Thursday, February 15, 2018

Guns

I admit, I'm fascinated by guns, especially by contemporary double-action revolvers, I don't own a gun, I don't plan to acquire one, but I think about them a lot, daydream, even. For example, I have a recurring daydream of being a Sheriff in the southwestern US, somewhat like the character played by Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men. I've spent some time in stores looking at the revolvers in the display cases and talking about them with the people behind the counters. When I was a kid I upset my pacifist family by buying and carefully studying a few gun magazines. Shooting Times was the best one, in my opinion. There were also thick annual reference guides listing every sort of gun you could get; I think they were published by Shooting Times. My Mom wouldn't let me get those annual volumes. We couldn't even have toy guns.

I don't want to hurt anybody, much less shoot them. In the fantasies about being a Sheriff in some place like Arizona or semi-rural southern California, I sometimes have to resort to carrying a gun to protect the citizens whom I have sworn to protect from a bear or mountain lion. I imagine that some other government agency calls me and angrily tells me to stand down: they want to capture the animal and return it to a place more far away from people. I tell them that I hope they succeed in doing exactly that, but that I am still sworn to protect the people in the area, and if I get to the mountain lion or bear before they do, rather than risk a person being mauled and perhaps killed, I will shoot it. My office has a live satellite image of the animal, and we're glad to share it.

To those who have a zero-tolerance policy against shooting animals, whether by hunters or law enforcement, I ask whether they are vegetarian, or at least only eat meat which was raised free-range. I flunk that test, and I know that a lot of meat and poultry is raised under conditions much more cruel than anything anyone ever did when they were hunting.

I'm in favor of much stricter gun control. I think that people who show tendencies to violence or the potential toward violence or potentially violent mental instability should be separated from guns with all reasonable and unreasonable means.

And I'm autistic. And some people who've gone on mass-murdering shooting sprees may or may not have been autistic. So some people think that autistic people should be at or very near the top of the list of those who need to be kept away from guns.

I don't think autistic people are more likely than average to go on shooting sprees, in fact, I suspect that we're less likely, and that those shooters mentioned above may not actually have been autistic. I don't think I'm crazy. I don't think that autistic equals crazy, or dangerous, or mentally unstable. Autistic people may sometimes seem crazy or dangerous or unstable, but, for the most part, that's because we're different and difficult to understand, and if and when we are better understood, we reveal ourselves to be mostly quite gentle and harmless.

So this leaves me with the very uncomfortable question of how I should react when -- I think it will be when, not if -- greater gun control comes to the US at long last, and it includes restrictions applied to autistic people. On the one hand, gun control is needed, badly, and I shouldn't slow try to slow it down. On the other hand, if we autistic people are kept away from guns, because we're thought to be crazy, does that also mean that we'll be prevented from driving, or having bank accounts, or from holding certain professions for which we may be well-qualified?

Life is sloppy and imperfect, and in emergencies -- the lack of gun control in the US is a huge emergency, just in case it wasn't entirely clear that that is my opinion -- in emergencies, some people's rights and privileges tend to get stepped on. Wars have collateral damage. We try to minimize it.

Today on Facebook, someone sarcastically said: if it's too soon to talk about yesterday's school shooting in Florida, can we at least talk about Sandy Hook now? That made me wonder whether Smith & Wesson have a Facebook page, and whether yesterday's shooting was mentioned on it. They do, they have a very popular page, and yesterday's shooting is not mentioned on it. Weak. And, unfortunately, hardly surprising. In the 1990's, an executive at Colt mentioned in a magazine interview that he was not opposed to all forms of gun control, and the gun buyers' backlash and boycott to that was so severe that it very nearly put Colt out of business permanently. Much like the Republican party, in its relationship to the NRA and Trump and many other things, the gun industry has very few people with the guts to stand up against the nuts. And that's truly shameful.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

So, It's Valentines' Day,

and I'm confidently looking forward to being showered with lavish gifts by my many passionate admirers.

Do I actually know that someone currently admires me passionately enough to give any sort of Valentine's Day gift?

No.

Do I get something every Valentine's Day?

No.

Not even a card?

Sometimes not even a card. Some years, all I got was a Valentine's Day card from my Mom, which in some ways was worse than getting nothing. Still, it shows you how great my Mom was. Love you, Mom, you're the best, happy Valentine's Day, RIP. And they make Valentine's Day cards that say From Mom to my Son, which makes it a little less weird. Thank you, Hallmark, for making it less weird.

