Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Suit

Had to put on the suit this morning.

Last night, decided to check in on FaceBook and just happened to see an update on a memorial page and backtracked and... yeah. The memorial that was postponed? This morning. So I put on the suit.

2016 has been a year already. We all (if you've spent time in this world) have the list. As we get older, it accelerates. The people we know get older, and the old die, eventually. The list grows.

Ron was a good man. He was the training sergeant when I was hired on. At different times he was my sergeant and my lieutenant and my Chief Deputy. He envisioned and formed the CERT team and I was on that from our first call-out. Of all the administrators, he was the one we trusted. It was a simple question, really-- given the choice between an underling dying and your career, what would you choose? Ron was one of the few that we really felt would sacrifice his career to save a life. I know that sounds simple and obvious, but spend a little time in any government agency and see how rare it is.

Lots of stories, but they belong to us. And they'll be shared between us, when the time is right. NPNBW, brothers.

The service was well done, but my radar wouldn't turn off. I noticed the significant negatives. Who didn't show. What was not said.

I hate funerals. I've been to too many, but that's a stupid thing to say since one would be too many. At the same time, memorials bring us together, people who are usually too busy to get together, to just say "hi" find the incentive when someone dies. And I appreciate reconnecting, but hate the reason.

The suit symbolizes that. I've been fortunate enough to work jobs where suits were a rarity and when a suit would normally be required, there was a Class A uniform. So the suit, to me, mean a funeral.

At least I couldn't smell any lilies.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Farm Boy Workout

One of the things I missed from being raised in ranch country was the work. No running water, we (I) packed it from the creek in five-gallon buckets. Enough for all household use and enough for all the animals that were penned and couldn't get to the creek themselves. The first two years, until dad installed a pump for the garden, that was watered by hand as well. Packing water. And splitting wood. And building and repairing fence. Putting up and repairing outbuildings. Milking cows.

Ranch kids tend to be really strong for their size. It's a side effect of manual labor as a way of life. But not all manual labor. There's a pretty nice whiskey called "Monkey Shoulder" named after the guys who shoveled coal. Lifting and tossing shovelfuls of coal for ten or fourteen hours a day, day in and day out will make you immensely strong-- in one motion. And kinda bind up your body for other motions. Not even talking about repetitive use injuries.

Ranchwork, you might spend a week digging postholes in rocky terrain. Shoveling is good exercise, but using a tamping bar ( six foot long, inch and a half thick steel bar pointed or wedged on one end, flat on the other) is a nice core workout. The next week pulling barbed wire. Summer bucking bales of hay and moving irrigation pipe. Splitting wood all year, but mostly in autumn. Packing water and milking the cows and goats every day.

The work is unpredictable. It was never three sets of ten reps. You bucked as many bales of hay as you had. Sometimes you could choose the pace, but if you saw dark clouds all of the hay had to be in before the rain got to it. You milked until the cows were out of milk. Total muscle failure or cramps in your hands? Tough. Stretch it out and keep going. We had a hard milking cow and at first my hands were going to muscle failure two to four times a session. Twice a day. Every day.

There were no rest days. My friends who work out scientifically insist on the importance of rest days, but cows make milk every day. I think the body adapts to the conditions. Hmmm. Hitting one of the science versus experience paradoxes.

And little of this was working with ergonomically designed tools. Barbed wire is designed to keep cattle in, not to be carried or tensioned by human hands. You have to hold big buckets away from your body to keep your legs from brushing them and spilling it. And, nature of water and gravity, you always carry the empty buckets downhill and the full buckets uphill. Rat bastards. T-posts are ridged and nobby and carrying bundles of them digs into you.

One other thing that distinguishes ranch work. You worked hard at being efficient. Some days you were going to work all day and nothing was going to ease up until dark. So you used your whole body whenever you could instead of isolating. You rested or even just rested a part (like hammering staples with your left for awhile to rest your right arm) whenever you could.

