Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ahab-Clawhammer--Throwing Your Vote Away, or Voting Your Conscience?

Read the Ahab-Clawhammer 2008 Platform

This isn't easy for me. As you know, I have been unwavering in my support of Governor Sarah Palin and her running mate, That Old Guy. Even this week, as we found out that Governor Palin may be lacking in her ability to blow smoke up Katie Couric's skirt on television, I stood by her and stood strong. (Where would we be today if Winston Churchill hadn't been good at TV interviews with hostile, yet perky, TV anchors?)

And yet my heart is heavy today, because I have only one vote to cast, and I find myself wavering. Although Sarah Palin and the Claw Hammer have much in common (Both are photogenic outsiders with little national or international experience, for instance, and both tend to overshadow their running mates, even from what would normally be considered the second spot on the ticket) the fact is that with the two running on separate tickets, someone has to lose here.

I hear people saying that Sarah Palin has no experience, and all I can think is "And yet we, as a nation, have thrown our collective panties at Barack Obama while screaming and trying to push our way past the roadies. Was that because of his extensive experience and expertise in foreign affairs?"

I hear people saying that third parties aren't serious, and a Claw Hammer cannot be ready for the duties of the Vice President of the United States. "And yet . . ." I think to myself, " . . . and yet, Dick Durbin has lasted so long in the Senate that they gave him a leadership position. Is Dick Durbin a better leader than a hammer?" I don't know anyone who seriously believes that.
So, am I sure who I'm going to vote for? I'm just not, not at this point.

Am I glad the Claw Hammer and that other guy are in the race, keeping Sarah Palin's feet to the fire? You bet.

(Seriously, folks, I really might write Ahab in this time. Illinois is so completely toasted, roasted and in the bag for Obama that it's not going to matter who I vote for in the Presidential race no matter what happens. I heard it's such a wipeout that they're not even going to cheat on the Presidential votes in Chicago this year--they want to see what happens when they use the "natural method."
Ward, Aldermanic, Congressional, Judicial, Municipal and County races will, of course, still be subjected to massive corruption. Anything less would not be in keeping with The Chicago Way.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Can Haz Pratchett

I have to be honest with you, folks: I'm less giddy than I was about the Gun Blog .45. This week is starting to feel like I'm gaining a gun and losing some friends, what with THR disintegrating and people choosing sides. As much as I enjoy guns and shooting, they're still just cold steel tools.

On the other hand, as cold steel tools go, the Gun Blog .45 is a pretty neat one, and just because I'm feeling a little low about my friends suing each other doesn't mean I want my money back. Tomorrow morning I'm going to take the jaunt on over to White Hall (Motto: "Now 25% more bucolic!") and pick up the pistol from my dealer, and I can't wait. I'd go tonight, but he's going to be out of town and I'm going to be on call. Still . . . . swag. Ya gotta like that.

Today was our second and last day of parent-teacher conferences, which went as expected. That is to say, we had numerous meetings with parents who support their children at home and thus raise happy, functional kids whose teachers really have no pressing need to speak to their parents. That is also to say that we had some free time because the parents we really need to work with couldn't be bothered to get here. (Don't get indignant unless the shoe fits, folks. I'm a parent myself, and the main reason I always make time for conferences is that my kids are capable of such breathtaking acts of academic evil.)

The big bright spot of the day was the book fair:

* I picked up a novel called *Sold." It describes the life of a young Nepalese girl sold by her desparate parents to a brothel. It's dark stuff, but I think it'll turn out to be interesting. I'm sure the preceding sentence will also provide many interesting Search Term Safari opportunities.

*I also got a pretty cool children's book about Walt Whitman, with a lot of fragments of Whitman poems scattered through it and the full text of his more famous verses in the back. There was just something about it I really liked, and I have a soft spot for Whitman. Sean is closing in on 19 months, and he's starting realize that books aren't just fun to eat, so I have (probably naive) visions of reading this to him.

*Last and most, I got two of the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett. These are set on Discworld, but they deal with a wannabe-witch who doesn't necessarily encounter all the classic beloved Discworld characters. They're intended for younger readers, I think, but Pratchett can't help who he is, and the humor is a little too abstract for my students. They're a little like reading one of the crossover comic books--same universe, no real effort made to exclude any of the "old" characters, but it's not exactly the same setting nonetheless. I read what I think is the first in the Tiffany Aching series on the planes to and from the Para-USA weekend: *The Wee Free Men.*
Briefly, Tiffany lives on a part of the Discworld called "The Chalk." It resembles southern England and Wales to an eerie degree. Tiffany wants to be a witch when she grows up, but of course, witches are hated and blamed whenever bad things happen, and Tiffany's family has a fairly successful dairy and sheep farm. Tiffany has a rare talent for cheese. Tiffany's grandmother, Granny Aching, may or may not have been a witch when she was alive. Certainly she knew how to bring dead ewes back to life, and she had what could only be described as a magical relationship with her sheepdogs, Thunder and Lightning, but she was just an old lady who slightly frightened everyone and lived in a wheeled shepherd's hut up on a wold.
Tiffany discovered in that first book that another universe, one in which dreams and stories were real, was touching the Discworld's universe and spilling real monsters and faerie folk into the real world. She further discovered that she has the gift of First Sight (almost everyone has Second Sight, but First Sight is the power to see what is really there, rather than what your mind tells you should be there) and Second Thoughts (what teachers call metacognition--the ability to think about your own thinking.) These, it turns out, are the abilities that make witches so powerful . . . . but is she really a witch? It's so hard for her to know.

My favorite part of this series is the Wee Free Men, the Nac Mac Feegle. These tiny blue Pictsies are about six inches tall, with incredible strength, speed, and stamina, and few ever see them, which is all right because almost nobody who does see them lives to tell about it. They have outrageous Scottish accents and a rigid code of honour based on drinking, fighting, stealing, drinking and fighting, drinking and stealing, and fighting and stealing. They will head-butt any creature from a housecat to a Headless Horsemen (The key is for a witch to look him in the eyes he hasna got, so the Nac Mac Feegle can immobilize him by giving his horse a face full of dandruff) and fear only one monster: the Attorney-At-Law. They fear the magic inherent in having their names written down, particularly on warrants and subpoenas and Lists of Charges. Their magical swords glow a bright blue in the presence of lawyers. Their motto is "Nae quin! Nae king! Nae laird! Nae Master! We willna be fooled again!"

If that doesn't make you want to read a book, I can't help you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just So You All Know. . . .

I’m not avoiding telling you what I know.  I’m at work right now, and not able to post very well (the email client stinks, and I can’t visit Blogspot at work.)  This evening I promise to break things down from my point of view.  Obviously, that’s only going to tell you what I know and what I think is going on. 


The short version, as I see it, goes like this:

1.       Oleg Volk agreed to carry on with The High Road after Rich Lucibella closed The Firing Line.  Since Rich had already registered the domain, he “gave it to Oleg.”  (In quotes because those are Rich’s words.)

2.       Oleg enlisted many of us from the old TFL staff to help.  He also enlisted Derek Zeanah to provide hosting and IT services.  We were all volunteers, including Derek.

3.       Fast forward to this summer, when Oleg, Derek and others discover that there is an opportunity to make money from THR, whether by selling the domain to an outside party or by accepting advertising.  Can you guess where the party ended?

4.       Oleg seemed to be leaning toward a business offer that made many of us, myself included, wary to the point of suspicion.  Derek proposed an alternative that many, myself included, thought might be preferable.  The details aren’t important right now; there were honest differences as to the best course, and that’s all we need to know for our purposes here.

5.       When Derek decided that Oleg would make a rash decision (and to be fair, I believe Derek thought Oleg’s decision would benefit Oleg but leave everyone else out) he revealed that Oleg was not actually registered as the owner of  Derek had transferred the registry and passcodes into his name and keeping from Rich, and had never passed them on to Oleg.  Derek used his control of the registry and database passcodes to deny access to Oleg so that Oleg would be unable to complete any business transaction involving THR.  This is where Derek and I part ways.

