Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On Being Robbed

Jon and I were in my basement working. We had music playing at a muted volume. We were discussing business and life intermittently between answering emails and performing other various tasks on our computers. I heard some hard footsteps upstairs about the time my wife was supposed to come home. They were just hard enough in landing that at first I though she was running late and came inside only long enough to grab something and run out, but they persisted long enough that made me think perhaps she had forgotten a thing and trudged back inside to grab it and then rush back out to the car. These figures were fairly sub-conscious. The cacophony overhead grew to have just barely enough of an odd quality to it, and lasted just barely long enough to pique my interest. I subtly wondered whether my wife was upset and chose to stomp a couple of times - perhaps she had called after me and I didn't hear it and so she stomped down after me or perhaps something was upsetting her and she was stomping to express her frustration. All this too, was subconscious. Even further back and deeper down in my head a flash of wonder crossed my mind, 'am I being robbed?'. I slightly increased the tempo of my current sentence to Jon and then said aloud proceedingly, "what is that?".

I ascended the stairs and then, couched between normal heartbeats, my chest sustained one strong thump, but I quelled the stronger beating before it had the chance to beat hard like that twice. I started to discern alarming but indecipherable racket and from the top stair and I ran through the kitchen. The stronger heartbeat came back but I wasn't thinking about it because I felt the weirdest, creepy sense of a foreign, elusive presence in the living room. At the same time, my wife was entering through the front door. Right when she reached for the door knob, the door swung open and a man with a scraggly white beard shoved her out of the way and said, "get out of my way!", and ran out. By this time I had travelled through the kitchen just in time to see my wife just inside the living room and she said in a raised, urgent, and panicky voice "what was that?". I crossed her to look out the front door and I saw the man in our yard and I chased after him. My thoughts hadn't cured yet, so I wasn't thinking whole, clear thoughts, but I had a feeling that something wasn't right, and as (because?) he ran away from me it just vaguely but urgently seemed like I should chase him. This was at first almost entirely out of curiosity. A tweaked curiosity and an urgency.

He jumped the fence. I jumped the fence. I had a very specific feeling of vulnerability that is difficult to articulate. I had the immediate sense that he had taken something valuable (duh?). I had a vague realization that my home had been violated, that my town wasn't safe, that my beautiful pregnant wife wasn't safe (had she been hurt?). I kept chasing. He had a grey hood. A black jacket? He was more silhouette than person. Several heartbeats after the fence-jump, still new feelings emerged. I felt this bizarre, surreal, disconnection from reality. I felt adrenaline surge through my body and I became absolutely furious with the man I was chasing. I have never, ever, felt more powerful, I have never felt more predisposed to intentionally and violently engage someone. Three or four more slow, heartbeats down the road, and then select feelings congealed into what is retrospectively chilling - this strange, calm, sense of preparedness to fight, and to fight ruthlessly. I shouted as if to force him down to the ground, "hey!". It came from my bowels. It brought out five or six houses worth of neighbors. I shouted again three or four more times "hey!". It felt powerful to yell so strongly, but my words were impotent to force his face into the ice-crusted street. He was disobeying me, which pissed me off. Without anything remotely resembling a well-reasoned series of thoughts, without ever having seen his face or knowing what he did inside before he ran out the door, without knowing his life story or his intent with my home, I was fully prepared to take this man down and just absolutely beat him. Not just prepared, I was driven toward that end.

And I was gaining on him.

I chased him down the street a decent ways. But I didn't have any shoes on, and couldn't sustain the pace. I think there was also some survival switch in me that clicked on with a very quick thought about him possibly having a knife in his coat that he could easily access if forced into physical conflict. I slowed. Once I slowed, my subconscious calculated very quickly that it was unprofitable to continue the chase. My feet hurt. I had a second thought about kicking it into high gear again, giving chase again, but with the intent to follow instead of the expectation to take down. Again without well-reasoned or clear thought I shouted after him "what did you take? I don't care - I just want to know what you took!". I slowed to a stop and shouted, less violently, but sufficiently angrily, definitely frustrated, a bit scared, "oh my gosh". Some neighbors approached me to ask what happened and I immediately felt suspicious of each of them. I was instantly transformed into a paranoid conspiracy theorist. A couple just told me their names and where they lived and encouraged me to contact them if I needed anything. They all looked like thieves. The one who lives across the street from me asked if I was chasing a buddy, and I said that I didn't think so, that I thought I had just been robbed, that I was furious, that I couldn't believe it. I shouted back to my wife and Jon to call the police.

