Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Do not get caught by a bear in White.

Via Arctic Patriot I learned about a recent bear mauling in the Talkeetna Mountains, NE of Talkeetna itself.   This is remote country (I've hunted a tiny part of it) and certainly griz territory;  the basic story is that some teenage kids on the last stages of a wilderness expedition with an outdooring outfit (NOLS) got caught by a sow with cub, and injuries ranged from minor to pretty serious.

The first article I saw really didn't say much in the way of detail.  I learned more by looking at ADN, as a source.  The most recent story is here, with previous ones available in a link list therein.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a lot of CYA going on in that most recent article, which claims that the kids were "well-prepared" and that the attack was "unavoidable".  The "well-prepared" claim is clearly BS, as nobody seems to dispute that the first thing the nearest kids did was turn and run!  As well, although they did have pepper spray, it was apparently buried beyond reach at the moment of truth, and therefore useless.

As to the claim of "unavoidable", that is in no way conclusive from the information I've seen;  I suspect it is simply an easier explanation to give to distant parents and certainly less embarrassing to NOLS.  (You may note, in today's article, that the "outdoor experts" they quote are either NOLS, ex-NOLS, or the functionally similar American Alpine Institute.)

The CYA continues by trumpeting traditional defeatist arguments against using guns, while conveniently ignoring the liabilities of OC spray.  "Guns can give a person a false sense of security," but stick a can of magic spray in your pack, feel the breeze in your face, and let your worries melt away, eh?

I don't mean to harp on the kids, who seem to be in better shape than originally feared.  But it is a disservice to everyone to ignore that there was a failure here, and the failure was of what Jeff Cooper called "the combat mindset".  One of the kids apparently said this:

"I thought: 'I'm going to die,'" he told The Associated Press from his hospital bed in Anchorage. "I thought, 'This just can't be happening to me.'"

Those are the words of someone in Condition White.  As the old saying goes, "you are no more armed because you possess a gun than you are a musician because you possess a guitar".  They were not prepared for this emergency, mentally:  "[t]his just can't be happening to me" announces with crystal clarity that the speaker did not really believe it could happen to him at all.  They had a tool available (not the most failsafe one, certainly, but still, a tool), but apparently did not even keep it ready for emergency use!  Further, they did not keep their heads when they most needed to keep their heads, but rather did the very worst thing they could have done to provoke a predator to give chase.  That they may have been cool-headed after the action was concluded is great so far as it goes, but defending life often mitigates the subsequent need to preserve it.

This failure is not trivial--it is rather the whole enchilada.  Col. Cooper often said that of all the students who reported back that his training had saved their lives, not a one of them failed to credit the mindset training first, and only then any specific skill-at-arms.  The understanding that a fight could come to them at any time, from anywhere--that it could indeed "be happening to me", right now--and having a response already in mind--is what allowed them to move past dithering and into focused, directed action.

In this case, unless there's a whole lot more I don't know, the kids got lucky.  One can only hope that they realize this, among all the posturing about how "well-prepared" they were and how "unavoidable" the attack really was.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Figures. Ohlson Mountain shooting site, meet 'progress'.

So it appears that some folks now want local shooting site Ohlson Mountain to get cut off.  Other than the simple loss of (yet another) place to shoot, for the usual disgusting reasons, this would remove one of the only free places to shoot that I know of.  (The cynic in me does not expect the local gun club to come to the rescue here, since they will benefit financially from forcing everyone who now uses Ohlson to use their range, with its restrictions.  Ah, politics.)  Just like the poll tax, of course, this "free" thing doesn't affect anyone of importance.

I'm about to submit the following either as a comment to the Homer News article, or as a separate LTE, because I just have to speak up.

When I first happened across Ohlson Mountain as a potential site for shooting, it struck me specifically that there were none of the usual prohibitions on the public's use of the site.  On one hand, it seemed a refreshing change from the rest of our sad society which seems to respond to every conceivable free-choice scenario with prohibition, restriction and regulation.  I spent quite some time making sure I wasn't missing something obvious (including visually confirming the depth of every prospective backstop) before partaking myself, and have since valued the site immensely as a local place to go, that notably does not insult the intelligence of that wide majority of us for whom no regulation is, or ever will be, necessary.

