla, is also complete, aside from exterior graphics, a repair to the AC (which needs to pass a pressure test before recharging) and maybe a set of captain's chairs.  The final phase begins with an overhaul to Ye Olde Website.  My old one looks like a refugee from the 1990s, and a lot of the features no longer function.  See, this blog isn't the only thing I've been neglecting.  But the good news on that front is that my buddy, Monty, surprised me with a mock-up of a new website that he tossed-together in just a few moments of his time.  I showed it to my other friend who has been working on a new website for me for more than a year now, and it lit a fire.  SOMETHING new will be up and running within days, or weeks at the most.


The other thing that has been going well are my CPL (Concealed Pistol License) classes.  Having amassed a lot of experience as a legal gunslinger myself, and then taking instructor's training at the behest of a good many DJs and other friends, colleagues and family who wanted me to teach them, I began the SAHC Firearms Training Academy.  A lot of good luck surrounds that enterprise, including having a friend who owns a gun shop and converts it into a classroom for me once a month, a lawyer I met through a training class who just happens to be the area's most noted expert on firearms law and, it turns out, is one heck of a great guy to boot, and some tolerant (even if begrudgingly so) folks at a couple of area shooting ranges who put up with me bringing in groups of students and clogging-up their facilities.  I'm really enjoying instructing, and try to bring at least one new innovation to each class in a constant effort to improve.  I want confident graduates, well-versed in what they need to know before heading out into the world carrying a firearm.  So far, nobody has left with any holes they didn't arrive with.  And I make an extra buck every now and then.


The next big addition to my life is in the form of massage therapy.  As in receiving AND giving.  It's a bit of a long story, but I'll try to be as concise as possible (for me).

One of my best friends has some pretty bad shoulder problems, as well as some back trouble.  As a friend, I've given my best amateur effort to help, on occasion, with a back or shoulder rub here and there.  She and I share many things, one of them being that we're the same age and born in the same month.  So, last August, as our birthdays were approaching, it just so happened that another friend, who is an actual, licensed massage therapist, posted an offer for a great rate on a massage.  I called my achy friend and asked, "Do you think it would be weird if I bought you a massage for your birthday?"  She thought it was a great idea, so I called my therapist friend to make the arrangements.  She reminded me that it is MY birthday, too, and that I should get one for myself.  Never having had one before - I always thought that massages were what rich people got on cruise ships or something - I decided to try it.  Why not?  I've known my therapist friend for a good while, now, and so she's not like a stranger or something.

So we met at my birthday-mate's house and the therapist soon arrived.  I discreetly disappeared, tending to phone calls while she worked on my friend, and then she called me in.  Originally, I'd asked her to focus on my legs and feet, where I've been having a bit of trouble, but after about 20 minutes, my therapist said, "I've done just about everything I can for your legs and feet, and we've got the rest of the hour.  Would you like me to give you a whole massage?"  "What the heck, why not?" was my response.

Once she finished, she asked, "Well, what do you think?"  "I think I'm an idiot", I said, "I should've done this a long time ago!

The next day, a back problem I'd felt coming on, which inevitably leads to a day where I'm almost completely immobilized due to severe pain, was gone.  That had never happened.  Once the twinges started, it always led up to full-blown agony before tapering off, but after that massage, I'd escaped that fate!  She also calmed down my feet, which I'm still not sure why are bothering me and have just scheduled a test to find out.  This captured my imagination!  It astounded me that, just by touch, one can make somebody feel THAT great, and so quickly!  My therapist, trying to answer all of my questions, said, "Next time, I'll show you some techniques you can use when massaging your friends.  I mean, you can't go around charging money without a license, but your friends will like it."  I quickly scheduled another massage.  Each time she told me/showed me more, I just HAD to know everything!  On a third appointment, I brought along a friend - another one I've always given back rubs to - and my therapist showed me all sorts of things!  The more she taught me, the more I had to know.  It seems I've discovered yet another passion.

