Tuesday, December 10, 2013

All Hail the Police State, University Edition

It's been a while since I've posted about how this country is trending towards a police state, but by no means does that indicate it's not still going on.  Today I'll be discussing how the movement of militarizing police has even spread to higher education.

Colleges and universities often have their own police departments.  They do this to handle student problems without having to get the local police department involved, but often also to insulate the town they are associated with from having higher crime rates.  Crimes like vandalism, drug possession and assault (including sexual assault) are often more common in the typical student population than the nearby sleepy town.

But none of this is news, it's been going on for some time.  What is news is how police and security departments associated with higher education are fully embracing new tools that increase their surveillance capability and armories.

Armories?  Isn't that a bit of an exaggeration?  I really wish it was, but we are seeing Universities acquiring armored vehicles.  It's poetic that this article speaks about a university in Ohio.  If a few soldiers with bolt action rifles were able to carry out the Kent State Massacre, just imagine what some troops with machine guns and tanks can do.

As well, we see educational institutions have been commonly applying with the FAA to deploy drones, along with police departments.  Will these drones simply be used to spy on students?  Will they be restricted to the airspace over the university property?  Or will they extend out?  Most college campuses are already blanketed with stationary cameras, so it's curious as to what the intent is for drone use.

Welcome to the future, where even educational institutions are getting militarized and buying high tech spying gear!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Beware the Squib

A couple weeks ago I actually experienced a squib centerfire round.  It was in a box of Wolf 9x18 (9mm Makarov) that I've had for an undetermined time.  It was maybe only a couple months old or maybe 5 years old.  I can't say I keep that kind of track of my pistol ammo.

What is a squib?  It's a round that either doesn't have powder in it (only a primer) or the primer doesn't ignite the powder at all.  You get some sort of "pop" instead of a bang.  This small pop is often enough to lodge the bullet in the barrel.  If you pull the trigger and nothing happens that's called a dud and isn't the issue here.

In this case the squib load did lodge the bullet about halfway down the barrel.  There was enough power to move the bullet, but not enough to get it through the barrel and headed towards the target.  This is a very dangerous situation!  Anytime you get a squib load, or any cartridge that sounds significantly different than the others you need to stop, unload the gun and inspect the barrel.  If a bullet is stuck in the barrel and you fire again you are likely to burst the barrel, blow the top of the gun up and hurt yourself and others nearby.

How can you tell a squib?  It's very obvious.  This one sounded like a cap gun going off.  If a bullet doesn't clear the barrel then you aren't getting any sound out that way.  If it's way underpowered it's not going to open up the slide and allow noise out that way.  It's a lot quieter than a normal round.  Do not fret, if you experience one you will have known it happened.

So what does a round stuck in a barrel look like?  Well, like this.  Notice the shiny copper bullet in the barrel.  To see it from this vantage point you need a light, and the pistol needs to have been unloaded and preferably disassembled.  Pointing a gun at your eye isn't something you should do without taking all the precautions you can first.

In this case, the primer didn't ignite the powder.  It could be because there wasn't enough powder.  Maybe the primer was weak.  Maybe the powder was bad.  It's a Russian round, and their QC isn't known to be top notch.  I can tell there was at least some powder in the cartridge because it was all over the chamber.  It doesn't look like any powder I use when I reload, but I made a tiny pile with some and lit it with a match and it acted like smokeless powder.  In this picture you can see some of the powder and the base of the bullet.  This particular bullet has exposed lead at it's base, the copper jacket doesn't fully cover the whole bullet.  Because of this it's not as shiny from this perspective.

To get the bullet out I grabbed a section of an old broken cleaning rod.  It was aluminum so I didn't have to worry about tearing up the barrel.  I slid the rod in and gave it a couple taps with my Leatherman.  It didn't budge.  Always push the bullet in the direction it was traveling, trying to push it the wrong way can damage your barrel and make it harder to get it out.  But after an initial try I realized it wasn't going to easily tap out.  It was time to get some real tools and lubricants involved.  This would not have been an easy fix in the field.

I dropped a couple drops of Kroil down the barrel and waited a few minutes.  Then I used a real hammer to tap on the rod.  No movement.  It ended up taking both penetrating oil and 20 solid whacks with a hammer to get the bullet out.  You can see the picture of the bullet most of the way out, it's a perspective you don't get to see very often!

The last picture shows what the bullet looked like once it was removed.  It was in pretty good shape.  The gun it was lodged in uses polygonal rifling, I'm not sure if that made it easier or harder to push through the bore.  But in the end the bullet was cleared and the barrel was undamaged.  It cut a range visit short, but no harm was done and I learned a thing, so I'm calling it a win.

Stay safe out there!

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Sort of Legacy?

Over the weekend I went to an event, a burlesque show that was a fundraiser for a local charity.   This isn't an uncommon way for me to spend and evening, but it left me thoughtful.  It was organized by Zombie Squad, an organization I've volunteered with for a number of years, including some leadership positions.  In fact, one of my most prized possessions came from ZS, a gift given to me after I was in charge of the forums for two years.  As I was observing the show I realized that I had an impact on the organization.  I guess I never realized it as it was happening, but my involvement has shaped the group in at least some small part.  Often I thought I was just treading water and not being very effective.  Last night I realized that probably wasn't the case.  I found that heartening, knowing I had made a difference.
This is precious to me, as silly as that may seem

I discovered Zombie Squad back in 2005 when they were just over a year old.  As I got to know them I realized it was a group of people who wore sturdy shoes and thought you should take care of yourself, help your neighbor and be prepared for emergencies.  But more importantly they weren't also racists, tin foil hatters, wacky militia types or religious extremists that often make up groups focused on emergency preparedness.  This was the peer group I'd been missing and I was instantly attracted to them.  These were my people.

I got involved right off.  I attended events and even started coordinating things like Mock Bug-Outs, Mock Bug Out hikes and Mock Disasters.  None of these are new ideas, but I brought the implementation of the ideas to ZS.  As time went on I became a chapter officer and was then responsible for coordinating and organizing larger events.  The first big charity fundraiser I did was a zombie-themed burlesque show.  Burlesque was really coming into it's own in my town.  Again, I wasn't the first person to come up with the idea that one could raise money for a charity by using scantily clad people, but I'm the one that organized the first one in my town for Zombie Squad.  (I actually got the idea from our Las Vegas chapter who did one a couple months prior).  After I organizing a couple, the ZS charity burlesque show became a regular thing.  I had nothing to do with this last one and little to do with the two before that.  It's an idea that now has a life of it's own, 3 different people ran those last 3 shows.  That's fantastic.  They've raised a lot of money for local charities.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Questions About the Human Condition

I was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend today regarding people's predispositions towards relationships.  The question I really pondered was where the line is between choice and orientation when it comes to human sexuality.  I'm going to share some of those thoughts here.