6.       Over the past several weeks, several attempts have been made to reconcile Oleg and Derek and mediate their dispute in private.  No solution has been found.  Eventually, Oleg made the decision to bring a lawsuit to force Derek to give up his control of the domain.  In response, Derek shut down THR yesterday.  I don’t know what message is there today; I can’t access THR at work.

7.       I believe Oleg will eventually prevail in any lawsuit.  In my mind, the bottom line is that even if one accepts that the ownership of the domain is currently in dispute, the last person who had undisputed ownership was Rich Lucibella.  Rich Lucibella told Oleg, Derek, and the TFL staff that he wished to transfer the rights to to Oleg Volk.  He gave them to Derek because he believed that Derek, as Oleg’s agent, would complete the transfer to Oleg.  In effect, Derek intercepted the rights and held them for himself, and he now proposes to use them.  But this is not a football game; interceptions don’t count.  Under Derek’s theory, if you pay your investment manager $10,000 and direct him to invest it in the fund, he could keep it since he had possession of it at some point. 

8.       Both Oleg and Derek claim to believe that the other has honest intentions.  I don’t believe either of them on that score at the moment.  However, I do think each is doing what he thinks is necessary, not only for himself but also for THR.  We can convince ourselves of almost anything with very little effort, after all.  That said, as I said before, I expect Oleg to prevail in any contest of law.  Derek has claimed that Oleg contemplated utterly destroying THR and therefore must be stopped.  If that’s true, it doesn’t change anything.  If the place belongs to anyone, it belongs to Oleg.  If he wanted to destroy it, he would be within his rights.  I might never speak to him again after that, but I wouldn’t stop him.  In fact, Rich Lucibella shut down TFL entirely.  Twice.  The difference was that Rich’s host and IT guy, like the rest of us, cringe in mortal fear at the thought of crossing The Lucibella.  For better or for worse, nobody is afraid to cross Oleg.

9.       The question that stays in my mind is not whether Oleg or Derek will win in the end.  The question is, what will be left of THR when the winner is finally declared?  THR is a community.  It has no geographic, religious, historical or cultural bonds to hold it together, only a shared passion for shooting and firearms.  This could easily destroy it.

10.   Keep in mind that this is my opinion.  It’s based on what I know.  What I know is undoubtedly not the whole story.  What I believe is even less reliable than what I know.

The High Road; An Apology To You All

For now, all I have to say is that I don't have anything to say. Tomorrow I expect to go into much more detail. It's a dark day if you're a member of The High Road dot Org. It's after midnight, I spent all day in an emergency room, and I have parent-teacher conferences in the morning. I'm going to bed.

Before I do, I want to say this much:

If you're a member of and you're wondering what's going on, I'm sorry. I apologize on behalf of the entire staff for the fact that we were not able to keep our childish bickering and junior-league food fights from destroying a community you built with us from nothing. I would urge you to hold yourselves blameless and instead hold the staff responsible for this epic failure of the ideals THR stands for, but I'm sure you've figured that part out for yourselves.

I'm sorry.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kane's OK

We put in a full day at the hospital, from about 9:00 to 3:30 or so in that bland little room, to find out that the kid's fine. Maybe a little constipated. Luckily, he had my Calvin and Hobbes collection and I had The Hunting Rifle by O'Connor. Even so, I admit it, I dozed. Extensively.

They tested for strep first, and by that time his temperature was back to normal. But it came back negative and his abdomen was still tender, along with nausea, and by that time they were telling me it just about had to be appendicitis. But the CAT scan showed nothing but, and I quote, "a lot of stool."

Lucky for the kid, none of his classmates read this stuff.

Kane was great; he drank the "contrast" concoction, got an IV inserted and blood drawn, and never complained once.

Oh, yeah, and I got an email from my FFL:
"I have it."

Very nice. Now all I have to do is figure out a way to get there and pick it up. I think dad might be ready for company this evening, and tomorrow's USPSA night. I'm not exactly sure I can get there and back on Friday, either, since I'll have to go after work but before I go on call. But it's no big deal; however long it takes, I'll just blame the FFL. :D


Not only did David Hardy get his Gun Blog .45 already (verily I shall be The Last) but Sunday, my mom and dad were packing up from an antique show a couple of hours away when he got hit with crumpling pain. He's had kidney stones before, but apparently this was worse than usual. They got him to the hospital, where he was told a dozen different things about how long they'd wait for him to pass the stone before performing surgery. Then, when I called last night to see how he was doing . . . he was at home. They'd moved a surgery up to the morning and gotten him in and out in 45 minutes, then sent him home in the afternoon. He seems like he's doing well.

But . . . .
Kane felt a little nauseated yesterday morning. By the time he came home from school last night, he was nauseated and running a fever of 101.5. We broke the fever with children's acetaminophen, but this morning it's back, along with abdominal tenderness. I'm no botanist, but when this happened to me at his age, I had appendicitis. I'm waiting for the nurse to call back now; I have a feeling we're going to end up at the emergency room this morning.

Cross your fingers for the flu or something, will ya?

(UPDATE: Well, it's official. We're headed to the ER this morning. Doc said he'd probably end up ordering us into Hospital Thing One for lab work anyway, so we're not going to bother stopping off.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You Know What Keeps Running Through My Mind?

I live in a small town literally built up from a camp around a coal mine head. The old mine head is in the center of town a few blocks north of the square, no kidding. In fact, we are the site of the famous Virden Mine Riot of 1898. The nearly-famous Mother Jones monument and gravesite is in nearby Mount Olive (the story I've always been told is that Mother Jones wanted to be buried "with the Virden miners," but their cemetary was on company property and the coal company wouldn't allow it--so Mount Olive was the nearest miners' cemetary not owned by a hostile coal company.)

What were coal mine towns famous for? The company store. You load 16 tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Don't call me St. Peter, 'cause I can't go . . . I owe my soul to the company store. That's the song, right?

What would it be like if the federal government had owned the company store? It should be interesting to see what it's like when millions of citizens owe their biggest debts to the federal government, don't you think?

Don't Toy With Me, FFL-Man.

"I paid early last week. My wife said a gun arrived but I do not know which one since there are several arriving this week."
That's what my FFL sent me today in reply to my plea for news of the Gun Blog .45.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Come to Daddy!

Just got an email from Kerby Smith at Para (GO HOME, KERBY, IT'S SUNDAY EVENING) to inform us that the the Gun Blog guns were shipped on Friday. They use overnight service, so theoretically, the gun should arrive at my FFL on Monday. Could it be?
Now I am as happy as a little girl.

An Uncle's Wisdom

Uncle John has found a perfect illustration of the basic nature of The Problem.

What problem?

THE Problem, of course.

Go. Study. Learn.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Everybody Needs a Hobby

Several people made good guesses at the hobbies in my Why, Shooters are the Finest . . . post.

Nude Tai Chi . . . well, I had high hopes that I'd just made that one up, but Mr. Shirley says it's definitely real. I don't want to know how he knows; let's just say I'm taking him at his word and leave it at that. Maybe he only saw the instructional videos.

I'm guessing the Firefly fans out there know that people juggle geese on some moons in the 'verse, but not on Earth as far as I know. Wash has seen it with his own eyes.

Every planet has it's own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principle form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. "

Chessboxing is definitely real. Fighters alternate rounds of boxing with rounds of chess in an effort to test both intellectual and athletic dominance.

Speaking of SailorCurt . . . Good News

Captain of a Crew of One: Thank you

I didn't get a chance to post about it here, but SailorCurt's wife had to get some surgery done this week. We were all thinking of her and hoping for her, and it sounds like everything went well.

Here's hoping she's back to normal soon!

Why, Shooters Are the Finest People In the . . . .

