Sep 26, 2011

New Shooter Followup

After I wrote the last post I pointed Kay to it and invited input - I wanted to be sure I was getting the story right. I also asked her to take a couple pictures of the targets and send them along, which she cheerfully obliged.

One of the points that I didn't include previously: Kay is pretty far down the political spectrum from most of us. In her own words, "I'm a progressive with a libertarian streak." She has an upper-tier higher education focused on the liberal arts and works in a related field. In other words, the antithesis of the stereotypical gunny... Not anti-gun, just not educated to our ways.

From her email about my blog post comes this tidbit:
The one correction I'd make is that I was NOT intimidated at Perry; I just realized quickly exactly what I didn't know (like how to load a gun, that would have been useful information, LOL). It takes an awful lot to intimidate me, a lot more than a cheerfully obnoxious Master Sergeant and a really big gun. The whole experience was fascinating; I took in everything. The people on my team were really nice, although when exchanging notes later, my son and I discovered that we had both avoided like the plague any conversations that reminded us that the people around us probably didn't think like us - like the Master Sergeant's descriptions of the Afghanis, and his animated recounting of his attempts to trap snow leopards.

(For what it's worth, I think many of us do the same thing. I have several friends who I agree with on many topics and others we just avoid like the plague. Their friendships are worth more to me than a lose-lose shouting match about beliefs.)

I do have to give Kay a lot of credit for doing this, though. Driving two states away to learn how to shoot a service rifle from the US Army Marksmanship Unit - with zero prior firearms experience - takes guts.

During our latest email exchange, this little gem really got me to thinking:

I think the shooting world is somewhat inscrutable, and if one hasn't grown up around it, it's pretty hard to figure out what to do. In fact, the way I found out about SAFS was by googling "rifle instruction," because it doesn't seem like instruction is readily accessible at the community level.

Read that again, because that is the key to success, hearts and minds, etc.

I didn't grow up around the "shooting world". I wheedled my parents into a BB gun after I'd successfully earned my rifle merit badge at scout camp one summer, and then hung up shooting for several years after high school. Plinking thereafter was self-taught and informal (tin cans in the woods), and it wasn't until I started hunting that I really started digging in. Beyond that, I can't point to any one thing that made me want to take the next step in shooting.

The vast majority of what I've learned has been self-taught, with a fair bit of help from the Appleseed program a couple years ago. I don't know it all, but I know enough to be dangerous. If I went to one of the run'n'gun schools that Tam frequents, I'd be That Guy. So be it. There's one in every class, it might as well be me!

So what point am I trying to make here? Simply this: no matter how welcoming we are - and I can't count the number of fellow bloggers who will gladly take new shooters to the range - we're still not reaching the right numbers of people. Programs like Appleseed are a great resource, but speaking as a former instructor, it's not a program for new shooters. The NRA runs training classes nationwide on a regular basis - even classes exclusively for women - but they aren't generally reaching the absolute novice either.

I want some input, kids. How do we fix this? Shooting as a culture is a mystery to outsiders. We have our own code, of grains and feet-per-second and muzzle energy and come-ups and zeroes and windage and so forth. Is it possible to run a new-shooters night at your range once a month? Once a week? Bring a bag full of .22s, a couple bricks of ammo, and a handful of willing instructors. Start small. Safety, basics, single-shot from bolt guns, short distance. Break the ice.

Maybe I'm spitballing, but I think there's potential here... and potentially a market. Something to think about...

And now, the photos that Kay sent along:

The group in the center is hers, using the Savage MkII at 50 feet with a front rest. The top left group is mine, off-hand with the Savage. The top right group is the first set she shot with the Marlin 795, and the bottom right is the second group once we discussed sight alignment a bit more. (See why I love the Savage for new shooters?)

Bob's upper half - well-ventilated. The handful of larger holes around his collar is from the Model 67 at 5 yards, single-action.