Is a gay life style a choice?  Of course it is.  At various places and points in history people who had a homosexual orientation chose to live heterosexual lifestyles.  It's not a choice as to whether a person has a homosexual orientation or homosexual tendencies, there is a variety of current scientific data that supports this, but people do make choices in how they live their life.  Choice is one of the fundamental qualities of the human condition.  My daughter well tell you I'm fond of saying "In any situation we have the choice to choose our attitude.".

But this then led to a question about monogamy, marriage and social norms.  I probably have a more diverse group of friends than many people.  I have a friend who ran for local office as a Republican and another friend who worked on the campaign for a Democratic mayor.  I have a lot of friends in between and on the edges of the political spectrum.  I have friends who march in pro-life rallies and friends that have been escorts at Planned Parenthood.  I have friends who are Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, Atheist and even one that leaves weekly offerings at a local tree.  In this group of diverse friends, it seems I know an increasing number that are in non-monogamous relationships.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Articles With Great Data

I don't often just pass along links, but I read a couple articles recently that were so excellent and full of data I'm going to do that.

First is a test of shotgun patterns and effectiveness from Field and Stream.  Totally worth a read.

Second, Andrew did some exhaustive testing of AR-15 muzzle brakes and flash hiders.  It's broken into a Part 1 and a Part 2.  This is amazing work.  This is the same guy that a few months back did exhaustive testing on different ammo and barrel life in AR-15's.  And also measured how noisy different pants are in his recent review.  This guy rocks.  

Anyway, I hope you enjoy those as much as I did.  Stay safe out there!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dick Moves

While Republicans and Democrats are seeing who can be the bigger dick over passing a continuing resolution to fund the federal government (I think the Republicans are winning that contest right now), we are seeing a lot more examples of the federal government making some dick moves.   Some of them are making the news, others not so much.

You may have seen where Veterans were denied access to the war memorial in Washington DC, but bypassed the barricades and visited it anyway.  Since the barricades didn't work the first time, federal government tried again.  During a period of partial federal government shutdown, the federal government spent extra resources to deny the public access to an unmanned monument.  And it seems they are only doing it to popular locations, not all memorials and monuments.  That's a dick move.  It's sad that this happens enough there is even a name for it, the Washington Monument Syndrome.  We saw this in the spring during the sequester, when hyperbole and hysteria reigned the day as the white house spoke of doom and gloom, and in the end almost no services were effected.

What you may not have seen is all the other places the federal government is shutting down.  Most of these places are unmanned.  For example, the federal government has taken down some websites.  The websites still exist and the servers sit there waiting to dish out information, but when you go to the page you get redirected to a shut down notice.  That's a dick move.  It actually takes more manpower to setup those redirect pages than to just leave the pages up.  In a time of tightened budgets and resources they chose to do more work to block citizens access to information just out of spite.  That's a dick move

As well, we have federal agents working to close off access to open-air unmanned federal property.  Things like parks and monuments.  Why could I go hiking in a national forest last week but today the federal government spent money to restrict my access?  Why spend the time and resources to barricade off parking lots?  It's not like the forests are manned, it's being done purely to spite us and sway public opinion.  It's an opportunity to convince the public we really need the federal government to be as large as it is.  However, I think it proves just the opposite.  A government that has enough resources to use them for purely spiteful reasons is a government that has too many resources as their disposal.  They have too much power.

This is exactly why these bastards can't be trusted with any power.  They look for any excuse to exert their superiority over us.  It's time we took that superiority away.  Remember this next time you go to the polls, the representatives we have in power now take any chance they have to use that power to be dicks.  It's time to vote them all out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Value For Your Dollar

I spend a fair bit of time thinking about where my money goes.  In a consumer driven society, the people who spend money have the ultimate control, as I've mentioned before.  If we support good working conditions we have the option of patronizing establishments that have them.  If we want to see more local grown organic food we can spend our money on it and increase the market.  If we want to bring manufacturing back to the US, we can by domestic goods.  People often gloss often the power their dollar has when they spend it and instead just look for the cheapest of a given thing.

Recently I was trying to find a new pair of cargo pants.  My every day pants were starting to get worn, and one of the pairs has a rather obvious repair where I ripped them.  My wife doesn't hold me to many standards, but not looking like a homeless person when I'm out with her is one of them.  It's a reasonable restriction.  So I went looking for a pair of American made cargo pants or BDUs.  This ended up being more challenging than I thought.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Habit of Losing Things?

If you follow the news, you may have seen the report recently that the BATFE has lost hundreds of millions of cigarettes.  That seems like a lot to me.  What I rather enjoy is that the news coverages mentions only that they were lost.  More likely they were sold off.  You can't "lose" dozens of pallets of goods.  If you can't find them in your warehouse, they aren't there.  It's not like not being able to find your car keys or your favorite pen. 

Of course, this isn't the first time the ATF has been accused of losing things.  There are many examples of them losing paperwork on NFA items, like machine guns.  Just recently during a sting one of their agents lost track of a full auto rifle.  By "lost track" they mean "ended up in possession of a criminal and we didn't get it back".  Oh, and in an audit a few years back it found the ATF lost 418 laptops, many with confidential information on them, and 76 firearms.


Oh, and then there was Fast and Furious, where they gave a couple thousand guns to known criminals and failed to get more than 1,400 of them back.  Sadly, many of the ones they did recover were at crime scenes, after they were used to shoot people, including one used to kill a federal agent.  I'm not the only one noticing this string of ineptitude either.

Next time you hear a politician talk about getting illegal guns off the street, suggest we disband the ATF.  They seem to be behind a fair number of guns that end up in the hands of those criminals.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ineffectiveness of the Police State

In a post 9/11 world, we've been asked to trade liberty for security.  It's a false choice, as giving up liberty isn't increasing our security.  It's simply implementing another threat against us, overzealous police forces.  As police departments militarize, interactions with citizens are more likely to be drawn up like battles, which puts said civilians at risk.  Meanwhile, they don't stop petty crime or large scale attacks.

Last night in Chicago 23 people were shot including 13 in one place.  Oh, and the same number over Easter weekend.  And 19 in one night last August.  It's a frequent headline in that city, more than a dozen people shot in a day.

Yet, Chicago has more police per capita than any other city in the country.  And those cops shoot a lot of citizens.  Chicago also has some of the toughest gun laws in the country.

Add all that up and we have a large police force more brutally enforcing stricter laws than anywhere else in the country.  In a country that's trending towards a police state Chicago leads the way.  And yet, it's citizens experience the highest murder rate in the nation and the one of the highest violent crime rates.  It's citizens have given up liberty and it has not made them safe.  In fact, I think an argument can be made to the contrary.  The citizens have lost civil liberty and personal freedom and even civil rights and the tradeoff is they are at higher risk to be a victim of crime or a victim of the police.  That's a terrible tradeoff.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The War Against Guns in the Media

It is often heard that many mainstream media sources have a liberal bias that shows throw in their coverage of stories.  Many times this is dismissed, but a variety of sources have documented this phenomenon, especially during presidential elections. 