I've been thinking about this for a little while. You gunnies, have you ever been told that "Shooters are the finest people in the world. Most of 'em will share anything they've got with you and give you the shirt off their backs if you look like you need it."?

So have I, and generally, I've found it to be true. If I sat here and typed out a thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way, from my own parents and grandparents, to a good friend who took My Bride and I shooting when were in college and she wasn't My Bride yet and he wasn't really my friend yet (he set her up with scoped 10/22 shooting balloons at 10 yards. Prone. She was hooked) I could bore you to tears. Some of you know about the ParaUSA-sponsored weekend at Blackwater, and how SailorCurt and Laughingdog made it easier for a lot of us to get it into our budgets by offering free couches for the night. Yesterday, an email arrived out of the blue, entitled "Appleseed Project," from a shooter who lives near Evansville, Indiana. There's an Appleseed shoot there in November, and he's planning to go, he says, and if I'd like to go I'd be welcome to crash on his couch to make it cheaper.

Now, I hadn't thought about making it to that event, so I don't know that I'll want to go. But think about that offer for a second. This guy doesn't know me. He owes me nothing. I didn't ask him for anything. But it occurred to him that he had something I could use, so he thought he'd better make an offer. That's where the "Shooters are the best people you'll ever meet" line comes from. But I know that's not perfectly true.

Shooters are often great people, yes. But if you have fairly diverse interests, you've probably already spotted the hole in the logic. It's been my experience that most hobbies have the same saying in one form or another, and most hobbyists can back it up. Martial artists certainly say the same, and if you've ever been to a Throwdown, you'd have to believe it was true--here are a bunch of strangers from all over the country who rent a mat space, drive in on the appointed day and beat and thrash and crank and choke each other for a few hours, making each other laugh all the while. Then they take each other out to dinner and solve all the world's problems over beer. Best people in the world. Except that cyclists know that bike people are the best people you could meet. They'll share parts, tires, food, water . . . . they'll keep the new guy going on his first century . . . . they'll teach people into their clique. Local bike shop owners are more like your old friends than people from whom you buy stuff, so goes the legend, and in my experience so far it's been true. My parents are great collectors of junk antiques, and they're so far gone in their sickness that, far from content to feed their own merciless addiction to Hitler pincushions (bend Hitler over and stick pins in his ass--WWII produced a lot cooler stuff than "Nuke Osama Yo Mama" t-shirts) and sewing tape measures (shaped like everything under the sun) they've become pushers dealers themselves, traveling with a small trailer to shows on the weekends so they can feed the ravening beast within. They can tell you that "antiquers" are the best people in the world, and they can give you concrete examples.

So how does this all work? My theory is that most people are basically good. A lot of people say so; it's not exactly breaking new ground to say it. However, most of those people don't actually believe that most people are basically good; they just think it sounds nice to say it. When a bitter curmudgeon like me says something so completely, sickeningly Pollyanna as "Most people are basically good," though, you can take that to the bank if your bank has not collapsed and been converted into a coffee shop by its new management, the federal government. Anyway, if it were true that "most people are basically good," we would expect to see the results I've described--when you encounter people doing something they like to do, on their own free time, without the pressures placed on them by jobs, bosses, and other necessary evils, they generally appear to be the best people ever. They're happy, they're generous, and they're helpful. It's not the specific hobby these people happen to be engaged in at the moment; Geese-Juggling only seems like the most virtuous hobby to goose-jugglers because it's the window through which they view people at their best. If the goose-juggler branches out into Nude Tai Chi, or Chessboxing*, then he may notice that THOSE people appear to be just as happy, generous and helpful. Now, obviously, there are probably exceptions out there. I'm sure few people have ever said, "You know, snuff film actors and crew are the best folks you'll ever meet. What is it about this hobby that attracts such great people?" or "I've always found that the most generous, down-to-earth friends you'll ever make, you'll make with crystal meth." But then again . . . . .

*One of those hobbies is totally real, one is from a movie, and one I just made up as far as I know. Which is which?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Proving Yet Again . . . .

That I'm basically just doing everything Ambulance Driver does, except when I'm imitating someone else: I seem to have lost three pounds this week. It's a start.

My goal right now is to get comfortable in my current clothes. I'll do a more detailed post on my actual weight and detailed goals later; I have to go to work right now.

And yes, I'm pretty confident in my weighing. When I'm keeping track, I weigh daily before my morning shower and average each week, so my weekly weight is actually the mean of seven daily weights.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oops . . . Spoke Too Soon!

It turns out that I may have given the bureaucracy too much credit. This morning I walked into my classroom and found my "Mr. Gwinn is Currently Reading:" sign on my desk. We put these up outside our doors and post up the books we're reading, preferably by making a copy of the book cover and putting it on the sign. They want the students to know that we read, too.
Now, I usually have at least two books at a time up there, because frankly I spend a lot of time reading when I should be doing other things. Anyway, recently I've had a copy of Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals by Brian Enos on my sign. Does that bother anyone? I don't really know. No one seems to have had a problem with it, and after all, it IS what I'm reading right now. The weird thing, as I noted in my last post on the subject (see link above) is that the guy who loaned me his copy is a college student--and his copy has the word "Shooting" blacked out on the cover and the spine. I've been chuckling about the logic that says the word "Shooting" is verboten but the picture of a guy shooting a .45 is OK. Clearly that tempted fate and I should have known better.
According to my co-teacher, an administrator happened by and told her that the cover had to come down. It seems that blacking out the "Shooting" really wasn't enough; we can't have tiny photographs of handguns where children might see them. Instead, I am to write the title of the book on the sign. So I did:

PRACTICAL SHOOTING: Beyond Fundamentals
by Brian Enos.

The loan of this book had already been touched by tragedy; I left the book in a place I shouldn't have, and it got wet. It's drying out pretty well, actually, but it's obvious that it's been wet. Luckily, Brian Enos still sells this edition new, and he even signs it upon request, so I have a new autographed copy on the way for Tony. I'll keep the water-damaged version; it still reads the same.
In other news, I was teasing a student about being mean to me this morning when a boy piped up.
"I wouldn't be mean to you," he exclaimed, "'cause Mr. Yankee says you shoot guns a lot."
"Really?" I asked. "How did that come up in Mr. Yankee's class?"
"We were talking about the Constitution, and he said the 2nd Amendment is the one that says people can shoot their guns, like Mr. Gwinn does."
If you've never been used as an example to teach children about a civil right, I can just tell you: it's not a bad feeling.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Freedom is slavery.

(Thanks to Joe Allen for the correction on the state motto.)

I try not to talk much about the "Gun Guys" posers, because every time a gun blogger links them, it seems like their traffic quintuples immediately. But today I got an email from them that literally made me laugh out loud.

"LIVE FREE OR DIE!" declared the headline. Huh? The Gun Guys? What do these people like about freedom? This called for further reading.

The piece itself was a screed against Congress for attempting to pass legislation which would fix Washington, D.C.'s gun laws. The Congress, The Gun Guys declaimed, is violating the treasured American principles of local control and individual freedom. "We've always liked Connecticut's (CORRECTION: They actually mentioned the correct state, New Hampshire) motto," they intoned, "which says 'Live Free Or Die.' But Congress doesn't want to allow that in Washington, D.C."

Riiiight. These are the people who, a few short weeks ago, were explaining that the Supreme Court got it wrong in the Heller case because the District of Columbia is a "federal enclave" where the Bill of Rights is unenforceable. Wild-eyed libertarians, there.

So the short version boils down to this:

  1. If you want to repeal gun control laws in D.C., you can't, because the Bill of Rights doesn't apply there, because it's a federal enclave. It's ruled by the federal government, and the 2nd Amendment hasn't been incorporated, so it only applies to the federal . . . . uh, government . . . . this is not going well. Let's proceed to Point 2:
  2. If you want to repeal gun laws in D.C., you can't, because D.C. should have local control, and it's tyrannical and un-American to treat it as a federal enclave.
Look, folks. I can only summarize; I can't make this stuff make any sense.

