Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A major threat to the Second Amendment in Washington state

I've been reading about the progress of Initiative 594 in Washington state.  It's on the ballot for November 4th this year.  Its official title is 'Washington Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases, Initiative 594 (2014)', and it's described as follows:

Current law requires criminal and public safety background checks before purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer. This measure would extend this requirement to most firearm purchases and transfers in Washington, with exceptions, including transfers within families, temporary transfers for self-defense and hunting, and antiques. Licensed dealers would conduct the background checks and could charge a fee. Violation of these requirements would be a crime.

The measure will also criminalize, with few exceptions, all temporary transfers of possession of firearms that do not involve purchases, such as for safekeeping, hunting, loan, recreational sharing, safety training, coaching, transport, etc.

There's more at the link.  The measure is supported by all the usual liberal, progressive and anti-gun organizations.

The Washington Arms Collectors association is mounting a major effort to educate gun owners about the dangers posed by Initiative 594.  It's published a list of 26 'Myths of Initiative 594' that makes chilling reading.  Here are a few excerpts.

Newspaper editorial boards and media coverage of I-594 continue to distort the purpose and effect of this anti-civil rights measure. The media regularly portrays I-594 as a background check on firearm sales which it is not; it is much more.

There is an effective media blackout on press releases and position statements opposed to I-594. The public, even the shooting public, does not yet realize what this initiative will do if passed.

. . .

Myth #4 – A person can loan a firearm, without going through a dealer, to another as long as it is returned to him.

Reality: Transfers are defined by I-594 to include any loan of a firearm. Any temporary loan of a firearm, no matter how short the time, without FFL dealer paperwork would be a crime.

. . .

Myth #10 – I keep a rifle in my truck and occasionally allow my daughter to drive this vehicle on our property – this can’t be a crime?

Reality: Unless you are in the truck with your minor child, this is a transfer requiring an FFL dealer at two points. There is a transfer when she departs with the truck and when she returns it to you – possession equals transfer under I-594.

. . .

594 is not designed to keep guns from criminals or reduce crime; it is intended to create overwhelming obstacles to the private possession and use of firearms. I-594 targets recreational shooters, competitors, hobbyists and collectors.

The passage of 591 is the only answer to the evils of I-594.

Again, there's more at the link.

The '591' to which the Arms Collectors article refers is a competing ballot initiative, the 'Washington Gun Rights Measure, Initiative 591 (2014)'.  It's described as follows.

This measure would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.

More at the link.

It's intriguing that both 591 and 594 are to be presented to the voters of Washington state on the same day.  It's entirely possible that both measures may pass - in which case it'll be up to the state's courts to sort out the contradictions between them.  Frankly, given the liberal track records of many judges in Washington, I wouldn't be too confident that the outcome will uphold the Second Amendment and Supreme Court precedent.  Furthermore, if Washington state implements such measures, it'll encourage anti-gun activists around the country to try to implement similar restrictions in their states as well.

I think it's very important to gun owners in the USA as a whole that Initiative 591 be passed and Initiative 594 be defeated.  I'd be very grateful if my readers in Washington state, and those of you with friends there, would please spread the word about these measures and the harm that Initiative 594 would do to the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun-owners.  Let's try to mobilize right-minded voters before November 4th.



Some great low-level flying

Here's a great video shot by a Danish F-16 pilot while flying low over Greenland during a recent deployment.  You may want to turn your speakers down, because the music soundtrack is a bit loud.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode for maximum impact.

You can read more about the deployment to Greenland here, if you're interested, as well as at the video's page on YouTube.


The pleasures and problems of writing

A couple of people have asked why it takes me "so long" (!) to write a book. They're impatient for the next instalments in the Maxwell and Laredo series.  I thought it might interest some readers to learn why it takes so long - for me, at any rate.  Yes, I know that someone like Kevin J. Anderson (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at LibertyCon last year) has produced over five novels every year, on average, for the past quarter-century.  However, he's so successful that he can hire assistants to help with every extraneous task - editing, cover design, writing the blurb, marketing and PR, and so on.  He's even set up his own small publishing house as part of the process.  I can't afford that, so I get to do it all myself, with the help of my wife.

