School's out for the summer and Wills will be advancing to high school next year, something both sweet and sad at the same time. But for us, it also brings an element of fear as well. "Why on earth should him going to high school cause you fear" you ask? Simply because it also brings us a reminder that Wills is growing up. He's already taller than I am, though I doubt he'll ever be as strong; and as sweet and loving a child as anyone could wish. But he's also, as you dear reader know, autistic. The simple truth of the matter is that he will probably never be able to live on his own no matter how much we might wish otherwise, and so his starting high school brings us that much closer to a decision neither my wife nor I really want to have to make. And that, to put it simply, is where will he live when he graduates high school?
For years those on the autism spectrum have been institutionalized, but fortunately those days are long past. The very thought of my sweet child being locked away in a facility far from everyone he knows and loves simply cannot be borne. But where do adults on the autism spectrum live? Well, that varies. Some live with their parents until their parents can no longer take care of them, some lucky few who can function in some form or other in society live on their own. Others live in group homes, and unfortunately, some live in nursing homes for there simply is not enough space available in group homes. Nor are all group homes equal, any more than all nursing homes equal; and for those that are among the better homes it's not uncommon to find they have a 6 to 10 year waiting list to get in. "Oh come on, it can't really be that bad" you say. Right. Tell you what. Jump on your favorite search engine and see how many group homes for adults with autism are near you. Of the three closest to me that I know of, one is an hour away in another state, one is an hour and a half away in yet another state, and the third is at the other end of the state from us, just over three and a half hours away. Add in that 2 of the 3 are state supported, and just how likely do you think it is that I'll be able to find someplace close enough to drop in and visit my son for an evening or a weekend? From where I sit, not very.
Then again, as I said earlier, not all group homes are created equal. Perhaps the best I've heard of is one in California called Sweetwater Spectrum. This oasis of a home is comprised of 4 4 bedroom houses on just over 3 acres, allowing each resident to have his own bedroom and a private bathroom in addition to various common rooms, a swimming pool, a community center with kitchen for those who cannot cook their own food, a gym, and a full staff to help each resident as is needed. However such amenities cost, and last I heard it cost just over $3,000.00 a month to live there; just a bit less than my wife and I bring home each month, so even if we had a chance in hell of getting Wills accepted there, there's just no way we could afford it. Besides, if I hate the thought of him living 3 and a half hours away; you can imagine how I would feel about him living clear across the country in California. It has been suggested that maybe I should get a similar facility built here in South Carolina, but I'm not rich, I'm not a developer, and I don't have friends in the State House to call upon. I could try to get investors interested in funding such a facility, but it would be a risky investment;and even if I succeeded, how do I assure that people only interested in return on investment would not insist that Wills be evicted to make room for someone who could pay once I've passed on?
All in all, it's not a very cheery thought; but it's one I must face in the coming years, and the sooner I start the better for Wills. I would personally love to keep him at home with my wife and I, but there's no way we could care for him properly when we start to get on in years; and so a group home must be considered, and considered carefully. Just one more thing in a string of things we must face, but face it we will; for the alternative is unthinkable.
In the meantime, we have come to the end of yet another ramble here in my little corner of cyberspace. I hope I haven't depressed you too badly, but I also hope I've made you think. One out of every 68 children born in the past decade are on the autism spectrum, and the number of children who are fast approaching adulthood is staggering. Yet our leaders do not seem to be considering the possible consequences. Are you willing to face them with me? I hope for the sake of our children you will. Until next time then dear reader. May the road rise up to meet you and may your skies always be sunny; and remember, if it's worth doing then it's worth doing with attitude!
So you're looking at buying a new knife, but you can't make heads or tails of all these terms they use to describe the blade. Well don't feel too bad my friend. Even the biggest, baddest knife maker out there had troubles making sense of all these terms when they first started, and once you get the ideas behind the terms down it really isn't as bad as it seems.
Let's start with a drop point blade. One of the two most common blade styles in current use, a drop point blade tends to have a gently curved spine (the back of the blade) that leads to a tip slightly lower than the back of the hilt or handle and a reasonably large "belly" (a curved cutting edge). This tends to result in a knife with good slicing characteristics and a strong tip that is less likely to break than many others. Many hunting knives and most chef's knives have this style of blade. The downside to this style is that it won't pierce things as easily or as well as some other styles.
A style that just as common as the drop point is the clip point, where the front portion of the blades spine appears to have been clipped off. Most Bowie knives use this style of blade as well as most butchers knives. The big advantage here is a tip that is second to none in piercing power coupled with a large belly giving you great slicing ability. The drawback is that the lack of metal in the spine near the tip causes a loss of strength which may lead to you breaking the tip off, especially if you try twisting or prying with the tip.