When it comes to the subject of firearms, this seems to be true as well.  The coverage of events often demonizes guns and tragedies are used as propaganda to promote control control points.  As well, when a shooter is conservative, the media runs stories on "right wing extremists" and blames the Tea Party or even Sarah Palin.  Shockingly enough, despite initial assertions by major media sources, most recent mass shooters have been left-leaning.  The DC shooter supported Obama, was a confirmed liberal and drove a Prius.  Of course, we don't see stories about how Obama supporters are crazed killers.  Imagine if the shooter was instead a big Tea Party guy, we'd hear nothing but how the Tea Party encourages extremists to be violent.

But what really stood out in this most recent event was how fast the media companies rolled out the anti AR-15 propaganda.  CNN ran a big special about how evil AR-15's are.  The Daily News had an AR-15 on their cover.  Even when it was shown that the shooter used a shotgun, not an AR-15, we saw stories that he tried to buy one. NBC did a "recreation" where the shooter had an M-16 with a grenade launcher.  Also it was classy the shooter was red (the color of Republicans) and all the victims were blue (the color of Democrats).  I am eye rolling so hard right now.....

The shooter never had an AR-15, yet there are hundreds of stories stating just that.  Why do we bother watching, listening and reading stories from these media companies anymore?  I don't.  You should probably consider avoiding them as well, since when you do you are making them money.

No One Is Trustworthy

This seems to be a theme lately, companies and agencies reporting false numbers.  In this case, a polling company decided not to publish numbers because they didn't agree with their political leanings.  Classy.

This sort of environment offers a lot of opportunity for companies that are forthright and truthful.  I'd certainly support them.  That's the best way to enact change, stop supporting the companies that are lying to us.  It's easy to do and it will have a real effect.

More Outright Lies From a Federal Government Agency

Just last week I wrote a post about how the Treasury Department was continuing to publish false numbers regarding national debt.   This week I made note that media companies often go to press with information that is wrong.  Today we have the Justice Department that has been shown to publish false numbers since 2010 regarding terrorist arrests. 

As these examples continue to pile up, only a fool would give any credibility to anything published by a federal government agency or a major media company.  They lie so often there is no reason to have faith they are ever telling the truth.  It's a sad world we live in.

Welcome to the future!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

All Hail the Police State, part 17

If you follow the news, you may be aware that police misuse of tasers is a serious problem.  Since it's considered non-lethal, they are often overused in subduing a subject.  It seems there isn't a week that goes by where a suspect doesn't end up dead from being tasered, sometimes when they are already cuffed or otherwise restrained.

Well, this product has made it even easier!  Taser cuffs!  You know, for when you really need to shock the hell out of that guy you already have restrained.  Having to use two tools to do that is so 2012.

Welcome to the future.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Being First is More Important Than Being Accurate

Today there was a man who shot some people in an office in Washington DC.  I'm sure it will be weeks before all the details come out, but that doesn't prevent the major news networks from broadcasting speculation and even lies about the event.  The companies are in such a rush to get the story first, that they publish or broadcast anything, whether it's true or not, to achieve that.  Every time there is a tragedy the news companies see it as an opportunity to make a quick buck.  They publish story after story, update after update, when there is no real and certified information available.  They just put something up so people will watch it and they get more money for their ads.

Look at the coverage today.  First there was a shooter, then 2, then 3.  Now maybe just 1.  Or maybe 2.  Or maybe 3.  Nobody seems to be able to decide.  The numbers of people injured and killed start small, ramp up then settle back down.  Two networks even released the wrong name, something they've done before.

It's atrocious.  And the best way to get them to stop is to shun coverage from the major news networks on events like this.  Let's be honest- it doesn't matter if you find out the details at 10 am or next Thursday.  But to the people who it does matter- like families of the victims, or people wrongfully advertised to be a killer, the media taking their time to get the facts in the story matters a lot.  Stop supporting the major media companies when they make a mockery of the facts.  They'll stop doing it if it stops making them money.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Parts Needed to Build an AR-15

The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the US, and has been for a few years according to sales rankings.  It's popular for many reasons as I've written about in other posts.  It's flexible, available in a variety of calibers rainging from rimfire to 50 caliber.  It's a great choice for home defense.  It's the most popular choice for government agencies.  With a collapsing stock the same rifle can fit small and large shooters.  In the most common chambering of 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington it offers enough power for small and medium game hunting and light recoil since it's an intermediate power cartridge.   223 is among the most affordable centerfire rifle rounds, at least when we aren't in the middle of the great ammo panic of 2013.  Quality magazines can be had for $10 each.  All of these factors have made it the most popular rifle today.

Monday, September 9, 2013

They Must Think We Are Morons

Or at least too lazy to pay attention.  Maybe they are right. 
Remember when I mentioned that the US debt hadn't gone up a penny in months?  That was the end of July.  Guess what?  Six weeks later and it's still held at exactly the same amount, despite continuing to incur billions in debt every day. 

The financial statement released by the Treasury Department are lies, and anyone paying attention knows it.  Yet most media outlets are complicit, I heard on NPR today that we should hit our debt limit in October.  It doesn't take a math genius to know the numbers presented to the public are completely fabricated, yet the press is happy to report whatever the administration says.

It's time for new leaders and new press.  I fear what we have now has no desire to serve the interests of the populace or even take a modicum of effort when they are being misleading.  It's too much trouble to come up with a fake number, so they just keep using the one they have and just assume nobody will notice. 

I look forward to the next election cycle, I hope it brings some real change.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Syria, Revisited

I wrote my thoughts about action in Syria last week, and I wanted to add a bit to that.  Quite honestly, I'm flummoxed by how badly the administration seems to want this.  It seems the message changes every couple of days, they keep trying to say different things in order try to get the public on board.   So much of the media, even NPR, is coming off as pro-war.  But there are some serious issues.

The president and his supporters say we aren't going to war with Syria, we are performing limited strikes with no boots on the ground.  You know, like Japan did to us at Pearl Harbor.  Or Al Qaeda  did on 9-11.  Oh, wait.  We considered both of those acts of war and launched military strikes against the offenders, killing hundreds of thousands of people in response.  Why would we expect any less from Syria?  Because they are weaker than us?  Bombing buildings and killing people in a foreign country is likely to be considered an act of war and get a response.  It puts US citizens at risk.  And, even the US State Department says "We continue to believe that there's no military solution here that's good for the Syrian people, and that the best path forward is a political solution".

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Big Picture, Revisited

A couple days ago I wrote a post about the topics covered in the film Ethos.  Today I wanted to follow up on it.

Let's say that the movie described the current conditions with some level of accuracy.  Let us surmise that the wealthiest people in the world, who are often heads of the largest corporations, use their influence to get politicians elected, to gain more money for themselves and shape public opinion using the large media companies.  If that's true, what can we do as citizens to combat that?  Pushing against it is good for freedom, democracy and the environment, so operating on the premise that it's true, a reasonable person could want to fight against it.

