Friday, September 30, 2005

Politics: An army by any other name...

Via Justin Buist's Log, the Detroit PD has a shiny new panzerkampfwagen. I can see how resistance to antivehicular mines could be necessary in passing out parking tickets on the mean streets of the Motor City, but how the hell are you going to chase down a drunken speeder on COPS when your spiffy Armored Personnel Carrier could get dusted off by an asthmatic Yugo running on three cylinders?

Parenthetically, the Detroit coppers are short on Crown Vics and Motorolas, but somehow managed to loot enough forfeited asse... er, I mean, scrape up enough loose change to shell out a cool three quarters of a million dollars for their new toy... er, vital piece of law enforcement gear.

Below: The Detroit PD has recently announced a crackdown on jaywalkers.

Also of note, the ClickOnDetroit article referenced here clearly states that the vehicle has 20 wheels, confirming that Remedial Math 101 is still not required for a BA in Journalism.

Blog Stuff: More goodness from Lousiana.

What a happy discovery is Xavier Thoughts. He'll make you cry. He'll make you smile.

(If you're a S&W fan, he'll even make you gloat...)

Ask The Gun Nut: Bolt handles.

Dear Auntie Gun Nut,
Okay, I understand the sight thing, but what about these bolt handles on my old rifles? Why are some bent and some straight? Also, some of my rifles are really, really long, and others are just tiny. Could people in fin de last siecle Europe just not make up their minds, or what?

Gentle Reader,
During the Golden Age of the military bolt action rifle, it was common to issue long rifles to infantrymen that were optimized for long sight radius, long-range ballistics, and (probably most important to the general staffs of the time) bayonet fighting. These unwieldy looking smokepoles usually had straight bolt handles for positive operation under all conditions. Very short carbines were issued to engineers, cannon cockers, mountain troops, bicycle troops, and cavalry, who needed a more compact arm that could be kept slung while leaving both hands free to do their primary jobs, like building bridges, cocking cannon or climbing mountains. These carbines often had bent bolt handles, to prevent their snagging on things while the troopies went about their chores. Incidentally, most artillery and engineer carbines had their sling swivels mounted on the bottom, in the same position as an infantry rifle's, while those on cavalry carbines tended to be mounted along the side of the weapon opposite the bolt handle, allowing it to be slung diagonally across the cavalry trooper's back; a much more secure method of toting the carbine about while sitting on the back of a galloping horse, waving sabers, pistols, and lances around.

It was the British who first introduced a General Purpose rifle for army-wide issue, in the shape of the "Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield", or SMLE (which is, as wags are fond of pointing out, only "Short" when compared to a Long Lee.) This combined the snag-resistant bent bolt of a carbine and a slightly reduced overall length with an arm still equipped with volley sights and of a length suitable for bayonet work. Hot on its heels came the US Model 1903, followed later by the German Kar.98k and the Japanese Type 99 Arisaka.

As the bolt-action faded from the scene, armies generally stayed with one length of rifle, preferring to equip specialist troops with machine pistols. Now, however, in the early 21st Century, one can see echoes of earlier times in the M16/M4 combination used by the US Army, or the AK74/AKS74U (although neither pair has a straight bolt handle...)

Bikes: Seasons change...

Ah, the changing of the seasons. Two days ago was the ceremony of The Zipping of the Liner Into The Joe Rocket Jacket. Yesterday morning, I actually ran the butt toasters in the Beemer for a couple of minutes this morning...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Blog Stuff: But can it play Counterstrike?

Via GrampaPinhead, the $100 laptop for Third World schoolkids.

The referenced articles don't answer the two most important questions: Does the screen have high enough resolution for serious pr0n usage by the cannon-fodder thugs of Third World strongmen, and is it equipped with WiFi for the surreptitious uploading of "419 Scam" emails through the local missionary school's network?

I guess it's easy, when coming up with a visionary system to wire every dusty schoolyard from Moyobamba to Mbala, to forget that no nascent computing technology seems to catch on with us great unwashed un-visionary types until it's adept at three things: Games, Porn, and Email.

Politics: Impervious to sermonettes...

Given my past track record (I am told, although I don't believe it, that Dennis Hopper's character was not the plucky protagonist of Waterworld, the two chicks in Absolutely Fabulous were not actually intended to be role models, and Archie Bunker was not the hero of All In The Family), I may actually enjoy the ham-fisted preach-a-thon that is Lord Of War, although not in the way the movie's makers intended.

"How do we arm the other eleven?" It's not just a hypothetical question to me; it's my job description.

Boomsticks: Everybody's doing it, so why shouldn't I?

Well, we got some Yugo Model 59 SKS's in at the shop. They're very reasonably priced. I don't currently have an SKS (sold my last Norinco years back.) These are very reasonably priced. They don't have all that goofy grenade-launching crap hanging off the muzzle. They're dirt cheap. Did I mention I don't have an SKS? And that they're almost free?

I'm about half a beer away from convincing myself that not only is it un-American for me to not own an SKS of some sort, but that I don't have anything better to do with my funds this paycheck, and that Ramen Pride noodles taste good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Books: BUD/S, the Bronze Age, and barflies.

Recent Reads:

Warrior Soul, by Chuck Pfarrer, is a fascinating look inside the SEAL community during the 1980's. Not as laden with bombastic machismo as the Marcinko stuff so popular with the Mall Ninja crowd, it's well-written, as honest and introspective as only a psych major could write it, and makes a good pair with One Perfect Op for reading on a long weekend.