On the other hand, being an acute observer of the depressing march of "progress", there was another part of me that said, in parallel, "it's only a matter of time before someone does something legitimately stupid, and someone else decides that the answer is to use the power of the state to forcibly keep everyone out, including everyone who neither has done nor ever will do anything wrong."

And so, here we go, it seems.  Again.

I can certainly sympathize with the property owners here.   If it were my property, I would want to mitigate the risk of stray rounds as well.  But it is wrong to ask the state (in the guise of troopers, the borough, etc) to act as your own personal enforcement apparatus.  It is also wrong to trade our bedrock principle of individual accountability, for the historically empty promise that if we punish everyone equally, we'll all somehow benefit;  this is precisely the logic that has brought us the disastrous War on (Some) Drugs.

The worst part about this sort of thoroughly Faustian pact is that it doesn't even get people what they want.  Simply closing off the land by decree is no guarantee of increased safety.  Any one of us who discharges any round, anywhere, at any time, is already--and properly--personally liable for what happens between the time the loud noise happens and the time the projectile stops.  We also tend to forget that although we are all taught that the state is here to "protect" us, the courts have repeatedly ruled that the state is under NO obligation to protect any one of us individually, at all--to the considerable surprise of some who counted on it.  And it should be obvious, by now, using the War on Drugs and PATRIOT Act (as but two) examples, that the strategy of using the power of the state to control the behavior of others comes at a far heavier price than any benefit it might bestow.

I've been around long enough to know that these thoughts will most likely be ignored, usually with impunity.  Why, then, do I write them?  Because if people would be willing to consider a more rational approach to such a dilemma, they just might be surprised at what could happen.  I note with some sadness that nobody seems to have suggested the obvious "let's treat each other like adults" suggestion:  that simply raising the awareness of the risks involved might achieve what is needed here, without resorting to yet another decree that the decent don't need and the malicious or stupid will ignore anyway.

If it were my property downrange, the very first thing I would do is try to encourage volunteer signage at the backstops, informing people both of their responsibility for every round fired, and also of the simple fact that people live down there*.  (Jeff Cooper's Four Rules would be a great inclusion too, btw.)  I'd put the word out in newspapers, at the chamber, and at businesses that would agree to help me spread the word.  As well, I'd probably make regular visits to the site when people are likely to be shooting, to introduce myself and put a face on the downrange risk.  I'd ask the regulars if they'd do me the favor of looking out for me, making sure others were aware of the risks and even notifying me if someone refused to stop doing something stupid.  In short, I'd appeal to my community, and ask others to help me out.  I could not, in conscience, call upon the state to force everyone out on my behalf.

The usual response to this is that I cannot, in fact, trust my neighbors, who must instead be forcibly controlled for the greater safety of all of us.

Really?  Is that what we're about here?  Because that's not what I'm about.

* Personally, I'd be there in a heartbeat, and would work vigorously to bring others of like mind.

I know, pissing in the wind.  Maybe I'm missing the hate mail, or something.  :-)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Solzhenitsyn, a modern Cassandra

At long last, I have finally started to pore through The Gulag Archipelago, by Solzhenitsyn.

It begins with a chapter on the concept of arrest, and I am not sure it is possible to be anywise conscious of what is happening around us, today, and not get an icy chill in your veins upon reading this bit of history.  Just consider the following:

The kind of night arrest described is, in fact, a favorite, because it has important advantages. Everyone living in the apartment is thrown into a state of terror by the first knock at the door. The arrested person is torn from the warmth of his bed. He is in a daze, half-asleep, helpless, and his judgment is befogged. In a night arrest the State Security men have a superiority in numbers; there are many of them, armed, against one person who hasn't even finished buttoning his trousers. During the arrest and search it is highly improbable that a crowd of potential supporters will gather at the entrance. The unhurried, step-by-step visits, first to one apartment, then to another, tomorrow to a third and a fourth, provide an opportunity for the Security operations personnel to be deployed with the maximum efficiency and to imprison many more citizens of a given town than the police force itself numbers.

In addition, there's an advantage to night arrests in that neither the people in neighboring apartment houses nor those on the city streets can see how many have been taken away. Arrests which frighten the closest neighbors are no event at all to those farther away. It's as if they had not taken place. Along that same asphalt ribbon on which the Black Marias scurry at night, a tribe of youngsters strides by day with banners, flowers, and gay, untroubled songs.

