Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In the interests of full disclosure

I must have an excess of words to get rid of today. This post is again inspired by Lindsay, who posted a bit of a question, again, on her Facebook profile. She asks:

So then, does someone really know you if they don't know about your past? If you
don't tell them about all of those occurrences in your past, those instances
that helped truly define who you are now, can you really have a future?

I frequently throw out something I'm unsure about and write about it to try and come to a conclusion, soliciting comments to help along the way. In this circumstance, however, I've got a pretty good feeling about the answer, and I'm going to try and spell it out here, so you can comment and tell me how wrong I am. Let the fun begin!

First, a few of the assumptions I'm working on while writing this. Assumptions are important to disclose, because, well, I might assume different things than you, or Lindsay, might, and that could in turn affect how we think about things. If I do a good job laying things out here, we can have a clearer idea of what I'm talking about, and we can assure ourselves that any disagreements will be about actual differences of conclusion and not misunderstandings about our premises.

I assume that we're talking about close friendships and intimate relationships, not just the guy who happens to be sentenced to the cubicle next to mine. And, as Lindsay points out, I'm also talking about important life-melding events, not what "you had for lunch on April 14th ten years ago," as she puts it.

I come down on the side of full disclosure, every time. If you're hanging out with people you don't trust these intimate little details to, perhaps you should reconsider the company that you keep. And if they blow the lid on your bad experience, well, shame on them. And again, you might reconsider their friendship. But laying it all out, early, is easier than trying to dredge up the past months or years down the road, and it also helps establish a foundation of trust. It might be difficult because the screw-up was particularly embarrassing, or hurtful. But imagine how embarrassed you might be when the friend finds out about, and how hurt you'll be when they don't trust you any longer?

Here is a brief case study. I was once fingered for a fell deed, which I did not commit. At a later date - almost three years later - a former friend told my girlfriend about it, and how I was a bad person.

I had already had a discussion with my girlfriend about the experience, and how it hurt and what I learned. I also told her that, while difficult, I was trying to make the ubiquitous lemonade out of the situation, and that it had been an important struggle.

Former friend tells girlfriend potentially salacious tidbit - presented as but an accusation but tilted to be received as gospel. If I hadn't had the talk with my girlfriend, she would have been blindsided. But I had told her about it, and she asserted her familiarity with the sling, de-fanging its lingering venom. (Bad metaphor.) But I had told her about it, ans she asserted her familiarity with the sling, inoculating herself from its lingering venom. (A little better.)

This example shows how past situations - even when eventually cleared up - can come back to bite. To shift metaphors for a moment, consider a potentially negative part of your past as a mine in a field that we cross with our friends every day. I had cleared this problem up a long time ago, and my name was clear. I had defused the mine. But the motives of a former friend reconnected the charge in the bomb. By telling my girlfriend about the location of the mine, we were both able to steer clear of it, and when it detonated by itself, it threw dirt up into the air, hitting - and injuring - no one. Metaphor maxim: defuse mines, but remember them.

Another point to make is that I had the luxury of being right in the aforementioned situation. I think, however, that the rule of disclosure holds up in situations where we were in the wrong, as well.

Case study #2: I once fell asleep at the wheel, and drove my car into a creek. The week after I had been picked up for drunken driving. (Let's all say "Stupid" together.) It was the culmination of a bad month, really, that I had handled, really, badly. Like watching the line on the stock market, it was a recession, plunging me from a high into a spectacular low. I continue to deal with the mostly job searching consequences more than three years later. I probably could have learned many of the same lessons by reading about how much of a pain an OWI charge in the state of Iowa is, about contemplating how seriously such a conviction would mess me up for years and years and years, and thinking about how much money I would be wasting. But I might have lost sight of that. Having actually made the mistake, well, let me tell you, I know better now. And I'll always remember it.

This is also something that should be disclosed, early and often, to people who are in a position to need (in the case of potential employers), or deserve (friends), to know. Furthermore, it is something that anyone can find out, with little trouble. Criminal background checks are almost ubiquitous now in searching for any employment. And, yes, you too can run a background check on me. (At least in the state of Iowa, where it is free for many details. I've not resided outside of the state since I've been of legal driving age, when I began accruing tickets, so I don't know about Colorado or Wyoming. A piece of good disclosure: I haven't been so much as pulled over in over three years now. (Knock wood.))