So why am I confidently looking forward to a completely different kind of Valentine's Day today?

Because they say that confidence is sexy.

Are they right about that?

I have no idea.

Who are they, anyway?

Beats me.

Whatever kind of Valentine's Day I end up having, there are some people who no doubt will be showered with lavish gifts by passionate admirers today. For example, Scarlett Johansson.


Seems perfectly reasonable and right that she would be showered with lavish gifts from many admirers today. I almost feel bad about not getting her a Valentine's Day gift myself, and I've never met her. You know who else is going to be showered with lavish Valentine's Day gifts from admirers today? Donald Trump. And that doesn't seem right. You threw up a little bit in your mouth just thinking about it, didn't you? And you're somewhat annoyed with me for bringing it up. Sorry, but I was trying to make a point, and I think I made it. Donald Trump on Valentine's Day illustrates the Tom-Petty-It's-Ab-So-Lute-Ly-Back-Wards Law of Microeconomics particularly well.

So if I socialized more, would I have better chances of getting Valentine's Day gifts?

No doubt. No doubt at all about that. I'd also have better chances of being married or having a girlfriend or something.

Is being autistic, so that it's more difficult and stressful for me to socialize than it is for most people, a valid excuse for this Valentine's Day predicament of mine?

Yeah, probably, but whether it's valid or not, excuses are not nearly as likely to get me many lavish Valentine's Day gifts, as getting out there and mixing it up with the other humans. Exactly the same as with other people, autistic and not.

Do I think Scarlett Johansson is awesome?

Yes. Yes, I do. She's gorgeous, intelligent, talented, has a good sense of humor, and, although I've never met her, from what I hear, she's also a real mensch. I could be wrong, but I think she's awesome. Happy Valentine's Day, Scarlett Johansson!



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dream Log: Business and Anger in NYC

I dreamed I was living in NYC and working in midtown Manhattan at an import-export business.

I have often dreamed about being in NYC, both before and after living in Manhattan for a few years in the 1990's. Often, in these dreams, the city has not looked or sounded or smelled like any actual place on Earth, but last night's dream was much more realistic in that regard.

Some of the people I worked with in this import-export business were Orthodox Jewish men, with the side curls and the fringes for their prayers shawls and their heads always covered.

The part of the business I worked in was concerned mostly with keeping records. We did this partly with computers, but to a great degree we still used paper. And it seemed that some of the ways in which we treated these pieces of paper was somewhat ritualistic. It was hard to say how much of this was purely for the sake of ritual, or was actually efficient, or both, or neither.

The record-keeping part of the business where I worked was divided into two parts. One part faced the street, and then the part where I worked was farther into the building. We in our part had to walk through the other part any time we arrived to work or left. It was unclear whether the two record-keeping divisions actually belonged to two separate companies, or if one company divided the record-keeping section into two parts for some reason.

A young man named Michael who worked in the front section, whose appearance was not distinguished in any religious way, had rolled up a long receipt in a manner which was not the way we usually did it. We usually rolled such items starting at the top, so that the bottom, with the signatures, showed when we were done.

Michael reacted angrily to the criticism. Soon Michael and I were yelling at each other. We all closed up for the night and went outside, and Michael and I continued to escalate our verbal fight out on the sidewalk. Michael and I and a few other people from the business or businesses were going to fly to Tel Aviv on business, and as we walked toward our transportation to the airport, Michael and I went from yelling at each other to yelling and shoving. Michael screamed, "I'm going to kill you!"

I said to him: "Look at you!" He was an average-sized thin young man. I said, "Look at me!" I was about twice his size. I asked, "What are you going to kill me with?!"

Michael spluttered for a while, and then said, "Guns! Guns!" And he threw a couple of punches at me which missed, and I tried to get him into some sort of wrestling hold, and then our co-workers dragged us apart and took us separate ways.

I had one stop to make before the airport, to pick up my dog, Lucretia, at my apartment. Lucretia may have been a mutt. I'm not very knowledgeable about dog breeds. Lucretia looked like a smaller version of a German Shepherd, except that her fur was grey all over.

Next, we were at the airport, I, my dog and the people from my section who were going to Tel Aviv. Lucretia was a very good-natured dog, and being with her was calming me down.

It wasn't clear which airport we were at, JFK, LaGuardia or another one. We were in a section of the airport which mostly handled freight. Just as at the office, so here we had our own little terminal, and the guys who had their record-keeping section out by the street had a little terminal right next to ours. It wasn't clear whether we were taking the same flight as these other guys, or two separate flights. It was also unclear whether or not we owned our own plane or planes. Michael was already in their terminal when we showed up.

