Dec 30, 2010

Is this what normal is?

I've spent the last year working overnights. 11pm-7am. It was a test run, essentially: trying to find a way to spend a bit more time at home and with MrsZ. Previously, I had been working evenings (3p-11p) and almost never saw my wife.

It's been a long year. Sleep became a precious commodity, snatched in fits and bursts when the opportunity arouse. Instead of my preferred 7-9 hours daily, I've been getting about 6 on a good day. Evening social events were again out, unless it was something absolutely critical or on one of my nights off.

I've gained fifteen or so pounds, my blood pressure has gone up, and my stress level has gone through the roof.

I walked out the door at 7:04 this morning and closed that chapter on my career. Beginning next week, I'll be on day shift. I finally came up with the seniority to get there. (Six years in March, although I could be bumped back to evenings in the next shift bid.) MrsZ and I get to commute together at least three days each week. I can be active in my fire department in the evenings. I get to sleep at night. I can do social activities; go out for a beer, enjoy a poker game, invite the neighbors for a BBQ, all that crazy stuff. I'm looking forward to it.

That said... there is a small piece of me that will miss the solitude and freedom of nights. With no upper management and no visitors floating around, it was usually just those of us working with an occasional visit from a deputy bringing coffee. The workload was generally quite tolerable - occasionally even slow - and the calls tended to the dramatic.

On top of that, the group I worked with were some of the best people I've worked with. Certainly there were personality differences, and arguments, but when things had to get done, we did them. We made a pretty good team, playing on each other's strengths and picking up the slack when needed. I'm going to miss working with most of them.

... but not enough to give up my sleep. :-)


(I know I'm behind ... well, most everyone on this. S'OK.)
Thread over on ArfCom about a guy who ND'd into his hand - and somehow did no permanent damage. Looks like he was over-the-top gripping the slide to take down his XD but the edge of his palm was over the muzzle. Tired and frazzled from holidays, etc.

Usual assortment of ArfCom troll comments, some good stuff, but then this caught my eye:

"All guns are loaded"

And I immediately thought, "But some guns are more loaded than others!"

Dec 28, 2010


One of the "perks" of NRA membership is a subscription to one of their magazines. I take "American Rifleman" because it has the articles I tend to find interesting. I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, because the magazine is more than half advertising, and I have yet to find a blunt review of any gun.

Reading the latest issue, however, there is one line that is really tweaking me the wrong way.

In an article about Dakota Arms the writer says,
"Whoa—never heard of Dakota rifles? Can’t be much of a gun guy, I thought."

Condescension much?

In context, the person he was writing about was a customs inspector who couldn't find Dakota on his list of manufacturers. No suggestion that the inspector had ever claimed to be a "gun guy".

This is a perfect example of what I have now deemed "fudditude": the idea that any firearm not considered a traditional sporting arm is unworthy of contemplation. Higher price tags correspond to greater worthiness. (The author's other articles cover double rifles, Federal Premium ammo and Zeiss optics. None are noted as being low-budget items.)

It's entirely possible to be a "gun guy" and not have heard of Dakota Arms. Most of their rifles have price tags higher than my first car. For a "gun guy" who has a couple shotguns and an off-the-rack deer rifle, and maybe reads "American Handgunner" every couple months, there's no reason he'd be aware of a low-production high-price manufacturer. (ATF 2007 report: Dakota Arms produced 493 rifles.)

I consider myself a "gun guy". I'm sure there are plenty of manufacturers I've never heard of, or if I've heard of them in passing there may be no reason I'd remember any particulars.

Let's be honest: how many of us are likely to take an African safari in search of the Big 5? Not I. The hunt of a lifetime for me would be to Canada for brown bear, or Alaska for moose. I can certainly enjoy reading about the adventures of those who do travel to far-off places to shoot animals I'm only going to see in the zoo, and perhaps could someday afford a semi-custom rifle. ("Could afford" should not be confused with "will afford". Something along the lines of a Cooper rifle is probably near my upper limit for any single firearm.)

Maybe "fudditude" isn't right. Maybe it's simple snobbery. Either way, it's not the way to foster positive relations with anyone.

I don't think the NRA is perfect, by any means. Truth be told (IMHO), the Second Amendment Foundation has done more for gun rights in the past five years than the NRA. But - and this is huge - identifying yourself as an NRA writer and then acting the snob is a great way to make someone who is either on the fence or simply unaware into an anti-NRA person. Either simply keep your mouth shut, or smile and maybe explain it a bit. "Oh, they're a small maker from _____."

Or maybe I'm just an angry person.

Dec 24, 2010

Pocket Knife comparison

I think most of us carry a knife of some sort on a daily basis. For many of us, it's a single-blade folder. Benchmade, Gerber, CRKT, Kershaw, whatever. All are great knives with a purpose. But let's face it - some days, a knife blade isn't quite the best tool for a job.

Over the summer I picked up a Victorinox Tinker and carried it around for a week before giving it to my brother-in-law as I got on an airplane to go home. It was a nice knife to have around.

Looking for something along the same idea as a Victorinox Classic, I decided to get a Leatherman Style. That arrived early this month. A few weeks ago, Amazon did a sale on Victorinox knives, so I picked up a few, including an Alox Classic.

Once I had them side-by-side, a review pretty much became mandatory.


The specs are pretty similar. Both are a hair over 2" long, both have a short knife blade, both have a file/screwdriver, both have scissors. Either of them can be had for under $20, and usually under $15.

The Alox Classic is a VERY slim knife, and foregoes the tweezers and toothpick that Swiss Army Knives are known for. It's also about 2/3 the weight of the Style. By getting a traditional red Classic, the thickness increases, as does the weight, but it adds tweezers and a toothpick.

The Style... I want to like it. The size is right. The tools are right. Leatherman has a great reputation for quality tools - I own at least four of their full-size tools and have zero complaints about any of them.

Unfortunately, the Style is a piece of crap.

It feels cheap and unfinished.

Here we go, with pictures:


First up, the knife blade. Both are a bit over 1.5" long; a good size for opening envelopes, peeling an orange, cutting small rope or twine - basically, any small-knife tasks! Out of the box, both are VERY sharp.

The Style has a "normal" blade profile, and is single-grind: the back side is flat all the way to the cutting edge, the front side has a fairly wide angle to it. Easy to sharpen, but for a left-handed user, a push-cut will be less effective. Additionally, the spine of the blade has VERY sharp edges - a quick grind down both sides would have smoothed it out tremendously. It just feels unfinished.

The Classic has the usual pen knife "spear point" blade, and is a lighter blade than the Style. For anything this size knife is appropriate for, the lighter blade is perfectly acceptable.


Both have a nail file/flat screwdriver combination blade, and the only gripe I have about the Style in this regard is that the opening divot is within the file. It's an unpleasant sensation to grind the end of a nail into the file, as opposed to filing it.

Neither screwdriver is suited for heavy tasks, but that's typical of any small knife - and many of the larger multi-tools, as well. If you need a screwdriver, go get a screwdriver!


The scissors... The scissors on the Style are pathetic. The little lever that is supposed to open them up for you doesn't have enough oomph to open them any further than what you see above. Acceptable for snipping a thread, perhaps, but nothing else. Additionally, because of where the moving part of the scissor is relative to how it folds out, getting a full-depth cut means squeezing the lever past the edge of the knife. It's really a poor design.


Style on the left, Alox Classic on the right. The Style is, quite literally, twice the thickness of the Classic.


Next to keys for size comparison; I keep the Classic on this keyring now, and the Style has been quickly relegated to the drawer o' knives.

One other point about the Style: on the right end (in the picture above), the pointy end is not tacked or riveted down. It's made of very thin metal, and has a penchant for bending away from the body of the knife just slightly. It was less than 24 hours before I stabbed the end of my finger on that point, quite painfully (but no blood).

I still like my Leatherman multi-tools. A PST, a Core, a 200, and a Kick all float around my pockets and gear from time to time. I gave my groomsmen Squirt tools for my wedding, and those are, to the best of my knowledge, still getting regular use.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the Style as a wise purchase. If you need a small pocket knife for times when a clip-on folder isn't appropriate, spend your money on a Victorinox or Wenger Swiss Army Knife.

#GBC Secret Santa 2010

Over at Gunblogger Conspiracy, pdb set up a Secret Santa for us.

Mine showed up a couple days ago and I (of course) ignored the "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS" blazoned across the box. :-)

Inside I found... a 5.11 pistol case, and a MOLON LABE ball cap.


