Archive for ‘life’

March 30, 2018

Keeping Guns in the Hands of the Good Guys 

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” 

Though many gun control advocates are probably sick of that popular saying, I’m going to take it as the basic assumption for my line of thought. I do so for one simple reason – it is a true assertion. A gun locked in a drawer and left alone will kill no one – nor will one on a gun rack, or even lying on a table. And it certainly won’t pick itself up and start firing into a crowd of innocent bystanders. A gun requires human manipulation to make it harmful. 

In recent months, with each new shooting, I’ve heard many debates over the gun control question. The arguments from both sides of the issue seem to be set in stone. The only point of agreement I have repeatedly heard is when someone says, “We’re never going to agree on this. I just don’t see it the same way you do.” That seems to mark the end of most of the civil conversations I’ve seen on the issue – and unfortunately, most of the conversations aren’t at all civil, so they usually end with name-calling and tantrums on one or both sides. Any call for “common sense laws” is met with a very formidable obstacle – there is little room for “common sense” when there is no “common ground” in the first place. 

I’ve decided not to talk about gun control, mostly because I don’t want to enter into yet another conversation that ends with the conclusion that the two sides will never agree, no matter how civil the conversation is. 

I will, however, talk about responsible gun management. Call me an optimist, but I do believe this is a point on which we can all agree. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people – and they often do it through irresponsible gun management. When I was an early adolescent, there were often stories in the news about gun accidents in which children found their parents’ unsecured firearms and bad things followed, often ending in the death of the child or a family member. Various minor laws were passed concerning how guns should be stored, and greater attention was given by the gun-owning public to this aspect of responsible gun management. Today, as mass shootings become more common in the news cycle, a similar attitude and approach would surely be welcome. The aim is not to control the guns, but to encourage responsible management. 

I have spent my adult life making my home in Singapore, where some of the tightest gun control laws in the world are very strictly enforced. While I am comfortable in such an environment, I’m also aware that Singapore is probably the last place one might expect to find a potential “common sense” law that could lead to more responsible gun management. That would be a mistake. 

The Law Library of Congress article “Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Singapore” includes this note on Singapore’s approach to guns, “Using or attempting to use arms when committing a scheduled offense is punishable with death. The death penalty may also apply to the offender’s accomplices present at the scene of the offense.” 

This law is not without flaws, and obviously would not translate wholesale into the situation in the US. For instance, I don’t support the death penalty, so that aspect of the law is problematic in my mind. However, what I do see as viable is the principle of the law: firing a gun while committing a felony automatically results in the maximum sentence being applied. Perhaps it could go further and tack on an additional number of years to the sentence – so that, say, if a crime such as robbery receives the penalty of X months in jail, then if the perpetrator fires a gun in the course of committing a robbery, the penalty automatically becomes X+Y.

That seems like it passes the test for “common sense.” It addresses the use of guns for criminal activity by putting an additional deterrent in the way of the would-be criminal in the form of maximum, or even compounded, penalties. At the same time, law-abiding gun owners are not affected by the legislation. In other words, it leaves the guns in the hands of the “good guys” and offers some deterrent for the “bad guys.” According to the arguments I have seen by opponents of gun control, this point is common ground the two sides share, since no one denies that “bad guys” should not be allowed to use guns to enact their crimes. 

Legislation of this nature would similarly meet the “responsible gun management” test. It does not seek to take anyone’s guns away, but only to ensure those guns not be used to commit crimes. In other words, it aims at management, not control. 

Obviously, legislation such as this will not address the most pressing gun-related issues of our times. I do not believe any single step we can take at this moment in history will do that. What such legislation would do, though, is provide common ground from which we can then discuss common sense. It does not take guns away from law-abiding citizens who want to protect their homes and families. It does not violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms to defend against tyranny. Rather, it acknowledges that none of these issues will be addressed through guns alone, but only through finding common ground and applying common sense to solve our common problems. 

After all, guns don’t solve problems; people solve problems.   

