Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nothing to Say

This blog is all about me. A few friends know about it and I've referenced it in a few places when I was too lazy to repeat myself, but even if you are a very close friend I'm not writing here for you.

My entry to blogging was an accident- I wanted to register to make a comment and offer a resource to a friend. Registering created this page. I didn't use it for awhile. Then...The very first entry was about the aftermath of a Use of Force and waiting for blood tests to see if I'd been exposed to HIV or Hep in a somewhat bloody fight.

It wasn't about the readers, the few friends or the random strangers who have drifted across Chiron. It was for me, because there was stuff I needed to get out of my head. I was still going to poke at it, I just wanted to poke at it somewhere other than internally.

It's been very good for me and right now, in this moment and place, there's nothing in my head I need to get out. This corner of the world is safe and sane.

Be well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


An officer approached me today. He'd taken a DT class from me last week and wanted me to know how disturbed and uncomfortable he was with the material. At the end of class we'd gone over (slowly, deliberately, safely, yet thoroughly) how to break a neck. It's a lethal technique for a situation where lethal force is required. It made him uncomfortable- that we would teach it, that it would work and most of all the feel of putting it on me and slowly applying power to the point of no return.

(There is a technique that I have used extensively in judo and seen in wrestling and MMA that is relatively quick, simple and reliable. It leads to a choke hold. However, it bypasses two neck breaks that are easier, faster and simpler to get to than that 'winning' choke. The first of the bypassed neck breaks is what we taught.)

In his day-to-day job, this man is surrounded by criminals. He works where they have access to tools and weapons. He says that he has no problem doing "anything it takes to survive" but he makes a pistol with his fingers as he says it. Part of doing "anything it takes" involves training. Part of doing "anything it takes" involves getting used to discomfort.

Shooting, I think, is easier to fantasize about because it is more visual than tactile. The feelings of shooting are a hard object in your hand, a little resistance at your finger and a sharp jerk of recoil. There's not a lot of sweat and fear smell and slipperiness and stretching or popping. The sounds of shooting are loud but sharp (but at twenty five yards with a .45 I have heard the separate slap of the bullet hitting the target and that would be a terrible sound in flesh.) The sounds of fighting and hurting at close range are quieter but more enotional- the melon thump of head on concrete, the bell tone of head into a steel counter, the rip/crunch of a body slammed into drywall, the gasping and sometimes screaming or gurgling, the tears, snaps and rips of tissues parting. And let's not get into smells, I like the smell of shooting.

I know that this officer isn't one of our "meat eaters". He's not the guy to call if you have a riot brewing or a PCP freak going bad- but I'm disturbed. Disturbed that he can believe that doing something will be easy, but that training to do it is hard and uncomfortable. That he believes he will have an easier time doing something in a fraction of a second when he is terrified that he can barely force himself to do with coaching and in safety.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is a certain percentage of people who can be squeamish, hesitant and inattentive in training and turn into technically superb tigers in combat. But I doubt it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Convention

It's strange to be rested again, to be awake and alert and engaged. It's a good feeling, and very powerful. It's been a day of sweat and tears (no blood, yet, and the tears were about growth and coming from a man facing sixty years who needed to deal with his own life as it is, not rail against an unfair world). Predators captured (and maybe one learned a little bit about being a man), deputies counseled, loved ones fed. Even when tired and distracted, I do a pretty good job. Today was ...better. Cool.

Once a year, my wife drags me to the Oregon Science Fiction Convention. She writes and paints and organizes and generally gets much done while making people feel very good about themselves. She shines at these events and I love to watch her as she checks her artwork for bids and puts in hours behind the scenes so that the things she runs appear to go off without a hitch, effortlessly.

In the past, my role has always been ornamental- she hangs on my arm and I strive to look good. The last two years, though, she has volunteered me to sit on panels (mostly dealing with violence or crime, my specialties) and teach a martial arts introduction in the morning for the handful of people who wake up early enough.