There are two problems with concealing any sort of conviction. The first is that, as I mentioned above, they're almost impossible to hide. The second is that they are serious issues that should be disclosed, discussed, and reflected upon. A third problem is that obscuring such convictions is dishonest, and as Kant reminds us, that's bad.

So I'm all for disclosure. And if you ever run into me at my local tavern, I'm almost certainly be happy to chat you up about all sorts of things that most people consider too personal to talk about. I don't need a drink, just someone to talk to. I'm a very public person. Chalk it up to my college time in journalism, where transparency is lauded as king.

A final thought. You might be wondering why I would write about my drunken driving experience, when I've already mentioned it seems to be causing me problems finding a job. You may also be wondering why I was so intentionally vague about the situation in the first case study.

Anyone who will employ me deserves to know about the OWI, and I am, frankly, not interested in someone who knows about it and dismisses me on the spot. I think it shows a lack of critical thinking and sitaution - by - situation analysis on their part. It also means that I would likely be fired when they did find out about it. (A little self interest is OK, when balanced against the rights of others, methinks.) And maybe, just perhaps, you'll learn enough to avoid making my mistake.

As to the vagueness about the other case study. I don't go into detail because of a problem with people in general, and newspapers in specific. First, I'll address the newspaper issue. Newspapers love to publish the police blotter, and run stories about how someone got shot, and about how someone is now on trial for said shooting, and how they're subsequently executed. Why is this? Because people like reading said stories. What newspapers are lousy on reporting is the disposition of charges, accusations, and gossip. Instead of running the blotter, I would argue that newspapers should just run the outcomes of trials and plea arangements (which actually make up the lion's share of convictions). But they don't - because people aren't interested (or are they?). People generally aren't interested in the outcome of a situation. They read the charge, the accusation, the grand jury's topic of inquest, or hear some gossip. Innocent until proven guilty requires brainpower. Too many people (hopefully, no readers here), are incapable of that, or harbor some distrust of the cleared person even after the clearning.

Finally, I'd like to thank people who make stuff available for me to borrow, repackage, or readdress here. Lindsay gets a nod for inspiring a few posts, while Dr. Tom gets kudos and thanks for his HSUS link and some other material he hasn't agreed to make public (I haven't heard back from him on my request yet) but has helped me immensely. Casandra, close friend, receives my most gracious thanks for feedback, as does Lacey, for the comments. I hate to sound jaded, but I think I just touched on all four of this blog's readers. (Hint, hint: If I missed you, post a comment!)

UPDATE: If I died?

From friend and commenter Lacey:

Death used to scare me quite a bit, but ever since my
grandmother passed away, I'm hardly scared of it anymore. I think mostly because
I believe that she's in a better place, and that when I die, I'll also be in
that place with her. I've always found comfort in my faith in religion that I'll
be in a better place with God/Jesus, but it was hard to really grasp that until
my [grandmother] passed away.

When I write about faith on this blog, and I don't expound upon which particular faith I'm writing about, I'm speaking in general about the Islamic/Christian/Jewish tradition that dominates Western culture. I'm not an expert in any of the three, but I know a thing or two. (Please comment when I incorrectly generalize across the traditions, or otherwise make a muck of things.)

Faith plays a complicated role in how we look at the end of living. Death is usually viewed as a sorrowful occasion, with teary good-byes at the wake and moving eulogies delivered shortly thereafter. Sometimes, death is seen as a release, such as the whole Terri Shaivo situation. (As an aside, I would say this to those who thought that she should continue to receive nourishment: would you not lose your mind sitting inside your head for all of those years, if "she" was still in there somewhere? I would find such a death an immense relief, if I hadn't gone nuts by then. That's why I've got signed AMD's and POA's in the right hands.)

The faith interaction causes tension in some instances, and provides a justification for not feeling guilty in others. Selfishly, we miss the passing of the loved one. But we don't need to feel guilty about it, because, well, we're left here to toil and the other is in that better place. Since I am not an expert on faith, please leave your comments below.

