Tuesday, December 1

Semi-intellectual rumination.

An anchor on CNN this morning was ruminating, in their typically middle-brow fashion, on the fact that December is the "final month of the decade," completely ignoring that the actual final month of the decade is next December (if one is speaking of the First Decade of the 21st Century, as opposed to the Decade of Double-Aughts), but who's counting. Other than me. As Fox Mulder once trenchantly observed, "Nobody likes a math geek, Scully."

It did, however, occasion a comparison with December of 2000. Does anyone remember the burning political question (other than whether the US Supreme Court should have stolen a presidential election) of the day?

It was whether we should use the Federal budget surplus to fully fund Medicare and Social Security, or use it to pay down the national debt.

Option three was apparently (as was actually accomplished, of course) to spray rich people with honey and let them run naked through the US Treasury.


mos said...

That makes me depressed.

pws said...

Hilarious and infuriating, all at once. Linked.

Knightfall1138 said...

Oh, the memories.

We did derail a little bit back then, but we're slowly getting back on track, gaining steam everyday.

Any of these train analogies doing anything for anybody?

Matt, I would love to hear what you have to say on the current administration someday. Very interested, in fact.

HitokiriJine said...

Wow... that is really hard to believe. It has been a long time since I have heard budget surplus.

Guy said...

I remember somewhere it being said at the time that if this was kept up, within the decade we would be debt free. Music to my frugal ears.

Of course, if the feds had stuck to their stated jobs and not stuck their damned nose everywhere they possibly could--no matter who was in office or who held Congress--we never would have had these problems in the first place, but hey, whatcha gonna do?

MWS said...

Welll . . .

There are a number of inarguably legitimate reasons for a strong central government, unless you want to go back and re-fight the Civil War.

There are also some persuasive examples of the opposite -- laboratories of democracy, as was once used to idealize the "State's Rights" theory of federalism.

Let's see . . . we're looking for

1) a large, culturally diverse nation with virtually no central government, and

2) a large, culturally diverse nation with a functionally weak central government.

Hmmm . . .

Oh yeah, I've got it.

#1: Somalia

#2: Afghanistan

Anarchists and Libertarians, unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains!

Guy said...

There are absolutely a number of reasons for a strong central government, and we have an absolutely legitimate claim to secure one. Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution.

So, we're looking for:

A large, varied, culturally diverse nation of relatively independent states protected and managed by a strong central government.

But no. Lets bully every state until they're exactly the same.

I'm not arguing for a weak central government. I'm all for it; so much so that I spent a few years playing around with nuclear reactors in the Navy.

But where is a strong central government in forcing the drinking age to be 21 in every state? Where is it in making prostitution illegal in ever state save for a handful of districts in Nevada?* Where is a strong central government in starting the stupidest, largest, most expensive and unobtainable war effort in the history of the entire world? One that makes Iraq look like chump change.

Where have these done anything but waste time and resources and more money than anyone can comprehend?

*The Bunny Ranch--owned by a fairly famous man, and brother to a fairly famous man in the motorcycle community who was held captive by guerrilla forces in Colombia for several weeks--is so rich off their little business that the proprietor is building up an industrial district. Amazingly, there are no pimps, no murders, and little crime in this business where there's security, regular medical checkups, and safety in that a legal business allows patrons and employees to get help from the cops in a problem.

MWS said...

Guy. Dude.

First, are you sure there's a Federal anti-prostitution statute? I seem to recall the Federal laws related to prostitution are aimed at human trafficking across state lines or national borders, and the individual states are responsible for everything else.

Second . . . what exactly are you complaining about? That brothels are legal in (some counties of) Nevada, or that they're not legal everywhere else?

Third, the Federal Government does not mandate a national drinking age, to be best of my knowledge. For the purpose of curbing underage alcohol-related car accidents, President Reagan (and his allies in Congress) decided that states which did not conform to the 21-year-old drinking law would be punished only by the withholding of 5% (it's not a typo: five percent) of their federal highway subsidy.

For example, here in Wisconsin, it is not a crime for a person under the age of 21 to consume alcohol if that person is accompanied by a parent, guardian or spouse of "legal drinking age" -- that is, over 21.

