Monday, October 20, 2008

Lesson learned at Oktoberfest

When wandering around a Bravian themed tourist town in the middle of Oktoberfest, one should not absentmindedly begin whistling Die Fahne Hoch.

More on the whole weekend later, when I catch up on work, housework, and school stuff.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Universal Sufferage

...And why it's bugging me.

Some people should not be allowed to vote. At bare minimum potential voters should have to pass a civics test. Seriously, if YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW MANY STATES WE HAVE, YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS PARTICIPATING IN THE GOVERNANCE OF THIS COUNTRY! If you don't know what a particular candidate is for and against, you should not be able to vote for them. These ignorant, lazy 'citizens' are the reason every political campaign always ends up looking like a high school popularity contest.

Seriously, how is anyone with two brain cells to rub together going to believe that the people Howard Stern's show interviewed aren't voting for Obama because he's black? They we're completely wrong on his policies and even who he picked for VP, but they're all for him. Or maybe they're just hungry for the sweet draught of Hope'n-Change (TM). They don't know anything that actually matters about what is going on, but they're pulling for Obama. I'm willing to bet there are some pulling for McCain/Palin too, just because his VP is a woman.

Does anyone who actually has any business having an opinion still oppose some additional requirement for suffrage? I don't mean that sarcastically either. Are there any well-informed, critically thinking, and literate people out there, who still want the lazy, the ignorant, and the irrational to be able to vote?

All I want is a written civics test. Some basic stuff like how the electoral college works, what a bicameral legislative is, what powers the executive does and doesn't have (that'd be the big one for most people), and maybe, I dunno, some basic idea of what our country is and who is running it. I know it would be opposed as a literacy test, which are verboten, but I think it's about time we got rid of that rule. To be illiterate in this day and age means you are either A.) an immigrant, in which case following naturalization you can take the test with a proctor reading the questions, or B.) too lazy, too stupid, or too cool to have learned in school, in which case... shouldn't get to vote.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The pitter patter of little jack booted feet

They came for Jessica, and we will not be silent.

Jessica Hughes of Lufkin, Texas, former Marine, mother of three, answered her cell phone in the car, coming home from the emergency room. Her 9-year-old had suffered a mild concussion, but was OK.

The caller was a female Obama volunteer who asked if Jessica would support Obama for president.

Jessica replied, "No, I don't support him. Your guy is a socialist who voted four times in the state Senate to let little babies die in hospital closets; I think you should find something better to do with your time." Then Jessica hung up.

The next day, a man and a woman in suits showed up at the door of her home, identifying themselves as members of the Secret Service.

That should get you wondering a bit. Go read the article, I'll wait.

I honestly doubt that they were real Secret Service agents, but whether they were or not the point is that the Obama campaign is embarked on a deliberate campaign of intimidation. Whether by misleading the real SS or sending lackeys to intimidate, the effect is the same. Let's not forget the radio stations threatened with litigation if they aired the NRA's ads which do nothing worse than point out how anti-gun Obama is. Can't have the chosen one's actual views get in the way of his coronation, can we?

My wife received a cold call from the Obama campaign yesterday, coincidentally. She expressed her opinion rather eloquently and included such phrases as, "No freaking way." Does that mean we could get a visit letting us we're know under suspicion?

If so, they better have SS credentials, which I'll make sure to write down the details of. If they don't, well then, they may just get provoked into a good old ass kicking.

This is still the United States, damnit. My colleagues and I didn't wear the uniform so some leg breaker from the city of dirty politics could intimidate and silence his opposition. Not now, not ever.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

100 things every man should know how to do

So Popular Mechanics recently posted a list of one hundred skills every man should have. Predictably the usual suspects have gotten all over the comments section, these skills don't apply to me, why isn't it for men and women, blah blah blah. As if everything written everywhere has to be appropriate for everyone. Whatever, there are some skills that some people, like me for instance, simply expect men to have. Not to say women cannot have them, they just don't have to.

Of course, I had a few objections over some of the included list and would have added a few different things. Since I don't really feel like blogging about politics, I've decided to make my own list with theirs as a starting point.

I'll start by outlining what I'd specifically object to and why.

"Using a stick welder." Certainly a useful skill, but your average automotive maintenance task won't require it. To wit, I've never used one and I've done all kinds of things to/for various vehicles, including Humvees and 800+ foot Navy vessels.

"Use a sewing machine." Not so much that I object to men needing to know how to sew, but it doesn't have to be a machine. I've mended all kinds of tears, rents, etc and sewed on uniform patches and never used a sewing machine. Hand sewing is FINE.

"Home brew beer." Again, a nice thing to know, but not really necessary or expected.

"Change a single pole switch." If every man knew how to safely work on a home's electrical wiring, then electricians would soon be out of work. Besides, being able to safely work with wiring is a professional skill, not something just anyone can do.

The 'Military' skills listed; "Shine shoes," "Make a drum tight bed," and "Drop and do a perfect pushup," seems largely unnecessary in normal life. Sure, I can do all three simultaneously...asleep, but I was actually in the military. I'd think a reasonably well made bed and the ability to shine dress shoes would be good enough.

"Skipper a boat." Maybe operate small watercraft I could agree with, but actual skippering requires USCG certifications, etc. Seems a bit much.

"Tackle steep drops on a mountain bike
." Why? Seriously. If you DO mountain bike, then yeah, obviously, but otherwise, wtf?

Under teach your kids; "Throw a spiral," and "Fly a stunt kite." Again, why? Maybe your kids don't like football and kites? How about "Be able to teach your kids to do the things you both enjoy?" I could get behind that. I'm teaching mine Jujitsu and how to shoot.

"Calibrate HDTV settings
." How about a more broad, "Know how to use, set, and set-up electronics you own."?

Under 'Master key workshop skills' are...actually nothing I really disagree with.

The amusing part is, other than home brewing beer, I actually know how to do everything on the list, and I'm learning the brewing.

So, here's the list I would make:

1. Simple to intermediate level preventative and corrective automotive maintenance. Brakes, fluids, belts, batteries, spark plugs, etc.
2. Be able to courteously and safely drive in heavy traffic.
3. Drive in adverse conditions such as snow, ice, heavy rain, or off road and safely handle a blow out.
4. Jump starting a car.
5. Hitching and driving with a trailer, especially parking.
6. Park in the middle of a given spot.

7. Know basic first aid
8. Treat hypothermia and heat trauma
9. Master treatment of ailments common to your specific location and profession. For example, an electrical plant worker should be an expert in treating electrical shock and someone living in Death Valley should be able to treat heat stroke while sleeping.
10. Escape a sinking car and assisting other passengers
11. Use fire extinguishers and evacuate a burning building

Around the house:
12. Carve a turkey
13. Be able to sew, either with a machine or by hand
14. Make a fire and safely put one out in any situation
15. Do laundry, including removing stains, ironing, and folding
16. Move heavy stuff without injury or damage
17. Grow food, including knowing what will grow locally and how to keep pests away
18. Read utility meters
19. Shovel, to clear paths, driveways, etc and to make holes
20. Solder wire
21. Mud, patch, and tape drywall
22. Split and stack firewood
23. Perform basic plumbing repairs. Trap cleaning, toilet flappers, washers, etc
24. Mix, form, and lay concrete
25. Paint a straight line
26. Use a chef's knife, peel vegetables and potatoes, make a salad, and cook a modest repertoire of meals
27. Prune bushes and small trees
28. Fell a tree
29. Replace a broken windowpane
30. Set up a ladder and work from it, safely
31. Sweat copper tubing
32. Change a diaper, feed and burp a baby and comfort one when crying
33. Grill with charcoal
34. Fold a flag
35. Shine shoes and dress presentably/professionally
36. Make a bed and maintain cleanliness in the home

