Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Boy Scouts To Discuss Change Of Policy Towards Gays

Yesterday on Facebook The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) official site released a statement found on their website concerning membership policy which may change their stance towards the LGBT community.

“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families."[1]

    This policy would allow local charters to continue to ban individuals based on their sexual orientation, but also opens it up to allow homosexual teens and adult leaders to enjoy the Scouting program through those charters that do not implement such a policy.  This has come after much pressure from sponsors to change their policy towards sexual orientation and membership.  Most recently Intel, The BSA's largest corporate sponsor, would no longer give donations to any organization that does not adhere with its nondiscrimination policy.  In 2010 they had given over $700,000 to the BSA[1].  Other organizations who have recently stopped donations include UPS, Levi Strauss, and CVS/Pharmacy.[2]

    This policy is similar to the Washington State same sex marriage law which does not require any religious organisation to accommodate same sex marriages, while allowing same sex marriages to be performed and recognized in the State of Washington.[4]

    In the replies to this announcement on Facebook[5] there were many who showed their disapproval of this action.  Among them were some Eagle Scouts, at least one of which declared that he relinquishes all association with the BSA, including his Eagle Scout Rank.  Others ridiculed the BSA for caving in to pressure from society, losing their moral compass, and being of the devil.  Many also cited part of the Scout Oath[6] which says "To keep myself...morally straight." alluding to a need to be heterosexual.  Other opponents of the change exclaimed, in often heated polemics, over the next step of Boy Scouts not needing to have morals at all now, and that more pedophiles would easily enter the organization.

    Many others replied with rave acclamation of this near reversal of policy, claiming that it was about time that they stopped discriminating, also citing the Scout Oath "To help other people at all times" and that "To keep [oneself]...morally straight" means to not discriminate or be intolerant of others.  There are those that will now consider joining and supporting the BSA and having their children also attend.   But not to be one upped on the name calling and jeering, there were plenty of supporters shouting out the word "bigots".

    There are also those that point out the BSA had problems with pedophiles while the anti-gay policy was in place and that being gay does not equate to being a pedophile.  Also, the BSA is not a "Christian" organization, but a religious one; that although God is an intricate part of their organization, no definition of God is made.  One person also pointed out that to be morally straight is explained in the Scout Handbook with no mention of sexual orientation, but rather "To be a person of strong character, your relationships with others should be honest and open. You should respect and defend the rights of all people."[7]

Sources:
[1] http://www.scouting.org/MembershipPolicy.aspx
[2] http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/09/21/891721/intel-clarifies-that-no-donations-will-be-made-to-any-boy-scouts-troop-that-discriminates/?mobile=nc
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America_membership_controversies#Loss_of_support
[4] http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/initiatives/referendum.aspx?y=2012
[5] https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boy-Scouts-of-America/113441755297?fref=ts
[6] http://www.scouting.org/sitecore/content/scoutparents/scouting%20basics/what%20scouting%20is/scout%20oath%20and%20law.aspx
[7] http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsoath.asp

Friday, January 18, 2013

How To Speed Read

There is a good chance that you have heard about speed reading before.  A lot of knee jerk reactions to hearing about speed reading is skepticism.  It sounds too good to be true, therefore it is not true.  This conventional wisdom may generally hold water, but in the case of speed reading I find that applying these principles can lead to much improved reading speeds and comprehension.

    As with all things there are those who try to scam people with miraculous abilities to literally flip through pages of a book and claim to have read the entire thing.  You can search YouTube for multiple videos of this very thing happening, they call it Photo Reading.  There was a study done by NASA[1] that has shown that comprehension and reading times were worse with Photo Reading than with standard reading methods.

    One of the last things that we were taught about reading in school was to subvocalize so that we wouldn't have a class full of students reading out loud.  We then spent the next twelve years and onto college with this idea of reading in our head as a good thing, nothing else was ever taught to us.