THE ATMOSPHERE always makes me a bit uncomfortable. There are a lot of Klingons and fairies and pirates, and I don't have a problem with that, but there's an earnest attempt to both be weird and find a group that appreciates the weirdness and is weird in the same way... it always strikes me as a group of iconoclasts who are afraid to be alone. Herd animals who desperately want to believe that they are eagles. There are exceptions of course and I count many of those friends. The professional writers tend to be intelligent, business-like and bitterly sarcastic, which is really fun. There are artists and singers and a few scientists, not as many as there used to be. There are writer wannabes (some of whom are fantasizing and some are working and it's easy to tell the difference). So, obviously all the good stuff happens in the bar.

PANELING: The basic idea is that a handful of experts get in front of a room and talk about a subject and answer questions from the audience. The audience is theoretically composed of a mix of fans who wish to be more informed and wannabe professionals who are trying to learn more information to give their writing or art some substance. Lets just say that the standard for what qualifies as an expert can be pretty low. On one panel we had an MD in the audience who knew more about the subject than all the panelists combined. On the other hand, in other panels we had some people who thought they knew more about the subject than the whole panel combined, yet somehow had failed to master basic hygiene.

1) Sitting on a panel that is about the future possibilities of drugs and medication an author, Steve Perry said, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a pill that would make you stronger, look better and live longer?" The audience nodded or clapped approval and he cut 'em down, "Well there is. It's called 'eat right and exercise' and most of you aren't taking it."
2) Same panel and one of the audience members started explaining that poor quality food made people stupid, which in turn made them vote for Republicans which caused the problems of the whole world. Hmm. I thought it was watching television and reading fiction. Which I said out loud. To an author.
3) Getting two very brave and untrained women to not only practice infighting but to try it blindfolded. The wild grin when someone realizes how much they already know and can sense is a very precious thing.
4) Discussing bureaucratic lines of information, requirements for effective peaceful resistance, abuses of teaching power, the dynamics of dependent students and so much more with Michael and Asher.
5) Hearing of a long-time friend's early childhood in a famous suicide cult and all the questions it brought on.
6) Fine scotch and good conversation with M&K on everything from bodices to evil to social blindness to... if I'd only drank less, I'd remember more. But I remember the very warm glow of being with a couple that I like and admire very, very much.
7) Watching my daughter make friends with another young woman who was clearly also a high functioning autistic- listening to their careful words and watching precise and rehearsed body language as they expressed their natures through what must at times seem an alien language of etiquette and protocol.
8) CS's first con and her insights and wicked humor.
More- furry tails and Xena costumes and corsets that I am afraid will give me nightmares about being chased and smothered by a pair of vanilla pudding-monsters; and a kind professional author who saw my weariness as I stepped in to watch over an obligation my wife couldn't make and said, "You just relax. We're pros. We know what to do."

THE QUESTIONS: my old Friday student was there. We get together when we can, but we both live well out of town and her business no longer brings her to town so we don't get to work out much or let our brains play off each other like before. I miss that, as much for the questions as for the answers.
1) "If we're all going to die and our students are going to die, what is the point of teaching?" "I have no idea. I thought you had the answer to that one." "Nope." "Oh well."
2) Is an abusive teacher or a cult leader an example of predation or parasitism or symbiosis?
3) If Jim Jones caused the death by suicide of 914 cult members but he led all of them to full enlightenment in the moments before they drank the koolaid, was it a good thing? Still evil? So what?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Too Early to Call

Tired. Tired at heart, tired to the bone. Soul tired. Third consecutive day of running from "o dark thirty" until after midnight.

I want to call her, but it's too early. She won't be home yet and I can't interrupt what she is doing right now. When I'm hurt or have walked too close to a gaping maw of dark human experience or am just soooo tired... I want to hear her voice.

The nature of this life is that often there is no time to heal or rest. This needs to be done now. That needs to be done immediately. Tomorrow is another set of obligations. Whether it hurts to walk or my shoulder won't stay in the socket as I type or I'm so tired that I slur simple words, those are only data points and things need to be done. Lots was done today, much of it for her. More will be done tomorrow, most of that for the agency. Sometime in between I will snatch three or maybe four hours of fitfull sleep.