To enjoy this next one, you have to be a geek. More specifically, a history geek. Even more specifically, you have to be a history geek who's curious about any possible organized violent goings-on in neolithic and Bronze Age Europe, back before everybody caught a bad case of literacy from the Minoans. Also, you need to be able to read about warfare as described by the pointy-headed faculty from the soft sciences departments. If you fit these qualifications, buy Ancient Warfare, a collection of writings from various archaeologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists, collected and edited by John Carman. Probably all five of us who are interested have already read it, but one never knows...

Lastly, I finally got around to reading Callahan's Legacy. As usual, a very happy book. As usual, very hard to describe to anyone who hasn't read any of the series by Spider Robinson. (Basically, a bunch of drunks tell bad jokes, love each other, and save the world, then pay their bar tabs and go home.) A Callahan's book is like going to the zoo: Either you're happy to see the giraffes again, or you're not. Me? I love giraffes.

Politics: Yup, they're still biased.

Alphecca brings us the weekly scoop. Check it out.

Boomsticks: Dr. Strangegun.

One of our part-time guys at work is (and this is, coming from me, a serious accusation) a Major Gun Geek.

I mean, after a few 'multi-cylinder revolver', '.322 H&R SuperMag', or 'Mini Broomhandle Mauser In .25 ACP' schemes, one learns to cringe when one hears him say "Ooh! I have an idea!"

Of course I had to convince him to start gunblogging.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blog Stuff: Yay for me.

My 1,000th hit.

You like me; you really, really like me!

Politics: Yet another little thumbnail test...

You are a

Social Liberal
(83% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(93% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Like this comes as a surprise to anyone who knows me...

It'd be interesting to see where Marko and Alston stand.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Blog Stuff: Another pointless musing...

For a statistics geek like myself, this Site Meter tool is endlessly fascinating. For instance, it just struck me as odd that while 86% of the visitors here are running one of the Operating Systems from the Leviathan of Redmond, only 48% are using a version of IE.

It probably shouldn't seem so unusual to me since, although I'm running Winderz and Firefox on my desktop, when I post from "The Porch" of my blog's title, the iBook is using OS X and IE. Go figure...

Oh, and to my faithful daily reader in Riyadh: Thanks! You make me feel very cosmopolitan and worldwide. :-)

Bikes: You'd think I would learn by now...

It's taken me a fair amount of time to really "get back on the horse" after my disastrous wreck of the summer of '00. However, trading the TL1000S (aka "BrutalScaryDeathBike") for the 250 Ninja (aka "HappyHappyFunBike") has seen a serious resurgence in the amount of time I spend in the saddle, and a commensurate increase in using a motorcycle for my daily commuting and errand running. A motorcycle really is The Perfect Vehicle, the motorized equivalent of Seven League Boots, ideal for conveying just the rider to her destination, without enough room on board for her worries or cares. It's a wonderful method for commuting: The ride to work lets you bounce into the office smiling and adrenalized to start the day, and the ride home leaves the concerns of the workplace fluttering in the slipstream someplace along the way, like so many dead leaves.

So now I'm looking for a bike to use for more serious commuting duty, leaving the Ninjette free to be the backroad playtoy it excels at being. I'd like something that'll maintain freeway speeds without having to scream along at 10,000 RPM, and which won't bounce around on expansion strips or be blown hither and yon in crosswinds like the Ninjette, which feels like a ten-speed with a chainsaw motor on the superslab. It needs to have a comfortable riding position; the so-called "sit up and beg" posture encouraged by UJM's and early sportbikes. Full bodywork is a must; my RF600R would keep everything but your helmet, toes, knuckles, and shoulders dry in anything short of a real Texas toad-strangler of a downpour.

It looks like I'll be surfing eBay motors and snooping around the dimly-lit back corners of bike shops for those machines condemned as too obsolete or too plush by today's sportbike cognoscenti. I'll be looking for such also-rans as the 750 Katana, RF900R, or CB1000F Hurricane. Cheaper is gooder. Keep your eyes peeled...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Ask The Gun Nut: World War One rifle sights...

Dear Auntie Gun Nut,
Why are the sights on my World War One-vintage Enfield graduated out to 2,000 yards? Was it because of trench warfare? Were these guys just amazing shooters, or what?

Gentle Reader,
Most all of the rifles used in WWI were developed long before WWI. Besides, the enemy's frontline trench was rarely more than a couple of hundred yards away, and in some memorable sectors of the Western Front the other side's forwardmost trenchline was within easy grenade-tossing range.

The concept of volley fire dated back to the first gunpowder-armed troops. By the time of mass gunpowder armies in the 17th century, when the only way to hit someone with the smoothbores of the day much past 50-100 yds was with sheer dumb luck, battles consisted of you jogging all your columns around the battlefield to catch the enemy's guys, forming your columns into line, and shooting the other guy's line until it was softened up enough for a shock attack.

As rifled weapons came into general use, the military establishment completely overlooked their increased effectiveness in individual employment against point targets and said "Cool! We can deliver our volleys from further away now!" So, the American Civil War began with a display of classic tactics of the kind that had evolved in a nearly unbroken line from Maurice of Nassau to Gustavus Adolphus to Frederick the Great to Napoleon. When it became apparent that advancing in battalion columns against the massed fire of rifled muzzleloaders was a good way to get yourself shot to ribbons, troops on both sides began using tactics that would still be familiar today: pickets (LP/OP's), movement in dashes, et cetera.

