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First bit: Please go read [livejournal.com profile] ladyofastolat's post titled Of the Rings of PowerPoint and the Third Age. Everyone has been to the type of meeting she describes at the beginning.

Second bit and/or bob: As always, I like to commemorate an anniversary on this day. This is the date my father got back from his last tour in Vietnam. He swears he'll get over the jet lag soon. I'm lucky that he's still with us, but after 40 years, I still remember greeting him at the airport with "We just heard that Da Nang fell." His answer was, "Then that's the end." By the end of April, he was right.

Article which prompted everything below is here.



I'll start by saying that I don't have children. However, like most of us, I was a child at one point, and I remember growing up.

When I was 5 I went to kindergarten. The school, Ashlawn, was three or eight blocks away depending upon the route. My mother walked the three block version, which included a short trip through some public greenery on the edge of the playground, for about a week before school was due to begin. The night before the first day of school, she asked me if I wanted her to come with me. I replied that I was a big girl, and I walked to school by myself.

Part of me regrets not having her walk me to school the first day, mostly because she never offered again. But I also remember how proud of myself I was for being "a big girl."

Mom made certain I knew all the smart things: never get in a car with an adult you don't know, never tell anyone where you live (other than a policeman if you're lost), come straight home. I took these to heart. In late October or early November, it began to rain while I was at school. I had my rain coat, boots, and umbrella, so I was prepared, but no one realized how windy it was going to be or how much the temperature would drop. I began to walk home. My umbrella blew inside out as soon as I got out of the trees and the wind felt like it was going right through me. At the first of two street crossings, a woman stopped and asked if I wanted a lift home. She knew my name, but I didn't recognize her -- not for sure -- so I told her that I didn't take rides from strangers. I completed my route home.

The woman, whose name I don't think I ever knew, had called Mom as soon as she got home. Praised her for training me so well, and warned her that I was still over a block away and very cold and wet. Mom says she debated whether to come get me. She didn't. Instead, when I got home, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup were waiting to warm me from the inside out. Mom was never big on praise, but that day I got a lot of it -- especially for turning down the ride.

We moved to London just before first grade. Because the bus stop was on a busy street near a three lane roundabout, Dad walked me to the bus stop every morning and Mom picked me up from it every afternoon. But there were still things I did on my own, ranging from walking two blocks to the pillar box to post letters to deciding what books I wanted to read. (I attribute being able to read at a 10th grade level at age 7 to the fact that neither parent tried to censor my reading.) Third grade, I was in small town America and walked my little sister to kindergarten every morning. We walked to the bus stop in 4th and 1st grades. We walked to and from school -- a mile each way -- from my 5th - 8th grades. We also had a paper route, went to summer camp for 10 weeks every year, and were allowed to go to the movies by ourselves. With my paper route money, I bought theater tickets. I saw the Mormon Tabernacle Choir standing room only when I was 12. I went to see plays, too.

At 15 I went to boarding school. I found out much later that my parents had signed the permission slip for me to smoke. They figured I might try it some time and didn't want me to get in trouble for it. Beyond that, I was shocked when I wasn't allowed to attend an evening movie or go to a restaurant on my own in downtown Richmond. I found a friend who was willing to see the Olivier Wuthering Heights with me, fortunately, and I had to fight to be allowed to attend the Nutcracker on my own at the Richmond Mosque (theater name, not religious establishment).

In Belgium, at 17, I discovered the Musee du Cinema. I saw Il Trovatore standing room only. Hell, I went to Paris for the day by myself (six hours each way by train which left me about seven hours to explore the city). Not one thing I did there was something I'd done before. But I was trusted to figure out public transportation on my own, trusted to call if I had a problem (pre-cellphone: I think we used tin cans and string back in the Dark ages), and trusted to stick to the schedule I'd discussed.

One of my fellow alumni came up to me at the reunion I attended and said, "I didn't appreciate you enough. You were the only one of us to go out and have adventures." He also thanked me for introducing him to Gilbert & Sullivan which became a lifelong love of his.

The thing that I want to emphasize most out of all this: the crime rate was much, much higher back then. Washington DC was the murder capital of the country when I was going to the theater on my own at age 12. If it was an evening performance, my parents would pick me up afterward, but if it was a matinee, I was trusted to find my way home. I was trusted to buy ingredients for the dinner I was cooking from the time I was 10, even though it involved crossing a major street with no cross walk. That's what I remember most, being trusted. And that's what I worry the kids today aren't getting.
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My dad teaches American government at a community college in Los Angeles. Every semester he takes several topics and uses them for graded class discussions. Part of the process is giving the students a week or two in advance links and/or papers they should look at in order to know more about the topic.

For the first time, in the wake of Newtown, he's including gun control as a topic.

I will over the next couple of weeks ask some of you individually whether you would be willing to post publicly or write up an opinion that could be circulated to these students on some of the topics. Any of you who has a public posting on gun control or one of the related topics I'm going to list below, please let me know so that I can gather the link.

I WILL NOT TRY TO CIRCUMVENT ANYONE'S PRIVACY SETTINGS. If you're not interested in speaking publicly or circulating a paper privately, that's fine by me.

If anyone knows anything about things like extra large magazines or specialty weapons and ammo -- and how they are or aren't regulated in some jurisdictions, that would be great.

I've already given Dad some heads-up links to data about gun ownership versus gun crime world wide and gun crime statistics vis-a-vis jurisdictions with the death penalty.

Extra Topics:

Mental health and how health insurance covers preventive treatment for mental health (can be treated as one topic or linked together)

Videogames: the difference between first person shooters and other types of games.

Waking up

Dec. 16th, 2012 08:48 am
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My first coherent thought this morning was of the presents wrapped and waiting for children who are never going to open them in Newtown.
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On the one hand, there are no words to express the sadness I feel for those who are going through this ordeal. Nothing is adequate, nor can it be.

But.

We need to talk about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We need to do it now. We need to ask the Supreme Court to define "well-regulated militia."

I want to make it clear that I am not opposed to gun ownership. I am not opposed to hunting (although I prefer it to be skilled not just "lay down covering fire and hope it finds a deer."). I am opposed to concealed weapons being legal for anyone other than law enforcement officers. I would like to discuss the regulation of hand guns and assault weapons whether automatic or semi-automatic.

Even better, I would like this conversation to be held among civilized people without one side spouting bumper sticker slogans at the other (and, frankly, both liberals and conservatives are guilty of this particular sin).

I was evacuated from Vietnam at age 3. No one was shooting at me, but I still had to deal with PTSD that occurred years later. These kids should, when they're older, be able to look back and say "at least my trauma provided some good for my future and my country."

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