37. Exercise within personal limitations and maintain fitness
38. Use a knife, both as a tool and as a weapon
39. Maintain constant situational awareness
40. Evaluate a threat
41. De-escalate a confrontation, especially verbally
42. Fight unarmed and with improvised weapons
43. Break out of a hold or joint lock when surprised
44. Defend your home and loved ones
45. Judge if a given battle is hopeless, and make an informed decision whether or not to fight it
46. Walk away whenever it's necessary and know when it is
47. Shoot accurately whether hunting, practicing, competing, or fighting for your life
48. Carry a handgun, concealed. In other words, not letting others know you have one

49. Run rapids in a canoe
50. Store food safely in the wild
51. Escape a rip current
52. Build or find a shelter in the wilderness
53. Find potable water
54. Survive floods, tornados, cold, heat, lightning, and any disaster specific to your location

Teach your kids (which means you have to know how to do them in the first place, presumably):
55. How to act
56. How to do the things you mutually enjoy
57. To form an informed opinion on an issue
58. To argue a position with facts and logic
59. About your system of government
60. Literature
61. History
62. To debate politely
63. How to argue in a hostile manner and when to do so
64. Honor and what it means
65. Duty and why it matters
66. To drive, stick and automatic
67. To swim
68. Hunting
69. Personal responsibility

70. Install hardware and software in a computer
71. Take decent pictures
Know how to use, set, and set-up electronics you own
73. Shoot a home movie
74. Ditch a hard drive
75. Keep your computer secure and malware free

Workshop skills:
76. Drill driver
77. Grease gun
78. Coolant hydrometer
79. Socket wrench
80. Test light
81. Brick trowel
82. Framing hammer
83. Wood chisel
84. Spade bit
85. Circular saw
86. Sledge hammer
87. Hacksaw
88. Torque wrench
89. Air wrench
90. Infrared thermometer
91. Sand blaster
92. Crosscut saw
93. Hand plane
94. Multimeter
95. Feeler gauges

96. Manage finances and balance a checkbook
97. Stay calm and be reassuring
98. Tell a joke or story
99. Paint, both indoors and outdoors
100. Take and follow orders as well as give them

Friday, October 3, 2008

Poetry Corner

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-Robert Frost

This is how democracy dies...

...not to cries of acrimony and outrage, but to thunderous applause on the floor of the House.

Oh, I'm over-reacting, am I? If you think so, you haven't been paying attention. For over a week every Representative in support of the bailout has told the media that their offices have been swamped with letters, phonecalls, and e-mails from their constituents. This is a quote, "They've been split about 50/50 between 'No' and 'Hell no!'" This last delivered with a smugly superior smirk that seemed to just scream, "We know better than you do."

I understand that no one can expect our elected reps to be nothing more than voting apparatus of the people, that they are expected to bring a bit more expertise and calmer heads to the voting, but this is a blatant flaunting of the will of the people.

When our government so blatantly ignores the will of the people, resting assured that they know what's best for us, they can no longer be truly considered representative. Can they? Of bloody course not!

The worst part is the ones who talked to the media after the failure of the first bill, saying how the people are simply being vindictive towards Wall Street and that they would, foolishly it's implied, by willing to go to the bread line for it. That kind of unthinking arrogance permeates our elected 'Representatives.'

And why shouldn't it? After all, the recent record of the voters shows that our attention span for Congressional voting is shorter than an episode of American Idol. We'll vote on what they say in their campaigns about the war and the economy, etc, but pay no attention to the fact that in the past they've voted differently.

Of course, the question is, why would so many vote for something they knew was unpopular? At the very least, people like me will call them to task for it, what did they gain? Ask yourself this, who is funneling more money into their re-election coffers? We the People, or those same damn companies, who were so recently in dire financial straights? Of course we know the answer to that, don't we.

I'd love to know how much of that seven hundred Billion (BILLION) ends up going to re-election campaigns.

Tell you what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna try to get a hold of the complete list of who voted for that thing in both houses (yes, I know that should be capitalized, but F*** 'em).

Toss the bastards out in '08, '10 and '12.

Irate Wifey update

Following an unexpected upper GI scope on Tuesday, Wifey went in for laproscopic gall bladder removal on Wednesday. Still no solid diagnosis as to what the problem was, but everything except the gall bladder had been removed as a cause, so it had to go.

For the first time in weeks she's able to eat without a sharp, spasming pain in her abdomen. Now it's just a matter of trying to keep her from trying to do housework or anything else that might aggravate her still healing body. Not an easy task as she's stubborn enough to marry me and drugged to the gills on top of that. Oh well.

A hubby's job is never done.

Also, the reason I still wasn't around yesterday is that I had my finals, which I never did get to study for, because I still hadn't had sufficient time to finish my research paper which was due a week ago. Luckily the instructor knew what was going on and cut me a lot of slack.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Been a bit busy

So, I had decided to take a little break from blogging from the 11th until my birthday on the 16th, well a funny thing happened on the 16th. About a half hour after midnight the Irate Wifey wakes me up in more pain than I'd ever seen her. So it's off to the emergency room! Turns out her gall bladder hurts, but is showing no symptoms of anything. So, a CT scan, ultrasound, and hiediscan later, we're pretty sure it's her gall bladder, and no closer to knowing why.

That's basically been my days since then. She may very well be going into surgery tomorrow, coincidentally, her birthday. We'll see, keep her in your prayers if you would.

Poetry corner returns, also: Heroes

So, for those of you out there who watched Heroes last night, Mohinder's first closing speech was largely composed of one of my favorite poems.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-William Butler Yeats

One of the few poems I actually memorized in high school. Good stuff.

I'll blog more and explain my absence in an hour or two.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years ago...

...On a beautiful September morning, a glittering arrow sailed through the clear sky. Millions of New Yorkers going about their business pause to look up, wondering about the low flying airplane where none should be.

On the far side of the country, a slightly younger, and vastly less mature, Aaron is trying to get his hearing test done so he can join the rest of his unit on liberty. His Chief sticks his head into the room.

"Turn the TV on."
"What channel?"
"Doesn't matter."

Chief stood there quietly, long enough for me to absorb the enormity of what happened.

"Get 'em back here, and get us ready to go."
"Chief, I don't have the authority or quals to..."
"You do today, get a move on. I'll have my duty pager if you need me."

So, as a twenty year old third-class I had to get forty people back from all over western Washington and take care of all predeployment preparations, all in just a few short hours.

Five days, and several lifetimes, later, I turned twenty-one. Hard birthday to forget.

"May God have mercy on their souls, for we will not."

Never again. Never forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hopping on a meme bandwagon...

A friend of mine who reads quite a few blogs, but rarely mine, suggested I follow a particular meme. Particularly, 'what's in my pockets.' I suspect this is because he's curious to know just how much I haul around.

Less than he was expecting, I'll wager. Unless, of course, I'm working...

Then I really am carrying a lot of crap.

Too bad I'm a lousy photographer.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Maverick/Barracuda '08

With trepidation I've been watching a few of the speeches from the Republican National Convention and, surprisingly enough, been rather impressed. Oh, I still have my reservations about McCain's domestic policies, but if he sticks to foreign policy and energy independence, he's just about got it all sewn up.

Palin's and Giuliani's speeches? Fergetabudit! They knocked 'em out of the park. From Sarah we get humorous, subtle, and light hearted jabs at the Obamessiah, all embedded in a message of smaller government, lower taxes, personal freedom, American values, and a better energy policy. Rudy's speech was an I'm-not-running-now-so-the-gloves-are-off beat down of hilarious proportions.

When I watched McCain's speech this morning, I actually regretted that my cold-blooded analytical nature prevented me from being moved like I could tell the audience was. I did, however, appreciate the speech in the same way I appreciate a Mozart piece.

Never thought I'd see the day where I expend creative energy to put John McCain in the big chair, but with his choice of VP he seems to be trying to win back the conservative base and that counts for something. What, we'll see, but something.

Little food for though, John McCain has spent more time as a prisoner of war, at the Hanoi Hilton no less, that Obama has spent in government.

As yet another service I provide...