This, by the way, did not result in a denial of that 5% -- since Reagan's intent was traffic-related, the Federal Government concluded that the "accompanied by" provision was sufficient to meet the Federal standard.

And starting the "stupidest, largest, most expensive and unobtainable war effort in the history of the entire world" nothing the United States has done is even remotely in any of those categories, and one does not even have to be a serious student of history to know it.

Ever hear of the Thirty Years' War? How about the Hundred Years' War? Are you familiar with the Peloponnesian War (431 to 404 BC)? While we're in Greece, how about the Greco-Persian Wars? Hmm, let's see . . . China has the Warring States Period (as an unfortunate consequence of not having . . . wait for it . . . a strong central government!) -- that's 476 BC to 221 BC, which beats the pants off even the Hundred Years' War.

Expensive . . . hmm. How high was the total tab, as a percentage of GDP, was WWII for Germany? For Japan? The Spanish Armada? Kublai Khan's TWO failed invasions of Japan?

Guy, you know I love you, and I appreciate your support and your comments, but seriously, man, turn off Limbaugh and O'Reilly and read a book.

turtlewoman said...

Damn! And here I tought the surplus was used to make that fancy toilet paper used in office buildings - you know the kind - really thin and kinda useless. Learn something new every day.

Shane said...

Not to quibble, but I believe the withholding was 10%, not five. And while this is still a small-ish looking number, it's worth noting that it did manage to get all fifty states to comply with the bill very quickly, even those who clearly didn't seem to want to. Louisiana comes to mind.

Mind you, I'm all for the drinking age being what it is, and I don't even have a problem with the Federal Government mandating it, but I don't think the distinction you're trying to make here between official mandates and hard coercion is a particularly useful one.

Guy said...

Dammit Matt, I saids it once and I'll says it again: I ain't so stinkin' Republican! :P

Yes, there are anti-prostitution statutes in Federal Law. There are, in fact, several, and illegal trafficking is only a percentage of them.

The same way there are several Federal Laws against Cannabis (ironically, the Feds provide, for free, marijuana to a handful of people). Can't grow it, can't manufacture goods from it...but we can import hemp products.

And the...whatever it was called with Reagan, the Highway Act of the Road to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions, limited federal funding by 10%. There are layers of fucked up in that alone. And even if it had been 5%, you don't see a serious problem with that? You don't see a serious problem in the federal government forcing adults to have their hands held by someone 3 years older so they can drink?

War. We could talk war all day. From Ramses II to Huangdi to that lovable little scamp Napoleon (bless his heart, he tried so hard). We could run from Africa to all of Europe and Asia and across the ocean to all of the Americas. We could talk about the constant wars of the Greeks to the constant wars of the Romans and the Irish and British and Byzantium and Spain and China and Japan and (it's more awesome when Japan invades China rather than the other way around). We could talk about how tiny little Japan whooped the shit out of Russia and lead to the birth of our modern naval fleet. On and on and on.

And all of that pales in comparison to the War on Drugs, which started before even Nixon.

This is my complaint: because of an overabundance of federal laws, and federal agencies, in areas they have no Constitutional authority to pursue, we have a weaker central government than we should. We have less freedoms than we should. Were it simply a problem of one state having more stupid laws over another state, it would be a different matter entirely. You could move. There's no freedom from federal influence.

I am Dr. Krog said...

I hate it when you guys distract MWS from writing novels. This is not Chicago crime fiction (which I am in the mood for!), Overworld, or a nuanced view of the Force. Damn it.

MWS said...

Thanks, Dr. K.

But Guy is the only outspoken libertarian type who tosses political hand grenades into this party; he's officially an endangered species, so I have a moral obligation to keep him going.

And Guy --

I absolutely agree that the War on Drugs was a shitty idea, and it's a terrible policy that is not improving with age. However, I'm not sure how it is properly called unconstitutional.

Guy said...

Woohoo, endangered species! I wonder how much money I could sucker out of Greenpeace with that line...

14th Ammendment:

...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Article 1, Section 8:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.