Thanks, JP!

Dec 20, 2010

"This above all...

... To thine own self be true". (Polonius, Hamlet, I:3:78)

Brigid has a post up with a few good pointers.

I felt it, rather than heard it, a coldness at the very base of my spine, a sense, somehow, that I was being watched. There was no sound, no steady growl of rustle or movement upon which our mind will tell us to hurry along. Yet, I knew it was there; the murmur of threat, the panting whispers of predators unseen.
I was operating on the instinct of an animal, one that is both predator and prey.
Instinct overrode logic and when I got to within a few feet of the car, I literally ran and dove in, slamming the door behind me. Echoing in that sound was a large WHUMP against the back of the vehicle as if something had bounced off of it.

There is a book out there, titled "The Gift of Fear", by Gavin deBecker, that touches on this. On page 6:
I've learned some lessons about safety through years of asking people who've suffered violence, "Could you have seen this coming?" Most often they say, "No, it just came out of nowhere," but if I am quiet, if I wait a moment, here comes the information: "I felt uneasy when I met that guy..." or "Now that I think of it, I was suspicious when he approached me," or "I realize now I had seen that car earlier in the day."
Of course, if they realize it now, they knew it then. We all see the signals because there is a universal code of violence. You'll find some of what you need to break that code in the following chapters, but most of it is in you.
(Emphasis mine - Z.)

We have surrounded ourselves with convenience, mechanical safeguards, and other things to insulate us from the dangers of the world, but at his most basic levels, man is an animal with animal instincts. Sadly, most of us have managed to suppress those instincts, choosing instead to trust to - what? Human kindness?

We are not the end of the food chain, literally or figuratively. There are predators out there. Some walk the woods and fields on four paws, others pad the streets on Nikes. We are developed to identify threats - consciously or not - and respond to them. Fight-or-flight, no? But we suppress that reflex, simply to prevent offending someone, or [sarcasm]worse yet, looking silly[/sarcasm]. Silly is a much better way to look than dead.

While out hunting, particularly when walking in or out of the woods in the dark, I don't carry my gun on its sling. I keep it at low-ready. My carry pistol isn't carried in "condition 3"; there is always one in the tube.

Why? Predators rarely call ahead to announce their intentions. Brigid was stalked by a large wild cat and had no warning; her revelation was that "thump" of a cat into a bumper. A mugger isn't going to wander the streets wearing a sandwich board that says, "MUGGING ABOUT TO HAPPEN".

Make no mistake: predators aren't invisible. We just have to know what to watch for. Brigid didn't look back that night. Would she have seen a wild cat stalking along the side of a lonely country drive? Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn't matter. She knew it was there. Those "urban yoots" who crossed the street towards you down the block? You see them. Are they going home, or waiting for you to come to them? As long as you know they're there and are willing to react appropriately, it doesn't matter.

Most predators, on being recognized as such - and recognizing that perhaps their intended victim is not the soft target they'd imagined, will move on to easier prey. Would Brigid's stalker have gone looking for a rabbit? Will those yoots let you pass by with nothing more than a token snarl?

I've blogged it in detail before, but I'll excerpt the critical parts:

...We pulled into the rest area, which was pretty empty. There was one other car in the lot, running, with at least two people in it. We parked a couple spots down and under a light, shut off the truck, stretched for a few seconds, then hopped out. Between the time I'd parked and getting out of the truck, someone had gotten out of the car and walked all the way around the back of my truck, stopping essentially right at the driver's rear corner by the bumper. The very first words out of his mouth were, "Hey, sorry to walk up on y'all like this."

My first reaction was to get both hands out of coat pockets and turn my left side slightly toward him, while my right hand rested on my belt just behind my hip - essentially on the sheath for my Leatherman tool, but also precisely where I would carry a pistol (this was prior to my carrying full-time - Z.).

He rambled on with a long story [...] [with] both hands up in front of him as he talked. Eventually he got to the point and asked for "fourteen dollars". Kind of a random number, but the easy answer was, "Sorry, I don't carry cash." He started backing away then, apologized a couple more times for, "Walking up on y'all," and got into the car.
Was he just looking for a few bucks in sympathy? Maybe. If I'd reached for my wallet, would a knife or gun have appeared? Maybe. Either way, he realized pretty quick that he'd picked the wrong prey, and disappeared most rikki-tik. Did I handle it perfectly? No. But that going back to deBecker, "I felt uneasy when I met that guy." That's all I needed to know.

I'm not advocating living our lives in fear and constantly looking over our shoulders, by any means. But we have to learn to listen to that little voice inside; the one that says, "This is a Bad Person/Situation/Place." Learn to be somewhere else. What's the worst that can happen? You leave a party/club early? Walk three blocks instead of one? Offend someone who really did mean well? Burn an extra half-gallon of gas? Big deal.

This above all: to thine own self be true.

Sellin' Out

I have become a (more) shameless capitalist and have sold a bit of advertising to Sportsman's Guide. It's over towards the bottom of the sidebar (Yay Capitalism: Rifle Ammo); please feel free to click through for your ammo needs.

Dec 16, 2010

Group Hunt, closed!

I've gotten several takers, and don't want to over-extend myself (or my welcome with my in-laws)... so the list is closed at this point!

The maniacal few who were quick to respond are JayG, Cybrus, Wally, and Dragon.

LinkP - if you're serious about coming cross-country for a hunt, you'd be most welcome.

All other planning will be done by email, so the blog won't be any further cluttered.

Dec 15, 2010

I have a hunch...

... That this could be the basis of a bi-partisan agreement.


(The whole headline is "Republicans favor BJ's Wholesale Proposal" ... but that's how it appeared in my ticker.)

Stupid Criminal Tricks

"Gunman on motorcycle robs Bellagio casino of $1.5M in chips"

That's a hell of a way to end up dead.

Especially since the chips are essentially worthless within hours, as the casino cycles out everything on the playing floor and in the cages for new designs.

Dec 14, 2010

Group Hunt, Part 2

It appears that there are at least a few of you interested in making this happen.

So, you all have a homework assignment: take your hunter education class. Contact your state DEC/DNR/FWC/FGC/whatever and find out when and where.

The class will give you a certificate. NY will recognize the certificate from all other states. You will need the certificate itself to get a NY hunting license the first time; after that you can simply show your existing NY license to get a new one. (So keep the certificate in a safe place. Mine is in an envelope taped to the inside of the gun safe.)

My gut feel on dates would be the week following Thanksgiving, probably Wed/Thu through Sat/Sun. (11/30-12/3 or 12/1-4.)

And this will be the last blog post about this: anyone (Cybrus, Jay, Wally, I'm looking at you three) who is serious about doing this, please email me (zercool gmail com) and we'll start sorting this out as a group.

Dec 13, 2010

Group Hunt?

As hunting season starts winding down, I'm already thinking about next year.

Seeing the posts from TooOld and Ambulance Driver about their hunt with Alan, MattG, and Vine has me toying with the idea of a small group hunt for a few of the #GBC'ers.

I have free access to about 250 acres of private land that is a mix of fields, woods, and a bit of swampy bottom stuff. There are BIG deer in there. (The doe I got last year had - no shit - two INCHES of back fat. And marbling. I've never before seen a deer with marbled meat.)

So, at least initially, I'm looking to gauge interest. I'm thinking four to six people total, and hunting newbies would be welcome, for two or three days of hunting during the regular season (late November/early December) 2011.

Costs would be lodging (inexpensive motels are readily available), meals, travel, and licenses.

So ... pipe up. Is this something I should try to plan?

Dec 10, 2010

Doe. (A deer!)

MrsZ's shiny new CR-V is going to be getting an even shinier-new front end.

Squared off with a doe at 55mph last night.

The deer didn't walk away, the CR-V didn't drive away... I don't know who wins that round.

Pictures forthcoming once I get down to the wrecker yard and remove a few more things from the car.


Edit to add pictures:



By my count: hood, grill, bumper cover, d/s fender, d/s wheel well, two headlight assemblies, radiator, fan, battery, battery mount, and a couple reservoirs all have to be replaced. There is some scuffing down the driver's side where the deer tumbled, and the driver's door grates on the fender when opening. Paint work (or at least clearcoat) all the way down the side, probably.

This ain't gonna be pretty, but State Farm gets to cover the VAST majority of it.

