Sunday, June 30, 2013

Confidence Levels

No experienced instructor is right.
No inexperienced instructor can know when they are wrong.

As instructors, we are sure about many things.  My experience is that as the experience increases, the sense of being sure diminishes.  With only training and without experience, we learn all this stuff and we learn a framework of logic or maybe superstition that ties the stuff together into a structure.  And a structure that massive can't fall.  So we think.

So generally, as knowledge without experience increases, "sureness" also increases.  and a little taste of experience proves one thing right away-- massive structures do fall and the more massive they are the more weight they have to crush you.

Knowledge can come from training, but there are certain forms of understanding that can only come from experience.  But then you have to look at the experience with a certain kind of knowledge to put it in perspective.  That's as far as I've gone in something that may be an infinite spiral.  I don't know where the analysis/learning/understanding process ends, or if it does.  So take nothing I say as a truth.  It works for me, at my level.  That is all.

Case in point, with confidence levels.  All fighters are inherently conservative.  Not in the political sense but in the sense that if you have bet your life on something and it worked, you won't change it without a damn good reason.  Generally, you won't change it until it fails.

So we trust the stuff that has worked.  The words are fuzzy here but the confidence level is high, yet the 'sureness' level is as close to zero as we can keep it.  Trust your 'A' techniques... but count on nothing.  Being sure sometimes makes you blind to the momentum of failure and you keep on a plan that is going south.  Confidence gives initiative, sureness kills adaptability.

But there are two (at least) problems with this.  And this is what I mean by using knowledge to analyze experience.  Training in experimental design and statistical analysis and scientific method changes perspective.

Problem number one-- Small sample size.
No one has a lot of experience in a wide variety of violence.  Not when you count up hours and techniques.  Especially on the counter-ambush side.  300 HIRs in the jail (I quit counting at three hundred and stayed at the job for another ten years) is probably less than five hours of experience. One of the few officers I know with multiple gunfights can measure his experience in seconds.  Maybe a minute.  Maybe.

So as much experience as you have, it really isn't much.
I trust throat spears.  I have used it for real exactly once.  A sample of one means absolutely nothing scientifically or statistically.

The most reliable handstrike I know I've used maybe three times, had used on me once and seen used another handful of times.  Less than a dozen incidents in all.  That's not a big sample either.  100% fight stopper... but in a small sample.

Aside-- And this is where mere training leaves holes.  Take a broken nose.  Trained people trust them, experienced people don't.  I've never once seen it stop a real fight, and I've never seen it fail to stop a friendly sparring match.

Problem one, sample size.

Problem two, adrenaline effects.  Anything you do under an adrenaline dump feels more real than stuff you do in your normal life.  The reason I trust the throat chop?  Because I thought I was going to die and the threat outweighed me by more than 120 pounds and in an instant he was on his knees trying to scream and making no sound.  That sticks with you.

Something that feels real does not make it more real.  That's the knowledge talking.  The old part of my brain says differently.  And that is without getting into the perception and memory distortions that come with high adrenaline.

And one more that's a human thing, not necessarily an experience thing: Inappropriate extrapolation.

Things are what they are and can only be extrapolated so far.  Military operations are not cop operations are not civilian self-defense.  A bouncer throwing a drunk college kid out of a bar is not dealing with the same problem as a small drunk female targeted by the same drunk college kid.
Ring experience doesn't make you SWAT any more than being SWAT makes you an MMA contender.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Knowing and Believing

I separate knowledge and belief.

There are things you don't know.
There are things you can't know.
There is a vanishingly small number of things that any person truly knows.
And there are a large number of things that we 'know' with varying levels of confidence.

Most of the universe is composed of things I don't know.  I don't know what you had for breakfast.  Don't know if there are habitable planets other than earth.  There are huge fields of specialist knowledge that are mysteries to me: computers, for instance.  And even in places where I have formal training, like experimental design or biology or emergency medicine, there are still huge swathes of specialist information that is beyond me.

And there are thing I can't know.  Would I survive an EOTWAWKI scenario?  What will the future hold?  What evil lurks in the heart of William Horace Smedly III, of Smesgboygan Illinois?