A few years later, the Frogs and the Jerries decided to take a poke at each other. Despite the fact that troops of the French and Prussian armies were armed with vastly more modern weapons than the rifle-muskets of the American Civil War, they turned a blind eye to any lessons they may have learned from that first big industrialized conflict (indeed, Field Marshal Moltke scorned the very idea that there was anything to learn from "armed rabble chasing each other about in the wilderness.") The Austro-Prussian War and Franco-Prussian War were fought with weapons of the late 19th Century and tactics of the early 17th. When the tactics of Jena were applied to Sedan, the results were predictable and bloody. Flexible and forward thinkers that they were, the general staffs of the losing armies decided that their problem was (are you ready for this?) that their troops didn't charge into the massed, long-range rifle fire fast enough!

The end result was that the final rifles of the 19th Century were all set up for long-range shooting by fast-moving formations of infantry against other fast-moving formations of infantry, a situation that had only ever existed in wargames and in the minds of general staff officers...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Politics: Jeez, I was only kidding!

I was only kidding here, but it seems that certain members of the pointy-headed set across the big pond are warming up to blaming the Shrub for hurricanes. He thumbed his nose at Kyoto, after all.

Tune in next week when we find out how Karl Rove was actually the mastermind behind the sinking of the Lusitania.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Boomsticks: Carnival of Cordite, Vol. XXXI

Smell that? That yummy aroma of caramel corn, peanuts, and nitrocellulose? It means the carnival's back in town. Admission is still free!

Blog Stuff: An infinite number of barking moonbats...

...with an infinite number of keyboards can HAARP on about the most amazingly silly stuff.

What an exciting world they live in. I haven't been so entertained since I found out that the little stickers on the back sides of traffic signs were to guide the invading troops from furrin' nations. (Because them furriners drive on the wrong side of the road, natch.)

Politics: Fun With Quotes, Volume I

"To date, we have heard a great deal about the needs of law enforcement and not enough about the privacy needs of the rest of us... While we need to revise our laws to reflect the digital age, one thing that does not need revision is the Fourth Amendment... Now, more than ever, we must protect citizens' privacy from the excesses of an arrogant, overly powerful government." -Sen. Ashcroft, 1997

"[O]ne would be hard-pressed to find a single grieving relative of those killed in the bombings of the World Trade Center in New York or the federal building in Oklahoma City who would not have gladly sacrificed a measure of personal privacy if it could have saved a loved one." -Sen. Kerry, 1997

"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberties, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists- for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve." -Attorney General Ashcroft, 2001

"[T]here will be no John Ashcroft trampling on the Bill of Rights." -Sen. Kerry, 2003

"And the party on the Left,
Is now the party on the Right.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,
We won't get fooled again." -The Who, 1971

Random Musing...

Is a chicken just an egg's way of making more eggs?

(Richard Dawkins thinks so, by the way. He may be right.)

Politics: The Big Lie of corporate taxation...

"Taxing those evil fat cat multinational corporations" is a popular theme amongst the William Jennings Bryan-esque populists that infest the grassroots of both major American political parties these days. Unfortunately for them, it's a completely bogus idea.

"Corporate taxes" are a myth and a joke. For every $1 demanded of a corporation, they take $0.50 from their employee's salaries and get the other $0.50 by jacking up the price of their goods/services.

You can't tax a corporation; it's merely an indirect way of extorting more money from the taxpayers.

(Example: The government decides that it will fund the "Diapers For Needy Babies" program by taxing I.N.C. Inc.'s baby diaper division $1,000 dollars per year, since it is an evil big corporation. Where does I.N.C. get this extra $1,000? By waving a magic wand? No, by raising the price of its diapers by $500 and by laying off $500 worth of employees. Now you have more needy babies, and more expensive diapers.

Does this generate a net good for society?)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Boomsticks: The View From The Other Side Of The Counter.

A common staple of Errornet gun nut chatter is The Idiot Clerk At The Local Gun Shop. I often have to bite my lip to keep from replying "Have you looked around on your side of the counter recently?"

Some Honest-to-Wotan war stories from the last couple years (First in a Continuing Series):

Case 1:
Guy brings in his Remington 1100 (a semiautomatic shotgun), inquiring if we have a gunsmith. When answered in the affirmitive, he indicates the gun needs work. I pull out a gunsmithing ticket and proceed to start checking the gun in. Now, when filling in the "Work To Be Performed" field, I try to be fairly specific so that our gunsmith, Shannon, knows where to start, so I ask the guy what's wrong with his shootin' iron.
"It ain't workin'."
"Right, but what's it not doing? Failure to fire? Failure to feed? Failure to eject?"
"Somethin's tightened up inside."
"Tightened up inside where, sir? The action? The magazine?"
"Inside the gun. Somethin's tightened up inside." He then held up a mangled piece of metal and helpfully added "This piece fell out, too."
"Okay, but what's wrong with it? What's it not doing?"
"It ain't workin'. Somethin's tightened up inside."
I shrugged, wrote "Somethin's tightened up inside" on the ticket, taped the mysterious widget to the ticket, and sent it back to gunsmithing.

Case 2:
Guy brings in his DIY FAL (ie. a rifle built from a parts kit at home) and indicates that something ain't right with the gun. When asked if it's short-cycling, double-feeding, failing to extract, or what, he pretty much indicated that "All Of The Above" was the answer. I checked the gun in by writing "Make gun run" on the ticket. (When finished, Shannon wrote "Made gun run" at the top of the "Work Performed" field. Smartass.)