Also, for those of you who have Traveler's insurance, consider changing. While I was at the shop some guy in a Traveler's jacket was there to do an estimate on another car; he asked who the insurer was on the CR-V. I told him, and asked why. "Because I don't want to look at the damn thing."

After he left the office the guy working there said, "That's the first time I've ever met that guy, and I want to wrap a chair around his neck. What a dick!"

Dec 8, 2010

Car Kit

Last week, friend and fellow blogger mhaithaca put together a post on the bare minimum of things he keeps in his car. It's a good start, and nudged me to put together a kit for MrsZ's car. Please understand, this is in addition to the permanent items like a flashlight, some hand tools, a fire extinguisher, a few road flares, tire sealant and compressor, etc.

Mark's entry was prompted by the lake effect blast that shut down several miles of the NYS ThruWay around Buffalo. Most drivers were only stuck in their cars for ten to twelve hours, which is unpleasant but generally not dangerous - at least in temperate climates. Given the unpredictability of snow in that (and many other) areas though, a motorist could easily be stranded for 24 to 48 hours. In remote areas that number could easily triple. (Remember that family on the West Coast that accidentally went up a seasonal road?)

Do you have enough in your car to survive for six days in winter?

First and foremost: there is no such thing as "just a quick trip to the store" in winter. If you run out of gas, or get a flat tire, or slide into a ditch, are you dressed to deal with the situation without endangering yourself? Grabbing a three-season coat and light gloves to go from the house to the garage and the parking lot into the office is fine - but make sure you've got an extra sweatshirt, a winter hat, and some real gloves or mittens in the car. Throw an extra pair of wool socks in there too.

If you're stranded on the highway, how are you going to keep warm? Hopefully you're keeping your gas tank at least half-full at all times. Make sure your exhaust stays clear, and run the car for 15-20 minutes out of every two hours. Turn the defroster and air conditioner OFF - just use the heater and fan. Crack a back window to get a little bit of fresh air without losing all the heat. Cycling the engine like this should allow a half-tank of fuel to last a few days without any trouble and will keep the car tolerable if not exactly comfortable. (Most cars and light trucks will go about 300-400 miles on a full tank of fuel at highway speeds; that's five to seven hours of running time.)

Have something to eat? (A pack of gum, a box of tic-tacs, and an old package of Ding-Dongs really doesn't count.) You want something calorie-dense. Clif bars are a good option, as are most granola bars, and peanut butter.

How about water? A nalgene bottle kept 3/4 full won't burst if it freezes, and will keep you from going terribly thirsty too fast.

Now, how to make it all much easier? Put together a car kit. A backpack, plastic tote, cardboard box, whatever - put everything in one container and make it easy. I went through Walmart on my way home from work this morning, and this is what I put together:
  • A Rubbermaid "Action Packer" tub (small size)
  • two light fleece throws
  • an enamel mug
  • Bic lighters
  • a watertight match container
  • a collapsible candle lantern
  • spare candles
  • a whistle
  • a lightweight poncho
  • two cheap folding knives
  • half a dozen chemical heat packs
Grand total: $66.

I supplemented that when I got home with two MREs, a few tea bags, two envelopes of cocoa mix, a mylar "space blanket", two "Frontier" filter straws, and a Nalgene water bottle.


A candle lantern, by itself, will put out enough heat to keep a car tolerably warm. Interspersing that with running the engine will keep the temperature up even longer. In addition, you can put the mug on top of the lantern to melt snow or heat water to make tea or cocoa.

Chemical heat packs will keep fingers and toes warmer or help thaw out frostbitten parts.

The fleece blankets, particularly when combined with the mylar blanket (fleece inside, mylar outside!), will keep one person VERY warm in extremely cold weather.

Lighters and matches are great for building a fire, lighting that candle, and are just a good thing to have around.

Cheap knives - and there are two, because two is one, etc - can be used to fir a stick for tinder, or anything else your little heart desires. Would a better knife be a good idea? Perhaps. But for a buck apiece, these are a pretty good value.

A Nalgene bottle part full lets you have an initial supply of water, and keep whatever water you melt. If you're not sure of your water source, use those Frontier filter straws to reduce the chance of getting sick.

Tea and cocoa... hot liquids are a great way to raise the core temperature quickly. It's important to remember that tea (non-herbal) generally contains caffeine, which is a diuretic. If you're like me and a bit of caffeine daily is necessary, make sure you drink a bit more water to avoid dehydration.

MREs aren't necessarily tasty, but they are calorie-rich and include a heater so you can have a hot meal. They can be a bit pricey - about $70 for a case of 12 - but it's worth it. If you stretch the meal a bit and aren't working hard, it has enough calories to feed you for one day - approximately 1,250cal. (If you're buying a case of MREs, make sure you buy them with heaters. The food is edible without, but wouldn't you prefer a hot meal?)

Finally, the whistle is great for signaling if you are off the road a bit.

All of this fits easily into the tub, with a bit of room to spare for whatever you think is appropriate - an extra pair of socks, a hat, a paperback novel, spare box of ammo, etc. That tub should fit in the trunk of nearly any car on the road today, excepting exotics - and if you get stuck in a blizzard in your Ferrari, I don't feel too bad for you.

(Side note: Why didn't I get into firearms in this entry? Because you should already have your carry piece with you, and this isn't about that. Suffice it to say that there may be "have-nots" who wish to become "haves". Discourage as appropriate, but share if you can.)

Dec 6, 2010

Warm ears

I stopped by the local big-box sporting goods store earlier this week, looking for a new hat and gloves for hunting. I ended up getting a decent pair of gloves and a "mad bomber"-style hat. Now, it's no cunning hat, but that's ok. I don't have the 'stache to rock a cunning hat.

I went hunting after I got out of work this (Sunday) morning. The weather was foul. It had snowed most of the night and the plows hadn't done their thing yet. With the truck locked in 4HI, it took me about 20 minutes to go ten miles.

I got there just as Hunting Buddy was pulling a small button buck out of the woods, with (he says) an 8-point still waiting in the ravine. He was short on time and wanted to keep hunting, so we set up for a quick drive (he'd walk, two of us would sit) and I settled in to watch.

It was a near-perfect morning, and spot. Cold but not bitter, I had a nice spot tucked in the lee of pine tree and about six feet below the edge of the ravine. The wind would gust a little snow over me now and then, but never really caught me. I watched across the flat bottom and creek below, and tried to stay awake. I nodded off a few times for a minute or two, so perhaps I missed seeing a deer, but likely not.

I did get to see a very small red fox at a flat-out run as Hunting Buddy pushed down the far side of the ravine and across the bottom. I toyed with the idea of taking it, but (1) it was at a dead run, (2) I wasn't going to spend a $3 slug on a fox, and (3) I'm cheap and wouldn't feel like paying to have it mounted.

Having finished that small drive with no luck, we moved to another spot to repeat the process. This time, however, we were on the windward side of the highest point for a mile in any direction, in a cut field. 25 and sheltered from the wind was comfortable; 25 and walking into a 20-25mph prevailing wind was bitter cold.

I have to give credit to the hat, though: my ears were toasty warm! My nose and cheeks took it hard, but no permanent damage. As far as I'm concerned, that 30-minute walk/wait has already made the hat worth the price.

Hopefully I'll sneak out a few more times this week and put another doe in the garage.

Dec 3, 2010



Most of us have some trinket or souvenir from our past that we've kept around for sentimental reasons. A postcard, a shell, a stuffed animal... or in my case, a coffee mug.

For as long as I can remember growing up, that mug was Dad's Mug. Coffee, cocoa, anything hot went in that mug.

When I was getting ready for college, we spent weeks making lists and making sure I had everything I'd need to survive dorm life. Sheets, pillows, blankets, food galore, clothes, laundry soap, dish soap, dishes, etc. A set of silverware and a plate and glass... and a mug. But I didn't take just any mug.

I went to Dad and I asked him - when he was in a good mood - if I could take His Mug. I didn't explain it to him - we don't have that kind of relationship - but I think he knew that I needed a little piece of home along with me.

He hemmed and hawed a little bit, then consented to parting with it.

It went to college with me. It survived a year in the dorm, a move home, a move to an apartment, a year there, another move home, and then ten more moves over the following years. It's still in one piece, and it's still my favorite mug ... even though it's still Dad's Mug. When my parents visit, Dad still gets his hot drinks in that mug.

