Jul 29, 2010


I did not make it to the distillery today. I did, however, make it to the liquor store, and picked up a bottle of the Mackenzie Rye, and a bottle of the Seneca Drums Gin.

I sampled both.


The rye starts out with a nearly overpowering aroma of honey. It smells like someone jammed a honeycomb in there. Smooth and clean rye flavor, sharp and crisp ... it's definitely a young whiskey, but not in-your-face harsh. Sippin' whiskey, or it'd make a damn fine top-shelf cocktail (Manhattan, Sazerac). $40/750mL, highly recommended.

The gin ... I'm not a gin snob. I don't have tons of experience with gin. I prefer my martinis made with Bombay Sapphire, and in true Hawkeye fashion, it's best to simply contemplate the vermouth bottle from afar while drinking. (I ordered a martini "extra dry" in a restaurant once. Apparently down south, that means "more vermouth". I sent it back.)

Anyways, this is VERY different from Sapphire. It's ... more complex. More subtle flavors, but the fact that it's distilled from grapes may have something to do with it. (What is the traditional source for gin? I don't know! ... Wikipedia says "neutral spirits". Okay then!)

In any case, I think it'd make a pretty good martini, especially one served with a twist instead of an olive, would be okay in a dirty martini, and honestly, is very good for well-chilled and sipping. And at $25/750mL, it's really pretty inexpensive.

Jul 28, 2010

Oh those tricksy phishers...

A cautionary tale, for you denizens of the cyberworld.

I used to be a WoW player. I suspended my account last month because I realized I hadn't logged in for more than 20 or 30 minutes total in the preceding two months, and not much more prior to that. (All my characters and items remain, waiting for me to pick them up again - probably around the next expansion.)

Today, I got an email, ostensibly from Blizzard Support (@blizzard.sales.com - red flag), regarding a faction change for one of my characters. Oh really, says I? Perhaps my account got hacked after I suspended it - it's possible, if not necessarily likely.

I read further.

There's a link to a "transaction status" page... that goes to a domain outside blizzard.com (red flag). (I saw that before clicking, thanks.) One of the items they list is, "If you did not make this transaction, you should immediately check your account to prevent character lost." Character lost (red flag)?? There's another link, supposedly to worldofwarcraft.com, but hovering on it reveals it pointing to that same outside domain (red flag).

I pulled headers... "Mailed-by: hotmail.com" (red flag). Last I checked, Blizzard had their own mail servers. ;-)

Out of curiousity, I ran a WHOIS on the outside domain. Sure enough, comes back to "shun li, zhengzhou, CHINA" (red flag).

The first thing that really made me wonder, though: this was sent to an email address that was never associated with my WoW account (red flag).

Spammers, scammers, and phishers are getting MUCH more sophisticated, folks. This email had ONE error in grammar or spelling - one that could be easily chalked up to someone typing quickly without proofing. The links were masked, there is also a link to a legitimate Blizzard site, and someone who was not paying VERY close attention could easily have clicked through and given their password to ... someone in China.

Blogshoot Booze Offer

It occurred to me that I live in the heart of one of the country's best wine regions. 'Tis true. Fingerlakes (NY) wines win national competitions on a regular basis. Don't ask me why, or what the tasting descriptions mean (initial scents of vanilla and grapefruit tingle the palate with a light fruity... wtf?), but we do have some good wines. And now, some good liquors...

I'm planning to hit Finger Lakes Distilling today or tomorrow for a quick tasting, and probably to supplement my own shelf. Specifically, I'm interested in their Rye - as noted, whiskey is my vice - but I intend to sample their vodka and gin as well.

The other excellent option is Six Mile Creek's Spirits by Battistella - a local vineyard that expanded into vodka, gin, etc. I haven't tried their vodka or gin yet, but speaking from experience, their Limoncella is *fantastic*. There's a bottle in our freezer right now, as a matter of fact.

If anyone attending the shoot would like me to bring them a bottle of something from our region, email me - zercool at gmail - and let me know.

Decent wines* can be had in the $10-15 range, the Six Mile spirits run about $25, and the FLD stuff seems to be about $30 for vodka or gin, and $45-50 for rye.

I'm not made of money, of course, but I can float anyone who's interested in one or two bottles until the shoot.

* - decent wine is a matter of taste, as we all know. Finger Lakes reds can be rather hit or miss (although "Tug Boat Red" is a consistently great easy-drinking red table wine), but our whites tend to be excellent. If you know a type you like and a price range, I can probably find something appropriate.

Cook. Eat.

Before anyone starts calling me names and accusing me of being a Dirty Hippy, let me throw this out there: I'll eat (almost) anything. I don't believe subsistence farming is The One True Way, but I do support small-scale commercial farming. I buy some meat from the grocery store, and I don't ask questions about how the Poor Widdle Chickens were raised. (Most of our meat is that which I hunt, kill, and butcher myself. I am in touch with my inner carnivore.)

We bought a share in our local Community Supported Agriculture two years ago and again this year. It's not cheap - a share runs about $500 annually - but it is usually a good value. Yes, it's a gamble. If the growing season goes T-U, the share won't produce much. A good (bad!) hailstorm could destroy half a season worth of crops; last year the area was hit with Tomato Blight and the harvest was minimal. On the plus side, we're supporting a local business, we get to pick what we want from the share each week, and there are several you-pick items that go to "take as much as you can" as the season wears on.

The season runs for 26 weeks; or about $20/week. The share varies, but as an example, today I picked up:
- two zucchini
- one cucumber
- a bunch of carrots
- a large handful of basil
- a head of cabbage
- three tomatoes
- a squash
- a large handful of kale
- an onion

The basil will turn into pesto, the cabbage and carrots will become cole slaw, the kale went into soup, the rest will become salads and sides. From the grocery store, that'd be a hefty bill for veggies, and I passed on the beets, head lettuce, swiss chard, and escarole that were also available. Neither did I pick any extra basil, or green beans, which are both you-pick. (Two years ago we put up about 15 quarts of canned beans and another 15-20 quart bags of frozen beans.)

On the way home from work, I picked up the rest of the ingredients I needed for a soup I was fed last year at Marko's place. (Mrs. Marko is a phenomenal cook, by the by. One of those people that says, "Oh, let me just whip up something," and then sets a gourmet meal in front of you.) This soup has been stuck in my head for a year, and I finally went looking for a recipe.

Sausage and Potato Soup
(this is the base recipe I used, then modified)

1lb sweet italian sausage (links)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 slices bacon, diced
2 T. minced garlic
3 chicken bouillon cubes
2 quarts water
3 large potatoes, cubed
bunch kale, stem removed, julienned
1 c. heavy cream
1 can beer (light beers work best)

Place the sausage in a baking pan in a 300F oven for twenty minutes while doing the chopping/dicing/cubing/mincing.

Cook the bacon and onion in a large skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. (Add a splash of olive oil if necessary to keep onion from sticking.)

Put the water and bouillon cubes in a large stockpot, add potatoes, and bring to a simmer. Add the bacon/onion/garlic mix and keep at a simmer.