Case 3:
Couple comes in with four unruly tots and proceeds to start filling out yellow forms (aka. "The 4473," after the nomenclature) on a pair of Hi-Points (extremely lo-bujit pistols); a 9mm for him and a .380 for her. As they're both scribbling industriously on the paperwork, I go to assist another customer in the packed store. I turn away from the other customer to notice that two of their ankle-biters have snatched up the heaters in question and are attempting to play cops and robbers with the guns behind the counter, forcing me to request (loudly) "Can we please get the handguns away from the minors?"
About this time, the father looks up from his 4473 and asks "If I've been convicted of a felony, do I have to put 'yes' in this blank?"
"Uh, well, I reckon so..."
"It wasn't anything serious; I just kicked a cop. I'm off probation, now."
"Well, go ahead and put 'yes' in the blank and we'll see what Nashville says." I replied, trying to think of how to gracefully extricate myself from this situation.
Two minutes later, he and wifey-poo completed their forms and handed them, along with their driver's licenses, to me.

They seemed baffled that the fact that they were residents of Kentucky would preclude them from buying a handgun in Tennessee.

The guns went back in the showcase, the 4473's went in the trashcan, and I went to the bathroom for an Advil.

Case 4:
A pleasant gentleman is in the shop, picking up some repairs. We chat for a moment, and he asks "Hey, can you tell me what a gun's worth?"
"Sure. Do you have it with you?"
"Naw, it's at home."
"Well, without seeing it..."
"Oh, I don't need no appraisal letter or nothin', just a ballpark figure. Jus' curious, is all."
"What kind is it?"
"It's a Luger."
Great. Luger collecting is a hobby unto itself, with jillions of variations of the gun and weighty tomes dedicated to sorting them out... "Um," I mutter, trying to narrow things down "What kind of Luger?"
"A German one."
Great. They're almost all German. "Yes, but what kind of German Luger?"
"Nine millimeter."
As you can guess, they're almost all in 9mm. This guy had, in effect, just asked me what his car was worth. What kind of car? Oh, a Ford. With a V-8. As seriously and respectfully as I could, I told him "Somewhere between $250 and $35,000." No doubt he went home happy, having only heard the higher end of the price quote...

So that's the view from my side of the counter. But, hey, it beats flippin' burgers, even if the pay's about the same. All I ask is this: The next time you call the shop and ask the harried-sounding chick on the other end of the line how much your grandpa's Remington is worth, please be understanding if she cackles wildly and says "I can't see it too well from here; hold it closer to the phone."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Blog Stuff: Xavier Thoughts...

XavierBreath from TFL has launched a blog. Shadetree gunsmith, nurse, and a dab hand with a johnboat and life vest; I'll be looking forward to his musings...

Politics: It's Wednesday, and that means...

...that the Weekly Check on the Bias went up at Alphecca yesterday. Go tune in.

Blog Stuff: Video Killed The Radio Star.

I grew up in Atlanta. I came of age listening to Atlanta's radio stations.

My first car had a Z93 bumper sticker. My first motorcycle sported 96 Rock stickers on either side of the tailpiece. The 280ZX I drove in the early '90s had a 99X sticker in the back window. I could be identified, catalogued, by the music preferences that I proudly showcased to the world.

I've lived in Knoxville for almost five years now. I still haven't programmed the station presets in the Beemer's head unit. Why is this?

It's not like I'm some notorious .mp3 pirate; I think I may have downloaded two songs from the Errornet since I first got a connection back in '97. There are a ton of .mp3's on my desktop machines and my laptop, but they were all burned off my huge CD collection, which was mostly picked up from used record shops or online stores. The big change is that: A) A CD burner lets me mix my own tunes with a tiny fraction of the time and hassle that using the old dual-cassette Sony deck mouldering away on my bookshelf entailed, and B) The CD changer in the trunk of my car lets me load up a week's worth of commercial-free home-mixed music, selected by me instead of some focus group, at one shot. An .mp3-capable head unit in the car, connected to an iPod, would take this ability straight to its reductio ad absurdum limits. I'd never have to let someone else pick my music again.

On the other hand, I'd hardly ever hear new music again. As it is, barring recommendations from friends, accidental exposure via advertising or the 'web, or the occasional "Hey, that's some neat cover art!" random grab at McKay's, I'm almost never exposed to music by artists I haven't already heard or from styles I don't already listen to.

What's the solution? XM and its pay-to-listen galaxy of narrow-focus stations? Some edgy new FM station whose market niche is "Playing cool tunes Tamara's never heard before?"

I've got money to spend on music, and I'd like to spend it on something other than blank CD's for my next Roadtrip Mix...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Really, Really Miscellaneous: FSM.

Although I have been a longtime follower of Way Of The Invisible Pink Unicorn Blessed be Her Holy Hooves, my simple faith has been shaken to its very foundations by the sound scientific arguments pointing to the existence of a benevolent Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I want to believe...

Random Musing...

Why do drive-through ATM's have braille buttons?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Books: 1632.

Just finished my (third? fourth?) re-read of 1632 by Eric Flint. A fun read, even if Mr. Flint is a yellow-dog collectivist at heart. ;-)

One thing that always disturbs me about the book: Grantville is supposedly a middlin'-small hick town in rural West-by-God-Virginia. Don't these people have any guns? A population of 3,000, and not one decent NFA collection in town? No collectors of C&R military rifles? Not one Burt Gummer-style survivalist with a basement full of cases of Hirtenberger? Come on... Willing suspension of disbelief is one thing, but I'm always thinking "If I could just get two or three more households snagged up in the plotline..."

Politics: Pork chop.