Amazingly, nowhere in the DoI or Constitution does it say "The Congress or States shall impose a mandatory Temperance (except for, y'know, when it did...which itself was? Unconstitutional. But that's what happens when you let religion butt in. Irony.) on all its Citizens for their own damn good, and prohibit the growth of any flora, Liberty be damned."

I said before a person could move if a state made an unconstitutional law, and I don't know why; the Constitution trumps all.

Cy-Raxx said...

Hi Mr. Stover,

I'm a long-time blog reader and first time commenter (yeah, one of those lurky types) who considers you one of the better things to ever happen to the Star Wars EU, and I was wondering if you'd heard about Celebration V and/or were interested in appearing at the convention.

MWS said...

Cy-Raxx --

I haven't been thinking about Celebration. I've been to only one (III) and had a great time, as EpIII was fresh and hundreds of people lined up for my signings, which is always good for an author's ego.

I'm open to the idea of attending another, whether V or VI or whatever; but attendance to such events is contingent on a variety of uncertain financial and professional considerations (in other words, whether I have both money and non-deadline-killing free time).

Guy --

Welll . . . Prohibition was installed by the 18th Amendment (and repealed by the 21st), both ratified by the requisite 2/3 of the States (the 21st, apparently, by even more) -- which made it Constitutional by definition ; arguing that a Constituional amendment is "unconstitutional" is for ass-hats and freak-balls like the people who still refuse to pay income tax on the grounds that it's "unconstitutional," regardless of the 16th Amendment.

I believe that at least theoretically, Federal drug laws are made under the authority of "provide for . . . general welfare" clause of Article 8 paragraph 1.

Again, like I said: that doesn't stop it from being bad policy, but (though fully researching this would take more time than I have available) I seem to recall that the Supreme Court has several times affirmed the constitutionality of Federal drug laws.

This is not to say the Supremes can't be wrong (see Bush v. Gore), but it strikes me that the only way to change the situation is to vote for people who are willing to stand up and say it's bad policy, then get to work on a better one.

Joe said...

I agree with the rest of what Matt's been saying, but I'm pretty sure nothing gets upheld by the courts under "general welfare," otherwise pretty much nothing would be reserved for state governments. Drug law (and probably most of the rest of federal spending and regulation) is allowed under the interstate commerce clause. Note that when you're dealing with drugs or other contraband, it doesn't have to cross state lines to be considered to affect interstate commerce. Ever since the New Deal the Supreme Court has been interpreting this very broadly. In theory any economic activity could be interstate commerce. There have been a couple of cases in the last twenty years where they said things went to far, but it's still seen as a very broadly construed provision.

I could be wrong about some of this though, it's been a couple years since my Constitutional Law class. Stuff changes and people forget.

Grey Starr said...

Classic - That's the kind of media mistake I enjoy catching... and I am certain a lot of people caught on. Wonder how many e-mails they received correcting them.

Guy said...

The Congress nor the States are allowed to pass laws depriving someone of life, liberty, or property unless they've broken a law, or by eminent domain. So they create a self-serving loophole by making a liberty or property itself illegal so they can charge you for doing something that's illegal for the sole sake of it being illegal? Yeah, that's unconstitutional as it gets, doesn't matter where you write it down.

But hell, that's only one (although one of the most expensive--so far) of the areas they're siphoning money off where they have no right to. The Patriot Act, NASA, NASCAR, SS, the Federal Reserve Bank, Boy Scouts, SS, Medicare, CHIP, universities, foreign nations (Obama promising, what, $2.8 billion to Muslims around the world, and all the presidents before who've done the same) et al. Our government is allowed to regulate foreign and domestic commerce, not to promote it. The framers knew the damn difference, since two clauses later it specifically talks about promoting certain things via patents.

In what ways do we have a weaker central government by sticking to the enumerated powers? Your argument presupposes the assumption* that a tightly focused central government is a weak central government.

On another topic, since you're a fan of crime fiction and like Robert Downey Jr., are you going to see Sherlock Holmes?

*Oh yeah, I totally just took that from you. Next step in IP theft: a Barra and Kierendal slash fanfic. It's coming.

Guy said...

