Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where I talk about guns. A lot.

This post is not meant to downplay what happened on Friday. It is absolutely tragic and my prayers are with the families and friends of the victims as well as the young students and teachers who witnessed the shooting. What is discussed in this post is not meant to belittle that.

As you may know, I am a Ph.D. student in Criminology. When I found out about the shooting I was studying for a final exam for my Guns & Violent Crime class. I do not want to get political on this blog or intentionally offend anyone. However, I have knowledge that can inform the general public as well as policymakers. If I keep quiet and let the wrong information spread, what's the point of knowledge? Having an informed conversation is what is needed at this point and that is all that I ask-- before you speak up on an issue or act on an issue, please take the time to learn about it.

I know I may not change anyone's opinion with this post. It is meant for those who are genuinely interested in the best research behind the impact of guns on crime. It is not meant to be a debate or to argue that guns are good/guns are bad, etc. 

Most of my information comes from a book by Dr. Gary Kleck titled Targeting Guns. If you are interested at all in this topic and want more detail, I highly recommend you check it out. It is based off of the best research on the topic and is not sponsored by any gun-related lobby. Due to space limitations I won't be able to go into all aspects of guns, but I will discuss some major facts.

First and foremost, there is no difference in guns that are referred to as assault weapons vs. those that are another type of semi-automatic firearm. See these scary guns?
They are no more lethal than these.
The term 'assault weapon' carries with it no special technical definition and just refers to its cosmetic, superficial appearance. In fact the term was developed by someone in the media. It refers to a semi-automatic long gun or handgun that looks scary with its black matte, military-like appearance. So, banning any type of assault weapon is just picking specific brands of guns that look scary but are NOT more dangerous than other guns.

Second, automatic weapons are banned in the US. There are a few in the US right now owned by collectors and are very tightly regulated, but they are NOT owned by criminals and are NOT used in crimes. Even the military does not like to use automatic weapons as they are a waste of ammo and are hard to shoot accurately.  

Another important point is to look at the overall use of guns in the US. According to the National Victimization Survey, guns are used in about 500,000-700,000 crimes in the US/year. That's a lot, yes. However, there are approximately 2.5 million defensive use of guns/year. This is where someone defends themselves using a gun (either through threatening with it or shooting it) when someone is committing a crime against them. This defensive gun use is not only more common than criminal gun use, but those who defend themselves are less likely to be injured and less likely to lose property

Less than 1% of all guns in the US are used to commit a crime. Think about that. There are over 280 million guns in the US today in the hands of citizens, but fewer than 1% of those will ever be used to commit a crime. This is a primary reason why completely banning guns is unrealistic.

There is a lot more that I could go into when discussing firearms and their impact on crime. Most of this information came from Kleck's book that I referenced earlier, so if you have any interest in learning more about guns and gun control, I highly recommend it. There is without a doubt a lot of information about guns out there, both correct, slightly misleading, and completely wrong. It is thus very important to look at the issue, like any issue, from both sides and gather the best research together possible to formulate a position. 

My intention for this post was to help inform you of some lesser-known facts about firearms and their policies. I do not want to start a debate about legislation. I will leave comments on in case you have a question. If there are any comments that are rude, mean-spirited, or otherwise unnecessary, they will be deleted. If you read all of this- go you! I hope it was somewhat interesting and informative. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chicago Recap!

I cannot believe Thanksgiving is two days away! We will be spending it this year with my family in Houston, but before we leave I wanted to write up some thoughts on my Chicago trip.

What Chicago trip? Well, funny you should ask. Last Tuesday I left to go to the American Society of Criminology's (ASC) annual meeting which was being held in Chicago. I presented my research first thing Wednesday morning at 8 AM, and then had the rest of the time to relax, go to some interesting sessions, and hang out with my grad student friends before returning home Friday. 

I didn't get to do many touristy-things, but I did walk around the area a little so I thought I would share some of those pictures.

Inside Millennium Park

The bean!