To start with, let's look at the work that goes into writing a book.  I'm writing in the science fiction genre, so I have to build a consistent world in which the action takes place. I can't have something happen one way here, then change it to a different way there, because if the world I've constructed is to remain consistent then things have to happen in the same way.  Similarly, I base my fictional world on a real one, because I want to keep my novels rooted in reality.  Therefore, each book will draw on names, cultures, etc. from one or more geographical regions on Earth, and build on that foundation.  For example, right now I'm working on a book proposal - of which more later - that will draw heavily on two subsets of Filipino culture from the 20th century.  I'm looking up family and given names, geography, etc. to use it in the world I'm constructing for this book.  I don't just suck these things out of my thumb:  it takes a lot of research to get them right.  All those non-writing activities can become a real time sink.

Second, all my novels so far have been written as part of a series.  I have to work out what happens in the current story in the light of where I want my hero/protagonist to go in the next book, and in the books after that.  I can't have things happening at random that don't help him get where he needs to be (although minor random events are OK for the 'local' plot).  For example, I've plotted the Maxwell series out to a dozen books, of which only the first three have so far been published.  I may not write all twelve - that'll depend on whether I can keep them fresh and interesting, of which you, my readers, will be better judges than I - but if the series continues to attract your interest, I can work on it for several years to come. I can also add more books at a future date, depending on demand.

Then there's the problem of having other things to do.  Being partly disabled, I work from home;  so I'm also the house-husband.  I shop, cook and clean, and have various things that need to be done every day.  Miss D. does her share, particularly during her days off work.  Nevertheless, when she's at work I can't write exclusively, and when she has her days off I need to spend time with her - otherwise why would she stay married to me?  There's also this blog, which occupies at least two hours every day.  That's important, because this blog is my primary interface with you, my readers, so I give it a high priority in terms of keeping it interesting and enjoyable.  To make things even more interesting, my spine locks up if I spend too long in one position:  so I can't sleep for more than a few hours at a time before pain wakes me.  I therefore sleep for two periods every day, a few hours in the afternoon and a few more during the small hours of the morning.  To cap it all, we moved house in August and my pickup began to give all sorts of problems that aren't fully sorted out yet.  Both activities have taken up a great deal of time in recent weeks.

Putting all those things together, it means there aren't many days when I can write for an uninterrupted eight to ten hours.  I have to use what time I have available - and if the pain level is high that day or something else simply has to be done, I'm not going to write very well regardless.  That's just the way it is.  I do the best I can with the time I have.

Finally, the writing is (in my experience) only about one-third to one-half of the work in producing every book.  Editing, proof-reading, cover image selection and cover design, writing a good blurb, choosing the right keywords, formatting the book for publication in both e-book and print versions, setting it up on Kindle and Createspace . . . there's an immense amount of work involved over and above writing it.  Being a self-published author, that all falls into my lap.  I'm extremely grateful for all the help Miss D. gives me, but I still have to do a great deal of it myself.  I'd say that it takes me anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 hours to write a 100,000-word novel, edit, correct and polish it, and format and prepare it for publication.  That translates to (at best) a production rate of about one novel every three months, or four per year, under ideal conditions.  Since conditions are seldom ideal, right now I'm averaging three books a year.  I hope I'll be able to write faster (and better) as I become more practiced and more efficient;  but there are many things that can interfere with that.

Right now I have three projects in progress.

  1. The fourth volume in the Maxwell Saga is currently being written.  I've thrown away a lot of my early work on it, because it just didn't feel right, and I'm re-working those sections.  I hope to have it ready for publication by late October or November.
  2. The second volume of the Laredo Trilogy has been outlined and is ready to start writing, but delays on Maxwell 4 and the work involved in project (3) below have prevented me from getting to it so far.  I had hoped to bring it out in late November or December, but I think it's going to slip to January or February next year.
  3. At LibertyCon I was invited by a leading SF publisher to submit a book proposal and three sample chapters.  I would, of course, continue to self-publish my existing book series, but this would be over and above that, and - if accepted - would get me into a mainstream publishing house as well.  I've tried and discarded three ideas so far. (Along the way I've learned that I just haven't got the right sort of mindset to write good fantasy - at least, not yet).  I've come up with a fourth idea for a SF novel that might work either as a stand-alone book or as the first in a trilogy.  I'm writing the first three sample chapters now, and will submit them to the publisher over the next month or two.  Here's hoping!