Michael saw me and looked away. I walked up to their terminal, told Lucretia to sit, and said, "Michael. Could I talk to you for just a minute? I just want to say one thing." I looked down at Lucretia, whom Michael had never met before this. "This is my dog, Lucretia. She's a good dog. Very gentle. She's never bitten anyone."

Michael approached.

I said, "They won't let me take her in the cabin with the people. She has to ride in a cage with the cargo. They say it doesn't tend to bother dogs very much. And she's a very even-tempered dog. So I'm probably a lot more upset about her being in a cage than she's going to be. If you hold out your hand and let her sniff it, she'll probably like you right away and be very happy to have you pet her. If you want to. You know. She won't lick your hand. That's one of the things I like about her. I don't like dogs slobbering all over me." Michael was petting Lucretia and starting to smile, and Lucretia's tail was thumping against the floor. "Anyway, all I wanted to say is that I can't remember what we were fighting about."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Pilot's Watches

Pilot's watches are a popular category of wrist-carried men's jewelry today. LIST: 10 of the best pilot's watches -- cleared for take-off.

How many planes are still flying that don't have dashboard clocks? I love watches, I always have a mechanical watch on me, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that watches are becoming more and more useless. ("All art is quite useless. -- Oscar Wilde. Quite right: all art does is to delight us and make life worth living.) When would a pilot need a watch? Maybe if he flew through an EMP which knocked out all of the electronics on the plane, and hopefully didn't also magnetize his mechanical watch and stop it too, because he would, for some reason entirely unknown to me, have to meticulously time his attempt to glide the plane down to a safe landing.

I would actually be interested to know how many pilots wear watches when they fly, and how many of them assert that the watch is useful to their flights, and how many of them, if any, would be right about that.

Okay, I can actually envision a scenario in which a watch would be useful to a pilot: in case of a crash on a deserted island or in the middle of a vast wilderness, it might be helpful to have a watch, after the flight was over. Maybe. Or maybe the watch would just be a counter-productive distraction from the effort needed to survive and re-join civilization.

I'm pretty sure that watches were still useful for pilots as recently as WWII. Maybe as late as 1969, when astronauts -- chosen from the very best of the US military pilots -- when they wore watches on their way to the moon, maybe even then there was some practical justification for it.


There has definitely been a business justification for Omega in their long-term relationship with NASA and other space-exploration programs. For a long time, the Omega Speedmaster was the only watch which NASA astronauts were allowed to wear on their missions. Publicity can't get much better than that.

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Few Extremely Expensive Pocket Watches

As far as I thus far been able to determine, there are not many new mechanical pocket watches currently for sale between cheap pieces of junk whose cases can't be opened, so that they're meant to be used until they stop, and then thrown away rather than repaired, like Bic lighters, if Bic lighters sometimes cost more than $100; and extremely expensive items such as the subjects of this post.

This beautiful rose gold piece was unveiled by Panerai at SIHH 2014:


It's currently featured on panerai.com, along with a white-gold version. 50mm, which seems about the right width for a pocket watch to me. Maybe 48mm would be perfect. $61,600 for the rose gold, $65,300, which may be more money than I have earned in my life so far, for the white gold. And no second hands in sight on either one. But I still think they're beautiful.

Panerai also makes the Pocket Watch Tourbillon GMT Ceramica. $184,100.


This one was introduced in 2013, and watch lovers in general go gaga over it. There are a lot of things over which watch lovers go gaga which I didn't understand 5 years ago but understand now, as you can see if you read posts on this blog labelled mechanical watch. Ceramic cases are one of those things over which watch lovers go gaga which I still don't understand. I'd much rather have that rose gold watch, and not only because the ceramic tourbillon is 3 times more impossible for me to afford, but also because I think that the gold watch looks much nicer, and I'm about 100% certain that it's much heavier, which I would like also.

Besides the ceramic case, there's the size of the tourbillon: 59mm. That's too much, if you ask me. Getting close to hockey-puck-ridiculous size. Speaking of hockey pucks: the Vacheron Constantine Reference 57260 --


-- has been inaccurately described as being about as big as a hockey puck. Actually, it's much larger than a hockey puck: 98mm wide and 50.55mm thick, compared to a regulation puck at 76mm wide and 25mm thick. The Vacheron Constantine Reference 57260 is twice as thick as a hockey puck and 22mm wider. And there's only one of them: the photo above is a double exposure, showing you that it has one dial in front and a different one on back. It has been described -- accurately, I believe, although I suppose it's possible that the statement has been very recently outdated -- as the world's most complicated watch.