When You Think About It, I'm Like Einstein

I left my keys in the ambulance the weekend before last.  Couldn’t find the damn things no matter how I looked, until I finally decided I’d better go check the ambulance one more time.  By that time, it was Wednesday and I’d been without them since Friday.

Problem solved, right?  Ever have something lousy lead to something fairly cheerful, only to have that bright spot get bruised and dark and lead to humiliation?


I’ve been driving an ambulance for a couple of years now.  I work for a small semi-volunteer ambulance company that covers several small towns and a lot of countryside; we’re a BLS service, which means we provide “Basic Life Support”—we don’t have Paramedics like Ambulance Driver on every call, and we can’t administer most drugs.  I’ve been carrying a pager for this service, which has worked for me most of the time.  I live just beyond shouting distance of the shed; I can actually walk or run to calls and beat most of my partners arriving in cars from greater distances, if I hang around home when I’m on call.  I don’t even keep a blue light in my car; I just haven’t really had a use for it.  But there have been times when I thought it would be nice to have a two-way radio so I could call in to the 911 dispatcher that I was responding.  That way she might not get antsy and page everyone again, making everyone wonder what’s going on.  On the other hand, radios cost money, and I just didn’t have it lying around.  All that was solved last Wednesday when I went to the shed to pick up my keys . . . . with me so far?


I picked up my keys, and my boss was there with radios and a sign-off sheet.  The company had bought everyone two-way Kenwoods so we’d all be able to communicate.  Pretty slick, I thought.  My day was looking up.  I had my keys back, I had a radio . . . sweet.  I signed my name, promising to commit ritual seppuku if I lost, broke, submerged or otherwise dishonored My New Radio, and headed home.  The whole family was in the van, and Kane immediately snatched up the radio and began playing with it.  Later I would realize that this was my last memory of seeing the device anywhere.


We went home and I forgot all about it since I wasn’t on call until Friday night, three days later.  By Friday morning, though, I was wondering what I’d done with the thing.  The house is cluttered with all the construction going on, and it’s not uncommon for things to disappear and turn up, so I wasn’t too concerned.  I found my old pager just in case.  When I can home that evening, and it was nearing time for my shift to start, I still couldn’t find the radio.  Now I was annoyed, but I turned on my pager and started looking for the radio.  I still wasn’t too worked up about it.  Then my phone rang. . . . . it’s a long story from there.


The short version is that I found out that the old pagers had been deactivated somehow, so I had to have my new radio.  I looked and looked, but when I went on call, I had to go to the station and sign out one of the spares, because I’d looked everywhere three times and it just wasn’t there.  It didn’t seem possible, because in addition to the radio, there should also have been a large charger/base and a book of instructions.  Where had they gone?  Eventually, I got a call from one of the medics, who told me to go to my supervisor and ask him for my radio.

“No, he doesn’t have it.  I know for sure that I picked it up on Wednesday, so it’s here somewhere.  I just don’t know where!”

“No, Don, trust me.  Go to him and ask him for your radio.”


Here’s what I know:

Someone found my radio, with my call number written on it, lying on the side of the road a few blocks from my house, but not between home and the ambulance shed.  They turned it in to the police department on Wednesday night.  Another employee (we’re a very professional bunch) had let his grandkids play with his radio and break it, so the head of our board of directors was at the PD to get that radio repaired when they handed him mine.  Could that get any more humiliating?  Well, maybe if the head of the board was also my 7th grade English teacher many years ago.  I was told that he handed the radio over to one of the other medics with simple instructions.

“Whoever this belongs to,” he told them, “make him sweat.”



Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sigh . . . . Back to Normal

Last Thursday we shot "Activating Chaos" at the Springfield Tactical Shooters club (that's right, I'm so tactical I joined a tactical club.)

The week before, I was third overall (counting reshoots) and took first in Production. However, the first shoot of the month is always a classifier, and a lot of people simply skip them because they tend to be simple and not be terribly interesting. Not only did that stage require no movement and only one reload, but it stressed accuracy at a distance, which is one of my few strengths. Being totally honest with myself, I have to admit that even with the few Production shooters who showed up, I lucked out a little--I believe I was the only one who shot it without a penalty for hitting a no-shoot, and so if someone else had managed that, I have a feeling it might have been someone who shot faster than I did--and I'm starting to appreciate the importance of speed in this game. Points are never enough.

Take the 9/11/08 results above for example. Going by points, I'd have tied for first place. I had 89 points, same as the leader--I believe it was 16 A's and 3 C's, counting the steel as A's. That's pretty good shooting on this stage if I do say so myself; there's even a member at STS who calls me "Two Alpha" because that count gets called so much when I shoot. But what's this?

There are five shooters (well, five runs--some people appear twice) with fewer points, but who killed me on time. Some of them were ten seconds or more faster. Second place equaled my points, but he did it six full seconds faster. First place equaled my points and very nearly cut my best time in half while doing it.

The two things I remember hurting my time the most were my reloads and the swinging target. The reloads are something I'm going to have to train and train. And unfortunately, only one of my magazines drops free from the P220. I needed two reloads to shoot this stage with my 7-rd magazines, which also makes me wonder whether others in Production were using 10-rd mags--the round count was 19, and it was very possible to make it through without a miss. I wasn't paying attention to what others were using at the time, but I did look at 10-rd McCormick magazines for the Gun Blog .45 on Saturday. Maybe I'll pick a couple up. Probably not for the SIG, though. I've never found any that were reliable. In any event, my reload technique is not down pat yet anyway, and it took even longer when I had to shift the gun to hit the mag release (short thumbs) and then reach up to rip the mag out with my support hand. I noticed that my hand was on its way to the mag holder when I changed directions and sent it to the gun; maybe I should have gone ahead and grabbed the next mag before coming up to strip the old one. Not sure if that would have helped. On Saturday, I tested my mags and made sure I loaded the one that dropped free first each time; that way, if I needed a reload, the first one should be smooth. Of course, I didn't need a single reload that day. Figures.

My other issue was the swinging target. This stage had three steel, followed by a mix of a turning target, a swinger, and six silhouettes plus a whole mess of no-shoots. Hitting the steel activated the turner and the swinger. I was most nervous about hitting the steel in the right order and getting to the turner before it disappeared, but I underestimated the swinger. It was between two no-shoots, and on both runs I hesitated and tried to time it. I should have picked a spot and let it come into the sights. It would have come through and back in short order and I could have been on my way. Instead, I hunted for it before settling in to wait for it, and I'm sure I spent several seconds each time.

So it'll be dry fire and reloads this week. Lots of it.

Next: The Armed School Teacher tattles on himself!

All Must See This . . . It Must Be SEEN

I don't generally do this "OMG CHECK OT THIS VDEO" stuff, but I haven't seen this anywhere else and it's too awesome not to share. My first thought was actually to send it to MadOgre, but he's off doing a rifle class at the moment, so I will take on the mantel and carry on.

Top Gear TV Attempts to Destroy a Used Toyota Pickup

Top Gear decided that since they test Porsches for speed and Volvos for safety, they should test basic cars, such as Toyota pickups and some kind of Citroen I've never heard of, for simplicity and toughness. To that end, they bought a rusty, 13-year-old Toyota pickup (with a 2.4L diesel engine--a little Toyota with a diesel has never occurred to me, but how perfect would that be?)
Then they took it all over England and attempted to destroy it by crunching walls, hitting trees, dropping it from great heights, dropping a travel-trailer on it from a great height, beating it up with a crane and wrecking ball, chucking it into the sea, driving it through a small barn, and setting it on fire.

Pro Tip: Don't shut it off when the truck finally gives up the ghost. You'll miss something important if you do.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


From comments in Never Forget:
Anonymous Kilgor said...

Spook can a pejorative for black people. I know you meant a CIA type. However, being as how you are a teacher, you should be careful with such terms in today's world.

