Author Archives: Tony

About Tony

Just a girl in the world. Wait, what?

Music is a Time Machine

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I am highly susceptible to suggestion.

A smell, the hue of the light can transport me. But nothing seems to relocate me like a song.

Knox Hamilton’s smooth, upbeat tune “Work It Out” plays, and zaps me back into my fear and determination of getting back into school to pursue my degree last year. My toddler grabs a particular toy that makes a rattle like the beginning of the Diamonds’ hit “Little Darlin,” and I’m back in the basement bedroom of an old girlfriend who had the song on a CD of oldies that she often played for me, knowing my affinity for the older tunes. Anything Billy Joel comes on, and I’m in the front seat of my old Cutlass Supreme, trying to not make a complete ass out of myself in front of the girl who’d eventually be my wife.

Speaking of my wife…

She loves the 90s. She loves the music of the 90s. This did not used to pose too much of a problem — there are songs from the 90s that I, too, enjoyed. Not many, but still.

Recently, a local radio station turned what was the occasional treat into a regular thing: the “Big 90s Weekend.” Every weekend, they dig up their playlists from about 20 years ago and broadcast them once more.

For her, these are just the pop hits of her adolescence. But I find myself clawing desperately at the present, trying to remain where I am (and who I am) while the Smashing Pumpkins and the Blessed Union of Souls try to drag me back through the years. Suddenly, I’m in the back seat of my mother’s two-door Pontiac, wondering how many of my grandfather’s “headache pills” she took before dragging me to her friend’s house (where I would be instructed to wait outside with the copy of “Goosebumps” I brought along with me), or walking across a high school parking lot toward my junker Plymouth with no radio while the music blasts from a passing Mustang that roars uncomfortably close to me because, why not?

I wonder if it’s a type of PTSD. There are sounds that I can’t stand because of things that happened before. I have to leave the room if someone breaks out an emery board.

Patsy Cline Maybe that’s why I enjoy listening to new music so much — music that has no meaning except what I’m experiencing right now. I wonder how these songs will be pressed into my mind in the years ahead. Some already are leaving their dents in my psyche. SomeKindaWonderful’s “Reverse” drags me back into the past summer, when my son was just a baby. Mumford and Sons’ “The Cave” reminds me of the economic collapse of recent years, and the uncertainty of so many. “Two Heads,” by Coleman Hell, is shaping up to be my song of this summer, with its banjo blowing in and out wistfully carrying the song, a bit like the muted banjo in Herman’s Hermits’ “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”

Time rolls, music flows. Miles Davis and Dexter Gordon pull me back into college, sitting in my best friend’s driveway in a folding camping chair, my feet propped on the back bumper of by Bonneville, alternating draws from my pipe and the straw of my QuikTrip cola. Garth Brooks is dark, off limits. Garth Brooks sends me to middle school. No well-adjusted individual has fond memories of middle school. “Big Bad John,” by Jimmy Dean, sends me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, listening to it play from the small radio on the counter while she baked a cake. Patsy Cline puts me in the front seat of my dad’s ’72 Eldorado, heading home from an evening at my cousin’s house where he played Risk with his brother for hours. “Fame,” by David Bowie, sends me driving through the hills of southern California, heading into Los Angeles.

I can go wherever I’ve been whenever I like. As long as I can find the CD.

What will Georgia Perimeter, Georgia State Merger Mean for Students?

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Georgia Perimeter campus in Decatur

Georgia Perimeter is about to become part of Georgia State.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported yesterday on the expectation that University System of Georgia chancellor Hank Huckaby — himself a Georgia State man — would propose the merger of the massive downtown juggernaut that is Georgia State University with the sleepy, suburban, eastside that is Georgia Perimeter College.

When this news came across my Twitter stream last night while I was half-listening to my 6-year-old read a book before bed, I was rather staggered. See, I went to Georgia State before they drummed me out for being too poor and stupid. Some 10 years on, I’ve found an educational haven at Georgia Perimeter, where late last year I completed two online courses with two As (and one of them was a college algebra class).