Fortunately, we have all the control.  In a profit driven model, the consumers have all the control.  In a republic or democracy, the voters have all the control.  We just have to use that control and we can turn things around.  We can make the world a better place.  Here are some ideas as to how.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria

So, Syria has been embroiled in a civil war for a couple years.  On one side is Assad, who by many measurements is a tyrant.  He doesn't respect life, has been known to kill his people and in general is bad for civil rights.  On the bright side, the current government is secular.  They are not a theocracy or rule by religious law, unlike many countries in that region.  It's a place where people who aren't Muslim are not singled out and held to rather draconian Sharia law.

On the other side we have the rebellion.  They want a better life for the people of the country.  They also are primarily Muslim, many rather devout in their views, and have the support of some unsavory organizations, like Al Qaeda.  If they win they will likely impose Sharia law, and have a better humanitarian record than Assad.  Well, if you're their brand of Muslim anyway.  If you're Christian you may be subject to persecution.

It's a mess.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Big Picture

I recently watched a documentary called Ethos. They went cheap on the production of it, but it contained some very good information, all of it cited. I'm a sucker for work with citations. I highly recommend it. It's available on Netflix watch it now at the time of this writing.

What is it about? It catalogs instances where politicians, big business, central banks, media and the wealthiest individuals all work together to mislead us and work against us.  How their agenda ends up being bad for democracy, the environment and freedom.  I think it's a reasonable working theory.  Sadly most people don't.  Look at recent events- how many people are up in arms about a performance at the recent music awards show versus how many people are up in arms about the president talking about using missiles to kill people in yet another country we aren't at war with?  

I think The Onion nailed it with this article.  It's meant as parody but it really nails the current news environment.  They are multi-billion dollar corporations whose primary purpose is to make money.  We should probably stop considering them a reliable source of information.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Shoddy Construction

Here in my city it seems we are in a constant state of highway construction zones, at least for most of the year. No matter where I go there are traffic cones lined up on the side of the road or blocking off a lane or two. It's perpetual, a cycle that just moves from place to place and never stops. It seems like for every construction zone with active workers, there are 5 that are marked or bedazzled with cones and signs but completely devoid of anyone actually making any progress on the effort. But, that's part of living in an urban area in the US it seems.

What caught my eye today was travelling over a newly finished bridge. By “newly finished” I mean it became available for traffic today. The old bridge was torn down and a brand new one constructed. This shiny new robust piece of infrastructure should last 50 years like the last one.

Only I'm skeptical. Why?

A couple reasons. First off, a few years ago they closed an entire section of highway in my city for a year to rebuild it.  (they actually closed two sections this way for a year each)  They kept all traffic off so they had nothing to worry about- just tear up the old, put a new in. They didn't have to worry about doing it in sections or a lane at a time, but could pour a new section of highway without hassle.  And it wasn't a year before they construction crews were back on the brand new section doing repairs. In fact, each year since it's completion there have been lanes blocked off on the brand new section where crews make things right. That's unaceptable. Brand new highway should offer years of service before resurfacing is needed.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Understanding Perspectives

Today I hear a lot that the country is more divided, more partisan than ever.  It seems to be a theme with many supporting media posts in the last few years.  I have friends who hold very conservative and very liberal beliefs, and to me we all have a lot in common.  In fact, of the people I talk to the most, two of them voted for Obama and two of them voted for Johnson.  I play hockey with a couple guys who would rather die than not vote Republican.  But all these people come from similar motivations, it's just their perspective is different.  Everyone wants to make the world a better place, we are just divided on exactly how to do that.  As well, there seems to be an increased focus on the issues that polarize us than in the past.  I have theories as to why this is, mostly that it allows the two major parties to maintain their dominance.  But that's a topic for another day!

I have both liberal and conservative friends who are perplexed about why gun rights supporters seem unwilling to budge, but certainly more liberal friends who don't get it.  Today I'm going to attempt to draw an analogy.  I'm going to suggest that the motivation and stances chosen by proponents of two civil rights issues are very similar.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

All Hail the Police State, part 16

One of the things that identifies a police state is police using deadly or overwhelming force in trivial matters.  If a cop catches you committing a minor property crime and they beat you so you end up in the hospital rather than issue a ticket or summons, you're living in a police state.  And this week it went down like that in Miami.  Only the guy who was spray painting graffiti was killed by the cops instead of just beaten.  Not even Judge Dredd is that severe in doling out instant punishment.

But wait!  There's more!  Look at the picture of this lady who was caught shoplifing.  Beaten like a rented mule.



Cops enter a nursing home and tase then shoot a agitated 95 year old man sitting in a chair.  The only weapon he had was a cane.  Cops respond with deadly force to a man who was old and crotchety.


A disabled man is standing on bus and refuses to sit down.  Why?  Because a spinal injury he suffered when he was hit by a train makes sitting painful.  So cops tase him and drag him off the bus.

Lastly we have a incident in Florida where cops are looking for a suspect.  Without warrant they break into an innocent person's home and immediately shoot their dogs.  The people who lived there were suspects in no crime and the police entered their house with impunity.  Imagine being woken up by someone breaking into your house and firing guns, then being left with a dead dog and this to clean up:

Lastly we have a woman in New York City who stated a common opinion (wishing there the policy of "Stop and Frisk" would come to an end) and she's promptly arrested.  If this isn't a police state, what is?  Former societies that have been called out as police states have gotten the label for much more minor violation of rights.  Keep in mind this is a collection of news that has broken in a single 24 hour period.  Incidents like this happen every day in this country. 

These sort of actions will continue to happen until people start making this a priority at the polls.  Unless you are doing that, you are complicit with this escalation of violence by our increasingly militarized police forces.  It's up to all of us to enact positive change.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Education Beyond School

We live in a golden age of information.  Quite honestly, there is no reason to not know the answer to something.  Wikipedia is an amazing resource, complete with citations.  MIT offers most coursework online for free.  The internet is rife with scientific journals, raw data and how-to guides.  Want to learn how to play guitar?  Youtube has thousands of videos with lessons.  Want to know how to build a rifle?  AR15.com has a pretty solid guide for you.  Want to know how your representative voted?  Various government agencies and non-profits will tell you.

Because it is so easy to find accurate information it bugs me when people are misinformed.  It bugs me even more when they are passionate about a topic they know very little about.  I have a wide variety of friends and I'll respect anyone's opinions as long as it's based in facts, data or information.  I have less respect for people who are outraged because it's trendy to be so, but know very little about a topic.

George Gets it Right

I've always been a fan of George Carlin.  Here's an older video where he really hits the nail on the head.  Willful ignorance is the core of the problem, and it's something we can fix!


Disparity of Power

As I've discussed before, the reason we have to hold government to a high standard is the disparity of power between the government and the average citizen.  If my neighbor who is a plumber is a dishonest, some of his customers may be overcharged.  If the local sheriff is a dishonest, then serious crimes like murder can be swept under the rug.  People at the DMV and the IRS have access to my private information and can easily steal it for their own gain (which happens more than you'd think).  If my senator is crooked, then companies can thrive to the detriment of citizens and the environment.  If the President or a General is without morals, they can easily murder people in other countries without retribution.

