Real Gun Control Won’t Happen

I have been following the gun control debate after the Sandy Hook shootings with an interest toward how we’ll fail to accomplish much of anything lasting.  Sure, there will be laws passed at all levels of government as well as the inevitable lawsuits.  However, these will not solve the basic problems causing gun violence in the US.

NRA is right; gun aren’t the cause, they are the tools of violence.  However, much of the rest of their rhetoric, such as if we ban guns only criminals will have them, is insipid and lends nothing to the debate.

Gun control advocates are also have some facts on their side.  There is too many guns in the US today.  Though they are short-sighted to think that stricter laws or outright bans will do anything in the near to mid-term.

The problems are societal.  Some are a part of our DNA, which started hundreds of years ago as the Europeans kicked out the Native Americans.  The solutions are difficult culturally but need not be expensive and insurmountable.

  1. Better mental healthcare, especially for young men.  Face it, men are more likely to murder.  It also takes an odd duck to go into a place and kill unarmed people.  One change is to update state and local laws to make it easier for people to get loved ones help.  Also we need religious, social,and charitable help lines for those who see help on their own.
  2. Increase work opportunities for ex-con and those with lower skills and education.  This would not have helped the children Sandy Hook, but at some of the 30,000+ deaths from guns a year could be prevented if people people had something legal to do.
  3. Legalization of drugs, starting with marijuana.  Gang deaths were around 29,400 in 2011.  Legalization of drug would significantly lower gun violence by taking the profit out of the trade.  Who would go to a dealer when you could pick up a pack of joints at Walmart?  Mexico would thank us too.
  4. Less ghettoization.  Most poor live in poor areas clustered together, especially in cities.  Current zoning laws play a heavy roll in this.  Richer areas set zoning laws that stifle affordable housing such as apartments and other high density living to protect their property values.  This puts the poor area with fewer job prospects.  It also makes it harder to interact with other classes to network, a key in finding better paying jobs.
  5. Social change to stigmatize gun hording and survivalist conduct.  The changes in public attitudes did more to decrease the cigarette smoking rate than any $1 a pack tax rise or law banning public smoking.  A concerted effort by family, friends, and society is needed to make it more difficult for the negative activity to take place in society. 

As you can see, most of my ideas are local in nature.  The Federal government can do little to make a difference.  Even if they were to ban all gun sales, it would be decades before we’d see an effect as there is at least 310 million guns is the US today.

Why Reinventing the Internet Is Bad

I wrote this in reaction to the Pantograph article “Researchers mull scrapping Internet staring over.”

The professor leans into the microphone to further emphasize his point. “Yes, while the Bloomington-Normal works, but the current area has some serious deficiencies.”

Upon this statement, a Normalite in the crowd stands up at the comment and asks? “What are the problems with the community?”

“Well for instance, there are bottlenecks on streets when emergency vehicles use them. As you may know, a few seconds of delay crossing busy street can cost lives. In addition, many of our roads wind around or are end in cul-de-sacs, slowing or preventing the good flow of traffic, especially on the east side in the newer subdivisions. This prevents people from getting where they want to go quickly.”

The professor adds, “also we do not know who drives the cars on the road, criminals might steal someone’s car and masquerade as them. So you do never know who really is in that mini-van behind you. Not to mention those pedestrians and cyclists don’t need to identify themselves at all. The problem is that early settlers did not anticipate these changes in travel. In the past everyone knew each other in the town and relied on horse and foot travel to move people and goods around the city. Now we have automobiles, motorcycles, bikes, and even airplanes. Much of the infrastructure for these modes of travel was put in place ad-hoc as the need arose. Just look at where the airport is, it prevent growth on that side of Bloomington,” the scientist scrunched up his nose in disgust.

“I installed SimCity 4 and the Sims 3 on this laptop. My plan to create a side-by-side Bloomington-Normal and my team will work out the kinks in the current system. This new system will be more flexible, faster, and we will be able to track movement of goods and people better. In a few years, we will then overlay this new system and society will benefit as a result.”

Another person rose to ask a question, this time someone from Bloomington. “What if we don’t like it? Can we go back to the way it was?”

“But you WILL like it. After all, the best minds around are banding together for you benefit after all to improve today’s outmoded system.”

The current size of the internet community is ~1.6 billion people who have radically altered the original infrastructure of the internet and “bolted on” a plethora of technologies to what was technology that only the military and scientific community used. Now many decades later, some scientists think that there are problems with how the internet works. True, there are problems. Like any system created by man there where trade-offs; counties can filter the information their citizens see, corporations can deny the free flow of information through threats and lawsuits, and criminals can do business with relative safety. Welcome the real world.

At the base of the article, this new internet the writer talks about seem to undermines democracy since it takes both anonymity and free association to help add to the marketplace of ideas. Both of these will be undermined because all packets are tracked. Also, it seems they want priority routing of packets. This can give rise to a tiered internet since those with money or resources can make sure their packet move around it the quickest. Even with a new system, there is not to say that an new technology that reshapes how people live will fit well.

Humans never reinvent their societies on a whim, so why reinvent the internet? We did not bulldoze cities in Europe once the internal combustion engine was invented. Europeans built around it. What about electric, water treatment, or even cell phones? Do we destroy what society has made in the past just to incorporate new ideas? No, that is wasteful, we INTEGRATE. New ideas and technology came about and we fold them into the rest of our knowledge.

We do not throw away the past, nor should we throw away what the internet has become as it is a part of who we are as a society. Maybe some socialist scientists would like the build a better internet, feeling that they know better than the population at large as to how it should work. Of course, this is all in the guise of protecting ourselves from ourselves by creating something that will magically eliminate spam, porn, and illicit activities.