Immediately, I encountered the odd mixture of excitement and trepidation you usually feel only after the first time a girl says she loves you. I was dumbstruck. Might I now find myself falling back-asswards into a degree from Georgia State after all?

Here are some questions — and some hypotheses — that ran through my mind last night:

Will they kick me out?

This was the first thing that crossed my mind. Georgia State was so done with me, I even had a hard time paying them the $300 I still owed them so I could get my transcript to go back to college. Would they weed me out? I’m going to act under the assumption that I’m grandfathered in. Like the dilapidated mobile home next to the house on the lot next door, you buy the property, you get the mess that comes with it.

Georgia Perimeter offers online-only degrees; will that continue?

A number of the nation’s finest institutions have answered the call to expand access to education by offering online credits. Many have collaborated through efforts like Coursera and edX. Coursera’s enrollment numbers almost 11 million who engage in free online programs offered by institutions as varied as the University of Michigan and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. I, myself, took a class on Coursera as a “proof of concept” before pursuing a degree online, to prove that my schedule would work with an online class. And edX is a product of a partnership between Harvard, MIT and others.

In expanding access online, Georgia State lags far behind. I cannot find a single Georgia State degree that can be completed online only. In merging with Georgia Perimeter — which offers 18 online degrees — Georgia State would immediately acquire the largest online program in the University System of Georgia. So, using the above analogy, Georgia State gets the abandoned mobile home, but they also get the above-ground pool, so that’s a win.

Will tuition go up?

Oh, most certainly. There’s no question that Georgia State will start nudging up the fees and tuition for Georgia Perimeter’s students. Though the budget for Georgia Perimeter is only a fraction of Georgia State’s, becoming part of a massive research institution will not come cheap. Currently, Georgia Perimeter charges $125 per semester hour for online classes, regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency.

What will become of Georgia Perimeter’s admissions?

Maureen Downey, an education columnist for the AJC, mentioned that Georgia Perimeter has “essentially open admissions.” I don’t think she meant it as a slight, but it still hurt.

Conversely, Georgia State has rather rigorous admissions requirements. Doug Roberson, who covers Georgia State athletics, offered a pretty good insight into Georgia State’s admissions requirements in this Dec. 3 article.

According to Roberson:

To receive consideration for admission, high school students need a minimum 2.8 grade-point average compiled in 17 courses of Math (four courses), English (four units), Science (four units), Social Science (three units) and Foreign Language (two units in same language).

Additionally, applicants need SATs with minimums of at least 430 verbal/critical reading and 400 on the  mathematics. Or, students need electronic ACT scores (including the Writing Test) with a minimum composite score of 19 with at least 17 on the English and 17 on the mathematics. If the SAT or ACT score doesn’t meet the minimum, the student-athletes are considered special admits and are looked at on a case-by case basis, of which few are allowed admission each year.

Again, those are minimums. Georgia State advises applicants that the average grade-point range in core classes is 3.2-3.7, SAT range for admissible freshmen is 970-1190, and the ACT range is 21-27.

Oh, but that’s not all:

These scores, combined with the GPA, are plugged into the Freshman Index, which must meet a minimum score of 2,500 to be admitted.

The two Freshman Index formulas are:
SAT FI = (500 x HSGPA) + SAT  verbal + SAT math.

ACT FI = (500 x HSGPA) + (ACT composite x 42) + 88.

In calculating the grade-point average for Freshman Index purposes, the applicant’s transcript is calculated using 16 of the academic (college preparatory) courses.

As you can see if you go to the admissions tool on Georgia State’s website, a 2.8 high school GPA with a 430 verbal and 400 math will result in ADMISSION DENIED.

On the other hand, Georgia Perimeter let me in even after I crashed and burned at Georgia State. And I applied there after the admissions director of another school told me to because “Georgia Perimeter will take about anyone.”