I want to hear her voice. Even if I can't really carry on a conversation and have to have one ear on the radio and possibly type reports or look up criminals at the same time, I just want to hear her murmurring in my ear, talking about her day, prattling if she wants.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


In a mass casualty situation one of the most critical operations is triage. The most skilled medic doesn't work treatment, he or she is assigned to triage. He does a quick primary survey, cursory secondary survey, as much as needed, no more and drops a tag- Red, Yellow, Green, or Black- then moves on.

The treatment medics follow up, Red patients first.

I want to go into detail here, because Triage is a critical and cold-hearted business. The ones who make the most noise or are in the most pain aren't necessarily the ones who need to be treated first. The ones who tug at your heart, especially the children, can't influence the decision. Time is critical and the time it takes to ease the pain of a Yellow tag may make the difference between a Red and Black tag for someone else. But that would be an aside, I want to write about something else.

The Categories: Immediate (Red- we can save the casualty if we act quickly enough); Delayed (Yellow- he won't die if we spend an hour or so on the Reds); Minimal (Green- the patient will be okay and can probably help with treating others); Expectant (Black- don't waste the resources, he's going to die).

The Black category gives a lot of people, including medical professionals, trouble. People who have trained their entire adult lives to save people have a really hard time turning away, and no one deep down really believes in a hopeless case. It's made even harder because in practical experience, there is almost no such thing as an Expectant case. As long as there is any sign of life, and sometimes even beyond, ER surgeons and trauma teams and paramedics in the field will move heaven and earth to keep tissues oxygenated and nodes firing. Even in cases of advanced and inoperable cancer the hospice system gives help and medication to ease the pain of the last days.

Although I think that is going too far when a dying eighty year old man wants a steak and a slug of bourbon and his nurse says it's bad for his heart. Ahem.

The Black tag means that you are moving on and leaving the person to die.

It may sound horrible, but it's even worse than that, because the triage model is driven as much by resources as it is by injury. With medevac and an operating theater available an abdominal perforation might not even rate a Red tag. Ab wounds are bad, but if there's not much bleeding the person can live for hours. Remove the medevac and make it a twelve hour stretcher carry to an LZ and the patient gets the Black tag.

With unlimited resources there are no Expectant patients. As resources dry up or numbers of caualties increase, things that could have been Red or Yellow become Black.

The Triage Officer has to know all this and has to be able to make these decisions, even if the decisions suck. If someone is going to die anyway, do you give them morphine to ease their pain? Only if you have morphine to spare, otherwise it goes to someone who has to remain still for an operation.

This is another thing about life- about letting go, about following the military maxim not to reinforce failure. There is a delicate balance in what I'm trying to say here. Medical triage exists in a place of limited time and limited resources and great demands. Most of your life doesn't. If you are willing to make the plan and do the work, you can amass almost any resources that you will ever need to make something happen.

But sometimes not. Sometimes in friendships that have turned to something else, sometimes in public policy, sometimes in trying to help someone who doesn't want to be helped, you have to drop the Black tag and move on.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"It's a Hard Thing to Say..."

When your partner is screwing up, how do you tell your supervisor?

M had that problem yesterday and I was his supervisor. Luck, and the fact that everything I needed to see was right in front of my face, saved him from having to find the words.

"I'll talk to him."

Then talking to him. The partner knew right away it could be bad: he pre-empted any scolding, confessed to everything, made his excuses.

Aside: this wasn't some big cover-up or crime or evil-doing. The partner just wasn't doing his job. Distracted by problems at home, he was leaving his partner to carry the weight.

Partners in high risk professions are a special thing. I've written about it before- race, religion, background, politics all mean nothing next to the simple fact of trust. I trust this person to cover my back. I trust him to pull my stupid ass out of there when and if I make the Big Mistake. It can grow and spread, this trust- I trust my regular partners to cover my play. I trust them not to get me killed by being stupid (making mistakes happens. Being stupid is confusing your ego with the job).

A very few presume on this and take it too far. The worst expect their partners to actually switch sides and cover up criminal activity. This rarely flies- I'm thinking cops here- all but the most naive, inexperienced or willfully stupid have watched criminals for a long time and know how criminals act and think and recognize it quickly when their partner starts making excuses or rationalizations like a criminal does. If the communication is good, it ends right there. If the communication is poor it eventually gets kicked up to a supervisor or Internal Affairs.