Some of the things can't be known because there are too many variables and some can't be known because the basic premises are also unknown (is there a William H. Smedley in a town I just made up?) And some of the things are unknowable, such as the non-disporovable hypotheses.

The things I truly know are very few, specific and limited.  They are the things I consider fact.  Diamond scratches talc.  For all people and in all times and under all circumstances (so far, but I think any circumstances that would change the mohs scale would also change the substances).  Put one rock in an empty jar and another rock in the same jar, you will have two rocks.  1+1=2.  But I don't count on it with rabbits over time.

The things I know with confidence are the things I have tested or have experience in. Leverage even works on PCP freaks, pain compliance does not.  Strikes and pressure points are unreliable.  Days get longer starting in late December.

But I'm not attached to these.  I'm aware that there is sampling error (OC-pepperspray- is notoriously unreliable in my experience. Never stopped a fight and four times the threat didn't even shut his eyes.  But they didn't call me when stuff worked.)  I am aware that there are outliers.  I've angulated an elbow so that it was about eight inches off the line of true with no effect whatsoever.  The most reliable thing seems to be that the longer you stay in certain environments the weirder the stuff that you see...

Belief is different.  Belief is when you invest in something you don't know or can't know.  Even when you get attached to things that you know with confidence.  (If my best technique fails and I believe it can't fail so I freeze...) The important part is that belief, no matter how strong it is, doesn't convert things to knowledge, much less to 'truth.'

What is being invested?  Ego.  Identity.  When beliefs become tribal markers.  The process and even identifying when you are doing this to yourself is laid out in the ConCom material.

Believing 100%, completely without doubt, doesn't mean you are right.  It isn't even an indicator of likelihood of accuracy.  But people will argue, burn friendships, even fight and kill over who is wrong and who is right.  If you feel sure, if you are very, very sure, that indicates one thing with absolute reliability: the thing you feel sure about is NOT on the list of things you know.

Did anyone have an emotional reaction to 1+2=2?  Even if I say something more complicated, like 7x 8= 42, the emotional reaction doesn't come from the facts. Some of you will feel a little smug at catching the error and I will feel a little embarrassed about making a math error in public and those of you that just skimmed will go back and find the math error and feel a little guilty...

Emotions over how people respond.  No emotion over the math itself.  Or over the mohs scale.  Because there is no emotion associated with knowledge.  But there is powerful emotion associated with belief. And nearly every human seems driven to equate belief with knowledge.

That's the basics.  Two minor points. Unrelated but interesting.
1) In the stuff I know with confidence, having an underlying theory and different corroborations makes it stronger and invests some ego in it.  Days get longer after the Winter Solstice.  Having read and been taught about planetary motion fits it into a cosmology and if that day lengthening were to stop, it would rock my world far more than if a threat resisted a throw applied with perfect physics.

2) Almost every one of the unknowables acts as a very effective Rorschach test.  Your stance on any of the big issues, and how you present your stance tells me almost nothing about the subject.  But it tells me an awful lot about you.

Monday, June 24, 2013


I don't write about domestic violence, because I don't feel I know enough about it.  I know, I know, that doesn't seem to stop most 'experts' in any field... but, flippancy aside, understanding violence is important.  Misinformed people get hurt.  Passing bad information, even if it makes you feel good, victimizes the people who listen.  (My beef with current bullying programs is that by refusing to acknowledge what works and trying to come up with a palatable solution, the programs not only create victims but an environment designed to enable bullying.)

And an aside.  Criminals are exceptionally manipulative.  One of the things that every Corrections Officer must learn is how to determine the real intent of even a simple conversation.  "What does this guy want?"  When  someone is trying to make you afraid, e.g. "Bullying is rampant and the scars will affect you for the rest of your life." And simultaneously says, "You must not respond physically." You have to ask yourself, why does this person want me to be both afraid and passive?  What does this person gain by trying to make me more of a victim?

That's an aside.  DV has come up a couple of times lately, asking where it fits into the Social/Asocial model.

The answer is "many places."

A taxonomy is a classification or naming system.  The same things, like plants, might have many different taxonomies.  The Linnaeus' taxonomy, what most people think of as the latin names, was originally based on details of morphology though much of it has been confirmed by DNA research.