    Through my own multiple years of study on this topic I can say that there are great benefits to studying the principles outlined in most speed reading books.  We shouldn't think of these are some supernatural or superhuman ability, but are actually just good study methods.

    Here are the basic steps to learning how to speed read:

  1. Know your purpose in reading
  2. Prepare yourself and your environment
  3. Preview the material
  4. Stop subvocalizing
  5. Limit eye movement
  6. Mind map

Know Your Purpose In Reading

    Each of these steps is very important, and it is hard to say which one is more important than any other, but if you don't know this it will be hard to learn anything.  There doesn't need to be any transcendent purpose of finding oneself to qualify for reading, but you should at least know if this is just for pleasure, for learning, or some other purpose.

    You'll find that you may use different techniques for different purposes.  For reading a poem may be rather enjoyable to read out loud, listen to the rhyme and rhythm   There may be a favorite speech in a novel that would be a shame to speed read through and you might subvocalize at that point before continuing on.  Reading a mailing list you have at work may require you to just skim over the text and see which ones are pertinent to read more thoroughly.

Prepare Yourself and Your Environment

    The state of mind you are in will greatly effect your ability to read and retain information.  If you are in a place where you just can't concentrate, listening to your favorite sing-a-long song or are easily distracted by other peoples conversations or television it may be too obvious for me to point out that it is greatly detrimental to your attention and retention.

    It is also best to set aside an appropriate amount of time to read and think about the material.  Sneaking in a minute here and there may get you through a book eventually, but now imagine doing the same thing with a movie.  Wouldn't quite work would it?  If all you can manage from your day is a sporadic minute or two to read then speed reading isn't for you.

Preview Your Material

    This next principle also depends on the type of material that you are going to read.  If you are like me when reading a novel, there's nothing like the first time; the element of surprise and the unknown, does the character make it through the book?  Will he complete his quest?  You may not need to preview any material for this task.  Textbooks or reference manuals do require some previewing.

    It is best to not overdo yourself in the preview.  If you are only going to be reading one chapter from your textbook then don't bother starting with the table of contents for the entire book.  That may have been necessary to find the chapter that you need, and it may be good to know the context and have a good idea of what is in the entire book, but it most likely won't be necessary for reading that chapter.  That is, unless they also helpfully break down the individual sections or subsections for you.

    The object is to have a general idea of what you are reading, and then to slowly narrow the focus.  One strategy may be to read the cover and introduction to the book.  Glance through the titles of each chapter so you understand the context of the book and where this chapter is.  It can give you insights as to where certain information may be and what the author may assume you already know.  For the chapter you are going to read, first preview the section or subsection titles, these will usually be in a larger font or bold.  Once you have done this you have previewed the material and prepared yourself to actually begin reading.

Stop Subvocalizing

    Outlined in most material on this topic you will see first and foremost that we are taught to not do exactly what we were taught to do in school, subvocalize.  This doesn't mean we should be reading out loud either, but rather to simply "look" at the words and soak them in.  If we think about all the signs and symbols we see each day, we don't stop to vocalize each symbol, or to think in our heads of a word that it represents; we simply know what it means.

    I have seen this, actually, in how a lot of Chinese readers graduate to this naturally due to the complexity of their written language.  Since each character represents a fairly specific meaning, or general idea, you don't even need to know how to say the character to understand it.  There were often times while I was in Taiwan when I would ask somebody what this or that character is and they could explain what it meant but couldn't pronounce it.

    This step is probably the biggest bottle neck to learning to speed read.  I have tried about half a dozen times to speed read and this has always been where I failed the most.  We are so trained to subvocalize that we don't even think about it, that is just what reading is to us.

Limit Eye Movement

    Along with subvocalization there is a habit that we don't even know we have and don't know that it's not good.  Do you ever feel really tired after reading for a while?  Does reading seem like it makes you fall asleep almost right away?  What most likely is happening is that you are wearing yourself out by moving your eyes too much.  Most people when they read will look at each word on the page individually.  This means that for every line of text that you read your eyes will make anywhere from five to twenty or more stops along the way before going back to the left side of the page.