Bob's torso. Note the tiny group under his name patch, as compared to the group around the eye shown above? We figured out that the mid-grays and random-ish patterns of the face provided a less consistent aim point than the white oval of the name patch.

And a handful of rounds from the 22/45 - literally.

We should be hitting the range again this week, and we'll see what she wants to shoot! If I ask really nicely she might let me take a picture of her with a gun. Maybe. ;-)

Sep 25, 2011

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

The Shadow knows...

And apparently the wife of Sleep Talkin' Man.

This one made me laugh out loud here in the office. Some things are hard to explain... but this is going on the feedlist.

Sep 24, 2011

New Shooter

It's not often I get to take a truly new shooter to the range. New York's gun laws are a bit of a headache, and a lot of gun owners are "closeted". There's no secret handshake or anything, some of us just don't talk about it.

I had been chatting with Kay a bit when she mentioned a picture I had posted, taken of me at a clay shoot a couple months ago. She asked if I had other guns and said she'd been to Camp Perry to try shooting but found it a bit overwhelming for a new shooter. (Imagine that! ARs and the National Matches overwhelming a new shooter!) The instructors there apparently did the best they could but suggested she get a .22 and some practice. We set a date and headed off to the range with several .22s along...

When I got to the range (slightly ahead of time) I opened up, turned on the lights/vents (oh did it need the vent, too... musty!), hung a basic target, opened up the rifle cases and set them aside, etc. Kay arrived a few minutes late (mediocre directions combined with a poorly-marked range) and we had a brief rundown of the safety rules.

That's when she dropped a bomb on me: she's cross-dominant. Right-handed and left-eyed. At Perry, their answer had been, "Well, you can either learn to shoot left-handed or right-eyed. Good luck." My answer wasn't much better, but she had been using iron sights at Perry, and my rifles are mostly scoped. I suggested she try shooting right-hand/right-eye with the scope and see what happens.

One of the things I've found with new shooters - particularly new female shooters - is that they don't often have a preconceived notion that they Know How To Do It. A 20-something guy coming to the range for the first time might be offended by starting with a bolt-action rifle, single-loaded, and a front rest. For Kay, it was a logical start to the process.

I brought out my MkII, dialed the scope all the way down (our indoor range is 50', 3x is more than enough magnification), and ran through the basic manual of arms. The bench at our range is at a weird height, so we found a stool for Kay to sit on, and I had her dry-fire a few times to get used to the trigger feel and how the bolt would work. We put on ear and eye protection, and I loaded one round into a magazine, and showed her how to load the rifle. She smacked the trigger, flinched, and jerked her head off the stock instantly to look for where the shot went.

Half an inch low and right - right on the edge of the X-ring. I haven't seen a grin like that in a long time, and it helped to remind me why new shooters can be so much fun.

I showed her how to load a magazine, and we used two rounds so she'd have to work the bolt between shots. Those two went a half-inch low center and a half-inch low left. My rifle is zeroed for 50yd, not 50ft, which explains that consistent half-inch low. I explained that to Kay along with a brief touch on ballistics and she got it. She kept on plinking from there and turned the center of the target into one ragged hole - the Savage is great for that.

After a few magazines like that, we started addressing form issues - trigger slap and follow-through in particular. One trick I learned from my Appleseed days to correct trigger slap and teach follow-through is to ride the shooter's finger with your own - and then hold it in place after the shot breaks. After I did that twice she was doing great on her own. Then we talked about maintaining the cheek weld. I showed her what happens when the head is moved after a shot, with a slight exaggeration of effect.