– Shelly Bryant, 2018

January 26, 2013

Garuda and Naga

at the stupa near the entrance of the Killing Fields

at the stupa near the entrance of the Killing Fields


I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for legends and mythology.  On my recent trip to Cambodia, I was especially taken by the Garuda and Naga motif that is visible in much of the country’s architecture.  The two creatures have their roots in Hindu mythology.  The Garuda (Sanskrit for “eagle”) is a bird that was the mount of the god Vishnu, while the Naga is a 7-headed hooded serpent (like a cobra) that is thought to be the father of the Khmer people.  The Naga and Garuda are natural enemies.  When they are represented together (often upholding the Buddha), it is a symbol of peace.

The Garuda-Naga motif is often seen on buildings in Cambodia, much like the two images here.  In both instances, the Garuda is supporting the Naga, whose head is spread out in a protective embrace over all that pass beneath it.

in the complex of the Silver Pagoda, next to the grounds of the Royal Palace

in the complex of the Silver Pagoda, next to the grounds of the Royal Palace

January 20, 2013

The Killing Fields, Cambodia

the stupa built to house the remains of the dead

the stupa built to house the remains of the dead

spirit house, a tradition which predates both Hinduism and Buddhism in Cambodia — meant to provide shelter for spirits who have no place to rest

spirit house, a tradition which predates both Hinduism and Buddhism in Cambodia — meant to provide shelter for spirits who have no place to rest

the Killing Tree - where children were brutally killed

the Killing Tree – where children were brutally killed

skulls in the stupa

skulls in the stupa

the stupa - note the Garuda and the Naga motif

the stupa – note the Garuda and the Naga motif

January 14, 2013

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

IMG_3999 IMG_4011 IMG_4018 IMG_4027 IMG_4032 IMG_4042 IMG_4048 IMG_4049 IMG_4069 IMG_4070

It was a good day.

June 29, 2012


It’s taken me a while to get some pictures of Kinabalu posted, but I thought it’s always better late than never.

Donkey Ears

8km Mark

The Peak

The View

The Descent

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June 16, 2012

Watch out Kinabalu, We’re Coming…

My two youngest nephews and I just got our backpacks loaded up today, preparing to head out to climb Mt. Kinabalu the day after tomorrow.  The two boys were so excited they could hardly sit still for the rest of the day.  I think they’re looking forward to it, after having spent the past six months or so training with their other aunt (my older sister).

I’ve heard great things about the climb, and a few scary things too.  I think we’ll be alright, though I don’t expect any of the three of us to find it an easy trip.  I think it will be all the better for the challenge.

I’ll try to post some pictures when I get back.  I hear the sunrise from the peak is fantastic.

May 29, 2012

Changing Leagues

What do you do when the baseball team you pull for is forced to switch from the National League to the American League?  I had to think through that question when it was announced late last year that the Houston Astros had been coerced into precisely that deplorable situation, despite the fact that in all of the team’s 50 years of history, it had been in the NL.

The problem is that I am a real fan of the NL, and I hate the way the AL plays, with the designated hitter making the thinking aspect of the game almost completely unnecessary.

So, if you’re an NL fan, and the only team you’ve ever loved is forced to move into the junior circuit, what do you do?  Well, first thing is to get past the stage of complaining about the commissioner’s obvious bias in the situation, being that the team his family owns was the logical choice to move… *ahem* back to the AL, if anyone had to move at all.  And that can take a while.  But, once you’ve done that, you’ve got to decide — are you more an Astros fan or a National League fan?

That was something I had to consider. Not wanting to be unduly influenced, I didn’t want to get input from my dad — a much bigger baseball fan than I am — before making my decision, but I did want to get input from a couple of friends.  Funny enough, I chose to ask friends who are not baseball fans at all, beyond the interest they take for my sake.  One Singaporean and one Shanghainese.  What was amusing was that both gave me almost exactly the same answer — they seemed to think it was a question of character (my character), and they were sure I wasn’t the sort of person who lacked character enough to change teams.  They both based their answers on their assumptions about what it is to be a fan, placing that alongside what they think about my character.