    If you get tired of practicing to not subvocalize everything you can work on limiting your eye movement.  Newspaper, bibles, and readers digest are great material to practice with because the columns are so narrow you should be able to focus on the middle of the column and just move down without having to move your eyes left or right.  If you aren't great at not subvocalizing it may be best to practice these separately to avoid frustration.

    Some people use a guide, such as a pencil or finger, to show them where their eyes should be.  This can work well for thin columns, but when you get to novels you'll notice that it gets a bit harder with the wider lines.  You can still limit your movements but you may have to divide the page into sections that are narrow enough to not move your eyes and wide enough to limit your eye movement.  You can use a guide also for this part.  An index card that has part of the center cut out may prove useful in pointing to two parts of the text.  You could also use two fingers to the same effect.

    The danger to using guides is not just relying upon them, but that they also can needlessly limit your view of the text.  This becomes more important as your reading speed increases.  It also makes it harder to turn to the next page and breaks your concentration on the material at hand.

    A more advanced form will be to focus on the middle of three lines and be able to read all three lines.  This may possibly be able to grow overtime to more more lines.  Theoretically you may be able to make only two eye movements per page, or four per page turn, on a standard paperback novel.

    Another custom that needs to be done away with is that of back tracking.  For the most part if you think you missed something it will probably be covered again shortly afterwords or could be understood from context.  Back tracking causes you to read text multiple times, thus slowing down your progress.  An important concept to remember is that while speed reading it will take you half the time or less to read through the material once, which means that you have enough time to read through it a second time in the amount of time it takes most people to read once.  This is the true genius of speed reading.  Don't worry too much about missed pieces, keep trudging forwards and know that you'll have time to come back and read it again if need me.

Mind Mapping

    Like an arch that has a keystone and other stones supporting it, without one of the minor pieces it may still stand, however horridly, but if it is missing the keystone it will all come crumbling down; the same is with speed reading.  The keystone of speed reading is the mind map that we make afterwards.  We need time still to digest the information while it is fresh in our heads.  It is commonly said, although I can't find any study on it currently, that we need to hear or think about something three times within about 24 hours in order to remember it.  This is why epiphanies or spiritual experiences can have such a lasting impression, we constantly think about them.  Once you get done reading it is critical that we perform ponder and think about what we have just read.  It will be hard to remember everything, especially the first time in trying to do this; practice will help us to solidify this skill.  In a study I did find on memory[2] it is stated that it can take us up to 40 times of performing a task for it to become automatic.

    Once we have created a mind map we can then read through the material a second time.  If you bothered to time yourself each time you should notice that the second time your reading speed has improved.  This is due to familiarity with the material which will be very noticeable while reading novels for the second time.

Conclusion

    Speed reading isn't a magic bullet, it isn't even really magic at all; it is basically reasserting good study habits.  It can alleviate the seemingly onerous task of reading and make it enjoyable.  I find that I read more, and enjoy doing so, after practicing these habits.


Sources:
[1] NASA Study on Photo Reading By Old Dominion University(PDF)
[2] http://sc-boces.org/english/IMC/Focus/Memory_strategies2.pdf(PDF)

Recommended reading:

Speed Reading: How to Double (or Triple) Your Reading Speed in Just 1 Hour!



Thursday, January 17, 2013

President Obama's Gun Control Executive Actions

In the wake of the one month anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings President Obama has taken 23 executive actions.  There has been much confusion over what these mean for all American's.  Before a discussion of this sort can take place we must first understand some of the verbiage used in his statements and what he did do and didn't do.

    First off we need to understand that Obama did not give any Executive Orders, which have been a large point of public controversy in the past few presidential terms, including some from former President George W. Bush; the alarming rate of which has only gone up as Congress continues to be in gridlock with the currently sitting president.  Executive Orders are considered to have the force of law.