While this means that Georgia Perimeter may become a more academically rigorous institution, that’s not all positive. My poor grades were largely due to an extraordinary work schedule I maintained throughout college. I had to make earning money my priority over my education; and I’ve paid dearly for that predicament. However, I’m not alone in this necessity. Many students throughout Georgia need the safety net, the second chance that Georgia Perimeter offers. And the long hours I logged working on my courses this past semester, as well as the As I earned, indicate that commitment can run deep even in the most beleaguered of students.

Will they consolidate campuses?

Georgia Perimeter currently operates five campuses: Alpharetta, Clarkston, Decatur, Dunwoody and Newton County. Georgia State, aside from its vast downtown campus, also operates a branch in Alpharetta. The institutions have vastly different missions; Georgia State is a major urban research institute, Georgia Perimeter is a two-year college designed to serve a maximum number of students.

Multiple locations increase access, yes, but it also drives cost. There are more roofs to repair, more custodians to pay, more square feet to police, that sort of thing. I’m hesitant to think that Georgia State would care to maintain a campus several miles east of Covington when its focus has been on new downtown construction — including acquiring and redeveloping the current Turner Field property when the Atlanta Braves vacate for Cobb County. If Georgia State is really interested in maximizing that whole “largest online program” thing, that makes it less likely still that it will choose to keep all five Georgia Perimeter campuses open. Raising tuition also will impact enrollment, further justifying a decision to consolidate campuses.

Will this make it easier for students to get a four-year degree?

Yes, sort of. Georgia Perimeter offers a large number of associate’s degrees as stepping stones to four-year degrees any beyond. The school also maintains transfer admission guarantees, or TAGs, with a number of institutions. These include out-of-state schools, like the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Kentucky, as well as in-state schools like Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and, well, Georgia State.

Which means that, were you to meet the minimum 2.7 GPA requirement and complete a set list of required courses, you’d be eligible to enroll at Georgia State, guaranteed.

So, there are my expectations. It may yet take more than a year for the merger to be formalized, though the Board of Regents approved Huckaby’s proposal this morning. The merger will make Georgia State the largest college in Georgia, with an enrollment in the neighborhood of 54,000 students.

Not that it will help it finally field a decent football team.

A Right to Privacy, But Not an Expectation

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Have you seen them yet?

In case you haven’t heard, there’s evidently an ass-ton of celebrity nudes that a hacker has snatched from the pseudo-secure iCloud service, which automatically uploads photos taken by iPhones to servers to ensure that, if you drop your phone in the toilet, you won’t lose your photos with it. Androids do something similar with Google Drive, and Dropbox will also send your photos to servers in the sky.

That means when someone — say, Jennifer Lawrence, for instance — snaps a photo of herself in the buff, it doesn’t live on the phone alone; it goes to a server, where it becomes a piece of encrypted data stored with redundancy (in case something happens to the server) where, in a perfect world, only Jennifer Lawrence can retrieve it.

iCloud diagram

This is how iCloud works when everything goes as planned. In a perfect world, you would be the only one to see the photos you put in the cloud. Is this a perfect world?

But you know how things go in perfect worlds.

Much has been made since the images began flooding Reddit, 4Chan, imugr, etc., that we shouldn’t look at the photos because they’re not ours to see. I agree with this line of thought, in essence. As a decent human being, I shouldn’t look at someone’s naked body unless they want me to see it. Usually, there’s a price associated with this peek — cost of a movie ticket, for instance, or the cover charge at certain clubs around metro Atlanta. Or, it’s because they’re willing to share themselves without charge, either as models, potential lovers or, in my case, just to freak people out.

Is it “slut-slamming” to attack celebs (or anyone) for taking nude photos of themselves? Yes. The things that you do willingly and in private is no one’s business. However, a right to privacy should not be confused with an expectation of privacy.