It's not much to look at. Nothing sets it apart from any other mug in the cabinet. It's not the largest, or the smallest, but it holds more than coffee for me. A whole lot more.

Thanks, Dad.

Another notch

If you'll recall my post from two days ago, I wished for snow. After I wrote that post, I made a mug of cocoa and settled in with a book and a puppy while I listened to the rain patter on the patio doors.


An hour later, mug empty, I went out to the kitchen to find some more cocoa. Glancing out the kitchen window, my wish had come true: there was a good inch of fresh wet snow, and more coming fast.

We ended up with just a couple inches, but it was enough to make things clean and white for a while. The lower-lying areas around us had some problems with flash flooding; the high school got a few inches of water in the hallways and a few people drove their car into flooded roads and then flooded ditches. While our house isn't completely immune to such things, it's in a pretty good spot and we'd need a whole lot more than two or three inches of rain to cause problems.

The weather broke late Wednesday evening, and while Thursday was overcast, it was reasonably mild, not windy, and there was enough snow to make spotting deer a bit easier. I changed and headed out around 2, arriving at my hunting spot around 2:45.

Pulling on the remainder of my clothes and loading the gun, I moseyed in to the woods, watching the trail and muttering to myself about life. As I rounded a bend in the path, a snort from my right froze me in my tracks, and I slowly turned my head that way. Not twenty-five yards away stood a small deer. I brought the gun up and clicked off the safety, drew a bead...

And lowered the gun and put the safety back on.

Rule 4, kids. "Identify your target, and what is behind it." It's easy to get a little turned around in the woods, and a difference of 30 degrees can be the difference between shooting towards a house and an open field. I knew for a fact that there was a state highway about 200 yards beyond the deer, and while the woods between were dense, I wasn't going to take a chance on a stray slug going somewhere I didn't want.

We stood and watched each other for a few more minutes, then he (90% sure it was a button buck) turned and loped off. I headed further down the trail and found a comfy tree to sit against overlooking a wide swale, with an easy view into an adjacent cornfield.

As I sat, a few flakes drifted down, and the highway in the distance faded into background noise; like cicadas in the summertime you don't hear it unless you listen for it. Even the squirrels were quiet today, and contemplative silence was what the doctor ordered.

After 45 minutes or so, I moved my seat to the other side of the trail for a slightly better view of the opposite side of the swale. Half an hour later, a bit of movement out of the corner of my eye turned my head to the cornfield. Sure enough, a deer was coming up over the edge of the swale and into the field - a common spot for them at sunset. I turned my torso a bit and brought the gun up and double-checked for antlers through the scope. None - good. Not even nubbins that I could see.

I clicked the safety off, calmed my breathing, and waited. She took a step forward into a good clear spot and started nosing the ground for forage. I settled the crosshairs just behind the shoulder, held a breath, and squeezed the trigger.

The gun barked, the deer jumped ... and started running. She'd only been 35 or 40 yards from me when I pulled the trigger, and ran in a wide arc to my left. I worked the slide on the Mossberg as I stood up and brought it back to my shoulder. Just as I brought my cheek down on the comb, she stopped for a moment, and I thought I was going to have a clear second shot.

Instead, she fell over. A few kicks later she stopped moving. I thumbed another shell into the magazine and set my gun down against a tree for a moment. After I found my spent brass I picked up the gun and started walking towards the deer - and was greeted by two snorts and two tails bounding off from the same spot she'd come out of. If I'd looked, I would have seen them and could easily have hung up another one, but I didn't (and that's ok).

She's another small-ish doe, probably going 110-120 on the hoof, but in fine shape and should be nice and tender. I filled out my tag, dressed her out (again, the 20ga SSTs went through-and-through in the chest, and both lungs were pulverized), and dragged her back to the truck. On the way back I bumped yet another deer out, but it was far past legal shooting light and my gun was already unloaded.

I got home and hung her in the garage; in a few days I'll skin and quarter her, and we'll figure out how to divide this one. Loin medallions, some grind, and some stew cubes, most likely.

I'd like to get at least one more deer this season. There's a week of regular season left, then ten days of muzzleloader. I've got one antler tag, one deer management tag, and two tags for muzzleloader... we'll see how it goes.

Dusty room

AD writes about stains - the ones we can shout out, and the ones that mark the very fibers of our being. Shouting, screaming, laughing - some stains won't come out.

So yeah, that’s why I was in your Emergency Department at 0645 this morning with a big mascara stain on my shirt. I’m sorry I didn’t smile at your joke, and I promise the next time you see me, I’ll be wearing a clean uniform.

Read the whole thing.

I've worked the field as a volunteer for just shy of a decade now, and worked the console for a check for six years. I've picked up my own share of stains along the way.

There are days that I (and I think most of us in emergency services) ask myself, "Why the hell am I doing this?" Why take the abuse, the hours, the lost sleep, missed meals, fast food, caffeine, and why pay the emotional toll? If someone who has worked one of these jobs for any significant length of time tells you that the job never gets to them, they are lying. Either to you or to themselves, but they're lying.

So why do we do it?

The only answer I can come up with - the one I keep coming back to - is simple.

Someone has to.

"Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy how's yer soul?
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints:
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;"

Rudyard Kipling, "Tommy"

Dec 1, 2010

Karma time, kids

I don't know how many of you read Tam regularly - most of you, I'm hoping. (If you don't, you should. Guns, snark, and generally the wittiest things I'll read in a day.)

Anyways, she managed to break a tooth. Must have been some undercooked kheer or something...

Whatever it was, she, like many of us, doesn't have the funds for immediate corrective action. There is, however, a donate button over on the right sidebar of her blog. If you've gotten something of value - even something of intangible value, like a smile (without a gap) - from her blog, please consider dropping a sawbuck or two in the pot.

The gun blog community is a pretty tight bunch, and I'd hope we can help take care of one of our own. (Not because we have to, this ain't no tax fer another gummint program; but because we want to.) And, yes, there's a bit of a karma aspect to it - I'd hope someone would do the same for me in a similar situation, even if I don't write as well or have as many readers as Tam.

So - Tam - feel better, my click has been made, and I hope you get a few more hits.

Weather, sitting beneath

A few random thoughts:
If we call the ugly hot weather of mid to late summer the "dog days of summer", are the miserable days of late autumn and early winter the "cat days of winter"? Around here, the cats are intent on spending time on me.

The weather forecast for the space shuttle must be boring. "Hey Joe, what's the weather today?" "Sunny, dark, sunny, dark, sunny, dark, sunny, dark, (repeat to a total of sixteen), either 600 above or absolute zero, with no chance of precipitation."

I closed the storm windows yesterday, because I'd forgotten to earlier in the year. The house is a solid five degrees warmer this morning. Looks like I'll be re-glazing some windows in the spring, too.

It's December. Can we please stop with the rain and make with the snow? Please? Z much prefers looking for brown deer on white snow, instead of brown deer on brown leaves.

I shot at (and missed) a doe last week: from about 60 yards, I hit the ONLY branch between us, sending the slug off to who-knows-where. The deer wandered off. I did check very carefully for blood or hair where she'd been - and where she wandered - and found nothing.

The deer that I got ten days ago has been fully processed. There are two trussed loin roasts in the freezer, and the rest was ground. Nine-plus pounds of grind, and about 12 pounds of sausage in one form or another.

Another deer would be really nice about now...

On that note, it's time to make cocoa and read a few more chapters!

Nov 27, 2010

Title 18

A few items of thought...

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241
Conspiracy Against Rights

This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242
Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.

As far back as the circuit court ruling in Corfield v. Coryell, 6 Fed. Cas. 546 (1823), the Supreme Court recognized freedom of movement as a fundamental Constitutional right. In Paul v. Virginia, 75 U.S. 168 (1869), the Court defined freedom of movement as "right of free ingress into other States, and egress from them.

Black Friday

When I drove in to work last night, the local Shrine to Consumerism already had lines forming outside the doors. Forecast for the night: 35F and rainy. Perfect.

Coming home, the lot was full - very full. I saw a few empty spaces, and people circling looking for closer spots. I chuckled and kept driving.

I mentioned it in passing to MrsZ, who muttered about consumerism at its worst.

Uncle mentioned it today, although he was doing his shopping Robb Allen style.

Stores have figured this out; particularly those with a significant online presence: they aren't losing any in-store customers by offering similar deals online at the same time. There are people who, for whatever reason, thrive on the crowds and insanity that go with Black Friday shopping. There are some who will brave the crowds for what they perceive as a great deal but otherwise don't participate.