She didn't quite believe all that could affect the bullet while it was still in the barrel, but agreed to try keeping her head down... and the groups she was shooting went from 1.5" down to nickel-sized. Then she believed me. ;-)

After she'd torn out the center of the target with the Savage, we tried the Marlin 795. Again, a run down of the manual of arms, then she put a couple rounds down range ... and not one of them was even on the paper. We talked about sight alignment a little more, and determined that she had focused on the front post (good) and completely ignored the rear notch (bad). When she lined those up, she put a nice 3" group on the page. Not great, but the factory sights on the 795 are awful, and it's nowhere near the inherent accuracy of the Savage. Two magazines later, she went back to the Savage, and we swapped to a Zombie Target.

Kay asked, "Where should I shoot it?" The answer was obvious: "It's a zombie. Only head shots count."

She settled back in behind the Savage and started chewing up the eyes, then started trying other spots. A dime-size group on Bob's nametag. A quarter-size group in the "V" of his collar. And so forth.

As we ran out of time, I offered to let her try the 22/45, which she seemed a little hesitant about but was game to try. We talked about grip and stance a bit, then ran down the manual of arms, tried one shot, then a half-magazine from five yards. She did fine, putting in a 5" group at a steady pace.

With that done and her hesitation gone, I offered her the last gun I had with me - a S&W Model 67 loaded with my mouse-fart target loads. It's certainly a step up from .22, but so mild in recoil that nearly anyone can handle it. She jumped at the chance, so we looked over the revolver and I had her try dry-firing. That worked fine, but when it had live ammo in it, she wasn't able to pull the trigger through a double-action stroke and keep the sights on target. I'm not sure if she hadn't realized it when dry-firing, or if this was a mental block. We unloaded the gun and I explained single-action and had her dry fire it that way a couple times with much better results.

I put two rounds in the gun, closed the cylinder to the right chamber, and handed her the gun. She lined up her sights, cocked the hammer, and squeezed off a nice shot into the upper chest of poor Bob. Another shot and his collarbone was gone. With those two gone I asked if she wanted to go for more and she nodded enthusiastically. Six more shots, six more holes in Bob. Not bad at all for a first-time shooter.

During some of our down-time Kay was asking some really good questions. She has a pre-teen son at home, and she asked what the best way to lock up a gun was if there were kids in the house. I suggested a couple padlocks on a hard case as a minimum and pointed out that an actual gun cabinet - even one of the sheet-steel StackOn types - was far more secure. I also explained that I believe guns in the house should NEVER be a mystery or taboo topic for kids - they should be a tool like any other, and if Junior wants to see Mom's rifle, all he has to do is ask and it can come out for show and tell.

She asked if we have kids (we don't) and how I stored my guns given that only adults live in our house. Some people will scream "OpSec! Don't tell anything!" ... I am not one of those people. The best way to bring people into the shooting world is calm, rational answers, and that's what I gave: a gun that is not in use - either on the way to the range/field or being carried by me - is secured in a fire safe.

She asked what other guns I have, and THAT one I did deflect a little. Since she had shot ARs at Perry, she asked about that in particular - and I confirmed owning one. As to the others, I simply left it at, "I have a few other rifles and a couple shotguns."

When we were talking about pistols, I mentioned that I sometimes carry a revolver (which surprised her) and she asked if I had a concealed weapons permit. (I do.) She expressed some reservations about that concept and a bit about gun laws, and I pointed out that someone who has gone to the trouble and expense of getting a pistol permit in NY is, generally speaking, a very law-abiding citizen. I didn't push the issue, but I saw the wheels turning in her head.

She also asked how a .22 would cost, and I was fortunate to have the gamut along for the ride - from the bottom-end Marlin 795 at a hundred bucks, through MrsZ's 10/22 for a couple hundred, up to my Savage for several hundred. I offered to help her pick a rifle when she decides she wants one, and to go with her to a local gun shop for the process. Yes, Dick's has them, but they have a limited selection and moderately high prices; a gun shop will order anything she wants and she'll get MUCH better service.

The wheels were definitely turning and I think we have another one on the edge of becoming a citizen.

(No pics to protect Kay's privacy.)