Well, I was totally talking out of my ass about Obama. $2.8 billion for Afghanistan, $7.5 billion for Pakistan, untold millions or billion elsewhere, and I jumbled it all together and mis-misquoted/remembered:

"On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim—majority countries"

MWS said...

While I thank everyone who wrote in to correct my number of 5% penalty to Federal highway funds . . . you're all wrong. Sort of.


Excerpted from Brief 95-3 of the Wisconsin Legistative Refence Bureau:

"1986 — Drinking Age Increased to 21

On July 17, 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed P.L. 98–363, which required states to conform to a national minimum drinking age (NMDA) of 21. States that did not prohibit the “purchase and public possession” of alcohol-containing beverages by persons under age 21 by October 1, 1986, would lose 5% of their highway aid allocation during the first year of noncompliance and 10% in the second year."

"So they create a self-serving loophole by making a liberty or property itself illegal so they can charge you for doing something that's illegal for the sole sake of it being illegal? Yeah, that's unconstitutional as it gets, doesn't matter where you write it down."

This, my friend, is simply asinine. The power to determine what is or is not legal is vested in the Congress and the Federal judiciary. There are VAST REAMS of what was once presumed to be "liberty and property" that are VERY PROPERLY illegal. For example, the "liberty" (once cherished in this country) to undertake a duel to defend a supposed slight upon one's honor, o that of family and friends.

A form of traditional "property" that was constitutionally outlawed is chattel slavery. It was, after all, it was defending the Sacred Liberty to Own Brown People that the Confederacy fought the Civil War for.

[on a side note: one fellow from Mississippi and I had a conversation of this sort, and he -- as most hard-core revisionists do -- insisted that the Civil War was fought not over slavery, but in an attempt to defend "States' Rights", to which I replied: "the only actual right they were defending was the right to own slaves, so just shut the fuck up." Being a decent guy, despite his revisionist leanings, he did.]

I understand that these are extreme examples, but both fall under your rubric of taking a liberty or a property and making it illegal.

Further: you'll have to define your terms for us to get into the details of "tightly focused," as regards "weak," and "strong" central governments.

And yes, I am definitely going to see SHERLOCK HOLMES.

And I recommend against any Barra/Kierendal stuff. Barra is based on -- and, in fact, created by -- the Fabulous Robyn, and she might be inclined to take that shit personally.

And before you snicker, I should remind you that Robyn is a former competitive savateur (which is kind of like MMA, except with less rules), and she has received extensive training in Brazilian jujitsu, capoeira, and kali. She also did her KA-BAR live blade training with the international grandmaster of bando. And that with her Witness Elite Match 10mm, she can shoot the eyes out of a teddy bear at twenty-five yards.

And I'm not kidding about how good she is: the very first round she put through that pistol was into a tactical target at fifteen yards, and it was dead center of the 10-ring, which is a circle about the size of a silver dollar centered on the target's upper lip.

Also, she was raised on a corn, beef and pork farm, which means she and her family would regularly slaughter and eat her pets.

And she likes cows more than she does people.

So everybody take this as a word to the wise. Don't fuck around with Barra, because you might not get another warning.

Guy said...

Slavery violates rights to life and liberty and property, and as such by definition cannot be unwilling property. They unfucked themselves eventually from the retardedness of their own hypocrisy. Such un-fucking-believable stupidity.

It's interesting that you chose those two examples. Slavery and murder both directly harm other people. There are plenty of laws about intentionally indirectly harming other people as well. "We have to protect you from yourself" has done little but deprive people of liberties that do neither.

Tightly focused: Congress sticks to the enumerated powers. It collects enough taxes to pay off its debt and hire enough people, and to train those people very well, to enforce its authority and to carry out its duties.

Congress should be kicking ass and taking names with the absolute shit that so many consumer contracts are (which Obama started to do with credit cards), breaking the monopolies that companies have over health insurance (which the administration is doing the exact opposite of) and paying off the debt instead of trying to double it. Or hey, bring back usury laws. Or beating people over the head with their own half-assed legislation that's so vague that not even the lawyers understand it, let alone a layman. That would be so much more effective that worrying about some stoner cradling his pound of dope and watching the pretty pretty lights, or that or who two consensual adults want to fuck or marry, with or without exchanging money, or making golf clubs stronger while trying to kill people with radiation...I mean, sending them to Mars.