If you are reported to the division of family services, you are often assumed guilty and have to prove yourself innocent and capable of owning a child.  Meanwhile, the bureaucrat who works there has power over the disposition of your child.  Because of that power, it's so important they are held to a high standard and held accountable for misconduct.

What made me think about this again is a recent story where a child was stripped from their parents because they smoked pot, and placed with a foster family where it ended up dead at the hands of the government chosen caretaker.  Likely the bureaucrats involved will continue doing a shoddy job screening and choosing foster families, which is a real travesty. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lack of Truthiness

According to many polls, citizen's faith in government is at all time low.  As more and more topics are revealed regarding how we've been misled, it seems that lack of faith has some basis.  But it still saddens me as more and more government agencies and individuals employed by government come out as lying to us.

Up today is the Treasury Department.  In general they just focus on the numbers, not spin.  Like the IRS they base their work in math.  Well, that's how the IRS used to operate anyway, recent scandals have shown otherwise.  But not the Treasury!  Right?

According to their records, the national debt has been static for 70 days.  No changes.  Contrary to the entirely of the debt history where it changes (up or down) on a pretty regular basis, for more than two months it's been at exactly the same number- $16,699,396,000,000.00.  Oddly enough that amount is just below our borrowing cap.

I mean, they could be not issuing any debt right?  Well, keep in mind that as part of QE Infinity the Federal Reserve is buying $85 billion in federal bonds.  Every monthBernanke himself just said they plan to keep it up.  If you aren't up on financial concept of bonds it's an agency selling debt.  You buy a bond and the issuer pays you back interest.  It's the main way the federal government incurs debt.  And during the period where the Treasury says the debt hasn't increased a nickel, one single organization alone has caused the federal government to take on an addition $170 billion in debt. 

But no worries folks!  The treasury says we are still $25 million under our debt ceiling, just like we were back in the spring.  And the government propaganda news corporations have been talking it up like it's a good thing, not tremendous fraud. 

Welcome to the future.
$16,699,396,000,000.00
$16,699,396,000,000.00

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fire Fighting

One of my favorite parts of the week is listening to the Michael Bane podcast.  He is often much more reasonable than many people who talk on the subject of firearms and preparedness.  This week he discussed the ramifications of the Zimmerman case and what we can learn from it.  I highly recommend a listen.  But one of the things he said captured a sentiment I totally agree with.  The quote was this (or something quite similar):

Just because I have a fire extinguisher in my house doesn't mean I roam the streets looking to put out fires.

Take a moment and think about that mentality.  I have a fire extinguisher in my house, two, actually.  I have one in my truck.  When the days comes where I take my car to a track day I'll install one in my car.   If there is a fire in my house I will certainly attempt to take care of it myself, even if it is dangerous.  Just the same, if I see a fire while I am out and about, if I think I can help I will.  But I don't have a responsibility to put myself at risk to do so.  There are people with much better equipment and training that are a phone call away and I will gladly call if responding to a situation creates too much risk.

This is the same philosophy used in providing protection for yourself and your family.  Yes, there are professionals that are better armed and trained than most people.  And even if you consider yourself to be better trained in some aspects than most police officers, they have legal authority and protections you do not.  But just as I keep a fire extinguisher and a smoke alarm, it's reasonable I also provide tools for my protection and get training to use them.  But this shouldn't mean I think of myself as a cop.  I'm not.  I have neither the training, nor the equipment nor the responsibility to serve and protect.

Just as with a fire, I will assist in a situation if I think I can help, if I think the need to save lives is dire or if the risk is small.  But that's not my responsibility.  We have designated police in our society.  My first move should always be to engage them first, then render assistance if that seems appropriate.

My main duty is to myself and my family.  If I do something on the street that ends up risking my ability to protect myself, my family and my freedoms I am making a poor choice.  I can't protect my family if I'm in jail.  I can't protect myself and my family as well if I'm crippled by a law suit or lose my ability to own a firearm and vote.  If I see two people fighting in the street and run to the aid of one of them, do I know whether one of them is undercover police?  I do not.  Do I know the history of those people?  Do I know who the aggressor is?  I do not.  And I don't have the ability nor the responsibility to subdue and detain them both until the facts are ascertained.  It's best that I call the police, do what I can without breaking laws or putting myself at serious risk and render aid to people when the fight stops.

Anyway, just wanted to share that thought.  Stay safe out there!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Government Agencies That Work, part 2

I've written before about government agencies that do a good job, and I wanted to add to that today.  Mostly when I deal with the ATF they are quite competent, if not overly speedy.  Here is an example of them doing great work.

267 illegal guns and more than 200 arrests in a 4 month operation to get illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.  This is how you positively impact crime in a region.  Passing more gun control laws doesn't work, but focusing on the people who use guns in crimes does.

Of interesting note, 78% of those arrested had prior felony convictions.  In total, the 200+ people who were arrested had been previously arrested more than 2,300 times.  That's 10 times for each person.  This suggests that many of these people are career criminals.  This is an act that will make neighborhoods safer.  Bravo ATF!  Well done.

Thoughts on the Zimmerman Trial

First off, let me say that I wasn't emotionally invested in the verdict from this trial.  I was interested from an analytical standpoint, but wasn't going to be angry if there was a conviction or not.  There is so much more going on with this case than the legal aspects of the trial and that caught my interest.

The most dismaying thing I've learned, or perhaps had reinforced, is how many of my friends have a very strong opinion on this matter while choosing to be willfully ignorant of most of the actual details of the case itself.  Comments such as:
"out and out abbrogation of justice"
"Zimmerman's attorney is seriously the worst fucking lawyer I have ever seen. I need him disbarred."
"Florida you're system is fucked and your people are brainwashed."

Add to that a number of comments calling out the travesty of Florida's stand your ground law I saw on various feeds.  You know, the law that was never actually called into question or used as a defense.  Mind you, I don't have any issue with people not agreeing with the verdict.  But no one I saw who was outspoken about the verdict was so based on the actual trial.  I didn't see any comments about the forensic evidence, evidence that existed but wasn't used by the prosecution, or evidence of misconduct by the defense.  Instead I saw a lot of talking points that were promoted by various media companies, some which are outright propaganda.

Educated and intelligent people in this country chose to believe propaganda rather than taking a moment to research an issue and draw their own opinions based on the facts available today.  There has been no other time in the history of the world when information has been so easily available, yet people choose to not bother.  That's dismaying to me.

We learned that you can manufacture outrage with a PR firm.  For those who followed the story we know that it didn't make national press until Martin's parents hired a PR firm.  The 4 year old photo of Martin and the fact he had Skittles in his pocket, the lightened photo of Zimmerman that makes him look white instead of Hispanic and the general description of the event all came from a PR firm hired by Martin's family.  In fact, Zimmerman was originally released by the police without charges because the police didn't think there was evidence to prosecute.  In retrospect, it looks like that was the right call by the police department.

Another group of friends was sure there was going to be riots in every city.  They read it in the news, so it must be true!  I'll certainly admit that there was a higher chance of demonstrations and even demonstrations getting out of hand, but in general riots aren't advertised ahead of time.  They grow organically.  The very fact all the news outlets were talking about riots made me think they were very unlikely to happen.   But a group of friends could not be convinced, they were certain the sky was going to fall.

