Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Kevin Jackson is a very nice guy. He's personable, charismatic, dynamic and with an ability to sustain a high energy level that is nearly unmatched. He's also a good teacher, a hell of a martial artist and one of the few I know who are both wise and humble enough (sometimes too humble, KJ!) to keep their eyes, ears and minds open.

I will give him the highest compliment I know in self-defense training: I once saw him teach a knife defense class that wasn't stupid.

A couple of weekends ago, Al Dacascos was in town and hosted a mini seminar. Al was teaching and Mac and Sherrill and Kevin so, yeah, I had to go.

Kevin taught a class on biting. I allow biting in my classes and sometimes encourage it and in a rudimentary way can teach it a little: Some places hurt more than others. Nipping for pain and tearing for avulsion are different. Use it to create space. Beware the risk of disease.

Biting has always been a minor tool of mine.

It's still a minor tool. What I learned from Kevin that day was less about technique than about myself and learning and teaching. Okay- I did learn one aspect of technique. I usually use biting to create space. Kevin encouraged me to hold my partner tight so he couldn't escape from the bite, the pain. This was counter-intuitive but it had a wonderful affect. Unable to squirm directly away, the threat almost always broke contact with the ground, giving me a throw.

There are ways to break down fighting. Weapons aside, technique wise there are: strikes; locks; takedowns; gouges/pressure point/pinches; movement; and strangling.

Effects break down to movement, pain, damage and shock.

Skills are unbalancing, immobilizing, clearing and damage.

There are pieces to all of this. Anatomy and physiology; principles of physics and biomechanics; Goal-strategy-tactics-technique; power generation, timing and targeting; Awareness Initiative and Permission... that all effect everything else.

But you can look at a fight at the technique level, the effects level or the general skills level (or two or three of these) very usefully.

I am an extremely integrated fighter. At the technique level that means that usually I can do two or more classes of techniques in a single action eg, the twisting action of a lock providing the power for an elbow strike while simultaneously dragging the threat through a leg sweep. At the effects level, it means I'm not married to a single preference. I'll do damage if it's prudent, force the threat to move if it betters my position, cause pain if it helps the movement or will shut down his thought process and I will shut down his entire system (shock) if it is necessary and legally justified- and when practical I can blend these. Same with the skill level. It's all the same. In my own mind I'm not better or worse at these things or have strengths or weaknesses in them, they are just part of everything else and, in the moment, completely subconscious.

(Does any native speaker of any language ever say, "I'm just way better at verbs than I am nouns?" No, they don't. It's like that. People learning a language, however, say things just like that...)

Working with biting, especially while groundfighting, I found I wasn't thinking that way. I was either brawling or fighting. I would transition my partner into position without even thinking about it and then drop out of the mindset, think about biting (all the while not truly in the zone of brawling anymore), bite, and then watch the effects and transition back to fighting again.

Somewhere over the years I had forgotten that every single thing I know, every class of technique, every strategy and tactic, every effect, every skill started this way. It started as a big lump of stuff that needed to be worked in. That's the way it is for all students.

That's not a good thing to forget. Thanks, Kevin.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


In the jails, working with criminals, in the streets, on patrol... in any emergency services position bad things happen. You will see and feel and be involved in many things, some of them horrible, some of them tragic, some of them funny. You will also be involved in things that are horrible or tragic or funny but also fraught with legal liability.

It's bad enough that you may risk your life to save some piece of shit abusive rapist meth addict from being beaten to death by someone just as bad, but to add insult to injury you may get sued for doing it. In this world, that's just the way it is.

One of the side effects is the "three-year rule". When an officer is involved in a very ugly thing, especially if someone died, he is cautioned not to talk about it for three years. Three years, we are told, is the magic number, the time limit on filing a federal suit.

Aside: as I type this it occurs to me that this is something I was told and it has been passed on through generations of cops and I've never looked it up myself. It may not even be true. Wouldn't that be weird?

The reason for the rule is the concept of "discovery" and how our profession looks at lawyers and civil trials. We hear from inmates all the time that the civil aspect of the legal system is "Money for nothin'..." you just gotta convince twelve people that you are poor and sad and downtrodden and some person or some agency with deep pockets is a great big bully and they will vote for the agency to give you money. (Like many things, civil suits are one of the things that tends to punish good people more. Good people mortgage their houses to pay settlements off. Bad people just say ,"Fuck you" or declare bankruptcy and are rarely ever actually penalized).