But those who take, whose work consists solely of arrests, for whom the horror is boringly repetitive, have a much broader understanding of how arrests operate. They operate according to a large body of theory, and innocence must not lead one to ignore this. The science of arrest is an important segment of the course on general penology and has been propped up with a substantial body of social theory. Arrests are classified according to various criteria: nighttime and daytime; at home, at work, during a journey; first-time arrests and repeats; individual and group arrests. Arrests are distinguished by the degree of surprise required, the amount of resistance expected (even though in tens of millions of cases no resistance was expected and in fact there was none). Arrests are also differentiated by the thoroughness of the required search; by instructions either to make out or not to make out an inventory of confiscated property or seal a room or apartment; to arrest the wife after the husband and send the children to an orphanage, or to send the rest of the family into exile, or to send the old folks to a labor camp too.

Now, consider:

There are more than fifty thousand no-knock warrants in the US every year.  Fifty thousand.  That is over one hundred and thirty every day of the calendar year.  And that number is several years old, now.  In this country, where we moralize about other countries and their "police states", while denying the existence of our own.

The denials are loud.  They are numerous.  And they are spookily familiar, both in the types of excuses offered and the absurd tenacity with which people insist on the further empowerment of their attackers.  As if the War on (Some) Drugs has brought about any sort of measurable societal change other than the explosive growth of a police state (at absolutely staggering cost).

Solzhenitsyn again:

If...if... We didn't love freedom enough. And even more--we had no awareness of the real situation. We spent ourselves in one unrestrained outburst in 1917, and then we hurried to submit. We submitted with pleasure! (Arthur Ransome describes a workers' meeting in Yaroslavl in 1921. Delegates were sent to the workers from the Central Committee in Moscow to confer on the substance of the argument about trade unions. The representative of the opposition, Y. Larin, explained to the workers that their trade union must be their defense against the administration, that they possessed rights which they had won and upon which no one else had any right to infringe. The workers, however, were completely indifferent, simply not comprehending whom they still needed to be defended against and why they still needed any rights. When the spokesman for the Party line rebuked them for their laziness and for getting out of hand, and demanded sacrifices from them--overtime work without pay, reductions in food, military discipline in the factory administration--this aroused great elation and applause.) We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.

Sure, that's Solzhenitsyn talking about Soviet Russia...but that icy tingle in your veins, that says he could be speaking today, about us, is there, isn't it?

For some years now I have regularly re-read Fahrenheit 451, perhaps once a year, and never fail to be amazed at how much it reads not like fiction, but like a depressing documentary--and moreso each time.  It has been my metaphorical standard.  The thing is, here I am beginning just the second chapter of Solzhenitsyn's most well-known work, reading passages like this:

It is well known that any organ withers away if it is not used. Therefore, if we know that the Soviet Security organs, or Organs (and they christened themselves with this vile word), praised and exalted above all living things, have not died off even to the extent of one single tentacle, but, instead, have grown new ones and strengthened their muscles--it is easy to deduce that they have had constant exercise.

I do not understand how any of my countrymen could possibly read things like this, within the context of the history that it describes, while also being aware of what has been happening here, and not feel alternating waves of icy chill and nausea at history in the very process of repeating itself.

I suspect I may be quoting a bit more of Mr. Solzhenitsyn as things, ah, "progress".  And I mean that in every possible entendre you can imagine.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chris Floyd: You support mass murder.

C'mon, Chris, tell us how ya really feel:

Do you support the policies and political fortunes of President Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate? Then this is what you support: cowardly, cold-blooded mass murder. You support mass murder. You support the shredding to pieces of innocent people, many of them children, week after week, month after month. You support the murder of children. You support the cultivation of extremism and hatred: hatred aimed at you, and your children, for the mass murder -- the state terrorism -- committed in your name by your progressive president. You support extremism. You support hatred. You support terrorism.

There's lots more, of course, in defense of this point, but there is an additional powerful point to be made by simply stopping at the summary.

That additional point is simply this:  you do know what Floyd is talking about, right?
  • Libya?
  • Gunwalker?
  • Pakistan?
  • The War on (Some) Drugs?
Because only one of those could even possibly be the subject of the above statement...