But that's not the only taxonomy for plants.  You can also divide them by ornamental or edible and the ornamentals can be subdivided by tree/shrub or low growing; low growing by annual or perennial; late or early bloomers; and then by color.  This taxonomy may be more useful for someone designing a yard than Linnaeus'.  And an herbalist will have a different division of plants- calmative, purgative...etc.

By my model, DV isn't just one thing.  Like many crimes, you can get to the same actual crime from different motivations.

So, scenario one:
Husband was raised that a wife is the same as a child and beating is an appropriate way to punish. He will indulge in wife beating and they will follow the pattern of a social EBD.  (An extra dimension with this is culture and time.  There are many places and eras where this was a common world view and it wasn't considered abuse.)

Scenario two:
Husband is extremely insecure and acts out when he feels his status is questioned.  Very common primate behavior.  Combines elements of MD with EBD.  If feeling threatened with an audience present will likely escalate.

Scenario #3:
Social going toxic.  Someone unskilled at other types of interaction or who doesn't recognize submission signals may go to violence.

Scenario #4:
Asocial disguised as social:  A sexual predator has chosen a mate for her submissiveness and trained her to be his toy.  I've even known predators who married and had children for the sole purpose of molesting the child without a parent to risk complaints.  Grooming victims, especially as achildren is a really dark thing.

Scenario #5:
The relationship dimension.  The victim was trained as a child that real love involves beating ("Daddy shows he loves me with his belt") and will not be satisfied that a relationship is loving unless there is an element of violence to it.  This is one form of codependency. And a common effect of the grooming process.  Maybe the goal.

All of these scenarios can look very much the same, but they can't be treated the same.  The relationship dimension (and you can add culture as another dimension) can run through all of the scenarios.

Caveat though-- this is only what I've see,  I'm far from an expert on DV issues.  It's derived mostly from listening to men arrested for domestic violence explaining about why their actions weren't wrong. Sometimes it was self-serving, but in a few cases they were just raised to think that this was normal.

Cultural elements are a huge dimension.  Maybe more on that later.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


I didn't get cut Thursday.  I've known for a couple of weeks now, since just before I left for Germany.

The original injury was in Europe last October.  A kid got frisky (sometimes, when I feel old, all students are 'the kids') and I heard something when we went down.  Got position, control. Then realized I couldn't use my right leg to stand up.

Finished the class.  Hid the limp.  If you walk consciously enough you can move and even demo on an unstable knee.  Had to teach a full seminar the next two days.  The leg utterly collapsed once during the seminar.  I was sure it was ligament damage because there wasn't much pain, just a weird, weak, watery sensation.  Strangely, it felt better after the collapse.  Even stronger.

Made it home, made a doctor's appointment.  A little delayed because of seminars, especially New Orleans. (A place I will always think of with the word yum-- thanks, Scott).  During this time it collapsed again.  Sideways this time.  The doctor needed to refer me to a specialist, but scheduled an MRI. MRI showed severe tears of the ACL and LCL. Someone said that walking on my own, much less hiding the limp, was unusual.

Months delay before I finally saw the specialist, and it got reinjured again.  Stupid, just stepping off a curb it collapsed to the front/inside angle.  Since the injury it had now collapsed straight back, to each side and to the left/front.  I started pushing to see the specialist right away.

And the doc was upset because I had delayed so long.  And really upset at my lifestyle.  He added a torn meniscus to the diagnosis and we scheduled surgery for the 20th of June.  It was grim.  He explained that ligaments rarely heal on their own after this kind of delay.  He also said that the damage was bad enough that some things were off the table.  He couldn't use tissue from my own body-- there simply wasn't enough to repair the damage.  The replacement ligaments would come from a cadaver.  And the damage was to extensive to do arthroscopic surgery.  This would be the old-school, wide-open slash.  He said no weight at all for 8 weeks, no serious physical activity for 18 months except for PT.

So just before the Europe trip we had the final pre-surgery consult.  And the knee was so much better Doc thought it was better not to do the surgery.