Anyway, let's say that on that one bad night things go really, really bad. You're alone, or worse yet with your children and a screaming naked guy with a knife runs out of a house right at you, swinging the knife at your kid and everything is a blur but you tackle him as hard as you can and you hear crunches and something give and he's trying to bite and you shove your arm deeper in his mouth thankful you're wearing a jacket and you punch and grab and gouge and you're terrified and suddenly things get really quiet. You roll away and check on your daughter who is screaming and then you look back at the guy (for a second, you're afraid that since you took your eyes off of him he will disappear like the villain in a slasher flick and attack again) but you look at him and he's not moving at all and then you realize he's not breathing...

There's a good chance that relatives of the dead guy will come out of the woodwork. They haven't talked to him in years after kicking him out over violent outbursts, but now they will be aggrieved and loving family members saddened by their poor little sick brother's horrible and unnecessary death at the hands of you, you violent, evil.... These people who never spent a dime on the psych meds that the deceased desparately needed will go shopping for an attorney...

And here's the genesis of the three-year rule: You are going to feel terrible. No matter how justified the situation, or depraved the attacker, you've taken a human life and that means something and you will feel bad about it and you will want to talk. Talking is how people heal from this stuff.

If you are honest, you will say, "I feel terrible, just guilty. Sick." and "It seemed like I watched him not breathing for an hour before I realized I needed to do something and called 911"

The attorney hired by the EBG's suddenly loving family will do anything he can to find evidence of these statements and will ask you, in court, "Isn't it true that you said you felt guilty? That you were sick with guilt? Guilt is not something the righteous feels..." and "I will produce a witness that says that you stared at the body for an hour before you called 911. If that is not gross indifference I don't know what is."

So we are taught not to say anything.

The upshot is that in the worst emotional times, you are pretty much on your own. By the time three years have passed, you've either dealt with it or it has dealt with you.

This new job is different. The ugly things that I will learn here I can never talk about. Never. I will learn a lot and I will distill lessons and adapt. I'm doing good things. But I will (and have already) seen things that will stay with me...

(Not the old things, like blood and guts and splatter, these are more emotional, more personal)

...and I will never be able to talk about them. Never.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Blog about Blogging

First off, you all need to know I'm spying on you. The little counter at the bottom also tracks who has been to the website, where they came from (in the sense of being directed by another website) and the location of your IP address.

It also tracks if a search engine was used to find the site and what the key words for the search were. Evidently "How to break a neck" is a popular search and so are 'testicals + big' and 'testicals + rubber'... which leads to the post on castrating goats, a big newfoundland puppy and being shit on by baby racoons. But I wonder what the searchers were hoping to find.

The IP adresses aren't really reliable. My home computer says it's in Utah and Drew's occassionally, but not always, says he's in New York.

But it's kind of cool and I'm curious about the regular readers in Montreal (Mauricio? Theo?) and Virginia and Illinois and Carson California. And the New Zealand readers. And...

Second, a confession of technical ineptitude. I am not ept. Those of you with blogspot accounts may notice that Chiron has one less "edit-me" link space in the margin than usual. I tried to add a link and the whole thing disappeared. Same with pictures. I'm sure my lovely wife could show me how to add them in a few minutes but blogging is not one of the things that we do together. There are better ways to spend time with people you love.

Third, blogging becomes its own thing. This was originally a place to get stuff out of my head, stuff that I was getting tired of poking at internally. It's transitioned, somehow, from excising the negative to creating something. In a few decades I might know what.

Anyway, welcome to the inside of my head.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Balance Sheet

Melissa noted a while ago that the birth of a child, especially to good friends who have wanted a child desperately for a long time, should balance the deaths of the year.

I don't see the world that way.

Deaths are what they are. They mark the time when the person passes from experience to memory. I can selfishly grieve for the loss of future experiences and I will miss them... but death isn't a negative. It just is. I can no more put a number value (that death hurt as bad as 10 dinners with my inlaws) to the pain of someone's death than I can hold positive or negative feelings for a rock. The rock is. Death is. I can appreciate them or feel sad for what I see in them but I can't put them on a scale of good or bad any more than I can ascribe a color to a flavor.

