All things in Xs…

I’ve been uncharacteristically patient in waiting until reaching (just) my one year anniversary with the iPhone X. The phone is a workhorse that in truth is far more pocket computer/communications device than any average user could ever need. Workhorse though it is, my trusty X is no longer the flagship of Apple’s iPhone fleet.

With my eligibility for an upgrade confirmed, I’ll be off tomorrow to slip by my very favorite retailer and hand off my trusty phone for its slightly newer, sexier younger sibling. Apple was kind enough to email me a confirmation of the order which means it should be a fairly painless visit – well under 10 minutes awash in the great American retail habitat.

I’ll give the marketing and sales department great credit. The know their target audience and continue too come up with new and interesting ways to help us feed the madness. I mean if you can convince me that going to a mall on Saturday is worth doing you should consider a career selling ice in the arctic.

There are some things for which I am willing to gladly suffer the indignity of being inevitably surrounded by people. The Xs just happens to be one of those things. I’ll be very happy to bring her home tomorrow.

Soft underbelly…

America is full of soft targets – Mall of America is an obvious choice simply by virtue of it’s size – but really any place where people congregate and are focused shopping, socializing, or anything other than paying attention to what’s going on around them fall into this category. For most of our lifetimes we’ve been safely sheltered from the world’s troubles by our dual moats, the Pacific and Atlantic, and by the simple fact of how unimaginably large a land mass we occupy. High speed travel and the internet are making those distances seem less significant – the unintended consequence being that it also makes us less secure.

I’ve often said that if I were going to plan an domestic attack on America all I’d need is a hundred really committed followers and the location of the busiest Starbucks in ten different states, the ten busiest banks in ten different cities, the ten best rated elementary schools in the ten most affluent zip codes in America. Are you seeing a theme yet? If my goal is to cause terror, why would I bother attacking military bases, government centers, or even utilities? Want to see society grind itself to a halt over a period of a month? Hit us where the people are – not at our grand events, but at the places we frequent day in and day out. Hit us where we collectively feel comfortable.

A reasonably well coordinated attack on our soft underbelly is one of the several nightmare scenarios that genuinely keeps me awake at night – and now ISIS has blatantly told us that they’ve been thinking about those kind of targets too.

We can’t harden every target. Even if we could, living in an even more intrusive surveillance state than we do now isn’t something I’d consider a worthy tradeoff. That means it’s basically up to us to mind our own little corner of the store. Pay attention to where you are and who’s around you. Do you know what to look for when something feels wrong? Can you pick a room apart for what or who looks out of place? Can you spot an average pickpocket working a crowded food court or spot the telltale “print” of a badly concealed handgun?

Yeah, neither can I… at least most of the time. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking every time I walk into a room. I might not live up to General Mattis’ rule for having a plan to kill everyone I meet, but you can be damned well sure I know where the closest exit is just in case I need to get away from them in a hurry. Trust me, you’d be surprised just how fast this fat man can move when he thinks his life depends on it. It might not be the stuff of heroes, but I have a very well developed sense of self preservation. I hope you do too.

With no apologies…

One of my younger sisters was working at The Mall in Columbia yesterday morning when an as yet unidentified douchebag walked into a shop on the second floor and started shooting. That’s my way of saying that this one is something close to home and not simply an academic exercise in which I take my beliefs out for a walk. Yesterday, she did what she was supposed to do – sought cover and concealment, made sure her people were safe, and waited. Knowing our shared family traits, I would never go so far as to say “waited patiently.”

On any average day the vast majority of law abiding citizens of Maryland go through their day with nothing standing between them and the violent acts of a few than the tacit social compact that says the state should have a monopoly on violence. By extension, when you find yourself in harm’s way, the only course of action is waiting for the machinery of the state to come to your defense. While someone is committing the most violent of crimes even a few yards away, the state wants you to sit quietly and wait for them to take action on your behalf. That’s not a criticism of the Howard County Police Department, Maryland State Police, FBI, or any of the others who, by all accounts, were on scene incredibly quickly and did yeomen’s work to secure the area. It is a criticism, however, of a system that expects and encourages people look to the organs of the state to clothe, house, and protect them.

Despite the quick response of law enforcement, there were a few minutes – even if it were only one or two – where the first, last, and only line of defense was a locked door, patience, and hoping for the best. That’s not acceptable level of self defense to me – and shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone, really. I wish Maryland recognized the right of its citizens to defend themselves in equal and opposite measure to the force being brought to bear against them. In a world where only criminals have access to firearms, only criminals will use them – leaving the average person in the street beholden to the state entirely to provide for their personal defense. Some people – perhaps the majority in Maryland – are perfectly happy deferring their self defense requirements to the state. I’m not one of them.

Yesterday’s events hit close to home. I’m convinced now more than ever and with no apologies that free men and women must be allowed (and prepared) to defend themselves with all possible force at a moment’s notice. Sadly, I’m sure the leadership here in the great state of Maryland will politicize Columbia and use this as another excuse to lay even more onerous restrictions on those of us who try to live inside the bounds of the law.

Losing…

If there’s a silver lining to spending a big part of the day with a debilitating stomach ache, it’s that it has made a heroic contribution to my ongoing weight loss campaign and put me over the 50 lbs lost mark. I still can’t say that I feel any different or have magically found more energy, but really I suppose all that is secondary to the whole not dropping dead thing.

I’ve also found that I’ve reached the point in this experience where some new clothes are going to be necessary… and my viceral dislike of shopping in almost any form has me thinking that maybe adding a few pounds back may not be so bad after all. Certainly better than a forced march through the mall. There’s a fair chance that this weekend I’ll just go to go to Home Depot and buy a leather punch to keep adjusting my belt than I am to go to Macy’s for new pants. I’m considering it pain avoidance behavior.

Sitting…

So the Line X manager was nice enough to drive me over to the Barns and Nobel instead of knocking around his shop for the three hours he said it would take. The good news is that there’s way more interesting things to look at here. The down side is that after 11:00, I have no direct way to hassle him about when it’s going to be finished. That’s only a problem in that after sitting around a bookstore and drinking coffee for an hour and a half, I’m pretty much finished with the part of the day where I want to sit quietly. I think I’m possibly more unnerved because I’m effectively marooned out here in the land of the all-day strip mall without even the most basic transportation. The mall is close by, but the walk across the million and a half acres of open parking lot makes me hesitant to leave the well air conditioned table I’ve managed to take over.

On the other hand it occurs to me that at some point in the not too distant past, there was a world without wifi… When there was no nation-wide cellular network… And when having this kind of wait would have meant truly just sitting quietly and waiting. No multitasking. Barely even single-tasking unless you count things like breathing and keeping your heart beating as “tasks.”

Since I’ve gone more and more digital, the book store itself is something of a strange land. Nothing seems to be where it was the last time I was here. Of course that was probably over a year ago. Fortunately, the coffee is still good and I’ll probably manage not to completely lose my mind while I’m here… But I’m really, really ready to get back among the ranks of the mobile this morning.

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