Ahh, it's that magically part of the Olympiad again where you can't swing a cat by its tail without hitting a campaign speech. So, as a free service, Irate Islander industries has provided you with this tool to survive the season. Simply add at the appropriate time and suddenly all is well.

Of course, we didn't make it, we're just linking to it.


Because I'm just that rotten a person...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"May you live in interesting times"...oh, we do

Here we are in the year of our Lord, two thousand and eight. Well into the third century of this great Republic, founded on the ideal that what you do matters and who you were born as does not.

If only our Founding Fathers could see us now.

I won't bother with the obvious, that's been well covered by those more talented than me. Instead, I want to talk about another aspect.

It started way before Sarah Palin. WAY before. Can anyone even remember the last Presidential election that was campaigned solely on the basis of the candidate's platform? Heck, there have been times when I wondered if anyone cared about the actual positions of the candidates. I know better now, but the situation has gotten no better.

So, now we come to Palin. She has been potential VP for a few days now and I've heard no criticisms of her politics yet. I have, however, heard a nonstop barrage of sheerly personal attacks. Everything from her being a vapid beauty queen, a bad mother because she went into politics (what about Hilary, Pelosi...?), and a hypocrite because her daughter is pregnant.

How's that work? She is pro-life and pro-family values, right? So, if she was going to be a hypocrite, wouldn't she have had her daughter very quietly get an abortion and cover up the whole thing?

'Ah', they say, 'but her daughter got pregnant at seventeen!' Okay, so? How does that matter even one little bit? First off, it was her daughter, not her, secondly everyone is human. She has certainly tried her best to respond to the situation as best she can and with candor. Which is far more than can be said for most politicians.

But she will continue to be the target of vicious personal attacks. Not because she is a bad person, under qualified (she is, in fact, more qualified that either candidate for the big chair), or a hypocrite. She is a target because she has energized a largely unimpressed conservative, pro-gun base to vote for McCain who likely wouldn't have otherwise, because she is a woman politician who has succeeded on her merits and not on identity politics, and because she does have experience as both an executive and in foreign relations. In other words, they are in a frothing rage because she was a good pick and dramatically increases McCain's chance for a win.

Many people, myself included, have already (it's like time is speeding up in the political world) noticed a very strong backlash from all this. People who could normally be relied to vote for the Democratic candidate are, in increasing numbers, telling their own party to go to Hell.

Way I see this playing out is a radical furthering of the marginalization of the extreme left as well as the party leadership from their base. Who knows? Maybe we'll see the stranglehold of the two-party system broken within our lifetimes.

Hey, even I can hope.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Overheard Around the Manor (To steal a meme)

Me: ...of course the Army will get stuck at least buying a few for testing.
V: No way, the people who do acquisitions hate buying new stuff.
Me: Right, and since any successful, large scale military contractor owns their own congress-weasels, it won't matter.
V: Congress-weasels? They're Congress-critters.
Me: I like weasel better.
V: That is an insult to the noble race of weasels.
Me: Weasels?
V: Comparatively noble, anyway.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Schoolhouse fun

So I recently signed up for a college class on base on American National Government. In other words, it's an advanced civics course regarding the federal government. Hurray fun!

As I expected, I was the only one who knew the historical origins of democracy (ancient Greece), but I really expected more of the students to at least know the structure and purposes of our government. Out of about seventeen of us, only five knew what separation of powers and checks & balances were. Only two of us knew what federalism was and one person thought welfare and universal medical care where guaranteed rights.

The first class was the worst as only a few other students answered any questions and those answers lead me to the conclusion I was the only conservative in the class. Took a smoke break and had to seriously ask myself if it was worth arguing with EVERYONE or if I should just keep my head down.

Decided to quit whining and man up, and when I spoke up, found out I was far from alone. It should be interesting.

In Praise of an Ugly Gun

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently acquired a shiny new Springfield XD .45 Compact. I made no bones about the aesthetic failing of it at the time. Why am I bringing this up again?

Last night I was over at a friend's house and, shockingly enough, we were arguing a wide variety of topics. We finally wandered over to Glocks Vs. XDs. Price, accuracy, ergonomics, and reliability were all mentioned and debated ad nauseum, but then, aesthetics were brought up.

"The XD is just an ugly gun."

A loaded pause followed.


"The XD is kinda ugly."

"'Kay, but in comparison to a Glock?"

"Good point."

Thought that was kinda funny, but it got me thinking. I've always had an affinity for firearms with a bit more aesthetic appeal. Like 1911s, Hi Powers, Camp Carbines, anything with a lever action, etc. However, I have to admit, the ugly duckling has really grown on me. With the shortened grip and ten round mag, I can hide it inside my waistband when wearing nothing more than shorts and a light t-shirt. It's accurate as any sidearm, not intended for competition, I've ever fired, as reliable as a Glock, and fits my hand like it was made for it.

It puts me in mind of the man who married a rather homely young lady. Every other guy in the village felt sorry for him, but because his wife was so carrying, kind, and thoughtful, he never even noticed that she didn't meet the standard for beauty. She was beautiful to him.

The XD sure is pretty...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Name change

You may have noticed that I changed by blog name. The old name always did seem a bit pretentious even for me, and since I never did blog a lot, comparatively, about self defense. So, while I will continue to occasionally write missives about defense, it will no longer be the, unrealized, main focus.

I'm back, probably

Been away for awhile, again... Between running my own business (which has thus far made less than it cost), looking for another job, and a very full college schedule, I haven't much felt up to blogging. In fact, I stopped posting on forums and writing fiction as well. Wasn't enough time, I thought.

Of course, I'm pretty much incapable of functioning for long periods of time without any creative output. I get edgy, agitated, snappy, and even a bit mean. This is why I carried around a little green notebook in my navy days that would gradually fill up with fairly crappy poetry.

Well, now I'm going to try blogging again. Unlike writing fiction, which I'm resuming as well, blogging is nicely unformed. I can talk about whatever I want instead of trying to remain within the confines of a plot that needs to be consistent. So, tell your friends, you're daily dose of crazy can be found here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Google, are you kidding ME?

Hat tip to Little green footballs-

It’s the anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy that began the liberation of Europe from the Nazi nightmare.

So what does Google celebrate today?

The birthday of Spanish painter Diego Velasquez, which as we all know is much more important than some silly war to save civilization: Google.

What? Are you kidding me? I know it's all politically correct to ignore our heritage and spit on the sacrifices of those who have gone before, but isn't that a bit much? Fighting the Third Reich and ending the Holocaust was a bad thing now?

I mean, come on, my brother was born on June 6th too (happy b-day bro, see ya in a few hours), should I use his birthday as a shield against acknowledging the past? Bah, morons, they can go to ****!

This day in History-June 6, 1944

On this day in history thousands of terrified young men looked into the void, and advanced up the beach, and into legend, anyway. Many are still there.

Operation Overlord was a massive amphibious assault on the beaches of Normandy by Allied forces in an effort to place the Third Reich in a two-fronted defensive battle. Despite massively fortified beach defenses, artillery, bunker & tunnel networks, pillboxes, you name it and all on the high ground, Allied forces advanced up a beach that had been converted into a killzone.

To borrow from another theatre, "Uncommon valor was a common thing."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The home defense shotgun

Ah the home defense shotgun. Effective intruder defense in one's own home begins and, in most cases, ends with a good shotgun.

Why's that?

Well, a pistol is a great defensive tool, but it lacks the firepower of its shouldered cousins and when they are in your house, where your loved ones may be, and you can carry larger arms, you can and should use something with more power. Why not a rifle? Rifle bullets have more penetration and are more likely to go through a wall and hit your neighbor or even one of your own children. Shotguns, however, have a great deal of power and a much smaller chance of over-penetrating.