To both of my friends, a fan sticks with the team, even when it plays poorly, and even when it has to make an unpopular move (or a move that doesn’t sit well with you personally).    And knowing that I have no problem sticking with my team through the former, my friends assumed the latter would likewise be a non-issue for me.

And in actual fact, I knew they were exactly right on that.  The only real question was, would I cease to be a baseball fan at all?  When I asked my friends that question, once again both of them had precisely the same response.

They simply laughed, and that was the end of it.

May 23, 2012

Mind in a Material World

I’m about halfway through Matthew Crawford’s The Case for Working with your Hands.  I picked it up several months ago, but have been out of Singapore for most of the time since buying it.  I am glad I’ve finally gotten to start reading it.  It’s exactly my kind of book… smart, critical, and actually saying something.

Crawford’s book deals with the changing world we live in, a world that disconnects us from the way our devices operate and making us less able to manage and maintain them, even as we become more dependent on them.  He starts out by focusing on the separation of manual and mental work, with the manual work having slowly become devalued over time.  Crawford’s argument is that the manual work that is often looked down on often involves a great deal of mental work, though this is often overlooked when discussing manual labor.  I think it is a very valid point — the mental effort it takes to solve problems and the creativity required to solve them is one of the most important aspects of manual labor of professionals such as auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and so forth.  The “automization” of our devices has only served to make these jobs more and more important and valuable in today’s world.

I did not expect it when I bought the book, but I’ve found that The Case for Working with your Hands share something important in common with Mary Midgley’s Science and Poetry.  I read Midgley’s book several years ago, and loved the message of it so much that I bought copies for several friends. Something about it seemed so revolutionary, even as it seemed so obvious / self-evident.  I was really blown away by that book, with its deconstructing of the mind/matter binary, and I find that Crawford’s writing seems to be continuing that process.

It’s always exciting to find a good book, and that is only magnified when you realize that it is continuing a process of recalibrating your thinking that was unexpected initiated by another, seemingly unrelated, book you’d read before.

April 20, 2012

Busy Times…

It’s been a busy few weeks, a time frame which has included several walks through classical Chinese gardens (bringing people to the gardens, and also delivering a lecture on the Suzhou Garden for the Royal Asiatic Society earlier this week).  I always love the gardens, and spring and fall seem to be the times people most like to go, with the weather being as nice as it is during these seasons.  I have a liking for the gardens in autumn, but I’ve enjoyed my recent visits too.

I’ve posted some photos over at Tai Shan, my China-related blog at Sloth Jockey, and there will be a few more coming up within the next week or so, for those who are interested.

I find the gardens such an intriguing topic, with so much depth to be explored.  It’s been a busy few weeks… and very enjoyable too.

March 29, 2012

I think it’s time…

I’ve been debating for months (maybe even a year now) about how I’m going to manage the transfer of my website to a new location.  After a lot of thought and preparation, I think I have finally settled on a WordPress platform as the best option for me.  And so here it is… my new website.

I hope you like the look of it.  I plan to flesh it out by removing material from my old blog to this site, hopefully including all of my earlier posts and maybe even the comments from them.  It might take me a while to get that all settled, though.

For now, welcome to my new place. I’m glad you’ve stopped by.

September 26, 2009

Repost: Not Entirely Behind the Times

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Not Entirely Behind the Times

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I don’t quite know how long I’ve been receiving invitations to join Facebook, and assiduously ignoring them.  Things happened recently that made me finally break down and sign up, and so now I am a member of that community, having been brought in almost against my will.


I don’t know how active I will ultimately be over at Facebook.  I have seen some things there that seem to indicate that it is a place full of real opportunity — a place for reconnecting with old friends, a place for keeping up with family, and a place for making new contacts who might prove to be important to me in one way or another at some time in the future.  I see all of that, after having dipped a foot in the Facebook ocean.  It’s a lot like I felt when I first started blogging at a community blog site (now defunct).  There are some excellent discussions going on (like, say, this), and the nature of the site allows for so many different viewpoints that anyone who reads much there is sure to find a new perspective on whatever issue is being discussed.