I went back inside and we locked the door and looked over the house. He had ransacked our bedroom, going through my wife's closet a bit, but mostly through my dresser drawers, after pulling them out. My wife later realized he had taken my pillowcase to stash his loot in. From my underwear drawer he stole my grandpa's pocketwatch, my grandpa's harmonica, my grandpa's antique-looking train pencil-sharpener. He took my brand new pro-line Buck knife that my wife's parents gave me for Christmas, that I have only even taken out of its sheath like thrice. He took a sack of Soviet coins and pins. There may have been some English money (not much). Aside from the knife, the items were mostly just sentimental and probably not very valuable. Though I have no idea what the pocket watch or soviet coins are really worth. I would gladly buy them back from the man if I could - at least my grandpa's things.

At any rate from the bedroom he went into my wife's office/our future nursery and grabbed her PowerBook G4 12" and her Canon Rebel! We don't think he got away with much else, but who knows what else he took? Our house reeked of alcohol. He had been in our bedroom! He had shoved my beautiful pregnant wife! She has a cold! She is working hard in school and at work! He was inside our house. Inside our house. Our home. He touched my clothes with his grubby, alcoholic hands. He took my grandpa's pocketwatch! My wife's camera! We got everyone to go in on that camera for Christmas a year ago. Everyone - all of my wife's family and all of my family. He was in our future nursery! My baby could have been in there! I have left my wife home at night without locking the door, and this could have been one of those nights! I have gone out of town and left her here for days at a time! Who knows what could have happened. He could have easily had a knife that he stabbed at my wife on his way out of the door. I mean, there are so many ways this could have been so much worse.

How did he get in? Well the front door was unlocked (why would I lock it?). The curtains were pulled open. The lights were off. He probably thought that there wasn't anybody home, probably knocked and heard no reply, tried the doorknob, was thrilled it wasn't locked, came in, helped himself, saw my wife's car pull up, rushed out, heard a man chasing him, ran fast, got away.

And honestly, we feel pity for him. We prayed for him. On top of the fact that we don't care about material possessions (very much), our insurance will probably cover it. So we're fine. I mean, we had trouble sleeping and I have been paranoid about not leaving my wife at home, and we feel vulnerable, but we'll get over it. We're getting over it.

And though I condemn his actions themselves, I simultaneously feel sympathy for him. I oscillate between wishing I had had my shoes on - for surely I would have caught him, and being glad I didn't. I probably would have beat him to an immoral severity. I am glad I didn't get the chance. Either way, now I am prepared for him or anyone like him. I half want him to come back and get what I have for him! But I really just don't want to be bothered ever again. If you know me at all, you know that I am rarely enraged. I am rarely angry. I am kick-back. I am kick-ass; I don't typically kick ass. But this situation was different.

My wife and I discussed all kinds of policy issues for our family. I am somewhat more principled than I was previously. I will stop a man, using a sufficient amount of force if necessary, to secure our persons. But the force should be kept to only the degree of severity that is necessary to stop injury to our persons. At any rate, we're more prepared now (in several ways).

I'm just thankful my wife wasn't hurt.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Nouns My Felicity For is Arguably Attributable to My Older Sister