Feeling nostalgic. Our little herd of goats, which is planned to be four permanent with 2-4 kids a year for meat is now at nine and they've denuded the fenced parts of the property. So K and I have spent most of the last two weeks (lots of breaks for other obligations) building fence to give the goats access to another huge stand of blackberries. Days of hacking paths through blackberries with machetes, cleaning the paths up with clippers, raking. Digging post holes and pouring concrete to set them. Pounding t-posts. Manhandling rolls of hopefully goat-proof field fence. Tensioning wire and pounding staples. Last couple of weeks I've been working like I was a kid again. And loving it. But feeling it, too. All the joints make noises of protest in the morning. It's been a good couple of weeks.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Reason as a Discipline

Neil hit a critical point:
"There are so many cognitive biases that I'm pretty convinced humans almost never act based on reason. But then that's what makes us who we are. Why try to be something we're not?"

Neil is right. Again, from ConCom, we spend most of our time in our Monkey Brains. Being fully in the human brain is rare. And it is probably just as much a Dunning-Kruger as anything else-- some of the least rational people I know insist on their rationality. Conversely the most rational people I know are always questioning themselves. In my opinion, the expert is not the one who can tell you what is right and what is wrong. The expert is the one who can argue from any side, explain why he or she believes that one side has more merit and is able to say, "Of course, I could be completely wrong because..."

Also remember that reason is a discipline. It is not an intention or an attitude. Declaring yourself to be reasonable or logical does not make it so.

From my current work-in-progress:
Understanding experimental design and logical fallacies are just two parts of a much greater skill. That skill is critical thinking. Like reading people, it is not binary. It is something that continually improves with practice but will never be perfect.
People are by nature, far more emotional than rational. Rationality is actually a rare and precious skill. Even more, survival, self-defense and the crimes that necessitate them are emotional hot buttons....

One of the biggest hurdles to true critical thinking is that we have a presumption of our own objectivity. We can look at all the people around us making stupid decisions clearly based on ill-informed emotion, and never, ever notice that we do it just as much. To actually be good at critical thinking requires a willingness to doubt yourself. Ideally, an ability to find the joy in error-- you only truly learn when you are wrong. Searching for your own blindspots is a life-long endeavor.

You can never be rational. We all have cognitive biases (See Heuer's Psychology of Intelligence Analysis for the most useful breakdown I've seen.) We all have blindspots. We have experience that shapes are perception and interpretation; ideas of normalcy that will be out of tune with many other points of view; habitual ways we analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions that miss other options.

There is no point at which one can say, "I am rational. I am objective." It is a skill. Something you get better at through dedicated practice. Like the Stoic idea of good, you couldn't get there. You work towards it. That's virtue.

It is really easy to analyze other people's positions, statements and stances and point out the logical fallacies, the facts they choose to ignore, and declare them irrational. It makes one feel superior. It's a trap.

The valuable skill and the discipline is to do the same with yourself. Know the logical fallacies well enough that you catch yourself when you use them. When you catch yourself shunning a source or a point of view, dig down and find the reason. And you have to learn to differentiate between your own excuses, justifications and the real reason. (Hint: justifications and excuses don't predict future choices.)

To reject reason because reason will never be perfect is to cut off your left hand because it will never be as dexterous as your right (see what I did there? Multi-lingual pun.) Or to reject being good because no one is perfectly altruistic. To reject all learning because we never know the universe...

Reason is a tool, and it is a tool that improves with practice. Further, it can sharpen and assess all of your other tools. It can be a check on your own integrity. Never perfect, but it makes things better.

And any time you reject a tool, you reject part of your own agency


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Heart and Ego

Walking out some internal stuff. Friend Steve Barnes put something up on FB:
"If your philosophy of life, politics, or humanity depends upon the average person being inferior to you, or other groups defined by race, religion, or sexual orientation being inferior to yours, it is safe to assume you are addressing reality through your ego rather than your heart."

I glitched on this hard. Not about the idea that there is something wrong with you if you look down on others. There is. The universe is pretty big and you are pretty small and if you need to look down on anyone, it is to stave off the fear that 50% of the universe, at least, is looking down on you.