Another common blade type is the Trailing Point. This style typically has a curving spine that places the tip of the blade above the level of the grip and often a very thin blade. This maximizes the amount of belly available for use resulting in a fantastic slicing knife, which is why many skinning knives and all fillet knives use this style of blade. The downside is that the tip tends to be very weak to the point of being almost useless.
The next blade style is the dagger, also commonly called a spear point or needle point depending on the taper used. These are often, but not always sharpened on both edges, and are primarily designed to stab or make very fine adjustments to what every you're cutting. Many famous fighting knives, such as the V-42 used by the infamous Devil's Brigade of WWII, and most throwing knives use this style of blade. Interestingly enough, the original pen knife used a single edged blade of this style. It got it's name because it was designed to sharpen quill pens, and the name has continued to be used to this day, though it often refers to any traditional style folding pocket knife. Of course the main drawback to this style of blade is that it's for all practical purposes tip only, unless the blades got such a short taper at the very end that it looks more like a drop tip.
The next blade style is the Straight Back, though I don't often see this style used very often anymore. As it's name implies, this blade type feature a straight back or spine placing the tip in line with the top of the hilt. This style of blade makes for a very good chopper since the straight spine can be easily made as thick as one might wish, yet still has enough of a belly that you can make the type of slices needed to remove a hide or trim the excess fat from a hunk of meat. You see this style of blade on some of the old chef's and butcher knives such as Old Hickory or Chicago Cutlery.
The next style that comes to mind is the Sheepsfoot. This one is different from the others is that it features a ruler straight edge and it's the back or spine that curves down to meet the tip. The spine on this style of knife was made to be gripped by the supporting hand when needed, giving the potential for greater control for fine slicing, trimming, and whittling. The name comes from one of this styles earliest uses, trimming the hooves of sheep and horses; but it is best seen today in the kitchen in the form of the very popular santoku chef's knives. The drawback here is the lack of a usable tip.
The next style of blade, and one that has continued to grow in popularity is the tanto. With it's origins in ancient Japan, this knife features a chisel like tip, often with a heavy spine. Give it a heavy enough spine, and you've got a knife that will punch through a car door or almost anything else you might want to pierce without breaking. However since most of them have a straight cutting edge from hilt to start of their tip, while they might chop with the best of them, their slicing ability can be rather limited.
Then there's the spay point. The spay point is similar to the clip point, except that the curve of the blade and the clip are both so far out near the tip that penetrating anything is difficult at best. Originally developed for spay and neutering farm animals, these knives are a great choice for skinning animals where keeping the hide intact is a real concern.
The final style of knife is called the ulu and is based on an Inuit design. This blade is a quarter to two thirds of a circle with the handle in the middle. This produces a blade with no tip whatsoever and a huge belly which makes this style fantastic for scrapping things or cutting long thin strips from something. Perfect for leather working, thin veneers, and believe it or not, making hand rolled cigars. On the other hand, this blade type is as close to a one trick pony as you can get in the knife world, so you might easily go your entire life without ever seeing one outside of pictures.
So there you go, a quickly knife blade styles 101. Are there other styles? Well, maybe. I know some will say I should be more precise, and separate spear point blades and needle point blades into two separate categories, or maybe differentiate a Wharncliffe from a Sheepsfoot; but I personally think that's carrying precision to extremes. After all, the strengths and weaknesses of a Wharncliffe blade is so similar to the strengths and weaknesses of a Sheepsfoot blade that I really don't see any point in trying to separate them out. And with what you now know, coupled with the little bit of practical metallurgy I hope you got from last weeks ramble; picking out that new knife should be at least a bit easier.
In the meantime my friend, I must run. So take care of your self and I hope to see you in this little corner of cyberspace I call my own soon. And always remember, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude.
I was talking to a new expectant mother over the weekend and when I mentioned that I worked in the hospital she went off on me as if I was Satan's number one man on earth. It seems that this young, misinformed lady has bought into all the hype some people are still spreading about how vaccines cause autism, and of course, being a health care professional, I must be covering for big pharmaceutical companies just so they can make more money. Course just how helping big pharm make obscene amounts of money benefits me was something she "hadn't figured out yet", but obviously I must be benefiting from it somehow. The truly sad part of the whole exchange? While there are numerous legitimate reasons not to get your child vaccinated, she hadn't given thought to even one of them.