Sep 23, 2011

Great Hunt Preparations

One of the locals who will be hunting with us on Great Hunt 2011 and I went out to the farm yesterday to hang tree stands. We got out there around 10:30 and drove out to a convenient parking spot in the pasture, hung the first stand in a known-good spot, and then started scouting for the next spot. Until...

The skies opened. Not quite torrential downpour, but it was coming down. We scrambled under a nearby evergreen and waited for it to slacken a bit, and after ten minutes of steady rain we decided to make a beeline for the truck and lunch.

We sat in the truck and dried off and watched the rain, which stopped shortly thereafter. I decided I was still hungry so I ripped open one of the MREs I stash in the truck (and they're due to get rotated out anyways). If I was starving, it probably wouldn't be as bad, but the vegetarian penne pasta with sauce was pretty awful. I ate everything else, though.

Once we'd eaten and dried off a bit we headed out to hang a few more stands. We found a nice spot with a view of a field and a bit of the creek bottom below, and hung one there. A bit of trimming opened up the view nicely, and there's LOTS of sign around the area.

We went back by the first stand on the way to the truck and trimmed the branches there - as seen here, Greg got himself a nice piece of ash:


I had a rough spot in mind for the next stand, so we drove to that end of the pasture and dragged a ladder stand into the woods. A bit of up-and-down hiking later led us to a great spot overlooking a large clearing full of goldenrod and raspberry brambles with good open woods on either side. We set up the ladder stand - a balancing act in and of itself - and headed back to the truck.

That's when we discovered that the strap for the last stand is missing. Somewhere between my garage floor and the pasture, it disappeared. So be it. I'll go hang that stand during bow season so it's set for gun season and the Great Hunt.

One other thing of note. Greg snapped this picture of me as we hiked out of one spot:

Ignore the goofy-ass grin and compare it to this one, from the NRA show in May:

Apparently this "physical labor" shtick has something to it after all...

Sep 22, 2011

Hunting season approaches

Put this one in the can. When you read it, I'm going to be at the in-laws' farm hanging tree stands for the Great Hunt 2011. I've got four stands to hang and a few locations already in mind.

In the meantime, entertain yourselves with the hunting series I wrote last year:
Part 1: Hunter Education
Part 2: The License
Part 3: The Gun
Part 4: Dress for Success
Part 5: Possibles
Part 6: Over the River and Through the Woods
Part 7: Have a Seat
Part 8: Take the Shot, Mav!
Part 9: After the Shot
Part 10: Rough Cuts
Part 11: Hang It, Slice It, Dice It

There's one part I didn't mention before:
Part 12: Whiskey


Sep 21, 2011

New header

If you're reading this from a feed, do me a favor - click on over to the actual blog. I've added - finally, after a couple years - a new header image.

I took the 22/45 and Marlin 795 to the range last night and played inside on the 50-foot line for a half-brick or so. My accuracy remains minute-of-zombie. I also tried putting the camera (Canon SX130IS) on the bench, facing straight up, and recording HD (1080) video. The new image is a still frame from that video, cropped to appropriate dimensions.

Side note: Eley Sport rimfire ammo STINKS. Not accuracy-wise - it seems to be pretty good stuff, actually, and I'll run a box through the Savage shortly to verify - but it smells. BAD. That's going to be an outdoor-only ammo for me.


I am not making light of missing children - some things shouldn't be joked about - but ... 8 children with the same name are abducted by their mother during a (apparently poorly) supervised visitation?

No, I'm not making it up.

The NYPD is searching for a mother accused of abducting her eight children, all with the same first name.
The mother, identified as 28-year-old Shanel Nadal, is accused of removing the children from Forestdale Child Agency in Queens. Nadal allegedly took the children, all named Nephra Payne, without permission Monday night.

Seriously. Speechless.