Well, wait just a minute about that: is it a watch? Call me a grumpy curmudgeon if you wish, but I say no: it's a clock. It's a very nice clock, but I don't know of anybody who could fit it into one of their pockets or would even want to try. It's closer in size to chicken pot pie than to a hockey puck. It weighs about 2 pounds, or more than 5 hockey pucks.

But of course this isn't about me and my ideas of what is and isn't a watch. Whatever you call it, either someone liked it well enough to give Vacheron Constantine an enormous sum of money for it, or Vacheron Constantine liked someone well enough to give them a stupendously extravagant gift.

How much does it cost? Nobody's going to tell you that. Nobody's even going to say who bought it. If it's ever sold at auction, I can't imagine it going for less than 8 figures.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Dream Log: Poetry, Passion, Genius, Courage

I dreamed I was back at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, in the College Scholars' program of the College of Liberal Arts. In real life, I was a College Scholar in the last couple of years before my graduation in 1989, and was a few years older than most of the other undergraduates. In the dream, it wasn't clear what year it was or how old I was, but I might have been a few years older than I had been as a real-life undergraduate. I seemed to have a little bit more perspective on things, and even gave some fatherly or mentor-ly advice to some of the other College Scholars, which was certainly not the case in real life in the 1980's.

An example of my having more perspective: I never studied well for tests in real life. In my dream, I was taking a class on English poetry. Although I still had the tendency to space out when it came to preparing for tests, in the dream I was more concerned about this tendency, and struggling against it just a bit: I asked the professor what to expect on the final exam; then I apologized and said quite honestly that I had been spacing out during her answer, and asked her to repeat it. Even after she told me a third time what to expect on the exam, I was not clear about what to expect, and I began to wonder whether the professor herself had any clear notion of what the exam was going to be like. Or perhaps she just didn't believe in describing an exam in too much detail in advance. In any case, I had all of the xeroxed poems which she had given to the class, and was going to study them all quite closely before the exam. And I had my lecture notes, and not all of them were evidence of ADD.

The Knoxville campus is quite hilly. I was at a high point, geographically, on the campus, and I had to get to a low spot very quickly. I didn't have a car, but I had a bicycle. And it was raining very hard, so hard that visibility was impaired somewhat. Still, I told myself that I had to zoom downhill through the rain and thunder.

My bike was a road-racing model, not a dirt bike designed to go over bumps and jumps; still, as I zoomed downhill, I reasoned that if I went around the several flights of steps along my way, the grassy regions through which I would go might be muddy and treacherously slippery because of the downpour. So it might be safer to stay on the concrete all the way down, even if the steps were a bit of a jolt. So I zoomed over those several flights of steps, trying to make my arms and legs give a bit to act as shock absorbers and relieve some of the stress on my bike. I was also a bit nervous that cars and buses might emerge suddenly from the deluge and onto a collision course with me.

But I got through in one piece, and my bike's frame didn't bend and its tires didn't go flat. It was a thrilling, very fast half-mile or so.

Later, I was hanging out with a few of my fellow College Scholars in the Student Center. One of them, a tall, flabby lad with glasses, was particularly passionate about poetry, and had already begun to have his poems accepted and published by prestigious journals across the country. He was talking about poetry and getting a little bit carried away. When he said something about poetry turning everyone into geniuses, I replied that it obviously hadn't done so yet, and made a gesture encompassing the Student Center and its widespread mediocrity.

A couple of our fellow Collage Scholars snickered, and the bespectacled young poet looked crestfallen. I hastened to modify my remark, telling him that he was certainly right that poetry could have a powerful effect. Perhaps not with huge masses, but with individuals. Poems could and did inspire people to do better, I said: they could lend one person the courage to ask someone out on a date, give another person the courage to do something which was noble and good instead of what was easy, encourage individuals here and there to be more open to the beautiful and true things in life. They could encourage someone to write a brilliant poem him- or herself, or compose a song or paint a picture, which in turn could inspire who knew how much good and worthwhile effort.

I looked at the two of our companions who had snickered, and added, "I'm sure that even these cynical weasels have had moments when they've been better people, as a direct result of some poem or another."