Interestingly enough, Lacey continues on to note that she defines the quality, or worth, of her life, by entirely internal metrics, not external measures:
I don't think the point of my life is to leave anything behind, or even to have
people think of me after I've passed away, because I don't think that would
happen. Therefore, I probably won't feel I've lived my life fully until I get to
that point where I think to myself, "Ok, I think I've helped all the people I
could ever help", and as that probably would never happen, I'll always feel that
I could have done more in life.

What is better - or are both important? I would tend to lean toward the "both" side of the debate, although Lacey was just throwing her point of view out there, not presenting an argument for its adoption. The reason I would argue this: it is important to do some things because they are, in and of themselves, good. That is intrinsic value. But some things are not good of themselves, but rather are good for what they impart. Extrinsic value. Helping other people can be many things - a way to score points, a way to clear our conscience, or trying to effect a positive change in the people. Or is that too jaded? Discuss.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

If I died?

Here is a fascinating, and discussion encouring, note (via Facebook) from Lindsay, a friend of mine:

[Are you afraid of dying?]

Are you? It's an interesting concept. All of my friends here on Facebook are very young, so it would be common to hear that death is scary.

I can't really decide.

The standard response would be that I'm really afraid because I haven't accomplished much in my life. I haven't graduated from college or gotten a job, built a family, or raised children. I don't feel like I've contributed to society, to humanity.

But then if I did die today, I think that the most important question to me would be asking if I told everyone I cared about that I loved them. Maybe that is enough.

I had a very depressing thought: I'm insignificant. It's not like if people didn't have me in their life to begin with that they would feel some void, like, "What is missing in my life?" and if they had only known me, that void would be filled. Of course I know that there are people who know me now that would miss me if I was gone, that I have impacted them in some way or another. If I died, there would be people who would be sad. It's not like they couldn't get over it and move on with their lives. Aside from my parents and brother, I want to know that I've impacted someone, at least one person, in my life that if I died today or tomorrow that they wouldn't forget me. They could go on in their life, of course being happy, and think about me often and smile. I want someone to have learned from me the way that I learned from them. I don't want to be forgotten.

Here are the first questions I had to offer:

This gets to a central question - perhaps the central question: what is the meaning of life? I suppose that to die, satisified, means that one has fulfilled the meaning of life. So what is that meaning?Many people have argued - persuasively - that the meaning of life is to leave the world better than it was when you arrived, or, perhaps to seek some clarity and speficity, to say, that the meaning of life is to have a positive impact. But how positive of an impact? And how would you ever measure such an impact? I would argue that is difficult, if not impossible, to make such a measurement but in the most extraordinary of cases, i.e., John Steinbeck, GW Bush, ML King, Hitler. Most of us just don't have the knowledge to make such determinations.

What's the meaning of life, again? I would propose this - not as the answer, but rather as a place to begin discussion: if you died, would you reasonably believe that you made a serious effort to exert a force for good upon those with whom you carried influence? Did you endlessly bitch, moan, and whine, and nothing else? Or did you endlessly bitch, moan, and whine, and try and make something better of it? Did you let your eyes gloss over with contentment to how well you've got it? Or did you let your eyes gloss over with contentment and try and make better of it?This is heavy shit. Worthy - indeed, demanding - of deep contemplation. What does death mean? What does life mean? How do we measure our success in either? Thanks for raising the question, and here's to hoping that the discussion is substantial. (Emphasis is both in original and mine, ha.)

Can you tell I was angling for a blog post?

Privacy in the age of expectation

First, a nod to everyone without microscopic vision: I'll leave my posts on "normal" size. It looks pretty suspect during the edit, but I must admit that the posted font size is rather diminished.

I haven't written the post yet, quite obviously, but I'd like to throw this out to my two or three beloved readers for input while I'm sharpening my knives. Due to the nature of people I'm (online) friends with: if you're reading this, please offer even some quick input. I exist in a relatively rare place. Most of my younger friends are all about diving right into Facebook, MySpace, et al., and my most my older friends are horrified by it. I'm both - horrified and an accessory to my own implication.