Pour the beer into the skillet the bacon and onion was cooked in, add the sausage links, and bring to a fast simmer over medium-high heat. Turn the sausage occasionally to cook through (~15 minutes). Remove from the beer and slice into bite-size pieces.

Add the sausage, cream, and kale to the broth mixture, stir well, and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until kale is just tender.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Jul 26, 2010


My reloading setup is simple. A small table, tucked into a corner of a cluttered room; the catch-all of "where should this go?" items. Bookshelves and cabinets line the far wall, an eloquently mute commentary on who lives here. The top shelf holds the drinks; remnants of college days dusty in the back row - testament to consumption on a budget - standing sentry over the more refined liquors in the front.

On the far end lies the whiskey, my one luxury vice. A dozen or more different bottles, labeled with distilleries and ages. Some were acquired on a whim, others for a reason. The oldest up there were secreted away in oak before I was born; others in the short time since I walked away from the brick and ivy world of education to seek my fortunes. Some hold memories good and bad; a shared drink with a close friend to celebrate or commiserate life's joys and tribulations.

Below the liquors lie the books, row on row, hardcover and dog-eared paperbacks. Roughly grouped by author but with little semblance of order, there are titles to appeal to most folks. Shakespeare. Grimm. Heinlein. Clancy. Tolkien. Jordan. Supica/Nahas. Rand. Orwell. Textbooks and manuals, references and resources. A slightly tattered copy of Webster's Collegiate pairs with Roget's Thesaurus - a high school graduation gift in the finest tradition. Hornady and Nosler have their place as well, side-by-side with a few photography books. In a corner lies a slightly battered copy of the Holy Bible.

A row of cabinets lie beneath the shelves. The shelves within sagged when we arrived, and only sag more with the load they now support. Carefully sorted into separate cabinets are boxes of barely contained fury. A thin shell of brass around a bit of powder and a lump of lead. Each one is a flash, a bit of noise, and a moment in time. Each one is a hole; a hole in the air, a hole in paper, a hole in dinner. A few grams to an ounce or two, but each one is sound and fury and focus, concentrated in my palm.

The last cabinet holds the reloading supplies. A few plastic jars of powder, boxes and bags of bullets, trays of primers. I can lose myself in what that cabinet holds.

The window open next to me, the radio soft in the background, the time I spend at my reloading table is my own. Adjusting powder weights, a quarter-turn at a time until the scale shows me the number I expect. Pouring a handful of cast lead into my hand, always surprisingly heavy for the small pieces I hold.

I lose myself in the rhythm of reloading; the steady and repeated motions.

Brass from the bag to the press.
*kachunk* and the primer pops out.
A quick flick to dispense a primer.
A steady press and the primer is seated.
Pull the brass and set it aside.
Over and over, a hundred at a time.

Primed brass into the press.
Swing the lever and bell the mouth.
Flip the powder measure.
Pour the powder into the case.
Swing the lever down, with that extra thump to shake out any bridged powder.
Pull the brass and set it in the tray.
Fifty at a time.

Pour out a handful of bullets and set them on the cases, one by one.
Put the topped case into the press.
Swing the lever, down then up.
Pull the cartridge and check the seating, check the length.
Toss in a bin.
A pile at a time ... fifty, a hundred, three hundred...

Put the seated cartridge in the press.
Run the ram up and back down.
Nice tight roll crimp.
Pull the cartridge and toss it in an ammo can, or set it in a box.

Thinly held fury, from the zen of the press...

Fer sale

For sale: Gently used DPMS upper. BAN COMPLIANT.
20" DCM Post-ban
20" stainless heavy barrel, free floated
1/8 twist
.223 chamber
A2 match sights (NM Rear sight, 1/4 min. windage, 1/2 min ele., & .030/.040 Aperture)
Front post replaced with KNS duplex reticle (see picture below)
Complete BCG
Includes DCM-legal handguard weight

I bought it as-new (<50 rounds), and have fired a couple hundred rounds. Does very well with 55gr FMJ and acceptably well with 45gr JHP varmint rounds. Never got around to working up a load for heavier bullets, but I'd expect it would be phenomenal with 62gr bullets.

*Does not* eat Wolf. It's had a box or two of Wolf since I owned it, and it tends to rip off rims by about the tenth shot, leading to use of a Dammit Stick and a cranky shooter.

DPMS sells these for $600 + s/h with a lead time of "several weeks to several months". Handguard weight runs $45 + s/h. KNS sight is $25 at Midway.

To your door for $600.




I would consider trades of ban-compliant flat-top uppers. (This has been posted on other forums.)

Jul 24, 2010

Busy times

After doing some more crunching of numbers and talking and debating, MrsZ ended up getting a CR-V from the local dealer. We tried to shop around, but found that other dealers were ... uncooperative.

Our local shop offered us a price of $24,800ish on a new CR-V EX 4WD. List is about $25,800. Not a bad discount to begin with. I got in touch with three other dealers; and these were the answers given:
City 1: email quote for $23,995. When I called for more information, I got bounced around their phone system by a couple employees and never got to talk to a sales person. They lose.
City 2, dealer 1: phone quote for $23,900.
City 2, dealer 2: refused to quote over the phone.

I took the two quotes for $23,900 back to my local dealer and asked them to match it. The first thing our salesman said was, "If they can really get it to $23,900, then buy it. That's a great price. But are they including destination, or any of their fees?" He went to the manager and came back at $24,400. I thanked him and left to make some phone calls.

City 2 Dealer 1... left a message for the salesman I'd spoken to before. Asked him to call me back or fax the total fees involved in a purchase; I've seen dealers charge $200 for DMV paperwork and $400 for "new car prep".

I talked with MrsZ some more, and we decided that $400 was not worth a two-hour drive each way, especially since we have history with the local dealer. (My folks have purchased four cars from them, I've bought one - now two - and had several serviced there over the years.) The salesman knows us by name, the service department knows us by name, and that's worth a lot to me. They've got loaners for service customers who purchased there, etc. Went back to the store, MrsZ picked the one she wanted (silver exterior, gray interior) and filled out credit applications.

We went to pick it up Wednesday afternoon. About fifteen minutes before we were supposed to pick it up, the salesman from the out-of-town dealer called me and left a message. It was, in effect, "I'm not a quoting service, $23,900 is our offer, and you can either buy it or not." That absolutely reinforced my decision to stay local. I sold cars in a previous lifetime, and if a potential customer wanted to know what our fees were, I told them, up front and with no arguing. (It's been a while, but I think it was $45 to cover paperwork fees and $10 for the state inspection.)

In an earlier post, I talked about finance and new vs. used. Again, new really turned into the better deal, as far as I'm concerned. The local dealer has a few used CR-Vs on the lot. To pick a close example:
2007 CR-V EX 4x4, 37,000 miles, $20,495. Our local bank would write that loan at 6.25%, or $430/mo for 60 months. There's no remaining warranty on the vehicle, just powertrain and corrosion, and no guarantee on how it's been driven.

We got a 2010 CR-V EX 4x4, 14 miles, $24,400. Financed through Honda at 2.9%, or $475/mo for 60 months. 3/36 full coverage, 5/60 powertrain coverage. We know it hasn't been abused because no one has really driven it (off the truck, maybe one test drive, and to the gas station before delivery).