Data is fragile, malleable and, with enough elbow grease and resourcefulness, accessible. With constant reports of data breaches and compromised Internet security, worms and viruses and hackers, it’s foolheaded to think that any image you deposit on someone else’s servers (or on a device that someone else controls, i.e., Apple, Google or Microsoft) will remain private.

What happened to Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton has happened to middle school students, teachers, coworkers and perverts. It isn’t unusual in the least, and in fact it occurs with such frequency that any rational person should know better. The only way to be sure that no one will spy you in the shower is to lock the bathroom door and draw the blinds, and the only way to be sure that  your nudes won’t be seen by someone who shouldn’t see them is to not have any.

Is it wrong to search out Lawrence’s nudes? Yes. We have no right to see them just because they exist. We’re peeking over the proverbial bathroom stall of the World Wide Web. It’s gross and creepy. They’re private and are available only because of someone’s misdeeds.

But don’t act indignant because someone did get them or people have seen them. A right to privacy is one thing; an expectation for privacy is another thing altogether.

In Like Flynn: I’m Back in College

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I’m a college man now. Again.

This week draws a close my first frenetic week as an online student at Georgia Perimeter College, where I am taking two classes and endeavoring to elevate my GPA to reapply to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

I’m so moved at how much different this is than the first time I tried to go to college. I have reliable transportation, suitable technology and, more than anything, support. My wife has been up with me nearly every night this week, trying to help me hobble through my algebra assignments. It must be maddening; and honestly, it’s pretty hopeless. My brain isn’t wired for algebra. But I’m determined to make the most of this.

My Study

Where I’ve been toiling late into the night.

Yes, it’s tiring spending every evening poring over text books and fumbling through the online learning module. But I’ve kept the Braves games on the office TV, muted in the background, and I am actually learning some things.

I enjoyed being a college student my first time ‘round. I enjoyed watching lectures and participating in class discussions. I enjoyed the reading assignments and epiphanies. I enjoyed the study groups that I hosted periodically in my basement, which came to be known as my “Basement Lecture Series” as I endeavored to master the material enough that I could speak on it to some end. So while the nights are late and my mind wanders, it’s great to be learning again, enriching myself, making nightly discoveries. I’d even go so far as to say I’m blessed. I know how hard it can be to endeavor to earn your education with no one on your side and no one who understands the necessity of having time to study and learn.

It may take years to get through this. But I have resolve and patience. I know this is a rare chance to prove myself. And it is my obligation to make the most of it.

I’m Bad at Math

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I’m bad at math.

Unequivocally, wholly and completely terrible at math.

I have to use my fingers to figure out what my total at a restaurant should be after I add in the tip. I had four years of algebra in high school because I had to take Algebra 2 three times.

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How I've been spending my evenings -- when not dicking around with this blog.

It’s one reason I’ve put so much effort in being successful as a man of words. History, writing, social sciences — these things have long come very naturally to me. I’ve been unfortunate in many things, but I’ve been blessed to have had a way with words that has enabled me to make a living not by the sweat of my brow alone.

Math is mysterious, and the mystery is compounded by my perception that it’s a mystery that doesn’t really require a solution. Like hearing a thud somewhere in the house while watching TV, it raises questions but I’m not inclined to put in the effort to find the cause. Very seldom in my professional life have I had to solve for x. Only once have I even had to use height-times-width to figure out an area, and then division to determine that it was going to be cost-prohibitive to build a retaining wall near my front walk.

When I was very young — kindergarten age or so — I was given the gift of a small calculator with my name on it. It had a very small LCD screen and a small keypad of tiny rubber buttons. The device was no larger than a credit card, but it could add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Later, by first grade, I had a teacher who had an unorthodox way of teaching math. She taped a “number line” across the top of each of our desks and instructed us to add and subtract by counting the distance from one number to another. For eight minus five, for instance, count how many numbers you hit between eight and five. Seven (“one”), six (“two”), five (“three”). The solution is three. Easy enough. But the number line only went up to about 16 or so, which made it virtually impossible for me to factor any figures larger than that. And by second grade, they had us stacking the figures and adding them out, borrowing from the tens column to subtract, etc., and I was completely lost. Then by third and fourth grade, I began trying to memorize multiplication tables, which seemed a very silly endeavor since I owned a calculator the size of a credit card that could multiply damn near anything.

