Thinking, Learning & Activities – September 23, 2020

No grammar update here since my last post was a big grammar-only post.

πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€πŸ’» Activities


I watched some more tutorial vids and read some of the documentation for docassemble. I also found more resources (1, 2, 3) that have relevant videos and tutorials, so that’s cool. πŸ™‚


I made a big french bread loaf in my cheap-yet-effective breadmaker. Happy with how it came out. I do wish the loaves were more rectangular and less square. There are fancier breadmakers that do more rectangular loaves but they cost way more.

I discovered that I was cutting into my bread too early and that that can harm the texture. You’re supposed to let it cool for a while before slicing it. The amount of time people recommend varies a lot but on the lower end I saw stuff that said you should let it cool for 20-45 minutes.

Meditation book

I started listening to Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. Seems okay so far.

πŸ€”πŸ’¬ Thoughts

I enjoy baking and overall it goes well for me. I came across some comment on the internet which I can’t find again now, but someone said something like “baking used to go badly for me, but then I started measuring things more precisely and that works way better.” And my thought in response to that was something like “what the heck were you doing before?!”

When I was losing a bunch of weight years ago, I measured my food very carefully using kitchen scales and other methods. So I got in the habit of being very precise about that sort of thing. So that habit carried over when I started trying to bake, so overall things went well. I still had problems but they were related to issues like e.g. not knowing about yeast’s propensity to die. So I still had errors to address but the number of errors was limited due to some relevant pre-existing skills.

πŸ€” πŸ’¬ Thinking About Problems

Problem: How to Handle These Posts

I have a template file for these posts and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I was feeling like I had to say something about every section each time. I now think that’s silly. I can treat these subsections as a menu of things I can try to say/do something about, instead of treating them as mandatory writing each time.

🧠 🌩 Brainstorming: Why Do People Favor Gun Control?

Lots of people favor gun control. I disagree with that perspective and think people should be able to have lots of guns. What sort of reasons do people have for favoring gun control, and what sort of things do they assume in holding their pro-gun-control positions (as in, what are their premises)? I’ll try to make a list just from my own current mental contents, without referring to the internet, and I’ll try to be as objective as possible. There is a U.S. focus here since I’m not really familiar with the international gun control debate.

To be clear, this is a list of stuff I disagree with. This is an exercise in trying to be more objective.

Pro-gun control people often believe stuff like:
– Gun control would save lives.
– Other countries use gun control successfully, so there are other examples in the world of the policy working.
– The U.S. has a unique problem with mass shootings.
– There are many instances in which guns are used ineffectively for self-defense purposes (e.g. criminal takes your gun and uses it against you).
– The police are an effective and sufficient form of defensive force for citizens.
– There isn’t anything immoral with the government trying to reduce the force/firepower citizens have at their disposal.
– Gun control could be effectively accomplished by the government, and the reason it is ineffective in the current U.S. is stuff like 1) laws aren’t stringent enough 2) lack of unified national policy (so guns can come in from other states).
– There is no legitimate reason to have some guns like “assault rifles”.
– Wide access to guns may have made more sense way back in the day but we’re in modern times, not the Wild West, so people don’t need to be carrying around guns everywhere.
– A single criminal person with a semi-automatic rifle can cause such death and harm that that outweighs any benefits there might be to letting the law-abiding people have such weapons.
– The Second Amendment was ratified in the era of muskets, not AR-15s, so it’s not very relevant for considering modern problems.
– The Second Amendment is about state militias anyways (i.e. the state National Guard), not individual people.

Self-Dialogue: Arguing For & Against Gun Control

A dialogue with myself about a political issue:

RealJustin: Hi.
GunControlJ: Hi.
RealJustin: So you favor gun control?
GunControlJ: Yes. I’d like to take gradual steps to move to a society in which only agents of the government can have guns.
RealJustin: Why?
GunControlJ: Because it would save lives.
RealJustin: I think gun control takes lives and does harm by disarming potential victims of crimes. The criminals don’t care about violating laws but the law-abiding people do and so they’re left defenseless at the hands of criminals with guns.
GunControlJ: Lots of people don’t even know how to use their guns effectively. E.g. the McCloskeys, who were paraded around at the RNC, clearly didn’t know what the hell they were doing in handling their weapons for “self-defense”, as many commenters on Twitter pointed out. Lots of the people who claim to want to use guns in “self-defense” are basically incompetent and dangerous. That’s why I favor enhanced gun safety training requirements.
RealJustin: OK well there are a few issues there. I agree that there is a competency problem, but I think that’s a bit of a tangent and that what you want isn’t really related to that. It sounds like your overall goal is that you want to move towards getting rid of guns in private hands. You don’t actually want private people who own guns to get more competent, whether through government requirements or by, say, starting a gun safety company yourself. You want to use gun safety as a way to control people who have a different attitude towards guns than you do.