    The next term to understand is a Presidential Memorandum. The Wikipedia article on Presidential Memorandums can help explain a lot, but for those of you who don't like to follow links I will summarize it here.  These are basically letters written to others in the Executive Branch of the government clarifying how to uphold current laws.  We'll notice that there are three Presidential Memorandums (executive actions 1, 9, and 14)  being given to force federal agencies to share information, trace guns, and to have the Centers for Disease Control(CDC) begin research again.

    Another set are actions that he is committing himself to instruct other agencies, or clarify how they are supposed to interpret certain laws; such as the statement "Release a letter", used multiple times, in order to clarify laws that have already been passed.  These clarifications do not have the force of law that an Executive Order has, but will guide agencies and health providers in setting their own internal policies.  These are used in executive actions 6, 17, and 20.  Although executive action 16 doesn't use the verbiage to release or publish a letter, it does say to clarify part of the Affordable Care Act.

    His next step is to direct the Attorney General, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and DOJ in reviewing laws, safety standards and research into new technology ( executive actions 4, 8, 10, and 15 )  After which he also commits to developing his own plans to get these done through incentives, proposed laws, regulations, and nominating an ATF director (executive actions 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23).

    No where in here has he ordered guns to be confiscated, a return of the assault rifle ban, or limit on magazine capacity.  Those items he has left to Congress to do, but has strongly called for them to take action in that direction.  A point of confusion may come from New York recently passing an assault rifle ban and a strict limit on magazine capacity.

    These executive actions are not all docile, formal acts to just please his supporters or the gun-control lobbyists.  As has been noted in various articles concerning the New York gun-control measures, that were passed in near back-door secret, there is concern of people not going for mental health evaluations or treatment, or afraid to mention anything to their doctors due to the possibility of getting labeled mental ill and having their rights stripped from them.  I would like to draw special attention to executive action 16 in which he clarifies that doctors are not prohibited from asking about guns in the home.  Then in executive action 17 he again clarifies to them that there is no law prohibiting them from reporting threats of violence to law-enforcement.  Will there be a connection made between the two that makes the mere mention of guns in the home a reason to report to law-enforcement?  Would this later be done by executive action or Executive Order?  How many people will not seek medical attention that is needed due to these actions?

Sources: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/01/16/list-obamas-23-executive-actions-on-gun-violence/
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/01/16/remarks-president-and-vice-president-gun-violence

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Year's Resolution 2013

This year I have begun again as countless others around the world surely have, by setting some new year's resolutions to improve our lives and hopefully the lives of those around us.  As often times I find myself trying to do too much with the little time that we have on this mortal plane I have come to a decision to limit the goals that I set for this year and to make them levelheaded, sensible and pragmatic.  Though one may surely shoot for the moon, he quite likely will often end up only hitting the ceiling.  Many of my projects in years past are suitable to be described by a certain Chinese idiom, tiger head snack tail, meaning I start out strong and then fizzle out before the end.

    For this year I have chosen to both push myself in my abilities, but remain focused enough that I will not be overwhelmed.  As a computer programmer, software engineer, and an amateur blog writer most of my goals are set with the computer in mind.  Not least among these is a launch of a site that uses my ability to translate English, however poorly, to Chinese.  This site has not yet officially launched, but perhaps some people may find it through doing a Google search.

    Each week I want to work on a new project and push to get it finished.  Sometimes this may be a piece of a larger project that will take longer amount of time to finish, others my be just scratching an itch that I have.  Some projects may be designing and planting a garden along with planting and harvest schedule.

    Each day I want to write a blog entry to share my thoughts with the world and let the world decide if I am worth listening to.  I will choose topics such as current events, religion, science and politics.  If any reader of this blog has an idea of a topic for me to write about, feel free to email me at lifeblog@ohyonghao.com.

    Ham radio has been an interest to me for a while but I just have not set out to actually get my license.  I resolve this year to prepare each month on learning the math and science behind ham radio and to do my best to get my Extra License.  I have proved in days past that I can easily pass the General License test, but I want to go the extra mile, stretch myself and my understanding and to hold that honor that can only be gained through diligent study and mastery.