The question is thus: What about privacy? Should prospective employers be able to find out about my drunken driving three-plus years ago? (I'm disclosing it here, on the web, so I give up rights to whining later for myself, at least.) Should I have the right to refuse access to pictures of me drunkenly peeing on the dorm lawn from these same perspective employers - and should I be safeguarded from sanctions for protecting my privacy if I do so? (Note to perspective employers: there are no photos of me relieving myself -- that I know of.) Outside of the financial sector - and since we're having an open discussion here, let's talk about the financial sector, too - should perspective employers be able to run my credit rating?

As an incentive to discussion, I'd like to throw this little tidbit out here. At a presentation while I was in college some months ago, a bank rep said that crimes of dishonesty, e.g., theft, misrepresentation, were automatic disqualifiers (per law) to working at their business. But the rep also said that some potential blotches were perhaps OK: PAULA (Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age, in Iowa), house parties, public intox. Where should we draw the line? And, furthermore, should there be a difference between a ticket for keeping a disorderly house be taken the same as Facebook or MySpace photos of me doing so the same?

Bonus update: Honesty requires me to throw out this tidbit. Closest confidant, best friend, and former girlfriend Casandra alerts me that the discussion I wrote of betwixt father and I occurred on Christmas evening, not Christmas Eve evening. Twenty-four hours, not so long ago.

UPDATE: Only some scars are visible

From Dr. Tom: A link to the United States Humane Society site about dog bites. I was disappointed about the post op care that they offer, but I also understand that they're about animals, and not M.D.'s running around offering advice about what happens after your unfortunate self gets a chomp.

If you've got children, you should check this out. They're going to run into dogs frequently.
If you've got dogs, you should check this out. They're going to run into children frequently.

This sort of thing could have saved Aaron's life -- if the dogs' owner had read it, and applied it.

Philosophically speaking, I know that the dog had nothing to do, morally, with my bite -- it was a response based upon a conglomeration of conditioning and genetics. In the original post, I may have given too much weight to genetics. From the afore linked to HSUS site:

The breeds most commonly involved in both bite injuries and
fatalities changes from year to year and from one area of the country to
another, depending on the popularity of the breed. Although genetics do
play some part
in determining whether a dog will bite, other factors
such as whether the animal is spayed or neutered, properly socialized,
supervised, humanely trained, and safely confined play significantly
greater roles
. Responsible dog ownership of all breeds is the
key to dog bite prevention.

(Italics in original, boldface mine.) Appologies to responsible pit-bull owners.

New tag in this post: intellectual honesty. If you want to know when I've been wrong, search for that tag, and if you see a place where I admit being incorrect and don't see the tag, ask that I apply it. Being wrong is part of the process to getting to being correct. And if you see a place where I'm wrong and don't know it yet -- tell me. I gain more in terms of knowledge and possible bad things happening down the road learning that I was wrong than your ego is likely to gain by telling me so. But I'll give you credit for showing me the error in my ways -- we can both win out.

Dogs are not moral agents. Sometimes they poo on the floor. But they aren't "bad" for having done so. They just haven't been conditioned propertly -- the owner's failure. I know this.

And, of course, wanting M.D.'s running around, I checked WebMD. M.D.'s running around online. Wonderful!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

UPDATE: Only some scars are visible

Well, after a bit of introspection, and some very helpful input from friends, I ran down a sheriff's deputy to find out exactly what my legal requirements were. He was helpful enough to tell me that I did not, in fact, have an obligation to report the bite. I didn't ask further whether seeking medical attention would obligate those professionals to report, since over a week into the situation I've developed no symptoms and, well, a week is a little late for anything. On the advice of a friend, I'll contact the dogs' owners' and suggest that they take precautions to ensure that a similar situation is less likely to reoccur, and of course, that they exercise caution letting the dogs around children.

The nose hasn't fallen off yet, although I'm more sure than ever that I suffered a hairline fracture. I've got to take extra special care for awhile not to say anything likely to get me smacked in the chops, which, for those of you that know me, might be a bit of a task.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Only some scars are visible

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Update: I continue to make small mechanical changes as I come across them. Everyone needs an editor.