The part I glitched on was the artificial duality of "ego" and "heart". And the implication that one was good-- heart-- and the other, ego, was bad. The monkey brain in ConCom is a functional definition of the colloquial term ego, so I agree that ego is not a good decision-making base. But also in the book, I point out that when you feel anything-- hate, anger or even surety-- you are physically incapable of making a good decision. There is a reason why doctors are not supposed to operate on their own children. Emotional, passionate people make mistakes. They are frequently wrong. And the power of emotion makes them deny it, even when things go horribly wrong. Then they double-down on the stupid.

Heart or ego? What about reason? Heart and ego are both aspects of the monkey brain. Can we get our human brain into the equation?

"If your philosophy of life, politics, or humanity depends upon the average person being inferior to you, or other groups defined by race, religion, or sexual orientation being inferior to yours, it is safe to assume you are addressing reality through your ego rather than your heart.

Here's the deal. Feeling superior to others makes you feel good. That's the reward for the operant conditioning. BUT feeling good, following your heart... is the exact same thing. Both center on feelings. At first glance, one appears more self-centered than the other but really, not so much. Either option is pure monkey brain, manipulating feelings or tribal dynamics.

A lot of the glitch is in how I see the world acting today. In my mind, heart is "feelings." And I have a very bad reaction when feelings trump facts. Peace protesters who set fires and loot. Freedom activists who block access to speakers they disagree with. It is physically impossible to be for free speech and anti the right of anyone else to speak. It is physically impossible to be for cultural equality and anti genital mutilation.

A philosophy of life, politics and humanity dependent on heart with no leavening of reason? This is where it goes: At the mob level, flipping cars and burning buildings is "free speech".  And simply pointing out the damage they do is to their own communities or that their acts are unlawful is "oppression." At the higher level (and this is Steve's heart + ego) this is Stalin's 30 million or more killed for an ideal. For the common good.

Steve mentioned that pure reason was a trap. I agree. Socialism, communism, fascicsm were all great thought experiments, largely  conducted by the extremely privileged who had no idea how economics or human nature actually worked (hmmm. Maybe not true. The demagogues understood human nature enough to get people to buy in, but either didn't understand or were ignorant of the  Freeloader Problem. Or they simply didn't care as long as they were in charge of defining the "common good.")

But reason, as I define it, is the ability to use your skills to look at the world, to create hypotheses. To test them.

What, instituting socialism didn't create an immediate paradise? Let's kill a million people, that should get things back on track... (Stalin's Great Purge. Look it up.) Whoah and it still failed? Let's try it here. My heart says the ideals should work...

Heart and pure reason are both traps, because they are entirely internal. Until and unless your feelings  and theories are tested in the real world, they're pretty much bullshit. Masturbation for your ego. And right there we tie all three together-- heart, ego and pure reason. As long as they stay internal, they are all traps.

Here is where I like reason more. Of course, it has to be honest reason, not ego. Heart has a tendency to ignore the world when the world contradicts feelings. 30 million killed for an ideal is heart. There's no logic in that. Mob action is all heart (it's easy to lose your sense of individuality--ego-- in a riot.)

Reason can look at a protest and say, "Shit, we just alienated everybody." Heart says, "That felt so powerful, we must have changed some minds."

If heart goes external, fine. It has to have skills in data gathering and assessment, (and, kudos to Steve, he's taken some positions, set the criteria-- like infant mortality rates-- and when the criteria changed in the wrong way he was willing to change his position*) but if your highest priority is compassion and you can look at the world and see that your ideals increased suffering and you change, then heart is a compass. It will show the way. If you can't see the suffering or refuse to acknowledge it or explain it away to preserve your feelings, if feeling right is more important than other people's pain or hunger... that's not compassion. That's just narcissistic heart. What Sherlock would call "mere sentimentality."

Strangely, if ego goes external, it also works. I ran across a really old (I think Italian) essay years back that explained why pride was one of the seven deadly sins, but vanity was a virtue. The two had always been synonymous to me. The essay said that pride was a sin because people who already thought they were all that and a bag of chips (paraphrasing, obviously) didn't care what other people thought, whereas vanity was all about what other people thought, so it was a great motivator to display the virtues valued by your group.

Same with ego. Narcissistic personalities think that everybody reveres them, and so treat others contemptuously. But people obsessed with earning that reverence have to work for it, and usually have to work for it in socially-approved ways. So, it's rare, but even ego outwardly directed and with feedback from the world, can be a compass.


