Thursday, October 5, 2017

Why I Enjoy Shooting Guns

Someone who has been a dear friend for most of my life asked:
Ok you guys, can you tell me what is the appeal about, say shooting at a gun range? I know I would not like it because loud noises scare me. But I think all the clicking noises associated with guns in the movies, I'd enjoy those. What else is the draw? The skill or thrill of hitting the target? The power? The control over a powerful, deadly machine (like driving a fast car?) The phallic nature of guns? The pre-shooting routines of preparation? The relief you didn't get hurt when you're done, that you
dealt with a deadly weapon and survived? The recoil and possibly resulting soreness or injury? What makes it fun? I'm honestly curious, and I couldn't answer my kid when she asked me.
Good questions, Viv and I'll do my best to answer them. I appreciate the opportunity.

Things I like about shooting guns:
  • The enjoyment of mastering a challenging skill that not everyone can master
  • Knowing that I can protect myself and my family in many circumstances
  • The gun culture - the people - the history
  • Shooting is FUN
Some more detail:

The enjoyment of mastering a challenging skill that not everyone can master

I like to take on challenges that not everyone can do. I love finding a challenge like riding motorcycles, rock climbing, math/computers, reading Shakespeare, driving a car with a manual transmission.

Some of these skills have a macho reputation but they are all skills that *anyone* can apply themselves to and excel at. And there's a huge satisfaction to it. Rock climbing isn't about pulling yourself up by your arms, you mostly use your legs (which puts women on a pretty even footing, especially since they weigh less). There's a huge mental aspect to it, too.

Similarly, shooting isn't about yelling "Yeeha" and jerking the trigger as fast as you can. It's about applying a set of known fundamentals (safety awareness,consistent grip, correct trigger press, breath control (so it's like yoga, just more exciting)). I've seen guys go to the range for the first time, sure that their manliness will make them instant experts and end up looking like a goof. Then a woman goes, works with a coach and is quickly a very good shot.

Shooting is challenging but it's a challenge that gives no advantages to men or young/strong people. People of either sex can enjoy shooting and get better, well into old age. And I know it's significantly less dangerous than the commute to work.

Knowing that I can protect myself and my family in many circumstances

I won't go into this too much. There was a night when I was in Reno at 2 AM with my family and there were a few young creeps outside talking about breaking into a room. They didn't know that I was wide awake behind our door with a .45 loaded with state of the art hollow points.

Fortunately, they left to get more intoxicants and we quickly loaded up the car and bugged out. A Hispanic family across the parking lot had the same idea and we watched out for each other. But since that night, self defense with guns has gone from something theoretical to something I will never, ever give up.

The gun culture - the people - the history

Gun culture in the US is nothing like the stereotype. Many women who are friends of mine are avid shooters. I've gone shooting with Black Folks, Asian folks and gay folks. Fritz and I are in the "straight but not narrow" community and were safety helpers for a local Pink Pistols group around 1999, along with a few other friends (Wendell, Boyd).

You know all the faux controversy about women (shudder) competing with men in sports? In 2017? I wrote another blog post about the fact that the first woman to compete in the NRA National Matches did so in 1906. Women have competed in shooting and been welcomed there ever since. I collect old NRA magazines going back to the 1930s and there are many, many photos of women on shooting teams or being taught to shoot by their families, from the 1930s until now. The NRA celebrates women's success in shooting. Enthusiastically. Name another sport both sexes participate in that does.

The first woman elected to the NRA board of directors was elected around 1950. FDR was an NRA supporter. JFK was an NRA life member.

Getting started as a shooter in New York would have been hard. Everyplace else that I've lived, there has been a friendly, active gun community.

Shooting is FUN

In the end, casually shooting at paper or a tin can is a very enjoyable, relaxing activity.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Seattle Shakespeare Company Takes On Julius Caesar

With 2017 being the year that it is, it was with some trepidation that I went to see Julius Caesar today.  While I love Seattle Shakespeare's work, a number of productions have used productions of the play this year to score ham-fisted political points, in a year following a contentious elections.

I expected more from Seattle Shakespeare....and I got it.