I'll do my best to keep the books coming.  They're my primary source of income, so I can't afford to slack off!  However, for those of you champing at the bit to get more books faster, I hope you can now understand why they're slower to arrive than you (and I) would like.


What's wrong with this picture?

Two headlines:

The US military - like any military organization worthy of the name - is designed to break things and kill people.  That's its raison d'être.

I'm not in favor of more US intervention in the Middle East.  We've failed miserably in both Iraq and Afghanistan - not the fault of our military, but of our political leadership, who've clearly learned nothing from Vietnam.  Nevertheless, the irony is cruel.  We're not sending our 'kick ass and take names' people to do precisely that to our enemies . . . but we are sending them to 'fight' a disease that's so far infected a hell of a lot of those who come into contact with it, and killed well over half of those who contract it.  It's likely to do precisely that to our people as well, unless we're very lucky.

I imagine ISIS is laughing its collective ass off at us right now . . .


Monday, September 15, 2014

More fun in the Middle East

Twice last month I wrote about the realignment of nations in the Middle East in response to the threat from fundamentalist Muslim terrorists.  Now it looks as if that realignment is exerting pressure on the states that support those terrorists.  CNN reports:

Several top members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been asked to leave Qatar, an Egyptian leader of the group said Sunday. The apparent sudden push from Qatar comes amid longstanding pressure against the Brotherhood in the region, which began with its ouster from authority in Egypt several years ago.

"We appreciate the great role of the state of Qatar in supporting the Egyptian people in their revolution against the military junta, and well understand the circumstances faced by the region," said Dr. Amr Darrag, a leading member of Freedom and Justice Party, said in a statement online. The Freedom and Justice Party is the banned political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The members were "asked by authorities to move their residence outside the state of Qatar," the statement said.

"In order to avoid causing any embarrassment for the State of Qatar, which we found to be a very welcoming and supportive host, some symbols of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing ... have now honored that request," Darrag said.

There's more at the link.

Qatar's been a major supporter of fundamentalist Islamic terror movements.  The five Taliban leaders released in exchange for Private Bergdahl are living there as 'guests' of the Qatar government.  If the pressure on Qatar from more moderate states continues (so far it's coming from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt), one wonders whether their status might also change soon . . . and where they might end up.


A great introduction to Boyd's OODA Loop

We've spoken before about the late Col. John Boyd, USAF, and his formulation of the concept of the OODA Loop.  He revolutionized many aspects of military strategy and tactics with his understanding of what goes into making decisions and following up on them.

The Art of Manliness has put up an excellent article explaining how Boyd conceived of the OODA Loop and developed his ideas about it.  The author says of the Loop:

It’s not “groundbreaking” in the sense of revealing insight never before conceived; rather, its power is in the way it makes explicit, that which is usually implicit. It takes the basic ways we think, decide, and operate in the world — ways that often get confused and jumbled in the face of conflict and confusion — and codifies and organizes them into a strategic, effective system that can allow you to thrive in the heat of battle. It is a learning system, a method for dealing with uncertainty, and a strategy for winning head-to-head contests and competitions. In war, business, or life, the OODA Loop can help you grapple with changing, challenging circumstances and come out the other side on top.

There's much more at the link.  If you haven't learned much about the OODA Loop yet, this is a great opportunity to do so - and you'll find it applicable in more walks of life than you'll believe possible.  Recommended reading.  (See also my earlier article on the subject.)


Idiots on boats

I was thinking of conferring on almost everyone in this video a collective Doofus Of The Day award, but I think the title of the video is sufficient.

I think I've been on the same water as some of them . . .


Sunday, September 14, 2014

The "mystery virus" - not a mystery after all?

The "mystery virus" that's affecting children all across the country is apparently not so mysterious after all.  A Powerline reader explains.

This is basically the same virus commonly seen in the equatorial Americas and South America. The very odd emergence of this virus at this time – especially just prior to the new school year and now fueled by the congregation of children in schools – demands an explanation. The only plausible one is that this has been brought here from south of the – now non-existent – border.