With a little help from friends.  Dana sent me a book on TCM that was helpful.  Wes sent some shuang jin xu gu wan.  Randy gave excellent advice on what exercises I could do.  Ana of Hag Gefluster made some Beinwel salve. Thanks.

Long term, this is likely just delaying the inevitable.  But it's a big relief, for now.  Things are far too busy to take eight weeks off, much less eighteen months.

Thanks, friends.  And mutant healing genes.

Friday, June 21, 2013


For my thousand and first (1001) post, I'm going off tangent.  Religion and politics.

Had an epiphany.  Want to share it, but really not sure I want to draw this much fire.  Background: I don’t get religion.  I see it all around me, I’ve read and studied, but on a deep level, I don’t get the ‘why.’ Whatever need drives people to believe that there is a plan is just absent in my psyche.  Whether I imagine a world with or without gods, neither feels different to me.
I have a couple of friends who can be described as born-again atheists.  They are just as fundamentalist, loud and angry as the most vitriolic born-again Christian or Muslim convert.  I have several friends who self-describe as secular humanists.  Most are areligious, a few antireligious.
The epiphany. Listening in on the debate over GMO labeling, it occurred to me that this was a religion demanding that their food be labeled “Not Halal” or “Not Kosher.”  It wasn’t a scientific or health concern. There hasn’t been an unmodified food crop since we figured out cross-pollination and selective breeding; and there is no such thing as an inorganic cucumber.  And to actually revert to pre-industrial farming practices and plants as they occur in the wild would mean mass starvation, which isn’t healthy. The labels are merely the stamp of approval of a large, powerful, growing and evangelical religion.
So I started looking a little closer.  Is there a doctrine that flies in the face of science? Sure.  Lots.  Some that flies in the face of simple observation.  The horrible book I just read goes out of the way to praise the egalitarian and peaceful natures of simple foraging peoples. But in the case studies he mentions, if you look at the numbers their murder rate is astronomical.  Only two murders in a population seems small.  But in a population of 2000?  That’s twenty times the murder rate in the US.  One of the ‘peaceful’ groups had more executions per capita than Texas could dream… not counting the babies left to freeze to death, especially girls.
Egalitarian? When a population has almost no material possession, it’s kind of disingenuous to marvel about equality of those possessions.  And when there are only two jobs (hunting and gathering) and which one you will get is decided entirely by gender with no exceptions… but, hey.  You can pretend to call it equality.  I believe apartheid, separate but equal, is the modern term.
But the doctrine requires you to portray these societies as having the values that the doctrine espouses—egalitarianism, peacefulness, sexual freedom (even if the writer notes that cheating wives are sometimes murdered he marvels at the sexual freedom) and living at one with nature (author states that survival is easy even in the harshest conditions if one has the skills, then says that being cast out of the tribe is a death sentence due to starvation). 

There are even prophets of the apocalypse. The world will end if we don’t follow the dogma.
The world will end.  From Rachelle Carson’s “Silent Spring” to global warming, how many apocalypses (what is the plural of apocalypse?) do you remember?
We laugh at the Mayan calendar and the 5/5/2005 prophecies.  Nuts sitting in bunkers.  But how many times has the end of the world been declared by the secular? Hmmmm. Just the ones that I remember:
·      Ice age in the ‘70’s
·      Hole in the ozone layer (remember that all animals are supposed to be blind by now)
·      Acid rain
·      No possibility that any oil would be left by 2020 at the latest
·      Mass starvation unless ZPG was achieved world-wide by 1990 at the latest
·      Nuclear holocaust statistically unavoidable
·      Y2K computer bug
·      SARS, avian flu and nile virus
·      And, of course, the killer bees