But I also see here a spot for incredible levels of wastage.  There are so many games, so much nonsense to be discussed, so many loose threads to be pursued… how can you not waste time on the site, once you begin?  How do you keep from answering every tag, responding to every request for participation in this or that event?  How do you balance it all up?  I mean, I know you can block certain functions or users, but then, isn’t that somewhat defeating the community aspect of it all?  I’ve already used the “hide” option once, just because one connection was making updates and comments pop up on my wall every few minutes.  And that when I’ve only been on Facebook for a few days.  I wonder how many other things I will have to choose to cut out, to ignore, to hide, as time wears on.


When Facebook began, it was only open to students, and was by invitation only.  Since it has opened up to the general public, everyone — even me, now — has been joining.  I have lots of friends on the site, even after just a few days, and they range in age from about 10 to over 70 years.  What I like about it that is different from some of the other social sites I’ve experimented with in the past is the way I am connected on Facebook more with people I have “real life” connections with, instead of those I simply “know” online.  I think that is, from what I’ve read, the general appeal of the site.  I have, in these few short days, chatted with friends I’ve not seen in years.  And I’ve enjoyed that.  But I can also see how easy it would be to spend waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time doing this.  I can’t imagine, as a college student, how much time I might have spent on the site, had it been available two decades ago.  Honestly, I am glad it was not.


It is amazing to me how savvy some of the kids on the site are.  This is their world.  They know what they are doing on Facebook.  It is, it seems, their natural environment.  I, on the other hand, am somewhat overwhelmed.  There’s so much there, so many people to catch up with — so much that could be a distraction, if I let it.  But there’s also a huge potential for making positive connections.  It is, for me, all rather exhausting.


I’m not entirely behind the times, I guess.  I have, after all, finally signed up for Facebook, and begun exploring the possibilities it opens up for me.  I am also, however, not entirely up with the times.  I don’t do this naturally.  I do it because I think I should, because I don’t want to be left behind, and because I can see a glimpse of the world it opens up.


And of course, the biggest sign that I am not yet quite up with the times is the fact that I still think it worth talking about at all.  Perhaps one day, though, it will all become just a part of the mundane world for me.  And maybe by then I’ll have a clear idea for how to balance it all.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant


9 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Yes, I joined too, months ago, but I still don’t quite know what I’m doing there that I can’t do elsewhere and better but it seemed like something I ought to do. Am still resisting Twitter mind.
Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 01:00 AM
As authors, we’re told we really need to be on these social networking sites if we expect to “get anywhere” in today’s publishing environment. Social networking takes a lot of time, though, and it’s hard to see what part of it is helpful and what part is a waste of time.


Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 03:33 AM
Twitter!  Now I really have a headache!  That’s another I’ve avoided with a very stubborn resistance.  I can’t imagine I’ll be willing to do that, but then, I never thought I wanted to be on Facebook either.  (I will look for you on Facebook, though.  Expect a friend request soon.  ….sigh.  How quickly we get into the routine.)

It is hard to know when it is a waste of time, and what might be useful.  I do think there is the possibility here of informing old friends from high school that my book is going to be released next month, and that some of them might buy it.  I guess that would be helpful, and perhaps even (regarding Jim’s observation) that it might be something I couldn’t do elsewhere.  BUT, one part of me cringes at the thought that all of my friends from high school would know I about my book, and would read it.  I can’t imagine the response it might get.  And that is frightening.

Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 06:43 AM
Muhahahaha We have you now.
I know what you mean though. EVERY thinking person goes through this when they first join facebook (and eventually twitter)
it’s kind of the “who am I, Why am I here, what is the meaning of life” phase that an android goes through when he/she becomes a sentient life form.