In the wake of Katrina, the Blogosphere is descending on government pork at the behest of El Instapundito. As someone who views public schools and the USPS as flagrant wastes of stolen money, I'm uniquely unqualified to contribute to this noble effort. I can, however, point out a particularly inane bit of government waste that impinges on my everyday life. This is the semi-infamous (and hilariously pointless) BATF form 3310.4.

In what is, I'd assume, a blundering and inefficient attempt to combat gun-running and non-licensee sales, the BATF provides me free of charge (ie: on your dime) with stacks of triplicate forms innocently numbered 3310.4, for the ostensible purpose of recording multiple handgun purchases. Should you purchase more than one handgun from me in a five day period, I have to fill out this form, mail one copy to the local law enforcement agency, who is expected to take notice of it and file it (unfunded mandate); then I fax one copy to the BATF (to a phone line you pay for) where, one assumes, a desk jockey (whose salary comes out of your pocket) will do with it whatever it is that the does with reams of meaningless forms (uses them as mulch in public parks, I'd guess); the last copy of the form I'm supposed to keep filed myself. For many years. (I'll fund the new filing cabinets for the shop by raising gun prices 10 cents across the board.)

Aside from the philosophical implications of this witless regulation (like it's any of the government's damned business how often you decide to buy a pistol,) let's look at it from a purely pragmatic standpoint:

1) You buy 20 pistols in one day, each from a different firearms retailer or pawn shop, and ship them via UPS to a "Mr. Albert Kayda" in Flint, MI: No form gets filed.

2) You buy a handgun from me every sixth day, for shipment to the Black Gangsta Disciples in da' 'hood: No form gets filed.

3) You buy one hundred shotguns and semiautomatic AR/AK clones to send off to the White Aryan Resistance in Two Mules, Idaho: No form gets filed.

4) You purchase two pre-World War One Smith & Wesson revolvers in Very Fine/Near Mint condition, complete with box and tools, from an estate consignment: Ahhh, now the Special Gunrunning Form gets filled out on your purchase and faxed to the BATFE for some taxpayer-funded minion to ponder and get all sweaty-palmed over while wondering what nefarious scheme you have in mind.

Your tax dollars hard at work, my friends...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Boomsticks: Inconceivable!

The sad tale of a busted AK.

Odd, 'cause Vector usually turns out good work, but everybody can crank out a lemon every now and again.

From practical experience, I can relate that it's no fun to explain to a young customer that the Legendary AK Reliability touted on every Counterstrike message board on the Errornet does not necessarily apply to, for example, Romanian parts guns knocked together in the wilds of darkest St. Alban's, Vermont.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Boomsticks: Carnival of Cordite No. 30 is up.

Follow the whiff of powder smoke...

Blog Stuff: ...this is where I heal my hurts.

Those of you who shop at Coal Creek may have noticed that I tend to be there on any day that ends in the letter "Y". In order to prevent further clutch slippage, I decided to take Friday off (and by "off", I don't mean my usual "I'll just drop in for a few minutes to see what's up at the shop...")

I started the Day Off festivities by not setting my alarm clock when I went to bed Thursday night. The sight of my bedroom ceiling at 0700 proved this to be a pointless gesture. I toddled downstairs and enjoyed coffee, Diet Cherry Coke, cigarettes, and Eric Flint's 1632 on the side porch for a few hours.

Along about noonish, my belly button started rubbing a callous on my backbone, so I splashed through the monsoon and saddled up the Beemer to go in search of grub. On a whim, I decided to stop at Parkside Tavern and test the vittles there. An immediate plus was the fact that, despite the upscale environment, the waitstaff remained cheerful and polite in the face of a tired-looking chick in jeans, combat boots, ball cap, and a Bladerunner tee shirt. Things just got better from there:
Perky waitron: "What would you like to drink?"
Grumpy customer: "What do you have on draft?"
Perky waitron: "Bud, Bud Light" (customer starts to frown) "Mich Light, Sam Adams" (customer's frown deepens as she prepares to order a Diet Coke) "and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale."
Formerly grumpy customer: "Huzzah! They don't serve that at Charlie Pepper's any more!"
Perky waitron: "Huh?"
FGC: "The Sierra. I'll have one. Er, please."

I ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna appetizer, which was deeeluxious, and had the 9 oz. filet with asparagus on the side for a main course. The filet was okay. Or maybe it wasn't. It was hard to tell, considering that they had apparently dunked it in a vat of butter some weeks back and hadn't let it up for air 'til today. The upside of that was that my plate was fairly swimming in butter to swirl my yummy asparagus through.

Anyhow, the service was good enough to warrant a return visit to explore other parts of the menu.

After lunch, I took the shreds of blue appearing in the sky as an Omen directing me to drop the Beemer's top and crank the tunes, all while seeking some of the wonderful side streets and back roads of West Knox. The streets included Canton Hollow, Mourland, Westland, the tail end of Gallaher View, Bluegrass; the music was the album Sunday 8PM, by Faithless.
"This is my church. This is where I heal my hurts..."

And it's back to work tomorrow morning.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Books: Fireships.

David Drake has long been a master of using historical events or classical literature as a basis for stories that, when transposed into a science fiction setting and stripped of their historical context, become brilliant character studies of how ordinary humans behave when caught up in extraordinary events. What Cross The Stars and The Voyage did for the tales of Odysseus and Jason, the stories of Piet Ricimer, Stephen Gregg, Sarah Blythe, and the rest in Igniting The Reaches, Through The Breach, and Fireships do for Drake and the other Elizabethean sea dogs of the Age of Discovery.