Note-- I'm not debating what's real and what isn't.  I'm marveling that so many  people who reject the idea of a vengeful god seem to have a need to create one.  But they call it nature and insist the dogma is science.  Like some cults we could mention.  What fascinates me is that the pattern echoes even in the details.
The interesting thing about this, is that the prophets preach that the solution is in the doctrine.  Case in point is that what we needed to do in the seventies to stave off the ice age (quit driving cars so much, quit putting hydrocarbons in the atmosphere) is the exact same thing the current prophets say we need to do to prevent global warming.
And there is even an inquisition for those who commit heresy. A news commentator had to recant for saying that there was doubt about global warming.  The word ‘recant’ was actually used. The Oregon State Meteorologist (who appeared to be of the opinion that the temperature was rising but the cause was probably complex) feared for his job.
Here’s the deal.  In science there is always doubt.  If doubt is not allowed, it’s not science.  It’s effectively religion.
Which leads to my born-again atheist friends.  They demand proof of the existence of god before they will believe.  Two problems with that.  The first is that ‘proof’ outside of syllogism (a system of logic) and mathematics does not exist.  The scientific method, by its very nature, is incapable of proof, but damned efficient at disproving.  They are demanding something that, if they were rational, they must know can’t exist and they do not demand for any of their other beliefs.  The second is that god is a 'non-disprovable hypothesis.'  If you imagine a creature that can change the universe, including time, perception, cognition, physics and even the law of causality… there’s no way you can test for (disprove, remember) a thing that can change your test, your results or your interpretation.  Science doesn’t attempt to disprove the undisprovable. Waste of time and irrational.
This new religion even has the concept of original sin.  That is why the primitive people must be presented as having the virtues of this religion—because they aren’t tainted with original sin.
What is the original sin? A sense of guilt over things you have never done.  I’ve heard it called ‘liberal guilt’ and even heard it defended as a moral compass and incentive.  Hmmm. Just like Christianity’s original sin.  The idea that we should feel bad to be born into this place and time, enjoying the world that our ancestors created when others with different ancestors in different places have different things.  Again, this is chance, outside of any possible control.  The rational attitude would to be decide what to do with these resources, not rail against them.  Certainly not complain, whine and protest from a life of privilege and comfort.
In the book read recently, by someone I would classify as a preacher of this new religion, he describes a woman in a forager society having sex with a man she has refused several times-- for food.  He characterizes this as peaceful problem-solving, though it is something he would immediately recognize as forced prostitution of the weak in his own (original sin) culture.
Second, he describes how more girl babies than boy babies are left out to die, as well as the sick and the old but “…not out of cruelty…”
It’s that peaceful, egalitarian, natural, pre-original sin kind of murder.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Medicinal Purposes

Home.  23 hours after my alarm beeped, after a wake-up and good-byes and a drive, train ride (with one missed connection) I was on my second flight, looking at the sun battling storm clouds over the impossible green of the Cascade foothills.

Then landing, with a bit of rain.  My lovely wife and action-adventure daughter met me at the airport.  Shower and steak.  Sleep.

Then a day of mostly relaxing.  Readjusting. No real jet lag, I just find myself getting mellow and peaceful at odd times.

And today.  K has the day off so we have spent most of it being interrupted.  Early this morning I ate left-over steak and started to eat some cheese that was ... well, let's just say that not all cheeses are supposed to have blue mold.  And finished a truly horrific book.  A friend loaned it and it has been a really hard read.  If I had grass allergies the strawman arguments in the book might have been fatal.  If I applied the author's definitions to his own arguments... sigh.

So K brought me a whiskey.  For medicinal purposes, she said.  I looked at the time and said, "No, thanks."
She said, "Seriously.  It can't hurt and that stuff can't be good for you."
I sighed and said, "The book isn't that bad.  I think I can do the last five pages without alcohol."
She laughed.  "I was talking about the moldy cheese, you idiot."

Trust me.  The moldy cheese wasn't nearly as detrimental to my body as this book would be to a brain. To read it uncritically would be a form of lobotomy.  To read it critically was merely pain.  But I'll take the moldy cheese any day.

Oh, and as for the missed train connection?  If you're on a German train and it leaves three minutes early, you're on the wrong train.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trust in Information

News flash: Germans know how to make sausage.  Oh, and the Rhine is flooded.

Busy week.  Lots of travel (flight to Germany plus travels within plus a 500+ km motorcycle tour of the flooded rhine).  Cool places (three different OMC hangouts, plus a police academy, plus a couple of medieval towns). Lots of classes.  Ambushes and Thugs at the Highway Riders Bad-Wildungeng HQ; Conflict Communications at the Lower Saxony Police Academy last night; private lessons start in one hour.