It's really a no-brainer in my book.

So MrsZ has her new vehicle, and we are pleased by that.

We are not, however, so pleased with the OLD car. We knew it needed some work but expected it to be minor stuff. Her brother had tentatively agreed to buy it from us, and we were going to drive it out to North Dakota to take it to him. I took it in Thursday for an oil change and once-over with particular attention to a couple items.

They came back with quite a list. The front brake that stuck cooked the caliper, pads, and rotor, to the tune of $600 for OEM parts and labor. There's a bad bushing on a control arm, ballpark $400 to fix. The cabin fan turned out to be a bad resistor - but they don't stock the part, so it'll be another hour of labor and the part to fix that. Power steering fluid should be changed, battery should be replaced, and I think there was something else that I'm drawing a blank on. Their grand total was in the ballpark of $1500. In other words: way too much for a ten-year-old car.

We're not willing to put that much into it, and I won't sell it to MrsZ's brother with that hanging over his head, not to mention what might happen six months down the road. He was understanding when I explained it to him. (I'd sell it to someone I don't know in as-is condition with a copy of the quote from Honda, but not to a family member whose finances and welfare I care about.)

I'm sure a non-Honda shop could do it for a good bit less (Honda quotes $90/hr for labor), and much less if using non-Honda parts. (Just checked a place online, complete brake calipers with pads were $60/side and a rotor was about $20. Bushings are cheap, resistor is about $30 ... there's probably less than $250 in parts that it needs, and someone handy with a wrench.) If anyone knows someone in the central NY area that would be interested, I'm looking for $2,000 firm. (Kelly's books it at $4,000 in "fair" condition.) Motor and transmission are solid, tires were done about 15,000 miles ago, oil has been done regularly, etc. Great winter rat or errand car, or commuter for someone wanting to save on gas and not picky about luxury.

In other news...

We've got this big long trip coming up in a few weeks, and MrsZ has been doing a lot to keep things up around the house while I work my insane hours. As a little thank-you, I picked up a Nook (wi-fi only) from Barnes & Noble along with the Alice cover and gave that to her. I know there's been some debate and commentary around the blog world about the utility of them and whether or not they'll supplant dead-tree books.

I hadn't put hands on one yet, so I went to the local B&N and played with their demo model. Short form: pretty slick. The "digital ink" or whatever they call the display is VERY nice. Response time for anything other than a page turn wasn't great, but it's not designed to be a tablet computer (even though it has a beta web browser). The partial-touch partial-color screen setup took some getting used to - I kept trying to tap in the non-touch/gray portion. (Pro tip: it don't work.) I was impressed. I waffled briefly between the 3G and the WiFi version, then decided on the WiFi-only, as hotspots are becoming more and more prevalent, and my phone can sub as a hotspot if we're not near one otherwise.

She seems pleased (after some hiccups with registration), and has been fiddling with it and looking for titles that interest her. I expect it will see plenty of use as she commutes to work (she takes the bus) and during our Great American Tour next month. I may even steal it myself now and then...

So, why not the Kindle or the eReader? The Kindle looks great, but seems to me that there are still DRM issues to contend with. The eReader at the same price point ($170 to the nook's $150), as far as I can tell, doesn't have wireless to download content easily.

Are e-books going to supplant dead tree? Yes and no.
For daily content, they make a lot of sense. No distribution network is needed, and most of us don't save a year or two of the NY Times to go back through. Even libraries transfer content to other media instead of saving years of papers.
For textbooks, they make a fair bit of sense. Most college students end up with a few books that they can't sell back due to an edition change, and those just collect dust. (Not to mention that going to a morning full of classes meant 2-4 textbooks at 3-5lb each in my backpack...)
For recreational reading ... they're going to take over a portion of the market. No way around it, and no doubt about it. Amazon says e-books are outpacing hardcovers three months running.

But ... there are always going to be a few of us diehards who want ink on paper. Wrinkled covers, dogeared pages, penciled notes in margins, and the smell of BOOK. On the higher end of books, there's something immensely satisfying about a leather-bound volume, with gilt-edged pages, a sewn-in ribbon bookmark, perhaps a few color plates, and, above all, the inscription inside the front cover from whomever gifted it to you. You can't inscribe a file.

Jul 21, 2010

True Words

Love him or hate him (and his policies and legacies), Ronald Reagan was an eloquent speaker.

"If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth."


Tam has a post up about single-source training: "Beware the man with one trainer, as he has probably been successfully marketed to."

Truer words are rarely spoken. I'd say that any training is good training, but that's not 100% true. There's plenty of people out there willing to take your money and give you bad information in return. Many of them have sat through some type of "train the trainer" on the way to hanging out their own shingle. Anyone can sign up for and take an NRA Instructor class on any number of topics. It's not quite a diploma-mill, but not far from it, either. Get some reviews or comments before you buy the whole hog, and apply some critical thinking skills.

You want to train? Good! Take a class at FrontSight, or Thunder Ranch, or perhaps GunSite or Yavapai Firearms. Find your local IDPA club and start shooting with them. Don't game the game, though. A slicked-up 1911 or 625PC that only comes out twice a month for the matches isn't training, it's gaming. Take your carry gun, and your carry reload, and shoot against the clock, not the other shooters. That time monkey is a beast.

Combat pistol/tactical rifle not your thing? You'd rather do High Power? Not quite so much in the way of formal training out there, but if you start attending local matches you'll get plenty of tips from the folks who have been doing it for decades.


Thinking about training got me thinking about The Appleseed Project. I went to my first Appleseed in 2008. I enjoyed it, went to a couple more, and started doing the instruction thing for them. I instructed at several shoots through 2009 and found my frustration/irritation level rapidly increasing as I saw more and more of the Big Picture and was exposed to more of the internal workings.

I enjoy getting down in the dirt and sharing my knowledge with other shooters. I quickly found that I didn't enjoy doing it The Appleseed Way. I still think an Appleseed shoot is a hell of a good deal for learning to run your rifle. $70 for two days of pretty good instruction and getting to meet some like-minded folks is well worth it. I expect I will still go to a shoot or two each year - as a shooter, not an instructor.

Let me be clear: go to a shoot, learn, have fun. The shooting is a deal, and the history is important. If you're up for it, then definitely look into the instructor path. The instructors I've worked with have, on the whole, been some of the hardest-working, most dedicated, and incredibly generous people that I've had the pleasure of knowing. They're good people to be around, even if the KoolAid isn't quite your flavor.

Jul 18, 2010

Lobo Gun Leather

Alright, I sang the praises of the holster, the holster maker, and his customer service, and today I finally got out to take a few pictures. (Forgive the slight washout; it was brighter out than I realized!) S&W 242Ti in a Lobo Gun Leather IWB holster, with 7-shot dump pouch.

gunleather 002

gunleather 004

gunleather 005

gunleather 009

gunleather 015

gunleather 017

The last picture is the 642 in the JMG Holster I got. It's not a bad holster. It holds the gun securely and wears well. It is, however, not as comfortable as the Lobo Gun Leather in the first several pictures.