But look, I feel like shit about making such a bad joke. I didn't think it would be taken as anything but a joke. I really wasn't trying to offend. I am sorry.

WarlordGrego said...

If The Fabulous Robyn ever dumps you...let her know that I think she's really neat.

But don't make me sound like a tool, because...well, she could totally break me like a pencil.

I do have Karate, MMA, and Army Combatives experience...and I do shoot, but DAMN! I'm impressed.

Guy said...

The Fabulous Robyn is definitely someone to have your back in the coming zombie apocalypse.

MWS said...

Guy -- don't sweat it. The threat (on behalf of Robyn) was intended in the same spirit as your original comment.

As Robyn herself might put it: "Let's make a deal. First, you agree to never write slashfic about Barra, and in return, I agree to not kill you in some painful and humiliating fashion. Today."

Oh, and one more thing: her hobby is competitive triathlon, which means you're not sitting in something gasoline-powered, she can catch you. Not to mention -- and I shit you not -- she has studied Apache tracking with an honest-to-crap Apache tracker.

I have never used her in a book simply because the truth of her is more implausible than the fictions of Barra or Caine.

Greg --

The creepy thing about Robyn's skill with a handgun is that she's only been to the range a total of four or five times. The very first time we went, she was using my Kimber 1911 and thoroughly embarrassing me. Her FIRST CLIP EVER put 6 out of 8 rounds in that same 10-ring, and the other rwo just barely outside it. At fifteen yards, which as a shooter you know is harder than it sounds. When she starts in with the Witness, people shooting on the rest of the range stop and gape in awe. It's that uncanny.

It also helps that the Witness is a real 10 mm, not a .40 S&W -- which means its ballistics are roughly equal to the .41 Remington Magnum cartridge, so it's about half again as loud as the Kimber.

And finally, Gy again:

Robyn was BORN for the coming Zombie Apocalypse. Her legend lives on . . .

Guy said...

Ha! I have a motorcycle, which means I can escape both Robyn and the zombies! Or negotiate safe passage for her in exchange for not getting killed until I died from it. Options.

I'm part Apache. And Irish and German. Oh yeah. I have befriended bears and wolves. I have been shot and stabbed and thrown and fallen from great heights. I have broken bones with my bare hands. I have been called The Sly Fox by an old Indian guide whom I surprised with my cunning, and have been taught to hide my tracks by the same. I have been treated to daily reflex training from a young age, so that mine are nearly prescient. I insulted a Master Chief and lived to tell the tale. I have disappeared from under watchful eyes in closed rooms. I got cut off from drinking in a bowling alley. I am: Internet Tough Guy!

That would have been so much cooler with a special effects

I guess this all means I'll have to save the line "Nice ears. Wanna fuck?" for some other time...

WarlordGrego said...

Robyn is badass. Dude. Seriously.

Speaking of Zombie Apocalypse, have you read any good zombie fiction? I've read World War Z, Dying to Live, and Day by Day Armageddon. They were all really good, with Dying to Live being the weakest showing of the three. DbDA has a sequel coming out soon. If you like survival horror (even if you don't, I'm not a big fan of the genre), you should pick up these books.

Kimber 1911 is an awesome weapon. I've head several chances to fire one, and it was by far the nicest shooting .45 I've ever used.

Since ammo is so expensive these days, I've been keeping to shooting my little SIG mosquito .22 pistol. Its pretty good.

People laugh at my little .22 pistol, but then I tell them that the Ft. Hood shooter was using two .22s, and they shut the fuck up.

MWS said...

Guy --

And this is why I love you.

Greg --

The FH guy was using .22s? An initial report said he was using 5.7mm pistols, but I've been unable to confirm. This is a point of mild curiosity to me because when Robyn was picking out her pistol, it came down to a choice between the Witness and an FN 5-7 (which fires the same 5.7x28mm cartridge as the P-90). She went for the Witness because it makes a Big Boom, which scares the crap out of people, and because it has a stainless slide so that -- *ahem* -- nobody has to squint to see that she's got a handful of Big Fucking Gun.