So, a couple of days ago, I signed-up for massage therapy school.  About $12,000.00 worth of training.  I cannot wait to begin!  Ever since my massage, my therapist has continued to teach me, as well as giving me outstanding massage care, and I know that I'm going to CRUSH those classes!  I already picked up a massage chair, table and many accessories, and have been practicing on a small cadre of very patient friends who have volunteered to b my massage "guinea pigs".  I will come into class in June with well over 50 hours of practice under my belt!  Between my therapist and professional videos on YouTube, I've gotten a huge head start.  I think.


This comprises my three main "revenue streams", which hopefully will make for a decent-sized living in the very near future.  I also have SAHC Media, which comprises my writing (the not free stuff), as well as SAHC Clergy Services, under which I perform wedding ceremonies; a nice add-on to my DJ activities, albeit an infrequent vocation.  I guess maybe I should promote that a bit, too.

And we're caught up!  All set for another couple years - LOL!  Or not.  I'm sure I'll be back when the urge strikes and I need to blather about something nobody wants to pay me for.  Until then, thank you once again for your eyeball time.  I hope you found this at least a tiny bit entertaining and informative.  If not, I'll give you your money back.  :)


A Word About Hair

Posted on 2015.10.25 at 16:09
Current Location: The Satellite of Love (recently renovated.)
Current Mood: Feeling instructive
Current Music: "Hair" by the Cowsills
Tags: , , ,

Over the past handful of days I've been to two events, and at both of them, the topic of hair came up.  Or, more specifically, mine.  I guess it's hard for some folks, especially the more follically challenged of my friends, to believe that I'm not doing anything special.  Since you asked, though, here's the whole story: I'm not doing anything intentionally.  At all.

Seriously, If I were, it would be logical to at least get rid of the bit of grey that has peppered my beard, mostly, and to a lesser extent the ol' melon.  But I really don't care.  It's hair.  I also don't have a special diet or regimen, even though my focus had been on losing weight, and remains one of keeping it off.  I'm a DJ, not a nutritionist, so if I am doing anything, it's purely by accident.  So aside from the pure luck of the draw from the genetic deck, I'll speculate as to what, if anything, might be going on.  If you care.  If not, then you're free to move long.

Since I was a kid, I've been taking vitamin supplements.  Hey, even the most dedicated of us can't always eat right, and if you eat fast food or have ever skipped a meal and had a power bar (or worse) to tide you over, then you may not have gotten your RDA of all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.  From Chocks, then on to Flintstones, to Centrum and dabbling in Youngevity, I seldom miss my daily vitamins.  This is something that everyone should do, and I'm only guessing, but it may be a part of why my hair and fingernails grow at such an insane rate.  Or not.  But it can't hurt.

Next, I once read somewhere that vigorously washing your scalp can stimulate it.  Now, I'm not sure what is meant by "vigorously," or if there were any other special instructions or conditions, but I tend to use a modest (a.k.a. "cheap") shampoo (all of which are mostly detergents anyway) and just work it into my hair as if I'm trying to scratch every square inch of my head.  Not an insane amount of time, either - just enough to get to each part.  Then I'm done.  As a "less is more" kinda guy, I tend to use conditioner only about every 3rd washing or so.

Speaking of "less is more," we all have the occasional day when we simply don't do diddly squat, at least not enough to work up any real sort of sweat.  When I've had a day like that, and also manage not to sweat overnight, then I might skip a shower every now and then.  Naturally this happens far more often in the winter than in the summer, although sleeping in front of a fan has helped to make that happen every now and then, too.  I'm convinced that your cells don't really run a stopwatch and, when it comes to some functions, our reliance on a daily regimen is arbitrary.  I'll go by need more than ritual.  (And that sometimes necessitates that second or even third shower on hot, active summer days!)  We hear all the time in TV ads and health articles about how overwashing can strip hair of vital oils, and how other abuses of our daily chemical onslaught can cause damage.  So I just don't.  Mild detergent (clarifying) and a mild conditioner on occasion is all.