The idea that vaccines, and the MMR (Measles, Mumps, & Rubela) vaccine in particular, all started in 1998 when a British Doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent study claiming a link between the two. As you can imagine, this hit the medical establishment and parents of autistic children like a load of bricks. Could we have in fact done this to our children? Were we in fact the reason our precious children developed autism? But as time passed, no one else was able to reproduce the results Dr. Wakefield claims in his paper; and so people began taking a closer look at his study to find out what they were doing wrong. So what was found out? Why couldn't we confirm his study? Well for starters, the new researchers didn't lie about their results. When going back over Dr. Wakefield's notes, they found that he was diagnosing some children with problems they did not have and also sending them for unnecessary and often invasive tests performed at facilities he had a finicial interest in. It was also discovered that some of his subjects might not have even existed, though this last item is so murky it could be argued either way.
And so the Lancet (the British Medical journal that originally published his study) disavowed it and the British authorities revoked his license. Since then several groups have tried to prove him right, but to date no organization with any reputation worth mentioning has managed to do so.
Okay you say, but what about all those dangerous chemicals they add to vaccines! Surely those have some negative effect? Hell, I heard that they even use mercury in them, and another is only one molecule away from being a poison! That has to be bad!
Ok, let's touch on the "one molecule away from being a poison" bit first. Whether some want to admit it or not, there are many, many things that kind of sort of fit that description. Water is one. If you add one atom of oxygen to water it goes from H2O to H2O2, aka Hydrogen Peroxide. There's absolutely no way you can stay alive with out consuming a minimum amount of water, but drinking hydrogen peroxide will kill you. Carbon monoxide is another one, albeit in the other direction. Once a molecule of carbon monoxide binds itself to a red blood cell, it's there for the life span of that cell; blocking it from ever being used to transport oxygen to your cell like a red blood cell should. Add anther atom of oxygen though and you get the carbon dioxide that we exhale every day, day in and day out. If I wanted to, I could drag my sister (who is a researcher for DuPont) in one this and she could go on all day giving us a multitude of examples just like the two I just mentioned. That's just the way chemistry works, so sorry but if you truly believe the "one molecule away" argument then I have to assume you slept through your high school chemistry course.
But what about that Mercury thing I hear you say. What you're referring to is a substance called thimerosal, and I must admit it take a chemist on the level of my sister to understand the reasons why that shouldn't be a problem; except that I've got an even easier point to counter it with. In 1997 congress passed a law that outlawed the use of mercury containing substances in items ment for human consumption. Thus in 2001 the FDA outlawed the use of thimerosal in the use of any vaccines destined for use in the United States, and I'm given to understand that many European nations (including England) banned it's use long before we did. So no matter what Robert DiNero, or any other big celebrity tells you, your child is NOT going to be exposed to any kind of mercury through any vaccine currently used in America.
So, since there IS no link between vaccines and autism, why in the world would anyone in their right mind refuse to allow their child to be vaccinated? Well to be honest, there are a few legitimate reasons. For one thing, much as we hate it, some people are allergic to vaccines. So if you or your child have a reaction to one vaccine, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to avoid them. Nor would it hurt to avoid them for any other children you have as well. Another legitimate reason would be health concerns of family members. We delayed some of my son's vaccinations because his grandmother was having some serious health issues at the time, and the live vaccines he was scheduled for would have ment that she would not have been able to see him for several months. We felt it was more important that he be able to see his grandma during that period of time just in case worse came to worse, and his pediatrician agreed with us so he was a year late in getting that series. There are a host of other legitimate reasons out there, and you pediatrician can tell you about them all.
So no Virginia, vaccines do Not cause autism. What they do do is protect your child from an entire dictionary of diseases that did, and in some countries still do kill children by the thousands. Nor do they just protect your child, but also the poor kid down the street who honestly can't be vaccinated for one reason or another; for if your child can't get the disease then he or she can't give it to the other one. Am I going to change everyone's mind with this ramble? Unfortunately no. There's always someone who is convinced that it's all a big lie, and there always will be. But if I can change even one mind, then this will have done all I could ask. So until next time dear reader, may the road rise up to meet you and may the skies always be clear. And remember, if something's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!
And so here we are at Friday already. Lord but this week just seems to have flown by! But it is indeedy deed Friday which must mean it's time for me to ramble on about self defense. Now my original plans for this day in the wake of my resurrecting my blog from the dust bin was to do a piece on shooting drills, but considering some of the conversations I've been having on Facebook this week I think instead I'll revisit something I take about way back when I first started this site. And that is whether a gun is the right choice for you as a means of self defense.