Anyway, Good Luck and enjoy. by the way.. we have wireless at our house now.. you can always come over with your mac  and play with me. we can chat on facebook while sitting in the same room  😉

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 – 04:49 PM
ps. Ultimately facebook is for stalking the people you want to keep up with… without actually having to email them all the time ;o)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009 – 04:50 PM
I almost feel like I am making the opposite journey, Michelle — a sentient life form becoming a droid.  Being so connected all the time…. we’re cyborgs-in-waiting.  All we need is the implants, and it will literally be 24/7.  Talk about overload.

Twitter?  Oh man, my head hurts!

I haven’t tried the stalking feature on Facebook yet, but thanks… you’ve given me some ideas.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 – 12:14 AM
I’ ve avoided facebook too. though sometimes I do log in under my husband’s account, but then that makes him look bad since I ignore those wanting to chat w/ him, etc while he’s on ! 🙂

I hope to avoid twitter too.

good luck to you!

Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 06:08 AM
ps-I did actually use facebook this week. dallas theater had a 50% off discount code to their performances of Mary Poppins!
Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 06:09 AM
silken, I think you can make it show that you are not online, so if you wanted to log in as your husband, and yet not chat, I think you could.  That’s one of the things I think it is hard to negotiate — when to engage and when to ignore.  In that sense, it is more like blogging at WU than at a site like this.  But still, I suppose there is always an answer, for those who are willing to just turn the computer off.  🙂

In the first couple of weeks of my surrender to the Dark Side, I have to say it isn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe because my “real life” is busy, or maybe because it’s really not that bad… but one way or another, I’ve managed, I think, to keep it all pretty well balanced.

Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 01:28 PM
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September 19, 2009

Repost: It’s Official, I’m an Alien

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

It’s Official, I’m an Alien

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I am now officially an alien.  I even have a license, issued by the China government, to prove it.  It is my “Alien Employment License.”  As an avid reader and writer of all speculative genres (novels, plays, poetry), I suppose I should be thrilled.  Mostly, though, I am just wondering why the word “alien” has an impact that is so completely different than that of “foreigner.”

The little dictionary built into my computer offers these definitions

foreigner |ˈfôrənər; ˈfär-|

(noun) a person born in or coming from a country other than one’s own.

• informal a person not belonging to a particular place or group; a stranger or outsider.

Mostly innocuous, I guess.  Let’s see the comparison

alien |ˈālyən; ˈālēən|

(adjective) belonging to a foreign country or nation.

• unfamiliar and disturbing or distasteful : bossing anyone around was alien to him | they found the world of adult education a little alien.

• [ attrib. ] relating to or denoting beings supposedly from other worlds; extraterrestrial : an alien spacecraft.

• (of a plant or animal species) introduced from another country and later naturalized.

(noun)a foreigner, esp. one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living : an illegal alien.

• a hypothetical or fictional being from another world.

• a plant or animal species originally introduced from another country and later naturalized.

Funny how the two words can be so similar, and yet not quite the same.  That little subdefinition in the “alien” listing’s inclusion of words like “disturbing” and “distasteful” seems to make all the difference.

Strangely enough, I don’t feel any more alien here than I do anywhere else in the world, even on the days when I am starkly aware that I am a foreigner.  There has always been something in my experience of life that hinted to me that I was an alien, wherever I might find myself.  I guess I should be grateful to the China government for officially acknowledging the condition, after all these years.

© 2009 Shelly Bryant

Personal Note

I just lost my little friend, Rigley, this week, making me feel all the more alien in this world.  She was a good girl, and will be greatly missed by me and everyone in my family.


4 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Sorry to hear about your pooch.  And that you’re disturbing and distasteful.
Sunday, September 20, 2009 – 03:49 AM
It’s been a rough week, Pinhole.  Losing my friend is hard.  And one never likes to know the unpleasant truths about oneself.
Sunday, September 20, 2009 – 06:30 AM
Sorry to hear about the doggy!


Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 03:29 AM
Thanks, Malcolm.  It’s been hard.
Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 06:47 AM