And that really IS the end of my list!  Except for that pact with the devil*, I really, truly, honestly am doing nothing.  I even stopped doing the one thing I had been due to a friend's suggestion.  I used to work hard to comb all of my hair straight back.  One day, though, I popped over to her house after driving with my windows down, and my hair just did what it does naturally - it has this funny Conan O'Brien sort of semi-part down one side, and that's how it fell.  She remarked how good it looked, and when I told her what happened, she told me to stop messing with it.  So I did, and it freed up about ten minutes of my morning AND lets me use a whole lot less styling products -- often none.  I know that all of this might be a "fat lotta help" for some readers, but it's the total truth.  For being two years away from sixty, I can understand the skepticism and simply marvel along with the rest of y'all.


No Excuses and Many Excuses (Two Topics, One Theme)

Posted on 2015.09.13 at 22:32
Current Location: Undisclosed secret location
Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated
Current Music: "No Excuses" - Alice In Chains
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Greetings once again, my much-neglected reader(s)!  Today I want to talk about excuses.  That was a word that made me bristle, because so often it is spewed by dismissive people who are closed-minded, poo-pooing valid explanations.  But these days, I think I understand the term a whole lot better.  Let's start with the NON-excuses.


Some weeks ago, a colleague told me about the City of Warren's big annual celebration at their civic center and the free concert by the legendary Michiganiac, Jack Scott.  My first reaction was: 'That guy is still around?'  So I snagged a friend, a couple of lawn chairs and off I went.  I was EXTREMELY glad I did!  Here was Jack Scott, still dressed in his badass black threads, still sounding every bit as good as he did in his 20s, and ROCKING OUT at 79-years-old.  Still touring, this is a man who makes no excuses.  He gets it done!  Even people who didn't know who he was (as in everybody under 35) were impressed.

Flash forward to this past week.  Through some sort of friend-on-friend miscue, my wife, Janette, got some tickets to see J. Geils at Pine Knob.  (Sorry, but I'll NEVER refer to it by it's corporate-bought name.)  When I texted we were going, my best friend in Phoenix responded, "That was the first concert I ever saw at Pine Knob!"  Geils is what some refer to as "legacy groups", a kind way to say, "geezer groups for geezers."  In any case, I had nothing better planned.  Janette, however, had nothing but trepidation; it looked like rain, and even though we were in the pavillion, we were in the extreme rear, so had there been any rain, we'd have been in it.  She even bought ponchos.  Then there's the long drive, parking, LONG walk (which is hard on her) and the "I've got lots to do" inertia.  But hey, the tickets were expensive, even though we didn't buy them, and so we soldiered on.  And we were glad we did!

As we walked in, the opening band had started, and I heard the singer hollering, "Detroit rocks!  Detroit rocks!  Detroit rocks!  Deeeee-troit rocks!"  I laughed, thinking, 'hey, they changed Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks" for the Detroit crowd.'  Then I looked at the giant monitors.  I was STUNNED to see that it was, in fact, IAN FREAKIN' HUNTER!  No mention on the tickets or any of the ads I'd seen.  For me, that was a HUGE bonus!  I'd have paid to see him alone!  The old Mott The Hoople alum blew through all of his great hits and sounded every bit as good with his new band as he ever did.  NO excuses.  First rate.

Then J. Geils took the stage.  Here's a group I've been listening to since "Blow Your Face Out" somewhere back in the late '70s/early '80s, and LOVED them because of their high energy party band ethos.  I'm not a big fan of ballads, and they offer few.  NOTHING but pedal-to-the-metal, full-tilt good times from start to finish!  Peter Wolf, known for his on-stage rapid-fire verbiage paid tribute to all the great Detroit artists that he considers heroes, and the first one he mentioned was Jack Scott.  If my mind wasn't blown, it was then!  The greatest ARE the greatest because they recognize greatness in others.  They're not too high and mighty to learn, be inspired and give mad props.  And their show?  TOTAL blow-out!  I heard comparisons to their legendary Fillmore performances - Janette said they were a bit better (I had no reference) - but I was thoroughly impressed.  Magic Dick on the harp sounding 18, Peter dancing around harder than Mick Jagger ever did, and not ONE of them under 50.  No excuses.  BAM!  What a show!