Although there will be a good deal of epidemiological work to be done before this can be scientifically associated, there is a deafening silence on the part of public health officials and the mainstream media in even speculating about this association. This is not simply a case of being politically selective about the news, it is downright dangerous and could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the emergence of diseases long absent from daily life in America now suddenly popping up “inexplicably.”

There's more at the link.  It's worth reading in full, for your childrens' health's sake if nothing else.


The economy, government statistics, and reality

Jim Quinn at The Burning Platform has a must-read article about the truth that belies comforting, upbeat government economic statistics.  Here's a sample.

I never believe government manufactured numbers. They will always be adjusted, massaged, and manipulated to achieve a happy ending for the propagandists attempting to control and fleece the sheep. Yesterday, the government produced retail sales numbers for August that were weak and the corporate MSM propaganda machine immediately threw up bold headlines declaring how strong these numbers were. Positive stories were published on the interwebs and Wall Street hack economists were rolled out on CNBC, where the bubble headed bimbos and prostitutes for the status quo like Jim Cramer and Steve Liesman declared the recovery gaining strength. Woo Hoo.

. . .

When you see the headlines touting strong retail sales, you need to consider what you are actually seeing in the real world. RadioShack will be filing for bankruptcy within months. Wet Seal will follow. Sears is about two years from a bankruptcy filing. JC Penney’s turnaround is a sham. They continue to lose hundreds of millions every quarter and will be filing for bankruptcy within the next couple years. Target and Wal-Mart continue to post awful sales results and have stopped expanding. And as you drive around in your leased BMW, you see more Space Available signs than operating outlets in every strip center in America.

. . .

Germantown Pike winds through the Chestnut Hill section of Philly [Philadelphia]. This is an artsy fartsy area with boutique retail, chic outlets, and fancy restaurants. The upper middle class frequents the area. The retail stores were always open, occupied and busy.

Not anymore. I saw dozens of empty storefronts, Space Available, and For Lease signs. The open stores had no customers. The trendy eating establishments had few patrons. Even the yuppie latte drinking areas are beginning to crumble. Every office park I passed had Space Available signs in front. The amount of vacant retail and office space in this country is too vast to comprehend and is being under-reported by the real estate whores whose job it is to rent space. Ignoring the facts and the truth doesn’t change the facts and the truth.

Do you believe the government and the corporate media, or do you believe your own two eyes?

There's more at the link.  Informative and highly recommended reading.


Something to look forward to

Given that the first snows of the forthcoming season have already fallen in some states, here's a reminder of what some of us (most emphatically not including yours truly!) will be doing once there's enough of it on the ground.

To each his own, I guess . . . although I must admit, I'd like to try out a snowmobile in a somewhat more sedate fashion.  I've never been on one before (or on skis, for that matter).


Yet another reason to abandon Facebook RIGHT NOW

I've complained before about the abysmal so-called 'security' offered by Facebook to its users - security that in many cases is honored more in the breach (by the company itself) than in the observance.  It hides its intentions behind smarmy weasel words in its privacy policy and terms of use, so that unless they research the matter for themselves, few users realize how they're being treated like online versions of laboratory animals, their data sold to the highest bidder.

Now comes news that Facebook has taken their cavalier attitude to new depths.

It should come as no surprise that most mobile apps run some sort of analytics on user behaviour. But in the case of Facebook, the social network’s Messenger app for iOS apparently tracks quite a bit more than most users likely realize.

iOS forensics and security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski spent Tuesday morning disassembling Facebook Messenger’s iOS binary, at one point declaring via Twitter that “Messenger appears to have more spyware type code in it than I've seen in products intended specifically for enterprise surveillance.”

In an email, Zdziarski said that Messenger is logging practically everything a user might do within the app, from what and where they tap, to how often a device is held in portrait versus landscape orientation; even time spent in the Messenger app, versus the time it spends running in the background.

Some of this is expected behaviour for an app developer, of course. But of greater concern are the other things Zdziarski discovered, whose intended purpose is less clear.

“[Facebook is] using some private APIs I didn’t even know were available inside the sandbox to be able to pull out your WiFi SSID (which could be used to snoop on which WiFi networks you’re connected to) and are even tapping the process list for various information on the device,” he wrote in an email.