(The necessity of multiplication was suspect, anyway: it would be clearer and simpler to just list out the numbers and add them. Why are we doing 6×3? Just do 6+6+6 and quit trying to complicate things.)

On top of it, I had my grandmother as tutor. She was a sweet, Christian lady who meant well, but her hobby was “cyphering.” Cyphering, as my grandmother did it, involved sitting in an armchair with a ballpoint pen and adding and subtracting a long list of figures on the back of an opened envelope that came in the mail (it would’ve been wasteful to just throw that away, I guess). What she was figuring and from where those numbers were derived, I have no idea. She could’ve been figuring how global grain prices were going to impact her grocery bill, less her senior discount for all I know. But her incessant cyphering meant that she knew addition and subtraction the way most people know their multiplication tables. So at a glance she could solve a math problem, and often did, instructing me to write the solution and move on to the next.

By the time letters were introduced to the math problems, I was hopelessly lost. I had no idea what I was doing. Order of operation seemed stupid to someone who read as much as I did. You do things left to write. Why would I start doing a math problem in the middle? Exponents were even more bourgeois than multiplication tables. Just write it out and quit trying to be so fancy.

In high school, I had become a hopeless case. I passed Algebra 2 after my third try with a 70 — the lowest score I could get and still pass. I was obviously the recipient of a teacher’s sympathy. I’d already been accepted to a good college pending the passing of the math class (and completion of my diploma), and the teacher was kind enough to just let me go.

My one and only college algebra course was the professor’s last. He was a tall, thin, old man who would be retiring at the end of the semester. Since his class was for freshmen — 18-year-olds who hadn’t quite made the transition from high school — the class was often boisterous when he entered. His expectation that everyone should be silent when the instructor entered the room (and rise, maybe? call him “your honor?”) was never met. So, rather than try to get the class to simmer down, he’d leave. Once or twice, he didn’t even enter the room; just stuck his head in and went back to his department.

Being without a scholarship and well aware of what college costs, one day I followed him back to his department. “Hey!” I shouted as he walked along, ignoring me. “Hey, professor! Hey!” In the lobby of the mathematics department, as my stalking created a scene, he finally turned to address me. “I’m paying you to teach me algebra!” I shouted. “I paid for gas to drive here, I paid the MARTA fare to get here, and I paid my tuition and student fees. I paid your salary. I paid you to teach me. If we need to go back to your office for instruction, fine. I’ll be quiet. But I’m not going to learn this on my own.”

“Son,” he said, “I’ve done this too long to care if you learn anything here or not.” And he walked through a door near the reception desk and locked it behind him. I looked at the work-study student behind the desk, told her the professor was a dick, and left.

Now, for the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to teach myself math.

I’m trying to get back into college. I need to take a test called the “Compass.” It’s made by the same people who did the ACT and it’s designed to determine which classes I should be placed in. I have enough English classes that carry over from my first foray into college (more than 10 years ago) to exempt me from taking that portion of the test, but I must take the math portion, and I must make at least a 20 out of 100.

That sounds easy enough. But the test ranges from pre-algebra to trigonometry. And the computer-based exam shuts off once it’s clear the test taker has no idea what he or she is doing. So, since it’s obvious that I’m not going to get any trigonometry or calculus questions right, my strategy is to do well enough on the introductory questions to get the necessary minimum that would allow me to even be considered for admission.

So, for two weeks, I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop, watching videos on Georgia Perimeter College’s Web site and taking notes, trying to solve my way into college. I took a practice exam last night, and missed six out of 30 questions. That’s good enough for an 80 (don’t pat me on the head — there are calculators on the Internet for this kind of crap), but only on those earliest questions. I can’t say that I feel totally prepared, but I’m ready as I’m going to be. And this morning, I’ll find out if I’m ready enough. So any prayers, happy thoughts, good vibrations, etc. that you want to send my way are very much welcomed.