This section isn't about music; this is about denial.  Or maybe resignation.  Over the past year or so, I've had a lot of people ask me how I've dropped my excess weight.  (It was pretty dramatic.)  So I tell them.  Now, some things I did won't work for everyone.  (You can read the details below.)  But the basic framework will.  It's about as close to a sure thing as it gets.

The question answered, what has all too often followed was a stream of excuses as to why it won't work.  Nevermind actually TRYING it.  "My body [does or doesn't] do [insert objection here]."  This asserts that physics doesn't apply to them; that just because they have other unique physical situations -- and we all do have significant differences -- that they are exempt laws of conservation of energy.  Consider the following analogue...

You gas up your car to the max and let it sit in your parking lot idling.  Eventually, even if it goes nowhere, it will eventually run out of gas and stop.  Now, it may run much longer, since it's not doing any work, but simply running burns fuel.  If you weighed the car when you topped it off, the total would include the weight of the gas.  The human body is IDENTICAL as far as the laws of physics: if you fill your belly, and then stop eating, your body is constantly "on."  Even if you do no real work (although your heart, lungs and brain burn significant amounts of energy as they never stop working), you're burning a significant amount of energy.  Your body builds trillions of cells each week; an energy-intense process.  Your basic metabolism radiates waste heat, as if you're an infrared light bulb.  Your food powers it all.  Now, your body has a "spare tank" in the stored fat, so unlike your car, your "gas tank" can empty completely, but you'll still run for a significant amount of time without "refueling."  But again, if you do nothing else (including not eating), you'll eventually starve to death.  The machine stops.

Thermodynamics and the laws of conservation of energy works in ALL machines, including the human body.  So if you can calculate your "rate of burn," and then consume less than required, you WILL force your body to start tapping its stored reserves.  It cannot do otherwise, regardless of any allergies, diseases, dietary quirks or other considerations.  Now, eventually you WILL stop losing as your body exhausts its reserves and can even start to consume itself!  This is where you get these poor waifs on the talk shows who cannot stop maniacally dieting and become skeletal.  No sane person wants to get on TV that way.  The point, though, is that you CAN use this burn rate knowledge to lose weight as efficiently as your body is capable of doing.  If you try.  If you commit.  If you do as I did.


True confession: I'm sometimes embarrassed by my own success.  As a male, I have an easier time losing weight.  Estrogen is a tough mistress, and women's bodies are already a bit more efficient than mine.  I was able to lose weight consuming just over 1,800 calories.  This afforded me some laditude, such as "budgeting" 420 calories each night for a candy bar.  Yes, I sacrificed that extra piece of chicken, or I had to choose the wrap when I really wanted the pizza, etc., but if you're a male, you'll simply have an easier time of it.  Sorry, I didn't MAKE the rules.  Just learned 'em and accept what is.

My poor wife, and my best friend went to the app, and they only get just over 1,400.  That's pretty much the candy bar.  And I'm sorry, but nobody should go for a whole day without some chocolate.  It's not human!

That said, the inability to simply TRY is an excuse.  I've heard 'em all.  At every point along the way, there's an objection.  "Well, I don't drink as much pop as you did."  Fair enough; what ARE you consuming too much of?  I substituted flavored water (Crystal Light) for soda and snacks.  What is your "thing"?  If you're eating sensible meals, then you're overdoing something somewhere.  "I can't use the app, 'cause I don't have a smart phone."  Seriously?  Get one!  It's the 21st Century.  What's your health worth, anyway?  Don't want a pricey phone, then how about a tablet?  You can pick one up for well under a hundred bucks and access the internet nearly anywhere.  Or, for pity's sake, get on your desktop or laptop at home and sign up, and then check the app BEFORE heading out.  Plan your meals.  Yes, it's not nearly as spontaneous, but is that really a good reason to not even TRY?  "I don't like..."  Yeah, that was mine, too.  It seems that all the healthy stuff tastes like shit.  Vegans not only eat crappy tasting food, but it infects their brains making them almost impossible to tolerate!  (KIDDING!  Gotta snag on my vegans!)