More basic and more common is just simple slacking, leaving your partner to do your work.

Home is important. Every supervisor I've ever respected has made a point of telling the deputies that home is more important than work. Yet problems at home shouldn't bleed over into work. When you are at home, you need to be at home. When you are at work, you need to be at work. Because you need your full attention with this job, and half-assed commitment leads to half-assed decisions which leads to costly mistakes... and you can't take care of problems at home if you don't make it home.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Drawing a Blank

Making the list for the last entry I had to go through my dayplanner/journal. An entry struck me (I'll change the name here, but nothing else):

IJ- Dorm 12 felt bad right away- Charles pulled out one w/ a weapon and a bloody fight later. No HIR. I had to run the dorm hard for a bit, then do investigations. Interesting and challenging investigation. All good. Good busy day

I have absolutely no memory of any of these events. Weapons, bloody fights, intuition keying in early... interesting and challenging usually means that the inmates wanted to play the "I don't talk to cops" game but told me everything voluntarily... but I don't remember.

Pretty odd life when a weapon and criminals and a bloody fight add up to 'good busy day', but aren't enough to leave a mark on the memory.

And this was just the afternoon. We had a tactical call out in the morning and I do remember forcing my assistant to act as Team Leader and the "Reverse Pinochio". The Reverse Pinochio, however, can only be discussed over good scotch with close friends.

Behind Quota

There's information here, if you choose to read deep, but this post is just for me.
I try to read two books a week, or about eight a month or a hundred a year.
So far, this year:

The City of God
The Commando Workout
Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief
The Society of Captives
Jujutsu- Legacy of the Samurai
The Souls of Black Folk
Unlimited Power
Instant Psychopharmacology
Dare to be Great (Lecture on tape. Not very good)
Love and Be Loved (Came with the other one. Even worse)
Mental Aerobics (How the hell does crap like this get published?)
How to Win Friends and Influence People (re-read)
Dark Dreams
Sanchin Kata (in manuscript, not yet published. By Kris Wilder)
Elizabeth I: CEO
Protecting the Gift
The Zombie Survival Guide
The Way of the Scout (I love Tom Brown's writing, but this... let's just say 'improbable')
Histories of Tacitus
Getting Started as a Freelance Writer
Portraits of Guilt
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cultural Etiquette
Writing About Your Life
Go Rin No Sho (re-read, the Book of Five Rings)
Pagan Dances of Caherbarnagh
A Man on the Moon (History of the Apollo missions. Excellent)
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
The Thin Man
The Man Who Listens to Horses
Handbook of Magazine Article Writing
High Impact Jiu-jitsu (Written by Don Jacobs. Horrible book, great martial artist)
Colored People
Judo Skilss and Techniques
I Know What the Caged Bird Feels
The Path of the Warrior (very weak book on ethics in policing)
Blue at the Mizzen
Stratego Low Light Manual
Krav Maga
Ex Libris
Zodiac Arch
Eyeing the Flash
Way of the Peaceful Warrior (gack)
Emotional Vampires
The Dancing Wu Li Masters (Unbelievably misrepresentation of both physics and the Tao)
Sharpe's Rifles (re-read, one of the small sets of fiction I really like)
Because He Could
The Changing Sky
Heart and Soul of Ireland
I Could do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was
Deep Survival
Shocknife manual and Safety literature
Fooled by Randomness
Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity
Dead Clients Don't Pay
Bad Fads
Tactical Pistol Shooting
Signal Zero (must read for anyone who believes in the 'police personality')
Warrior Queens
Stoic warriors
Heart of Karate-do
IAU Procedures
Martial Arts: The Way of Family Tradition (one of 3 books in Soul of the Samurai)
Soul of the Samurai (The other two books didn't deserve separate entries)
Roughing It (Mark Twain is a genius. The Nevada part should be a TV series)
Taoist Chi gong
The Code of the Streets
A Dragon Apparent
The Face of Battle
Napoleon Hill's 17 Keys to Success
The Strangest of Strange Unsolved Mysteries (this sort of book was more fun when I was 10)
The Weather Channel Presents: Tornados
The Life of the Last Prophet

So that's seventy-five. I don't think I'll finish twenty-five in the next month and a half.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Conscious Professionals

Reading "Acts of War, the Behavior of Men in Battle" by Richard Holmes. Some things jelled, thoughts scattered among the sections read this morning.