*One of the reasons I can talk to Steve about anything. He can disagree honorably. It's a rare trait.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sacrifice

Going to try to capture the thought I woke up with this morning. It was about sacrifice throws, sutemi waza, and how many principles they illustrate. I just thought about linking to a video, but this is kinesthetic, and video doesn't show the most important stuff.

Principle: Balance. The essence of balance is that the Center of Gravity (CoG) must stay over the base. The base is the space enclosed by the outer edges of the points of contact with the ground. That was a mouthful. When one person is standing normally, the base is defined by the outside edges of the feet and two imaginary lines, one running from toe to toe, the other from heel to heel. The base is a rectangle.  When a person is standing in a bladed stance, say, left foot pointing right at the threat, right foot back and perpendicular, the base is a triangle. If a person has their left foot and knee on the ground, left hand on the victim's throat, right hand raised to punch and right foot on the ground, the base is a matter of connecting the dots: left foot to left knee to left hand to right foot and back to left foot.

That's the base. As long as the center of gravity stays within the lines, the person is on balance. If the CoG leaves the base, the person is off balance and starts to fall. If he or she can't get the CoG back inside the base (or, more often, move the base under the CoG) the person falls. Simple.

Concept: In a fight, it's always about more than one person.

Back to balance. In the set up for a sacrifice throw (and not just a sacrifice throw, remember I'm just using it for illustration) you have two people with bases and CoGs. Simultaneously, as soon as two people grip up, you also have a four legged animal with a shared Center of Gravity. Get it? I can defend my balance and try to manipulate his or I can just skip to the chase and manipulate our balance. In a sacrifice throw, the instant I drop weight (all of them, really. By definition.) or slam my body into his knees (yoko wakare) two of this animal's four legs, the ones I control, have just collapsed. Know any four-legged animals that stay upright when two of their legs disappear?

Concept: Psychology matters

One of the things that strong young men tend to do in a clinch is lean into each other. Maybe it's because they don't want their pelvises to touch. Maybe it's because they are instinctively trying to show off their strength to female chimpanzees. People in a monkey dance mindset tend to sacrifice control of their individual base and trust in the shared base, which makes them far more vulnerable to sutemi waza. This illustrates more than one principle. Not only does it make balance easier to exploit, but it also increases the leverage when the technique is applied, uses gravity and exploits momentum.

Principle: Exploit momentum. Sometimes I write it as exploit force. It's been a core principle of every system that was ever actually used in violence. From unarmed to guerrilla warfare, when you are outmatched in size and strength your best hope is to use that strength. Force is much easier to steer than it is to stop. That's just physics.

In the sutemi waza example, not only is his leaning weight a force that can be exploited, but if you can time it as he surges with his leg power, his force adds to yours and to gravity.

Principle: Use gravity. Let's face it, gravity is stronger than you are. And all of that force is free. And using it is, literally, as easy as falling off a log. One of the reasons I didn't link to the animated videos I found was because it looked like tori (the thrower) was pretty much just laying down. When someone gets a good sutemi on you, suddenly all of his weight is hanging from your shoulder, neck, or extended arm and you have damn few choices. Gravity is used to force the fall. Gravity is powerful, quick and gravity never telegraphs. You might, but gravity doesn't.

Principle: Leverage. Leverage comes up everywhere. The more the person is leaning, the longer distance the CoG is from the base, the more leverage. The higher the pull and the lower the blocking action (provided they are going in complementary vectors) the better the leverage. On and on.

Principle: Structure (and Void). In a sacrifice throw you are manipulating structure and exploiting a void. You need space (a void) to fall into. Without that, you just slide down the other guy's legs and wind up in a very vulnerable position. Some of the sacrifices, like yoko wakare can block the uke's knees, freezing his structure and increasing the impact of the fall through leverage.

There's more, obviously. Each of the principles could be explored for a lifetime, and almost any of the sacrifice techniques could be dissected. Good physics is kind of awesome. One way to think of it-- mechanical advantage. Any good technique you should be able to see why it has a mechanical advantage either over-all or in particular situations.