Seriously, it comes down to making a better choice.  Yes, you CAN have KFC.  (I just had some today!)  You CAN woof a box of McNuggets.  If those are what you like and the alternative is something you hate, then it's not a REAL choice!  But suppose you enjoy one of the more healthy subs at Jimmy John's?  Or you've had a turkey wrap at Panera's that you actually enjoy.  NOW you've got a REAL choice.  If you make the better one more often -- you don't have to do it every time -- you'll set yourself up for success.  And in ANY case, you need to stay within your calorie budget.  Choosing healthier stuff allows you to eat MORE and stay within the box.  That means less feeling hungry.

Thanks to one of my besties who happens to be a great cook, I actually discovered ONE vegan product I actually like!  (Yes, I was surprised, too!)  Having a Morningstar Farms (I think that's the brand) spicy black bean burger a couple of times a week lets me have a satisfying lunch, while damned near skipping a meal according to my calorie count.  Yes, a burger.  With a bun, cheese AND ketchup/mustard.  Two of 'em.  Under 500 calories.

An excuse I've heard more than once -- in fact, a surprising number of times -- is this stunning statement: "I've tried it.  It doesn't work."  Really?  So you've run your car to empty, but it KEPT running?  I mean, this IS what you're telling me!  If you've stayed faithfully within your calorie budget and DIDN'T lose weight, you've pulled off alchemy!  Your body is a perpetual motion machine!  Get thee to the Amazing Randy and claim the prize for demonstrating supernatural phenomenon!

The truth is that you did NOT try it.  Not really.  You either cheated, did it wrong, or got bad information.  Try again.  And do it right.  Hell, sign-up for Nutrisystem; they do all of the calculating, measuring and head work FOR you.

So for those who are unhappy with their weight and making excuses, STOP!  Either give it the ol' college try OR own that you're content doing what you're doing.  That you want your food more than you want to change.  Do NOT ask people how they did something and, in the next breath, tell them it won't work.  They are living proof that you're making excuses.

Dear New York Times,

I find it rather frustrating, and a bit stupid, frankly, that I am unable to answer your editorial question, "A Sensible Question for Gun Owners."  (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/03/opinion/a-sensible-question-for-gun-owners.html?emc=edit_th_20150703&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=59062894&_r=0 )  Why aren't comments enabled when you're asking a question?

More oddly, despite the headline, no direct question is actually asked!  But I can divine from the article that gun owners are being asked why the "good cause" qualification required by some CA counties is so bad.  My response is to look at other guaranteed rights in the Bill of Rights and ask if it would be acceptable to apply those standards to them.  Should you need a "good cause" to attend the church of your choice?  Or to speak your mind?  Or buy a newspaper?  (Or own one?)

While we all know that the right to keep and bear arms does come with great responsibility, as do all of our rights, and that the element of danger is not to be taken lightly, the fact of the matter is that keeping (owning) and bearing (carrying) arms is indeed a RIGHT, not a privilege, and unless you have demonstrated an inability to act responsibly via past criminal activity or being deemed a danger by a licensed mental health professional, then your rights are inviolate.  It's a Bill of Rights, after all, not a Bill of Needs.

Lastly, despite what late night television and quacks might have you believe, there's no such thing as being psychic.  We cannot predict when and where a violent crime may happen.  Anyone who has ever been assaulted suddenly had a "good cause" to be armed, and anyone who hasn't, including most police officers, arguably does not.  The idea is that we all have a right to be prepared.  It is a false argument to say that anyone who carries a firearm presents a danger; few who do it legally are ever involved in a crime.  Meanwhile, the majority of crimes with guns are committed by gang members, drug traffickers and stick-up artists who will carry guns regardless of the law.  These are simple facts, giving honest citizens all the justification they need to be able to legally carry a firearm.

I hope that answers the question, and I hope you deem my response worthy of sharing.


~Stu Chisholm

Professor Traphagan:

I read your op ed, "When Will We Examine Our Heavily Armed Culture" with interest.  (See the story here.)
Being an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor, and author of a book on this topic (see the review here: http://www.ammoland.com/2013/07/knowing-guns-the-ins-outs-of-firearms-firearms-politics/# ), I thought you might be interested in some answers to the questions and points you brought up.