That going into battle is a fundamental conflict between basic survival needs and social needs. You can get killed in battle. Your animal mind knows this. But the part of your mind that knows that you are part of a group or society is stronger. For the average soldier, showing fear is a bigger concern than dying.

Yet it is, for most people, the small society of comrades- the squad, the fire team, the unit- that demands this kind of loyalty and sacrifice...

Yet the battle itself is for the good of a larger society that is not present (this is arguable, as people quibble over their petty ideas of what a war is or should be about, what is 'good' for society. Nation-states, corporations or terrorists organizations are organic, in a way, and 'good' can't be defined teleologically. What the organism or organization is willing to fight for is what is it's own perspective of it's own 'good' at the time, rightly or wrongly.)...

What percentage of soldiers or warriors consciously decide that the battle is for the good of society as a whole and voluntarily take the job, eyes wide open?

How is this percentage perceived by the soldier who are concerned only with not appearing as cowards? Is there a separation? How great is the gulf?

How much greater is the gulf between these conscious professionals and the ones they protect, the ones who stay home?

And does this come full circle, that the people most willing to die for the good of others are the ones most contempuous of the society of sheep that they protect?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Leadership Epiphany

This came as a sudden insight last night, but deep down it's probably something that everyone knows.

In an open dorm, some inmates have trouble bedding down at lights out and being quiet. Imagine a sleep-over of teenagers, most of whom are violent criminals. The swing shift officers want to pass a quiet dorm on to graveyard. Most of the time it's fairly smooth, but sometimes not.

Last night it was a back-up call. The dorm wouldn't quiet down. The officer was flashing the lights, yelling and threatening. The sergeant in charge of the sector informed the dorm that they would all lose walk time tomorrow.

I just stood by, watching as the loudest was handcuffed and taken to the "hole". The deputies left with that inmate and I started to walk out too, then there was a bunch of cat calls.

Nope. Not acceptable. I went back in the dorm, alone, and pulled up a chair next to the loudest cubicle and just sat there. They quieted down. Every place I looked at quieted down. For fifteen minutes I just sat and one by one the inmates drifted off to sleep or read their books. A few nodded thanks (inmates like the dorms clean, quiet and safe just as much as the officers do). No arguments, no disciplinary action, no threats, not even any instructions. Just being there was enough.

By my definition, it was what leadership is supposed to be- people wanting to do what needs to be done.

It occured to me that leadership requires physical presence. You have to be there. You can't lead from a far away office any more than an officer can control inmates through a speaker in the wall. The people you are trying to lead HAVE to see you. There can be no leadership from a distant headquarters building or comfy corner office. At best, that can rise to the level of management. Leaders must be seen.

Just as important, you must be seen being the way you want your troops to be. You want them to work hard, they must see you go the extra mile. You want them to be respectful, they must see you showing respect. You want them to be conscientious, they have to occassionally see you clean up the break room or pick up trash when it's not your job.

This kind of leadership isn't limited- politeness, respect, work ethics- can all be contagious without a supervisor/subordinate relationship.

And it can backfire just as bad, even without direct presence- when leaders are shown morally weak or lazy or angry (all the things that make the paper) that is what the people you are trying to lead see. The best reject the leader, the worst use his behavior as an excuse to live down to that level.

You must be seen.

You must be seen as you want others to be.

That simple.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Let us stop talking falsely now...

...The hour's getting late."

What is your responsibility when you see a martial arts instructor teaching his students how to get killed?

My answer is a cop-out. It's achingly true and deadly accurate, but it is a cop-out: Not one martial artist in a hundred, maybe a thousand, will ever use this stuff and the fantasy is more valuable to them than reality.