I was saying these things partly because I believed them, and partly because I was afraid that I might have damaged the young poet's fragile spirit. Whether because they believed what I had said, or because they, too, were afraid that they might have hurt the poet, or both, or for whatever reason, the two weasels who had snickered said that I was perfectly correct.

I went on: it was a struggle, being any sort of artist, but the effort was unquestionably worth it. I added that things might seem more bleak for us because we lived in the middle of an enormous nation which appreciated poetry much less than did some other countries. In some places, huge passionate crowds gathered on a regular basis to listen to poets recite their works. Perhaps, in places like those, masses actually were converted into geniuses.

I went on: but what was genius, anyway? It was one of those words, like love, over whose definition people always seemed to disagree. In any case, I said to the poet, I was honored to know a talented artist at the beginning of a great career. I said that because I meant it, and the others said they agreed.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Dream Log: Lost in Germany, Then Concerned About a Cat

Last night I dreamed I was lost in an unfamiliar part of Germany. For some reason I had left all of my money behind somewhere else. It was the middle of the night and I was exhausted. I was walking on a patch of grass which narrowed down to a wedge where two busy streets merged. I was so tired that I almost laid down right there on the grass to sleep; instead, I turned around, and saw a building which looked like it might be part of a university. White neon images of a 19th-century German poet and his most famous line flickered on and off in various places on the side of the building. I couldn't remember the poet's name. His famous line was familiar to me in the dream. German people were always quoting it with great enthusiasm, but I didn't understand what was so great about it.

I went into the building, went up a broad flight of stairs and came upon a large dark room in which many people were sitting on folding chairs. It was still not clear whether this was a university, or some sort of headquarters of a political party, or something else. The gathering did seem to resemble a casual sort of academic class. I took a seat near the edge of the room as quietly as I could, but the woman seated near the edge of the room, who would've been the teacher it this was a class, turned to me and asked, "And you? How would you describe fame?"

I answered in German that I didn't have any definitions of fame to offer other than the everyday usual ones. The woman didn't say anything more to me, just turned away with a slightly disappointed air and continued the discussion with the others.

After the class, or the discussion or whatever it was, after it wrapped up, I got the feeling that all of the others, although it seemed that most or all of them were Germans, had been speaking in English. I wasn't completely sure about it, but I think the discussion had been all in English except for my brief contribution in German. I wondered whether the woman had been disappointed in whole or in part because I had spoken in English. (I have seen many discussion on Facebook which were mostly or all in English even though the participants were mostly or all Germans.)

As people were getting up to leave, I said that I was in a predicament, lost with no money. I thought it couldn't hurt to say this, and that maybe someone would offer me a couch for the night.

Instead, I learned that, whatever else this building was or wasn't, it also provided communal living for anyone who showed up. The people in the room were going to another large room, this one filled with beds. I was welcome to sleep there.

I woke up the next morning and saw that my clothes were not where I had left them, on a little shelving unit next to my bed. It seems that they had been gathered up, like everyone else's clothes, to be communally laundered. The other people were picking out clean outfits from big piles of clean clothes.

The only thing I had had with me the night before which had been really important to me was an amulet. It contained precious metal and a large jewel. I could have sold it for badly-needed money, but it was priceless to me because it had been given to me by a woman whom I held in great esteem. I carried it on a chain, in the key pocket of my blue jeans, with the other end of the chain fastened to my belt loop. All I saw on the shelf beside my bed was that chain.

I went to the piles of clothes and picked out some pants and a flannel shirt and some socks. I came back to my bed, and now I saw that on a lower shelf there were the sneakers I had been wearing the night before. One of the sneakers was stuffed with the kind of paper with which new shoes are often stuffed. I took this paper out and saw that the amulet had been put into the toe of the shoe. I put the amulet back onto its chain. The pants I was wearing had no key pocket, so I put the amulet into one of the chest pockets of the flannel shirt, and fastened the other end of the chain to one of the shirt's buttonholes.

Then I was on a steep hillside in a forest of birches, with strong sunlight shining down between the trees. I was holding a full-grown cat in my arms and it was purring. I climbed down the hill; at its foot, a multi-lane road full of fast-moving traffic intersected the forest. On the near side of the road was a Porsche dealership. On the near side of the dealership, where it was still woodsy, there were several other cats. My cat began to struggle to get loose of me. I let it go -- then, I became worried, because my cat, unlike the others, was unfamiliar with this place. I was worried that it might wander into the Porsche dealership's lot, or into the road, and be run over.

Then I woke up.