Outside our hotel- The Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel
Had to try Chicago deep dish pizza!
Overlooking the huge lobby

Navy Pier (I think)

I presented part of my findings from my thesis and it went well. As with most young grad students, I was terrified someone would ask me this mean question that I wouldn't know the answer to, but thankfully that didn't happen so I was a happy girl! 

Unfortunately, I started coming down with a bad cold Thursday night and Friday, so I was very happy to get home Friday evening. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday in bed resting and drinking a lot of hot tea/gatorade/water/soup. It was very exciting for my husband (poor guy), but he was such a good nurse! 

I have all of this week off from classes for the holiday so I have spent the past two days writing and editing papers. I am very much looking forward to taking a couple days off to spend with family and really focus on all I have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Where I've been

Hello everyone! Anyone still reading? If so, I hope you are doing well. I cannot believe October is almost over. Less than one week left... wow. November is going to be even crazier than this month, so we will see how much writing I'm able to do. On the agenda for next month:

  • Voting (well, this will probably happen tomorrow, but still- Election Day will be very interesting!)
  • We will be traveling one weekend for a wedding, so that will be fun, but traveling = busy
  • Conference presentation- I will present my research first in front of the faculty at my school and then at ASC in Chicago. Nervous much? Yikes!
  • Thanksgiving-- family, more traveling. Well, you get the picture.
So it doesn't look like much but it feels like every week or weekend there is something special going on. But then once that is done, finals are around the corner then Christmas! It is definitely my favorite time of year-- Texas just got a nice cold snap and it feels so good outside! However, Matt & I are running our first 5K this Saturday morning-- it will probably be in the 40s. That does not quite feel so good, especially in work out apparel. I'll keep you posted on how that goes!

But enough about what's in the future. Here is a little of what we've been up to! 

We went to the air show a few weeks back. We had just gotten a cold front the night before so we were definitely feeling it! 
My poor husband... so cold!

The Canadian version of the Thunderbirds- the Snowbirds

Unfortunately because it was so windy and we were freezing, we snuck out early.The clouds were relatively low, too, so we didn't get to see much fly before we left. It was cool walking around to see some of the ground demo's though, and we know we will go again next year!

Last weekend my dear friend Mary came into town and we went to the State Fair! We had a blast walking around and seeing the crazy fried food. The only fried food we tried was the classic coney dog and it was delicious! 

Some of the crazy fried food offerings... yes that is fried butter
We went the day after Big Tex burned down (the 52-ft tall talking Cowboy)  and there was a nice memorial to him already
Guys, this is butter. It is a butter sculpture of some Girl Scouts handing Big Tex Girl Scout cookies.  Only in Texas
I approve of the awesome Star Wars characters participating in the Olympics :)
Mary with one of her favorite bunnies. SO many adorable bunnies!
Other than those few events, we haven't done anything too exciting. Matt and I have been studying a lot, spending time together when possible, and trying to get enough sleep. That pretty much sums up our life lately. It hasn't been easy, but I have been learning a lot about time management- something I thought I was good at before. 

Anyway, this weekend as I said as our first 5K on Saturday, so pray for us if you're thinking about it Saturday morning. It should be interesting to say the least! 

I hope you have a great Friday! And just for fun, here's a little video I'm kind of in love with.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Five Things Friday

Hello! I'm alive! I know, it's been awhile since I blogged but man this semester is definitely a busy one! There are some things going on in our lives, but with grad school + trying to relax not around the computer means I don't have much time to write! But I figured I would give you a quick update, just in case you were wondering :)

1) Matt & I are going to an airshow tomorrow! We are pretty pumped because it is the air show we went to last year and they will have the Canadian version of the Thunderbirds (called the Snowbirds) + the Thunderbirds so it will be an amazing show! Also, the high-- 55 degrees. What? This is Texas... come on!

