On July 9th, 2015 the shop burned down and seriously damaged our home. We moved to a rental in Fife, WA. while our home and shop were rebuilt, and finally in February we moved back into our home. The shop had been fully rebuilt and due to a tragic error on the part of the contractor (*snortgiggle*) wound up being fully insulated and drywalled. This meant it needed to be painted to protect the drywall from dust. And of course to get all of our household goods moved in we needed to stage out of the shop, making it virtually impossible to get any work done until last Monday.
The shop was not ready for work; there were still boxes and boxes of books and other stuff, the benches from my van, an old stove, construction materials etc. but we needed income desperately and I was frankly going nuts to get started. I created a fantasy Dwarven hand-axe, and later in the week even got a sword-blade made.
On Friday the contractors finally finished the shop by installing the storage shelves in the clean-shop. Yesterday I planned to rearrange things, clear the clean shop and get to work on the sword-hilt. I did get the clean-shop mostly cleared and the items stored on the shelves but after lunch something was wrong; I didn’t want to start working on the sword hilt or any other project. Something was bugging me, and after lunch I figured out what and set to work. I moved things around, relocated several items to the clean-shop and cleared the floor of the ‘dirty’ shop as best I could. In the end there was nothing extraneous left in the shop except construction materials and the antique stove we have yet to find a satisfactory disposition for, and the stove was moved to the wall and thoroughly covered in plastic. Then I swept the floor, made sure all the cooling buckets were full of water, took out the trash and was at last satisfied with the results.
The problem, it turns out, was that I wasn’t willing to do things half-assed. Some of you might be surprised that I would ever do something half-assed, but the truth is the old shop was a disaster area. In the nearly seventeen years I worked in that shop we never got the place properly cleaned out. The wiring was jury-rigged. The clean-shop was divided off by a plastic tarp and never got properly divided from the grinding area. It was never clean either. There was a giant metal office desk in the middle of the shop that had been there since we moved in. One entire wall was covered with shelves loaded with storage, mostly things that we put there ‘temporarily’ when we moved in. We relied on dump runs to take care of the trash- which we didn’t do. The floor under the workbenches was full of trash and junk, the floor was covered with dust and extension cord and plug-strips were everywhere. I hated having people in because it was embarrassing, but there was never time, money or energy to get it cleaned up and to keep it up.
We moved in in the fall of 1998, and in 2000 I started a long, slow downhill slide into depression. In addition to chronic migraines (finally diagnosed) it was a daily struggle to do what needed to be done, and I often failed. Naturally I was in denial about the depression, which didn’t help. In fall 2011 the birds came home to roost. Thirty years of unacknowledged, untreated PTSD, of secrets and denial exploded. I suffered what I can only describe as an emotional collapse. Life as I knew it effectively ended. I couldn’t work for weeks at a time, and had trouble managing to do anything constructive.
Linda was a champion and a saint; she got me hooked up with the VA for health care. My PTSD was diagnosed and treated. Years of therapy commenced and I was prescribed the appropriate mood stabilizers etc. It took a couple years, but I was eventually awarded a fifty-percent disability for PTSD- which pays the mortgage each month and that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong; not needing to worry about the house payment is huge but it’s not enough.
Things got better. Friends rallied around and helped. I began to be able to work more and more and started dealing with the wreckage of my life. In the spring of 2015 I caught fire again and was, for the first time in a very long time, feeling seriously passionate about my work. Then the shop burned down.
I won’t say the last seven months haven’t been a bitch, but through it all our friends and family have been there for us. Our landlord at our temporary rental actually built a garage for me to work in and I was able to generate some income. Moving back in was fraught with problems and expenses, but again our friends rallied around to help, and our insurance from Allstate has treated us very well.
Now, for the first time in many years our house is beautiful. For the first time ever we were able to design our color schemes, tiling, layout etc. to be what we really wanted; to reflect our taste instead of expediency. The house and shop are properly wired and finished, logically and entirely to code. Almost every upgrade we couldn’t afford, every improvement we never got around to, was accomplished. It’s time for a fresh start; we have the unique opportunity to design our lives to suit us, and By God I am not going to go about it half-assed. Yeah we’re still going to have to make do as best we can here or there but if it within our power to do it right it’s going get done right.
Redesigning our life means a lot of changes; Linda is going to work (tomorrow) in a job that she genuinely wants to do; it doesn’t pay well but she’ll be back to doing the work she loves and has always wanted to get back to. On top of that it is a job that will give her time to write (she’s well into her first ‘solo’ novel) and help maintain the house and pursue other interests. I’ll be working in the shop– but only on projects that genuinely speak to me. Linda is going to help make sure that I have the materials and resources I need; no more making shift and making do. I’ll also be taking time to write on the several novels that are in-progress (the backlog has gotten ridiculous,) continue my political and social commentaries and maybe do more cartooning. Squeezed in amongst these efforts we’ll be working on our hobbies; things that we never had room for before or that were never quite enough of a priority. And housework… what for too long has seemed like a nearly futile chore has become into a pleasure in our new home.
It’s a new beginning, and a new life; one designed by us, for us that reflects what we want and how we want to live. Of course it’s not all going to go our way, but then that’s life, isn’t it?
So time to get the dogs fed, get some breakfast and get into the shop. Time to look forward and create the life we want to live.
I’ve said this all before but it bears repeating.
When I was about 13 or 14 years old we often took the family car and drove around to garage sales on saturday mornings. I’d buy paperback books, knick-knacks or whatever with my allowance. I was very big into drawing then, so I was excited when I found a professional drafting set- compasses, dividers etc. for only five dollars. It was in fairly poor condition, but I figured, ‘What the hell- it’s cheap!’ I didn’t have five dollars, so I approached my Dad and pointed it out, stressing how inexpensive it was.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s in pretty bad shape.”