Sep 20, 2011

Prank Fail

Look, I've been a firefighter for nearly a decade. I've been through rookie pranks. Pulled a few of my own. Generally speaking the pranks done in good fun. The rookie looks a little silly, but how s/he reacts to it will flavor their career for a long time. If they're gutsy, the rookie will pull a few of their own right back.

The key to a good prank, of course, is that (A) no one gets hurt, and (B) it doesn't affect job performance. (Having to put on a dry shirt or pair of pants from a water fight is not affecting performance. Delaying response to an alarm by screwing with someone's gear is.)

All that said, this "prank" is WAY over the top, and could have gone WAY wrong:

Generally speaking, on-duty carry is not permitted in fire departments. I won't say I've never heard of it happening, but it's usually verboten. Still, firefighters as a group tend to be pretty much type-A take-the-bull-by-the-balls folks. If *one* person had been in the truck bay instead of the ready room, it wouldn't surprise me to see a rookie lying on the floor with the business end of an ax sticking out of his bean. I am still surprised that not ONE of the crew didn't try to fight back... but then again, it's easy to Monday-morning quarterback this one.

No word on whether the rookie still has a job - but I'm betting on not.

(For a few more interesting and less job-endangering ideas, try this site.)

Sep 19, 2011


Fine, Weerd. I'll play.

Pull out the knife/knives you have. Right now, immediately accessible. Take a picture. Post it.


Left to right:
ESEE Izula, Leatherman c301, Victorinox Classic AlOx, Kershaw Zing, Leatherman Core.

Yes, every single one of those is within reach at the moment. The Zing and Classic are in/on my pants, the rest are in/on my tactical man-purse.

Water Heating

We are at a bit of a crux in our home ownership. One of the negatives about our house - which we were well aware of when we bought it - was the antique water heater and furnace: they're both oil-fired.

We've had the oil tank filled a few times in the two-plus years since we bought the house, but oil is reaching all-time highs - as the gas pumps can attest. The last number I saw was $3.60/gal, meaning our 275-gallon tank would run right around a thousand dollars to top off.

Simply put, that's insane, and way outside our realm of comfort.

We can make do without the furnace - our primary heat for the winter is coal, and in the "shoulder" weeks we can use space heaters and add a sweater as necessary. Making do without hot water, however, isn't high on my list of Fun Things To Do In Winter. Thus, I'm exploring the options for replacement.

We have two options: propane or electric. A propane heater would require plumbing in an additional gas line and a new vent/chimney, not to mention the recurring propane bill - also around $4/gal at the moment. An electric heater would be more consistent in costs but has the negative of a lower "first hour rating".

Flip side: an electric heater is MUCH less expensive to install. A 50-gallon electric water heater is about $300 and I can install it in an afternoon, while a 50-gallon LP heater runs $500 - plus the cost of installation, which I am not qualified for (or comfortable doing).

And last week I discovered a third option: a heat-pump/electric hybrid water heater. GE released this about a year ago and I hadn't seen it - since I had no reason to go looking. However, what I *am* seeing looks good. Reviews have generally been positive, and it uses (nominally) about half the electricity of a standard electric heater. It does cost more initially - they're currently on sale at Lowe's for $999 - but the long-term savings look good. Even in our cellar, which is cool in the winter, it should prove a reasonable choice.

I haven't made up my mind completely, but I'm seriously considering it.

Sep 16, 2011


BobS knocks one out of the park with an epic-level fisking of an article on CNN.

I agree with the vast majority of his sentiments - while acknowledging that there are some really good teachers out there - but noted (in comments there as well) that he's writing this from the point of that rara avis: an involved and concerned parent.

Too many parents have abdicated their roles and responsibilities to the (broken) education system: before-school program, school breakfast, school, school lunch, school, after-school program, maybe athletics, drama, yearbook or other clubs, and so forth. It is not an understatement to say that a child in today's education system may spend as much as 14 hours per day in the care of educators. When I was in high school, I was on the bus at 7:10am, classes started at 8, track practice began immediately following school at 3 and went until about 5, and yearbook ran from 6:30 until 9:30 (twice a week).