2) I unexpectedly got a raise this semester for my TA duties which is definitely exciting. To celebrate, I went a little crazy at the grocery store. I bought a bottle of pumpkin spice creamer, 2 cans of pumpkin puree, and quinoa. Random, I know. But I have been wanting the creamer now that it is officially fall (for my decaf coffee, no worries Mom!) and now I have a reason to bake delicious pumpkin things. The quinoa- well, I've been wanting to try it, so it gave me an excuse!

Yup. It's delicious; source 
3) Guys. It's October. When did that happen? September went by entirely too quickly and there are too many things to do between now and December. Weddings, papers, a professional conference, Thanksgiving travel, exams, etc. Oh dear... one day at a time, right?

4) Being a young second year in grad school is an interesting place. Various 1st year students will ask me questions and for advice, but they are older then me. I'm not used to that. I am definitely one of the youngest in the program still, but I guess that's a good thing!

5) And because it is Friday, here are a few happy pins I've found recently (all credit- here). Enjoy & have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birthday Celebration!

As I said in my last post, this past weekend we celebrated my 24th birthday! Matt did a great job planning it and we had a really good time! Highlights include receiving a gorgeous purse, attending Midnight Yell in Dallas, and of course spending quality time with my husband & brother. But, as I know we all like pictures, here is my birthday in pictorial form. Warning, there is a lot of pictures.

If you don't know me by now, you should know I'm a foodie. Matt took me to the same place we went last year on my birthday and that was 100% alright by me-- Chef Point Cafe! Our entrees did not disappoint and neither did our beverage selections. We had mini apple pie for dessert which was a perfect end to our meal!

My entree- roasted duck with orange sauce. So, so good. Yes, this is from a gas station
Matt insisted in getting a picture of the birthday girl
Matt's choice: better than sex fried chicken. Their name for it, but it was definitely amazing!
So we forgot to get a picture of dessert... I apologize!
After we finished eating, we waddled out of the restaurant and headed to the mall. Matt's big gift to me was the purchase of my very own 'fancy' purse (read, costs more than $30). It is hard for me to spend that kind of money on myself, but he insisted. So this is what I picked and I absolutely love it!
Continuing our shopping expedition, we next went to a grocery store. Exciting, I know, but we need to pick up supplies! Matt planned on making me a chocolate cake for my birthday so we had to buy some ingredients. On our way home, I had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season. So good! I also did something very anti-me. I got it fully caffeinated (I know, I live on the wild side). I typically don't drink caffeine, but tonight was a special occasion as I had to stay awake until midnight!  

Why, you may ask? Well, Texas A&M, my alma mater, played the SMU Mustangs ponies in Dallas on Saturday, and before away games, A&M has midnight yell somewhere in the host city. Don't know what midnight yell is? For complete history, go here, but basically it is where us Ags get together to practice our yells the night before the football game. Kind of like a pep rally, but way cooler. Anyway, this was the first time for me to go to a midnight yell that wasn't in Kyle Field, and though there was no mug down (boo), it was still a good time!

Downtown Dallas skyline

Yell leaders, chattin it up before it started
Some firefighters showed up. They're standing on the ladder behind the building
Leading us in a yell. 
We had a great time and ended up getting home a little before 1 AM. We went straight to bed, but that doesn't mean I went straight to sleep. Ha. Let's just say I'm still recovering from that adventure. It was worth it, but I'm not jumping at the bit to do it again!

Saturday involved doing menial grad school-related tasks as my brain was working at 50% and then 'assisting' Matt as he made my cake! We used one of his mother's delicious recipes-- Sour Cream Chocolate cake! It is the only thing I will eat sour cream in because it just makes it so moist, delicious, scrumptious, etc. LOVE IT. Anyway, here is proof that my husband did most of the work:

Nothing much better than homemade chocolate cake + homemade chocolate icing

That about sums up the most exciting parts of our birthday celebration. I got some good shopping money from my family and I cannot wait to have time to go spend it. The weekend was a busy mix of school, birthday happenings, and eating, but I wouldn't change it. Well, maybe take out the school work, but we can't have everything! 