Now wait a minute you're saying. Of course a gun is the right choice for self defense! What else's there? Quite a lot actually, but even if there wasn't it still doesn't follow that a gun of any type is automatically the right choice for everyone. First off, a gun is not some kind of superior magic wand that will somehow make the bad guys disappear the minute you take it out and wave it around. To be effective, you have to be willing to take that heavy, noisy, greasy, hunk of metal and polymer and use it to put holes in another human being; often at disturbingly short distances. You also have to except the fact that all too often just wounding the bad guy is not going to stop the threat, and even if it were when the adrenalin is pumping fine shooting skills are going to go right out the window unless you practice for a couple of hours every single day, day in and out. This means that to be sure you're going to hit your attacker and stop him as a threat, you're going to have to shoot for the center of mass; aka the torso. And if you do that, then you have to be ready to accept that you might kill him whether you mean to or not! All of which means when you cut to the chase is that before you even start to consider buying that gun you'd better have a long heart to heart with yourself and decide once and for all if you are not only willing to kill if necessary to protect yourself and your family, but if you can kill to protect yourself and your family! No, don't laugh. I'm completely serious here. This is not as easy a question to answer as some would have you think. There are serious mental, emotional, ethical, and legal issues involved here; and if you're not completely honest with yourself right now you will come to regret it should you ever need to use that gun you're dead set on buying. I know that Second Amendment activists the country over are telling you that you must have a gun and stand up for your Second Amendment rights, and I'll agree with standing up for your rights. But some people simply cannot kill, not even to save their loved ones. Hell, back when I first started as a paramedic back in the dark ages I wouldn't have been able to kill someone no matter what was at stake. Admittedly, 30+ years of seeing people routinely do the worst things they can to their fellow human beings changed that for me; but that's me. You might not be there yet, and if you aren't that's okay. That's even more than okay actually. The world would be a much better place if everyone were like that and don't you ever let anyone make you feel bad if you can't kill to protect yourself. But at the same time, if you honestly can't kill to protect yourself and your loved ones then a gun is the absolute worst thing you could ever buy for self defense. Buy a baseball bat, or an axe handle, or a knife, or even a hunk of rock; but don't you ever buy a gun and think you're going to use it to defend yourself. If you can't tell yourself with total honesty that you could kill someone if push came to shove, then the first time you try to defend yourself with that fancy new gun of yours you're going to freeze up. And once you do that, then the bad guy is going to have no trouble taking your fancy new gun away from you and using it to fill you full of holes; nor will he hesitate to do just that. After all, if he really cared he wouldn't be breaking the law in the first place; but he does care enough to know he definitely does NOT want to go to prison, and the easiest way to be sure that he doesn't go is to make sure you are not around to tell the police who he is. Besides, his gun is likely a piece of crap, so why not replace it with a much nicer one like yours? Don't believe me about that last part? Go down to your local police department and get one of the officers to show you the guns they've confiscated from the various criminals they lock up.
So take your time. Think long and hard about my question to you. You have time after all. Yes,yes, I know the Democrats have manage to force the Republicans to talk about gun control. But even if they were all on the same page (which they most certainly are not) it couldn't happen over night. It will be a least a couple of weeks before it even gets to the point where the Senate can vote on it, and from there it has to go to the House before Obama gets a chance at signing it. So take your time and think well. Then, if you honestly decide you can take a life to defend your own, and only then should you go and buy that gun you've got your eye on.
Heard a college age girl berating her mother yesterday for not coming out and supporting the LGBT community more fully in the wake of the Orlando shooting this past weekend. She apparently felt that the fact that her mother was gay meant that her mother was being a coward for not being more vocal and open. Oh, my poor, poor child. How do I explain to you that rather than being a coward, your mother is one of the bravest ladies I know?
Lass, I know you and your friends feel that being open about who and what you are is the natural and right things to do; and I greatly admire you for it. I'm even more proud and amazed of the fact that you can do so in (relative) safety, but it wasn't always this way.
Your mother no doubts remembers just as I do when a gay bar just outside of town was burned to the ground, and it was ruled "an accident". Your mother no doubts remembers just as I do when a "drag queen" was beaten to death outside another gay bar and the cops did nothing. Then there was Matthew Sheppard and Ryan Keith Skipper.