Kimber, btw, makes a conversion kit that lets your 1911 fire .22 Long. The kit ain't cheap -- between $225 and $275 -- but it's pretty nifty.

Guy said...

He used a FN Herstal 5.7. The news wants to wet itself because it keeps calling it the 'cop killer gun.' Anything they can get hysterical over.

MWS said...

Well, to be fair, the 5.7mm FMJ cartridge was specifically designed to penetrate light body armor. That round is not available to civilians, but, y'know, he wasn't a civilian.

We're not interested in its AP characteristics, we're interested in its high muzzle velocity and flat trajectory, because we're target-types. It is reputed to be exceedingly accurate for timed fire, due to low recoil.

Guy said...

He wasn't a civilian, but I don't think individual military members get to go out and buy AP rounds. Perhaps unless they're specifically force protection or MP types.

WarlordGrego said...

Matt, you're right about the round. I had heard it was a 5mm round (which is .22)

Anyways, military can't buy anything that a regular civilian can't. We don't get access to AP round or anything like that, just get what uncle sam gives us (which is either a 9mm pistol round, or a 5.56 rifle round)

In the military we cannot use personally bought rounds, weapons, or armor. This guy was not able to aquire this stuff because of his military status.

WarlordGrego said...

Also, I don't own the Kimber. My brother in law does...but since we're neighbors, I can shoot it anytime I want. He is trying to get his wife to let him buy the .22 conversion kit, but he got laid off at work.

I am Dr. Krog said...

I was thinking about Robyn's preternatural skill with the handgun. It makes some sense, with all that sensitivity based martial arts training, control and understanding of lines/angles should translate over to what is essentially another martial art.

I think it's like when the master (who has 4-5 disciplines under the belt) and the average Joe both go to learn a new martial art neither has ever done before, and that neither has a physical advantage for, the master usually picks it up exponentially quicker. At this point she would probably have advantages for learning any 'real' martial art.

As opposed to the one style dabbler who has just enough training for it to mess up learning anything else (“Thanks, but we used to do it like X in Sifu Joe’s academy” haven’t we all heard that?”). It’s awesome on a lot of levels to have trained partner (mutual respect, self defense, etc.).

Who else following here fights?

WarlordGrego said...

I don't fight, really.

I mean, I spar in my combatives class, and I love a good scrap...I'm pretty good for a guy my size (150 lbs, I usually spar guys that are at least 200 lbs)

I wouldn't ever consider fighting professionally though.

I have experience with Chito-ryu (Okinawan) and a few mixed martial arts classes.

Army combatives is essentially BJJ with striking, btw.

MWS said...

I haven't been in a ring since 2004, I think. I was kind of the opposite of the Warlord -- I'm 6'1" and I went around 210 - 215, and I mostly had to fight guys much, much smaller and much, much faster, except when I was actually in a match, which somehow I always ended up (being a super-heavy) giving up 50 or 60 pounds. I can testify that being labeled by a well-trained fighter who outweighs you by 60 pounds is not a great deal of fun.

He did not, however, hit as hard as one of my instructors, who fought at 175#. I had to spar with this individual fairly regularly. This particular guy retired as a muay Thai slash International Rules kickboxer with a record of 24-1, because no one else in the Midwest would fight him, so at the age of 33 or 34 he became a professional super-middleweight boxer, from which he recently retired with a record, if memory serves, of 37-3.

He liked to spar with me because I was big enough to suck up a lot of hurt -- and even so, I was in headgear and he was wearing 18 oz gloves, which are basically leather pillows, and he would regularly tag me hard enough to buckle my knees.

I think it was the second time I sparred with him, I discovered that my height and reach advantage (he was only about 5'7") let me hit him pretty solidly with my lead jab (a punch with which I am fairly proficient, have used it to deliver a couple of standing 8s in my day) to snap his head back and keep him at bay.

