I saw a photo tonight of an empty bed next to a window, an open magazine lying on it, so I wrote down a few hundred words in a little story.
Put up a tree. Sing a song. Celebrate the end to an interesting year.
Here’s looking at 2013.
In April this year, my better half bought me a laptop I’d been wanting for a while, and was going to save up for. It was a very pleasant surprise.
I’d specced it out already (without knowing the cunning plan to buy it for me), so it had a 256GB solid state drive and a 750GB spinning drive, 16GB RAM, USB 3, a 17″ screen … I was really happy with it, and it was fast!
Since I got the machine, the USB 3 port never worked with USB 3 devices. I could get away with this because, well, it’s a nice-to-have.
A few months later, I noticed that the touchpad wasn’t working. Since I use a mouse exclusively, this wasn’t a problem, but it added up to two things wrong.
Then the SSD died, about three weeks ago. Now I know they have a tendency to die, so I made regular backups, extensive use of cloud storage, etc., etc.
I figured now was a good time to send it in, and have them fix all three problems in one go.
The RMA process with ASUS started off well-enough: I sent an email with my error report, got an RMA number, and filled in a checklist of all the problems it had, which mirrored my original error report online.
After sending the package (at close to $200 in shipping, including insurance), I realised I’d left out the checklist, so I emailed them back and asked if I should send it separately. They said “Don’t worry. Unit is waiting for QC. RMA form won’t influence the repair.”
I got the laptop back today. The SSD has not been replaced. The USB 3 is still not working. The work order says that the touchpad was replaced.
So, I’ve requested a brand new laptop from them. If another RMA arises, I refuse to pay shipping this time.
Many years ago, when I was still young and impressionable, I first read about the so-called “end of the world” Mayan Calendar thing. Depending on the source, the end was either on the 21st or 23rd of December 2012.
My 36th birthday is on the 22nd of December 2012. A week from now.
I don’t believe any of the stories, even though I devour them at a hearty pace. I love stories. I’ve stopped believing in many of them over the years, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying them.
And yet. There was always some deep-down significance to me about my 36th birthday, whether it was because of the end of the world nonsense, or some other reason. I don’t recall, and it doesn’t matter.
During one of my woo phases (that I think everyone should go through to broaden their mind on how completely mad we all are), there was additional significance attached to the 36th year, as a result of it being a multiple of 9. Crazy, right?
I’ve read a lot. Tens of millions of words, easily. I’ve written millions of words myself (on Twitter alone, based on the idea that words are around 5 letters long, I’ve written 400 000 words).
Some of those words I’ve read belong to Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Terry Pratchett. Words about things that go bump in the night, just before they eat you. I’ve even written my fair share, for better or worse.
And yet. That’s the part of my brain attached to this Mayan thing.
In a week from now, a significant part of my mind is going to flounder as a direct result of turning 36.
I didn’t write about the Aurora incident. I don’t believe I’ve written much about school attacks. There was one at Parktown Boys’ High School (my alma mater) where some gunmen held boys hostage, but no one was killed.
Aside from the fact that so much of the initial reporting yesterday was incorrect, which is to be expected where the medium is more efficient than the message (so much has been written about the lack of fact-checking in journalism, so I won’t get into it), the fact that more than twenty humans were murdered is sad.
In China yesterday, more than twenty humans were stabbed.
In South Africa, one person is murdered every half an hour. That’s according to this source, courtesy of Politicsweb, where 30.9 murders occur per 100 000 people. This is significantly more than the international average of 7, but to be expected considering the poverty situation.
If one looks at the statistics in US states, poverty also has a correlation with higher murder rates. That is the way of human nature.
Now, what’s my point to all this? My subject refers to the fact that statistics can be used to prove any position, given the right interpretation. And the loudest noise yesterday, on Twitter anyway, was to ban the sale of assault rifles in the USA.
My opinion, as a crime-desensitised South African living in Canada, given that I’m a racist, is that all guns should be under stricter control.
It turns out after all the inaccuracies of yesterday’s “social media reporting” that the assault rifle wasn’t even used in the shooting. Assault rifles aren’t the problem. It’s the right to bear arms that’s a problem.
The South African Bill of Rights, which is one of my favourite pieces of legislation in the whole world, clearly points out that, while South Africans have certain rights, they are not inalienable. Your right to something may not impinge on my right to something else. Section 36 says (my emphasis):
1. The rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited only in terms of law of general application to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors, including
– the nature of the right;
– the importance of the purpose of the limitation;
– the nature and extent of the limitation;
– the relation between the limitation and its purpose; and
– less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.
2. Except as provided in subsection (1) or in any other provision of the Constitution, no law may limit any right entrenched in the Bill of Rights.
A simple interpretation, if taken in the context of the school shooting yesterday, is that my right to life and freedom outweighs your right to own a firearm. It is within reason and justification to make sure that you are both medically and psychologically fit to own a gun.
Consider Canada. Kelly Oxford wrote an interesting post almost two years ago about the process of owning a firearm here.
I’ll reproduce her main points here, but I recommend reading the commentary:
1. You must pass a day long gun safety course – according to stats only 0.5% fail
2. Provide three references of character
3. Provide information on your love life and financial affairs.
That’s what’s needed in the United States of America. Rational interpretation of a constitution that is hundreds of years old. This isn’t about assault rifles, it’s about common sense. Provide a reasonable way for sane people to own guns, if they want them.
As for me, I won’t have a gun in my house. I have been hunting, I know how to handle different types of firearms, and I enjoy target practice. I suppose it’s because I’m a boy and boys like things that go bang. The difference is, there’s a place for them, and that place isn’t my house. It’s too risky.
A man I knew died last year from an AIDS-related illness. He contracted HIV a decade before that, and I often wonder if he just gave up the fight. His name was Ian, and he was my friend.
A number of my friends has HIV. Two of them are dead so far.
Get tested. Know your status.
And if you’re spreading the disease knowingly, may you die in a fire.