And then there are those like me, who can't tolerate that kind of crowd or rush for any reason. We're the consumers that they're grabbing with online deals. If I can stay at home, click a few links, and have my deal show up three days later, it's absolutely worth a few extra dollars to me - although most places aren't even charging for shipping at this point.

And yes, I can do it without pants.

Side note: Amazon has a pretty good deal going on Victorinox Swiss Army Knives right now.

Nov 24, 2010

Heating update

We had coal delivered last week from a new supplier. Talk about a night-and-day difference.

The person I talked to on the phone was friendly and helpful, the driver was cheerful and more than happy to split the load between two bins, and the coal ... well, I can only begin to describe how much better it is. Less expensive (partly because it's bulk, not bagged), cleaner, oiled, and MUCH higher quality. Almost no fines, just good solid chunks of anthracite. It's burning slower, hotter, and creating much less ash with much lower mineral content. (Plain gray ash, instead of the yellows and browns from the last batch.)

I still had some from the last delivery, and took a few pictures for comparison:

Old on the left, new on the right:



Note the numerous crumbs and dust with the old stuff, and the smear of filth it left on the tub. That stuff is what clogs up automatic stoves, potentially to the point of non-function. Ours self-extinguished last year after the coal built it's own bridge over the feed chute - no coal dropped in, so the stove went out. We had to make it a point to stir the coal hopper daily to make sure it would keep feeding.

A side note: we knew there was a problem with that coal after burning a few bags. I took one back to the shop and asked them to exchange it. The dealer dodged it any way he could. I'd had the coal delivered to my house; he said if I wanted it exchanged I had to bring it back. (A full ton of coal would be four trips in my compact pickup, I won't put a half-ton in there.) I told him that wasn't acceptable; I'd paid for delivery and he'd have to deliver the replacement as well. He hemmed and hawed and said he might get around to it, "In a couple weeks."

I called him every couple weeks for the next couple months and he never made time for me.

So, for an hour's labor and exchanging 3/4 ton of coal, he lost a customer forever - and as many people as I can turn away. I've told anyone who heats with coal to avoid him.

The shop, by the by, is COUNTRYSIDE STOVE SHOP in Burdett, NY. Avoid him like the plague; he doesn't care a rat's ass about customer service.

The new coal came from Holden Coal, in Ovid, NY. I would gladly recommend them to anyone looking for a coal supplier; their staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and their delivery drivers keep appointments.

Nov 23, 2010

One tag filled

Regular (gun) season for deer has opened in New York, and I've been out twice. True to form, I made opening morning with my hunting mentor, and saw nothing. It's possible that dozing off under my tree had something to do with that, but I can't be certain.

Sunday afternoon I went to another spot where I've had no luck over a couple years - I've seen plenty of deer, but have never been in proper position to take a shot. True to form, I picked a spot against a round bale halfway down the field and settled in to wait. I enjoyed the light breeze and the occasional sunshine, and saw precisely nothing.

Shortly before sunset, I peeked around my bale towards the other end of the field, and sure enough, there was a doe poking her way out of the woods. I stood up and laid my gun across the bale, but wasn't comfortable with the distance - in excess of 150 yards. As I watched through my scope, two more deer joined her on the fringe.

I decided to take a chance, since it was still early in the season, and nearing sunset. I walked diagonally to another bale about 40 yards closer. With the sun behind me, the breeze mostly in my favor, and the deer not spooked yet, it was worth trying. Hint: never watch your prey directly when you move. An occasional glance, or watch from the corner of your eye, but never direct eye contact. It sounds weird, but it's true.

When I reached the closer bale, I slowly popped up behind it and set my gun across. Two more deer had joined the crowd, meaning there were five does in a tight group. I clicked off my safety and settled my breathing, and waited. One finally detached herself from the group and gave me a broadside shot.

I pulled the trigger...

And missed. Clean miss. They flinched and stood still.

I worked the slide of the Mossberg and took another shot. Another miss, and yet the deer stood there.

Clearly, something was amiss. (No pun intended.)

I stalked my way to yet another closer bale, dropping another 25 yards from the distance, and slipping one more shell into the shotgun as I walked. (I tend to keep the "duck plug" in my guns; at $2-3/shot for sabot slugs, it keeps me from getting too trigger happy.) I laid across this bale, settled in, and waited for one to give me a shot. They kept standing in front of each other, in lines of two or three.

Finally, with a bit of hay tickling my nose, one turned sideways and stepped out from the bunch. I picked my aim point and squeezed through the trigger, seeing the muzzle flash and the deer I'd aimed at buck up. It looked like a good hit, and she started to run, but with a clear stumble. About thirty yards down the edge of the field, she fell and thrashed for a moment. I trotted out from behind my bale and across the grass. As I got close, I drew my pistol and watched for breathing or twitching, but she was clearly dead.

I said a quiet thank-you to the gods of the hunt, and scooted back across the field to collect my seat and empty shells. Back to the deer, filled out my tag, and dressed her out. Nothing huge - perhaps 130lb on the hoof - but she'll be tender and lean.

The weather hasn't been ideal for hanging, so I hung her up in the garage Sunday night, and today I skinned and quartered her. The backstraps have been trussed up as roasts, and the quarters will get cut tomorrow. Lots of grind, perhaps a bit of stew meat.

As an aside, there are plenty of hunters out there who will suggest that the only shotgun appropriate for deer is a 12ga. I beg to differ, and if these two pictures don't make the point, nothing will. This was approximately 100 yards, from a 24" fully rifled (and ported) 20ga Mossberg 500. Load was a Hornady SST 250gr sabot slug with a muzzle velocity of ~1800fps.

(Please note, these pictures are AFTER I quartered the deer, so some might find them distasteful.)

Entry side.
Exit side.

If you look close, you'll see that the slug went through-and-through, with very little bloodshot meat on either side. The lungs were essentially pulverized, and the deer effectively dropped in place. (Having tracked deer further than a quarter-mile, anything less than fifty yards is "in place" in my book.) I would gladly recommend this gun and load combination to someone looking for a great all-purpose gun.

Nov 20, 2010

Knock-knock, bang-bang

Over at ArfCom, I stumbled into this thread leading to a thread about the aftermath of a home invasion shooting (on XDTalk). Here's the first couple lines from the first post. Read the original posts; skim the comments as you see fit, keeping in mind that it's on the internet.

We are all ok thanks to my wife. There is no way to prepare for a phone call from your wife while you are at work that go exactly like this:

Me: Hi sweetie!
Wife: I need you home now, I just shot two invaders!
Me: On the way now! (end of call)

Part 1. "Home Invasion in Oklahoma: Mine"

Part 2. "Things we learned from the home invasion in Oklahoma"

Part 3. "I need to vent"

Got that?

One of the local news stations has a portion of the 911 call posted here.

I can not and will not presume to offer legal advice here. From a criminal legal standpoint, they appear to be in good shape. I don't know if Oklahoma precludes civil suits in justifiable self-defense, but it is something to be aware of.

One of the replies in Part 2 is this:
I was not happy with some of her questions to your wife, answers that could be used against her after the fact.
Please understand this: a dispatcher's job is to get as much information as possible. The more information we have, and the more accurate it is, the better-informed the responding officers should be. Our job is not to incriminate you, interrogate you, or judge you. We want to get you the right kind of help as quickly as possible. Giving our responders relevant information is part of that.

Yes, the recording of a 911 call can (and will) be subpoenaed as evidence in a trial. That said:

What you say on a 911 call will not change whether a shooting was justified or not.

Let me state that again to emphasize the point.

What you say on a 911 call will not change whether a shooting was justified or not.

What it COULD change is the perception of a prosecutor or jury (grand, criminal, or civil). Answer the dispatcher's questions concisely and honestly. I understand adrenaline. I know what it does. I've listened to more callers than I care to count with verbal diarrhea. Try to control it; the less filter a dispatcher has to do the better, and the easier it will be for a listener to understand things after the fact.

Either a shooting is justified or it isn't. Period.

Once the shooting is over, though, there's the rest of the situation to deal with. Read the posts up there again. The victim had to pack up their entire life and put it in storage in the space of twelve hours. In his words:

Our Life Before 21 Oct 2010

Two adults, two kids and one dog living in a 1300 square foot, four bedroom, one and a half bath home

Our Life After 21 OCT 2010

Two adults, two kids and one dog living in a 12 foot X 12 foot room.