However, every time I followed with a cross, he'd whack me in the eye with a left hook that made fireworks inside my brain. It took me only three attempts before I realized I had no chance of stopping that hook, so I spent the rest of the round using my right only to block.

After class, he says, "Hey, you got the jab in pretty good, but you only threw your right hand three times." I said, "No kidding. One or two more of those hooks and I would have been face down on the canvas." He clapped me on the shoulder and said, "Oh, it was strategy? Well, okay then."

As you might imagine, I loved the guy, and he was one of my favorite instructors in a wide variety of arts -- boxing, muay thai, savate, capoeira (he was Robyn's capoeira instructor), stick fighting, knives, submission grappling . . . the guy was a monster. By the time I moved out of Chicago he was the head instructor of the Academy (which had about 1100 students).

Those were the days, my friends.

For many years, the only actual fun I had was found in learning how to beat someone to death.

MWS said...

Oh, and Doc?

Robyn actually picked up martial arts with the same uncanny ease. Her only organized physical training prior to the Degerberg was ballet -- though she grew up on a farm, so she was already stronger than most men in her weight class.

For glove-testing in savate, the technical part of the test is a series of drills performed with a parter, most of them involving some 10 to 15 strikes back and forther between the partners (each of which would be met with the appropriate defense and a counterstrike, then there's the counter-counterstrike, and the counter-counter-counter . . . but you get the idea).

Robyn could do any of the technical aspects after seeing it once.

When someone would ask her how she could do that kind of thing without the need to practice, she'd shrug and say, "It's just choreography. Until somebody draws blood, it's all just choreography."

Guy said...

Oh Robyn this. Oh Robyn that. Robyn's just sooooooo great. God, you think you were madly in love with her or something. Jeez.

Dornicus said...


Are you sure Robyn isn't an alias for River Tam?

Just a thought.

By the way, at 6'8" and 230lbs, I feel your pain in terms of many people being smaller and faster than you in the ring.

And, really, outside the ring, except in a dead run.

Not that I won't still kick Grego's ass all over town any day of the week, naturally.

Just sayin'.

MWS said...

No shit?

Y'know, I met a guy in Costa Rica last year -- a kung fu guy (Shaolin? I disremember) who turned into a competitive full-contact kickboxer; he, too, is 6'8" and about 230, and For about ten months now I've been trying to figure a way to get to the East Coast so that I can get in a ring with him. If I ever manage to get out that way, maybe I should put you and Grego on the list.

I am Dr. Krog said...

Cool. Sounds like Robyn is a true outlier, huh? Gifted on a lot of dimensions. Lucky you!

I was actually first introduced to Heroes Die through my Jeet Kune Do instructor. It was a homework assignment. He used to come up with cool ways to expand your training indirectly like that.

After that was boxing, and I also left the ring in 2004. Now I train cage fighters and regular joes in BJJ. I have to say, I like it better, clinching and staying close to you big gorillas, using in fighting and dominant positional striking instead of getting hit with twice my mass during exchanges. Cause yeah that sux. I am 6 foot, but only 165. To me, you guys might as well be monsters in a striking contest. At 165 sure you might have some speed, but you sure can't afford to take too much damage...

My wife (a lurker around these parts) is more into muay thai. I've tried to get her to cross train with some grappling too, but she only wanted to roll around on the ground with me. Go figure. I guess that's good!

Matt, I know what you mean about times in your life when the only joy is learning/practicing to beat people to death. The first times I sparred/fought all out, I found I could take off my impression management, my work mask, and be my true self. There is no impression management when someone is trying to beat you unconscious. The language of violence is 100% authentic, no bs. Very, very liberating. If you're used to wearing a mask, as most of us have to, you don't realize how much effort you spend keeping up appearances for corporate life, or whoever controls you, until you take it off. That's why Acts of Caine resonates so well with a lot of folks. Those of us who train don't get to go to Overworld (where 'actors' are their true or preferred selves), but sometimes if we're lucky, we get little tastes of it. And fighting, even facing loss can be delicious. Know what I mean? That sweet spot of feeling alive?

Dornicus said...

East Coast?