And the price of that Lobo work? Almost impossible to beat. $80 for the holster, dump pouch, and an extra set of belt loops.

Info bleg, tease

Stay tuned to this page for some gun porn. Late tonight or early tomorrow morning. Oh yes, there will be guns...

Which brings me to the bleg. While taking pictures, I noticed that the grip screw on my 642 (stock rubber grips) is developing a nasty case of rust on the head. (Something about being carried IWB daily for the last eight months, I reckon.) Anyone know of a source for a stainless replacement?

Jul 17, 2010

Holster, revisited

Until ... well, today ... I'd been carrying my 642 in a $35 IWB from JMG Holsters. It's not a bad holster, but was lacking something.

When I got the 242, I looked around for holsters and found... nothing. The problem with a low-production gun is that there aren't many holsters for it. I emailed Ray over at Lobo Gun Leather and asked what he could do.

He got right back to me with a price, and I sent out payment. He emailed me Wednesday morning to say my holster and accessories were done and going out in the mail, and included a couple quick snapshots of them. He also apologized for the delay (five weeks instead of the normal 3-4), as he'd goofed the dump pouch (made it six shots instead of seven) and wanted to make sure he sent the proper equipment.

Well, it arrived Friday, and looks fantastic. Nicely formed leather, both sets of belt loops are nicely formed and edged, dump pouch holds the expected seven shots beautifully ... just a wonderful product overall.

I'll definitely be ordering from him again, and for anyone looking for a semi-custom holster, I can't recommend him enough. Look for pics later today or tomorrow!

Win ammo!

Seems the kind folks over at Lucky Gunner are doing a bit of shameless self-promotion. And they're giving me (and other bloggers) a chance to win 1000 rounds of .380.

Now, I haven't bought ammo from them before. But some bloggers of note have accepted their advertising, so they can't be bad people. And they're giving away ammo, which moves them from "neutral" to "good people" in my book.

I promise, if I win, I'll enjoy it! :-D (Although to be fair, I'd probably have to take it in .40S&W or 9mm, since I just sold my .380.)

Jul 13, 2010

Make the buffalo squeal*

In my last post, I mentioned Uncle Mike's holsters as being inexpensive but functional. "One size fits many," as it were. I stand by that opinion: a functional IWB holster for ten bucks isn't a bad deal at all.

However, that got me to thinking about options for an inexpensive carry setup. What are the bare minimums you need to carry safely. (Emphasis on safety; we don't want anyone rocking their carry piece Plaxico-style.) I'm not going to get into off-body (purse or fannypack) carry because I don't carry that way and can't provide insight into it.

So what do you need?
- a belt
- a holster
- a gun
- a spare magazine

I'll address these individually...

The Belt
If you're going to be carrying, a sturdy belt is essential. The braided-leather or single-ply nylon/canvas belts aren't going to cut. For that matter, most department-store leather belts aren't really sturdy enough either.

The belt is going to be taking the weight of the gun and holster, and distributing it across your hips. It needs to be rigid enough to support the full weight of the gun without allowing it to flop around, but also flexible enough to be comfortable to wear. This is not the place to skimp.

There are plenty of good options out there across the price range. On the lower end are the good nylon belts a la the Wilderness Instructor belts. Moving on up the scale we get to things like Filson bridle belts (this is what I wear, about $50 from LL Bean) and then to the even more expensive things like buffalo hide and into the exotics. It's easy to spend well into the $150-200 range just for a belt, but it's not necessary.

The Holster
This is where personal preference really comes into play. For style, leather wins. For comfort, leather usually wins. For durability, you're going to be looking at Kydex or other synthetics. If you want to go inexpensive, there are "one size fits many" nylon options from places like Uncle Mike's and Bulldog** for as little as $10-15.

A slight step up the price range gets us to un-formed leather from folks like JMG Holsters. I carry my 642 in an IWB 7.0 from JMG, and my only complaint about it is the sharp edge on the clip chewing up my shirts.

In the $40-60 range, you're starting to look at mass-produced leather and kydex that are formed to a specific gun. BLACKHAWK!, Fobus, Galco, Bianchi, Don Hume, etc, all have good holsters in this range. Alternatively, there are LOTS of small leather shops - often some guy working in his home shop a few evenings a week - that can produce one-off holsters in this price range. The tremendous advantage to this is the customer service. You want an IWB with 1.5" loops and a rear cant? No problem, just ask! (I have an IWB with two sets of loops and a dump pouch on the way for the 242. $80 from Lobo Gun Leather.)

Move up to the three-digit price range and you can get even more interesting bespoke holsters from larger names. Milt Sparks comes immediately to mind; as does Tauris Holsters. You can start looking at exotics, carving, stamping, etc.

The Gun
If you stop by the newsstand and pick up a handgun magazine (not to be confused with an "outdoors" magazine like F&S or OL), it's likely got some pictures on the front of some very pretty carry guns. Kimber is a perennial favorite, as are Dan Wesson, Sig-Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Wilson Combat, etc. It's not often you'll see the likes of KelTec, HiPoint, Bersa, Rossi, Taurus, or the other "budget" guns getting a cover story... but these are the guns a lot of us carry.

At the extreme low end, you can pick up a HiPoint C9 for about $150. No comment on reliability; I don't have one and wouldn't choose to carry one if there were other choices. However, it IS better than harsh words, and I look forward to the results of MultiGun's testing.

KelTec, Rossi, and Bersa can be found in the $250-300 range, but the list goes on. Smith & Wesson J-frames can often be found starting around $400.

A spare magazine for an auto will run you $25-30, a speedloader for a revolver is $10-15, and a pair of speed strips is $5-6. What you use there is up to you.

So, if you're going to go CHEAP:
Wilderness belt: $35
Uncle Mike's holster: $10
HiPoint C9: $150
Magazine: $15
200 rounds FMJ: $50
50 rounds JHP: $15
Grand Total: $275

That's for a full carry setup with enough ammo to practice, check reliability, and a box of carry ammo.

Move up one notch:
Filson belt: $50
JMG holster: $40
KelTec PF9/Bersa Thunder9: $270
Magazine: $25
200 rounds FMJ: $50
50 rounds JHP: $15
Grand Total: $440

That'll get you a slightly-to-significantly higher-quality carry gun, a better holster and belt, and practice ammo.

What if a revolver is your thing?
Filson belt: $50
Lobo holster: $75
Smith & Wesson 642: $425
Speedloader: $15
200 rounds FMJ: $60
50 rounds JHP: $20
Grand Total: $645

We're moving in to serious money here, but it's still a relatively inexpensive setup.

Let's look at the top end without getting into true custom guns:
Beltman elephant belt: $200
Milt Sparks VM2 w/ sharkskin: $145
Dan Wesson VBOB: $2000
Magazine: $40
200 rounds FMJ: $70
50 rounds JHP: $50
Grand Total: $2505

Literally an order of magnitude difference in price - but either one can save your life. It's just a question of how good you want to look doing it.