They've received death threats. They've moved a couple times. The press plastered their names and address far and wide.

An armchair commando posted this about their choice to move:
You have two choices:

1) Refuse to back down, and not let low lifes scare you out of your home.
2) Move out of your home, fall into financial ruin, and vent about it on the internet.

Every man has to do what they think is right. I know what I'd do.
B. S.

He has to keep working in order to live. He can't be awake and at home 24/7. His wife can't be at home 24/7. Short of barricading yourself inside a fortress, there's no realistic way to handle this without moving.

An officer here was involved in a shooting earlier this year. The suspect died. The shooting was investigated and determined to be justified. Ten days later, the officer's house was burned down. He'd already sent his family away, for just that reason. And guess what? This was without the press posting his address and picture far and wide. He made it out with relatively minor injuries.

Trained SWAT officer. Unpublished address. Lost his house and nearly his life.

Relatively untrained citizen. Published address, face, and name. Chose to leave instead of risking more.

I have absolutely no issue with how he is trying to handle this, and I wish him and his family the best of luck.

Jay touched on this with a DGC post a few weeks ago. He also commented, "Instead, we have one dead goblin, one wounded - who if there is any justice will face homicide charges if there's any "commission of a crime" laws in place." Those laws are in place, and there are TWO goblins facing Murder One:

Police said Johnson and Kemp are charged with first-degree murder and burglary. The murder charge is being filed because a death resulted during the commission of a felony. All three suspects have had multiple contacts with law enforcement in the past. [KOCO News]

Nov 19, 2010

Moving forward, one pixel at a time

I got my first digital camera in 1997. It took some wheedling, but I got my parents to split the cost of an Apple Quicktake 200. 640x480, fixed-focus, 2MB memory, no flash. It took four AA batteries and would hoover them dry in a matter of minutes. NiCad wasn't any better, and NiMH was not in general use yet.

A few years later, I spent a chunk of a tax refund on a Sony DSC-P51. While not top-of-the-line, it was a great camera, and spent a lot of time traveling with me. 2MP (1600x1200), with a flash, autofocus, and 2x zoom. It ran on two AA batteries, and a set of NiMH rechargeables would provide useful run time.

A year or two later, I went for a major upgrade, and coughed up the money for a Sony DSC-F717. 5MP with a 5x Zeiss lens, pop-up flash, hot-shoe, IR night vision... It used a proprietary Sony battery, but I don't recall ever running out of juice. It was this generation of digital imaging that really made semi-pro imaging available to the consumer. It had a thousand-dollar price tag, but it was well worth it. This one went all over with me as well, and some of my favorite pictures came from this camera.

Fast forward to early 2007. Digital SLRs have hit the mainstream and reached a reasonable price point. I picked up a Canon EOS 30D, and have used that extensively ever since. It's a hell of a camera, and takes some great images. 8MP from a reasonable-sized imaging sensor turns out some incredible prints.

Somewhere along the line, I had also picked up a Nikon L3 as a walk-around camera. I was never really happy with it; the images seemed excessively grainy and the focus was slow. For a quick snapshot here or there, it was fine, but that was it.

I'd been thinking about a new point'n'shoot camera since this summer, but held off for a while to see what would be coming out for the holidays. I sold my 35mm camera this week, and turned that money around into a new Canon SX130IS. 12MP, 12x optical zoom, runs on two AA batteries, HD (720p) video recording, fast and accurate autofocus... for two hundred bucks. From a dollar standpoint, this is the second-least expensive camera I've ever purchased. From a technology standpoint, it's only barely behind the 30D as the second-most advanced.

I'm still learning all the ins and outs, and trying to keep in mind that it's not a large-sensor SLR, but overall, I'm impressed. (The images in the last post were taken with the new camera.)

Thirteen years: 640x480 becomes 4000x3000. Four AAs lasting minutes becomes two AAs lasting hours. Same price point.

What's next? (Answer: the recently-announced Canon EOS 60D. 18MP. Zounds!)

Tactical Man Purse

I'd been thinking about a shoulder bag of some kind for a while. My pockets are loaded up with enough crap as it is, and I'd like to have a few more things with me from time to time, without either stuffing them in jacket pockets or having to carry a full-size backpack or tote bag.

The decision was solidified for me by reading this review from Carteach0, about his Maxpedition Fatboy. I wasn't quite ready to drop $70 on a Fatboy, though. While reading the latest flyer from MidwayUSA, though, I noticed that they had the "Jumbo KISS" on sale for $40. I did some digging, and found that it's a bit lighter-weight fabric, and doesn't have a few minor features (velcro fuzzy for name tape, cinch-top on inner pouch), but looked to fit my needs nicely.

I ordered one, along with their universal holster and three-mag pouch. When it arrived, I put the holster and pouch in the CCW compartment, and stuffed the whole thing into the gun safe, with intentions of "later".

Well, later finally arrived. I pondered what I'd want to have with me most of the time, and started putting the bag together. I wanted a bag that would cover the essentials of being a prepared gentleman, without the bulk of a three-day bag. I want the incidentals that make a day easier to get through without having to ask passersby for a light, or the time, or whatever else.

So what does that include? Some of it is obvious, and some less so.

I started out with the pistol. I adjusted the holster for my S&W 4053. A full mag in the pistol, plus two more in the universal pouch, gives me 24 rounds of .40. I kept the chamber empty, because this is - for me - not a primary sidearm. I firmly believe that, if at all possible, a carry gun should be carried on your body.

With that closed, I added a 1L water bottle to the front pouch. The zipper pouch in the flap holds two Clif bars nicely, and a 4-pack of AA batteries.

The front pocket has a small notebook and pen, and the zippered front pocket has a folding knife, a Bic lighter, a Sharpie marker, a ten-foot hank of 550 cord, a AA LED MagLite, and a mylar space blanket.

The side zipper pocket has a pair of lightweight wool socks and a digital camera.

I slipped a Leatherman Core on the shoulder strap, and have the bare essentials covered. I need to add a few band-aids, and I'm sure a few other "good ideas" will show up - but what's in there now will get me home from most anywhere, or get me through a day in relative comfort. (Ever put on dry socks when your feet are tired and wet? Bliss.)

The main pocket is still empty, at this point. That was intentional. I can toss in lunch, or a couple books, or hit a trade show (NRA 2011!) and fill it with swag and literature, or slip in a netbook or tablet.

Loaded up:

Junk on the bunk:

(This isn't a complete junk-on-the-bunk, as I added a few items after taking the picture... but it's still empty in the middle!)


Nov 17, 2010

Food for thought...

Average TSA employee salary: $32,000 (Washington Post article, slight adjustment up)
65,000 TSA employees.

Median Sky Marshal salary: $63,000 (

Simple math suggests you could probably flip those numbers and be right on par.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics there were about 775,000 scheduled domestic departures in August 2010, or 25,000 flights per day.

32,000 air marshals.

25,000 flights.

Any questions?

Nov 16, 2010

NRA Meeting?

Having missed it the past couple years, I'm finally within easy driving distance - and planning time - for the 2011 NRA Meeting.

I've put in my time-off request (and it looks like it shouldn't be a problem), so now the question is: who else is going, and who might be interested in carpooling (I'm in the Fingerlakes of NY) and/or sharing a room?

Nov 13, 2010

Opting Out

Opting out of the TSA Peep Show is the big buzz as of a few days ago - and rightfully so.

But what happens if you insist you want a screener of the opposite gender?

Food for thought...

Also worth considering: While the government monkey is down there, putting his hands on your junk, try one of the following:
- squeeze out a big wet fart; the louder and smellier the better
- moan a few times; when he stops tell him you needed another thirty seconds
- stroke his hair or tickle his ear (I'd suggest you plan on taking a later flight if you try this)
- ask him to go on a date when you come back into town

In lieu of content, culture

On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "Random Acts of Culture" at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia. Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ - the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers.

Nov 11, 2010

Sellin' out, range report

I put up a few items for sale a couple weeks ago. Some have sold, price adjustment on some as follows:
Camera kit: $175
PSP: $125
CRKT MUK: $10/ea

I've also found a few more things that need to get shuffled along.