On Twitter, Zdziarski said he’s worked for companies that write enterprise surveillance software that didn’t know this level of access was possible.

There's more at the link.

Anyone who continues to use Facebook after knowing this, and understanding all of the company's previous efforts to strip you of every last vestige of privacy, deserves all they get.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

How to set up a low-cost treadmill desk

Miss D. and I have fielded a number of questions about how I set up my treadmill desk, which allows me to work at the computer while walking and getting some exercise.  She recently took this photograph of my setup.

The computer is set up with dual monitors, both showing the same display.  One's plugged into the VGA port, while the other uses the HDMI port.  They're 23" units, one from HP (which came with the computer) and the other a cheaper, but entirely usable Viewsonic unit. I also use two USB keyboards (the Microsoft Natural 4000, which I find very ergonomic) and two mice, one pair on the seated desk and one on the shelving unit, using a USB hub to plug them all into a single port at the rear of the machine.

The shelving unit is similar to this one, 18" deep, 48" wide (I chose that width to allow plenty of space on either side of the treadmill, and to position multiple computer components along a shelf) and 75" tall on its wheels.  They're freely available at Lowes or Home Depot, or from online vendors.  I chose this type of shelving in particular because the shelves can be adjusted in height by increments of about 1".  That meant I could adjust them to slide the treadmill motor beneath the bottom shelf, position my computer, UPS unit, laser printer and other items next to each other on intermediate shelves, and accommodate a 23" monitor on the second-from-top shelf.  I cut a piece of plywood 24" deep and fastened it with clamps to a mid-level shelf, adjusting the latter's height so that it supports a keyboard and mouse at the right level for my hands.  The plywood extension allows me to bring them closer to my body, enabling me to walk naturally on the treadmill without having to reach forward too far.  I've covered all the shelves with thin (⅛") pieces of hardboard to provide a solid surface; if you don't want the hassle of cutting wood to size, there are low-cost plastic shelf liners to do the same thing.  This makes it easier to position computer components with small rubber or plastic 'feet' on the wire shelves, and also prevents small objects like pens from falling through them.

The treadmill is a LifeSpan unit.  The one I use isn't marketed as a stand-alone device any longer;  the current model is the TR1200, which is very similar to and several hundred dollars cheaper than I paid for mine.  It's a very good treadmill for desk use, being designed for extended walking with a heavy-duty motor providing lots of torque to keep going under heavy, slow-moving loads.  It can accommodate users weighing up to 350 pounds.  Miss D. and I sometimes walk for four to five hours a day between us, and our treadmill's worked just fine since we bought it almost a year ago.  To prevent it damaging the carpet in our office, we've put a sheet of heavy-duty plywood beneath it covered with a rubber treadmill mat, as well as a couple of planks on either side so that the wheels of the shelving unit can run smoothly (we have to move it now and again to clean behind it, or rearrange plugs on the computer equipment).

Thanks to my fused spine and nerve-damaged left leg I find it painful to stay in one position for too long, and I'm not able to walk fast or for very long without increased pain levels.  Therefore, this dual-desk setup gives me the best of both worlds.  I can sit and write until the pain increases;  then step onto the treadmill and walk slowly for 15-20 minutes while using the other keyboard, mouse and monitor;  then sit down again and continue working.  I get a decent amount of exercise even when writing for 8-10 hours per day, which is good for my health and (I find) helps me to concentrate and be more creative.

If you've been worrying about the real health hazards of extended sitting, you might want to try a setup like this.  It's often a lot cheaper to make your own using components like this than it is to buy one ready-made.  The major difficulty is finding a treadmill that can stand up to constant low-speed walking.  Most of them are designed for runners, providing more power and less torque (because a fast-moving body exerts less strain on the belt as it passes over the boards beneath it).  Consult professional sites (I found Treadmill Doctor particularly useful in comparing devices) and read user reviews before making up your own mind.

