The Sound of Summer

Near me, it is fireworks.

Sometime after Memorial Day weekend, the seasonal shops open up for selling fireworks.

It's technically illegal to set off fireworks on days that aren't a holiday (or adjacent to a holiday on the calendar). However, the region has had fireworks in the air most weekends since the end of May.

More recently, it's been many weeknights, too.

This is a significant change, but probably affected when the State normalized the sale of fireworks. Previously, anyone who wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July had to go out of State (or to an Indian Reservation) to purchase fireworks. This had become common enough on the 4th of July that eventually the State legislators figured out a way to make sale of fireworks legal in the State.

Once it became legal to perform such business locally, the locals began purchasing fireworks (and setting them off) on a regular basis in the Summer.


Post Father's Day part 2: music

There's a certain kind of song that can only be found in the world of Country music.

It's the kind of song that is good to hear on Father's Day--a song about the interaction between a father and a son. A song which includes a man praying to God, that he can become a better man and a better example for his son.


Post Father's Day

In honor of Dad, we celebrated Father's Day with a family meal. It was followed by a road trip to visit Grandpa, and greet most of the extended family.

What does Father's Day mean to me?

Dad taught me how to diagnose many kinds of car problems. He acquainted me with ways to use math, before I met the challenge of feeling that math was boring.

He introduced me to electronics and computers; providing the foundation for a career as a professional programmer.

And he read books.

Many evenings, Dad and the family sat together as Dad read books to us. Adventure books, biographies, stories from ancient culture, and intellectual discourse.

For much of my childhood, books were the primary family entertainment of an evening. Television was a sidelight, often only used for a few rented movies.

This Father's Day, I feel a small pang--I have no children of my own. However, I am very glad for the father that I do have, and mostly happy about the path I've taken in life.


Weekend Event: wish I was more than just a musician

It wasn't much.

A fellow musician, a man who leads worship at a small religious group I am part of, asked me to help with something this weekend.

The event was a Tent Revival meeting at a small church in Detroit.


Sad news

The news from South Carolina is not good.

With dark reflection, I note that there's a law against carrying weapons into church in that State. Or at least, a law against holders of Concealed-Carry Licenses doing that.

It's not like anyone would ever need to defend themselves in a church.


Black Markets

Over at Arms and the Law, I see a story about theft.

The objects stolen were firearms (newly-manufactured, most likely in transit to a dealer). The thieves sold the firearms to like-minded criminals.

A couple of the criminals were caught, and confessed.

This kind of story is rare; but it points out several things. Among them, that laws about background checks don't get in the way of criminals who are capable of finding and stealing what they want.

I wonder what the insurance costs were on that shipment, and who the insurer was...


Work Daze

A few questions were raised elsewhere about overtime and employment.

I'm working as a programmer, at a company that takes sales-contracts from the Detroit 3 Auto Manufacturers.

In my field, some co-workers are programmers who work on contract (and are paid an hourly rate, but don't receive most of the benefits of a salaried employee for the Corporation).

Others are direct-employees of the Corporation.

Though we technically have a 40-hour week, there have been times when urgency of deadlines (or the massive number of incomplete tasks) has resulted in employees and contractors working many hours above the typical 40. Contractors get paid time-and-a-half for those hours. Employees sometimes get promises of extra time off, or are told that the extra work may be considered when the Annual Review is done, and the Bonus is computed.

When the sales were growing, there was much talk of hard work and future reward. The company was growing, and was hard pressed in finding new people to do the work. Now, there is talk of trimming and streamlining.

In all that, I've seen some people transition from contractor to employee. I've also seen employees leave, deciding that an offer from a competitor was more attractive than staying under the current pressure.

Overall, there is a sense that some exempt employees are working harder than others. But there isn't (at the moment) a sense that all employees might be called on to work long hours. A year ago, that requirement was possible every month.

I'm not sure whether this particular kind of employment fits well into either box: the salaried/exempt employee, or the contract/hourly employee. But the lawyers, executives, and HR Department have to adjust to employment law. So I have to be one or the other. (Currently, I'm an exempt/salaried employee. I spent three years at a previous company as a contractor, and then spent two years at the current Company as a contractor.)