Now, that's not to say other guns are useless for home defense. Many people, yours truly included, still keep a pistol by the bedside for immediate use if necessary. That's probably a bit more paranoid than most people are prepared to be, but I have my reasons. The wifey also has a few handguns secreted about the house in various places that are both difficult/impossible for kids to reach yet easily accessible by us. You can't expect to be in bed when your house is broken into. The fake SWAT team tactic is used both in light and dark and you would NOT want to be unarmed when dealing with them. Also, some people, not including me, are paranoid enough to keep rifles around the house in case they have to fight off body armored attackers. If you want to do this, ask for some advice from someone else. Unless there's some kind of disaster/breakdown of law and order, it seems excessive to me.

So, what kind of shotgun should you have?

Kind of a tough one to answer. In general, a combination of big enough to be an effective stopper, but small enough you can shoot it often to gain familiarity and competence. Reliability, ergonomics, and ammo capacity are also important, but must be balanced against your price range. If you've been trained to/know how to use a weapon mounted light, you might want one of those, if you have no idea then it's just a waste of money. Same with lasers. I would, however, recommend something other than most stock shotgun sights. Something you can use reliably in the dark. A cheap, but fairly good red-dot scope works. Something you can acquire a target quickly with.

As a starting point, I'm pretty fond of the Mossberg 500 series, particularly the 590, since that's the shotgun I used in the Navy. Also, the Remington 870 has served me well in a few tight spots and, although I've never fired one in anger, they have functioned well for me. Also, the various twelve gauge offering by Saiga seem awful nice, but I'll have to try some before I recommend them.

It shouldn't be your trap/skeet/bird hunting gun, nor should it have a rifled barrel. Not that you can't multi-role your gun, but it isn't ideal. It should be locked firmly in you mind that this shotgun is for a specific purpose. Hunting shotties tend to have longer barrels and this makes them less than ideal for fighting in close ranges. Especially since you should be loading with a nice buckshot load, the nastiest you can be comfortable with, which is why you don't want a rifled barrel.

Finally, no matter how ugly the gun turns out to be, and home defense shotties tend to be some of the most aesthetically insulting firearms around, you must drag it out to the range* and shoot it often. Preferably at pop-up targets and in assault courses designed to simulate defending a house (not SWAT style assaulting).

*If anyone at the range points out the aesthetic failing of your shotgun, telling them it's a home defense piece usually will shut them up.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Poetry Corner, Segeant MacKenzie

Segeant MacKenzie

By: Joseph Kilna MacKenzie

Scots Tongue

Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun
Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun

When they come a wull staun ma groon
Staun ma groon al nae be afraid

Thoughts awe hame tak awa ma fear
Sweat an bluid hide ma veil awe tears

Ains a year say a prayer faur me
Close yir een an remember me

Nair mair shall a see the sun
For a fell tae a Germans gun

Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun
Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun

English Translation

Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone

When they come I will stand my ground
Stand my ground I'll not be afraid

Thoughts of home take away my fear
Sweat and blood hide my veil of tears

Once a year say a prayer for me
Close your eyes and remember me

Never more shall I see the sun
For I fell to a German's gun

Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Where before many more have gone

Listen to the lyrics here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My muse is anger

At least, so it seems at the moment. I've been away from a the blog for a bit, I've been trying to get my business started and when I haven't been working on, well, getting work, I haven't wanted to touch the computer. Since most of today is gonna be spent on the computer tending to details and waiting for replies, I figured I'd catch up on current events etc. I'm understandably a little pissed.

A quick once over of the news and my take:

Ted Kennedy has a tumor. Too damn bad. I've already heard how I shouldn't crow over his misfortune just because we differed politically. Bollocks. Actually, BULLSH*T. That man was born an elite and crafted his entire political career catering to the damn ignorant bread and circuses crowd while grabbing up our rights with every booze soaked, wobbly step. On a personal angle, on the character (what there is of it) of the man, Mary Jo was unavailable for comment.

Myanmar refuses aid from the United States. Bleeding hearts everywhere don't get it. They're not refusing aid, they just want us to turn everything over to their 'soldiers' so they can control distribution and we happened to have someone on the ground who wasn't an idiot. We learned a lesson in Africa. The assholes running this crappy little countries don't care about their people even a little bit. Anything they get their blood soaked little hands on goes to their own bank accounts and to keeping them in power. From what I understand, the 'International relief effort' is now co-ordinating with local authorities or some such crap. I didn't have the stomach to research any further.

The Republican party is being urged to 're-format' is image or, as that idiot Arnold Schwarzenegger called it, brand to appeal to more centrist voters. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Every time those morons try to appeal to a 'wider audience' they lose more seats in both houses. Why is that, I wonder? Maybe it's because the conservatives, who are supposed to be the party's base, are disgusted with the RINOs and big government rats and either don't vote or vote Libertarian, Independent, etc. Those freaking short sighted idiots are already way to close to the Democrats in regards to big government, gimmie programs, shrinking the military, restricting gun rights, etc. What the hell to they have to offer people like me to make us want to vote in the first place? Not everyone is motivated, as I am, to vote simply for the lesser of two evils. If they can't vote for someone who shares their beliefs, they just won't bother. I can't blame 'em.

If our founding fathers....No. If our Founding Fathers (better) were around now, they'd call us a bunch of cowards for letting our government walk all over us they way they are. They'd castigate us for our foreign policy of letting petty tyrants walk over and dictate to us. Even Thomas Jefferson, the original, well sorta, democrat would call us idiots for our soft stance on Muslims. Yes, the guy whose Koran Keith Ellison, Congress' token muslim, was sworn in on.


I am the poster child for Amercian conservatives

Why is that?

Because I'm seething with impotent rage.

In case there is any doubt, I'm not endorsing any of those links. They're why I'm pissed.

I'll hold my nose and vote for the lesser of two evils (McCain), but I don't have to like it.

Poetry corner-The Second Coming


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Myths, the Dispelling of

I am frequently amazed at how things I thought people had stopped believing will, at the oddest moments, pop back up. I haven't even gotten out much recently because I've been sick, again. Anyway...

When I was a kid studying various martial arts I heard repeatedly, from ostensibly good sources, that if your life was in danger you could kill a person with a single strike delivered to the nose with the palm at an upward angle. It seems everyone knew this. Except, it's not true. Sheer, utter balderdash. I'm pretty confident of this because it's been done to me, twice. The first time I'm sure the guy had no intention of killing me, he was just trying to win the fight. The second instance I'm less sure about. In both cases my nose shattered like antique china and I subsequently pounded my assailant into the ground. It is pretty disabling. Your nose, usually broken at that point, starts to run with both blood and mucus, your eyes tear up and want to close, and your vision gets blurry. It CAN be a fight stopper, but for someone, like me, who has been exposed to something like OC a few times, it'll only slow them down marginally.

As you can see, there is no bone in the nose to 'shove into a person's brain.'

There is a bony bit between the eyes, but if you're hitting that, it's likely your opponent isn't moving, so you shouldn't be hitting him anyway.

There are other ways to kill with bare hands if and when necessary, but I'm a little hesitant to post them.

Next myth is mostly funny.

"If I keep my pistol in a fanny pack, no one will know I have one." Hah! That hasn't fooled anyone in years! Okay, caveat, women can sometimes get away with it, when dressed for running for example. Men cannot. Wifey and I were at a Subaru dealership a few days ago and a guy had a fanny pack on and not only did the wifey and I know he was armed, everyone in the dealership did. I even heard one of the salesmen ask him if he was a cop or a permit holder. Guy got a little embarrassed. Turned out he was a cop.

So stop it guys, you're not fooling anyone!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

BAG day purchase, well not really

So it was made clear to me that for my chosen line of work, I needed a new pistol. Preferably two or three actually, but at least one. None of the guns I currently owned were right for it. Little bit of a bummer, trust me. I've been carrying and using 1911s for darn near a decade, and because they are single action and have a light trigger, it would be bad to use one in a job where I have to point guns at people from time to time (not wanting to shoot them, but willing to) and even worry about someone else trying to wrestle it from me.