I don't see my life as a balance sheet or as a scalar in any way. Deaths are deaths. Births are births. Stephen is a miracle, like all babies, and the mystery of who and what he will grow to be is fascinating... but Stephen's birth is a separate thing from Andy's death. They are their own little places in my soul. One doesn't make the other more tragic or more precious. They are what they are, their own things. Themselves.

If I'm an asshole but have a really nice car, those are two separate things. One doesn't offset the other. They may combine to influence whether or not you choose to spend time with me... but a nice car doesn't make me less of an asshole.

There are events and stories and objects, but when we try to put numbers on them, try to say, "On balance, I'm happy" or "everything considered it was a good year" it's an attribution and it is a damn convenient way to muffle feelings just a bit. Maybe even to avoid fixing the things that hurt.

A New Word

Invented a word a few weeks ago and I want credit for it before it sweeps the country.

For all the LAN administers and IT supervisors out there: "gekherd".

If a shepherd herds sheep....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

TV Land

The flu kicked my ass. Or maybe it was food poisoning. My wife says I have the eating habits of a coyote.

So, about four days at home. Reading (finished "The 33 strategies of War"; "Secret Weapons of Jujutsu" and several manuals on labor law and investigative procedure for the new assignment). Also put in some closet shelving, cleaned up.... whole bunch of boring domestic stuff.

In the process, I also watched a lot of TV. One of the cool things about modern technology is that you can sit down and watch an entire season of a television show on DVD and really follow the plot lines. And really be annoyed by the tropes and writing techniques (K and I were giggling about what the parallel plot line would be in this episode of Smallville).

Here are some observations. They aren't about the fantasy world of television so much as about the way the writers see the world. In their commentaries the writers sometimes talk about how hard they work to make the characters real and believable... and in their world maybe some of this stuff is.

TV heroes don't do anything else. They don't seem to do anything to get their families fed or pay the bills or pay the rent. They talk about being poor, but they go through more vehicles and do more property damage in their own homes than I could ever pay for. Most of them pay lip service to having another obligation- school or work- but it never takes any time, certainly not the 10-12 hours out of the day that many of us spend. And poor 18 year olds with no jobs and an unemployed single parent ride around in $30,000 brand new convertibles.

Does this mean something? Maybe. Maybe Hollywood writers live in a world where they do what they love (writing) and get paid for it and the writing takes up the time that their heroes would have to split between heroing and everything else. Maybe with expense accounts and insurance paid by someone else and stage handymen to fix the sets who are on salary they don't realize that for normal people, this would cost and the price would come out of everything else.

I don't get about the $30,000 dollar car, though. Willful stupidity? Or do they really think that cars are just accessories? (And about cars- there are sports cars, personality cars, upscale SUVs, classic muscle cars and panel vans. That's it. No one drives an economy sedan. Or a dirty jeep.)

In TV land, rich people can do anything they want. The evil head of a corporation can poison an entire small town and cover it up. Just by being rich and evil. The CDC, EPA, state agencies, media, local lawyers (who all live for a high profile and deep pockets target) just... cease to exist. Rich people can wire transfer 57 million dollars instantly. The world is not a cartoon and a rich person's billions are not kept in a vault ala Scrooge McDuck- they are invested to make more money, and invested well, not in a passbook savings account or a checking account.
(Which could lead to two asides- why trickle down economics and the widening gap between rich and poor are mathematical inevitabilities- but not today). They are purposely difficult to access and 57 million leaves a spectacular paper trail.

Perhaps in the insular world of Hollywood, the heavy hitters, the producers and directors, can do anything they want. It seems to be the one industry that actually has the bad habits and snobbish disdain for the common man that they ascribe to all industry. Maybe. I'm an outsider.

In TV land, people don't learn. They do the same things with the same people over and over and over again. It's supposed to be sexual tension, maybe, when the protagonist and the female lead(s) almost get together and then are side tracked by the mission or the villain or the secret in every episode. Real people don't put up with that shit, except in the most abusive of relationships. After a certain time of being jerked around, you move on. Not just emotionally, physically. You quit spending time with that person.

In Hollywood maybe it is an enclosed community and you wind up working with essentially the same people throughout your career no matter how badly they suck. Maybe this really stupid excuse to repeat the same plot lines over and over again is a reflection of their reality. Or maybe it's just easier than originality.