September 11, 2008 2:53 PM

Really? Seriously? Kilgor, you've been reading this blog for awhile (and I've enjoyed your comments.)
In that time, have I given you the impression that I'm a guy who would adjust my language to fit the delicate sensibilities of someone that determined to be offended? They'd be offended at my use of a word, and I'd be offended by their refusal to employ basic comprehension strategies such as context clues. We'd be more or less even. Don't give 'em an inch!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Don't you dare forget. If that means, to you, that you'll oil every gun you own and send a check to the NRA, good for you. If that means, to you, that you'll vote against the Evil Republican Warmongers so that American Imperialism can come to an end, thus ceasing to provoke our Middle-Eastern friends . . . . well, I disagree with you, but at least you remembered. Don't you dare forget. Never forget. Never pretend it didn't happen. Never pretend some spook lit up some thermite in the basement.

Never forget.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Jarrett Took 2nd at Nationals in Limited . . . .

Pretty cool. And Tomasie apparently won the USPSA Nationals in Limited at his first Nats appearance ever? How does a guy do something like that? If I made the Nationals I'd be puking my guts out in the starting box. It would not be part of an elaborate strategem.

I can't help but think of two things The Jarrett said at the blogger weekend:

1. "Remember this: 3rd place NEVER gets 2nd place money!" and . . .

2. "I was IPSC world champion once, I've won the nationals nine times, and I won't bother boring you with how many times I've come in second since nobody cares about that stuff but me anyway."

All those guys have every right to be proud. I mean, it's not like they placed first in a classifier at the Thursday Night League with the Springfield Tactical Shooters, but it's still a pretty big match and all. Nothin' to be ashamed of.


I don't get Instalanches. The biggest thing I see is the occasional Tamalanche, which is still enough to triple my traffic. So if you're here from The Porch, check back in from time to time and I promise to try to be interesting.

Well, actually, I can't promise to try.

But I'll try to try.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Blackwater Blog Weekend: Ain't Nothin' Wrong With the Ra-di-o

The weirdest thing about the trucks they gave us to get around in at Blackwater was that no matter how many windows were shot out, how much the front end was smashed up, or how full of broken glass, brass (Simunitions or otherwise) used flash-bang grenades and bullet holes the rig might be, you could count on one thing:
She ain't a Cadillac, and she ain't a Rolls
But there ain't nothin' wrong with the ra-di-o!*

Think I'm kidding? Check it out:
Yes, that's a flash-bang in the change-holder in the back of the Suburban. I was kneeling on the broken glass in the very back of the Road Warrior Model at the time. I only did that once. The glass was no big deal, but there's no interior release on those back doors, so unless your friends let you out (mine did) there's not much for it but an undignified (yet extremely tactical) scrambling dive over the back seat to get to the real doors.
Thanks again for letting me out of the truck, guys.

Oh, and yes, that's a bullet hole or two above the flash-bang. It had been used, and I actually thought I'd bring it home and give it to my kids, who collect old used brass every tim
e we go to a range. But in the end I figured it would probably cause me more hassle in the airport than I would care to explain, so I didn't bother. Now that I know that the TSA in Norfolk wasn't actually looking at the display of their mega-expensive CT scanner, I realize I probably could have brought whatever I wanted. They certainly didn't notice the steel-and-aluminum full-sized .45 handgun and three magazines in my luggage. Ah, well.

This is our other chariot. I didn't get to ride in this one, but I understand that radio reception was excellent. The only issue was that it apparently tuned in a lot of music that Robb liked, which meant that it tuned in a lot of music that the rest of the cohort found . . . . less entertaining.

Than pure, rusty boredom.

So to speak.

*Used with permission of Aaron Tippin. Don't believe me? Call him.

The Appleseed Issue

OK, so I've only woken up in the past three weeks or so to notice that Appleseed and bloggers hate each other. I'm a blogger, so I hate Appleseed. Don't do it. It's bad.

You didn't buy that, did you? That's why I like you. You're smart.

Before we start, let me get this out of the way: I haven't been to an Appleseed event. Ever.

What I have done is take an old Garand and go shoot NRA Highpower competition at a local 200-yard range. It was three-position stuff, standing, sitting and prone, with smaller targets to simulate going out to 600 yards (nobody told me until I'd been there a few times that these targets were not the standard 200-yard targets; I only knew that some targets were bigger than others and I sucked at the smaller ones.) I learned a lot doing this, but most of what I learned concerned how little I knew and how little skill I really had. It had a lot in common with USPSA "run 'n gun trigger-slapper" pistol competition in that regard, actually.
  • I had very little idea how the rifle should be supported in any of the positions; I spent a lot of time shifting around.
  • I knew I needed to let some breath out and quiet my breathing, but I wasn't very good at it.
  • I knew I needed to find what the Appleseeders call my "natural point of aim" or NPOA, but again, I was bad at it, and knowing that I should be good at it didn't seem to be enough to get hits.
  • I did not have a sling on the rifle, nor did I have any idea how to use one as an aid to marksmanship.
  • I did not know how to adjust my sights, and I frankly thought doing so was more a crutch than anything--until I perforated the steel lane number sign about 13 times in one round with my loosey-goosey sights adjusted for about 50 yards. Windage was sweet, though.
There's more, but I see no reason to humiliate myself. It's my blog. My point is that an Appleseed shoot might really help me, because I DO want to shoot highpower competition, and I think it might be more fun if I sucked less. To argue that Appleseed is lacking because it apes highpower competition doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Are we against the Civilian Marksmanship Program now? They're pretty big on the three-position rifleman training over there, too, you know.

I understand the argument that you're not ready to fight a guerilla action against crack Imperial Stormtroopers (the crack ones still miss, but they don't give away their positions as quickly) just because you can hit man-sized targets out to 600 yards. But it IS a basic skill, and if you can't hit that target on demand at closer ranges, it won't matter much that you also can't hit a moving, camouflaged target on demand. I used to get this argument from karateka a lot. They'd argue that people who studied MMA, or BJJ, or whatever were limited in their approach. All we did was drill basics over and over and over. "That's beginners' stuff!" they'd tell me. "You won't want to go to the ground when the other guy has five friends waiting to put the boots to you while you're down there!"

Well, sure. That was true as far as it went. What that argument missed was that all the fancy stuff they were learning was being applied against air and unresisting "ukes"--people who knew their role was to let the technique work. They couldn't do their fancy techniques on demand against one opponent who was doing his best to stop them or pull off his own technique--but they were lecturing a man who could stop one opponent because he couldn't take five at once!

I feel that way about Appleseed. If you've mastered the basics and moved on, good for you. But I haven't. If you can do all the run 'n gun stuff with your rifle out to the ranges you want, then you might have no use for Appleseed. That's OK. We don't have to like the same stuff just because I'm crazy about you. Another common argument goes like this:
"Appleseed claims to be the gateway for new shooters, but it's way too hard and the wacko stuff about redcoats and the U.N. will scare new shooters away."

And that may be true. On the other hand, I've seen several new shooters introduced by way of a visit to a gun show, and if you've never met a true nutcase at a gun show, you ain't trying very hard. These people think guns and war and shooting people are neat, and they think that's what the rest of us are into, too. We'll never be completely rid of them. Sometimes, they may show up at Appleseed shoots, too--but then I've encountered racists and conspiracy theorists in many places. Ambulance services, tee-ball leagues, checkout lines at big box stores . . . .

For my own part, I think Appleseed may be aimed--very deliberately--at gun owners in about my stage of development. Think of their motto--something about "Don't be a gun owner, be a rifleman" isn't it? What does that mean?
It might mean that they think there are a lot of guys like me. Guys who owned several rifles and knew they couldn't hit anything past 100 yards to save their lives with a single one. Guys who owned battle rifles in calibers designed to put game or enemies down at extended ranges, but realized (or didn't, which would be far worse) that they'd have to rely on dumb luck to get hits at those ranges. Guys who could not really be called new to guns, but couldn't really be called "riflemen" or even "shooters" very honestly.