So I've been doing asking some questions, which started with some pros who have been doing the job for some time already, and doing some research. Well, today I bought myself a brand new Springfield Armory XD Compact in .45 caliber with tritium night sights. A very nice gun. I handled it, fond it WAY more comfortable than a Glock, stripped and reassembled, tested for accuracy, everything. The trigger was something else, smooth as butter with a crisp break. Not too heavy or too light, although I may get it adjusted to a heavier pull (I really don't want to shoot a defendant). All checks out, very slick.

I'm obviously very happy, even though I won't have it in hand until Monday since I wanted (needed, really) the night sights. What good is a concealed carry permit if I can't take a recent purchase home the day I buy it? Oh well.

Only one complaint. She's accurate, reliable, affordable, fairly concealable, and has no safety selector, removing an unnecessary step. The only problem is...

(picture removed because I shouldn't have used it)

It is kinda ugly.
Oh well, functionality creates a beauty all its own. Too bad I believe in carrying the same concealed handgun all the time to prevent confusion at the wrong moment. I sure am going to miss carrying Julie (my fav 1911).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The next time I hear...

...About how we should end the war because it's all our sons, daughters, etc in Iraq, I'm going to verbally, and quiet possibly physically, beat the speaker down. Let me make something ABUNDANTLY clear. This war has been going on longer than everyone's enlistments, which means everyone NOW in the military chose to be in WHILE THE WAR WAS GOING ON!

Why is that so significant? Because they all knew what they were getting into and did it anyway. It was THEIR choice to serve in a time of war. So instead of all this crap about bringing our family members home only undermines the sacrifices and dedication of those serving.

There is no more disgusting thing to me than, "Oh, my son is over there fighting, so we have to end the war!" You know what? SCREW YOU! Your son (daughter, husband, wife, whatever) is doing what he believes in and all you're doing is trying to keep him from doing it. Traitors to both their country and their family member in question.

I consider myself something of an expert on the topic. After all, I've been both the boots on the ground and the spouse waiting at home. Nearly all my friends are either military, or were. If anyone has an interest in keeping service members alive, it's me. AND YOU"LL NEVER HEAR ME SAY SOME CRAP LIKE THAT. I love them all for who they are and because they believe in what they do.

As to the tired soundbite, "What would you do if it was your son in Iraq?" Bah! Easy, I'd be damned pround of the little scamp and rest assured that I'd brought him up right.

Anyone who disagrees with me here is more than welcome to take a long walk off a short pier. My patience on this issue is GONE, and the next person to set me off will regret it immensely. I don't care who it is.

Note: This is cross posted from my old blog which I don't use any more, if you've read this already, sorry.


You know, paying quite a pretty penny to be tased and subsequently sprayed with OC seems a lot less like a good idea in retrospect. (Not really.)

So, as I said earlier, I was away attending the Pacific Northwest Bail Enforcement Academy. It was certainly educational. I, fortunately, never got to mention to the head instructor my previous involvement in bail enforcement. Not that that really matters, as he asked for a link to this blog and I'll be sending it to him. Why do I say that? Turns out what I was being taught to do was one hundred eighty degrees WRONG. I had suspected as much the whole time I was doing it, but never voiced my concern. Turns out I should have run from those yahoos from the get-go. I'm lucky as hell I was never charged with anything or sued back then. It was a little humbling having that all spelled out for me so clearly.

Some of you may have noticed that I made some slight changes to my account. These were done to make my internet persona harder to find. Not that I expect this blog to ever be linked to any of my professional activities, but why take the chance?

On to the fun stuff.

So I learned all about the bail enforcement industry last weekend. More, in fact, in four days than I did in the five months I actually spent doing it. The funny part is, the guys I was supposedly learning from very likely didn't know any better either and now I know why. All very interesting, and mostly stuff I won't talk about except to fellow Alumni.

The Taser, however, is a story you guys probably want to hear. Now most of you know I've been shot, beaten, stabbed, blown-(partially)-up, sprayed with OC, etc and was never fully incapacitated. I may not have the nerve and physical condition of my youth, but I'm still a scrappy kind of guy. That said, I had mixed expectation of the taser. On the one hand, I've fought through everything that's ever been thrown at me before, on the other, I've seen videos of guys way tougher than me getting dropped.

So we do the class, get the knowledge and such out of the way. Pretty interesting, actually. Then it was time for 'participation.' I, alas, was not the first volunteer. We had a former Recon marine who went first (if you're wondering why I won't use names, it's for the same reason I changed my profile). I've never seen such a tough guy surrender so quickly, and he didn't even get the probes (darts), just contact with the leads on the face of the taser. Little intimidating, lemme tell you. So I volunteered to take the full shot, barbed probes and all. The instructor and I had discussed the back pain I'd been having and he said he'd do my leg if I thought that was a better idea. I agreed and the same marine and an agent out of Idaho took on arm apiece and the instructor deployed the probes on my leg. Now bear in mind I'm not a weight lifter, I jerked both my spotters so hard that they lost their footing, then I dropped hard. Not their fault, they at least prevented me from bashing my head.

Ladies and gentleman, while I still have reservations on the suitability of tasers for self-defense, if they're all you can have, trust me, they will take someone down. Hard. I tried to see if I could stay up, resist somehow. Nothing doing. I went down like a sack of jumpy potatoes.

Next was good old OC spray. Wasn't too big a thing. I went first, half expected to get as messed up as the first time I got sprayed. It had, afterall, been eight years since my last direct exposure. Despite getting a stream directly in my right eye, it was actually the least painful of all my exposures. Not to stay it didn't hurt, but other than the eye is was easily bearable, and I got the eye cleaned out pretty quick. All the former military in the class went through with a minimum of fuss and muss and I thought that was pretty cool, until our ex-cop went through. I don't know how many times that guy had been contaminated, but if I hadn't seen the spray douse him, I would have thought the instructor missed. No reaction at all. Needless to say, I was impressed.

I did, unfortunately, make a bit of an ass of myself a little during the tactics portion. The instructor was younger and less experienced than me, so I kept butting in. Fortunately, I realized what I was doing and how silly it was (seeing as all my experience was either military or doing it the wrong way) and shut up before I was told to. Still feel bad about it though. Oops.

My foibles not withstanding, everyone was great and, despite an abundance of alpha males, we all got along really well. I consider that pretty important since this industry almost requires you to have friends in it to get anywhere and I wouldn't hesitate to ask any of the instructors or visiting Alumni for any help I need. Awesome guys all around.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Parting shots


No big suprise there, but I'm a little dissappointed. I suspect my lacking crates of MREs (stored food) knocked my score down a bit. Oh well.

What else...?

It is true that I may someday be killed with one of my own guns, just as the hoplophobes claim. However, the bastard'll have to climb mounds of his dead buddies first and beat me to death with the thing since I'll be out of bullets.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Just as I'm back...I must go again.

Turns out the dates for my bail enforcement training are a bit earlier than I thought they were. With everything else going on, I suppose letting something slip was inevitable. Regardless, class starts on the 11th and I'll be staying with friends closer to Tacoma while attending, so I'll be gone again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Interesting times indeed.

So, the wifey and I got back from Oregon, I dutifully breathed life back into our old computer, and I finally settled in to resume blogging...and it was time for us to take another trip. In one fell swoop, the wifey managed to visit the two largest military hospitals here in Washington. Then we came home, and we got sick. Not just a little bit sick, but tug-of-war with Death/snarling back at the wolf/spitting into the void kind of sick.


I'm now happily on the road to recovery and have been trying to catch up on the intrawebs. In my absence Charleton Heston died (R.I.P.) and David Codrea's War on Guns is now linking to me. Damn. To the former, we can now say not even from his cold dead hands (if that seems in bad taste, bear in mind, Chuck himself would approve), and to the later, that's just cool.