The competency issue is interesting. Like, lots of people are incompetent at lots of things. People start kitchen fires while cooking and accidentally hit the wrong pedal in their car. There can be deadly consequences to these things. You could burn down a building or smash into a store front and kill people. But I don’t hear lots of arguments that people shouldn’t be allowed to cook or drive.
GunControlJ: Well cooking and driving are essential activities but owning deadly weapons isn’t. Also the government does require drivers to get a license.
RealJustin: Defending your life isn’t an essential activity?
GunControlJ: The police can do that and anyways you don’t need military weapons to defend your life from a home intruder.
RealJustin: What about an angry mob?
GunControlJ: Are you making a coded reference to BLM? I think they are fighting for justice.
RealJustin: Imagine a mob you particularly didn’t like. Say some Nazis threatening a black man at his home. If there are 20 of the Nazis and one black guy with no gun that’s really bad. If there are 20 Nazis and one black guy with an “assault rifle” then the Nazis might think twice.
GunControlJ: So you’re in favor of black men having high capacity firearms?
RealJustin: I’m in favor of law-abiding citizens having access to effective firearms regardless of race, and I don’t get the memes and joking I’ve seen to the contrary regarding the attitude of right-wing people towards black people having guns.
GunControlJ: It’s just that lots of conservatives seem to blame black people for crime, so…
RealJustin: Conservatives point out that a disproportionate portion of total crime is caused by black criminals when you consider the relatively lower percentage of black people relative to other racial groups. But they recognize that most black people are law-abiding citizens and would be fine with them exercising their right of self-defense. As far as my own view, I think it’s probably disproportionately black and other people living in Democrat-run cities where crime is rampant who have the most urgent need for access to firearms, because the police were often straight-jacketed even before BLM and are now getting defunded, and I wish the GOP would run on that angle.
GunControlJ: Interesting.
RealJustin: Let’s switch subtopics a bit and try considering the driving thing. The government has some minimal standards for getting a license. I’m basically okay with that.
GunControlJ: So you’d be open to enhanced safety training requirements for people to own guns?
RealJustin: Not really.
GunControlJ: Why?
RealJustin: For driving, our society basically has the attitude that there is a minimal bar you have to pass and you can drive. It’s not really trying to be super rigorous and teach people, and I don’t think the government would do a very good job at that if it tried – the public schools have way more time to teach people stuff and do a really bad job. So the point of a driver’s license is just have some minimum standard or low bar. And I think the standard exists because people honestly think it’s a good idea to have something like that in place.
With guns, I think a lot of why people want various restrictions and standards is so they can deny people guns. They’re not trying to just have a minimal bar – they’re trying to set up a bar to take guns away. It’s kinda like the literacy testsΒ in the old South – they were about disenfranchising people, not actually ensuring voters were literate. So stating the issue as being about gun safety is actually dishonest. They want disarmament through the back door.
GunControlJ: You seem to be assuming bad faith on the part of people who disagree with you.
RealJustin: Well I see little indication that the other side is actually interested in the problem of gun safety outside the context of using it as an excuse to control people more. They often make super flagrant mistakes in describing guns as well – they don’t seem that interested in guns generally, mostly in control.
GunControlJ: Well, we can’t have anarchy, so we need some control, and people’s lives are at stake, and lots of other countries manage to do gun control okay. We have a problem with mass shootings that other countries don’t.
RealJustin: Mass shootings overwhelmingly happen in “gun-free zones”. The idea that the U.S. has unique problems with mass shootings is heavily disputed and appears to be based on the research of one professor named Adam Lankford who won’t share his data and has been refuted by John Lott.

Broadly, I think that most Americans are pretty decent, and that them having more power to defend themselves is good. And I also don’t think the alternatives are “anarchy” or “control” (meaning government control). I think society works better when people take more responsibility and have more power. Society mostly works not because the government has a few men with sticks going around keeping people in line, but because of the responsibility and initiative of individual people. If more people could effectively defend their life, that would dissuade currently emboldened criminals and improve society.
GunControlJ: By that logic, people should have nuclear weapons, cuz it would make them more powerful in defending themselves.
RealJustin: I don’t think nuclear weapons actually have uses for defending against individual crimes or even a mob attacking your house. It’s hard to hit a mob with a nuke without it affecting your own house or innocent people. So they are different from guns or rifles in that respect. They do have defensive uses in terms of dissuading attacks from say a government, but that’s at more of a national level, not for defending a house or place of business.

Nukes also have unique risks, in that there are bad actors in the world – including whole governments or terrorist organizations with big resources at their disposal – who are interested in getting nuclear weapons to do bad things. So you need to be able to provide adequate safeguards against that. To have enough wealth to do that, you’ve either gotta be super super rich or be a government, I think.
GunControlJ: Okay maybe you’ve established a distinction with nukes but still I don’t think widespread gun ownership is good. I think it would lead to a wild west atmosphere and more violent escalation. Minor disputes outside a bar might turn into a shooting if everyone had guns.
RealJustin: I don’t agree that most people would willingly escalate things to a potentially lethal use of force if guns were more widely available. Most people don’t want to kill other people. They know there are serious consequences to shooting someone and generally act accordingly. The people that act otherwise – that do easily escalate stuff to lethal uses of force – are thugs and often already have a record of violent crime. I’m okay with keeping those people in jail longer.
GunControlJ: Are you in favor of preventing them from owning guns?
RealJustin: I’m kind of mixed on that. Overall I basically think if someone is still seen as a real serious danger, they should probably still be in jail, and if they aren’t a danger anymore, they should get all their rights back. Our system isn’t really set up in quite that way, so I could see some restrictions on gun ownership making sense for ex-cons, especially if they committed a violent crime with a gun in the past or something like that.

ending discussion here for now

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