I always hate teaching ConCom to foreign audiences.  The language is nuanced and you can only tell if the translator is good if you don't need one.  Need to get some native speakers up to speed to teach in other countries (are you listening Andraz, Atilla, Thomas and Ferran?)  They liked it and most seemed to understand and Thomas is a good translator who understands the material-- but when things are this important anything less than perfection scares me a little.

Two of the academy social science instructors attended.  A German police academy is a full university leading to a bachelor's degree.  The students spend three years.  Part of their curriculum includes "social science" which seems to be a mix of psychology and sociology.

One of the social science instructors approached me after the class. "It was amazing. They listened to you.  They were alert and taking notes!" She makes a frantic scribbling gesture with her hands,"When we teach" she mimics a yawn. "But we are teaching science.  We have all of science to back us up and you have only personal experience and yet they believe you."

(Note, she was not saying the class was amazing.)

There is a lot in here, and it is important.
First, what passes as science in the social sciences is deplorable.  Really bad.  Remember that experimental design in psychology is what I studied...and even then at their top level at that time accepted practices would have been decried in a hard science.  I saw one rejection letter from the Journal of the APA that stated that their policy was never to publish a study that contradicted a previously published, peer-reviewed study.  Evidently peer review was more important than fact.

That aside, most officers don't trust social scientists and that's without having backgrounds in what constitutes science.  It is because so much of what they've been told by social scientists is wrong.  It fails.  In my experience social scientists are very in tune and correct about some things.  They know the way that relatively rich, educated, genteel, polite, educated undergraduates think.  They know how other extremely educated, privileged academics think.  And living in one of the most intellectually inbred worlds possible, they believe they know how all people think.  Anthropologists are the exception.  Many get their hands dirty.

The things the academics teach-- why they believe that the privileged people they know might turn to crime-- fails for the cops who are dealing with a certain demographic.

Point one: Distrust will arise when concepts comes from bad science.
Point two: Distrust will arise when concepts come from irrelevant science.

When theories are presented as theories, with no touchstone to reality, they don't sit well in your head.  I use Maslow, but point out that as a theory there are holes.  Big holes.  But as a model it is useful.  And I tie that model not to my experience but to the experience of everyone in the class.

Point three: Trust is increased with instructor humility. "The theory has holes."
Point four: Trust is increased when you can tie the concept to the student's direct, personal experience.

Though there are theories underlying Conflict Communications, the theories don't matter.  The entire course was back engineered.  What worked?  Why did it work?  No idea? Then think it through.  What did the things that work have in common? Oh, that reminds me of a theory from college, let me look it up...  It worked.  It worked before it was ever a system.  And it would continue to work as a model even if the underlying theories proved false.  The only difference would be not knowing why it worked...and there is no guarantee that we know the real 'why' now. So:

Point five: The appearance of science increases trust, even if it doesn't increase effectiveness or truth. This trust affect is purely psychological
Point six: Something that works increases trust.

I've dealt with the same bad stuff that these recruits will and these officers have.  We have a related background.  I bring stuff to them from their world, not from an imaginary world of theory and statistical analysis.  Someone pointed out recently that psychologists are about 40% accurate in predicting violence.  I don't know where he got the statistic or over what time frame or with what data.  But I will say that if cops were only 40% accurate the profession would be extinct.  The tools I show them are ones I have bet my life on.  No academic can say that.

Point seven: Trust increases if the concepts come from the same world and use the same language where the skills must be applied.
Point eight: Trust increases when people you trust rely on the concepts when the stakes are high.

The social scientist was a good, intelligent person who cared about these recruits.  But she had the same trust issues accepting data from a thug jail guard than they did accepting information from an academic. And for valid reasons.  My insights did not come from her world and might not work in her world.  I don't have the symbols of authority and trust in her world that I do in mine.  And as much as I've bet my life, I've never bet my tenure on a wild theory and, in her world, tenure seems more real.

Two more points, to make an even ten:
Point nine: Knowing the limits of your concept increases trust. To say something always works brands you as a liar or a fool.
Point ten: Trust is reciprocal.  I tell the students that I trust them to do the right thing, to make the decisions, to decide when the model will fail and do something else.  People trust people who trust them.