The photo quality here is quite sub-par. That's actually fine by me, and probably by any readers who aren't quite iron of gut. Nevertheless, if you notice a dark spot on the bottom of my nose - well, that isn't my nostril. Or at least it wasn't originally.

Saturday evening I was walking with a friend after she had suffered through a rather rough evening of drama and attack at my local tavern. We arrived at our destination, a house of a mutual friend. She went in, while I stayed on the porch long enough to finish my cigarette. When I had concluded my Marlboro, I opened the door and stepped into the entry.

Everyone else was milling about further in the house. Several dogs - pit bulls, I believe - came up to regard my presence. I bent down to offer a friendly pat. With the first dog, this was accepted. Still stooping, I reached for the second dog, who decided to take a small chunk of my nose.

I recoiled, and retreated out the door as I had come. Another friend was sitting outside, fortuitously proffering rides for those who were too inebriated to drive, or for shoe-leather bums such as myself. I requested she shuttle me the four blocks to my front door, only muttering something about having been bitten and that I was bleeding. In my classical underplayed approach, it might easily have been construed as if I had bitten my own tongue, or perhaps suffered some other minor mishap.

I gained my front porch and hastened to the bathroom, where I thoroughly doused the wound in rubbing alcohol and what I mistook for antibacterial cream. (It turned out to be antifungal cream, actually - I suppose I've nothing to worry about if all that that dog had in his mouth was athlete's foot.) Now, almost 48 hours after the incident, I've continued with alcohol and now real antibacterial goop. The nose has a nice scab on it, but does not appear to be infected. I yesterday consumed two aspirin. That's been about it.

I suspect that I may have also suffered a hairline fracture of my nose. This has happened before, and I had almost forgotten the sensation. But, alas, I couldn't quite shake it before a reminder.

The day after, I tracked down the friend I had walked to the house to gain assurance that all of the dogs on the property were properly vaccinated. She happened to be with one of the owners, and assured me (over the phone), that they were. So I wouldn't have to put myself through the rabies series, hurray. I wasn't sure if this was a concern with dogs' mouths (a RN has since assured me that it is not), but I had gotten a booster for lock-jaw when I suffered an unfortunate boating accident two years ago, so that was good. Keep splashing on alcohol and the antibacterial, the RN said, and I should be fine.

Question: Why didn't I go to ER, and why have I not sought professional medical care in the time since? I am nominally unemployed, and assuredly uninsured. Perhaps the dogs' owners' homeowners' insurance might cover my medical expense? Perhaps. I doubt these folks are homeowners, however; and I seriously doubt that they carry renters' insurance. Perhaps the landlords' homeowners' insurance might cover it? Perhaps. Nevertheless, I felt sufficient with the alcohol and goop treatment, especially in light of the nurse's opinion and the general metrics of the situation.

Another detail: when I had learned the status of the dogs' vaccinations, I also ran into the kind woman who had driven me home the previous evening, when she related that another man had been either bitten or scratched that same evening, also on his nose. It is uncertain whether this was by the same dog; indeed, I doubt I could pick out the one dog out of the four I saw at the house that evening.

Today I related the story to another friend unrelated to, and without knowledge of, the incident. His reaction was quite immediate: "I'd grab a shotgun and kill the fucker." I doubt I have the mettle to pop a dog, even one that quite likely intended to kill me, point blank, and I have no intention of finding out. But I also understood my friend. Quite well, having lost a lob of flesh to the thing.

And here, if they had not yet been sufficiently confused, I shall add another bit of background before I try and untangle my ball of string. About four and a half years before I was born, my father's second son was killed by dogs while he played outside. I will reserve the particular horrors of that tale, and say only here a few things that warrant mention.

Aaron was playing on the day after his fifth birthday. Young. I believe at least one of the two dogs, and perhaps both, was a pit bull. This caused great harm to my family, harm that has persisted even in the 29 years since the incident. I have not told my father of the instant case. (I live with my folks. I've seen dad twice since I was bitten, but have not seen him in such a way that he would easily spy the injury.)