* - two internets to whomever can tell me the origins of the title
** - I had a Bulldog IWB pouch for the 642 while waiting for my leather to arrive. It was a POS and the stitching came out within two weeks; I re-stitched it with some heavy thread and that held it together for the few weeks I had left to wait. I can not in good conscience recommend their products.

Weighty matters

One of the prime issues with concealed carry is striking the fine balance between "bring enough gun" and "so much gun I don't bring it". In other words, enough power to be a realistic defensive firearm, but light enough that you will carry it always.

"Carry your gun - it's a lighter burden than regret."

Without descending into caliber wars, I choose not to carry anything smaller than a .38 at this point. For a while it was a .380, but the Bersa got to be uncomfortable (godawful pointy beavertail on that thing) and has been sent on down the road, to be replaced by a S&W 642 in .38Spl.

Last night in conversation with Weer'dBeard I mentioned carrying the new 4053. He grumbled about it being an overly heavy brick. This from a guy who carries a Commander-size 1911 - admittedly in Scandium, but still a serious gun. (There, ya happy, weer'd?)

I got to thinking about just what we choose to carry around on a daily basis, so tossed all my possible carry guns on a scale with a full load of ammo. The results were interesting!

My default carry piece, a S&W 642 .38Spl, with five rounds of Federal Hydrashock 129gr +P: 1lb 0.9oz

guns 003

The new carry piece (when a holster arrives), a S&W 242 .38Spl, with seven rounds of WWB 125gr +P: 1lb 6.2oz

guns 005

My first carry (not often!), a steel-frame Government 1911 .45ACP, with 7+1 of WWB 230gr JHP: 2lb 13.6oz

guns 004

What's on my belt right now, a S&W 4053 .40S&W, with 8+1 of WWB 180gr JHP: 2lb 2.5oz

guns 002

And while I could carry this one, it's unlikely I often will. A S&W 5946 9mm, with 15+1 of WWB 115gr JHP: 2lb 12.1oz

guns 001

Now, anything you choose to carry, you should be carrying a reload for it. Not because you expect to need those shots, but (A) you might, and (B) malfunctions happen. Magazines fail at the worst possible moment (and in the middle of an IDPA stage is NOT the worst possible moment). Slap-rack-bang doesn't work, you better be ready to drop mag and slam home a fresh one.

So what's got the lightest reload?

Well, it should be obvious: six rounds of .38Spl on a speed strip. 2.9oz.
guns 006

For a bit more than double the weight, you can carry eight more rounds of .40, at 7.5oz, or seven rounds of .45 for 7.6oz.
guns 007

guns 009

And at the top end, tipping the scale to 8.9oz, is 15 rounds of 9mm:
guns 008

So how much are you really going to be carrying around? Lighter than regret, but some of these are heavy burdens:

642 with a reload (+1): 1lb 3.8oz
242 with a reload (-1): 1lb 9.1oz
4053 with a reload: 2lb 10.0oz
5946 with a reload: 3lb 5.0oz
1911 with a reload: 3lb 5.2oz

Doesn't sound like a lot, does it? Think about it hanging off your hip for 10-14 hours a day. There's a reason a lot of police officers have long-term back problems, and it's not just spending too much time in a patrol car.

So how much gun is enough gun? That's for you to decide on your own. You'll learn to dress around the gun you carry, though. Here are the four calibers in question:
guns 010
9mm, .38Spl, .40S&W, .45ACP

Each of those is a perfectly acceptable choice as a defensive round. I would trust my life to any of them. Above all, shot placement matters though - so hie thee to a range and throw some lead!

Off topic, for you haters:

guns 013

guns 014

Yes. That is what you think it is. An Aimpoint on a HiPoint.

Edit: In his link love, Jay mentions including holster weight in the overall weight. He makes a good point. There are two reasons I didn't.

First and foremost: I've only got proper holsters for the 1911 and the 642. Leather is on the way for the other three, but t'ain't heah yet. It pains me to admit it, but the 4053 is riding in a cheap-ass Uncle Mike's IWB sleeve* right now.

Second: carry method is an intensely personal choice, and what kind of holster you wear will determine weight. E.g., a simple leather "yaqui slide" arrangement, for nearly any gun, will only weigh an ounce or two. A leather retention high-ride OWB holster for a 1911 could weigh north of a half-pound. Kydex or other plastic holsters are yet another variation.

Magazine pouches tend to be on the light side, but truth be told, I just drop a spare magazine or a speed strip in a front pocket. Your gun might be well-concealed, but nothing screams "I'm carrying!" like a magazine or two sticking up from your belt.

* - people rip on the generic Uncle Mike's stuff as worthless. I disagree. It's *inexpensive*, but their $10 IWB sleeves work just fine. I won't call them classy, but they are functional. Not everyone can afford a purty leather rig... which I think may be the topic of tonight's blog post.

Jul 12, 2010


Chatting with Snarky in GBC channel tonight, she mentioned she's been on a Ray Charles kick lately. That reminded me of my wedding...

We did our wedding as inexpensively as possible. Not "cheap", but inexpensive. Chapel on the college campus. (I see they raised their rates, to about triple what they had been. Ouch!) Personal friend (and my fire department's unofficial chaplain) as the minister. State park for reception. Buffet hors d'oeuvres from the local grocery for food. A keg of beer and root beer from the local microbrew. Simple decorations (candles hither and yon with some other little accents). Simple (fake) flowers. Our favors were Mason jar mugs with a screened claddagh and our names, and aside from MrsZ's dress and my kilt, likely the most expensive part of the whole shebang.

And the music... I'd blegged for suggestions from people, and got a handful of ideas. We debated a DJ, but decided it wasn't our style. Instead, we borrowed a good sound rig from a musician friend and hooked in an iPod with a specific playlist, simply set to shuffle. It was a bit of us, and a bit of silly, and a whole lot of fun. MrsZ left the music selection up to me. The only song she insisted on having in the mix was "Circle" by Harry Chapin. (It's a sorority thing, I guess.)

The rest? That was up to me. I decided to have fun with it; our wedding was intended to be US, and a lighthearted party, not a super fancy formal event. I got what I think was a good mix of romantic and slow and faster and danceable and just plain silly songs. And I slipped in a few with a bit more meaning, too... and the one that prompted this post was Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind"... you see, MrsZ moved around growing up, but if you ask her, she's from Georgia.

Of course, what would a wedding playlist be without a bit of Paul Simon, too? Specifically, "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover". :-D

The whole playlist is here.

Jul 10, 2010

New Car Musings

We're on the (initial) hunt for a new(er) car for MrsZ. We keep kicking numbers back and forth, trying to make sense of our needs as compared to our budget and the realities of the market.

Her current car is a 2001 Honda Civic DX coupe - what's known in the business as a "strippy". Manual trans, no power items in the cabin, no air conditioning (!), and probably was AM/FM only when delivered. (It has an aftermarket CD player now.) Just shy of 80,000 miles. It has been a good car, no doubt. However, it's right on the brink of nickle-and-diming us to ... well, not to death, but to significant irritation.