I feel I understand math better than I ever have, however. I’ve focused, realizing and appreciating that math does indeed have a use for me.

Even if it is just being the hurdle I must jump to be considered fit for college once again.

How to Handle Open Carry Gun Nuts: Leave

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I own guns.

Guns. Plural. More than one.

Shotguns. Rifles. Handguns. I got ‘em.

When someone broke into my house in the middle of the night — for the second time in as many days — I grabbed a gun. Twelve-gauge. Good spread. Little need to aim. Works great in the dark.

So to say I’m anti-gun is a fallacy. I got no beef with owning a gun to protect yourself, your family and your property. It’s a dangerous world and there are people who would do you harm. Having a gun in the home is a comfort to me, and I’ve emerged from my bedroom with a firearm in hand more than once.

It has, however, never occurred to me to take one to Target. Or church. Or out to eat.

Gun nuts eating

Just some well-adjusted patriotic citizens eating at a Sonic.

This is because I’m secure in my own person. I don’t worry that I’m likely to be a victim of a violent crime. I know the crime statistics for where I live, I know the odds, and I feel safe when I’m out and about, even sans sidearm.

I also don’t think my wife requires a gun to go out, and she’s never expressed any interest in having one. She’s not even real happy about the ones we have, though I think she’s accepted them as something of a necessity (aside from intruders, we live on the edge of some acres of woods, and wildlife is also a concern).

But then, we’re not emotional children, either. And this is what I have to assume those who cannot leave the house without a gun on them must be: insecure, scared and untrusting.

The fact that someone is so imbalanced that they can’t leave home unarmed makes that individual exactly the type, in my way of reasoning, who shouldn’t have a gun.

A philosopher from the University of North Dakota, Jack Russell Weinstein, posited the following observation:

“They believe their minds are transparent. But this is because they are all extreme narcissists. It baffles them that we don’t all know exactly what they are thinking. It shocks them that we don’t know that Jim is a good guy, and that Sally would never murder anyone. But they are wrong. We don’t know them and we don’t know how they think. The only thing that makes us notice them at all is that they have guns and truthfully, that’s why they carry them in the first place. They want to be celebrities, heroes, and the centers of attention.”

Let’s propose the one event that gun-packing narcissists live for: an active shooter. Someone strolls into a shopping mall — hey, it’s happened, again and again — and begins randomly firing into a crowd. A shopper in Sears (because Sears seems like the kind of place a gun nut would shop) hears the shots, draws that gun on his hip and charges toward the echoing pop-pop-pop.

What is he likely to encounter en route to the shooting? Potentially, someone else with a gun with the same designs as Shooter A: he’s going to save the day. Since Shooter A and Shooter B are both searching for someone with a gun, what is the likely response when their paths cross? Well, more pop-pop-pops, most likely, from two shooters who are excited about firing at each other and whose accuracy, in their excitement, is probably a little off. So, now we’ve got three people shooting in a crowded shopping mall.

Mall in Columbia shooting

Officers respond to a shooting at a suburban Baltimore shopping mall.

Enter another element in our scenario: law enforcement. After the Columbine High School shooting, law officers changed their training in response to mass shootings. They don’t set up a perimeter and wait for backup anymore, because studies have shown that more lives are saved if they’re able to interrupt the shooter. So, now the first officers on the scene are grabbing their shotguns and running in. And what are they looking for?

Well, some asshole with a gun, first and foremost. Like Shooter A and Shooter B. More pop-pops.

The idea of taking guns into restaurants and stores was initially repulsive even to the National Rifle Association, who tried to convince supporters that doing so was “weird.” But the NRA then retracted that position when supporters began to criticize them for not being hardcore enough, and has since broadly expanded its support for “open carry.”