In my heart of heart I hope that the information I put out will fall on the one person who needs it. I hope that the people who come to me for lessons or seminars or lectures will be the people who think in possibilities and costs and odds and tactics.

But it's not true and never has been. Looking out over a mat full of eager martial artists, almost every damn one of them is just picking up details for a private fantasy. If you've ever been an adolescent male you know the fantasies, too: saving the beautiful woman from her abusive boyfriend or stalker ex-boyfriend in the bar and she asks you to see her safely home; or saving the beautiful scared woman from the gang with your steely eyes and efficient, deadly kung-fu.

What are they really getting from me? When they lie awake fantasizing later that night, the gang leader with the knife won't do the wild slash they practiced in martial arts class, he'll do the close range stab I say is more likely, more real. But each gang member will still attack one at a time and lose.

Instead of dispatching the ex-boyfriend with a spectacular crescent kick it will be a leverage point, elbow strike, spine drop with a little thought thrown into the legal justification and maybe an extra scene where he deals with the police cooly and professionally, winning even more admiration from the damsel in distress.

Training competitors is different. I don't have a lot to offer people training for competition- there are better coaches who understand the rules and how to use them than I do- but they know why they are training and it is real.

And I like talking to authors about violence because they know that they deal in fantasy and the best writers work hard to make the fantasy as true as possible. No illusions there.

Cops, of course. My core student base.

But the pure martial artist is the one I have the hardest time with. There is something odd about choosing "playing at violence" as a hobby. It's not real violence because you work hard not to hurt people and yet kicking people in the head or slamming them into the ground is, undeniably, violence. Play violence as a hobby. The martial artists I like working with this have felt the oddity of this concept and are moving from a hobby to a study.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Beating Up Children

The weekend started a little strangely. We have a brand-new jail completely empty. The voters passed the levy to build it, but the people who run the county decided not to even allow a vote for the money to run it. Great big empty clean jail that doesn't smell like criminals.

Someone got the really cool idea of letting the Boy Scouts hold an over-nighter there. Even cooler, someone decided to have a group of deputies give brief little classes on what Law Enforcement does... but only the cool stuff: K9, night vision, special weapons...

I was asked to do the DT (defensive tactics) portion. Six twenty-minute classes for 40-50 Boy Scouts.

You can't give a refresher to an experienced officer in twenty minutes. A 1:50 instructor/student ratio? With children? I like children but even privately I won't teach them.

(Aside re: "Not teaching children". At its most basic, what I teach is about violence, fear and damage. Percentage increases in chances of surviving moments of real chaos and real evil. Kids don't understand that and more importantly it's not even healthy for them to learn of that world unless they are already secure in a separate, real and loving world. Very few kids can accept or understand the responsibility of taking a life or maiming another human--hell, if they can accept and understand it, they aren't kids anymore. The deepest reason, though comes in two parts- children can be affected on a deeper level than all but the most damaged of adults. A good teacher can become parent/love object/messiah to a child all too easily simply by caring and paying attention. That kind of power scares me. The second aspect is that I prefer students that already have a base of knowledge and experience, who are for the most part formed. I want to interact, not to mold. I want to give them tools and insights and not personalities. I want teaching and learning to be a partnership.)

Anyway, fully aware that this was just a step beyond babysitting and more entertainment than instruction, I agreed.

I arrived at the site and something was wrong. Sounds of shrieking and laughing and running penetrated the concrete block walls of the jail. I met the lieutenant inside. He said, "There was a slight miscommunication. Remember I said Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts, mostly fourteen to eighteen? It turns out they're Bobcats, Cub Scouts and Webelos. Ages are mostly six to nine. You OK with that?" Hmmmm.

The Chief Deputy took me aside later, "I trust you and everything, but you might have to modify your terminology a bit."

"No cussing, sir. Got it."

"I actually meant don't say anything like, 'tear his arm off and stick the wet end up his ass' or describing 'the wet ripping noise of tissue parting'."

"Except for that one zombie movie I don't think I've ever advocated using a dismembered..."

"Rory..." in the warning voice.