The first owner (who bought it new) was a foreign grad student, and it shows, cosmetically speaking. I *think* every body panel on the thing has some kind of scuff or scrape somewhere. It has somehow not acquired any new damage since we got it, although occasionally I've thought that hitting a deer at 60 would be the best thing that could happen to it.

We've maintained it as appropriate. Regular oil changes, new tires last summer, new front brakes (pads and rotors) around the same time, etc. When we bought it needed (and got) a new sway bar link - not unusual for the roads around here. Mechanically, it's been good. Very good, actually. As I expect from Honda products - my first three cars were Hondas for a good reason.

Where it's gotten frustrating, however, is the little stuff. The cloth on the driver's door keeps flopping down - no big deal, a dab of superglue fixed that. The backlight for the odometer burned out - unfixed thus far, since it involved removing the whole dash to the tune of 1.5 hours of shop time. The cabin blower fan is now working intermittently, which could be the switch (remove dash to replace), the relay (under the hood), or the fan motor (remove the dash). Or it could be a loose connection. One of the front brakes is sticking intermittently, which leads to a smoking brake and a lot of power loss.

Is it worth fixing? For someone, yes, almost certainly. The cabin fan could be a simple and inexpensive fix for someone patient with a wrench, and the brakes the same. I have to draw the line between how valuable my time is and how inexperienced I am with auto repairs. Brakes - I can't do. Electrical - I can, with a lot of patience and some creative cursing.

And this brings me (with a sudden topic change) to the old argument of "new vs. used". To a certain extent five years ago, and much more so ten or more years ago, it was foolish to buy a new car unless you simply had to have new. (And there were plenty of people who had to have new, as evidenced by my sales numbers back then.) It's been a diminishing difference of late.

That train wreck of a "stimulus" - "cash for clunkers" - bottomed out the market on recent-model used vehicles at a fair price, because anything that was traded in as a "clunker" had to be destroyed. What that's left for recent used vehicles is off-lease, off-rental/ex-fleet, and a few trade-ins.

On the whole, lease vehicles tend to be the best bet, since maintenance and condition are part of the lease return and cost the owner money. Rental and fleet cars are an absolute no in my book, since the mentality tends to be, "It ain't mine, drive it like I stole it!" And the trade-ins are few and far between, and often a bit on the high side.

So, here's the dilemma:
My local dealer (who I won't buy from, but whose gas and time I will gleefully burn) has a 2009 Nissan Rogue on the lot, 30k miles, for $15,900. It will have the balance of the factory warranty on it (~6k full coverage, and 30k powertrain) but there's no telling how it was driven the last two years. It may needs tires, brakes, and fluids changed. (I'm *guessing* it's an off-lease car from someone who got a 24-month lease early in the '09 models.)

They also have a 2010 Rogue S, brand new, for $20,000. It's got full warranty, the right options, etc.

The common wisdom has always been that as soon as you drive a new car off the lot, it loses 20% value. That's *roughly* true, and if all other things were equal, it'd make a lot of sense to get a two-year-old car with the initial depreciation done. But.

Right now, my local (preferred) bank is offering 4.9% financing for 60 months on new and used cars back to the '07 model year.

Nissan is offering financing of 0.0% for 36 months or 0.9% for 60 months.

All things equal, I can buy a brand-new model for $40/month more than one that's two years old, with 30,000 miles of wear, and far less warranty.

Over the life of the loan, that's just $2400. For a new car.

It really seems to be a no-brainer to me.

Jul 9, 2010

Surprise Acquisition

I got a call from the gun shop that had my Bersa on consignment. Guy in the shop was interested, made an offer. I decided to take the offer and be done with it. Not as much as I'd been hoping for, but I wanted to be done with it and the price he offered was relatively fair. Shop owner asked if he should mail me a check or if I'd come pick it up. I chose to pick it up, even though the shop is an hour away.

Drove over this morning to pick up the check, and took along my remaining gift certificate to get some ammo or see what else caught my eye.

While he was making out the transfer papers for the Bersa and cutting me a check (and cut me a break on the consignment fee while he was at it), I happened to notice a 3rd-generation S&W in the case. I asked what he wanted for it, and he told me. The cash from the Bersa put me in the neighborhood, the gift certificate even closer - and I had a check in hand from selling some .380 to LibertyMan. $10 cash out of my pocket and I had a new-to-me S&W 4053 (stainless slide, alloy frame, single-stack compact DAO) in hand. Condition is *excellent*.

Came with three magazines (all 8-round factory, one with the pinky extension and the other two with flat baseplates). I stripped it in the shop, and the insides were immaculate. Not simply "just scrubbed" immaculate - "barely shot" immaculate. Rails still have some of the original bead blast on them. Sights were a little dirty, but in good shape.

I got it home and wiped it down, and took a q-tip to the sights. Surprise surprise! The "dirty white" three-dot sights were actually "dirty glass" over tritium night sights! Score!

(Click to embiggen.)
4053 004
(S&W 4053)

4053 006
(With the big-brother full-frame 5946)

This brings me to the next bit. I now own no .380 pistol but have some ammo remaining. It's for sale. I can either bring it to the blogshoot, or shipment can be arranged.
~85 (89?) rounds of WWB 95gr FMJ. Some has been handled and/or chambered but all is factory new.
25 rounds (one box) of Hornady Critical Defense 90gr. Again, some has been handled/chambered but all is factory new.
$50 for both FTF, shipping at cost (probably about ten bucks).

ALSO - a set of Redding Titanium Carbide .380ACP reloading dies - three dies with shell holder and extra decapping pin. As-new in box. I bought them "gently used" and have never used them. They are immaculate.
$50 FTF, shipping at cost (5-6 bucks?).


Ammo and dies and whatever .380 brass I can find (crap shoot, it's hither and yon in boxes and bags) for $90FTF/$100 shipped.

Jul 7, 2010

Brain Dump

The Palm went back to Verizon last week for replacement under warranty. It'd been getting too hot to hold comfortably when charging or using the Mobile Hotspot. They overnighted me the (refurbished as-new) replacement, and paid shipping back. Apparently there have been some documented heat issues already. The new one seems to get warm, but not as hot as the first one. Plus one to the local Verizon store for making it relatively painless.


MrsZ's car is continuing to present us with interesting issues. Now it's got a front brake that sticks occasionally. We'd been loosely shopping for a replacement already, with the following guidelines:
- all-wheel- or four-wheel-drive
- four cylinder
- four or five doors
- compact SUV/wagon

It narrows it down quite a bit, obviously. We'd glanced at the Subaru Outback, Honda Element, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV-4. Subaru was nixed pretty quick because we're not willing to pay their new-car prices, and the used cars aren't that far behind. The CR-V is still a possible, as is the RAV-4. The Element ... maybe.

Somehow, though, I'd missed the Nissan Rogue. I stopped at the local dealer today to at least eyeball one in the metal, and I think we'll take a test drive at some point. When the worst comment I can find on it online is, "It doesn't stand out from the rest," that's pretty strong praise. Nothing stands out in the daily-driver new-car market today. Hell, it hasn't for ten years.