    Although this may be fairly cliché, another of my new year's resolutions is to lose weight.  When I got back from serving a mission in Taiwan in 2008 I weighed about 170lbs, now I am pushing 215lbs and maintaining it plus or minus a couple.  This year I have convinced my wife to join me at the gym and three times a week we will do aerobics together and twice a week strength training.  I believe with a second person this will help me to keep my goal to get down to 180 by July or August.

    One goal I have for this year I am not sure if I can obtain it though, that is to start a Freethinker meeting every month.  I enjoy reason and logic, for that is the foundation of the universe.  All the technology that we have today is based upon these two principles.  My profession (a computer programmer) basks in it daily and would be impossible without.  This is one that may simmer on the back burner, but given the opportunity will mature to a roaring boil and a delicate delight.

    Recently I have been left with awe and wonder on how magnificent this world is and the short spasm of life that we have here in mortality.  If we think of the billions of years before that led up to this moment it is not hard to realize the rarity of now.  This time is so unique in the universe, where stars can be seen in our night sky, and man is here upon the Earth.  My biggest push this year is to get out and enjoy life, not just live another year.  Do those things which I have been putting off for months or years, do them right now while I am unencumbered.  This is my New Year's resolution: I resolve this year to enjoy life and to accomplish that which I set out to do.

Feel free to leave your own New Year's Resolutions in the comment section.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hypothesis Vs. Theory

There are some words in our modern lexicon that is out of sync with popular use and proper use, not the least among these are the two terms "hypothesis" and "theory".  To the layman they may be synonymous, with very little difference, but to the scientist there is an astronomical difference.

    In school we all learned of the so-called scientific method, a glamorous term for guess and check.
  1. Ask a question.
  2. Form a hypothesis.  Write down what you think would happen.
  3. Design an experiment to check your hypothesis.
  4. Analyze your results and check them against your hypothesis.
  5. Adjust your hypothesis and start again.
    Hypothesis may be best defined as a theory in its infant state, with unknown possibilities ahead.  By chance we could be correct on our first inferences from experience, but more likely we will have to sift slowly through the grudge left over from a tedious process which produces mostly failures and surmounting disappointment.  But through this long and dreary journey we may turn up an unexpected gem, a grain of truth not known to man before this time that can deepen our understanding of the subject at hand and produce a viable theory.

    A theory is much like an hypothesis in how it sets out expectations that we have.  It is likely a collection of multiple hypothesis that have been vindicated through multiple facets of experiments to show that things work as we now expect them to.  One absolute requirement is the ability to falsify its claim.  It can be used to predict other things that might happen based off this knowledge.  One such example is how Newtonian Physics helped us to predict the orbit of other planets and led us to the discovery of multiple planets, one later to be demoted to the status of a plutoid thanks to the efforts of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Later on Albert Einstein was able to enlarge upon this and excogitate two theories on Special and General Relativity.  Through these theories we were able to predict the curvature of light around the moon during an eclipse, proving that space gets bent by mass, and after over 35 years of preparation scientists were able to devise an experiment to prove his theory with how space is dragged rather than just bent.  With a good theory you can predict outcomes of things to come, or things that you may find in the past, such as with the theory of Evolution.

    There was one memorable time when I was at my friend +Johnathan Bunn's  house and another of our mutual friends was over there discussing with us concerning the matter of how old the Earth is and the theory of evolution.  It was inevitably brought up by our friend that evolution is only a theory and hasn't been proven yet, that is why they call it a theory.  How does one argue against this kind of logic?  He went on to expound his misology by continuing to impress us with his understanding of humans not coming from monkeys or apes and how there are no monkeys giving birth to humans today.  Through great evolutionary biologists, such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, and countless archaeologists and geneticists, we understand that he was correct in his conjecture that we weren't descended from monkey's or apes, but missed that we still have more in common with a chimpanzee.  Just as we now know that Neanderthals are our cousins, not our direct ancestors.