Nor was violence the only thing to fear. Your mother no doubt remember just as I do when the hate filled rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church was considered normal. Your mother no doubt remembers just as I do when being gay was considered a mental illness and no one blinked when a homosexual was committed. Your mother no doubt remembers even better than I do when "coming out of the closet" was almost certain to result in your family disowning you and denying your very existence. And she no doubt remembers even better than I do when being gay could and would result in your losing your job and being kicked out of the apartment you were renting. And finally, she no doubts wishes she could forget even as I do how many children just a bit older than you were conceived because someone decided that "one night with a real man will cure that" woman, and again the cops would have done nothing.
Aye lass, you're right. We do need to stand up for what's right, and we do need to make our voices heard, both LGBT and straight. You're right, we do have a long way to go yet. But oh how far we've come just in my lifetime and your mother's.
The thing to keep in mind lass, is that silence is not a natural instinct. We are not born thinking "Hey, I'd better not talk about this". We're born thinking that if we are hurt we should announce it to the heavens at the top of our lungs. No, keeping silent about something is something we are taught by having it beat into us, day after day and year after year. We learn to keep silent by learning that NOT keeping silent is more painful than the original pain. We learn to keep silent by losing everything dear to us if we dare to say anything, including our families. And this my child, is why I believe your mother is one of the bravest people I know. She learned the hard way what speaking out would mean, and yet she did it anyway. She came out of the closet and told her attackers and detractors to go to hell. She stood tall and she stood proud. Maybe you're right. Maybe she does need to be more vocal, more in your face. But when silence is safe, being vocal is hard; and she has been vocal. This is why she is one of my quiet heroes, one of those I look up to and admire. Go forth lass. Roar your defiance at the world. You have the heart of a lion child, and I know you will make this world a better place than I could ever have dreamed; but always remember. Remember your mother and those like her. Remember what they went through to pave the road you're standing on today, and remember their sacrifices. And honor them as I do for the miracles they have already accomplished.
So you're looking to buy a knife, but you really don't know what to buy. Don't blame you. I mean, all those confusing numbers that knife makers and manufacturers throw at you can be more than a little daunting, and what exactly do they really mean anyway? Does it really make a difference? Or is it all just another form of hype? Well no, it's not just hype; but when you get right down to it it almost takes a degree in metallurgy to make sense of them all. So how do you decide? What steel do you want. and how do you tell?
For starters, steel is an alloy made up of Iron, Carbon, and up to 10 other elements ranging from Chromium to Manganese in specified amounts; and the various numbers represent specific "recipes" if you will. Each element adds something to the steel, and knowing what each adds tells you how each steel will work when made into a blade, be it a knife, a sword, or an ax.
Carbon is probably the most important element, since without carbon steel would be nothing more than wrought or cast iron with a handful of impurities in it; and iron really doesn't make a very useful blade. There's a reason after all why bronze was still used for weapons long after iron was discovered after all. Carbon adds a toughness and hardness to the iron that makes it steel, and the higher the carbon content, the harder you can make the steel. The problem is that the harder a metal is, the more brittle it's likely to become. I mean, look at a diamond! A diamond is the hardest naturally occurring substance known to man, and it's basically pure carbon that's been subjected to unimaginable pressure for thousands of years. Yet even though a diamond can cut through anything I know, one sharp blow from a small hammer and all you've got left is dust (which isn't all that useful now, is it). So for all practical purposes, you really can't get too high above 1% carbon or your knife is going to break the first time you stress it too much. Oh yeah, if carbon is all it really has going for it it's also going to rust the first time you look at it cross-eyed. On the other hand, it's hard to beat a high carbon steel for toughness and taking an edge. This is why many "survival" knives and butcher knives are made of high carbon steel (as well as why many are coated). Most of the time these knives will be made of what in the U.S. are referred to as 10 series metals such as 1045, 1080, and 1095. The 10 part of the number tells you it's high carbon while the second set tells you approximately what percentage of carbon is used, with 1095 being close to 1% carbon.
Chromium is the second most often used element in steel making, and it's what generally makes a steel "stainless". Don't get me wrong now. Even the most "stainless" of steels are still going to rust and discolor over time; but chromium will stretch that time out to years as opposed to weeks, or even days. It can also help with the hardness, making heat treating the blade more effective; and it can help raise the tensile strength of the steel. Another element that can also help in these endeavor is Magnesium, as well as Molybdenum. Then there are elements added to increase strength, wear resistance, and workability. Each one must be used in precise amounts, and those amounts determine the number, or "name" assigned to each particular steel, whether it's 440C, AUS-8, S30V, or 8Cr13MoV. But that still leaves the question of which steel should you be looking for in your new knife, and how much does it really matter.