Friday, May 13, 2016

Logic of Violence Steps 4-6

The bad guys have one or several preferred victim types. They go to the places where their types congregate. They choose the best prey from the herd. Those are steps 1-3. Here on out is where things get messy.

Step 4. Isolation. In order to do bad things to humans, you need time and privacy. Note, we're talking about predators here, for most of the social violence, there will be an audience, because it's a show. To predators, audience=witnesses.

There are a bunch of ways to get people alone. But only a few basic strategies. Wait, follow, lure, trick, intimidate, snatch and groom.

Wait can be simple. If you know your target profiles travel through a particular space, you can just be there. The restroom at the bar. A bench on a lonely stretch of jogging trail. When the crime is more specifically targeted, there will be an element of intelligence gathering. Ted Bundy would strike up a conversation in the library on campus. Most people in a conversation will give up seemingly innocuous information, like which dorm you live in. Once he knew the dorm, he could pick the most isolated place to wait between the library and that dorm.
Prevention-- know when you are in a good, isolated hunting ground and be on alert. Watch for unusual behaviors in isolated places. If you are jogging and a guy is sitting on a bench and gets up and starts walking toward you, the timing on that should make you a little suspicious...

Follow is obvious. Get in the habit, especially in isolated places, of knowing what is around you. Use reflections and shadows. There is an eye trick to get your peripheral vision up to about 270degrees. Don't know how too write it, ask me if we meet in person. But that allows you to get a 360 look with a simple glance right then left.

Lure. Offer the target something he or she wants. "Mister, there's a temple that's not on the tourist map, let me show you..." Be skeptical, set hard boundaries.

Trick. Just like lure. "Your mommy was in an accident. Your daddy sent me to get you. Get in the car quick." Emotional attacks tend to lower your judgment. It can be very hard to remember what normal protocols are when you get a shock. Like the voice message that says the IRS is coming after you or the guy in the overalls who says there's been a gas leak. Some emotional detachment (which is much easier said than done) and a good handle on what the normal protocols are, will help.

Intimidate. Threat shows a weapon and says, "Come with me, don't make a scene." Or "Do what I want, I know your kids are upstairs." This one bleeds into step 5 as well. Three things about this tactic. 1) There is almost never a good reason for a guy with a weapon to want alone time with you. The secondary crime scene is very bad. Do not go. 2) He is not your friend, and therefor his advice is to serve him, not you. If someone tells you not to make a scene, that is probably the absolute best thing you can do. 3) At this moment, you probably have more resources than you realize, for instance other people. If someone is trying to get you isolated that means there are people in reach who would help you, not him. Scream. And use the word 'pervert'. It has a magical effect.

Snatch. Just physically dragging you off. Generally, this won't happen as an isolation tactic, it will happen when the victim is already isolated (walking down a deserted road, for instance. There is an exception for certain countries with kidnapping businesses or that like beheading people on video. When the police can't or won't solve certain crimes, people can get snatched with witnesses. I have some opinions here, but the go-to guy for this is Ed Calderon.

Groom. This is a long term tactic to create a safe and pliable victim. It is a steady process of removing the victim's agency and will to independence. Common in many domestic violence cycles, long-term abductions and long-term seduction crimes.


Step 5. Psychological control. How does the bad guy psych you out of fighting back? There are a lot of ways-- display of force or weapons, threats, surprise, positioning. Moving or talking too fast for you to close your OODA loop and think/act. Playing on your social conditioning (one of the most effective ways bad guys use to violate boundaries is to simply ask the person why they are being so rude.) Many tactics. But here's the deal: He wouldn't be trying to psych you out of fighting back unless he thought you could do so successfully. He's probably bigger and stronger. Probably more experienced and skilled at violence. But a win here is not beating him in a match, a win is in raising the stakes beyond what he is willing to play. This is the time for surprise, commitment and violence of action.

Note. This is not the time for half measures. Slapping or hitting the chest will not only fail, but will likely be punished. This is destruction for the sake of your survival, not sending a message that the bad guy's behavior is unacceptable. He has already chosen to act unacceptably.