I'd read Reaches and Breach several months back, and had been scouring used bookstore shelves for Fireships religiously. I finally struck gold at McKay's, and finished the read last night.

As a short synopsis, the first book is based on Francis Drake's early pirac... er, privateering days, the second on the epic voyage of the Golden Hind, and the last centers around the events of the Spanish Armada. These characters and events make for compelling reading no matter what milieu they're dropped into, and David Drake does his usual expert job of humanizing the people caught in the most inhumane of circumstances.

The whole series is now available under one cover as The Reaches.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Boomsticks: No Longer AR-less...

A couple of months ago I parted company with my house gun, a Rock River/CavArms M4gery, in order to shake loose the cash to snatch up a '56-vintage S&W Model of 1955 Target .45. I fully intended to snag another AR ASAP, and so I saved all my mags, and stripped it of its GG&G Sling Thing and SureFire weaponlight. Time dragged on, and I kept finding important things to do with my money, like making the empty, hurtie feeling in my tummy go away, keeping a roof over my head, and buying cool boots and flashlights; basically, using it on things that were not replacement AR-15's.

The lack of a house gun gnawed at me until last week, when I finally cut a co-worker a check for an old Essential Arms lower, complete with Vltor collapsable stock and Hogue grip. Next, I swapped a 2.5" 686 to another co-worker in exchange for a DPMS flat top M4 upper he had lying around. Add a flip-up Yankee Hill rear sight, insert a 30-rd mag of 75gr Hornady TAP, prop it in the corner, and suddenly the old homestead didn't feel so empty anymore.

Incidentally, some folks may be wondering at my choice of a house gun. Why did I replace my shotgun with a carbine? And, if so, why an AR-type carbine? The answers to these questions soon, Gentle Reader.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Boomsticks: Carnival of Cordite

Gullyborg has inserted my mugshot in the latest Carnival of Cordite. Rumors of payola are completely unfounded. (But only because I'd exhausted my advertising budget for the month already.)

Boomsticks: Wal-Mart announces program to support small gun stores.

Ever community-conscious, Wal-Mart has boldly announced a program to prop up small gun stores in the gulf states hardest hit by Katrina. Bravo!

Highlight of the article on the program was the following quote from an Idealist-on-the-Street interview:
Local naif Mike White, of Kenner, LA, mumbled "Why can't we get along? This is a time of crisis," around a granola bar that he did not, unfortunately, proceed to choke on.

No word as to whether Wally-World is planning on voluntarily slitting its own throat in the tacky clothing, Chinese audio equipment, or cheap tire markets yet, although local business owners are slavering in anticipation...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Politics: Jack-Booted Thuggery in New Orleans...

Jack. Booted. Thugs.

There is absolutely no goddam excuse for this.

I know, I know... It's not the fault of the cops and the guardsmen. Zey are only followink ze orders, nein?

Is it time yet, Claire?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Boomsticks: Miscellaneous firearms stuff...

My friend Marko, after many years in the Gun Of The Month club (or, as he'd truthfully counter, "sampling the cornucopia of excellent designs on the market today"), is now rather determinedly kickin' it old school. He's seemed quite content with his fidelity to the M&P, too.

Les Jones showed remarkable taste by snagging the Nearly-Free Gun. (My guess was right, btw: Gun + buckshot + birdshot + slugs + tax + TICS was still under a C-note.) The next one that comes in like that, I'm going to try and hang it in a blister pack. "My First Shootin' Kit." :-)

Lastly, maybe this 209x50 Encore barrel isn't such a bad thing. Winchester's offering their 260gr .45 Platinum Tip hollow points as a sabot load for muzzleloading. With a gadget factor that high, how could I resist snagging some? I wonder how much a good chrono costs?

Gear Ho': These boots are made for door-kickin'...

Last week the sole of my starboard GSG-9 boot started to come adrift towards the toe, clearly indicating that new footwear for work was in order. So I planned a slew of errands around my "day off" (I try and spend no more than three or four hours in the shop on Fridays): new boots, new jeans, and an oil change & a long-overdue detailing for the Beemer.

Despite my usual Day Off attire, which sees my Coal Creek Armory ball cap replaced by one from the BMW Lifestyles shop, and the usual black gun-related tee-shirt replaced with a tee that snarkily proclaims "Actually, yes, the world does revolve around me," the guy behind the counter at the local Military & Police supply joint recognized me as being a black-clad minion of the CCA Empire, and, bowing and scraping, gave me a good deal on a pair of boots even more tactical than my Dear Departed GSG-9's: some 5.11 ATACs. You can't get much more tactical than a boot that says "Tactical" right on the sole. They seem to offer the ankle support I prefer for motorcycling as well.

From there, I proceeded to West Town Mall, where I discovered (much to my chagrin) that The Gap had completely changed the styles and fitting descriptions of their jeans since the last time I came in for an armload. When one has been wearing the same style and cut of blue jeans for over a decade, this can result in some disorientation. As I stood, blinking in confusion, a helpful salesperson came over to me:
Salesperson: "Can I help you find something?"
Me: "You've changed my jeans."
Salesperson: "Well, not too much. Uh, what cut did you like?"
Me: "Classic, slim fit, stonewashe..." *RING*, *RING* "Hang on; gotta take this call... Yeah? It was Major Smith? He did? Okay, when he gets there, make sure you give him the military discount on the uppers, and offer him as many spare magazines as he wants. Make sure he knows he gets ten percent off the case price on ammunition, too. Uh-huh. Let 'em rent the submachinegun, then. Okay. 'Bye... Anyway, where were we? Oh, yeah: classic, slim fit, stonewashed."
Salesperson: "..." (Insert sounds of crickets chirping...)