(On the other hand, I know someone who uses treadmills he picks up for next to nothing on Craigslist.  He buys one for $50-$75, removes the bits he doesn't need like armrests [taking out the cable to the control console if necessary, to make it a free-standing unit], adjusts his shelves to fit over and around it, and then uses it until it breaks down after a few months.  At that point he simply buys another cheap unit and throws away the old one.  He reckons that costs a lot less than buying a new, more expensive treadmill.  I prefer my arrangement, but if his way gets the job done for him, who am I to argue?)


Pleasant day

Miss D. and I spent the day helping a friend of Oleg's move her larger household items up to Kentucky in preparation for starting a new job there next week.  (When one owns a pickup and is willing to help, one's always in demand!)  It was a pleasant drive, with my pickup generally behaving itself after its recent repairs.  The cruise control hiccuped once, but only once, and behaved itself for the rest of the journey.  Considering that it was much worse before the repairs, I'll take that as a plus!  I hope it'll settle down and behave itself even better in future.

After delivering the furniture, we all stopped at a local Cracker Barrel for lunch.  I'm consistently impressed by the value for money there.  Every branch I've visited seems to have the same high standards of food preparation and overall cleanliness - a very valuable consideration, given the alarming differences in quality between branches of some other establishments.  (No, they're not paying me to say that;  I simply like good food and good service, and mention them when I find them.)

On the way home we paid a second visit to Beachaven Winery near Clarksville, TN.  We introduced Oleg's friend and her helper to the place as well, and came away with a couple of cases of wine between us.  We'll definitely be going back there - their wines are worth it.

Miss D. cooked up a mess of ravioli for supper, which we washed down with the remains of a bottle of Beachaven Riesling.  Right now I'm working on a book proposal, and Miss D. is using the treadmill desk next to my seated desk while working on projects of her own.  It's an enjoyable mutual domesticity, sharing an office and workspace like this.  Now, if I could just persuade her to take her 'tinkering' with writing and make a book out of it . . .


Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy birthday to the Beluga

Twenty years ago, in September 1994, the Airbus Beluga first took to the air.  A highly modified version of the Airbus A300-600, it was designed to take the place of the Super Guppy transports (based on Boeing 377 Stratocruisers that first flew in 1947) initially used by Airbus to ferry aircraft components and sections between plants in Germany, France, Spain, and later England.

Beluga transport loading the Columbus module
(click the image for a larger view)

A total of five Beluga transports were built.  For the 20th anniversary of the type's first flight, Airbus gathered them all together for a group photograph.  Click it for a larger view.

A few months ago, in preparation for the anniversary, Airbus arranged to fly a Beluga in formation with the Patrouille de France aerobatic team.  Here's a video of the occasion.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

Impressively big, isn't it? The Boeing Dreamlifter is larger, but it's designed for much longer journeys with much bigger components.


Truck update #3

I've been driving my truck for a week after its electrical repairs.  So far, I'm pleased to report that the helpful suggestions made by readers in response to my plea for advice appear to have worked.  There hasn't been any recurrence of the brake light or cruise control problems.  I'm driving up to Kentucky and back tomorrow, to help a friend move, so I guess that'll be a more extended test of the repairs.  Here's hoping for the best!


A blast from the musical past

While researching my guest article this month at Mad Genius Club, I was reminded of Coleridge's poem 'Kubla Khan' with its reference to Xanadu (now known as Shangdu).  That, in turn, brought to mind one of the more memorable pop tunes of my youth.  In 1968 the British group incongruously titled 'Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich' came out with their song 'The Legend of Xanadu'.  It reached the top of the charts in England and did well in other parts of the English-speaking world, but was less successful on this side of the Atlantic.  Nevertheless, it was one of the influences on my musical tastes when I was growing up - whether or not that was a good thing isn't for me to say.  Certainly it's the only pop song I know featuring the 'music' of a bullwhip!

Ahhh . . . memories of a more innocent time . . .


The Internet and attention spans

My monthly guest article is up at Mad Genius Club.  (I'm not sure whether they regard me as mad, a genius, or the club - but I digress.)  It's titled 'E-books, attention spans, and the future of reading'.  In it, I discuss how the Internet appears to have shortened our attention span (there's abundant evidence for that), and how it's changed the way in which we seek, absorb and dispense information.

If the subject interests you, please click over there, read it, and leave a comment.  I'm hoping to develop an online conversation on the subject.