Don't talk to the police, by James Duane

It occurred to me today that I have yet to put up a post about Professor James Duane's absolute classic, "Don't Talk To The Police".

I got no excuse for that lapse, folks.  Facepalm.

Well, let's put a stop to that.  Here you are.

For those who have never seen it:  please, fix that.  (You'll understand, when you do.)  For those who know it: do help spread it as far and wide as you can.  It's no longer a stretch to say that it might save someone's life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Claire Wolfe on living in a police state

Claire Wolfe is at work on another capital-R resource.  The first installment of "Responsibilities of a resident of the police state" is now up at Backwoods Home magazine, and it frames the problem about as well as it can be said.  She begins with the simple summary:

I know: Our first responsibility is to ourselves and our families. We didn’t create the police state. What government does isn’t our responsibility (except to whatever extent we support its actions). Yet we’re people of conscience. We can’t watch others be crushed without feeling a stab of their agony. We know, as others are crushed, that the crushing machinery gathers momentum and will roll toward our own lives. We know that not only we, but the ideals that sustain civilization, are being crushed. And that matters to us. Matters vitally, painfully, heartbreakingly. No matter what else we do, we can’t stand by and watch that happen without feeling an obligation — or at least a passionate longing — to do our all to stop it.

She then goes on at more length about just how agonizing it can be to observe even just one aspect of the current scene:

Then with so much indignation roused against them, police abuses against individuals ought to be among the easiest police state activities to halt. Even if you acknowledge such (admittedly big) factors as the federal government paying, equipping, training, and otherwise encouraging local cops to be thugs, in theory outraged local people (supported by a howling Internet) ought to have a relatively easy time putting a stop to such local outrages.

But despite the outcry, the abuses don’t stop. They don’t even slow down. Instead, we now see SWAT-style raids used to enforce housing code violations and catch student-loan scofflaws. We see polite objectors being charged with the catch-alls of disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice, or resisting arrest — and less polite objectors killed on the spot. We see tasers — once billed as “non-lethal” alternatives to firearms — being used as “compliance tools” against old ladies, grade-school children, diabetics, epileptics, and handicapped teenagers. We see people who photograph cops being threatened with long prison sentences. We’re told the horrendous lie that “freedom” requires absolute, forelock-tugging, dirt-scuffing, unquestioning obedience to Authoritah — and we’d better believe it OR ELSE.

You know all that, of course.

And it pains your conscience, doesn’t it? It makes you want to scream in frustration. Makes you want to take the law into your own hands and end the abuses by any means necessary. Makes you wonder if the entire country hasn’t lost its mind — and makes you sure that the entire “justice system” has well and truly lost its collective marbles — or perhaps isn’t intended to be a “justice” system at all.

No matter how loudly you yell, how many times you show up to support a victim in court, how many letters you write to editors, how many times you speak at public forums, how many times you do exactly what Martin Niemoeller mourned that he didn’t do … things just get worse.

See, this is why I follow Claire Wolfe.  She has a talent for respectfully re-humanizing the problem of inhumanity, and she does it without flinching on principle.

Don't just read and share this one, bookmark it.   I suspect the following installments will be similarly worthy, but even if they're not, this here is a resource for anyone who (like me) has struggled with the "what to do" demons.

Scared of Freedom: another gold nugget from Larken Rose

Personally, I struggle to explain to others why I ignore and shun the political process whenever and however I am able to do it, as a matter of survival.  Oh, I try, but I always sound obtuse, even to myself.

Larken Rose seems to have no such trouble, and I am always happy to amplify his thoughts by whatever meager amount I can.  Via Wendy McElroy, check out "Scared of Freedom", which begins thus:

There are a lot of people who consider themselves freedom advocates, who, with righteous zeal and indignation, vehemently rail against the injustice, corruption and oppression "government" continually spews forth. However, many of those same people, when they hear someone suggesting life without the monstrosity called "government," will immediately go into turbo-backpedal mode, insisting that some "government" is needed, that we need to work to fix the system, and that we need a good "government," that just does good stuff, and protects us, and so on.