Step 6. Physical destruction. If the bad guy decides to skip step five, he will take his target out. It will be as safe and efficient for him as he can make it. Everything is in the bad guy's favor. He can choose the victim (tiny, drunk, college girl) the place, the time. He can even choose the initial position (bending over trying to put her keys in the lock.) It's not about how to fight fighters. He can slam her head into the door. Or hit her in the back of a neck with a brick or steel water bottle.

In the LoV class, this is the big "reveal" moment. Each pair of students has designed a violent crime, created an ambush the way they would set it up. They have demonstrated some really vicious, sneaky stuff. And then I ask, do you train for this? Do you have solutions for the types of assault you would commit? And the room goes silent.

The big gains are in staying off the list from 1-3. Each step beyond gets more desperate and has fewer options.

Okay, so with this background, I can get back to that chat.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Logic of Violence Steps 1-3 of 6

This post is a cheat. I'm chatting with someone about crime and responses to crime and got tired of typing in the little box. And the conversation requires some shared language.

When we do Logic of Violence it starts with the Violence Dynamics talk, which I've written and talked about it until I'm sick of it. The Maslow perspective.

This gives us motivations for violence-- fear (Survival level); Stuff (resource predator, Security level on Maslow); the social motivations (status-membership-territory-protocols); or pleasure (process predators, Self-actualized on Maslow.)

The next is understanding the violent people have goals and parameters. What they want and what they don't want. The goal will determine the type of crime. If you need money to feed an addiction, your choices are theft, burglary, robbery-- stuff like that. If you get off on seeing  a woman crying and begging, assault and rape. Those are goals.

The parameters, commonly, include not getting hurt, not getting arrested, not losing your reputation (especially if you are active in a criminal subculture) and in some cases violent people will respond very violently to attacks on their egos.

In LoV, we hit the following six questions from the criminal point of view, so each person by the end of the day has played Design-a-Crime. Only after do we go back over the list with an eye to prevention. For this essay, it's going to be mixed.

Question 1: Who? Certain people make better targets for certain types of crime than others. If it's about money, out-of-town business men and tourists tend to carry cash and equipment and generally won't fly back to testify. Before direct deposit, the day the social security checks arrived each month was hunting season on the elderly. If the motivation is rape, it varies. For some it's people who remind the perpetrator of someone in the past. Or it could be any target of opportunity. Or a specific type (one of the reasons why dressing down or trying to appear unattractive isn't a successful strategy). If the goal is simple bullying, the threat seeks out emotionally labile victims. Etc.

In the risk/reward equation that the threat does, if you can honestly discern what visible rewards you might offer and the apparent risk you represent, you can get a good handle on your victim profile. I have enough gray in the beard that Monkey Dancing shouldn't happen. I'm nobody's idea of a good time for abduction rape. I'm middle-aged with a limp when I'm tired and that moves me up the list for simple muggings...

Question 2: Where? Whatever your preferred victim profile, they congregate somewhere. Out of town businessmen can be found at the convention center, hotel bars and strip clubs. Tourists congregate where there is stuff to see. If you target college-age women, they can be found on campus...

These are target selection sites, not necessarily where the crimes will happen. Pick-pocketing, sure. But the asocial violent stuff requires privacy

Question 3: Ripeness? I should find a better word, but these are all the behavioral clues that indicate which of your preferred targets will be easiest to take. You have a bar full of out-of-town businessmen (or college girls)-- who do you pick? Alone, distracted, slobbering drunk, anxious to please, weak, awkward... We all have good predatory instincts. Bad guys are bad guys because they act on them.

Questions 1-3 are the heart of prevention. And in this instant, prevention is tons better than response. Things only get worse from here and your options decrease. To whatever extent possible, stay off the first list. You don't get choices in most of it, but you can be a tourist without looking like a tourist. You don't have a choice about your size and old age comes to everyone lucky enough to survive. But at almost any age you can still move like an athlete.
The second list of places-- you're going to go to those places sometimes, but know to keep your guard up and your eyes open. Wild animals don't get complacent approaching a watering hole. Neither should you.
The third list is where all of that self-defense advice comes from-- walk like you have purpose; don't have headphones in when jogging in remote areas; don't text and walk; don't pull out a map and look lost...

That's enough for one day. Steps 4-6 tomorrow.