Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guns Don't Kill Gun-Control, People Kill Gun-Control

Gun-control is right on target!
When a person buys a gun, they usually have a purpose in mind.  I'm not a gun owner myself, but it would seem that most most people buy a gun either for self-defense or as a hobby (data about guns in the US).  In today's culture, these motivations are judged as reasonable. On the other hand, buying a gun in order to kill a whole bunch of children is judged as unreasonable. I think that there are ways to help ensure that guns are used for those reasonable purposes, and nothing else.

Aloha Style - A Licensing System

No guns? No problem!
No matter if one wants to buy the gun for protection or for recreation, one needs to know how to handle it safely.  Furthermore, the gun itself needs to be kept in good working condition to avoid unexpected hazards. This can be easily achieved using a licensing system, as Hawaii has demonstrated.  Such a system can ensure that all gun owners are educated about and trained to use the types of guns that they want to use (very similar to a driver's license). Furthermore, guns themselves need to be registered, and regularly checked for quality issues.

Fingerprint Safeties

The one and only you.
Ideally, only people who are registered to use a gun should be able to work the trigger.  Although current technology doesn't seem to be able to provide a good solution, fingerprint safes exist, and should be mandated by law.  Anyone who buys a gun should demonstrate that he or she has a registered fingerprint safe at home.   When the technology for fingerprint safeties on guns becomes realistic, it should be mandated instead.

The Future: GPS Restrictions?

Out of this world protection!
It may sound a bit sci-fi, but I don't think that it's too unreasonable to expect GPS technology to continue to improve.  One can imagine that guns acquired for defense purposes can not only be restricted for particular people, but also for particular locations.  A gun bought for home defense should only be able to be used in the home, not in a nearby school.  GPS-restricted guns may be able to provide this in the not-too-distant future.  Of course, this GPS limitation may need to be "released" in target ranges, but I'm sure that if you give a few geeks a little bit of time, a dependable solution would be found.

Towards a Perfect Solution?

No.  I don't think a perfect solution can exist in the foreseeable future.  Even if guns didn't exist at all, people would still be able to kill each other.  But guns makes death all too easy to achieve. If there are ways for society to make it a little harder on murderers, and a little less likely for accidental death to occur, then it would be negligent not to implement them.

A wise person once said: don't let the perfect get in the way of the good.  Incremental changes that bring us to a better society are worth making.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Aliens, Kings, and Trucks

    You're driving to visit some friends, and you have time.  You see a truck up ahead: how do you feel about it?  Is it a threat, one that must be passed as quickly as possible.  Is it an annoyance, one that slows you down on your most-important journey?  Or can it be something else? Something entirely different?

Me, Driving Behind a Truck
Can this truck be, in fact, an opportunity?

A good friend of mine, Adam, stumbled upon a whole new approach to trucks: driving behind them!  Yes, trucks give you an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the road.  An opportunity to drive without worrying about who you pass and who passes you.  An opportunity to drive without people cutting you off or driving up your rear in hope to push you forward a little bit faster.  Trucks don't make abrupt stops, either.

I tried this out over the weekend, and I must admit: it's not easy breaking old habits on the road. I tend to fear the trucks, having thoughts about their tires blowing off or random stuff falling out of them and onto my precious little car.  Or thoughts about the truck's doors suddenly opening and little green men in gray overalls jumping out and using some new magical technology to pull my car into their truck and take off to a far away planet in which the primary source of nutrition is aged cheese.  Alas, one can rest assured that these things rarely happen. And yet, it was hard for me to just sit back and enjoy the ride behind the truck.
Not behind a truck

I felt as if I was doing something wrong.  If only I pass that truck, I could get to wherever the heck I was going that much faster!  And if I have a way to get there faster, shouldn't I be?  Isn't time my most precious possession?  How could I just pass up an opportunity to drive just a little bit faster?

Well, my friends, I did just that.  I passed up this "opportunity" to drive faster, and instead, took on the real opportunity: the opportunity to drive behind a truck.  And I have to tell you, my friends, that for the time that I drove behind that truck I was king.  Not some fake king living in the Dark Ages, but a real king: a king of my time, a king of the road!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's Time for a Secular Religion

Today I had a conversation with a couple of friends about some of the "advantages" that religions, as institutions, pose over the none religious (when it comes to spreading their ideologies).    The main advantages are that they start teaching when people are young and have recurring holidays that people can celebrate.  Also, most religions also have a nice traditions that revolve around great foods!