Men's lamb-leather trench coat, XL. I'm a 46-48 chest and this fits me perfectly. 6'1" and it hangs to mid-calf. Ventilated back, three-button front, waist belt. Comfortable and good-looking. Fully lined with fabric. Has a fleece-vest liner that has gone AWOL; if that shows up any time after the sale it will be shipped at my cost. One small spot on the hem from salt. No tears, scratches, etc. $150 shipped.

sell 010

Flying Circle "Stryker" bag. Extremely heavy-duty ACU-pattern cloth (nylon? poly?). Padded shoulder straps and back plate, has sternum and waist straps, MOLLE loops on each side, cinch straps. Velcro tab on top for a name tape. Hydration pouch, includes new, unused bladder and tube/bite valve (shrink wrap still on the valve). There is one small stain on the inside of the main compartment where a label on something bled, but this has never been carried or used. I packed it as a three-day bag and it stayed in my closet for a couple years. Moved on to a different bag so this needs to stop taking space. $75 shipped.

sell 013

With that out of the way, on to the fun stuff.

Took the new Mossberg to the range today, and got it boresighted and zeroed. Should be good out to 150yd from a good rest. I should've taken a few rounds of birdshot to clear the barrel before firing the good slugs, but I got zero in three rounds and then took two more shots to confirm. Gun season opens for deer in ten days, and I'm looking forward to it.

I also took the PM9 and my 642 along. I found that I do best with the PM9 if I really concentrate on proper sight picture - that is, actually "dotting the I" instead of making it a rounded nub on top of the bar. The 642 is still a great point-shooter at similar distances, although I found the trigger on that harder to adjust to after putting half a dozen magazines through the Kahr.

I've started eyeballing various tablets out there, and would really like to put hands on an Archos 7.0 - not to be confused with a 7 Home - as it seems to address most of the complaints about the 7Home. Don't get me wrong, the Palm is a pretty handy tool for a quick look-up, but I would like something with a lot more screen real estate without delving into full-on laptop. An iPad would be nice, but I am not going to buy into Apple's software distribution model. Also, the Archos 7.0 should fit nicely in the tactical man-purse.

Time will tell...

Nov 8, 2010

Home heating

Our house is a bizarre mash-up of heating methods and fuel sources. We knew that when we bought the place, of course, and actually considered it to be something of a benefit.

Our furnace (forced air) is oil-fired, and roughly as old as I am. It's a fuel hog and too big for the house, so it cycles more than it should need to. It does get used, for the "shoulder seasons" - those times when the days are warm and the nights are cool - but we don't run it more than we have to.

Our water heater is also oil-fired and I would replace it with the exact same one in a heartbeat. It's a 32-gallon heater, but has a 180-gallon "first hour" rating, and 114-gallon per hour recovery (+90F). We only have one shower, so actually running out of hot water is pretty unlikely.

The cooktop and oven are both propane-fired, as is the clothes dryer. (A gas stove or gas service was one of the requirements when we were house-hunting; I detest cooking on electric ranges.)

We have a portable electric radiator in the master bedroom as well; we keep the door closed most of the time and it tends to be cooler in there than the rest of the house. A little supplemental heat goes a long way.

Last but not least, we have a coal stove as our primary winter heat source. It's a Keystoker Stoker 90, and goes like a son of a gun when you finally get it lit and dialed in. When we got things set properly for the feed, it burned about 40lb of coal a day and kept the vast majority of the house at a toasty 70-72F, while burning about 2-3/4 tons of coal over the season.

Unfortunately, coal is not proving to be ideal for our situation. It is a pain to get it lit*, and it creates a lot of ash - on the order of 2/3 weight of the fuel burned, if I had to guess. On top of that, it's dirty. The ash goes *everywhere*, and the coal itself is disgustingly dusty. MrsZ has mild asthma, and my sinuses certainly don't appreciate the extra crud in the air. We put in extra air filters in the house, and it helped but can't really solve the problem completely.

I've been looking at the options, and some kind of solid-fuel stove remains my preference. I'm leaning strongly to a pellet stove. They are easier to light, and some are even self-lighting. Pellets don't have the same heat density as coal, but are renewable (yeah, there's my hippy streak shining through), cleaner, and create FAR less ash. (Most stove manufacturers claim that pellet ash will need to emptied once a month or so, as opposed to daily for the coal stove.) Additionally, pellet ash isn't going to kill our garden if I dump it out there.

I don't believe a pellet stove is in our budget for the year - which is a shame, since there is still a hefty tax incentive on them - but it will be high on my list of improvements.

* - lighting the coal stove is a mixture of witchcraft and luck. The local stove shop (which I refuse to deal with after they refused to make good on bad coal last winter) sells magic starter bags that work about two times out of three. I used the last one I had earlier this year, and haven't bought more. I finally figured out how to get the thing lit without buying magic bags. A handful of charcoal briquettes in a basket coffee filter, tucked WAY up the burn grate. Hit it with a MAPP** torch until the briquettes are going, then put a small handful of coal over them and plug the stove in. Shut the door and hope!

** - I purchased what I thought was a MAPP torch kit from Lowes the other morning to assist in this lighting process. After the fact, I noticed that it's not MAPP, it's "MPP". MPP is a BernzOMatic product that stands for "Max Power Propylene". It burns at about 3600F, as opposed to propane's 3450F. A little digging led me to the Wiki page on MAPP, and this gem:

"On 31 April 2008 the Petromont Varennes plant closed its methylacetylene/propadiene plant. As they were the only North American plant making MAPP gas, indeed the only legal supplier of trademarked MAPP gas in the world, this caused a widescale shortage"
In other words, MAPP - with a in-air temp of about 3700F or an in-oxygen temp in excess of 5000F - is no more. If you need to do small-scale brazing, MPP/Oxy kits are available, but it almost makes more sense to cough up for an Oxy/Acetylene setup with reasonable-size cylinders.

Nov 7, 2010


Set the clocks back (last night, or this morning) and, more importantly, run around and change all the batteries in your smoke detectors and CO alarms.

It may save your life.

If your detectors are more than five years old, replace them. A basic battery-powered smoke detector will run $8-10 at most stores, and a CO alarm about twice that.

It's a good idea to have a smoke detector in every bedroom, the hallways outside sleeping areas, in the living room/den/office, and in the basement/cellar/utility room. There should be a CO alarm on each floor of the house.

If you're stopping by the local DIY MegaMart, there are a few other things worth picking up while you're there:
- an extra flashlight or two (Cheap LED lights are great, toss 'em in a drawer. Most come with batteries and are under $3 each.)
- a bulk pack of each kind of batteries you use; replace batteries all around the house while you're at it!
- a new fire extinguisher (one in the kitchen and at least one on each floor of the house; A-B-C class dry chem, preferably 5lb or 10lb)

If you are in a three-bedroom house, you should be able to do ALL of the above for under $200:
- 5lb ABC extinguisher (2): $80
- CO alarm (2): $36
- smoke alarm (8): $34
- cheap flashlights (5): $15
- extra batteries (AA, AAA): $20

Grand Total: $185

You've got enough left over for a pizza!

All kidding aside: Most of us have insurance on our homes, vehicles, life, health ... we carry guns, wear seatbelts, don't smoke, drink in moderation (unless it's a VC night), and are generally responsible citizens. We think nothing (or not much) of spending $200 on a case of practice ammo... so why would you quibble about spending that much on long-term protection for your home and family?

Nov 5, 2010

Back in touch

It was an interesting few days of training. I'm back and re-connected to the world. If there's anything I've missed in the past few days ... well, I missed it. Unless it was world-changing news, I likely don't really care that much.

I did vote. Results were roughly what I expected locally; nationally things went reasonably well. Any thoughts or commentary I may have provided has been said in numerous places and multiple ways already.

I will add this one bit: now is not the time to rest on our laurels. The American people have become much more attuned to and involved with the political process, and that should be encouraged.

I am working beaucoup overtime this week and next; then hunting season really begins in earnest. I have not been out hunting during bow season aside from one afternoon - I don't *object* to it but I much prefer gun-hunting, and right now sleep has been a priority.

Nov 2, 2010

Get out...

... and VOTE.

Make yourself heard at the ballot box. You know what comes next, kids.


Nov 1, 2010

Light Posting

The next few days will likely be thin on blogging. I've got some mandatory training to attend, thus no consistent internet access. (No, it was not court-ordered.)

If something particularly egregious catches my attention, I'll let you know.

Yay Capitalism!

In an effort to make a little money for the toy fund, I'm trying the CafePress thing.

The shop is here:

Hie thee forth and give me your money!