Well here's where I'm probably going to piss some knife lover's off. In the end, at least in my opinion, the knife maker means more than what steel they use. Why? Well first off, as you've already noticed, it really does take someone with a degree in metallurgy to keep all this straight; and I don't know about you, but if I had a degree in metallurgy I sure wouldn't be working in the field I'm currently in! However the good knife makers all have metallurgists on their payrolls making sure that their knives are made of the right stuff. After all, Spyderco doesn't want a reputation 40 years in the making to go down the drain because of a bad decision on what type of steel to use. Secondly, each type of steel has it's own best uses. I know that if you go on many knife forums you'll hear people loudly decrying one type or steel or another, such as 440C; and yet 440C was the steel of choice for many years, and it's still used for many high end kitchen knives even to this day. The problem isn't 440C, it's low cost knife makers who routinely cut corners (especially in heat treating their knives) that gave 440C such a bad reputation. It also didn't help that since 440C could be heat treated to such a high hardness scale it could be used for knives that were advertised as "never needs sharpening", which basically means "can't be sharpened". If the company making your new knife really cares about it's reputation and the quality of it's knives, then it will make sure the knife is heat treated properly AND that it can be cared for (unlike the old Ginsu knives of yesteryear). Beyond that though, I will admit that I love my Schrade Frontier with it's 1095 high carbon, powder coated blade as well as my Kershaw made with 8CR13MoV. I also can't imagine cooking without my Gunter Wilhelm filet knife with it's X50CrMoV15 German made steel or my 30 year old Chicago Cutlery chef's knife with it's 440C steel blade. But there you have it. 4 very different knives made of 4 very different steels, and I wouldn't trade one of them.
But it's getting late, and as usual, I've rambled on almost long enough to have written a book instead of a blog. So until next time we meet here in my little corner of cyberspce, I wish you clear skies and smooth sailing. And as always, remember. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!
And here we are on yet another Monday morning, and I should be rambling on about something dealing with Autism or Special Needs; but I think there's something a bit more important to talk about this morning, namely the shooting in Orlando this weekend.
The news when I heard it, left me sick to my stomach. That someone could have that much hate inside of them is heart wrenching in a way very few other things could be, and the all too predictable responses are in some ways almost worse. The quite majority among us went and did things like donate blood, pray in special vigils at churches, schools, synagogues, and even mosques, or check for places we could make donations to help the families of the victims. All good and decent things that help to show what we as Americans are and where we come from. But then there's the politicians and the fanatics on both sides of the gun control issue, they couldn't wait to haul out their favorite soap boxes. And as is all too often the truth, both sides manage to makes themselves look like morons! Gun control advocates shoot off their mouths and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have little or no knowledge of what they're talking about with comments about "assault weapons" (no such thing dude, though there is a legal definition of an "assault rifle"), "militarized rifles" (again, no legal definition of that term) and talk of "killing 50 people in 10 seconds" (sorry, but it took a lot longer than 10 seconds to kill and injure that many people); while fanatic second amendment rights advocates fire back with comments just as insulting and many times just as stupid. The fact is that we still don't know enough to say why this man did what he did, and until we do making statements about how to keep it from happening again is just so much hot air. So please. Keep things civil and let the investigators do their jobs. When they finish, then we can start looking for solutions. Until then, let us just help support the victims as best we can and show that we as Americans are stronger than the terriorist, the haters, and the mentally disturbed. And with (or without) your permission, I think I'll close with my daughter's post on Facebook last night for I don't think I could have said it better.
Another day, and another tragedy. Still mourning Christina Grimmie, whom I looked up to and adored, I wake this morning to find news of a grave shooting at a gay club in Florida. 50 dead and 53 injured, in, I am forced to assume, what was a terrible terrible hate crime. I wonder what led this man to hate the lgtb community so much, that he would commit such a massacre. I rarely touch religion on my Facebook, but today I find it necessary. In the bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 states "Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." In the aftermath of this tragedy, I pray. For the victims that the dead will find life in God's kingdom eternal. That the injured may be healed through the Lord's love. For the families that they find hope and peace in the Lord. And for the perpetrator, that he might let the Holy Spirit change his heart, and learn to love. And that we might change and better our world, through this tragedy. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
We've been having some problems lately, and it while my son has gotten much better about controlling these problems over the years, it can still be rather frustrating at time. Indeed, sometimes it can get down right scary; and it's never easy to handle no matter how experienced we have become over the years. Oh, I'm sorry, didn't I explain what these problems are? It's simple really, Wills, like many on the autism spectrum, experiences meltdowns from time to time.