When I sold cars in a former life, one of the auto rags had a two-page spread showing thumbnail profiles of every major make's mid-size sedan. Accord. Altima. Camry. Passat. A4. C- and E-Class. Taurus. Sable. Etc. They are nearly indistinguishable from one another at a distance, especially to anyone who isn't making a living on the differences.

If any of my readers have any direct experience with the Rogue, I'd love any insight.


The wild parsnips are still thriving, but it's been too hot for me to get out there and attack them again. Maybe tonight when the sun has gone down. The cats are sprawling in the shade on the wood floor, and I'm hiding in our air-conditioned master bedroom. It's disgustingly hot.


The post office in our little burg has a sign up in the foyer: "BEAR ALERT!" ... apparently a rather large black bear has been seen around the area. Usual precautions: take in your bird feeders, grill, trash, etc. If the bear is spotted, be calm, leave the area, etc. Supposed loud noise has scared off the bear so far. Hint: 12ga makes loud noise!

No, I won't shoot the bear for tearing down my bird feeders or destroying my grill. (Actually, for the grill, I might.) Or even for spreading our trash all over. But if I do see it outside, I will make loud noises to scare it off, and I will have the 12ga full of slugs in my hands when I do that. And probably the 1911 full of ball stuffed into my waistband.


With that, it's back to the book and beer!

Jul 6, 2010

Invasive Plants

Last year, our local rag did an article about a plant that caused severe blistering and burns to skin. I couldn't remember the name of the plant, but remembered that it looked like overgrown Queen Anne's Lace.

Doing some yardwork last week, I found a patch of flowers that looked like overgrown Queen Anne's Lace - sort of. 3-5 feet tall, yellow flowers, spikey leaves...

I did some digging, and found the plant originally in question - Giant Hogweed. NYSDOT notes it as present in Western NY and spreading to the east. This is not what we have. (Hogweed is up to ten feet tall with 2-foot umbrels of flowers.)

What we have is Wild Parsnip, which isn't directly related but has some similar side effects. Specifically, getting the sap of the plant on your skin will lead to severe sunburn on the affected area very quickly.

I stopped at Lowe's the other morning and picked up a gallon jug of Round-Up, then went around the yard spraying each plant very thoroughly. So far it looks like the plant is winning. They're all in flower already, so I'll try one more treatment of Round-Up today, and if that doesn't show effects pretty quickly, I'll be gloving up and yanking them out. I do not want them going to seed and spreading further.

Now that I'm aware of the plant, I'm seeing HUGE patches of it everywhere. Ditches seem to be the favorite spot so far. Be aware of it, and if you have an infestation, take off and nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Jul 5, 2010

Brigid has a post about the .38 Things I Learned From Shooting. (Incidentally, I have no idea why she wasn't on my blogroll. Fixxored!) There's something on that list that every shooter should be able to identify with. I snarfled at this one:

(28) Bullets don't multiply but they do migrate. (How did this stripper clip end up in my sock drawer).

This is SO damn true in my life. A few weeks ago, MrsZ decided to clean out my truck, which has a habit of accumulating a winter's worth of detritus and hunting clutter every year between mid-September and ... oh ... summer. She piled the vast majority of it in one place designed to get me to sort it. (Blocking the access to the DVD player - the pile got shoved, not sorted.)

However, with company coming for the holiday weekend, I finally shoveled some of it into more appropriate places. In the pile, I found:
- my turkey vest, containing my calls, gloves, and no less than ten shot shells of various shot sizes and weights
- my woodland-pattern BDU jacket
- a pair of SureFire Sonic Defenders
- a tub of cover-scent wafers (fresh earth, mmmm!)
- my turkey hunting seat (a fold-down 4" tall mesh affair. Worth its weight in gold.)
- two feet of 550 cord sheathing, missing the core strands
- two winter hats
- one pair of winter gloves
- an UnderArmor camo hood
- three snow brushes
- my Dammit Stick (a 3/16x36" brass rod, rounded on one end, for clearing bores and chambers at the range)
- no less than six loose (and one full box of) Remington CopperSolid 12ga sabot slugs
- my electronic coyote call, with external speaker and speaker wire

And that was just from the back seat. I'm sure there's a partial box of slugs in the console still, and probably a magazine of .45 floating around in there somewhere.

It's not uncommon for me to hear, "Hon ... why is there a bullet on the kitchen table/garage floor/bathroom counter/bookshelf/coffee table/dresser/etc?" The answer is always - always - a shrug and, "Dunno." The top shelf of the safe has become something of a repository for loose ammo, and right now, off the top of my head, has a 12ga slug or three, a couple rounds of buckshot, a couple rounds of high-brass field loads, a handful of .22LR, a .22 CB Short or two, a .380, a few 9mm, a couple .44Spl, a box of .44Mag, a few .38s ... essentially, something for everything! (It's not unusual for spent brass to show up in the washing machine, too.)

While in my home state, this isn't an issue. In fact, in most states, it's not an issue. However, if I cross into Massachusetts, that empty case stuck in my floor mats is a felony. If I slide down into New Jersey, that loose sabot slug in my console is probably illegal - if you can make sense of that particular bit of law, more power to you.

And completely off-topic - to whomever in the 817 area code sent me the 4th of July email, thanks! ... Now, who are you???


I'm in the process of replenishing my stock of loaded ammo. After we moved last summer, I didn't do much loading at all - my bench and equipment were buried. I knocked out a few hundred rounds in early spring, but that's about gone.

With the Blogshoot coming up at the end of the month, I decided it was time to knock out some more .38. I opened the cabinets to see what I had ready to go.

Brass? A few hundred rounds of tumbled brass, lots of un-tumbled.
Primers? A couple thousand small pistol primers.
Powder? Half a jar of IMR Trail Boss.
Bullets? ... a bag and a handful of 158gr LRN. Hm.

I settled in with the sizing/decapping die and started prepping brass...

Three hundred and some pieces later, I'd emptied my bag of clean brass. I tossed 500 more in the tumbler for a few hours and then sorted them out of the media. That done, I finished the tray of primers so I had 400 primed cases ready to go. (Actually, 399, since a .357 case got mixed in with the .38s and set aside after priming.)

I pulled out my bags of bullets and jar of powder and started in with dropping powder and seating. Expander die, drop *mumblemumble* grains of Trail Boss, set in tray. Fifty at a time, put a bullet on top of each one. A hundred at a time, run them through the seating die and toss in a tub for crimping later.

I knocked out 200 like this over the past few days. It's easy to do in stages - a couple hundred brass prepped one day, then a hundred or two hundred powdered and seated the next, then I'll do one final big push and run several hundred through a crimp die.

Problem is, I was running out of bullets. I've got maybe 50-75 of the cast bullets left, and I'm not using my "good" bullets* for plinking loads.

I zipped online and did some quick checking. I've heard very good things about Oregon Trail but right now, $101.50/1000 is a touch on the high side for me.

I popped over to GrandMaster Bullets, which is where my last batch of .38s came from. Their site isn't so great, but bullet quality is impeccable, and the weights have been VERY consistent - within tenths of a grain of each other any time I've spot-checked a handful. $62/1000 for 158gr LRN - perfect! I ordered 2000 around 6am on the 2nd.