For instance, Americans don't see shooting crimes as "normal" by any means.  Gun owners and NRA members are every bit as outraged as you are!  What we do NOT see is using these terrible tragedies to justify curtailing a fundamental human right; armed self-defense, enshrined in the Bill of Rights.  To quote Jeff Snyder,  "To ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the innocent and law-abiding that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless, and that the law will permit them to have only such rights and liberties as the lawless will allow... For society does not control crime, ever, by forcing the law-abiding to accommodate themselves to the expected behavior of criminals.  Society controls crime by forcing the criminals to accommodate themselves to the expected behavior of the law-abiding."

In short, disarming the innocent is a poor strategy to battle criminals.

You falsely equate the "proliferation of guns" as a causal agent in crime.  This is demonstrably false.  See, you correctly acknowledge that there are a lot of Americans who "do not go out and kill people and who keep their guns stored safely." but fail to mention that they are the vast majority.  You then call upon them, and the NRA, to curtail THEIR OWN RIGHTS!  This is a logical disconnect.

The rate of violent crime, including "gun crime," has fallen by roughly half over the past two decades or so.  Concurrently, the number of guns in circulation has gone from about 170 million to today's high of 310 million.  To suggest, then, that proliferation is a causal agent flies in the face of real world data.  Further, when we DO look into "gun crime," figures get distorted.  Guns are credited with taking just over 30,000 lives each year, on average.  What often goes unsaid is that more than 60% of those lives are SUICIDES.  This means that less than 14,000 deaths are homicides (murders and justifiable), accidents and police shootings.  On a per-capita basis, then, our murder rates tend to look like much of the rest of the world, landing us OUT of the top 100 for per-capita murder overall.

In the landmark book, "Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out" by Don B. Kates, a study done in the 1970s showed that, if guns are not available, a suicidal person will simply choose another method.

In short, suicidal people will find a way.

Comparisons with other countries, as you did with Australia, Japan and South Korea, are problematic, as there are significant differences that render any hard conclusions meaningless.  Since I mentioned suicide, let's add one more comparison: France.  Both France and Japan have very strict gun control, with almost zero civilian gun ownership, yet their suicide rates exceed ours.  Instances of rape occur in Australia more than in the U.S.  How can these be if guns are believed to CAUSE or enable them?

More germane: the per-capita ownership of guns has never been anywhere NEAR that of the U.S. in those countries.  It is then useless to compare "gun crime."  It's akin to saying that Hawaii is safer than Colorado because less people die in avalanches.  Only when we compare overall homicide, suicide, rape and other violent crime does a clear picture emerge.

Let's also consider the geographic differences.  Both Japan and Australia are islands (although the Australian continent makes it one really HUGE one)!  So most goods go in and out by ship, and ports are far more difficult for smugglers as opposed to the miles and miles of unprotected borders that the U.S. has.  Imposing a gun control law in Japan becomes much easier to facilitate.  But in the Americas, Mexico implemented very strict gun controls, yet they are now awash in blood, with shooting crimes far in excess of the U.S., guns not only slipping through the U.S. border, but coming in through Central America and even via their porous military supply lines!  The same drug cartels that assure abundant supplies of illegal drugs also assure that their dealers have an abundant supply of guns and ammunition.  Any comparison is moot.

Indeed, there IS no rationale to tolerate the kind of violence, "gun" or not, that we do in America!  And we haven't.  We've been whittling it down for years now.  And we did it without banning guns or placing useless restrictions upon the innocent.  Given the record number of guns vs. the record lows in violent crime mentioned above, we've PROVEN that proliferation of firearms is not the main reason for violent crime.  You suggest enacting "comprehensive gun control laws," and list a few.  Let me address each one and give you the pros and cons.