The idea of using this play as a symbolic representation of an elected representative whose power is severely constrained by our 3 branches of government, including a court system, is frankly ludicrous. Further, a big point raised by Shakespeare in the text is that Caesar was a POTENTIAL dictator who was killed out of hand before he had a chance to show whether he would be a dictator...or would not. Further, the rash act of assassinating him ultimately ushered in the dictatorship (the rise of Octavius Caesar and Imperial Rome) he was murdered to avoid. This play amply demonstrates the risks of acting rashly and creating the very awful situation rash people had been trying to avoid.

If anything, the presentation of this play was remarkably even handed. Casual antifa-like characters slaughter a poet who has the misfortune of bearing the same name as one of Caesar's killers, while the short-lived triumvirate of Antony/Octavius/Lepidus casually prick off people to be murdered in a grotesque parody of political compromise. Murder becomes a tedious duty, sort of an ancient Rome as Belfast. There was lots of casual violence and some vague talk of liberty that remained as vague as it too often does today.

I think my favorite parts of this production were the relationships between Brutus and Portia, Brutus and Cassius, Brutus and Caesar. And all these actors were up to the challenge of those roles.

Managing director, John Bradshaw wrote some very well-considered comments for the program of this play. He notes that in 2011, some patrons were freaking out about the casting of male parts for women. Those patrons surely hated last season's brilliant all-female casting of Bring Down the House, which is completely their loss. Thank you John Bradshaw and the rest of the production team for crediting your audience with some intelligence. Politics are very complicated these days, with many seeing last year's presidential election as a rigged battle between two unlikable candidates, both of whom would be invested by their partisans with too much power. As someone utterly contemptuous of both major parties and their shared interest in unfettered power at the expense of the other half of the populace, I am deeply grateful to Seattle Shakespeare for not taking the simple....and wrong....way to a simple narrative.

Next month, I am going to my alma mater back East and will see their production of this play too. I only hope that they also take the high road and not the easy way out.


Cleanup during the intermission. Not as intensive as the Titus Andronicus cleanup.

Production Team

George Mount (Director)
Craig Wollam (scenic design)
Doris Black (costume design)
Roberta Russell (lighting design)
Erik Siegling and Robertson Witmer (sound design)
MJ Sieber (video and projections design)
Peter Dylan O’Connor (fight choreographer).

Cast

Allan Armstrong (Trebonius/Rioter)
Annie Yim (Marullus/Cinna/Rioter)
Arlando Smith (Decius/Rioter)
Bradford Farwell (Cassius)
Brian Simmons (Metellus/Rioter)
Bridget McKevitt (Cicero/Antony Servant/Citizen)
Chantal DeGroat (Casca)
David Rock (Lepidus/Popilius/Octavius Servant)
Dylan Zucati (Lucius/Citizen)
Jaime Riggs (Flavius/Artimedorus/Cinna the Poet)
Lorenzo Roberts (Marc Antony)
Macall Gordon (Calpurnia/Pindarus)
Peter Crook (Julius Caesar)
Reginald Andre Jackson (Brutus)
Sunam Ellis (Portia/Citizen)
Tyler Trerise (Soothsayer/Octavius).

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Snohomish Pictures

Yeah, balloon flights over the town are a thing in Summer.


Neighborhoods




Downtown area...right beside a river





The following two pictures are ones that I took. 5 minutes out of town.



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Near Summer Night's Dream

When you go to a Seattle Shakespeare play, you can always expect that you'll see an excellent production that takes a unique look at a Shakespeare play. They are currently pulling out all the stops with their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, produced this time as a cross between the Bard and a 1940ish musical production.

It's pitch perfect. The Shakespearean text and context are there but the musical numbers are snappy and the actors also nail the personality types from that era: the big city jaded look is hilarious when it's projected onto Titania and her fairies when they are catering to the whims of bottom.

Everyone in this play is fantastic and very accomplished but I just have to call out a few
favorites:

George Mount as Theseus - I've enjoyed his work ever since I first saw him as Richard II a few years ago.

Terence Kelley, Vanessa Miller and John David Scott were terrific respectively as Oberon, Titania and Puck.

Keiko Green - this lady is a performer to watch. She has terrific comedic timing and is an excellent
Shakespearean performer. My wife and I were also commenting that this year must have been a LOT of hard work for her, as she rehearsed/performed in Upstart Crow's Bring Down The House as the warrior lord Buckingham and then went to rehearsal in a Shakespearean musical/comedy.