Now that all seems to be returning to normal here at the manor, blogging will, hopefully, return to normal.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The primary has returned to the safe house, repeat, primary in safehouse

To explain the recent lack of blogging:

Last week, in accordance with an urgent summons, I mounted my brave steed (the wife's Forrester actually) and ventured to the barbarian south of my birth (Oregon). There I did manly battle with hippies and yuppies (well, those were mostly in Seattle and I more hissed at them than did battle) and was reunited with my long lost siblings (fairly true, actually).

It was the first time since my sister's wedding that all three of us were under my parents' roof at one time and the first time in seven or eight years where we actually got to spend more than a few hours together. The happy coincidence of our visit covering Easter was a bonus as well.

The circumstances concerning our visits weren't so serendipitous. Rotten daughter #2, aka. the middle child (my middle child), was taken to Doernbecher's, by her biological father, with dizziness spells and vomiting. Spent a few days at the hospital while she returned to normal. Her shunt was adjusted (she has hydrocephalus) and we were able to take her to my parent's house.

Other reasons for the reunion are personal to someone else and not mine to post about, so I won't.

The good news is, the whole family got to spend time together. Mother and I patched up an old dispute sans rancor, I learned a few rather interesting things, and my brother finally got to get to know our brother-in-law.

I'll be posting more about some things that happened, including a really odd dream, later. I have a bit of long put off computer maintenance to attend to first.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Introducing the poetry corner!

I know, I know, poetry is for sissies, etc. Whatever, it's my blog.

The Commando's Prayer
Give me, my God, what you still have;
give me what no one asks for.
I do not ask for wealth, nor success,
nor even health.
People ask you so often, God, for all that,
that you cannot have any left.
Give me, my God, what you still have.
Give me what people refuse to accept from you.
I want insecurity and disquietude;
I want turmoil and brawl.
And if you should give them to me,
my God, once and for all,
let me be sure to have them always,
for I will not always
have the courage to ask for them.
Corporal Zirnheld
Special Air Service
Hardly what I'd call a sissy poem. More will follow.

The Model 1216

I found this on Defense Review, and I really want one, conditionally.

While I've never been as big a fan of shotguns as most firearm enthusiasts, even I think they're the best thing for home defense. Far more power than a pistol, without the over penetration worries of a rifle (assuming you use buck, which you should).

The Model 1216 is an attempt to solve two of the biggest complaints about shotguns. First, the limited magazine capacity and, secondly, the time consuming reloading process. This thing has four mag tubes, as opposed to one, and the whole works can be detached so you can quickly swap in another loaded assembly.

I'd be bound and determined to buy one if it weren't for one little concern. The mag tubes have to be manually rotated. So, you can fire however many round you have in a given tube, then rotate a fresh one in to resume fire. I see a little problem with that.

Ever seen a movie where, in the midst of the dramatic fight scene, someone goes to take a shot that would certainly kill a more important character, and instead the weapon goes 'click'? I've been that guy. Granted, hearing a 'click' on an empty tube with this shotgun wouldn't be as bad as with a pump gun. Just rotate the next tube and go to work, as opposed to having to load the tube one shell at a time (or combat load while fighting, which is way worse).

I'd have to take one to the range and try a few things out and see how they worked. I think I'd try rotating after each shot, train the muscles to rotate the tubes as soon as you feel the recoil. In any event, even if I decide I liked it and bought one, it'd be one of those guns you have to completely retrain yourself to use effectively.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke

The last of the big three has died. While of the three (Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke) he was my least favorite, that's hardly a condemnation considering his contemporaries. He wrote 2001, A space Odyssey, 2010, Rendezvous with Rama, and many other greats. He even originated the idea of geosynchronous orbit.

He was a visionary and he dared us to look beyond the horizons of our little planet and into space.

Writer's block

Despite valiant effort, my recent writing has produced nothing worth posting. I've tried four times now to finish a post titled 'Fear is the mind killer' and have thus far failed consistently to present my points in anything resembling a clear concise manner.

So I shall place it on the back burner for another day.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sugar and spice and everything nice...

You may have heard about the Target under-the-skirt-cameraman. Rachel Lucas has an excellent post on it here. While I'm just as repulsed by the pervert's actions as anyone else, I seem to be lacking in sympathy for the victim. Lucas makes some very good points in the same vein, I highly recommend you read her entire post, and the comments.

I told the wifey about the whole sordid tale and told her I lacked sympathy for the victim. She looked at me like I'd grown horns (happens a lot). Then I asked her, "Could that happen to you?" She seemed shocked I'd even ask and then my point of view clicked with her. Of course it couldn't happen to her, if some stranger tried to get that close to her she would have noticed it instantly and tried to move away, if that failed, she'd have told him to back the hell off.

Which brings us to the point of this little offering. It's bad enough that women are, on the average, smaller and physically weaker than men, but the blatant inattention to their surroundings combined with the ingrained 'be nice' reflex is what really makes them likely candidates for victimization.

Bollocks to that!

I understand fully well that from a young age little girls are, again, on average, less aggressive than boys and that's perfectly normal and I have no problem with it. Also, children are taught not to settle disputes on their own, to get a teacher, parent, adult. I don't disagree with that either to a certain extent, but no one is taught what to do when no one else is available. The rough and tumble nature of coming of age as a boy traditionally (not so much any more) has taught young boys how to deal with bullies and other predators. Not so much with little girls.

Which leads to a phenomenon I've noticed a lot. It's not true of everyone (nothing ever is), but a great many women refuse to confront someone until it's way too late. In the example of the Target pervert, she may, or may not, have noticed the guy standing way to close to her, but if she did, she didn't say anything about it or try to get away. A lot of women would have noticed, and not done anything about it. It's not because they're too scared, it's because they don't want to be mean.

Let me kick a much abused equine corpse here. There is absolutely nothing wrong or mean about defending your personal space. Nor with watching someone your instincts have tagged as a threat. If someone gets within arm's reach (yours or theirs, whoever has more reach) move away. If they don't let you or you don't have room, TELL THEM TO BACK OFF. If that doesn't work, push the issue. No one has any business invading your personal space uninvited. If they're there and you don't want them there, get them out of there.

Your personnel space is your early warning system. The bad guys know psychology just as well as we do. They know that if they invade your personnel space and you don't challenge them, you may feel complicit in your own attack. It is next to impossible for a women to fight effectively when she has feelings of complicity. It's why repressive regimes will force a female prisoner to strip herself prior to questioning. Your personal space is sacred and inviolate, don't let anyone into it without your permission.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A visit to the bookstore

I love going to bookstores. Neurotically so. The simple pleasure of being able to sift through shelf after shelf of nothing but books is why I almost never order books online, even if it is easier and often cheaper. I always have a few books I'm looking for in particular (and if I can't find them I'll get the store to order them) when I'm at a bookstore, but I always find one or two I would have never looked at while scanning the book racks.

Alas, there is only one bookstore worth mentioning (ie. the only one with a sci-fi section) here on my little island. The good news is, it has a huge section of used books. I love the old sci-fi and I feel like I'm digging up buried treasure as I sift through finding the occasional golden age classic (still haven't found Time enough for love though).

But today was something beyond just a normal visit to the bookstore. Oh, I picked up some of my usual fare; Pyramid Scheme by Eric Flint, another of his rather tongue-in-cheek surrealist stories, Star Strike by Ian Douglas, the first book in the third trilogy of his space marines stories, Celestial Hit List by Charles Ingrid, third book in the Sand Wars which has eluded me for a few weeks now, Anvil of Stars by Greg bear, a dimly remembered favorite from childhood. The real treat, however, was the smallest and cheapest book I bought.

Shortly before I joined the Navy (about a decade ago), I read a brief reference to another Greg Bear book called Hard Fought. At the time, I didn't think much of it, I just made a mental note to pick it up sometime. Boot camp came and went, then in A-school I remembered it and figured I needed some recreational reading anyway. Except, I couldn't find it. Not a big deal, even the three large bookstores at the local mall couldn't have every book. Then they couldn't order it because their distributors didn't have it either. The heck? About that time my training schedule began getting increasingly hectic and as I endured my whirlwind of a training pipeline I had to put it out of my mind.