"Yes sir."

I went to check out the DT room and saw a herd of munchkins who had gotten into some of the training equipment- some were dressed in grossly over sized pieces of HighGear armor with padded batons and kicking shield- running all over the mat beating merry living hell out of each other with no adult supervision whatsoever. Adults were there, but they surely weren't supervising.

"At ease!" I yelled, "No shoes on the mats!" They seemed startled, but scrambled to get their shoes off. Half hour to kick off time. If I left them alone, they'd wreck the place.

"All right, gentleman. We're stuck here for a half hour. You wanna screw around or you want to learn something?"

"Learn something!" they shrieked. Shrieking seemed the basic mode of communication. So I got the entire group of them, as well as a couple of dads and others that drifted in playing at a sparring flow drill. By the end of half an hour they were working on blindfolded infighting. Not bad. One learning moment: A kid asked me if I worked there and I said I did. He asked what I did and I said, "Mostly, I beat people up for a living."

The kid started running around to all his friends, "This guy has the coolest job! He beats people up all day!" Some of the parents looked disapproving.

There was a brief ceremony before things kicked off where the Sheriff administered the oath of office and swore in the kids as junior deputies. I remember my oath of office pretty well, but I seemed to have forgotten the parts about doing my homework and listening to my parents.

Then the classes. First a talk about how fighting isn't like on TV and cops have to fight one of two ways, either putting handcuffs on someone without injuring them or fighting for their life. Then, if they were well-behaved (and only one group of the very youngest didn't seem up to it) the sparring flow drill. Then back to talking: "Okay, gentleman, the next part is all about PAIN. Who wants to learn about pain?'

"Yeahhh!!!!!" While the parents, especially the moms, cringed in the background.

Some pressure points, maybe elbow locks. "I don't want to hear about anybody using these on their little brothers or sisters or keeping everybody awake all night practicing. To make extra sure, I'm going to show your parents the pressure points I'm not showing you, including the one that will give you a headache for three days."

"Show us the headache one!"
"I won't use it, I promise."
"Can you make people go to sleep like the Vulcan neck pinch?"
"Show us that."
"No. I don't even know you."

Two kids over the course of the night took a concept I'd presented and ran with it. One took the elbow lock principles and applied it to the knee all on his own. The other realized he didn't have to use his hands for locks, he could get the same effect with his legs or belly. I announced that these two young men were my heroes for the night for thinking for themselves. One of the kids started glowing and presented every idea he come up with after that to me as a precious gift. Most of them were good, too.

At one point, showing them how to use a philtrum point to unpeel a wrestler, I realized that the kids were too small to get the really spectacular effects that you can get with adults. "I usually beat up adults. I need more practice beating up children." Unfortunately, I used my outside voice. One of the moms looked pretty horrified.

It was fun, in its own weird way. My ears are still ringing a bit and it might be days before my voice comes back completely, but the time was good.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Don't Give Me No Hand Me Down...

The trouble with thinking all the time, the trouble with being the only species that uses symbols to stand in for objects is that the symbols can have more power and impact than the objects they represent.

Symbols are important and powerful and they can be good. Mathematical models allow us to sometimes predict the future. Without words and pictures there could be no communication or history or teaching. I will never see Marcus Aurelias or Castiglione or DaVinci or Lao Tsu but through the power of symbol I have their words and pictures, little pieces of their minds. The ability to argue and fight and die and kill over things that have no real meaning seems tragic, but it is also the same passion for things not yet real that will some day bring humanity (and life itself) to the stars.

Due to the press of time, our own specialization and the complexity of the world, we trust the symbols of the experts. We take the word of scientists about very small and very large things. We take the word of doctors about our bodies. We take the word of farmers and teachers and bus drivers and cops on the things we don't know, don't have time to learn or will never directly experience.

There is a thing that gathers a lot of symbols. I don't care whether you call it 'meaning' or 'god' or 'religion' or 'life'. But as real as it is, it surrounds you and permeates every aspect of your world. It is the one thing that if you look has always been there, something you have direct experience of. You do not and have never needed someone else to explain it to you. You deserve better than a second hand god.