MJ Sieber - he has played both a fantastic Bottom (One of my favorite characters in the show) and
Autolycus in The Winter's Tale, this year.

I recommend getting out to see this production highly! You *will* have fun!

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Shanna Allman (Flute)
Maddie Brantz (Fairy)
Mallory Cooney King (Hermia)
Steven Davis (Starveling)
Sarah Dennis (Fairy)
Bob Downing (Snout)
Brandon Felker (Egeus/Quince)
Keiko Green (Helena)
Devyn Grendell (Fairy)
Terence Kelley (Oberon)
Vanessa Miller (Titania)
George Mount (Theseus)
Crystal Dawn Munkers (Hippolyta)
Casey Raiha (Lysander)
John David Scott (Puck)
ZoƩ Tziotis Shields (Fairy)
MJ Sieber (Bottom)
Adam St. John (Demetrius)
Marco Voli (Snug)

Production Team

George Mount (Director)
Crystal Dawn Munkers (Choreographer)
Nir Sadovnik (Composer)
Craig Wollam (Set Designer)
Doris Black (Costume Designer)
Roberta Russell (Lighting Designer)
Robin Macartney (Props Designer)
Terry Gray (Sound Consultant)
Dayton Allemann (Music Director)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A new direction for this Geek Blog

In my previous post about home database programming projects I have been working on, I alluded to the fact that I am on a "temporary work hiatus" right now. Translation: I was laid off in the course of my previous employer's reduction in force and am busily searching for a job.

Obviously there are some stresses from not having much of a positive cash flow. However, I am endeavoring to use every moment of my time as constructively as possible:
  • Searching for at least a few jobs to apply for a day (more now that a friend referred me internally in Microsoft and I have the assistance of one of their recruiters for a few weeks)
  • Spending a few hours/day playing catch-up on some of the newer technologies
  • Exercising (running, walking the dogs, using the stationary bike in the evening)
  • Rebooting my eating habits: it's far too easy to go into grazing mode under time pressure
  • Reading books I haven't had time to read, in the evening
This still leaves me with enough free time that I have decided to use in rebooting another activity I've always wanted to do: write on a regular basis. Therefore, I will be taking this previously unfocused geek blog and begin adding consistent entries about the state of the tech industry from the point of view of someone who has been a developer for a for quite a while. If this results in enough material (especially if it develops some readership) I may spin it off into a completely separate blog.

Looking back over previous entries dating back to 2010, this current geek blog has been a bit of a catchall:
  • Musings about how the hot computer which launched my development career is now an exhibit at the University of Washington and how much more powerful my Android phone was.
  • Comments about home computer projects, from encryption applications to database tools that I used daily at work
  • Shakespeare and other literary geekery, including tattoos, cool old books and word frequency counts in Shakespeare plays
  • Miscellaneous topics such as work Fitbit challenges and pictures from a trip to England and Wales
But since the topic of what the computer industry is like right now is especially compelling to me personally now, that will be a new consistent focus. I hope that others will find my commentary interesting.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Home programming projects: data browser and differences finder

During this temporary work hiatus, I am spending some time working on enhancing a couple of my "Winter break" projects. These are projects that I worked on for fun during past Winter breaks from work and which have been useful in my day-to-day work.

1) A database "browser", where you search for a record and can then browse forward and backward in the database by following foreign key entries.

2) A database difference finder which allows you to take a snapshot of a database's schema and latest record info and then compare to other such snapshots

The Database Browser

The purpose here is to give a quick and handy browsing ability. This means that you select a record somewhere in the database (schema info loaded when server and database selected) and can then browse back to records in other tables that have a key in that record...and forward to records containing the "current" records key.


Most windows have "Show SQL" buttons that show you the SQL used to generate those records.


The "Get Field Info or SQL Join" button takes you to a popup which serves two functions.

1) It can search for tables, stored procs and triggers that contain a string you want to locate


2) It can generate a basic SQL join between two tables that you name


Database difference finder

The purpose of this program is to find differences between snapshots of two databases or the same database after a change has been made (structural or in terms of saved data).

Here, I am showing the differences detected when a tables has had a column added between two snapshots.


In this case, I am showing the differences resulting when a database row has been added, deleted or changed (based on timestamp differences).