I learned that people only believe in a cause when it's trendy.  In my city there have been dozens of black males murdered so far this year, and there will likely be dozens more murdered before the year is out.  Yet, I don't hear an outcry from the populace regarding those.  Less than half of all violent crimes reported in this country result in conviction of a guilty party and in urban areas the rate is often less than 30%.  In Detroit right now it's 8%.  Where is the outrage against that?  It's happening every day.  Suddenly people care because it's in the news.  Sadly, in 3 months the endemic problems will continue, but no one will care because it's not trendy.

Lastly I learned that government agencies continue to be used as weapons against people who are unpopular with whoever is in charge of those agencies.  That's the downside to having a very large government, they are only as honorable as the people who lead the various portions of them. 

Forensic evidence supported Zimmerman's story that Martin was assaulting him while he was pinned.  It was enough to convince the jury.  But despite that, the media's attempt to portray Zimmerman as a racist, gun-happy wanna-be cop continues.  There was a show on NPR this morning where a guest from the NAACP stated ""Zimmerman made it clear he was out to hunt black males.".  Wow, that seems to be a serous stretch.  The details don't support that.  They mention he "carried a gun without a safety" as if that made him Rambo.  You know what guns don't have external safeties?  All revolvers and many cheap semi-auto pistols, both are very popular for concealed carry.  Zimmerman carried  a Kel-Tec.  Kel-Tec is a good company, but they certainly aren't a top tier company.  People buy a Kel-Tec because they have budget constraints and it's good enough.  It's nobodies first choice, especially not a mall ninja, which the press asserts Zimmerman was.  If he really was a mall ninja he'd carry a HK or whatever the local PD or his favorite special ops team uses.  He carried a Kel-Tec because he's an occasional shooter who bought something cheap as a carry gun.  His choice in that gun tells me that about him.

Increasingly people believe the tales told to them by the giant media companies.  It's a dire place to be in as a country.  We have the tools readily available, there's no reason to no be well informed.  Too often the stories we see or read on popular sites are propaganda.  If you get all your news from sources like Fox, MSNBC or Huffpo (or honestly, most large media companies) it's going to contain a fair bit of propaganda.  It's up to you whether you choose to believe it or choose to be more informed. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why Are Magazine Capacity Limits a Bad Idea?

Because sometimes you shoot the man attacking you 9 times and he is still well enough to run.  A law limited a person to a firearm that can only hold 10 or 7 (like New York) or 3 cartridges puts civilians at risk.  What if this attacker returned?  What if there was a second attacker?  Or two dogs.  Or the panicked victim misses half the shots? 

Laws making "high capacity" magazines illegal don't stop crime, but they do put civilians at risk. 

Eco Friendly?

I was looking for new shoes recently, something I don't really enjoy.  I just want an affordable, quality shoe that lasts forever so I don't have to buy any more.  I know that's unachievable, but it's still what I'd prefer.  So I look at a basic shoe, the Adidas Samba.  Nothing fancy, just a shoe.  It's been good enough for people since the 80's, it's good enough for me.  Only now it isn't.

It seems a few years ago Adidas, and some other companies, starting switching over to a product they call "eco-friendly leather".  That name is a lie, it's neither leather nor eco friendly.  It's plastic.  A petro chemical.  It looks cheap, doesn't breathe and according to reviews it squeaks like like a bunny being hunted on by my wife's cat.  It's a cost saving measure played off as a green move.  That can happen because at some point the popular green movement decided leather was bad for the environment.

And how did this idea happen?  How did the green movement embrace plastic as an ecologically friendly alternative to natural materials?  Leather is a renewable resource (especially the ones that are vegetable cured) and biodegradable at the end of it's service life, which can be quite long.  Plastic is made out of oil byproducts in a factory that pollutes the land and water and it never degrades as it sits in landfills.  It's a movement that believes in something despite of facts to the contrary.

It shouldn't surprise me, as I've written before about people who support ideologies that don't embrace scientific thought or facts about the world around them.  I'm just annoyed I can't buy a pair of plain leather tennis shoes to replace the ones I've had for more than 10 years.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

For All People

Rights should be for all people, I'm a strong believer in that.  I'm not even sure I agree with standing laws that deny rights to felons.  If they are rehabilitated, they should be able to do things the rest of the populace can do, like vote and own firearms.  But quite honestly, I don't feel strongly enough about that to make it an issue.

What alarms me is when a portion of the government seeks to deny rights to specific people based on an agenda.  We saw this recently when the IRS selectively delayed certain applications and gave them more scrutiny.  Today I hear that members from the Department of Justice actually organized protests against George Zimmerman and were instrumental in organizing people to demand a sheriff step down.

That's outrageous.  The government, especially the Department of Justice, should work within the law.  When they campaign against people outside of the courtroom it's a travesty of justice.  Those are strong words, but there is no other way to state this.  They worked to incite public outrage against a man who may or may not be guilty of a crime.  I expect better of democratic first world governments.  Perhaps I shouldn't. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Astroturfing

It seems we have a new "pro gun" group that is starting up.  It's comprised of people with no experience on the topic and their agenda sounds mostly anti gun.  There must be an election coming up!

It's a shame, these groups would have no power if media outlets didn't collude with them and make it seem like they are actual groups with actual membership.

If you want to read more about how astroturf organizations are used to shape public opinion, you can do so here and here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Compilation for New Shooters

I started off this blog 18 months ago primarily as a resource for new shooters.  I work with new shooters a fair bit, and found myself typing up very similar advice and information over and over.  I figured if I put topics into a blog post, I could save time by pointing a person at that.  As well, I could take the time to be very inclusive.

Since many of those posts intended for beginning shooters are getting old, I figured I would link them here and offer any updates.  First, of course, we should start with the Rules of Gun Safety.  No matter how experienced you are it's best to start here.  Many people become complacent with safety over time, it's not uncommon for a lifelong shooter or police officer to have a Negligent Discharge.  In fact, just a week ago a guy I know who is a legal gun dealer and former marine fired a gun in his house unintentionally because he became lax with the safety rules.

Next up is how science and physics plays a role.  Many people I know who become interested and owning a firearm as adults are primarily interested in handguns.  Frankly, little guns suck, and here is a scientific explanation as to why.  Small handguns are much harder to shoot well than large guns.  Speaking of carrying handguns for protection, here are some thoughts about choosing a gun used for concealed carry.

I think most people's first handgun should be a 22, with recommendations here and some supporting data here.  But enough on handguns for now, because in general rifles make better defensive tools when they can be used.  Obviously they don't work well for concealed carry, but for most other uses they are an ideal choice. This post goes on to explain features one should look for if they are researching an ideal tool for defensive

Understanding criminals will show that it doesn't take much skill or a high level of equipment to maintain an advantage over common criminals and that's any person can become a credible threat.  Also, if you make the choice to arm yourself, you should put some serious thought as to options you have before a firearm is used.  It should be a last resort, something only used when no other options are available. 