In a recent post on the Philosophy Questions Every Day blog, Professor Weinstein postulated a proposal in responding to people who openly carry in public: leave.

If at a restaurant, stand, turn, and walk toward the door. Do not pay, as this will only slow you down. Epistemologically, you cannot know if the armed individual who has entered wishes you harm or not, nor can you be sure that, should he or she begin shooting for whatever reason, you won’t be caught in the crossfire.

Indeed, the likelihood that two open carry activists might run afoul of each other is high, since all are secure in the responsibility of their own actions and suspicious of everyone else’s. That very thing happened earlier this year in Valdosta, Ga. Indeed, because of the proliferation of “stand your ground” laws, someone openly carrying a firearm can consider himself or herself justified in opening fire even if they simply feel threatened. And since we can’t know for sure what other people external from ourselves are thinking, we can’t know what might frighten them enough to begin shooting.

In dealing with someone who comes into a public place carrying a gun, says Professor Weinstein…

“My proposal is as follows: we should all leave. Immediately. Leave the food on the table in the restaurant. Leave the groceries in the cart, in the aisle. Stop talking or engaging in the exchange. Just leave, unceremoniously, and fast.

“But here is the key part: don’t pay. Stopping to pay in the presence of a person with a gun means risking your and your loved ones’ lives; money shouldn’t trump this. It doesn’t matter if you ate the meal. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just received food from the deli counter that can’t be resold. It doesn’t matter if you just got a haircut. Leave. If the business loses money, so be it. They can make the activists pay.”

Open Carry at restaurant

And what makes you sure this nice gentleman won’t feel “threatened” before you finish your chili cheese fries?

Since you have no way of determining the intent of the individual with the gun, you should leave. Flee. If the establishment wants you to stay and pay for your meal, it is their responsibility to remove either the threat posed by the firearm or the unstable individual who has it.

If at a deli, set down the cold cuts you’ve ordered and walk out. At the grocery store, leave your cart and go. You don’t have to put yourself in danger because of someone else’s insecurity. And perhaps, if this catches on, businesses will begin invoking their right as property owners to forbid patrons from carrying guns inside their establishments and we’ll all be a lot more comfortable.

There is a time and place for firearms. But if you are so juvenile that you must strut around with a gun strapped to your hip all your waking hours (and cradled under your pillow as you sleep), then you’re evidently doing so for the attention it gives you and the pleasure you derive in making other people uncomfortable.

But I’m within my right not to humor you.

General Aviation: Deadly Disregard Takes Flight

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No one was injured with this plane hit a house in Eatonville, Wash., in May 2013. But planes do hit houses, and people do die. (Credit The News Tribune).

No one was injured with this plane hit a house in Eatonville, Wash., in May 2013. But planes do hit houses, and people do die. (Credit The News Tribune).

Flip over to Google right quick and search “plane crashes into residential area.” Go ahead. I’ll wait.

One of the top results you’ll find is the August 2013 story of a fiery crash involving a general aviation aircraft that slammed into a house in a suburban Connecticut neighborhood. The pilot of that craft, Bill Henningsgaard, and his son, Maxwell, were flying around to visit colleges that Maxwell might attend after graduating high school.

The crash killed Bill and Maxwell Henningsgaard. It also killed two children, ages 1 and 13, who were in the house into which Henningsgaard’s plane crashed.

You’ll also find that, on July 16 of this year, a 73-year-old pilot survived when his single-engine plane crashed in the back yard of a home in a residential area of Hillsborough, N.J. His plane was an amateur-built model.

“It’s pretty freaky being a homeowner living where I live, knowing that could have ended up being my house,” Anthony Quintano, who lives near the crash site, told The Star Ledger. Quintano used to live near Teterboro Airport, also in New Jersey, and said he’d seen crashes there as well. “It’s always nerve wracking living near some kind of airport, especially with small planes, which seem to crash a lot more.”