Anyway, I wanted to say a special thank you to my amazing husband who planned all of the fun we had! I very much enjoyed every part of it and I love you!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Where I've Been

Obviously since school has started this blog has taken a hit. I'm still reading several blogs and whatnot, but the meaning for this blog has kind of changed for me. I don't have a lot of free time this semester and the free time I do have I want to spend with my husband, friends, or family.

Regardless, one of the central reasons for this blog is to keep our family & friends up to date with what's going on in our lives. As a lot of our weekends have been spent doing not-so-exciting things (i.e. studying), I haven't had much to report.

BUT, it is my birthday weekend, and Matt apparently has some plans for us, so maybe something will make it on the blog soon! 

So yeah, that is what has been going on with me. I hope you are doing well and have a fantastic weekend! Here is something to get your day off to a particularly happy start...


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

School, a Trip Home, and an A380

I hope all of you had a great Labor Day! For the long weekend Matt and I traveled down to Houston to spend some time with my parents. But I can't get ahead of myself-- the week previous was my first week back in grad school.

This semester will definitely be busy (isn't that always the case?) as though I'm only taking 2 courses, I'm TA'ing for 3 undergrad courses, writing my master's thesis, working on articles, and working on two different projects for my field's professional conferences. Thus far I'm depending on my desktop sticky notes and Google calendar to keep me organized and so far, so good.

My classes will be quite interesting though. I'm taking Delinquency & Juvenile Justice and Violence & Gun Control. Yes, I'm taking a gun control course here in Texas. The research is not what you expect, trust me on that. I would love to post some interesting facts & research findings on here, but I'm afraid it would make this space too political because as soon as you mention guns, people jump to conclusions. But, I may do it anyway. It's my blog, after all :)

Matt is also taking two graduate courses along with working his full time job, so we were very much looking forward to this weekend to relax at my parents' house. It was absolutely perfect! I always love going home and spending time with my parents + my husband = a very happy Jessica. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures, but here is a short list of the various things we did.

  • Stalked the Bush airport for the A380... and found it! Guys, this plane is HUGE. My aerospace engineer of a husband was very happy to see it.
  • Visited the National Museum of Funeral History. Don't worry, I didn't know it existed, either. We were supposed to visit the new paleontology exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, but due to the holiday it was absolutely packed so we instead detoured to this museum. It isn't creepy or anything-- quite interesting actually. They have a lot of interesting exhibits, artifacts, and even a strand of President Lincoln's hair!
Matt and I dubbed this the party hearse; source
  • We also ate. A lot. So much good food. On our first night, my dad grilled us some delicious steaks that seriously melt in your mouth- so so so good. Another highlight was a fairly authentic New Orleans po-boy and beignets (go here if you're in the Woodlands area; it is native-New Orleanian approved!). Along with some deep dish pizza and a hefeweizen or two, this girl is eating a lot of salads this week. But it was worth it!

So what about you? Do anything fun for labor day? We were able to watch some college football games and I am SO ready for the A&M game on Saturday! Gig 'em, Aggies!

Monday, August 27, 2012

First day!

Well, like a lot of people around here, today is my first day back at school. Seems weird to say that I'm starting my second year of graduate school as I don't feel like it has already been that long. Also, my summer 'off' still consisted of doing school-related work, so it wasn't a true break. 

But I'm ready to be back. I like routines so I'm ready to get my schedule down and just go through the motions of school, TA duties, and studying. During the summer I can tend to get anxious. When I'm not busy, I over-analyze which is never good for me. Thankfully this summer I kept myself busy with some school stuff, 'fun' reading, exercising a lot, and learning to clean the apartment regularly. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? 

The start of school also brings my favorite season-- fall! Though it won't be cool here in Texas anytime soon, at least I get to start watching football again! I don't have a class on Friday like I did last semester, so Matt and I should be able to make it to some local high school games as well as watch our Aggies in their first season in the SEC. It will be...interesting! 

So to all of you who are going back to school today or have kids that are- hope you have a great day back! What are you most looking forward to for this semester? For me, it will be writing my Master's thesis and knowing I can actually do research on my own.