That said, my parents parented me. We talked. Not a one-sided lecture from them, ignored or grunted at, but a talk. They'd ask how my day was, and ask questions as we went along. I didn't really talk to them about my relationships in high school, but then again, there weren't a lot of relationships to talk about. ;-) I knew they were always there to listen if I needed it.

They had expectations of me, and I met those expectations, or I faced consequences. Nothing so pedestrian as corporal punishment... no, my parents were the masters of disappointment. A look, a sigh, a shake of the head - that worked far better than a belt ever could have. A few teachers managed the same thing in my years at school - I wanted to please them, because I was hungry to learn, and the more I pleased them, the more I could learn.

I have a sneaking suspicion that type of teacher is a dying breed in our education system... parents, step up and fix it.

Sep 12, 2011

Not-quite Hiatus

Haven't had much of the blog muse lately. BBHIS has cut my hours back to something resembling reasonable, so I've been getting a hair more sleep and even starting to find time to do the things that need doing. We avoided the flood by about 40 miles and ten inches of rain (we got about 5" in 24 hours, an hour drive east of us ran closer to 15" in the same time period). The lawn is mostly mowed. Finishing the damn barn is the next major step, and if the weather cooperates this afternoon it should be well under way.

I did find time to head to the range for a bit this weekend, taking along the young lady I took last time and a friend of hers who was visiting. We took an assortment of hardware and burned a fair bit of ammo. Mistake on my part: I had forgotten to swap the comb on my 500 from the cheek-riser to the standard, so it was impossible to get a good cheek weld and use the beads. Of course, with deer season coming, I'll be swapping the barrel anyways, so the comb can stay as-is.

And a few pictures just because:

The 1911A1 .45: Yeah, it's a chick gun.

Me in the background, HerFriend foreground with the AR:

And Her with the AR:

Sep 11, 2011


The north tower has collapsed.

I go back to my desk, as there's nothing new to be gained from CNN.

Our call volume has gone to nearly zero as the northeast telephone system is swamped. An outgoing call can take five to ten minutes just to get a dial tone.

A coworker and I go to Applebee's for lunch. It's nearly empty and CNN is on every TV. At some point they turn off the audio and turn on their music. I ask them to turn the TV audio back on and they agree.

I spend much of the rest of the day talking to clients with little sense of geography; they ask if I can see the towers from my office, if anyone I know is/was there, etc.


Flight 93 has crashed in Shanksville, PA.

CNN is still on the loop of the south tower collapsing, but as memory serves, this is a ticker item across the bottom of the screen.


The south tower collapses.

My coworker and I had been leaning on my car in the parking lot, listening to the news on a local AM station. We dropped the cigarettes (yes, I had bummed one) and ran inside to the break room where a TV had been on CNN for a while. We arrived just in time to see the first footage of the tower collapsing.


Flight 77 has crashed into the Pentagon.

A coworker grabs me for a "smoke break" - I'm not usually a smoker but step outside with him anyways.


Flight 175 has just struck the south tower.

I'm still at work, half-watching CNN streaming (and failing miserably as their site has become wildly overloaded), and this is no longer an accident.

I keep working and trying to keep half an ear on the news.


Flight 11 has just struck the north tower.

I am sitting in my cubicle at work, taking calls from clients on the east coast and into the midwest, along with a few early-risers on the west coast. A friend IMs me something to the effect of, "A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center."

Quick reviews of CNN are thin on details, and I go back to work.

Sep 5, 2011

100 Sci-Fi

After a week or two of seeing this I decided to bite the bullet and do it. Here it is, NPR's "Top 100 Science Fiction Novels", with the ones I've read in bold. (30/100; acceptable I suppose.)