There's likely some efficiency loss in the interactions between Employee and Contractor. However, there would also be efficiency loss in bringing on Employees who won't be kept around after a year. So Management, and Senior Management, try to find a balance that is efficient. Or at least, less inefficient than any alternative.


Weekend Reading: Life and Death, Burial and Marriage.

Returning to my reading through the life of Abraham, I find the end of days for Sarah, the mother of Isaac.

Abraham mourns, then sets about finding a place for a burial. The transaction seems awkward at first read, but I suspect that the back-and-forth mentions of gifts were part of the way that people negotiated in those times, under those circumstances.

At the end of the negotiation, Abraham buys the field for a princely sum, and lays his wife to rest in the cave.*

The narrative turns next to the wife of Isaac. Abraham calls a high-ranking member of his household staff, and sends him to seek a wife for Isaac, among Abraham's kin of the family of Nahor.

After swearing an oath before the Creator, the servant goes on his mission. Fearing failure, the servant prays to his master's God, and requests a sign. As he prays, Rebekah comes up. The servant asks her for water, and she responds with the sign he'd requested: she offers to water his camels also.

The servant, Rebekah, and her family have a discussion before the evening meal. After a recounting of the sign given by God, and much giving of gifts, Rebekah agrees to go marry Isaac.

After many days of journey, she sees Isaac out in a field, meditating at the end of the day. Rebekah alights to greet Isaac, and they begin married life together.

After the marriage of Isaac, the story spends a few sentences describing the rest of Abraham's life: another wife, a number of children from that wife (who are sent off to the East), and Abrahams' death and burial. The elder son, Ishmael, also has his descendents mentioned in a few sentences.

Ishmael and Isaac bury their father. The life of Abraham, a mighty prophet of God, is at an end.

This story touches again on the theme of Abraham's relationship with God, and how members of Abraham's household interact with God. Abraham makes a promise to his chief servant, and charges him to swears an and take up the task. (The servant is nameless in this narrative. He is apparently not Eliezer of Damascus, who had a similar rank in Abraham's household before Isaac's birth.)

The servant accept the charge, swears the oath, and sets off with camels and helpers. Later, the servant himself prays; and receives an answer.

The special relationship between Abraham and God the Creator, which is the subtext of most of the story, is also available to some of Abraham's servants and helpers.

Few of them receive great promises, but the ones who ask God for help receive a response.


*Local tradition holds that the cave of Macphelah, burial place of Sarah (and later Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah) can still be identified today.

Shortly before the lifetime of Jesus, one of the Herods built a monument over the traditional location of that cave.


Motorcycles and danger

Almost every time a motorcyclist gets in the news, a fatal accident has happened.

Most of the time, the news story about that accident contains details which indicate that the rider in question was not riding safely.

Most recently, a young man and a woman passenger rode out of a retail parking lot at high speed. A State Trooper, observing the speeding motorcycle, gave chase.

By the time the Trooper caught up with the motorcyclist, the motorcycle had crossed paths with a car. The resulting collision was fatal to both the rider and the passenger.

According to the newspaper article, the rider "failed to stop" at a particular side-street. However, from what I can make out, the nearest stop-light is one block east of the named location.

Perhaps the failure-to-stop was while attempting to execute a turn. Or perhaps the motorcyclist failed to stop at the stop-light one block away, and then struck the car. Or perhaps the accident actually occurred at the stop light, not at the named intersection.

It's a sad story. And a reminder to ride carefully.


Power to license and Power to punish

Speaking of New Jersey laws about firearms...

Apparently, a man who legally owned a firearm in New Jersey was carrying the gun in his car in a time and manner that didn't quite fit the narrow confines of the laws of that State.

Steffan Josey-Davis was not a threat to Police when they stopped him (for out-of-date registration), and he was not arrested after he informed them that he had a firearm in his glove-box. However, the firearm was confiscated.

Later, the Police arrested Josey-Davis when he came in to pick up the firearm. Not because he had been engaged in behavior that endangered others, but because he was carrying a firearm in a manner that he was not licensed to do.

Once again, the power to license is the power to punish. Especially if the licensure laws can place heavy penalties on any small infraction.

Would the penalty for driving with expired car-registry been as severe? Both are penalties involving lack of a valid license. And in the typical year, more Americans die in accidental events involving cars than die in homicide-by-gun. Which is more dangerous, the gun or the car?