1. "Prohibit many forms of gun ownership"

I'm imagining you're speaking of imaginary "assault weapons."  This was done, during the Clinton Administration, and the ban ran for a full decade.  During that run, there was no significant impact on violent crime.  Indeed, such guns were rarely used in crimes to begin with!  So-called "assault weapons," which are NOT "machine guns" (already illegal for most citizens), are but a small subset of ALL long guns, and they as a whole only represent 4% of all murder weapons.  Some 96% of all "gun murders" are by handguns.  Further, the ammunition capacity argument fails in real world analysis, the Clinton Administration's own Justice Department concluding that the restriction "had no measurable impact" on the number of people killed or injured in the average shooting incident.

So what "form" of gun ownership are you suggesting to prohibit?  And, more importantly, how do you propose to prohibit CRIMINALS from doing it?

2. "[Curtail] or eliminating access to and the ability to purchase guns"

Again, barring the innocent from access will not curtail crime.  Further, it could give criminals the upper hand, as it did in Mexico.  Instead, it is more constructive to find ways to bar CRIMINAL gun trafficking, while maintaining as free and open supply lines to the law-abiding public as possible.  (More on this later.)

3. Government confiscation/purchase "illegal" guns already in circulation among the public

First, you mean NEWLY "illegal," I'm guessing?  Because legal guns aren't a problem.  Yet how does the government, once a ban is enacted for a certain type of gun, KNOW where they might be?  If you're suggesting a national "buy back" type program, then WHO would turn in their weapons voluntarily?  Naturally, the law abiding -- the very people who would NEVER BE A PROBLEM!  This would then leave the criminal population just as well armed and, now, far more powerful; a very dangerous situation!

4. Background checks

Here's the "more on this": on this single point, we agree.  I don't see BG checks as "gun control."  I see them as "criminal control," since the prohibited list is mostly convicted felons, who are already barred from gun possession by law, as well as those adjudicated as dangerously mentally ill.  This is the one SANE, rational proposal, and even the NRA supported it until legislators began including other B.S. in the bills aimed at "improvement."  (Most are not.)  In any case, this facilitates allowing innocent citizens access to firearms while performing "due diligence" to keep them out of the hands of bad guys.

5. Extensive and mandatory training in the safe use and storage of weapons

Again, as an instructor, I'm leaning toward agreement.  BUT... I'd stop at making it "mandatory."  The vast majority of legal gun owners DO take training, or at least receive informal education via family members, etc.  Guns, their safe use and storage are all very simple things.  I can teach you everything you need to know about it in roughly 45 minutes.  From that point, it's a bit like driving; making certain things habitual, to the point where it becomes "automatic," is the key to true proficiency and safety.  This requires REGULAR practice -- lots of trips to the range, lots of "dry fire" practice, lots of gun disassembly, cleaning and reassembly.

We already have plenty of laws on the books that hold gun owners RESPONSIBLE for any breach of these things.  Most gun buyers/owners are smart enough to know they do NOT want to violate those laws and go to jail, let alone placing any family members or other loved ones in jeopardy.  And, statistically, we do pretty well.  But I agree; we could do more.  So I'm a fan of more training, and perhaps governmental encouragement.  But "mandatory" is feel-good legislation that could kill, because training COSTS, and the poor might be shut out due to such a requirement.  (And they're the ones who often need protection the most!)  Want to have government PSAs, like they used to do for blasting caps, anti-littering campaigns and smoking cessation?  Bravo -- I'm for it!  Want to implement FREE training for new gun owners?  Yay -- great idea!  FORCE them to PAY for expensive classes by government fiat?  Um... no.  Not for a basic Constitutional right.  Remind them of their responsibilities and trust those who have demonstrated the ability to follow the law already that they'll continue to do so.

"One of the greatest threats to national security is their own heavily armed population..."

False, unless you add "criminal" between the last two words..  Again, it's not the number of guns, but the number of armed criminals.

"...dangers associated with widespread gun access and ownership"

False assumption; there is no proof of any dangers of access/ownership and, statistically, compelling evidence against.

One final thing I agree with you on: that we should be working together.  Those of us who understand firearms the best need to recognize the very valid concerns of those who don't, focus on our common goals of safer streets and less violence, and then combine our efforts into EFFECTIVE strategies to curtail ALL violence, whether or not weapons are used.

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