Monkeys with circular saws, in other words. People with finely-crafted tools who could do no more than admire the craftsmanship and think how cool it would be if they really knew how to use them to their full potential. So maybe what Appleseed is looking for is the transition between the casual gun owner who can't really shoot and the rifleman who has the basic skills to learn all that nifty combat stuff, or train for that elk hunt he's dreamed about, or have fun with his buddies on Sunday mornings at the highpower matches. And if somebody brings a new guy, he's welcome. And if somebody brings a really good "tactical" shooter, or a three-gun guy who wants to try Appleseed's way, so much the better. But if they can turn a wannabe into a rifleman--even if just being a rifleman is not enough to take out the invading Alien/U.N. hybrids--it's still better than not even being a rifleman.

So yes, I plan on attending an Appleseed event, hopefully sometime this fall if one happens near enough. I won't be going to blog about it or have my mind changed. I wanted to go before. I actually planned on going to a shoot in a town called Chillicothe (think Peoria--that's pretty close) but then I got invited to Blackwater and all my funds went there. Will I make Rifleman? I don't know. Maybe not, the first time. Will I be better at the end? Well, Breda says so, and I don't really see how a couple of days of intensive shooting with feedback could hurt me too much. Will I have time to sling up when the narcoterrorist U.N. mercenaries are marching on my hometown? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

IF. If I come to it. That's what I meant. Stop looking at me like that.

Blackwater Chamber Music

A Keyboard and a .45: Chow Hall Music...

Picture it: It's Sunday morning. It's 7:30. You are very nearly hopping from foot to foot as you stand in line for scrambled eggs and plastic forks; it's been a great weekend, and today is looking good. Tamara is looking for a place to lie down. Hardy is starting to look like he's going to make it after all; he must have slept last night. Through the other outside door, a group of men in uniform stride into the hall like Beowulf's band arriving at Heorot.

Some of them are large, bearish men measuring out long strides. Others are tiny bantam roosters sizing up the room as they swagger in. All are wearing the green "tactical" pants and tan "tactical" shirts that mark them as instructors, but the last man through the door--the only one who smiles and laughs--is also wearing a bunch of scars and a big, black eyepatch. I'd show you a photo, but I was afraid to take one. This artist's rendering gives the general idea:

Anyway, Duke, Major Bludd and the rest of the Blackwater instructors get their food and sit down (far away from the low-speed-high-drag internet geeks, who must be a startling sight here this early in the morning.) One heads over to the jukebox and turns it on. It doesn't seem to matter which song he selects; the machine has only played one song since we arrived, no matter who played it or when. The weirdly empty space is suddenly full of sound:


Must be Sunday Breakfast at Blackwater.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Of Obama's Lies (from comments)

Vanilla Chunk left this in comments on Oh, Barack! You're Prettiest When You're Quiet.
Oh, God.
Dude: he knows what people will say: Dem = gun taker. You keep spreading the same old rhetoric, so much that when a guy says point-blank (shooting pun!)“If you’ve got a gun in your house, I’m not taking it,’ you try to rewrite it in your head. "He said A; it must, MUST mean B."
That old crap again, and you're gonna go vote on this one issue and then we get 4 more years of Dubya.
“If you’ve got a gun in your house, I’m not taking it,’. Pretty simple. If he lies, no one will ever vote Dem again. Republicans lie all the time- 'no new taxes', 'mission accomplished'- and NO ONE ever hears a peep from you guys about that.
We can debate which person with what documents should be allowed to buy which gun after which waiting period. But when he says, “If you’ve got a gun in your house, I’m not taking it,’ and you assume he means the opposite, that's kind of...are there types of people you believe more readily than others? Take 'liberal' and Dem and progressive off the table, think about it again.
Well, fair enough. Let's consider that point by point, shall we? Remember, don't take this personally; I argue with all my friends. If I didn't like you, I'd be ignoring you right now.

So Obama knows that people will say "Dem=gun taker." Why would people say that? Your implication seems to be that it's not true, but on the national level, it generally is. Who wrote the assault weapons ban? Who called for registration? Who sent the BATF out to shut down as many dealers as possible? Who tried to end "kitchen table" FFL's who sold out of their homes? Who's in charge in the most anti-gun urban centers in the country? Who sponsors bills to register all guns? To ban handguns? Who sponsors bills to ban rifles with "shoulder things that go up?"
Those would be Democrats. I'm not a Democrat-vs.-Republican guy; my state rep and senator are Democrats. One's as fanatical as a professional politician can get in favor of gun rights; the other is pragmatic enough to go along with her downstate constituents.

But Barry has a bigger problem. He's not called a gun-grabber simply because he's a Democrat. He's called a gun-grabber because he has always, consistently, favored restrictions on gun rights.
  • He favored a complete ban on all handguns. If he had his way, you wouldn't own any of the guns you proudly listed in your post.
  • He likes Chicago's "registration" scheme, in which it is illegal to own an unregistered handgun and simultaneously impossible to register a handgun. He loves people like Daley, Meeks, and Blagojevich (at least when his poll numbers were higher.)
  • He wanted to shut down every gun shop within a five-mile radius of a school or park. You can take a map of just about any city, draw a few circles and realize what that means. If he didn't know, then either he was an idiot or he was paying zero attention to the laws he was writing--laws that would have put good people out of business and denied a fundamental human right. If he did know, then that's pretty underhanded.
As for rewriting what he said in my head, you make some pretty farfetched assumptions there. He did NOT say the opposite. He said precisely what I read--he would like to take away all the guns, but he doesn't have the votes to do it, so we should elect him anyway. He's said he'd like to take away guns many times in the past. What changed? Other than the fact that those older quotes don't play well in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida? Was he lying then or is he lying now?

Republicans lie "and NO ONE ever hears a peep from you guys about that."? Really? Who is "you guys?"
Have you ever heard of Mark Kirk? Bloomberg? Abramoff? Cunningham? I could sit here and list 'em off all night, but I think my point is clear. You can't seriously think Obama is going to get a pass on trying to squish my way of life out of existence because other politicians lie, too.

You may not realize that I've sat in the committee rooms with this guy. I've listened to him discuss specific bills on the table in Illinois, and he was either clueless or lying. At first, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and considered him ignorant but teachable--and even then, his charisma was clear. But time will tell, and it told on him. He looked us in the eye and lied to us to get anti-gun bills out to the floor without having to deal with the bad press of doing it in front of hundreds of angry gun owners. You can't trust him and you can't believe him.

I don't trust McCain either, or Palin for that matter, but if they win, they owe me instead of the Joyce Foundation.

Made of Win

I'm feeling good. The results of my last USPSA shoot came in while I was gone.

Now, this is a small club, so we're talking about shooting one stage. And the first stage every month is always a classifier; they tend to be simpler and less exciting, and they don't attract as many shooters. All that said, I'm still feeling pretty good.

We allow unlimited re-shoots, but only your first run is sent to USPSA for scoring. The results come in with the re-shoots figured in with the rest, so a lot of people hold two or three places. I generally shoot everything twice; my friend Leon shoots up to ten times per night, but he's 80-some years old and apparently figures he might as well buy ammo now that he doesn't have to buy diapers.

Overall, I came in 5th and 10th last Thursday. The 5th place run was actually my first time through; on my second run, I thought I'd try to speed up. I gained a second, but I traded three A hits for three C's, and it wasn't worth it. If you counted only first runs (and I do, since it makes my score look better) I would have been in second place overall, behind a guy shooting Open.

In Production class, I took 1st and 2nd place.