I should just stick to books.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cube Farm

I haven't been in the jail for three days.

Last year I applied for and was accepted to an off-line position. I just started. It's an interesting transition. For the last several years my identity has been very much tied up in crisis management, dealing with violent criminals, counseling deputies- things that were physical and mental, hands on, where the price of a mistake was blood.

Now, I will be reviewing the deputies uses of force, investigating them if they seem wrong, fielding complaints from citizens.

Part of me still keeps half an ear out for a radio I'm not even carrying.

This will be very, very different.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Normally, somewhere around this time I do a post about the last year. 2002-2005 were in many ways ugly, ugly years. Lots of death. Lots of crud welling up from the past. Lots of realizations about how much the world is not about me. Learning that even with the perfect mate you will still be very alone on some issues.

Last year was good. Not great, not bad, just a good year- the closest I can remember to a relatively normal year. Yeah, my idea of normal is skewed, but I don't think anything happened last year that I couldn't get a reasonably normal citizen to at least relate to. And that's special in its own way.

There were three important deaths last year. Two were tragedies.

Tragedy, I was told long ago, is when the flaws within the hero lead inevitably to his destruction. When you (from the sidelines) can see the train wreck coming but know that because of who the character is, he won't get off the tracks.

Andy died being him. It was fun and youthful and reckless and it was also drunken and stupid and incredibly selfish. He died as what he was, good and bad. If he had been anybody else, he wouldn't have died. Being who he was, it was the best possible way to die... just being Andy.

Brad had fought for years with his fears and inadequacies. He hated losing and he hated competing. He would throw a temper tantrum if you scored on him in training and he would cheat if he could get away with it just for the ego burst and the bragging rights. Yet he stuck with a very difficult discipline for many years (thanks largely to a dedicated and loving instructor) and he survived a knife attack with minor scratches. He was always afraid he wouldn't measure up to some image he had in his head. Always afraid. When he went to attack an aspect of that fear, deep diving, he used up all his air far too soon and when the instructor tried to save him, he fought him off and tried to claw his way to a surface that was much too far away. The fear that had driven so much of his life killed him.

Frenchy alone wasn't a tragedy. He'd survived poverty and war and injuries that he never should have. He'd had bypasses more times than I remember. I wish his death had been delayed and I wish it had been gentler and more dignified. But it was just time.

All three of these men were loved.

"We Just Disagree"

It's disconcerting when two people of intelligence with the same basic values disagree on an issue. An acquaintance wrote recently of how hard it is to hold conversations on certain subjects with certain people, mostly because of the emotional involvement. But somewhere in there, he asked a very good question: How can smart people with the same data he has come to such profoundly different conclusions as he does?

The question deserves an answer. Several answers, really.

The first is that different people read information with different levels of skill and understanding. Auto accidents, for instance: "Fifty-two percent reported they were 5 miles or less from home, and an astounding 77 percent reported they were within 15 miles of home." Some people read this and decide it is much safer to be on the highway in another state than to be in your own neighborhood. Other people realize that they do most of their driving close to home. Even if they are driving 50 miles away, they have to pass through the 'statistical zone of death' to get there. The statistic is meaningless.

Not only is there skill in reading the data, there are very intelligent people who filter information through very different paradigms: The war in Iraq has cost more American lives than any war the under thirty set can remember. It is a huge tragedy and the bloodbath of their lives. A more historical perspective will compare it to single days or battles in other wars and the data, the raw number, will have different meaning and impact.

Then there are sources of information- anyone with access to TV, radio, papers and the internet have access to the information that everyone else does... but they don't access it the same way. No matter how much you deny it, consciously or unconsciously you are cherry-picking your sources to agree with your world view. I can find sources that say global warming is happening and is caused by fuel emissions. I can also find articles from many of the same organization from the seventies saying that the same emissions were bringing on the next Ice Age.

(And these two sources of difference, paradigm and choice of sources can blend such that if my primary source on Iraq are e-mails from soldiers there AND I've been reading "33 Strategies of War" that points out that the best way to beat the US in an altercation is simple to wait until the media turns and, in the cause of better ratings, works to bring down the government that caused the war, I'll be pro-war and anti-media. If on the other hand I've been watching the major news affiliates and reading "Fooled by Randomness" it leads to a 'wait and see, history doesn't decide until much later' attitude.)