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange, Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Sep 1, 2011

Brain Dump

The past week or so has been a little crazy. The family at large rolled in late last week and we buried Grandpa's ashes on Saturday, followed by a memorial service at the old-folks home he lived at. (Yeah, yeah, "assisted living facility" ... it still smells of Bengay.) The service was good, positive, and some unexpected attendees were there. Grandpa's barber closed shop for the afternoon to come - he passed up income to pay respects. There aren't enough like him left in the world.

After the memorial service we all changed to human clothes and started the process of packing and sorting his apartment. A lot of it had already been done by one of Grandpa's sons (my uncle) and his wife - they did a tremendous amount of work, taking clothes to the Salvation Army, disposing of old newspapers, and the like - and labeling items that already had been claimed.

There were a few minor meltdowns along the way, and one major, but that wasn't unexpected. We finally stopped moving furniture to storage around 9, loaded a few more boxes into cars, and had dinner around 10. Sunday morning we all slept in, had a late brunch, and then dug in again.

We were really hitting the smaller stuff at this point, and making claims to things we wanted - and doing so remarkably well. There had been talk of selling Grandpa's coin collection as a lot and splitting the money; I spoke up and took that. He has some fascinating coins, and likely some valuable stuff. I cleaned out a drawer in his dresser of all sorts of small stuff - his 1930s-vintage Boy Scout rank cards, a box full of pocket knives, his daily journal from 1945-49, and so forth. Sitting in the bottom of the drawer was a bag full of 1960s JFK half-dollars, and a few loose coins - including an 1842 US penny. I'm looking forward to sorting through the rest of the collection over the coming months, and reading his journal. (Entry on the day my father was born: "Went to bed around 2 am, got up and took cab to Presby. Hosp. around 5, sat in reception until..." etc.)

Most of the family has departed, although there's a bit more furniture to move, and MrsZ and I are trying to figure out where our new stuff is going to go.

Work has been a bit ... well ... nuts. The kids are back in town, and call volume has increased commensurately. BBHIS has been crazy-busy with people outfitting dorm rooms and apartments, and contractors trying to get the last few projects in while the weather holds.

Speaking of weather ... Irene. Sounds like we dodged a bit of a bullet on this one. The track had been pretty consistently east of us, so I wasn't terribly worried; nonetheless I made sure we had full cans for the generator and tanks in the cars and picked up a few extra cases of water. We ended up with a morning of steady wind and about two inches of rain. No big deal. Out east of us, things didn't turn out so well. That said, we're doing what Yankees do - picking up the pieces and getting on with life as best we can. My thoughts are with those who have lost so much - good luck to them.

And finally, this line from Tam has been provoking much thought lately:
"Dude, where's my country?"

Tam, it's all around you. Yep, things are in rough shape. The economy sucks. Our liberties are being trampled upon left and right. But it's still America. I'm still proud to say, "I'm an American." I don't think we're past the point of no return - but it's an uphill battle and it's not going to be pretty.

Tam also writes:
Except people being interviewed are saying things like "...and then 9/11 happened...", like it was an earthquake or blizzard, and " husband died...", like he'd just had a little myocardial infarction at his desk one fine autumn day. 
That's easy: the attacks of 9/11 *are* like earthquakes and blizzards. They affect all of us, but are beyond the ability of any one individual to control, avoid, or prevent. And "my husband died" is simply trying to cope with something that is generally beyond our realm of reference. For a grieving widow, what's easier to say? "My husband died" (like he had a heart attack) or "My husband was murdered" (and either died in an jet-fuel-fed inferno, or chose to jump 90-odd stories, or rode those 90 stories down and was crushed)?

Is it self-deception? Yes. Is it acceptable? Yes. It's a coping mechanism. The person who is coping in this method knows - absolutely and unequivocally - how their loved one died. But I can't fault them for trying to find some solace in it, and perhaps making the mention of it less likely to create uncomfortable situations in conversation.
Grandpa's funeral was good, small storm, people deal.