These are all nice and good things, but unfortunately for the unbelievers, these great "tools" are only at the service of the religious.  I say that it's time to bring these tools to the use of all the secular folks around the world!

Taken from
Just to give you a feel for what I mean, take for instance "Darwin Day".  I know it already exists (, so I'm not claiming to have made it up!!  The problem that I see with the existing Darwin Day is not (entirely) in its content, but in the way it fits with other holidays.  Or more accurately, that it doesn't fit with any others.  It's as if there is a "stand alone" holiday called "Darwin Day" that is not a part of a movement, a "religion" of sorts, that pull together and bind a bunch of well thought-out holidays that serve to inspire and educate the next generation.  That, and there is no obvious cuisine involved!

So here are some of my suggestions on how to improve Darwin Day and make it a part of an ecosystem that is a new secular religion of sorts:

1. Make it personal.  Darwin's ingenuity affected people on a very personal level, and that should be reflected in the celebration.  Darwin demonstrated to me that all life on earth is connected not by a higher power, but by our own.

2. Make it active, on a family's scale.  This holiday can encourage a family to go on a hiking trip to enjoy nature's beauty, visit a zoo to experience the diversity in life, or volunteer at an animal shelter.  On a slight tangent I have to admit that I'm not very fond of some of the zoos that I've seen, but I'm just trying to think up of ideas that may be good for people.

3. Include food!  On Darwin's Day, one could eat a diverse range of fruits and vegetables, and learn how they relate to each other, and to us.

4. It doesn't have to be on Darwin's birthday.  Although his birthday may be the "default" choice, if a more appropriate day is available, a day that enhances the values that this day inspires, then I think that it should be used.  For instance, in the northern atmosphere, February isn't the best time for hikes, so perhaps it should be moved to sometime in the spring.  

As a side-note to choosing a date for a holiday, I think it's important to keep in mind existing popular holidays.  There are advantages (and disadvantages) to placing a holiday on the same date as an existing one.  There is already an atmosphere of celebration that one can tap, and if one doesn't believe in the existing holiday, the child doesn't have to feel "left out".   But I think that it should be done in good taste and in a way that increases the value of the holiday.

5. Consider gifts!  Now, I'm not big on gifts, but most kids seem to be excited by them.  Can you imagine a Christmas or Hanukkah without gifts?  I can, but most people can't.  I think that adding gifts, in appropriate dosages, can increase the connection people have with these holidays.

Now, on to the idea of an ecosystem of holidays, or as some would call it, a religion.

I think there is real value in holidays being connected to one another, as their synergy can greatly increase the value of these celebrations.  Plus, an ecosystem of holidays can provide a wider range of ideals and ideas than any one holiday can, and participants can see how these values interact and connect with each other.

Some other holiday ideas that my friends and I came up with:

Rosa Parks Day - She is an inspiration for the truth in knowing that all people are deeply equal, no matter what they may look like, and for the courage it sometime takes to uphold this truth.
  • Ideas to celebrate: large public celebrations with people from all walks of life, watch a movie that was created by a different culture, learn about how people are connected today, and think of fun ways to increase the connection in the future.
  • Food: pick a random country and find a new recipe for a dish you haven't tried before.  If in a group, each person can bring a dish from a different place!

Mary Wollstonecraft Family Day - A day to celebrate both our immediate and extended human family.  We can recognize our respects and gratitude to all members in our family.  We also recognize the hardships that some members in this family went through (and some go through still) only because of their gender or sexuality.  In our family, everyone is equal, regardless of what they look like, who they're attracted to, what body parts they may or may not have, how long they've traveled the earth, etc. etc. etc....

Some more holidays that my friends thought of include:

Taken from
Tail Day - where kids dress up as various animals in our ancestral history (perhaps can be on the same day as Halloween or Purim.)

The Big Bang Day - celebrating the start of the known universe on January 1st, 13.75 billion years ago!

So what are your thoughts, any ideas for the new Secular Holiday calendar?