But possibly the biggest is that people who live different lives and are exposed to different populations see different results from the same things.

Why are college professors generally for relaxed immigration laws and for government aid and cops, in general are against both?

It's because we see different outcomes. The college professor sees the students who worked hard, took advantage of what was offered and used it to create good and productive lives. Sometimes against great odds and defeating incredibly negative circumstances. They see the good that the programs do.

The cops deal, every day, with the people who took advantage of what was offered to increase their ability to harm or to evade responsibility for their actions.

The programs that allow a young man from Mexico who illegally crossed the border to find a job, get health care for his children, become an asset to his community, pay taxes and have children who go to colleges and make America stronger are exactly the same programs that allow cartels of drug dealers to pack their organizations with relatives from the home country and rule through fear and traditions that were imported right along with them.

The programs that allow a struggling single mother to care for her children and keep them fed and get them to school and give them a chance at a life are the exact same program that enables teen age boys to have contests on who can father the most illegitimate children before graduating from high school, and do so with absolutely no responsibility or penalties.

This is important. Sometimes the argument arises because the friend has a colleague who really made it in life with a little help paid for by the government... and you have either just delivered or just buried a baby addicted two two drugs and underweight with no functioning parent and that, the birth or the burial, were also paid for by the government.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bad Girls

Irena sent a message today: "You have described the BG (bad guys), and the EBG quite a bit. But, your portraits are all male. Any female BGs?"

Oh, yeah. In general, like most male officers, I don't like working with female inmates. Forget the prison movies, the majority of our female population have had shitty nutrition since childhood, never exercised, have very odd notions of hygiene and (like the men) far too much exposure to drugs and alcohol.

Without the "tough guy" image to maintain, they are also extremely whiny (far more than the male inmates) and used to an environment where offering easy sex is a primary strategy of control and, far too often, making money or getting drugs.

Aside about whining: there are three basic types of criminals. The most common are the low level hustlers- pimps, pros, druggies, dealers, petty thieves etc. They make up the majority of the population in jail. They are not used to doing things for themselves. One of my inmates claims to have fathered "around" 30 children. He thinks he is a good daddy- he brings his kids stuff when he has money (charges are dealing drugs and prostitution). I asked him who paid for the kids basic food and clothes and rent and ... he gave me a disgusted look. That's what welfare is for. I wish, in typing, I could give you the inflection of his voice- he wasn't saying welfare would take care of his kids, he was saying that welfare existed for the sole purpose of leaving him free NOT to take care of his kids. That's what welfare's FOR.

Anyway, raised in an environment where basic needs, including you children's are somebody else's responsibility it seems obvious that if you want something somebody should give it to you. You ask, demand, whine or take. With male inmates, the strategies are heavy on demand and take; with females on ask and whine.

So, to sum up, working a female dorm: imagine 60 sallow skinned, mostly toothless, either meth skinny or McDonalds obese women with bad skin and frequently open sores who are convinced that if they can find the right combination of whining and flirting they can control any man.

Open sores. I was flashed by an inmate once. She yelled, "Sarge, I want you to see something," and whipped her shirt up. I'm pretty sure I know what she was trying to show me, but I've seen those before. What I saw was a boil about half as big as a fist oozing pus all over. Before that day, suppurating pustule was just a word to me....

So yeah, Irena, there are bad girls. Some of them are very nasty and some of the stories are so nasty....

A couple of mild ones- there was a crack whore once who tried to gouge out my eyes with inch-long red fingernails. It didn't work.

And once a three-hundred-pound stark naked woman who had taken all of her dealer son-in-law's meth knocked everyone else off as we were putting her in a cell and some clumsy git of a partner shut the door with just me and the inmate inside. There was a very quick use of force- I swept her legs out and knelt on the elbow like in hiki mawashi (Sosuishitsu-ryu referance, everyone else disregard) and waited for someone to open the door. The worse part of that wasn't the visuals or the force. Really really obese people with bad hygiene smell like rotten cheese. Women with really bad hygiene smell like rotten fish. Yeah, it was like that. In an enclosed cell.

And hinting at a really nasty story: If an OB-Gyn doctor calls from the prison clinic and says, "Sergeant, I think I found some contraband..." you're going to have a very icky day.