In this case, the Governor of New Jersey saw fit to pardon Josey-Davis. Which keeps him from a felony record, and doesn't remove him from his desired path into work as a Policeman.

But it is kind of scary that when I cross State lines, I have to double-check the different rules for handling/carrying firearms in different States.


The Power to License

...is the power to deny.

Whether the denial comes in the form of delay, in the form of high costs, or in the form of a big rubber stamp with the word DENIED carved into it.

A few days back, I posted about renewing my Concealed Pistol License. I'm somewhat happy that local and State laws make this process somewhat painless. As long as the Police can't find anything really bad on my record, I can have the permit.

Last Friday, I saw a story about a woman in New Jersey who was killed by an ex-lover.

She had applied for permission to carry a pistol for protection. Under the laws of New Jersey, such licenses are only issued to people who can show that they are threatened. But the license process (which depends partly on non-Local-Police agencies that process fingerprints) can take time.

And the Police didn't fear the repercussions of turning the 30-day wait into a 60-day wait, or a 90-day wait. But Carol Brown did fear those problems.

And she is now dead.

Which is why I'm wary of government-issued permits for that kind of thing. Especially if the permit-to-carry is only "for people who can show a valid threat to their lives", and has a process that can still result in long delays.

If a person can't ask for permission to carry a weapon until they can point to a specific threat against their lives, how will they have time to practice carrying and using the weapon safely?

If a person can't trust the System to provide that permission in a timely manner, how does that system support their right to self-defense?


Weekend Reading: interlude

As an interlude in the tale of Abraham and his family, I remember a different book.

In the middle of the Jewish Scriptures, in the section dedicated to poetry and wisdom, is the tale of a man named Job.

The setting of Job, and the people named there, doesn't belong in the narrative of Abraham and his descendants. However, they may be part of a different branch of Abraham's family tree.

Job has some similarities with Abraham: a wealthy man, a man who communes with God. He has at least one difference: a large family.



As I noted previously, I have long held a Concealed Pistol License.

The new license arrived in the mail this week. Saving me from carrying without a license.

I was very happy to have the new license.

Even though I committed a paperwork-crime by carrying without a license, the danger to others was the same as when I carried with a license.

All of the danger resides in my attitude and behavior, not in the license (or lack thereof).

However, I carried the firearm with the knowledge that misbehavior while carrying a pistol could result in very heavy legal penalties. So my attitude and behavior were modified by the knowledge that my permit is a valuable thing.

Even though most of the value is in its ability to help convince Policeman and Prosecutors that the gun hidden under my shirt isn't an indicator of evil intent.



With some pithy humor, Glenn Reynolds notes a new, extremely-small, data storage device.

Heck, I can remember wondering if MS-Word documents would still fit on a 3.5-inch disc. Which maxed out at 1.44 MB.

And I can remember doing a swap-this-disc-now install of MS Windows from a stack of 3.5-inch discs.


Weather and Wheels

The weather has been hit-and-miss for motorcycle riding since the repairs were finished. I've only ridden the machine a few times. In the past month, I've had many days where riding was possible, but the potential for rain was too high for comfort.

This past weekend had half a day of good riding, and a cold front that brought in nearly 24 hours of rainfall.

When thinking about riding, I first want to blame the weather. However, a few other factors seem to have reduced riding.

My schedule now includes several days of the week when I have to have a car, to handle some task at the end of the day.

When I drive, I find that I enjoying my current car (with a manual transmission) much more than I used to enjoy the Jeep I formerly owned.

This, plus the weather, means that I've ridden very few times this year.

My records indicate that in 2010, I rode the motorcycle often enough in March and April to purchase five tanks of gasoline. However, in 2011, there was no riding (and no fuel purchased) until May. Two tanks of fuel were bought in May.

In 2012, I didn't ride until May. That year, I bought three tanks of fuel in May. However, 2013 saw a beginning of riding in April, and four tanks of fuel purchased in April and May.

The year 2014 saw two tanks of fuel purchased in April and May.

This year, I have exactly one tank of fuel purchased in May.

Belated Weekend Reading: Horror and Salvation

The schedule for weekend readings has been interrupted several times. As I re-visit the series, I notice that the story had just seen the birth of a promised son for Abraham.