If the scientist’s idea is great, it will naturally be picked up by the population at large in time. Take texting, in the last five years it became ubiquitous. Many of my friends and colleagues could not understand this, calling it a fad. Now they do it themselves because it has uses apart from calling someone. This technology was bolted on the cell network, but you don’t hear wireless carriers complaining that they need to reinvent their networks to fully integrate it.

The internet should not be reinvented, only improved. It came in to being ad-hoc because of the needs of society, ethnic groups, companies, and governments. We designed a great system, if flawed in places, which allows those who access it virtually all of human knowledge.

Lifecycle of a TV Show

I write this as a guide as homage to the shows I once cared about watching. I have seen so many I admired become irrelevant and pointless. I speak mostly of animation, sci-fi, and comedies as well as certain dramas, but many other show types follow this law. Many of these show never make it past stages one or two. Those that do are special and seemed to be put on a pedestal, closely followed by it cohorts of loyal fans until all worthiness is wrung from the plot.

What isn’t in the scope of this article are reality shows, docudramas, nature and cop shows. These are mostly immune to this law due to the episodic nature of their shows and the fact that they are already garbage, in the case of reality shows.

1. Quaintness
The first few episodes of a show are quaint when you look back after a few seasons, yet somehow we became captivated by it in some way back then. Sometime this is because society changed. Take for example The Simpsons first season, it is hard to imagine that advertisers where pulling ads because of the content.

When watching the show, it is typical for the actors to fee out their rolls. Some shows even have the aura much like a high school play. What makes the show is the uneasy chemistry between the people on camera and in the background, solid writing and plot. Star Trek: The Next Generation comes to mind. Man was was William Riker young in looking before he got a beard!

Newly created great shows have good plots to overcome the newness. However, I often wonder how any show makes it out of this stage, but mos of the greats went through this stage.

2. Trial and error
As the actors start grow accustomed to their roles, writers to start firing up their creative juices as they see the actors fill their roles. Main themes start coming to life with the entire cast adding what works and filtering the flops. Great shows often push the boundaries constantly, coming back to this stage repeatedly. MASH comes to mind. It traverses many levels starting as a comedy and ending as a commentary on conflict.

This stage is where the show gets its identity, where side characters make their first appearance and catch phrases start enter the show’s arsenal. Again the Simpsons is a classic example.

A show goes into this stage about mid-first season and can continue indefinitely to the producers like to change the show around a lot. Most get through this by the start of the second season.

3. All engines go
If a show lasts into season two, it may enter into the golden age. The actors are hitting on all cylinders, comfortable with their characters by now. The writers start filling in the strengths and weaknesses of the characters.

The main story lines themes develop and become engaging. The producers and writers are in the groove, having plotted the show’s direction for the next few seasons. Often the show is at its riskiest, as the audience will let them take risks.

4. The crossroad
After a while, the stories become similar, the actors start to be type cast and the show, while still good becomes bland. This is inevitable fact of all good story lines; the writers have used all their ‘A’ material. The very nature of V makes this an inevitability. Unlike, musicians or book writer, they don’t the luxury of waiting a few years to refine their talents. cannot go Until now, they knew where the direction of the show lies. Now writers struggle with new plot lines. Everyone is faced with a choice, revamp or go into irrelevancy.

The roads are not apparent. As with most human endeavors, it happens gradually. A few people start having problems coming up with new material, and gradually it spreads. When the majority of people working on the show get to this point, it is too late to change, old age has occurred. Occasionally, something does happen to accelerate the decline, such as the loss of a key actor who leaves to pursue a movie career or writer moving onto better opportunities.

This is a crucial moment. People have to change for the show to be a classic. The show needs to move in new directions. Shows change in a number of ways, by getting darker or edgier, by adding or removing characters, changing the writers, or exploring different aspects of the characters.

Once the path has been chosen, the show moves in one of three directions. If they do not change, they grow into old age, if they do change, they could be successful, or are canned if the audience abandons them. Being canned is not bad as old age as like people, it has to takes risks throughout the shows run to continue to be good.

There are many examples of shows changing for the better, but a classic example of changing and failing occurred with the X-Files. From seasons 2-4 they enjoyed a golden age, the with a sudden change of direction with the movie, the story line fell apart. They gave away too much of the plot with the spaceship. The stories after were hokey with the death stroke being when David Duchovny left.

5.Old age
This is where to show starts to suffer, trapped by it own success. Plots is rehashed, characters are so type case that even the actors cannot use their skill to change. The same old tired dialog are dredged up. If the show is still popular, it goes into a slow, inevitable decline. Some loyal viewers will start watching the reruns and tune out on the new shows. By the time a show gets to this stage, there are slim hopes for its revival.

The problem could be contributed to complacency or even cynicism to think that people will tune in to watch do to familiarity. This is a catch 22 since those with varied tastes have left, arguably the very same people who advertisers want to woo. This is not to say the particular episodes cannot be good, but for the most part, the fall into mediocrity is complete.

6.Cashing in the life policy
When hope is lost, the show implodes, but fails to die. The creators turn to the tried a true; cashing in on its former popularity. Here come the spin-offs, movies, specials or commercials. It has been bland and stale for some time now, but refuses to die because the fan base has grown accustomed to turning in.

The Simpsons is a classic example. All of the originality has been drained from he show long ago. Now they sell their franchise through the use of a movie. This would have been great a few years ago, but now, it will pretty lame.