"Oh, come on!" I hear some of you saying. "He's a young teenager by now! Surely you've taught him not to throw temper tantrums by now." Ah, the blessed stupidity of ignorance. Sorry, didn't mean to insult you, but really, you are ignorant. Not in the insulting, you couldn't handle the truth/you're a moron sort of way; but rather in the simple never learned something sort of way. You see, contrary to what many people with little or no experience with those on the autistic spectrum believe, there is a huge difference between a temper tantrum and a meltdown.
For starters, when all's said and done, a temper tantrum is an attempt by the person "throwing" it to get their own way. Yes, for neurotypical children that normally happens in the toddler years when they don't have a vocabulary to express their desires and haven't learned acceptable behavior quite yet. And yes, children on the autistic spectrum have them as well, sometimes many years after their neurotypical peers have learned better. But in the end, even when it's the result of frustration, a temper tantrum is a controlled act designed to achieve a specific goal. As a result you'll often see certain things if you look closely enough. For starters, the person throwing the tantrum is depending on the reactions of those around them. Thus you'll often notice them stopping briefly to check those reaction to see if anyone is paying attention. If everyone continues to ignore them, most likely they'll stop when they realize that they aren't getting anywhere. The same if they manage to achieve their goal, what ever it may have been in the first place; and they'll stop very quickly as well. You will also notice that the person throwing the tantrum will try their best to use the social situation they find themselves in to their advantage. For example getting loader or continuing on longer than they might otherwise when in a public place where they think others may sympathize with them, such as when they want a particular brand of cereal or some toy at a crowded supermarket. And perhaps most telling of all (though only a complete fool or sociopath would think to test this) they are aware of their surroundings and will be as careful as is normal for them to keep from getting hurt.
Meltdowns on the other hand are the proverbial horse of a different color. For starters, a true meltdown is caused by the autistic child becoming overwhelmed. What causes them to be overwhelmed can be different from incident to incident and child to child. It can be sensory or mental or emotional. But what ever triggers the meltdown, the results are pretty much the same. In the end, the child (or even some adults on the autism spectrum) finds themselves overloaded to the point where they simply cannot deal with what ever stimulus is acting on them and they need desperately to escape it, but cannot. Thus they find themselves locked in to themselves with very little if any awareness of what is going on around them. They won't pay any attention to those around them, indeed they might not even be able to recognize that there are people around them or who those people are. Nor are they able to distinguish new sensations or thoughts, thus while a child throwing a temper tantrum will not hit things hard enough to hurt themselves, a child experiencing a true meltdown often doesn't even realize that they are hurting themselves if they start things. They might even start hitting themselves or others. Nor is there anyway to cut a meltdown short. Once it starts, the only way out is through. The stimuli causing the meltdown has to be removed in some way, but that won't end the meltdown immediately. Indeed, it may well last for a long, long time afterwards; and a scary time that will be as well since it will be obvious to anyone who knows the child that no one is in control in any way shape or form. Sometimes a meltdown can be cut off at the pass so to speak. There are normally some signs of an approaching melt down that may allow the parent to derail things before it gets to be too much for the child to handle. With my son, the trigger is frustration more often than not, and he will start talking in circles; endlessly repeating the same three to five sentences or phrases over and over again. If, and that is a big if, but if we can spot the signs early enough we can sometimes get him to switch from whatever is causing him to feel frustrated to some other activity. Maybe get him to try a game on the computer instead of the WiiU, or build something with Legos instead of continuing to draw whatever he is having troubles drawing. But Wills, like many on the autism spectrum, is a perfectionist, and getting him to change activities can be a real challenge at times. And considering he's now taller than I am, the result of failing to head off a meltdown can be truly terrifying! At this age, at least for Wills, the best thing we can do most of the time is leave him alone and let him work his way through things on his own. We do need to monitor him to make sure he doesn't hurt himself or others of course, but any form of stimuli, whether it be talking to him or giving him a hug, will more likely than not just cause the meltdown to last even longer. On the rare occasion he does turn violent however, the only thing we can do is get everyone away from him except possibly for myself. Fortunately I'm still stronger than he is, and will be for the foreseeable future; and thus if it should be needed I can use my martial arts training to subdue him and keep him from hurting himself or others, but oh how I hate to do that. For one thing, it's guaranteed to cause the meltdown last 2 or 3 times longer than it might otherwise; but more importantly in some ways is the mental anguish and pain I feel whenever I find myself forced to treat my own son as an opponent. Thank God I haven't found myself in that position in almost a year now, but I still feel the fear that this time I might once again be forced to subdue him one more time.