Apparently, this was the first time our intrepid salesperson had ever heard an arms deal being brokered by cell phone in the women's jeans section of The Gap. Comparatively speaking, the last errands of the day (detailing & oil change) were completely anticlimactic.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Books: Iraq again, the stars, and the far future.

The last couple of day's reading:

War Reporting for Cowards, by Chris Ayres. This is (mostly) a funny look at the very most awful (and first) camping trip by a self-described neat-freak hypochondriac coward. In the marshes of southern Iraq. With the Marines. During a war. Little wonder he freaked and left. Funny (hilarious in parts) and bitterly self-honest, but I must admit to yelling at the book "Stick with it Ayres! I listened to your self-absorbed childhood tales, so don't you go punking out on me, man! Poole is going to scoop you in Baghdad!" Ah, well...

Time and Stars, by Poul Anderson. A compilation of short stories dating from the early '60s by an aknowledged master of the genre. I'll generally agree with the reviews at the link provided, with the following differences: 1) I found "Epilogue" to be a genuinely touching story... from the machine's point of view. The humans were a little coldly mechanistic. Sorta like Bladerunner. 2) "Eve Times Four" was flat hilarious, except it would have been even moreso if he would've let Marie kick Newhouse's ass on camera. Ah, well...

Currently (re)reading The Weapon Shops Of Isher, by A.E. van Vogt. Of course I love it, being a Branch Manager and all. Remember, folks: The Right To Buy Weapons Is The Right To Be Free.

Bikes: Happy Happy Funbike...

Finally blessed with good weather, and able to use some good West Knox backroads on my commute (Mourland, Canton Hollow), I've been riding the Ninjette to work a fair amount lately.

The fact that I'm still riding around on sub-$2.50 gas doesn't hurt, either. :-)

Getting to be time and past time for a new front tire, now. It'll be nostalgic shopping for a Metzeler ME33 (I think they call them "Lazertechs" now,) since the last two bikes I've owned wore radials...

Baseball: I haven't had this much fun since 1991...

This was going to be the year.

The smart money had the Phillies and the Marlins finally kicking dirt on the Braves decade-plus dominance of their division.

Long-time stars like Maddux, Glavine, Millwood, and Lopez were gone. Short-term hole-pluggers like Ortiz, Sheffield, and J.D. Drew were likewise. Creaky old Smoltz was going to blow out his elbow once and for all by being forced back into a starting role, depriving the team of the dominant closer they'd enjoyed for the past three seasons. Some pre-season pundits were picking the Braves to finish dead last in the division.

As the season wore on, things just got worse: Three starting pitchers (but not creaky old Smoltz), the team's star hitter, and the starting catcher all went down for various lengths of time, and the leadoff hitter went into a spectacular slump.

Where does this leave us in mid-September?

It leaves us with Triple-A Richmond being six games out in front of the NL East, that's where.

Gotta love it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Politics: A mantra for a new millenium...

My daily visit to Say Uncle turned up a link to a splendid entry at Feces Flinging Monkey .

Riffing off an essay by Bill Whittle, Mike tossed off a one-liner that, in a perfect world, would become a bumper sticker, then a campaign slogan, then a mantra for a new religion:

"Bitch, grab a shovel!"

While some (on both the Left and Right) stood around pointing fingers, fixing blame, and generally waiting for "They" to show up and help, others grabbed a shovel.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Politics: Who, Who's, Whose...

There's a foul-breathed lupine lolling at America's door right now, and it wants to engage in a staring contest. Nobody wants to look it in the eye, however, because the truth glinting back from those depths is an awfully uncomfortable one, and it is this: In your moment of extremis, you are On Your Own.

"Who will get me out of harm's way?"

There are probably plans somewhere to help you get away, but as they say, "A plan is just a guess in a party dress." You may be rich or you may be poor; you may be a CNN junkie or you may live a life hermetically sealed off from the news; you may have a Benz, or a bike, a bus token, or maybe just some boots, but unless you are a minor child or a ward of the state, the ultimate responsibility for relocating your precious hide belongs to you and you alone. Where are you going to go, and how will you get there? The time to find out is now, not when the floodwaters are lapping at your ankles or the earthquake is dropping the ceiling on your head.

"Who's going to protect me?"

Well, lots of people want to, believe you me. There are policemen, firefighters, servicemen, and concerned citizens who, given time to respond and information on where to do so, will happily risk their lives to save you, but they can't be everywhere at once, and the odds of them being right there at the critical instant are pretty slim. When the moment comes, your first line of defense for yourself and those dependant on you is... you.

"Whose responsibility is it to put my life back together?"

Insurance companies can collapse. Employers can fold or enact layoffs. The economy could yo-yo at any time. When it comes down to it, the person responsible for putting food in your mouth and a roof over your head is the same person that stares out of the mirror at you every morning. Sure, there are charitable organizations, government agencies, and philanthropic individuals, and odds are good that there's help out there if you look for it, but if it dries up, you need to remember that the phrase "I thought they'd help me" contains 0% of the USRDA of eight essential vitamins and minerals; you can't eat it, and it wouldn't keep you alive if you could. You always need a fallback plan: What if that hurricane/earthquake/flood/riot hits my town? What if my employer goes under? What if the economy tanks? What if I get really sick? Be prepared for the bad things, lest they come up and bite thee. Do not wait for Republicans or Democrats or Independents to tell you whose fault it was or whose responsibility it is; it's yours.