Oct 31, 2010

Brief run down

Nothing of major import over the past couple days, but a few things worth noting.

I've been carrying the PM9 for a few days now. It's light and easy to carry, definitely on par with the 642. 6+1 of 9mm compared to 5 of .38Spl is a personal choice, I'm fine with either. I remain unimpressed by the High Noon that it came with, although it's better than the JMG I have for the 642. (The belt clip on the JMG has shredded a couple of t-shirts.)

I've gotten some excellent holster suggestions from folks and will be making a choice/ordering in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, I received my latest flyer from MidwayUSA, and happened to notice that they had the Maxpedition K.I.S.S. on sale for $40. I've been toying with the idea of a tactical man-purse (it's OK if it's tactical, right?) for a while and decided it'd be worth trying for $40. Maxpedition's info can be found on their site. Short form: slightly lighter-weight fabric and fewer bells and whistles than the standard Versipacks. I added the three-magazine pouch and universal holster, and expect I'll be turning this into a variation on the get-home bag. Two mags of .40 or 9mm, a flashlight, and slip in the appropriate pistol as needed.

I did manage to convince the CFO that acquiring the Mossberg 500 mentioned before was a good idea. We picked that up Thursday, along with a few boxes of Hornady SST slugs. I ended up opting for 20ga, and will be heading to the range soon to get the scope zeroed. It looks like the sale has continued for another week, so if you're on the fence about a great multi-purpose shotgun, you still have time.

Oct 29, 2010

Holster muse

I expect I'll be ordering a better IWB holster for the PM9 in the next week or so... the only question is, which one?

I had an IWB model from Lobo Gun Leather with the 242. Quality is top notch but I didn't really carry the gun often so can't comment on long-term comfort.

I have an inexpensive IWB from JMG Holsters for the 642. While functional, it leaves a bit to be desired. The High Noon that came with the PM9 is in the same boat - it holds the gun securely, but isn't ideal.

I've narrowed down my choice to either another IWB from Lobo (about $60) or a CrossBreed Minituck, which is ugly as sin, a little more expensive, and I have ZERO experience with - but it gets excellent reviews.

So - is there anyone out there who has experience with BOTH the Lobo and the Crossbreed? I'd also welcome input on just the Crossbreed.

Oct 28, 2010

Ridin' light

As mentioned, I just got a new-to-me Kahr PM9. Properly registered *spit* today, and now carrying it. This thing disappears even better than I'd hoped. Gun love! (Currently in a High Noon holster which is functional but uninspired. Lobo leather will be ordered soon.)


I picked up a copy of Toby Keith's "American Ride" CD earlier this year. It's been in and out of my CD player in the truck. It's not a bad disc, but seems somewhat uneven.

Listening to it during my drive to Albany this week I had time to really ponder the last song, "Ballad of Balad". If you haven't heard it, have a go:

The lyrics are, without a doubt, good for a chuckle, but they should also give you pause. Contrast that with this live recording, from a USO Tour in Kandahar, AFG:

You or I can listen to it and chuckle at the references. "Two bottles of water and a cold MRE." It's easy to chuckle at the song. The soldiers listening go nuts - because they have had the experience, and it's shared suffering.

It got me to thinking - there are very few jobs in the world that result in the close-knit groups you'll find in the military. Each and every one involves some kind of risk, and it's always shared. Firefighters, police, soldiers...

There is a level of intimacy achieved in those jobs rarely found anywhere else. Some firefighters and police officers spend more "awake" time with their coworkers than with their own families. A deployed solider, of course, lives with his unit. There have been attempts to express this camaraderie in drama and cinema through the years - through the centuries! - but very few efforts have succeeded.

Perhaps the best-known and most often referenced is a bit of Shakespeare:
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!"

Most folks don't have the rest of that speech memorized. (Myself included, I had to look it up to get the exact wording.)

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
-- From "Henry V"

Five hundred years ago, The Bard was describing the brotherhood of arms and the envy that outsiders feel for the love and respect within the brotherhood.

I've been a firefighter for nearly nine years. I've been in a few twitchy situations, and have made friends that I would trust my life to... but I still have moments of regret for not joining the military.

When I left college in '99, I was on the edge of joining the Army. I had talked with the recruiter several times, taken a practice ASVAB (98th percentile), and had an appointment to finalize and sign the contract. I did a lot of thinking and walking in the nights before that appointment, and ended up calling the recruiter the morning of my appointment to cancel.

It's easy to play what-if in life. If I had signed up, I'd likely have had a pretty good choice of MOS thanks to my ASVAB score. I was interested in aviation, though - helicopters generally and AH-64 Apaches in particular. Two years after signing up, it would have been a fair bet that I'd have been shipping out to the sandbox. Who knows from there?

I still have moments when enlisting seems like a good idea - then reality comes crashing back in, and I have to acknowledge that I am not in a place in life where I can do that... Nor do I relish the idea of shipping out to get my ass shot at.

The men and women who have made that decision and are out there on the front lines have my utmost respect and admiration. There is no way in the world to thank them enough for what they do - but please try. If you have the means to do so, please think about donating to the Wounded Warrior Project. They're one of the unquestionably good service member support agencies out there.

I don't care if you support the war(s) in the Middle East. I think we need to stop playing global cop, personally. But the troops are not the ones making the policy decisions that put us in the desert to begin with, nor the troop increases and "surge" that's kept us there. Support them.

Support the men and women - the teenagers - who are getting by and trying to support a family on minimal pay and food stamps. They are the future of our country. Cherish them. Celebrate their brotherhood. Admire it. And remember it, not just on St. Crispin's day, but every day.

Oct 27, 2010

Gun Porn

Weer'd asked for pictures of the Kahr. Who am I to deny my adoring fans?

kahr 002

kahr 003

kahr 004

kahr 009

kahr 008

The velvety stuff on the grip is a Brooks Tactical AGRIP. Super-thin (you can read the Kahr logo through it), grippy without being tacky, and quite comfortable. It was on the gun when I got it, and I don't intend to remove it.

642 and 1911 for size comparison. The PM9 is the same height as the 642, about an inch shorter, and 3/8" thinner. Weight is comparable. You could carry the 642 AND the PM9 and still not be up to the weight of a steel 1911A1.

Will the PM9 replace the 642 for carry? Not 100% of the time, but there will certainly be times it's more appropriate!

Quarantine, Laws

New Jovian Thunderbolt proposes an interesting scenario.

The quarantine starts now, and lasts until Groundhog Day. Yes, 90 days.

Electricity, water, and gas supplies will be sporadic. For instance: the water may go off on day 2 and never come back, or it may stay on a week, and go off a week, that sort of thing. Sewage is not a problem.
Go ahead. Game it out. See what happens. Read the whole thing for the whole story.


In other news, I picked up a new-to-me Kahr PM9 yesterday. (PM9094, specifically.) I traded away my S&W 242, which was a neat gun but wasn't "doing it" for me. The trade involved a drive to Albany and back - about seven and a half hours round-trip - but was still cheaper than paying transfer and shipping fees on both ends. ($50 bucks in gas instead of two $25 transfer fees plus $25 shipping on my end, and same on the other guy's end.)

We met at his range, gave each gun a going-over, shot our prospective trades, and shook hands. Then we each left with a new-to-me gun.

I'm sure there will be people wringing their hands and whinging about the "loophole", and that we're not doing background checks, and neither of us is a licensed dealer.

Guess what? New York has some of the most draconian laws in the country when it comes to handguns. In order to possess a handgun, you have to have a permit. In order to get that permit, you're getting a background check, with references.

Each time I purchase a handgun, I receive a purchase coupon that has to go to my dealer (or the person I'm buying the gun from). This coupon is provided and signed by the judge in my county.

The guy I traded with had to give me a coupon too. I saw his pistol permit. I'm reasonably sure he's not a prohibited person, and there's no damn "loophole" there. So wring your hands, whine, complain that there's "there oughta be a law" - but realize that there IS a law, and the law-abiding are following it.

There doesn't need to be another law, there needs to be enforcement of the existing laws. You commit a violent crime, you go to jail or prison. Period. Not probation. Not paroled in a fraction of your sentence. What is the purpose to sentencing someone to multiple life sentences - served concurrently - and then paroling them in twenty years? No more concurrent sentencing, no parole for violent criminals. Seems easy, doesn't it? (Yes, we would have to build more/bigger prisons. Or maybe parole some of the non-violent-crime inmates...)