Now for more of that honesty. The stage was called "Six Chickens." As you might guess, that's six targets "hiding" behind three no-shoots, angled so it looks like they're peeking out from behind the no-shoot's shoulders. The drill was to draw and shoot freestyle, from a box, all six targets with one round, then make a mandatory reload, and finish by shooting all six again, one round each, but this time strong-hand only. That was the killer. As long as I'm being honest, I'll admit that five runs in Production by three shooters were scored as zeros because they hit no-shoots or fired extra rounds (I also learned what "Virginia Count" means that day--every extra round fired is a Procedural penalty!) to make hits on the targets. The one-handed shooting was killing people. That was one time when slowing down and just hitting everything was the best strategy, at least in our bunch. I was shooting at about the same speed or slower than these guys, but my first run (my slowest) was 11 A's and one C hit.
And as The Jarrett has revealed to us, that one was probably a bad bullet.

So, what does this mean for next week?

Well, next week, we'll shoot a more normal scenario with some more runnin' and gunnin' and the big crowd will be back. This will probably lead to me going back to the middle of the pack. But I don't care. This week, I savor the savory savor of TRIUMPH.

Two Things on the Agenda Today . . . Part II

This is the part I didn't want to bother you with yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago, a good woman died. Her name was Janet Manning. She taught language arts at Glenwood Middle School for 30-some years, but I didn't meet her until I started there a couple of years ago, and that meant I never knew Mrs. Manning when she didn't have cancer. Yesterday, I joined my colleagues, her family, and a lot of students for her memorial service.

I'm not one to take comfort in scriptures or bible readings, but Mrs. Manning and her family are devout believers, and like my uncle's funeral, I was struck at the strength they pulled from those words. This is why I'm not one of the strident atheists who tells you how stupid you are to worship your imaginary friends. . . . because that's a smug, smirking, arrogant way to go through life, and people who genuinely believe that there's a supernatural god out there helping them when they need it only look at people like that with pity in their eyes.

I was most struck at the people who stood up to speak. The set up a microphone in each aisle so anyone could stand up and tell something about Mrs. Manning. I'm friends with Mr. Manning, who teaches in the same building (more on that in a moment) but I didn't feel like I was close enough to the family to stand up and speak out. And at first, it looked like no one else wanted to speak, either. I was considering getting up just to try to prime the pump when Mrs. Manning's daughter finally rose, and after that it was a chain reaction. Every time someone got up to tell a Mrs. Manning story, someone in the audience was reminded of something they wanted to say. Old friends, very young students, friends of her children . . . . Mrs. Manning had changed a LOT of people in some positive way. One man even stood up just to say that a lot of what gets said at funerals is well-meaning lies, but knowing Mrs. Manning, he knew that everything that was said about her yesterday was true.

I didn't tell my own Mrs. Manning story, because it's nothing much. But I might as well tell it here. I don't think she would mind. Mrs. Manning taught throughout her battle with cancer; she passed away during the summer break, just as school was beginning again. But for the three years that she battled cancer, losing her hair and her weight, she showed up for school just about every day. She had to wear sweaters and boots when it was warm outside, and she went a little wild with the colorful scarves, because that was her. . . but she was there doing her job. She was down the hall from me, and I would pass her room on my way to lunch every day. Because of her schedule, she was usually in there alone at that time, and I'd get a little status check each day, just a "How's it going?" for a moment.

"Oh," she'd say, "it's pretty chilly in this place, you know." Or she'd tell me "Don, I've got half an hour free and a bowl of microwave soup. What more could I want?" And she'd smile every single time she saw me. That wasn't because she liked me; that was because she smiled constantly. She had a movie-star smile and she used it well. Mr. Manning told us that even the surgeons and the nurses noticed how she smiled. I know, that's the oldest cliche in the world (the happy-go-lucky cancer patient who doesn't seem to mind the terminal disease) but she really did it. For three years.

Anyway, my Mrs. Manning story is nothing big. Once, someone called the principal or sent her an email or something. She wanted to compliment Mrs. Manning on something she'd done--I think she'd helped the woman's daughter with something she'd struggled with--and she said to tell the teachers that Mrs. Manning was one of the best. The principal forwarded it to all of us, and without thinking much of it, I replied to all with "Yeah, we agree."
I have to admit I forgot about it until I saw Mrs. Manning on the way to lunch that day. You'd have thought I'd put her name in for a Nobel Prize.
I got a bigger smile that day.

Now we'll see how Mr. Manning does. He teaches in the same school, next door to me actually, and I can't help but put myself in his shoes. I try to imagine what I would do if My Bride were gone. I try to imagine what I would do if My Bride were gone and there were photos of her all over the school. I don't know how he manages to come to work and teach kids under those circumstances, but then, one of the family friends said something pretty smart to the kids at the memorial service. She told them they would be strong and make it through because they had no other choice. Maybe that's what he's thinking. I didn't know what to say when he came back after Mrs. Manning died. What could anyone say that would make any difference? I settled for telling him "I'm glad you're back. We missed you."
It's not profound, but at least it's true.

So, Mr. Manning, we're sorry Mrs. Manning's gone. We miss her. But we're glad you're back with us.

Dangerous Levels of Common Sense Reported in VA

Things like this cannot be allowed to go on; they could spread to other states, including Illinois, if we're not careful. Would YOU want to live in a town where the police refuse to interview a suspect just because he's not doing anything illegal?

The PD is also encouraging its officers and dispatchers to get more details on the call before responding, such as this:


Caller: There is a man with a gun in the restaurant!

PD: What is he doing?

Caller: Just sitting there, eating dinner.

PD: Where is his gun?

Caller: In a holster on his right side.

PD: Is he yelling or threatening anybody? Is he waving the gun around?

Caller: No.

PD: What he is doing is perfectly legal in Virginia, thanks for calling.


From our friends at the VCDL, who should be role models for Illinois pro-gun groups.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Two Things on the Agenda Today . . .

. . . and I'm going to talk about the second one first, because it's my blog and there's nothing you can do about it except not read (which apparently works, since in the United States alone nearly 300 million people daily exercise their right not to read my blog.)

Anyway, I'm as excited as Obama at a mirror store. I think it's going to be a lot of fun; my parents are taking the kids, and I'm going to spend this time alone with my wife. The catch is that I don't know where I'm going or what we're going to do.

She didn't use our home computer to arrange anything, so I can't sleuth it, and she didn't tell the Blabbermonkey Twins anything, so I can't trick it out of them. This was wise on her part; she must be learning. She once came home to Kane shouting "MOM! You can't go in the kitchen 'cause your birthday cake is in there but I'm not gonna tell you about it 'cause it's a secret!"

She absolutely refuses to play the hinting game with me anymore; she says it's no fun. She seems to think I always figure out surprises if she tries to give me hints, which I have to admit is truth. Part of her problem is that she gives very simple hints and always--always--says more than she intends to say. It doesn't help that I'm a guy with very defined interests, so if you're buying me something or doing something with me, I already have a pretty good idea what it might be. As a matter of fact, I have a couple of pretty good ideas about today, too. But what's the point of ruining the surprise, right? And I could be completely wrong.

Now she's nervous that I've raised my expectations. She keeps telling me, "I hope this is as good as you think it will be." But as cliched as this sounds, sometimes it is the thought that counts. Sometimes what really matters is that she gave a damn about me, and she did something to make me happy.

And when her birthday comes, I have a surprise for her. :) No, I'm not going to tell you what it is, because she might very well read this. I'll just say this: it's something we've done together before, and it was great, but this time, I think I did a better job.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Oh, Barack! You're Prettiest When You're Quiet.

Originally from Cam Edwards at On Tap, by way of Sharp As a Marble and Ahab (hey, we can't all get paid millions to shill for the NRA, and I don't have a misogynist bumper-sticker empire to pad my accounts. I have to work for a living, or at the very least, simulate it convincingly.)

“If you’ve got a gun in your house, I’m not taking it,’’ Obama said. But the Illinois senator could still see skeptics in the crowd, particularly on the faces of several men at the back of the room.

So he tried again. “Even if I want to take them away, I don’t have the votes in Congress,’’ he said. “This can’t be the reason not to vote for me. Can everyone hear me in the back? I see a couple of sportsmen back there. I’m not going to take away your guns.’’