Shit, I'm in Iowa City 8 months out of the year (except around Christmas and over the summer); if you're still in Chicago, I'm sure I could find the time to hit the ring when I'm in town visiting some friends of mine. If I remember right, the drive to downtown is just about 3 and a half hours.

WarlordGrego said...

For the record, Dornicus is freakishly tall, yet he whimpers like a girl :D

Anyways, Mikey, we should totally spar next time you're in town. I will pwn you.

One time I was sparring my combatives instructor. This guy is a 6'3 250 lbs guy, solid muscle...that was an awesome fight. I lost, but it was the first time I actually made a name for myself inside my class.

Mainly they call me "Spider Monkey" or "That idiot who is too stupid to give up"

The guy didn't make me submit. He essentially just laid a knee into my chest and put all his weight on it. I tried to resist for a minute, but its hard to win a fight when you're nearly unconcious from lack of air :D

Tim said...

I am now thoroughly terrified of the people in this thread.

Also, of Robyn. Let me never run into her in even a somewhat dim alleyway, because I might just shit myself and spare anyone the shame of dealing with me.

MWS said...

Be not afraid.

In fact, you should be LESS afraid of the recreational fighters than the other guys (not Guy, though he scares me too -- people who get cut off drinking in a bowling alley are NOT to be fucked with).

The interesting thing about martial arts is that the more you know -- and especially the more years you spend in training, the less likely it is that you'll ever be in a street fight. You don't start fights, and the kind of people that do, well . . . they tend to edge away without making eye contact; they're looking for victims, not opponents.

It was almost 10 years ago when I had the sudden and startling insight that I would never -- NEVER -- have to actually fight someone who knew more about fighting than I did.

I'm not a soldier or a police officer, and people who know more martial arts than I do almost never start a fight themselves (the 'almost' is in there because there is always the possibility of the occasional whacko). Since I knew I would never start a fight, the chances of finding myself in actual combat with someone who knew more than me were literally infinitesimal . . . quod erat demonstrandum.

Which is really pretty cool.

Doc --

HEROES DIE as JKD homework? Man, you just made my year.

Dornie (and Doc) --

I think we should start an SF-and-whipass convention. (StoverCon?). There are an ASTONISHING number of SF and fantasy writers who are recreational martial artists -- Steve Donaldson is an umpteenth-dan black belt in Karate, Greg Keyes is a smallsword fencer, Troy Denning does judo and jujitsu, Bob Salvatore was a hockey player . . . not to mention all the ex-(and current) military types who lap this shit up.

Sparring during the day, seminars on different styles (doing karate with Stephen R Friggin' DONALDSON? How cool would THAT be?), then SF panels, readings and drunkenness at night.

Sounds like heaven to me.

Guy said...

I'd buy 50 tickets. One for myself and the rest to sop up some of the unfiltered AWESOME that would be floating around.

Guy said...

"The interesting thing about martial arts is that the more you know -- and especially the more years you spend in training, the less likely it is that you'll ever be in a street fight. You don't start fights, and the kind of people that do, well . . . they tend to edge away without making eye contact; they're looking for victims, not opponents."

Like these two guys. This shit is hilarious. Starts at 1:15

Knightfall1138 said...

I would attend Stovercon. It's not too often that you can hear an author speak about the state of the science-fiction genre, followed up by someone getting punched the fuck out.

I bet it would be as unpredictable as it sounds. =O

I am Dr. Krog said...

Ok, super nerd alert, but I bet someone on here will have some thoughts on this.

I was watching Star War Episode 4 today with my 3 year old. She asked if Han Solo was a Jedi. It occured to me, that throughout the Expanded Universe Han is decidedly not force sensitive. And yet, I have the feeling he uses the force, the same as the jedi. He's just not conscious of it. He's got their luck and starship skills. Impactful, but not sensitive maybe?

His kids are also just as strong as Luke and Anakin. He didn't seem to water them down with his genes. I wonder why I've never seen it considered.

I mean, if on Han's last adventure, when he dies, if he disappeared, that would be pretty wild. Throw people for a loop...

Dornicus said...


I'm in. Just give me the when and where and I'm all over it.

Same goes for me and Grego taking turns whoopin' up on ya.