    Religion, at least in America, could be to blame for the lack of understanding and differentiation between these two similar terms.  They like the ambiguity in order to drive their point through broken logic that it is only a theory so it can't be taken seriously.  Before I go into a tirade and historiette, let me refer the reader to other works much more elegant than mine which will be listed at the end of this article, and revert back to our main subject.

    Hopefully now we will be able to disambiguate a hypothesis and a theory.  It may take a bit of consciousness raising before we stop saying "I got a theory..." over things which are better left to hypothesis.  I have a hypothesis, what would happen if some sitcoms or songs used the phrase "I have a hypothesis..."?  I suppose the next generation may do better at understanding scientific theory.


The God Delusion By Richard Dawkins

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything By Chistopher Hitchens


Thursday, January 10, 2013

What Is Wrong With The Current Tax System?

Perhaps I hold but a juvenile view of the US tax system, and as such a small observer in an ever increasingly complicated system thereby lies the chance that my opinion on the subject may be elementary and best laid aside.  My only credentials on this is that I myself, as so many fellow Americans, am a tax payer.  There seems to be little that we may do to avoid taxes, and the crushing weight can be felt as a millstone around the average Americans neck.

    2012 Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, +Gary Johnson, explained so elegantly what was wrong with taxing income, "Whatever we tax we get less of."  That is the logic used behind taxing things such as junk food, alcohol, and cigarettes.

    Taxing income has not always been the status quo, before 1913 and the creation of the Federal Reserve there had only been a couple short lived attempts at an income tax which, much like today, were used to fund wars.  Congress later fell into a snafu over capital gains taxes when the Supreme Court ruled in  Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. that those collected from real estate gains, such as rent, and other forms of dividends would have to be apportioned according to the census.

    With the passing of the 16th amendment to the US constitution Congress now had power to tax individual income and to not apportion it according to population.  It is not coincidence that this taxation also began at the same time that the Federal Reserve was also brought into existence.  With the Federal Reserve the United States now had the ability to print money with little over site  and to accumulate more debt. This is not the most grievous portion which I ascertained and will thus proceed to illustrate below.

    It my be my naive understanding of politics and taxes that has brought me to this understanding, but there is an effulgent problem with how taxes are distributed.  Prior to the 16th amendment these kinds of taxes, such as income tax and capital gains, were required to be distributed according to the most recent census, but this doesn't sit too well for less populous states and makes it an onerous burden to try to appropriate funds to pet projects.  But that still isn't even the issue at which I want to base my argument.

    The issue comes from the usurping of power by the federal government through placing heavy tax burdens on the residents of each state and then appropriating the taxes back to the state on condition of complacency.  The first example is in federal funds for transportation.  Although I can see some of the reasoning behind federal grants for infrastructure of interstates and rail systems, and having the commerce clause in the constitution does give them some authority in this area, but then to tack on top of it additional demands such as requirements for bicycle lanes, light rail transit, or number of lanes and HOV lanes.  This is currently one of the things plaguing Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR residents over the issue of whether or not they will receive federal funding for a new bridge to help alleviate traffic congestion between the two burgeoning metropolitan areas.

    In the never ending game of cat and mouse the inevitable finger pointing, name calling, and blame allocation that beleaguers our educational system is one of the most stark examples of this usurpation.  From catastrophic failure of Bush's "No Child Left Behind" to the harmful ambitions of "Race to the Top" where the federal government bribes states for a return of tax money to the "top performers".
Hopefully what people understand from this article is that the money that they are bribing us with was ours to begin with.  Every state has put money into the federal system and then they have to fight and brawl over who gets a bigger portion back.  This is no more ridiculous than the tactics of school yard bullies taking your favorite toy and demanding you do some embarrassing gag before they will return it to you, quite likely broken or devalued in some way.