I pointed out how cheap it was again and suggested it was good enough for the money. I’ll never forget his response. He said, “A dog-turd isn’t a bargain just because it only costs a nickel.”
Let’s pause and reflect on that for a minute. It comes to this: a thing is not a bargain if it’s not worth having, no matter the price.
I am so going to offend people with this post, because in our little world of swords there are a lot of dog turds out there, and there are a lot of people saying, “It’s OK that they are dog turds because they are cheap.” As if the price magically changes them into something other than a dog turd.
A lot of us spent a lot of time and energy trying to educate people about the qualities of swords and why they are important. Looking at today’s sword communities I sometimes feel that I might as well have spent those hours shouting down a drain for all the effect they have had. That feeling is not entirely justified; there are more people making good swords now than at any point since the middle ages. Promising new makers are coming along on an almost daily basis. The future of handmade swords looks bright. But in the production world it’s the same old same old. Offer a dog turd at the right price and people will swear it’s Prime Rib. How do they keep getting away with this?
Because the sword-buying community doesn’t demand better. They don’t vote with their voices or their wallets. By and large they don’t know what makes a good sword and can’t be bothered to find out- or worse they think they already know and can’t be told different. Not everyone in the market, of course- just the people buying crappy swords and telling everyone they are ‘Good for the Price.’ Seriously- how can something bad be ‘good for the price?’ It can’t; the best it can aspire to is “It’s crap, but at least it’s cheap.”
I’m not talking about easily corrected things like the cutting edge (unless it’s far too thick) or a handle wrapping. Things like weight, balance and node location. A sword that looks right but that doesn’t balance correctly, or that stings the hand when you strike with it is not a good sword. A sword that is too heavy for it’s type is not good sword. A sword that is too thick and does not exhibit the proper distal taper for it’s type is not a good sword. A sword with bad heat treatment is not a good sword. Price does not magically alter the physical characteristics of a sword. A sword is good or it’s bad, period.
Sword companies will continue to make dog turds as long as we don’t demand that they do better– and if we don’t demand better we’ll deserve what we get.
Who would know better? OK, they’re all dead so we cannot literally ask them- but we can read what they wrote on the subject, specifically in commentaries during the ratification period where they explained and argued for it. Let’s have a look, shall we? This list is by no means exhaustive but it is representative of the opinions at the time:
Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.
—James Madison,The Federalist Papers, No. 46.
To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, countries or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws.
—John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States 475 (1787-1788)
Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.
—Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787).
Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people. —Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it. —Richard Henry Lee, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
[C]onceived it to be the privilege of every citizen, and one of his most essential rights, to bear arms, and to resist every attack upon his liberty or property, by whomsoever made. The particular states, like private citizens, have a right to be armed, and to defend, by force of arms, their rights, when invaded. Roger Sherman, during House consideration of a militia bill (1790) 14 Debates in the House of Representatives, ed. Linda Grand De Pauw. (Balt., Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1972), 92-3.
[T]he people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them.
No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
—Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776.
“I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” George Mason, co-author of the Second Amendment– Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 14, 1778
“A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves… and include all men capable of bearing arms. . . To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms… The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle.” Richard Henry Lee – Letters From the Federal Farmer to the Republican, Letter XVIII, January 25, 1788
“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms…” – Samuel Adams, Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of February 6, 1788; Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1788 (Pierce & Hale, eds., Boston, 1850)
“It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency.” George Washington– Sentiments on a Peace Establishment in a letter to Alexander Hamilton, May 2, 1783; The Writings of George Washington , edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 26, p. 289
“Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?” Patrick Henry– Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Jonathan Elliot, ed. 1836, vol. 3, p.168
“… but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29, Concerning the Militia, Independent Journal, January 9, 1788; The Federalist (The Gideon Edition), (1818), Edited with an Introduction, Reader’s Guide, Constitutional Cross-reference, Index, and Glossary by George W. Carey and James McClellan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001)
“Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that exists among the people, or which they can command: for otherwise this force would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression. Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive. In spite of all the nominal powers, vested in Congress by the constitution, were the system once adopted in its fullest latitude, still the actual exercise of them would be frequently interrupted by popular jealousy. I am bold to say, that ten just and constitutional measures would be resisted, where one unjust or oppressive law would be enforced. The powers vested in Congress are little more than nominal; nay real power cannot be vested in them, nor in any body, but in the people. The source of power is in the people of this country, and cannot for ages, and probably never will, be removed.” – Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Philadelphia, October 10, 1787; Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, Published during Its Discussion by the People, 1787—1788, Paul Leicester Ford, editor; Brooklyn, 1888. Reprint, New York: De Capo Press, 1968
Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American … the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” – Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788
“Whereas civil-rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as military forces, which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”– Tench Cotxe, writing as A Pennsylvanian, in Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution; Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789, p. 2 col. 1
“The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them.” Zachariah Johnson– Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 25, 1788; Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Jonathan Elliot, editor, vol. 3, p. 646 (Philadelphia, 1836)
From these writings it is plain that the framers of the Constitution intended the ownership of arms to be an individual right, and that by ‘militia’ they were referring to the people as a whole and as individuals. The current claims that this is not the case are clearly misunderstandings of this intent and self-serving lies at worst.
Note that the words “Well regulated” appear in the text of the 2nd Amendment, and in Heller Vs. DC the Supreme Court stated that this right was ‘subject to regulation in the interests of the public good.’