It was two years after joining the navy that life calmed down a little bit (briefly) and I remembered having looked for this one book. I still knew very little about this book except that it had eluded me. That seems to be the single motivating factor here. So I checked the bookstores around my new command. Nope, of course not, and none of them could order it either. That seems to have done it. I got online and looked for it. Zip. When the Navy had me travel I would visit any bookstore I came across, if I had the time, and look. After awhile of doing that, I made up some contact cards and started giving them out to anyone who might come across a copy along with a twenty dollar bill and the promise of more, all over the world. The harder I looked for this damn book, the worse I wanted it. I even joined several internet groups that specialized in rare books. Four or five years into this sad tale, I even paid to have professionals find a copy. Nothing. One of my forum buddies did find a copy once, a few years back, but it was gone before he got a hold of me.

The worst part about it was, I heard from a few people who started looking after I did and managed to get a copy. So while it was rare, it wasn't that rare.

This carried on for ten years. TEN YEARS. I didn't even specify a first edition or anything else, just a copy, any copy, of the damned book.

You see where this is going, right? Of course you do.

I walked into my local bookstore today, looked around in sci-fi section (not sure the store has any other sections) for about thirty seconds and, yeah, there it was.

Bribing bookstore owners the world over: $20 (x?)
Contracting finder’s agencies: $50-150 (x4)
Finding the damn book for $2.00 at the local bookstore: priceless

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gary Gygax, rest in peace

A paragon of the geek world died today. Gary Cygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, and the father of tabletop role-playing, was 69 and is survived by his wife and six children.

Why do I care? Because Gary Cygax shaped an entire generation of geeks (self included) who are now the ones making movies, writing books, and programming video games. Role playing games forced us normally anti-social geeks to band together so we could play, more, that it was okay to be a geek.

Hard to thank someone enough for that.

Everybody was kung-fu fighting...

I suppose that title probably dates me a bit. Oh well.

A lot is made these days of studying martial arts for self defense and I'm inclined to think of this as a good thing. However, there is a great deal myth, balderdash, and outright untruths associated with them and learning effective fighting techniques from a martial art is rarely as straightforward as it should be.

I shall endeavor to dispel some of these myths first:

1. Martial arts are useless in a fight. I list this one first because, like many myths, there's a kernel of truth to it in many cases. In fact, this one would be a truism if it weren't applied with such a broad brush. However, the right system with the right instructor can be a devastatingly effective means of defense. More on that later.

2. Martial arts are just for kids. This, of course, comes from the fact that children and teens are much more likely to be interested in them than adults. Kids are naturally more energetic and rough-and-tumble than adults, but that's hardly an effective condemnation. If you want to learn to protect yourself, you're going to have to work at it and be willing to take some knocks.

3. If I have a gun (knife, baton, OC spray), I don't need to know how to fight with my hands. Sheer and utter balderdash. I've been carrying firearms and other weapons the entirety of my adult life and I've had many occasions to defend myself with my hands. I've had to break a hold, kick my attacker in the knee, and then back up to draw my sidearm, just to give one example. Just talking to some of the people I've worked with, I could come up with two dozen other example at a minimum.

4. This particular style is the only effective one, or that particular one is totally useless. While I've been guilty of thinking that way at times, the fact is the effectiveness depends largely on the instructor, and how much he emphasizes defense, and the student, and how much he takes from it. While certain martial arts are certainly less likely to be useful than others, they all have something to offer.

5. I'm a small person and could never fight off an attacker, or I'm big and don't need any training to defend myself. Again, a kernel of truth. (Another myth is that size doesn't matter, but I'll cover that here.) There's an old joke among martial artists, 'Size doesn't matter, unless the other guy is bigger.' In other words, just because your opponent is smaller, doesn't mean he can't beat you, or if you're smaller, well, you may be in trouble. Size does matter, but it doesn't necessarily trump all other factor. With two people of equal skill, speed, and fitness, yeah, the bigger one will probably win, but how often does such a match up happen? In the extreme, can a tiny little girl beat a huge, muscular man? Yep, I've seen it both in the dojo (where I was the big muscular guy) and in the real world (where I saw a female cop throat punch a suspect armed with a knife and follow it up with a shot to the wedding tackle). Above all else, the will to win/live is the most important thing.

To my way of thinking, there are two basic schools of martial arts. Man-handling and skull-cracking (apologies to SJ games).

Man-handling is largely about subduing your opponent with a minimum of injury to your attacker. It's primarily useful for police, prison guards, and others who may want to subdue a subject with minimal injury. To my way of thinking, this makes it inappropriate for self defense, despite the popularity of 'soft' martial arts for just that purpose.

Skull-cracking is about taking a perfectly healthy human being and reducing him to a quivering mass of shattered bones and burst internal organs. That alone highly recommends for defensive usage. Soldiers, defensively minded citizens, street fighters and many others primarily will use skull-cracking.

The distinction is a bit blurry as most martial arts will include elements of both, but if you look critically, you can usually distinguish a particular move or series of moves as one or the other. It is not striking vs. grappling, it is the results they deal with. While pretty much every strike is a form of skull-cracking, I've seen, and used, a lot of grappling techniques that pull joints out of socket or out right break them.

If you have to defend yourselves with your hands, obviously you want use whatever will give you the best chance to emerge intact. This is why I strongly discourage people to grapple with their attacker. Most people, when grappling, will do just that, grapple. An experience street fighter may tackle you and try to take you down, but he's also going to try bashing your head into the ground, head butting, punching, kicking, or whatever else he can to hurt you. Without experience, it's very hard to grapple effectively against someone who doesn't follow sparring rules. If you can fight on the ground like that, hey, go for it. Otherwise, you're best bet is to break contact, get enough distance to safely draw a weapon, and do so. Breaking contact and getting distance will almost certainly mean getting your hands dirty as your attacker is unlikely to want to let you move away. Hence the skull cracking. Hurt him and then you can move away unhindered.

All that having been said, if you want to learn to defend yourself, you have to find someone who will teach you how to fight. Maybe they won't share my exact views on how to best defend yourself, but they should at least have the same mentality. The problem is, with the commercialization of the martial arts, especially Asian arts, there has been a drive to make them more 'kid-friendly' and kinder/gentler. While any training is probably better than none, you should try to avoid these instructor like the plague. You want an instructor who believes in teaching fighting, not sparring. They can be very hard to find, but they are out there.

How do you tell a good instructor? Well, you want someone who encourages full contact sparring, does his best to minimize injuries, but understands you need to learn how to take a hit and keep going. Minimal or no emphasis on forms or katas (I know I'll get flamed for that, but so what, I'm fair sure I know what I'm talking about). A really good sign is an instructor who occasionally will bring in a red man suit and allow the students to practice the really damaging techniques. An emphasis on the proper execution of move is not, however, a bad sign. Power comes from leverage and technique, so it's a good sign if he wants you to do it a certain way. Lastly, an instructor should know that real fights never occur in a semi-scripted manner, ie strike, counter/block, back off, strike, counter/block, lather rinse repeat. It looks pretty and allows people to show off their more complex moves, but very poorly simulates a real fight.

Where are you most likely to find these instructors? Well, I can tell you generalities, but the fact is you just have to go see for yourself. Tae kwon do is, in my mind, one of the most commercialized, nerfed martial arts in the US and your odds of learning effective defense from it are tiny. However, when I was taking it as a kid, I did meet a few instructors how taught how to fight and fight to win. Not my own instructor, although he wanted to, because he was part of a multi-national school that wanted to encourage kids to join up. On the flip side, of the many Jujitsu instructors I've met, I'd say slightly more than half of them were the right kind of instructor and while I have yet to take Krav maga (it's on the list), I've never even heard of an instructor for it who doesn't teach how to defend yourself very effectively.

In the end, however, you just have to find the right instructor.