Some will say that I should tell dad, while others will say that, if possible, I should obscure or otherwise obfuscate the details of the event. Some others will say that they are unsure. I am of the third group, but have also forced myself to think for a little bit and try to come up with a solution. My provisional answer is that I will tell dad about the incident when he either sees my face (hardly a given, given to our differing schedules), or more preferably, when I have taken a final action in the matter.

Question: What is the proper final action? This is the real question in the matter. Some parts of it are plain (to me; I beg your advise should you differ), and others cause anguish.

My first admission must be that I am compromised by my family's history. However, I do not think that this automatically disqualifies me from arriving at a sound judgment, but it certainly does add a wrinkle of complexity. I must first strive to disentangle my own issues from the subject to try and think more clearly about the instant case.

It is my best legal understanding that I have a duty to report the attack, and to report it as it was: unprovoked. I also have no ethical qualm against that duty. Unfortunately, this is where my clarity ends.

I have never attempted to properly address my own conflicted feelings on dogs. I can say several things, however, and try to work toward a solution from there. I love animals, in the sense that I pet friends' pets, I feed the neighborhood stray cats (likely not good), and I abhor any unnecessary violence against animals. When I was a young child, my folks had a dog, Yukon, a half Siberian Husky, half Australian Sheppard. I am generally well accepted by pets - I've never before been the victim of violence by one, but some have refused my pet. I've never pressured, chased, or otherwise accosted them once they made their reticence clear. I would like a dog, something mellow and friendly and companion-like. (I'm thinking of the hound or lab, or perhaps another shep, that rides shotgun in my pickup wherever I go.)

Obviously, I never knew my brother. (He died in 1978; I was born in 1983.) I've considered him my little brother since I've been mature enough to consider him, as opposed to his doom. I occasionally walk to his grave, half a mile from my (folks') house, and... I don't know what I do. I don't pray, I don't talk to him, I don't miss him. I suppose I reflect, mostly, about what his absence has meant for our family. On a very few occasions, I have walked to his grave with a close friend and reflected audibly. I never cry, but I always tear.

I never asked dad about things, either. Sure, sometimes I might ask about Aaron, but never about what happened. Like a piece of lore that comes down from generation to generation, I had gleaned bits and pieces of the story, much from my mother. And then last Christmas, after everyone had gone to bed, I went to my local tavern.

I came home at an advanced hour and in an advanced state. I can't remember the conversation - but I know things now I didn't know before, although I'm not sure which bits those are - hell, I can't even remember if I woke pa or if he was already awake when I rejoined the house in the small hours. (Christmas Eve, the evening to which I refer, is a smash night for the local taverns.) I remember, though, that we talked, that I cried, I balled, I talked, I asked questions, he answered as he could. I suppose now that I needed to have this conversation with dad at some point, and I imagine it was more about me than Aaron. I was just concluding a particularly poor period of my life - dropping out of college, losing my longtime girl, getting a drunk driving, driving my car into the creek, et al - and had gotten back on track - getting back into college, getting back into a serious and rewarding relationship, not getting any more drunken driving.

That is all to say that I don't think that I got much about pa from that talk, except that he confirmed my general knowledge of the incident and filled in some blanks, and said in his way a few small but important things. While I can not sort out what I knew before and what blanks he filled in that night, I know that I learned a lot about Aaron's death, and about Aaron, as well. It surprises me, that in my severe state, I remembered any of it, but I suspect that I remember all of it. I just can't remember what it is that it is. And I certainly don't know - am afraid to ask - what that conversation meant for dad (a great disappointment, that I can not ask). I hope that it did him some service; that it did not merely serve to tear open wounds.

Full stop. Back to the instant case.