Lastly, why I think you should buy a firearm at a small independent shop instead of a big box store.  It can be a much more pleasant experience.

Stay safe out there!

Keep Stalling that Pipeline!

Every week for the last couple years we hear a new tidbit of news about how the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada is being stalled.  I've written about my opinion on it before in this blog.

The point most people miss is building a pipeline from into the US or not is not related to oil being pulled out of the tar sands.  It will just be transported by other, more costly (both in dollars and environmental cost) methods.  Those transportation methods are more risky as evidenced by a recent wreck where 5 people are confirmed dead and 40 are still missing.  Just look at the devastation in the pictures, it's awful.

Here is my stance.  We should pursue new energy sources.  AND we should use the most current, safest and cost effective methodologies available today to use the energy sources we have available today.  For some reason people in this country think we're only allowed to do one or the other.  The obvious answer is both.  But then, that doesn't make for news, pander to interest groups and get people to vote for you.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Good Day

Yesterday was just about perfect, it featured many of my favorite things and was pretty productive.  I had the day off because I was picking up a new (well, 12 years old) car.  Since I had the day to myself I was able to help some friends as well.  I took a friends bike in for it's inspection and dropped it off to her, lending her my soon to be extra car since hers needs a repair.  I cut up some branches dropped by the storm.  I enjoyed both a meal cooked by my wife and some Mexican food.  I re-dyed some gear that a friend and I dyed the night before that wasn't quite as dark as I liked.  I went to the range to try out some new 45 acp loads and get some general practice in.  I picked up a car I'd been after a number of years and got to drive it about.  I paid $30 for an oil filter for said car in anticipation of doing the first maintenance.  I helped a friend pull an engine out of his motorcycle.  I got to experience the joy of two hot showers and two (or three) fine American beers.  I enjoyed a bit of adult time with the wife. 

All in all, about the perfect day.  All days should be that good!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Why I'm not a Republican, Part 1

Because the way to get them on board with the migration bill is to ramp up the police state at our southern border.  They revel in the ideal of jackbooted thugs harassing people and demanding to see their papers

In general, I think the whole idea presented in the immigration bill is a bad one.  It creates a class of sub-citzen, something I'm in complete disagreement with.  And getting Republicans on board with that bad idea was accomplished by adding more bad ideas to the bill.  I'd much rather see our immigration system changed to allow for more legal immigrants and the borders opened up to allow for free travel.  This bill, while called "amnesty" is actually quite punitive to the people who are here working without having jumped through all the government paperwork hoops.  That's not progress at all. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cheap Red Dots

Back in the day I got a couple red dots for $30.  They were both BSA brand, and they were both pretty junky.  The one I still use today as a sight on a single shot rimfire I use for kids- learning to put a dot on the target is easier than lining up sights, so it's a good gun to use on the first trip to the range, but it burns through batteries.  I have to keep a spare battery with it because it seems like I need to replace it every time I use it.  The other one was pretty much unusable out of the box.  On the couple guns I tried it on there wasn't enough adjustment to get it zeroed, you had to take it off the gun to change the battery, and the reticule was fuzzy.  Oh, and whatever they used for paint got sticky after a couple years.  I think at this point I actually discarded it.  At least I got it on sale.

But through those I learned that many "bargain" red dot sights are junk.  Just this weekend I witnessed a NC Star red dot have problems and it was pretty new.  I figured somewhere out there there had to be a hundred dollar red dot that was good enough for use on a 22 rifle or pistol, but there seemed to be few options between the garbage that sells for $30-$80 and the well-known quality options like Aimpoints and Eotechs.  I'm hard pressed to spend $400 on a sight for a $200 gun myself.

First World Standards

Here in the first world we've become accustomed to many services and products being generally available.  When they aren't, some people aren't sure how to act.  This was brought to light this weekend for me through a few instances.

First, we lost power again.  The last time this happened the neighbors came by to borrow lights.  This time we saw the storm rolling in and left home for a meeting we were attending anyway.  We just got to the meeting early and avoided getting soaked.  But we returned home to no power, and I wondered whether the neighbors had been by to borrow things again.

Earlier that day on of my neighbors came by to ask for assistance.  They've been there for a few years and I've always been friendly and helpful.  I've helped with the woman's car a couple times.  There is a guy who lives there as well, but it seems he's away from time to time.  I'm going to (probably falsely) assume he travels a bit for work, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a job.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

In a recent conversation with a friend, they expressed their dissatisfaction with having to wait to get certain goods.  We are at the tail end of a 6 month long panic buying run on many types of firearms, and many firearm parts have been generally unavailable as well.  It's been hard to find certain parts which has led to either having to pay a premium or order something (often at full msrp) and wait a month or 3 for it to be delivered.

I'm perfectly comfortable operating like this.  Perhaps I'm an old soul, but ordering something from a catalog and waiting for it to be delivered days, weeks or months later is fun.  And quite honestly, if anyone get get a thing any time they want, it can't be all that great.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Delusional

Today on NPR the topic is again gun control.  As always, it's entertaining, if not necessarily informative.  Again their "advocate" for gun rights is our favorite astroturfer, Richarch Feldman from The Indpendent Firearms Owners Association.  You know, that guy I've mentioned before who claims to be the head of a gun rights organization who actually support gun control.  Displaying the opposition as being much closer to your opinion is how they try to shape public opinion by skewing what the middle ground is.

But my favorite part is the panel explaining why gun control efforts failed.  They claimed there was a conspiracy to stop the Manchin-Toomey amendment, that the only reason it didn't pass because people didn't understand what was in it.  (Their words, not mine.)

This highlights why they haven't been successful.  They aren't acknowledging reality.  They have this elitist belief than anyone who doesn't agree with them must be stupid, uninformed or delusional.  Sadly, by believing that they are embracing delusion themselves.  But that's OK.  As long as they continue to be delusional they aren't going to be effective at taking away any of my rights.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cash is King

We recently had some power outages in my area and I ran to the local auto parts store to pick up some starting fluid to try to get my generator going. Yes, total fail there- both not having my generator in good and not having starting fluid on hand.
But anyway, the power was out at the auto parts store and they had a sign displayed:

They were writing tickets by hand and couldn't take credit cards because their computers were down. Well, not all their computers, they had one register up, running off a big truck battery, to look up prices. They could sell you anything in the store providing you had the cash for it. No cash, no sale.

In a localized power outage it's not a big deal, you drive to the next locality or town. But in a more global power outage, like a EMP strike, a power grid hack or failure, a big earthquake that knocks out infrastructure or civil unrest the area affected could be widespread. That's when you really need to have cash on hand if you want to purchase any goods or services. Waiting until there is a power outage is too late.  If it's a serious financial collapse, perhaps having some silver coins on hand would be a good idea as well. If people lose faith in paper money they'll likely still place value on hard currency like silver coins. For a few days anyway.  If it's something that will affect currency stability for years, people will quickly lose their faith in paper currency, then precious metals.  An item is only worth what someone is willing to offer for it, and a man with no food or water is unlikely to want anything but.

