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Bad Americans

February 15, 2018

It’s coming. Mark my words. It’s coming. Soon there will be a debate on what it even means for something to be a school shooting.

Senator Chris Murphy gave a short and harrowing speech on the floor of Congress yesterday after the school shooting in Florida. What some people are going to pick up on is not the meaning behind his words, but the fact that he said this was the nineteenth school shooting of the year.

I’m not here to pick nits. Murphy’s statement shook me. But he was a bit off. The most aggressive data set I’ve found defines a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.” And for that, there are 18. But only a relative few have resulted in fatalities.

If Wikipedia hasn’t steered me wrong, there have been 20 gun deaths in American schools in the first seven weeks of the year. That’s 20 too many. If it keeps up at this pace, there will be 150 kids killed in school by guns this year.

For sake of comparison, in 2016 there were 2,820 kids 13-19 killed in car crashes. Add that to the 723 kids under 13 who were killed as passengers vehicle occupants, and you’ve got a devastating 3,500 lives lost. (Source:

This is not meant to minimize yesterday’s tragedy. More than anything else, I’m sharing these numbers because I’ll need to explain this to my own kids before they get on the school bus. This is how they will not be afraid to continue on the business of everyday life. And this is how I’ll be able to go through my day knowing that most likely we’re only days away from the next “school shooting”.

At the very least, Americans are bad at calculating risk.

To lighten the load a little bit, and keep you from watching all those unsettling videos from yesterday, today I’m sharing some funny and instructive videos I stumbled into about more things Americans are bad at doing.

They also go nicely with the theme of this week: cooking.

These short videos are a good reminder of how far we as a society still need to go to create a culture of cooking. Sometimes those of us who spend our time engaged in food forget the fact that a lot of people have no idea how to cut up a carrot.

It seems hard to believe until you roll the tape.

But it doesn’t stop there. Have you ever made garlic paste at home? It’s not that hard. All it takes is a chef’s knife. But if you gave a recipe that requires the home cook to make garlic into a paste to these fifty people, the dish wouldn’t quite come out as it should.

Years ago, I watched a friend of mine who used to be a professional chef break down a bell pepper. Since then, a task that used to take me a lot of time now takes mere moments. If a chopped bell pepper was required for a “thirty minute meal” most of these fifty people would swear the recipe was fraudulent.

These videos go on and on. The archive of them is here, and includes separating an egg, slicing an avocado, honing a knife, and breaking down a pomegranate

We’ve got a long way to go America. Let’s get to work.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ewan permalink
    February 15, 2018 11:48 am

    Not a fan of this post, Daniel. Yes, people in general suck at risk estimation. But I think equating worry about US gun idiocy with concern about capsicum chopping technique is at best insensitive and at worst insulting.

  2. Ryan H permalink
    February 15, 2018 9:33 pm

    So relieved to see the professional cut the “root” off of the garlic. I have been doing that for years worrying that I was taking some kind of wasteful shortcut.

  3. Dave permalink
    February 16, 2018 6:45 am

    So the shooter isn’t old enough to buy a beer but can buy an AR-15 assault rifle?
    Things like this don’t happen in Japan and several other countries. Why?

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