These are the things I think are likely true:
Dogs are not moral agents. (Confidence*: Near certain)
Dogs should not be killed without good (read: seriously compelling) reason. (Confidence: Near certain)
Assuming that it was the same dog that attacked the other gentleman and I, this dog threatens to injure - or kill - again. (Confidence: Very high)
Assuming that two dogs were involved, both dogs are dangerous (i.e., likely to injure again). (Confidence: High)
People have the right to do what they want, so long as their action (or inaction) does not directly harm others. (Confidence: Very high to near certain, although this is not a proper or full exposition of a well thought about ideal)
A person's action (or inaction) that directly results in the harm of another is immoral (and should be stopped). (Confidence: Very high)
People keeping pets that are very likely to injure or kill others - including the owners' children - should have such animals removed. (Confidence: Very high. Assuming that injuring or killing others is a harm, the previous statement, if true, affirms this)

* On confidence: It's difficult for me to give specific probabilities here, but I try to lay down a few ideas:
Certain: I'm not sure I'll ever find anything to be completely certain about beside stuff like "Red is a color."
Near certain: The highest level of confidence that I will ever assign to anything but the most fundamental claim - unless someone changes my mind.
Very high: Call this in the neighborhood of 75 - 90%, but that's a neighborhood.
High: Again, speculative, but maybe 60 - 75%.
Probable: Of the above, only "Certain" is not probable (because, of course, it is certain). However, when I say only "Probable," I mean to say that I think a given proposition is at least 50% + x likely, where x represents the smallest number. "Probable > 50%."
Again, credit to Dr. Tom Gilbert, Morningside College, whom bestowed a form of the probability stuff upon me.

So now what? I provisionally conclude that the dog that attacked me, and if a different dog attacked the second gentleman than that dog also, should be removed from the residence - likely meaning put down, or not to be PC about it, killed. This agrees with my friend's previously stated opinion: "Grab a shotgun..." insomuch as, well, you get the point. However, a few other notes. A family that keeps four pit-bulls is likely attached to them (I would say that is the case here), and they are valued pets. These folks may even, and not without precedent, think of their dogs as members of the family. Think Katrina evacuees refusing airlift unless the dog could come.

I am myself ambiguous even now, even with my family history. I know the dog is not mean in the moral sense: it did not mean - and could not have meant - any malice. Fingering one of the four dogs could well be a death sentence for all of them, since I doubt my ability to finger a specific one. It is a member of a family, even if it is a hostile member ready to strike at the smallest provocation or - as I believe in my case - none at all.

These folks live near a school. Children may damned well be at risk. The dog injured me only barely, unless you consider the notch I will likely always wear on my beak. But it could have done much more severe damage. I didn't do anything more offensive to the dog than offer a pet, something a passing schoolchild might well do. There doesn't need to be another grave in town - or anywhere, really - for another child like Aaron. There doesn't need to be another hole, in another family, like that.

But, then, should we kill off and outlaw all "mean" dogs? How nanny a country should we become? Who should get to pull the trigger, as it is?

More provisional conclusions. These dogs - for the sake of safety and my inability to identify the specific, all four of them, all as members of a dangerous breed - should be removed to a place where they will not have (rampant) chances to injure or kill. If such a retreat can not be located (which I feel likely), they should be put down. I should exercise less caprice and more apprehension as to which pets I try and pet.

This is all very first draft. And quite personal. But I invite your critiques, especially from strangers who might be able to lend a clear mind. I can't find the strength to get angry and these dogs, even as I wonder if they might not live out the duration of their natural lives without harming again. But, somehow, I seriously doubt it. (Confidence: see above.) If one of these dogs hurts someone else, especially a little kid - Christ that's a burden.

Full stop. Until I hit post, there wasn't a mention of Aaron Green on the web. Here's to you, brother.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Introduction - Method

A brief introduction is in order. Mayhap a mission statement, or something a little more serious...

I intend this blog to consider a number of topics with which I have no claim of expertise. I like thinking about politics, economics, technology and science in general. I really enjoy thinking about philosophy. And after I've thought about such things, I like to write about them, for two (common) reasons. At least one of them is quite selfish: I hope, that by putting down the first draft of my thoughts, some intrepid soul might find some flaw, and point it out, correcting me. (The corollary is too plain to point out, but here it is, my second reason: I hope someone might occasionally see that I've said something right, correct, true, or just elegant.)