That evening, I got an email from the owner - he only had 1500 in stock, and was going out of town for the holiday weekend. If I was in a rush, he'd ship me the 1500 and work something out for the other 500, or if I could wait he'd have the full 2000 ready to ship on Wednesday the 7th, so I'd see them around the 9th or 10th.

I wrote back and let him know that was no problem at all.

It's a small shop, and I appreciate the personal touch. If you're in need of cast bullets, I'd *highly* recommend GrandMaster. (Jay, that's where yours came from as well.)

My mailman might not be so appreciative. Bullets are dense and fit nicely into USPS flat-rate boxes. It'll cost him $10 to ship about 50lb of bullets cross-country. (A flat-rate box is good for up to 70lb, which is almost exactly what two thousand 230gr bullets weighs.)

* "good" bullets: Hornady 158gr XTPs, or my single box of Venom Ballistics 137gr .358 cast-lead hollowpoints. They were a one-off test run, and I happened to get what may have been the last box (of 300). Flying ashtrays have nothing on these babies!

Jul 4, 2010


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

This was recorded at SuperBowl XXXIX, in 2005. Every single one of the men and women singing there has completed his term at his academy and is now serving to safeguard the liberty we enjoy.

Enjoy your family, your barbecue, your beer, your fireworks, your guns... but remember who gives you that freedom, and remember the risks undertaken by a daring few on this day 234 years ago.

Jul 3, 2010


"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." - Geo. Santayana

Last fall, coming back from Down South, MrsZ and I drove through Centralia, PA. I'd read about it, seen a few documentaries here and there, and we were close enough to make it a reasonable drive. If you're not familiar with it, it's a former mining town in the hills of Pennsylvania. In 1962, an exposed coal seam caught fire, and has been burning underground ever since. Wikipedia has a good article on it.

Wiki calls it a "ghost town". They're wrong. A ghost town conjures up images of weathered and dilapidated Old West, maybe a tumbleweed or two. Centralia is a memory of a town. The streets are still (mostly) there. The utility poles and lines still line the blocks. A few street signs remain. Perhaps half a dozen houses and buildings over the space of ten city blocks. The rest is open space where houses used to stand, since bulldozed level and reclaimed by grass and brush.

Poking through Hulu tonight, I found a documentary about Centralia.

One of the quotes in there, paraphrased, was this: "They had the fire a day or two from being out. The trench was almost far enough. The money ran out, and they couldn't allocate more. It went through the bureaucracy for three months, for bids and reviews and evaluations. They lost the town to bureaucracy."

Doesn't ring a bell at all, does it?

Are we going to do an eminent-domain buyout of the entire Gulf Coast?

Jul 2, 2010

America, in Wisconsin!

Just caught this over on the New York forum at ArfCom, and the original PDF is here.

I'd highlight the best parts, but I'd be highlighting the whole thing!

For Immediate Release June 29, 2010
Yesterday, in a resounding victory for all freedom-loving Americans, the United States Supreme Court confirmed that the Second Amendment’s protection of our right to keep and bear arms applies everywhere in America, and serves as a rampart against state infringement of this fundamental individual liberty. In its ruling, the Court declared that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right, and that self-defense is at the core of the freedoms protected by the amendment.

This Supreme Court ruling is binding on all states and local governments, and
immediately renders some of Wisconsin’s current laws unconstitutional. Therefore, in
keeping with my oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, I hereby declare that this office will no longer accept law enforcement referrals for violations of the following statutes:
Section 167.31, prohibiting uncased or loaded firearms in vehicles;
Section 941.23, prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons, including firearms;
Section 941.235, prohibiting the possession of firearms in public buildings;
Section 941.237, prohibiting the possession of firearms in establishments where alcohol may be sold or served; and,
Section 941.24, prohibiting the possession of knives that open with a button, or by
gravity, or thrust, or movement.

All of these statutes constitute unjustifiable infringements on the fundamental right of every law-abiding American to arm themselves for self-defense and the defense of their loved ones, co-workers, homes and communities. This change also invalidates Jackson County Ordinance Sections 9.01 (firearms in public buildings) and 9.29 (CCW).

Prior to this historic ruling, our state Supreme Court placed the state’s interests first, and would only create an exception to these laws when the individual’s need for protection outweighed the state’s interest. In the area of concealed carry, only 2 cases have approved concealed carry, one at home, and the other one at the defendant’s personally-owned place of business. Well, as the United States Supreme Court held yesterday, that view was exactly backward.

As with the other fundamental rights, such as the freedom of speech, of religion, of
association, or of security in our homes, persons, and effects, government limitations on fundamental rights are lawful only in the rare case that the state can show a compelling governmental need that can be accomplished only by enacting a narrowly-tailored restriction, in terms of time, place and manner. Clearly, a blanket prohibition against carrying your loaded firearm in your personal vehicle does not pass that test.

Put it another way: Does preventing the barkeep from protecting herself when she carries the bank bag home from the tavern make sense? Not here, not anymore. That’s not an American value; it puts concern for the criminal’s welfare ahead of the barkeeper’s right to self-defense. The fact is, criminals don’t pay attention to gun laws, only we good folks do. After 15 years of criminal law practice, I can state positively that when criminals resolve to harm someone, no law will stop them. These so-called “public safety” laws only put decent law-abiding citizens at a dangerous disadvantage when it comes to their personal safety, and I for one am glad that this decades-long era of defective thinking on gun issues is over.

I will watch for the legislature to make needed corrections in these areas. In the
meantime, while I am happy to declare that we will follow the Supreme Court’s ruling, I want to emphasize that with fundamental rights come grave responsibilities, and I will continue to vigorously enforce the laws against unlawfully using firearms, such as the prohibition against felons being armed; going armed while intoxicated; using a firearm to commit a crime; and endangering safety by negligent handling of a weapon, to name just a few. Only by the strictest adherence to firearm safety rules and common sense will we show that the elitists who seek to disarm all of us are wrong, and that every law abiding citizen can be trusted to protect themselves and their neighbors safely.
A copy of the Supreme Court’s decision can be found at
A copy of the amicus brief joined by J.B. Van Hollen, the Attorney General of
Wisconsin, can be viewed at: http://www.abanet.org/publiced/preview/briefs/pdfs/09-
Let Freedom Ring.
Gerald R. Fox

And, on top of that, the Wisconsin AG agrees!

Baby steps, Bob. Baby steps!

Blogshoot 2010 travel

I'll make this offer a "first-come, first-serve".

If you are planning to attend Northeast Blogshoot (i.e., Jay has already approved your attendance) and coming from central NY or points beyond, and would like to carpool ... I've got space. Definitely for one, or two if they're compact. I drive a crew-cab pickup, so space for toys would be limited with two riders, but with just one, there's plenty of room.


I'm looking at youse in particular.

I'd also be amenable to room-sharing; I'm planning to get a room at the Super8 in Brattleboro, VT. (Home of Vermont Carry!)

Crash space and parking available at my place the nights preceding and following; I'm going to be driving up Saturday 7/31 and home Monday 8/2.

And I listen to country music. A lot.