This is the wealthiest nation ever. It is the most sophisticated and flexible economy that has yet graced our planet. But at that awful moment when the rubber meets the road, it will probably not be there for you. It's time to sit down and talk with the one person who will be there, and find out what they plan to do to answer those questions of "Who? Who's? Whose?" should the worst happen. Go find a mirror and see what their plans are.

Bravo: Some folks just shut up and DID something.

It's good to know that there are still plenty of heroes in this world.

Thank you, Xavier.

Boomsticks: The disease has taken hold...

I find myself doing it already.

Taking the Thompson/Center catalogs outside during smoke breaks. Waking up at night and checking out the SSK Industries website. Playing with a pencil and a calculator, spending money I haven't even made yet.

"Let's see, next paycheck I could get a .243 rifle barrel, and a walnut stock & forearm. Paycheck after that, I could pick up a .223 pistol barrel, pistol grip, and scope. Wait, would .22-250 be more fun? I could get an SSK pistol barrel in .300 Whisper and buy a can..."

I knew buying the Encore was going to be a big, big mistake...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Books: Love My Rifle More Than You.

Just finished reading Love My Rifle More Than You, by Kayla Williams, who was, until recently, Sgt. Williams, an MI troop with the 187th deployed to Iraq.

I figured it for an interesting read the moment I saw it, and wasn't disappointed. It's a good viewpoint on what it is to be the lone chick in what is a rather, um, testosterone-soaked environment. I could relate...

Anyhow, she's witty, with writing that weaves effortlessly between dry & cerebral and earthy military humor, and an ability to convey the emotions of events. Two thumbs up.

Blog Stuff: I have been noticed.

Les Jones has said nice things about me. SayUncle has said nice things about Les Jones saying nice things about me.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Politics: That popping sound you heard...

...was the nipple of the government teat getting yanked out of thousands of mouths all at once. The clattering noise was that of a domino falling, but only time will tell just how big of a domino it was, and in which direction it fell.

Most amusing comment in the last few days?

The CNN talking head who gravely declaimed that the Social Security Administration was moving heaven and earth to get the dolecheques into the afflicted areas on time. Apparently the locals will be able to eat them, or burn them for fuel, or something...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Gear Ho': Tactical poser.

It's an absolute truism in the CCW community that if you wear a covering vest of some kind, especially one festooned with pockets, then every member of The Great Unwashed will divine the fact that you are carrying a pistola. This view is so entrenched that the garments are frequently referred to as "Shoot Me Vests".

I think most folks give entirely too much credit to the perceptive abilities of their fellow h. saps.

I was in line at my local inconvenience store the other day, waiting to pay for petrol and cancer sticks, and dressed to go to work. I was wearing a black 5.11 Shoot Me Vest, so as not to spook the straights with the pistol on my hip. I was wearing a Coal Creek Armory baseball cap, Adidas GSG-9 boots, and a black nylon rigger's belt. I was sporting a T-shirt from the local DOE SRT team, complete with butch-looking logo and lots of hooah-sounding Latin over the left breast. I was idly twirling my keychain, which is a Monadnock Persuader, and the pocket clips of knives were visible in both my front jeans pockets. I was wearing Wiley X SG-1 shades, fergawdssake, and the guy next to me in the line looks at me and, in an attempt to chat me up, asks...

..."Are you a photographer?"

"No, sir, I'm a tactical poser."

This answer left him puzzled, and so he plowed on in an attempt to land a date by regaling me with his days as a photographer for his college paper.

I'm beginning to think that you could walk through the middle of the mall with a neon-pink STI Open Class racegun in a drop thigh rig, wearing a tee-shirt that says, in four inch fuschia letters "I AM CARRYING A GUN", and maybe one in ten people would pause their cell phone conversations long enough to notice...

Mad Max: Beyond Superdome.

According to the talking heads, the evacuation of refugees from the Superdome has been temporarily halted because, get this, The Lord Humungous took a potshot at an NG Crashhawk!

Nice work, bonehead. I'm sure all your hungry and thirsty friends are tickled pink. I hope you die of a particularly vicious case of dysentery.

Bikes: Feeling Prescient.

The last time I rode the Ninjette was last Friday. On the way home, for whatever reason, I made an extra stop.

Tonight, as I was driving the Beemer home from work, I stopped at my local inconvenience store to top the car's tank off, it being payday and all. I pulled up to the pump, noticing that the lot seemed crowded for 10PM on a Wednesday night, and poked the 'Pay Inside' button.

"Attention, Pump Nine," came the voice over the speakers, "We're out of gas, except for premium, and you must pre-pay inside."

*Blink* *Blink*

Pre-pay? I stop at this gas station every day, for gas or beer or cigarettes. What the heck? Don't they recognize me? I went inside and tossed Bob a couple of twenties. "I'm going back out to fill up," I said, "I'll be back in for my change."
"You know we only have premium left, right?"
"I'm sure my car will burn it just fine, Bob."

I pumped my tank full, while listening to the drunk guy in the Lincoln Landmass on the next pump over yell "This is it! It's all over! America is going down!" This clown was obviously too young to remember the gas lines of '80 or '73.

I went back in and got my change from two twenties for filling the Beemer's tank, smugly wondering if the Landmass driver was going to need to fill out a credit app to fill his, and even more smugly thinking about the reason that this post gets filed under "bikes".

See, the Ninja 250 got filled up on a whim Friday night... $2.29 per gallon. And it gets 60+ MPG if you don't flog it to death. :-)