Things I am pretty sure I liked or at least started to like or wanted to like because my sister did:
• Full House
• TGIF generally
• Nintendo (contrary to "public opinion" it was her who asked for it for Christmas initially, and she recruited me to petition our parents)
• Summer Camp
• King's Hawaiian Rolls
• Waterpolo
• Snowboarding
• The Mystical Magical Marvelous Things That Can Happen in Quick Sand (a game of imagination she made up)
• Rackinsmacker (see parenthetical note on above)
• Sizzler
• Shrimp
• L. A. Gear
• Lisa Frank (a short-lived interest)
• Barbies (see parenthetical note on above)
• All of her friends
• Most of my friends (it meant a lot whenever she pronounced one of my friends or love interests as clever, fun, or good-looking. Though I was already interested in my wife prior to it [can the referents of pronouns follow them, or do they have to proceed them?], I remember everything about when Jenny pronounced her a "hot chick" a few days after they met at Norm's [too bad that place had to shut their doors - nobody's safe in this economy] one late night for french fries and studying.)
• Defiance
• Sarcasm
• Other

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Apple and Me: Both both iconic and iconoclastic. Happy birthday.

Twenty five years ago today, in the year of 1984, the year of my birth, the year of the summer Olympic games in Los Angeles, Apple aired the following, Cold War-tinged commercial once during the Superbowl, and then never again:

I've heard the script called "geek canon".

Because of the trend this commercial set, networks now get millions of dollars for Superbowl spots (this one, at $900,000.00, was no doubt an astronomically high gamble for Apple, who hired the then Chiat/Day [now TBWA/Chiat/Day] to produce it).

Also in 1984, The Legend of Zelda.

One year later, Apple's Creator Steve Jobs was fired.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My wife made me do it.

Twilight Quiz
Edward Cullen

You are Edward Cullen. Charming and polite yet stubborn and overprotective, your desperately adorable crooked smile bears the weight of your inner pain and self-loathing. Your salvation lies in love -- though you won't admit it, you feel you can save your soul in the arms of your true love, Bella.

Atheists Dumbfounded by the Evidence

One atheist can't make sense out of the charitable love that drives Christian missionaries, saying
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts...

- As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God (thanks Jon for the link)
Another atheist can't make sense out of scientific cosmological findings:

I personally can think of a very plausible worldview in alternate to atheism that makes sense out of these phenomena.

It is a worldview whose climax was described by Nietzsche himself, saying
"Christ on the Cross" is the most sublime symbol - still.

Every positive claim about causation is fallacious.

After talking with Derek and then reading his latest post, it dawned on me that, given that none of us have solved Hume's problem yet*, every time any scientist (or psychologist, or anyone) ever makes a positive claim about any X causing any Y, he commits the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (cf. Nizkor also).

When I spoke about this to Jon last night, he said, "Why not just say 'cf. Hume' and call it a day".

Good point, Jon; I could.

The thing is that there are tons of Naturalistic Atheists who cleave to Hume and yet go on to make positive claims about causation.

And then again even in a psychology class I took in college from a professor who was most certainly not a Naturalistic Atheist, he pressed the point home that correlation does not imply causation (he spoke about the correlation of popsicle consumption and drownings as an example), and then he went on to show the types of things that do imply causation.

But on what grounds? He and everyone else just beg the question and push each matter back a notch whenever they speak of some X causing some Y.

So instead of saying "cf. Hume", I am choosing to say "hey I realized that nobody has solved Hume yet (cf. Hume), and yet we brazenly make claims about causation, and this seems quirky.".
*For all inferences from experience suppose as their foundation that the future will resemble the past and that similar powers will be conjoined with similar qualities. If there is any suspicion that the course of nature may change, and that the past may be no rule for the future, all experience becomes useless and can give rise to no inference of conclusion. It is impossible, therefore, that any arguments from experience can prove this resemblance of the past to the future, since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of that resemblance. Let the course of things be allowed up to now ever so regular, that alone, without some new argument of inference, does not prove that for the future it will continue so. In vain do you pretend to have learned the nature of bodies from your past experience. Their secret nature and, consequently, all their effects and influence may change without any change in their sensible qualities. This happens sometimes and with regard to some objects. Why may it not happen always and with regard to all objects? What logic, what process of argument secures you against this supposition? My practice, you say, refutes my doubts. But you mistake the purport of my question. As an agent, I am quite satisfied in the point, but as a philosopher who has some share of curiosity--I will not say skepticism--I want to learn the foundation of this inference. No reading, no inquiry has yet been able to remove my difficulty or give me satisfaction in a matter of such importance.

- David Hume. An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section IV: Part II.