Edited to add:

It occurred to me, a bit late, that the above post makes it seem like I disdain any martial art's school that doesn't teach effective self-defense. I didn't mean to. The above was written from the perspective of learning effective self-defense from martial arts. There is nothing wrong at all with going to a dojo, with your kids even, for fun, competition, getting in shape, being part of a tradition, or for any other reason.

Also, the 'softer' methods I refer to as man-handling are perfectly appropriate for use in self defense against someone who you don't want to hurt and can subdue gently without placing yourself in undue risk. Again, I was speaking in the context of life threatening danger.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Domari Nolo

In my morning reading today, I got linked to another blog I hadn't gotten to previously. Go and read it.

Done reading it? Groovy.

I'll preface what follows by saying I'm usually a very good humored kind of person. Granted, most people think I'm a murderously angry misanthrope, but those who know me know better. I don't get visibly mad, ever. Neither my wife nor my children have ever heard me raise my voice even. While I get irritated sometimes and might even use harsh language (especially while driving), I got angry so rarely it's almost a curious experience.

Today, reading the above story, I went incandescent. There's so many people involved that needed a severe beating. The security guard who 'saw everything,' the unmitigated jackasses who just stood and watched, the contemptible cowards who advised 'just giving them what they want,' and of course the bastards who actually attacked her. Those sub-human troglodytes beat her while she was down, just to get her purse? Those two needed their brain cases ventilated badly.

Speaking of 'just giving them what they want.' Are you kidding me? Has that ever helped anyone? Has sheep-like submission ever got anyone less raped, murdered, robbed, or beaten? 'But if I fight back, they'll just hurt me worse!' (Bleet! Bleet!) Maybe, or maybe they were going to kill you eventually anyway. When you submit sheepishly, you empower your predator and make yourself contemptible in their eyes. Congratulations, in the syllabus of lowlifes, you've labeled yourself a victim to be preyed on. Worse, your attacker will be emboldened to attack others. Way to go!

Our heroine goes on to describe how she would react if she were attacked again. I about stood up and clapped.

"If I'm ever in that position again-- unarmed and under attack -- I mean to come away from the experience(even if dead) with at least the trophy of one eyeball from my tormentor with which to festoon my trophy case. Next time would/will be tooth-and-nail. If I have time to access it, my weighty little Leatherman will be slammed forcefully into an accommodating temple-- I will do my best to kill with my bare, immaculately manicured hands: no more Mr. Nice Bitch. There are kneecaps, eyeballs, shins, insteps and wedding tackle among the array of vulnerable areas on an attacker, and I'll set about my business if I must."

That, gentle reader is the mentality.

From a self-defense perspective, everything is just tools, YOU ARE THE WEAPON. You are the only thing you can always count on having.

"I didn't believe in just handing it over, and I don't even moreso now than ever. I'm still no Linda Hamilton, but I think this is a principle that applies not just to possessions or your life, but to our very freedoms and rights as human beings. Don't just give it away without a fight. Passivity gets you nothing but soundly and thoroughly ensconced in the bitch-seat, and you teach the aggressors they were right to disdain you."

That last sentence is worthy of being a motto.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's all about mentality and situational awareness

It's entirely possible that I harp on these more than most for two reasons. First, I have occasionally rushed in where angels fear to tread. Secondly, back when I was a volunteer rape prevention instructor, these were the two prime tools in the self-defense arsenal.

Of course, it feels odd to refer to mentality and situational awareness as two separate tools, even though they are. For me they are so intertwined and perpetually 'on' that they're one and the same. For me, you can't have one without the other, but I digress, on to the meat.

A lot of pundits have stated that mentality is the single most important element to a personal self-defense strategy and I have to agree with the caveat that situational awareness must be part of it. That's, partially, because predators can tell when someone is watching their entire environment and when that is combined with the proper mentality they will look for other targets. I scan everyone, everywhere I go, my wife says it's like I'm 'sizing them up for a coffin.' An accurate description and I've noticed that damn near every like-minded and similarly trained person I know does the exact same thing.

So, what is the proper mentality? I imagine most people will already know this at least partially, but few take it far enough. "Be polite and courteous to everyone, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet." Glib soundbite perhaps, but spot on. Another one is, "Watch hands, hands kill, in God we trust, everyone else keep your hands where I can see them." Another way that situational awareness ties into mentality. At any given moment, whether at work, home, or other safe environment, walking down a dark alley following a skip, or frequenting a bar in the wrong part of town, one should constantly be scanning your environment. Not jerking your head rapidly side-to-side with every step or stopping every few seconds to do a full circle, that just makes you look nervous. It takes a lot of practice to take in a full 360 every ten to fifteen seconds without being conspicous or running into things. Which is yet another reason to do it ALL THE TIME, practice makes perfect. So, you see someone, doesn't matter where or what he/she looks like, now you look for their hands. Where are they? Could they have a weapon? Are their hands positioned like they could retrieve a concealed weapon quickly? Now you look at posture and attitude. Are they slouched like they're not going anywhere soon? Are they poised like they're going to sping? Are they aware of their surroundings? Looking around? Or absorbed in something they're doing? Here's where it gets fun, are they projecting a false image? Trying to look relaxed and inattentive when they're actually ready to move and act on a moment's notice. Fun. The best part is you should learn to take all this in, in a roomful of people in just a half second or so per person. Hence, lots and lots of practice.

So, is that situational awareness in that you're being aware of your surroundings, or mentality because you're actively engaged in a defensive measure at all times. Both, but then you all knew that by now, didn't you? A defensive mentality must include alertness at all times, as outlined above, but also includes a great many other aspects, which I will try to cover in as much detail as possible. It's impossible to overstress the importance of these two things however. An otherwise completly unprepared, untrained, unarmed person still has a chance to protect him/herself if they recognize a threat early enough. For someone with a little training and firearm or other weapon, well, forewarned is forearmed.

Last thing, once you've mastered the threat scan (all the time, all the time), start playing wargames in your head. Yes, it's complicated and eats up your concentration a bit, but you should be playing the 'if/then' game in your head. 'If emo kid to the left pulls his hand out of his jacket and he has a knife in it, then I'm drawing down on him.' Again, it's all in practice. I'm not sure when it became subconscious for me, I've been doing it my entire adult life, but I'm only very vaguely aware I'm even doing it. My wife has gotten to the point she doesn't realize she's doing it unless I ask a specific question. She can respond instantly without thinking about it at all.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who the heck do I think I am?

Being new to this whole blogin' thang, I figured I'd introduce myself.

I'm an English speaking, gun loving and patriotic nerd. Even though I only own about one out of every three books I've read, I have somewhere over a thousand in various locales about the manor. I'm a veteran of the Navy during the Clinton years and opening of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have at various points been a wrench turner, combatives instructor, base cop, wrench turner again, boarding team member, a few things I'd rather not mention (not because they're secrets, get real, I just don't want to talk about them), a bail enforcement trainee, a military construction contractor, a health and fitness consultant, and minimum wage GNC sale's associate. Right now I'm in the process of writing a novel I hope to get published, studying and training to get my WA Bail Enforcement license, and kicking my own ass to be able to pass the Special Forces Q course, hopefully as a prelude to joining the WA National Gaurd's Special Forces unit. Fun fun fun.

I'll be blogging about what I think people should do or be doing to make warriors of themselves. Other bloggers have already covered, in far greater detail than any one person could, the benefits, pitfalls, tips, and tricks of using firearms for self-defense, and while I will occasionally contribute to this ocean of knowledge, I will be largely focusing on less covered means of self-defense. Unarmed, improvised weapons, knives, my beloved collapsible batons, you name it. My goal is help people educate themselves to be able to respond to any situation, not just the ones we're most on the look-out for.

Of course, I'll also be venting spleen about politics, singing the praise (or damning the soul) of new authors I've discovered, relating funny anecdotes I think people will like, sharing my covetous thoughts on firearms I wish to acquire (Sig 250, I'm looking at YOU), and anything else I care to throw on here. I may even occasionally answer E-mails. Who knows? It could happen.