Stay safe out there!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Being Nice to People


Many of my friends who have the mentality of being prepared for anything would really resist leaving their homes. If a disaster or emergency forces you to leave your home you're relegated to refuge status. That's not a position that anyone wants to be in. If you have your home stocked to thrive in a disaster scenario it's certainly the most comfortable way to go.

The great downside to this plan is your neighbors probably aren't that prepared and they don't want to leave their house any more than you do. If the electricity is out for the 3rd or 5th or 10th day and you're the only house on the block with lights at night, your neighbors may become jealous. If they lack food and you're bar-b-queing steaks they are probably going to want what you have. History has shown that hungry people tend to do things and act in ways they wouldn't in normal conditions.  They may even begin to act less civil towards their neighbors.

How can a person prepare for a situation like that? Getting to know your neighbors is one way. Talk up the idea of keeping some canned goods on hand in case of a power outage or snow storm. Buy them crank operated flashlights as gifts. Get their kids interested in camping since a lot of camping equipment works double duty as prep items.

Another option is to keep low cost extra supplies on hand. What does a case or ramen cost, $5? The family in the condo next door will be grateful for any food if they have none. The single mother across the street would love to have that crank lantern you have that barely holds a charge anymore. Rather than toss out old item like that keep them in a box for situations like that. You may not have the patience to crank that old lantern every 3 minutes, but to someone with no light it's a totally worth it. You may not be interested in eating a bunch or ramen, but to a man with no food it's a feast.

If the power is out and you are running a generator to keep your food cold or your house warm, offer it to your neighbors to use. Maybe tell them you don't have extra gas, so they'd have to provide their own, but it's a great way to keep people civil by helping to provide first world living conditions. And if you need some expertise or some labor or some goods they'll be more likely to offer it up if you've been helpful.

Power Outage

Being prepared for a serious disaster also means you're prepared for trivial inconveniences.  Earlier this week we has some storms roll through that knocked out the power.  Since I'm crazy that way, I've got a half dozen flashlights I can find in the dark, including the one I always have in my pocket.  I fired up our old Coleman lantern and we had plenty of light for reading and doing dishes.

Since we were the only house with an obvious light a neighbor who I haven't met came by and asked if we had a flashlight she could borrow.  She said her kids were not very pleased with being in the dark.  I lend her a good flashlight and a (rather crappy) crank-up LED lantern.  I figured that way her kids could be part of the solution, cranking that lantern to keep the light going.  Seriously, it lasts like 3 minutes before you have to crank it up again.  But as far as something to lend out it's totally worth keeping around. 

I also recently put together a solar recharging station, so I pulled the battery pack out and plugged in our phones.  It'll be nice to have a fully charged phone in case our electricity isn't restored very quickly.

It did make me realize that I need to get or make a adapter to plug my ham radio into my charging station.  My ham radio will run a long time in listen mode, which is great to listen to the storm reports, but if I need to transmit much it would be nice to be able to recharge it.  I'll have to make that a priority.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Heartening

Yesterday I went to the range with a friend.  It was a warm sunny day and great to be outside.  We traveled a bit to get to an unsupervised range, at the supervised ranges in our area you can't shoot prone.  I've been trying to shoot prone more often rather than from a bench.  There are no benches in nature!

So it was nice to get in some shooting practice, but was was really heartening was the people next to us.  It was a father with his daughter.  Now, that in itself isn't uncommon, I see a lot of families at the range.  What was more unusual was the girl looked like she was 6 or 8 years old.  She was sitting cross legged on the bench and shooting a rimfire rifle that had a bipod attached to hold up the front.  She was using her off hand to hold the stock up and using two fingers to pull back the trigger.  Not ideal form for an adult, but it worked great for a little kid.  She was safe, safer than some of the other adults I witnessed that day.

Oh, and she was hitting golf balls at 25 yards more than she was missing.  She'd pop a golf ball to make it bounce then hit it again when it stopped.  It was an impressive feat for a kid under 10.  Most of the adults I know can't do that consistently.  It was pretty awesome to see.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Home?

I recently attended a festival where a common greeting was "Welcome Home".  It was a festival I was at last year as well, and despite my familiarity with the location and some of the attendees I can't say it felt like home.  But to many of the people who attend, it did feel like home.  Or at least they were quite vociferous in asserting so.

This made me think a bit- what was I missing?  Why did some people look forward to this all year long?  Did they feel like home at home?  Or did they feel like a visitor in their normal life and a couple times a year they could spend time with a group of people where they feel they really fit in?  I can't say I arrived at any answers, but I pondered over the possibilities quite a bit.

Because life is funny, I was listening to a podcast the next week, the Michael Bane podcast, and he spoke about being home at the NRA convention.  So here was another person who felt at home in a large gathering of like minded people.  I've attended a number of events with very like minded people and I can't say I've ever really gotten that feeling.  Heck, I've been a volunteer for 5 or 6 years with an organization that has a lot of like minded people and I can't say at any event did I feel at home.  It was just a bunch of people doing stuff.

I have had the opportunity to attend the NRA convention on two occasions and I will say that at the first one at least, I felt a warm fuzzy similar to feeling at home.  I'm not often around people who have similar viewpoints as my own, the people I associate with the most range from communist leaning socialists to hardcore Democrats to people who are apathetic politically to flaming libertarians to hardcore Republicans and all the flavors in between.  Some of my very good friends own their own companies and do quite well, others struggle to find rent money and don't own their own car.

But at the NRA show, I found people of a similar makeup as myself.  People with good jobs who vote pro gun.  People who work hard and are passionate about civil rights.  People who can look at a gun and see beauty in the craftsmanship.  It was nice.

But in general I feel at home when I'm at home.  I guess that's good since I spend a lot of time here.  But other places where I know people feel at home have never struck me as that way.  Perhaps I'm just not the sort to get attached.  I could move next week and my new home would feel like home, I'm not attached to the location or layout of my current home.

I don't have a point, I guess, just rambling.  I hope that you have a place where you feel at home and get to visit it frequently.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Science vs Ideologies

I like science.  A lot.  I find scientific study very interesting and I'm completely enthralled by data.  I love looking over data, discussing the ramifications and pondering the meaning from it.  I try to make decisions and develop opinions based on data.  I sometimes have a hard time relating to people who don't.

I associate with a lot of people who also believe in science.  And yes, that's what I mean- they believe in science.  They believe in it as a principle from with to make rational decisions.  They observe the world around them, absorb the data and make decisions based on that.  They research a topic, putting weight in proven facts over opinions.  The alternative is making decisions based on emotion or ideology.  People who do that don't see science as a guiding principle whether they think they do or not.  People who make decisions and form opinions based on unproven ideologies are quite prevalent in this world.  And that's OK, in a free and open society people are welcome to make decisions based on whatever criteria they so choose.  But I've found in my journey through life many people think they believe in science, but when it comes to many subjects are actually ideologues.  Today I'm going to discuss my thoughts on one of those groups that I come into contact with rather frequently.