The situation is a lot like a battered spouse, who is given the opportunity to escape her abuser, but who insists that she can't leave, that he really loves her, that she needs him, that the relationship can be fixed. Such a response shows that, as much as the abuser is a nasty scumbag, there is also a serious problem in the mind of his victim, which enables the abuse to continue.

So it is with statists who just want a nicer, gentler "government." They don't actually want freedom. In fact, they are scared to death of freedom, which is why they refuse to give up the very beast that they are constantly condemning and complaining about. They insist that "government" is needed to protect people, to maintain liberty and justice, and do nothing more. The fact that the gang called "government" has never done that, anywhere in the world, at any time in history, doesn't shake "limited statists" from their faith in the idea that that "needs" to happen.

There's a lot that follows this, and it's made of the same stuff.  RTWT, and please consider sharing it with those who need it.

As usual, the man has a point.

The incalculably valuable Arthur Silber, today on protection rackets:

My God and gee whiz, the desperate need for debt reduction by the federal government is a terrifying business. I know this must be true, because all our leaders and all major commentators repeatedly tell us so. To a person, their pronouncements are drenched in urgency, warning of doom if we do not accede to their demands.

Those familiar with Silber's talent for such preliminary snark know what's coming next:

When your preferred, and more and more frequently your only, tactic is terrorizing your subjects -- abroad or at home -- the specifics of the "crisis" of the moment are entirely irrelevant. What matters -- the only thing that matters -- is spreading panic and fear. For a terrorist, terror is the point.

Your national leaders are terrorists. Look on the bright side: they aren't shooting at you or sending drones into your neighborhood. Not yet. You still have that to look forward to, you fortunate idiots.

RTWT.  In addition to his trademark imagery and firebrand style, Silber here makes convenient use of the "which instance of this atrocity are we talking about again?--cause it sure gets hard to keep them all straight" literary device which, let's face it, has just about become "file photo" worthy for any current-event topic you can name.

Consider introducing Arthur Silber to anyone you know, who does not yet understand.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"They have to prove it, or else I'm a murderer too."

Butler Shaffer on the Casey Anthony trial.

The words of one of the jurors, Jennifer Ford, should give encouragement that many of our neighbors can rise above the Madame Defarge lynch-mob mindset. As Ms. Ford so well expressed it: "If they want to charge and they want me to take someone’s life, they have to prove it. They have to prove it, or else I’m a murderer too."

Duh.  If there's any hope at all for this whole "rule of law" thing, that concept better damn well be buried deeply in the DNA of every juror of every trial, all the f#$kin' time.  Make those malignant bastards work for every conviction they seek.  Consider nullification every time, and do it when necessary, with absolutely no regard to "case law".  And when they whine at you that you're making their jobs difficult, say "it's the least I can do for someone who will stab me in the back at his first opportunity".  They want convictions, you want justice, and the two are not--let me repeat,


the same thing.  You do not want their jobs to be "easier".  You do not want them to want their jobs at all.  You want them to feel like if they do something wrong, that they will pay personally, and severely.  (That is, you want them to feel just like you do now.  Note the "stab in the back" reference above.)

Anyway, Shaffer gets uncharacteristically contrived with his interlude imagery in the middle of this piece, but if you ignore that (and he's earned that sort of respect) it's typical gold.

I have no defense to make of Casey Anthony as a person or a mother. I don’t know that much about her to make any such judgment. Her alleged failure to notify anyone of Caylee’s being missing until thirty-one days later does not impress me as the epitome of responsible motherhood. But the jury was not assigned the task of judging this woman’s character. They understood what Dennis and Amelia did not: individuals are responsible for the consequences of their actions. In a world in which we have become accustomed to dealing with one another in highly abstract ways, it is easy for any of us to express opinions – or courses of action – without feeling any sense of responsibility for what we have put in motion.

Getting to the bigger point, as ever.  RTWT, it's worth it.

By the way, on the same subject, if you haven't already, check out Balko's piece, and this marvelous follow-up at The Agitator:

If the argument you’re about to make begins this way:

I see the purpose of the whole “innocent until proven guilty” premise of our judicial laws, however ...

. . . just stop typing. Or talking. There really isn’t anything that can follow however that isn’t going to make you look foolish.

The response to the Caylee’s Law piece has been mixed. But a few of the angrier responses have been wonderfully absurd.