Still, as I said at the beginning of this little ramble, Wills has gotten much better at controlling his meltdowns. In fact, there have been a few times when he has actually come to us for help before a meltdown could begin; for which I thank God on an almost daily basis. And as he grows, and gets more and more control of himself, hopefully he'll get better and better at recognizing the danger signals and derailing the meltdowns himself. Who knows, some day he might even get enough control that he'll never have a meltdown again. I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of that day though.
One thing I'm starting to hear a number of people ask me is what knife I would recommend for self defense. Well I can understand why they'd ask me, after all most of my business now has evolved into knife sales plus I am a higher ranked Brown Belt in American Kenpo; but it's still a question I really, really hate. Now I know this is going to surprise a number of people, and I can already hear you asking why? And that is a legitiment question. After all, if anyone can recommend a knife for self defense it should logically be me, right? After all, don't most martial artists learn various weapons? And don't I sell a fairly wide range of knives? Well, yes, I suppose most martial artists do learn a variety of weapons, and I certainly sell enough knives to have an excellent idea of what each one can do. The problem is that knife fighting just isn't that simple a thing. You certainly can't just pick up a fighting knife cold and make effective use of it; and even if you could, there's so many ways to fight with knives that anyone who's being honest about things just can't recommend just one knife.
To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, let's watch a video from several years back when my instructor was starting to teach my daughter Kali, also known as Escrima.
Okay, okay. I'll admit that it's a little boring, and I hear you saying "This is stick fighting! What the bloody blankity blank does this have to do with knife fighting?" Well sorry to tell you this, but even though most people in America think Kali and Escrima are forms of stick fighting, they were originally a system of fighting with knives about the size of our modern day machete! They started using sticks in practice for two reasons. One, your students are much less likely to accidentally kill each other if they're using sticks instead of knives, and two, the Japanese who had concurred the Philippines didn't want their concurred subject learning how to fight back. So watch it again and imagine Coach and Jannie using machetes instead of sticks. Frankly, even today Jannie is nowhere near skilled enough to use her training against an opponent who is an expert and survive; and if I'm going to be honest about it, neither am I.
Now go to YouTube and do a search for knife fighting. Last time I looked there were somewhere around 200,000 videos claiming to teach you how to fight with a knife, and almost every one of them is different. So if there are that many ways to fight with a knife, how in the name of everything good am I supposed to recommend just one knife to you? Plus I'll go even a step further, and say that unless you are well trained I can't recommend a knife for you in good conscious for the simple reason that any recommendation I make is just going to get you killed if you are not trained; and if you are then you don't need my recommendation on type (though I'll be more than happy to discuss the merits of different brands and types of steel).
Now you're asking why does everyone recommend a knife for everyday carry then if you can't defend yourself with one? A couple of reasons actually. First, a knife is just a handy thing to have. Just think about your normal day. How many things do you need to open or cut on your typical day? Or maybe you need to be able to scrape something off the floor and out of tight corners. Or perhaps you have things you need to trim from time to time. Yes, you could use other things; but with a knife handy you can do all of them. With out a knife you're probably are going to need 2 or 3 different tools, if not more. And secondly, even though I just spent most of this ramble saying you need to be trained to be able to defend yourself with a knife, especially against an expert; the truth is that you're not going to run into too many experts. Not unless you make the mistake of stumbling into gang territory or threaten a trained martial artist. Against the average dumb crook on the street, a knife is something to threaten his or her victims with, not a weapon he or she actually knows how to use well. Against someone like that, a knife that you're comfortable with can be a useful deterrent. Just keep in mind that even if your opponent doesn't know how to use a knife well, if you don't then you are going to get cut. Possibly badly. So do yourself a favor. Go out and find yourself a good martial arts class. I don't really care what style truthfully, for in the end the instructor is going to matter much more than the style. Stay with it for at least a couple of years. And then look me up. By that time you will have enough training and knowledge that we can have an intelligent conversation and I can make sure you have a knife that's right for you. Until then, the best I can advise you is to pick one you feel comfortable with. If you can't get a good grip on it, it's not going to help you. If it feels good in your hand, then you stand a chance against the average mugger even if it's not a great chance.
I'm sorry this ramble is ending on such a dismal note, but I do need to be honest with you. After all, if I start feeding you happy, happy tales with little or no truth to them I'm not going to do you any good, and you'd be right to write me off as a blowhard who doesn't know what he's talking about. Still, there are a lot of other things I can teach you about knives, and so I'm going to start doing an occasional ramble about knives and their care. Until then, I wish you blue skies and smooth sailing. You take care, and I hope to see you again in this little corner of cyberspace I call my own. And remember, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!