Uh, yeah. So you'd like to take away my guns, but you don't have the votes in Congress . . . . yet . . . . so I should vote for you. Because . . . if a man wants to steal my property under color of law . . . but can't work out a way to do it . . . then I should want that man to be President.

Look, I'm not really following you here, Barry, and the truth is I've stood in some crowded committee meeting rooms at the Illinois state capitol and listened to you betray deep ignorance on one day and screw us hard the next, and I don't trust you any further you could throw me, which is considerably less distance than I could throw your skinny ass.

So, to sum up:
  • I know you're lying.
  • If you were telling the truth, what you're saying would be a good reason to give money to your opponent.
  • I think I'll go do that right now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Blackwater Blog Weekend: It's . . . it's beautiful!

Joe Huffman has created a slideshow. It depicts our time at Blackwater; the laughter, the tears, the recoil, the alcohol-induced fog.

I don't want to sound biased, but Eisenstein, Welles, and Ford would throw battery acid in their own faces in despair at their inability to equal it if they were alive, so it's just as well that they're not.

Para-USA Gun Blogger Summer Camp 2008 from Joe Huffman on Vimeo.

Don't Do That, Dummy.


The Rules:

1. Boys don't hit girls. If she's trying to kill you and you can't get away, I might bend this one for you. Otherwise, boys don't hit girls.

2. If you're so dumb you want to fight with a girl, try not to be so dumb that you do it in public.

3. When the Big Angry Man tells you to let go of the girl, there is no need to ask "Why?"
You let go of her because there's a Big Angry Man with a phone telling you to do it. If you don't, he's most likely facing a choice between calling the cops and pounding you, depending on how red his neck is and how friendly his relationship with your local police department is.
Even if he looks pretty fat and old, chances are that he feels pretty confident that he can stomp a mudhole in your skinny young ass and walk it dry; otherwise he would probably have called the cops from inside his car.

4. Reactions which will be considered unacceptable when the Big Angry Man demands an explanation:
  • Smirking
  • Grinning
  • "What's the matter?"
  • "Whattya mean?"
  • "It's just a fuckin' hug!"
5. Hugs are consensual events. If you have to sling her in a circle and throw her down on pavement before you can force her into a hug, it doesn't count. Remember: It's only a hug if the other person agrees that it's a hug.

6. When the Big Angry Man says that you must stop smirking and explain yourself or he will call the police, take him at his word. Middle-aged party poopers like him are just itching for a chance to call the The Man to oppress you and keep you down and stuff.

7. It is not, as a matter of fact, against the law for the Big Angry Man to take your picture as you stroll along in public. However, your legal acumen has been noted and the Big Angry Man has made a note to himself to be duly impressed at an undetermined time in the future.

(I was on my way to the car wash when I pulled into a Hardee's parking lot to get a soda and some change. There was a group of six kids in the parking lot; three younger ones and two teenagers. The teenaged boy was slinging the teenaged girl all over the place by her left arm. He threw her down and yanked her back up. She pounded her fists against him to get loose, but he yanked her around once more. I pulled the car up right in front of them and hopped out with my phone in my left hand. By that time, he'd pulled her in and was holding her in a bear hug while she struggled to get away. Description? I'd be hard put to describe her very well. Him? Ever read the Pratchett book "Maurice and His Amazing Educated Rodents?" The one with a character named only "Dumb-Looking Kid?" That was him.

I stayed a few feet away and asked what was going on. That was the wrong thing to say, but it was schoolteacher instinct. He told me nothing was going on. Also the wrong thing to say.

I ordered him to let her go in my schoolteacher "command voice." He asked why he should. This struck me as rather dense. It was my opinion that he should let her go because a man three times his size had just ordered him to do so in a loud voice, which meant that he might very well get his ass kicked if he didn't obey.

I ordered him to let her go again. He did, and she took off around a fence and down the main street in town. I told the boy to explain himself to me [again, this was a pointless waste of time. I should have just dialed the cops right then.] He smirked. I told him that a smirk wasn't an explanation. He opined that "It was just a fuckin' hug! That's all! Just a hug . . . ." This went on for half a minute or so before I cut him off and called the cops. He lit out.

I drove past a house where the younger kids had gone and were outside. I didn't see the girl anywhere. On the backside of the block, as I talked to the cops, I found the DL Kid walking down a quieter back street, chatting on his phone. I told the police dispatcher his description, told them about what had happened and where everyone had gone, and was thanked and asked for my number. Unfortunately, I'd lost the kid by that time. I met Officer Berns [Ever read any of the Pratchett books about Carrot? The mysterious Watch officer of Ankh-Morpork who was raised as a 6-foot-6-inch tall dwarf? So-called not because of his red hair but because he bulged a lot and tapered from feet up to shoulders? That's Berns in a nutshell.] Then, as I came back from the car wash, I met the DL Kid again, strolling down Rt. 4. This time I thought a little more and snapped a photo with my phone in case I needed to describe him again. At this he took umbrage and essayed to provide a lesson in civil liberties.
"Yew cain't just roll up and snap sumbuddy's picture! That's against the law!"

Right, Tinkerbell. Well, you've got a cell phone in your hand. Call the cops.

Later I got a call back from the dispatcher to to tell me that the officer had located both the DL Kid and the girl. I'm guessing all he got was a good lecture, but then, Berns can give a pretty good lecture when the occasion calls for it.)

Practical [CENSORED]: Beyond Fundamentals

I have a copy of a censored book cover hanging outside my classroom. This year, every teacher got a laminated sheet with a border reading (in my case) "Mr. Gwinn is currently reading. . . ." The idea is that we will hang these outside our doors, and either write the title of our current selection or make a photocopy of the cover to hang up. When I started this book, I couldn't possibly have settled for the title, because the cover is too interesting. "Practical __________: Beyond Fundamentals" it proclaims, right over the photo of an IPSC legend aiming a pistol. The twist is that this is NOT a story about my evil middle school administrators censoring my reading choices. My evil middle school administrators have always been pretty good to me, when you get right down to it. Some might even use words like "patient," "forgiving," and "tolerant." In this case, we inherited someone else's censorship.

I'm reading Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals by Brian Enos. The IPSC shooters among my readers have probably read this book and maybe visited to learn in the forums. It's a fascinating book for a competitive shooter; Enos put a huge amount of thought into shooting and what it really meant back in the 1980's. Some of the details have changed, especially the way he watches the sights, but I think the principles still sound sound, as it were.

When I walked in at my local IPSC match last week, one of my new friends (who hasn't given me permission to give his name here) was waiting for me.

"Have you read this book?" he asked.

"Nope." I admitted. "I've heard about it, though."

"Well, it's perfect for you. It's written for a guy like you, who's just starting out, and always gets the hits, but wants to go faster. You ought to read it. You wanna borrow it?"

Now, I have a rule about books. I don't look a gift book in the mouth. I find that bad books are usually measurably better than good television, for instance, so I'm not as choosy as some might imagine. I pounced. Then I noticed the cover.

"Is . . . did somebody black out the word 'shooting?' On the cover and the spine?"

"Well, I'm a poor college student, you know."

"Oh . . . sure. OK, that makes sense."

It didn't seem very polite to ask whether it had been his idea or someone else's, but someone has taken a black marker and laid a box of thick black ink over the word "Shooting" on both the front cover and the spine of the book. On the other hand, the guy in nerdy 1990-vintage Oakley sunglasses with a compensated 1911 in a firing stance apparently passed muster at the college of his choice.

What do I think of the book? It's interesting, and I think I read it at the perfect time--I may have needed someone to remind me that I didn't take a class with Todd Jarrett so I could try to imitate Todd Jarrett perfectly, but so I could take his ideas and try them out and learn from them in developing my own style. As with the Gun Blog .45 from Para-USA, the highest recommendation I can give you is that I've ordered my own copy to mark up an re-read when I give this borrowed copy back.