Balko does occasionally indulge in a prurient roast, a forgivable thing given the outstanding work he does every day, and I admit to laughing out loud at most of them.

Monday, July 4, 2011

American life in a nutshell.

I swear I am not making this up.  It happened about ten feet in front of my face, not two hours ago.

We were finishing up hot dogs sold by the volunteer FD when the announcement was made of a small route change for the parade.  As it happened that change put the very beginning of the parade route right past our faces.  Within minutes, dozens of additional people found their way to the same spot we were in, belonging to exactly two demographics:  young children with parents, and seniors.  It struck me that all the kids and parents seemed demonstrably friendly, courteous and aware, and the only ones "barging around" seemed to belong to the senior demographic.  (Yes, there were a couple of the seniors that conspicuously stayed well back and smiled a lot at us, but the rest of the "bargers" zoomed on in front of us as though never noticing we were there.)

Anyway, the parade was the usual small-town arrangement of characters, including the incessant parading of politicians and would-be politicians, sellin' their snake oil.  (I don't know just what to make of my casual observation that most of the crowd's engagement did seem to politely tune down, when the plasticene-grin-and-tightly-scripted-wave crowd trundled by.  In particular, again, the kids and parents just didn't seem to say much of anything, one way or the other.  Perhaps wishful thinking on my part, but it was notable enough to register.)

I do, however, know just exactly what to make of the episode that happened when the Borough ("county") parade vehicle came on by, with its printed repertoire of catchy catechisms in the "we luv to serve" vein of professional smarm. 

I swear, again, I am not making this up.

"Seniors!" shouted the leader of the bargers that had settled right in front of us.  The tone of his voice immediately indicated that he was speaking for the cadre around him.  "Whatcha got for us?"  The sense of entitlement hit me like a dog whistle.

The two occupants in the Borough vehicle, who had been throwing candy at the kids with big smiles, flashed looks of pure contempt, just for one instant, and showered the seniors with...peanuts.  Within another second, their smiles had returned and their next handfuls (of candy) were again in search of younger prey constituents.

I looked around.  Nobody seemed to have noticed, or made anything at all of it.  No one.

That's what completed the image.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fourth of July, otra vez

Wrote this one two years ago, and did not feel the need to change anything.

It does me well to remember, now that the Fourth of July is here and all the banners and colors are in evidence, just what the observance is supposed to be for.

The Fourth of July is not the day the Constitution was signed or ratified.

It's not even when the Bill of Rights (and with it the legitimacy of the Constitution) was ratified.

It has nothing--nothing--to do with self-congratulatory, chest-thumping military displays.

It has nothing to do with any sort of flag.

It has nothing to do with faithfulness or loyalty to your government.

In fact, if you read the document that the Fourth actually celebrates, you find some interesting things, including:
  • This is about declaring that a people are ultimately independent from, and therefore above, their government.
  • This is about declaring the right to revolt against a government that has stopped representing its people.
  • This is about people willing to stand up and become military targets of their own government.
These folks were revolutionaries.  They were secessionists.  They were seditionists.  No doubt King George considered them "terrorists" and "traitors", guilty of "treason" toward the duly constituted authoritah of the time.

And we celebrate the Fourth of July today, not only because they stood up and said, "we've had enough of your abuses and are no longer subject to your rule", but then had the moxie to fight back when George called them on it.

Think about that.  These people opened fire on their own government, when said government came to take away their stockpiles of unlicensed, unregistered, long-range, (better than) military-style arms.  They organized and fought a guerrilla insurrection rather than continue to endure a government that did not serve, reflect or benefit them.  And, perhaps to the surprise of everyone including themselves, they prevailed.

Isn't it funny how times have changed.  Criticizing the government is now only done by kooks and loonies, who of course should be rounded up and added to the ever-growing list of potential terrorists.  Quoting the Constitution or Bill of Rights is now considered impertinent enough to get you on the list.  And the Fourth of July is now all about wearing the team colors, whooping it up for the coach in Washington, and celebrating with displays of military might.  All while you shut up and pay your taxes, so nobody gets hurt.

Because, you know, times are so different now.
Please do celebrate the Fourth of July--for what it is.  Independence Day.  Go read the Declaration of Independence, and talk about it.  It may not be a casual conversation, but it's one worth having.