I have received my training in technical letters, specifically, journalism. I have also had the benefit of a few philosophy courses in ethics and informal logic. For those of you who are trained in philosophy, welcome. I hope that you do not find my lack of reading in the subject too daunting. I will not quote the classics (I wouldn't know how). For those of you who are trained in writing, or who simply find your skills sharper than mine, I hope you will not find my style abrasive. I, somehow, managed to study journalism at a college and at a university (or "an university?") without ever finding a mechanics class, though I searched.

Please keep this in mind as I raise mostly questions.

I've given my main interests, specifically as I see them impacting this blog. However, I am curious and have many interests. I have not set these things down as boundaries, but simply as guesses as to what will often find its way here.

And now, a brief lesson in logic. Caveats: I'm not accredited. I haven't even received my BS yet. I am a student of logic much as I am a student of Scotch: I have limited experience from a limited perspective, and from these flow my opinions and some little knowledge.

Right. Logic.

Arguments can either be of the sort that occur over boasts made mightily at the corner tavern, or a technical device used to get from what we know to what we don't, or to prove something observed. Of those three sorts of arguments, I'll concern myself with the latter two, and mush them together. They commonly have a rough form:

Here are the parts, in action:
Premise: I have no Scotch.
Conclusion: I have no Glevlivet.

We humans are generally fortunate in that we possess an excellent talent for logical reasoning, although we often shoot ourselves in the foot by failing to exercise, develop and execute that talent. That little tiny argument above is a good argument in one sense: if the premise is true (and if you are aware that Glenlivet is a brand of Scotch) than the conclusion must logically follow. We know this.

This is a poor argument, however, in that the premise is not true. I do have Scotch. But what does that tell us about my Glenlivet provision? Nadda. I might have Johnnie Walker, or Chivas. Maybe some boutique stuff that I'd only mention to make myself feel highfalutin. Once again, we already know this. Let us extract a few lessons:

Dr. Tom's lessons on logic
1: If the evidence, or premises, are assumed to be true, do they reasonably lead to the conclusion?
2: Are these premises true?

Dr. Tom Gilbert is a professor of philosophy at my (almost) alma mater, Morningside College. All of the material on logic here is what I remember from his classes on the subject. I have a textbook he co-authored on the shelf right handy here to me, but I have neglected using it here to force myself to paraphrase, thus avoiding ripping him off (undesired even when acknowledged, if a sign of laziness) and assuring my sense of self-worth that I haven't been lazy. If I've done his material justice, the credit is his for excellent instruction. If I haven't, the fault is mine. Dr. Tom has many more lessons on logic, but these are sufficient for now.

I know this is a hell of an entrance fee to pay to a blog. But it's almost over now. I'll build on these concepts from time to time, continuing to borrow heavily for Dr. Gilbert. Before you get excited that you're auditing a course, remember: audits don't get credit; he's the one with the "Ph.D." stuff; and you really should know this. Really. And if anyone asks, please say you're not: I'd hate it if Morningside billed me for your tuition, and Dr. Gilbert might want royalties or something (I'm sure not, gulp).

When I'm writing, keep an eye out for my arguments. In the real world, few arguments are as simple as the example I gave above. There is usually much more than a single premise, and very often I won't even include all of my evidence because I assume you know of it. Sometimes there are multiple conclusions that can be drawn from the same premises. And, often, the conclusions of some arguments form the evidence for others. I can hardly believe that you're reading this for free - can you believe that I paid for it? And that I think it was worth so much that I write about it after the fact?

The point is that some arguments are lousy, and I have a habit of making such lousy arguments. We all do. What I am trying to encourage is a method to sharpen our discourse. And any time I can make Scotch a teaching device, you had better believe that I'll bite.

If you're a glutton for this sort of thing, I suggest that textbook I referenced, Everyday Logic, Textbook and Workbook, by George Bowles and Thomas E. Gilbert, revised by Gilbert, copyright 2000. It is published in-house by Morningside College, and isn't the sort of thing you're likely to find on Amazon. But if you contact the campus bookstore and ask nicely, they might have a spare copy. Maybe. The Wikipedia entry on logic is quite helpful as well, but, well, it just isn't the same. I'll paraphrase as much as I can without feeling like I'm stealing.

No mission statement this time. Probably for the best, at this point.