Quintano’s observation isn’t far off the mark. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 94 percent of the fatal aviation accidents that occurred in 2011 involved a category of aircraft called “general aviation.”

General aviation includes high-powered, professionally piloted corporate jets like the Gulfstream IV (one of which crashed at a general aviation airport near Boston in June of this year, killing seven). It also includes small, privately-owned planes flown by amateur pilots. Some of these planes are built by amateurs from kits or pieced together from scrap and spare parts salvaged from junkyards and hobby shops.

By comparison, commercial aviation — those massive jumbo jets most people think about when they consider air travel — accounted for exactly zero deaths in 2011. According to the NTSB, general aviation aircraft average about seven accidents per 100,000 flight hours, while commercial airlines average 0.16 accidents per 100,000 flight hours.

PlaneHitsHouseAgain

Two children — ages 1 and 13 — were killed in their Connecticut home in 2013 because a guy and his son didn’t want to drive to tour colleges.

In fact, from 2008 to 2012, there were more than 7,500 general aviation crashes in the United States. A great many of them are fatal, not only for the pilots who willingly took their lives in their own hands or the passengers who willingly sought the thrill of going up in a small plane, but also for unsuspecting people on the ground. Just this week, a pilot crash-landed his plane on a Florida beach, killing a 36-year-old U.S. Army sergeant and his 9-year-old daughter. That pilot, flying a small plane built in 1972, radioed to the airport that he was having trouble. Rather than ditching in the ocean and losing his precious plane, he elected to land on the beach — where there were people — which claimed two lives even as he and his passenger walked away without injury.

(There is absolutely an economic angle to these circumstances, too. Most general aviation plane crashes occur in close proximity to airports. Those who have money to invest in their housing often don’t live near airports, landfills, wastewater plants, jails, etc. So the people in greatest risk of losing their home to a plane crash also are those least likely to participate in the hobby of general aviation themselves.)

These pilots, who have the money to spend on aircraft and fuel for pleasure flights (when’s the last time you casually priced buying your own airplane?) are subject to far looser regulations than commercial aviation. So loose, in fact, that they’re not even required to carry liability insurance on their aircraft.

Hence the case of a Palm Coast, Fla. woman who lost her home when a small plane crashed into it. The woman escaped the burning home through a window. The crash killed the pilot, Michael Anders, and his two passengers. But because Anders was not required to carry — and elected not to spend the money to carry — liability insurance on his pleasure plane, the woman who was unfortunate enough to own a home in Anders’ flight path now has no way to rebuild her home or recover from the physical and psychological injuries she suffered in the crash. In fact, even though Anders could evidently afford a plane, his estate itself was insolvent so the woman has absolutely no recourse.

Requiring liability insurance could radically reshape general aviation. Insurers can set and more rigorously enforce requirements that pilots have more flight training before taking off on their own — including a set number of hours in the particular aircraft he or she is piloting. They can also require inspection of personal aircraft to ensure they are fit to fly. This creates a safer environment not only for the pilots and passengers, but for terrestrial dwellers like you and me.

Liability insurance also provides some help for people who are the real victims of general aviation crashes (I don’t spend a lot of time weeping for the wealthy pilots who knowingly engage in a hobby that is risky not only for themselves, but have no qualms putting the rest of us in danger as well): the passengers and the people on the ground. Not only is the lady in Palm Coast without a home, but two families lost loved ones who were aboard that aircraft when it crashed, and they, too, will receive no benefits from the crash.

If the Federal Aviation Administration is unwilling to effectively police general aviation — and they’re not, evidenced by a goal they set 15 years ago to reduce the annual number of general aviation crashes and the fact that, over those 15 years, the average number of annual general aviation crashes has remained static — then maybe the insurance industry will do it.

And with any luck, they’ll ground some of these flying cowboys before they can crash and kill even more of us.

After all, if Bill and Maxwell Henningsgaard just drove to colleges like normal people, two children would still be alive and a mother would’ve been spared watching her babies burn alive in the house where they should’ve been safest of all.