    I hope that we could agree some day to keep more of our money and to only give to the federal government that which is needed to do that which is impossible to do ourselves, such as national defense, and stop the bickering and power mongering that goes along with so much pork and all else that is wrong with the current system.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gun Control

Since the recent mass shootings that have happened, with a loose definition of mass, there has been inevitably many articles and blogs verbalizing this issue.  Both sides have weighed in heavily over the need for more gun control or for more guns.  What is to be done in a society where guns are available and people want to kill each other?

    I enjoyed reading +Sam Harris's  viewpoint on this mostly because I agree with almost everything he says.  The truth of the matter is it is impossible for us to eradicate guns from this country, either because of the constitution, or because of the sheer insurmountability of the task.  This is due in part to the number of guns already in the country, the unrealistic task of manning the borders to insure no new guns come in, or the pro 2nd amendment practitioners who would only give up their guns when you pry them from their cold dead hands.

    Another point in Harris's article was concerning the use of a gun as the great equalizer.  Although our Declaration of Independence made such grandiose and altruistic principles in the unforgettable phrase "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,..." the truth of it being idealistic, or at least is qualified by the remainder of the phrase "... that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,..."  Therefore the equality of man is limited to our rights and our liberty.  To the bane of gun control activists this self-evident principle does not extend into the realm of physical fitness or physique, and due to our innate instincts from our evolutionary heritage, and perhaps lack of social upbringing, there are those who would take advantage of others if they know they are stronger.

    Any form of physical combat is unequal when faced with someone who is bigger, stronger or faster than yourself.  This goes doubly for women who generally are naturally smaller, weaker, and slower.  In no way do I mean this to be derogatory towards women, who I greatly respect, and there are those who definitely are not small, weak, or slow, and there are men who are not big, strong, nor fast.  A gun in the hand of someone who knows how to use it can equalize the situation, we no longer need to run in fear of the brute, or submit to the indulgences of a mad man.

    The media though has failed the people yet again in their reporting, or lack thereof.  Before the Sandy Hook shooting there was another that took place and got media attention near where I live.  At the Clackamas Town Center a man by the name of Jacob Tyler Roberts started a short lived shooting rampage before having his gun jam.  He was confronted at that time by another man named Nick Meli who had a concealed handgun, now drawn and pointed at this would be mass murderer.  Jacob, upon recognizing his fate, backed into a stairwell and committed suicide.  A great site that I have recently found does a monthly run up on stories that get reported to them with people successfully using guns in self defense, and this story is included in their December post at the Easy Bake Gun Club.

    I believe in being a responsible gun owner.  Part of that is getting trained, another part is training others.  Although the statistic is often quoted that a gun in a home is more likely to be accidentally shot or to injure or hurt someone in the home I think this is more the fault of the fear of guns rather than their mere presence.  When it comes to sex and alcohol I think that most people would agree that it is best taught in the home by parents on how to be responsible with both rather than to let adolescents roam free and explore, through devastating experiences, the consequences of both.

    Unfortunately too many gun owning parents hide their guns completely and never allow their children to see them or teach them about the consequences of using a firearm.  Instead they are left to the curiosity innate in ever child, especially for the forbidden, and the multimedia which they consume through video games and movies to teach them concerning guns.  A good friend of mine takes a great deal of time in reiterating the rules of gun handling and making sure his children understand what a gun is capable of doing so that they can't claim they didn't know.  This is part of being a responsible gun owner, educating those around you, especially those you live with, about the proper use of firearms.

    In the aftermath of every mass shooting there is always an outcry that something must be done to prevent this sort of event from happening again.  There has not been any realistic suggestions ever put forth on how to avert the determined murderer, who by definition is not law abiding, from obtaining his goal.  Armed security in schools would lesson the impact by decreasing the time it takes for a first responder to be there, but the problem may still occur.  It is at these times that we may ask ourselves "What is to be done?" and come up with nothing but silence.  Let us not be rash in our decision, let us not make criminals out of law abiding citizens, and let us not unarm those who would prevent a more devastating outcome.