Thursday, December 12, 2013


Winter is in full force here in Maryland.  M kept looking out the window Sunday morning, hoping for snow.  Which fell, dropping nearly three inches on us by one o'clock in the afternoon.  I looked crossly at the icky cold stuff, and sternly admonished her: You have brought this white pestilence upon us.

My current earworm has a silly video, but I find the song itself very...well, it won't go away.


The band is One Republic.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

For All These Things...

I made it back from Captain's Career Course a little over two weeks ago, and have been busy at my civilian job since.  I don't love my current job, but it pays the bills.  Without hopefully sounding too much like a motivational speaker, one of the things that can really transform a life is an attitude of thankfulness.

We in the US have it so good compared to most of the rest of the world.  Even with the economic setbacks we have had in recent years, and despite some idiotic political policies that will be coming home to roost (pay people to have more children?  Sure!  Why not?), we still have a lot for which to be thankful.

I am thankful for all the good things in my life, for warmth and companionship and love.  Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Running Silently

I know I've been very quiet for a while. I started a new job, and have sometimes been working a lot of hours. I'm also leaving tomorrow for a month at Fort Bragg. I'll see you when I see you~ please take care of yourselves in the meantime.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Life: the Long Run

Sorry I've been so...gone lately, but we have moved a bit further from DC.

I was running two nights ago, and thought that maybe life is like a run. At the beginning, you think, "This sucks!"  Halfway through, you think, "I didn't realize x miles was so far!"   And at the end, you think, "Well, that wasn't too bad."


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why We Fight

There has been a good deal of rhetoric, and quite a few studies, about why people fight in wars.  I think there are actually two questions to answer here.  The first is, "Why does anyone volunteer to fight in a war?"  The second is, "Why do troops fight in battle?"  I think the answers are very different.

People volunteer to fight for their country because of patriotism, a search for adventure, and sometimes, even just because it's a way to survive financially or support a family.  In the moment of battle, though, troops fight because of training and love for their fellow troops.  "You don't fight for your country, you fight for your buddy next to you."

I think this picture from Friday illustrates this vital sense of team spirit and cooperation...which sounds very PC, doesn't it?  But when the chips are down, you fight and bleed for your brothers and sisters in green.  It's that simple.


Army Training, Sir!

We all have rituals we do before certain things.  Some of these rituals are a way of psyching ourselves up for whatever challenge we're about to go through, and some actions are just things we check off a "pre-flight" list we have based on past experiences.  Ensuring I have all the needed toiletries before a couple of weeks of active duty is definitely one of the latter for me.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When the Last Sword is Drawn

I'm going to review several other movies within the next day or so, but this particular movie deserves its own separate entry.  This film is at least loosely based on the life of Kanichiro Yoshimura, during one of many periods of great upheaval in Japan.  During the era in which the film happens, the US and European nations have forced Japan to acknowledge them and open trade arrangements, which in turn led to internal power struggles and civil wars. 

There is some doubt as to what exactly happened to Kanichiro Yoshimura, but this movie can certainly stand on its own merits.  We in the United States have certain expectations that we associate with honor.  This movie ultimately asks the question of what true honor really is, and looks at the sometimes competing obligations of family, political allegiance, and even personal life.

There is some good to excellent sword work in Last Sword, including at least one draw and cut by Koichi Sato that alone would have been worth watching the movie for.  Star Kiichi Nakai gives one of the best film performances I have ever seen.  This film won the Japanese Film Academy's Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor awards for 2004, and they were all well deserved.

I'll give this film five stars for an amazing plot, and perfect acting, and take back half of one for some of the flashbacks being confusing as to timeline.  In Japanese with subtitles.
4.5 of 5 stars.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Feel Free to be Used

I recall losing the last vestiges of respect I had for someone a few years ago.  This person claimed to be strongly in favor of women's rights, yet defended Bill Clinton when I mentioned the rape accusations against him  (by accusing Bush II of war crimes, as though that was germane)!  I cannot understand how some people are entirely willing to overlook public figures' actions, so long as they agree with them politically.

Cold Fury has a blog today about the Democratic Party's callous exploitation of over half the population...

(To be fair, I don't like the Republican Party much, either, but at least they aren't the party of race hatred and engineered public dependency.)

Pelican 1910

We all have our failings and foibles.  Me?  I like lights.

I have MagLites, SureFires, Pelicans, Fenixs, customs, and various random Chinese lights in varying levels of reliability and quality, in addition to my very favorite ElZetta, the light I judge all high quality lights by.  MagLites are quality lights, but have frequently not been the most compact or anywhere near the brightest lights available.  SureFires are best quality lights, but are not cheap, and have all been 123s until recently.  The Fenix lights have been reasonably priced and bright, and also offered in AA and AAA versions, but have not been as sturdy or reliable as other offerings. 

I think many users will find the Pelican 1910 to be in a "happy spot" of size, power, and price, considering its very high quality.  I've been using one for the last six months, and it's a damn good light.  The review is here, but if you don't have a lot of time and want to skip the verbiage, just click on the pic to order from Amazon.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

It Begins Again

The Stuff
I moved to Maryland in early 2011, not eager to actually be in Maryland, but happy to leave my unhappy associations of Virginia behind.  I've lived near Andrews Air Force Base since then, and in general, life has been very good.  I've had a lot of really great times in a comparatively brief span, and for that, I'm grateful. 

I'm happy M and I were able to find a place quickly when we needed to, and it was comparatively affordable, considering the insane housing prices in the area.  But, the rent is continuing to creep up here while we are running out of space to properly house us and Boy and Dog when they visit.  I don't have room to set up a reloading bench.  And the neighborhood here in Prince George's County isn't great.

We're moving to Columbia next month.  I would be happy to be in another state, but we will be in a much nicer neighborhood, close to many great restaurants, gyms, and within walking distance of a dojo I want to attend.  And I will have space to set up my loading bench, finally. 

Life is change, but change can be good.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Seen Recently

I was out walking a few days ago, and nearly bumped into this guy as he snoozed over his malt liquor.  I politely backed away, and left him in peace...
Pen for Scale

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tie That Yellow Ribbon

I am finishing my second post-deployment Yellow Ribbon Event.  Fortunately, I didn't have to drive nearly as far as the last one I attended in Hershey, PA.

In the meantime, I've published an article about the old-new dazzle paint here.  The concept now really seems like a slice of the early 20th Century.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Power to the People

United States v. Windsor has  been decided, and there are important and far-reaching consequences to the decision.  I usually refrain from getting too political here, preferring to suggest general ideas about freedom and personal responsibility, but I am perfectly willing to call Democrats liars when the need arises.  Since the Republicans are the primary party lying now, I am absolutely willing to treat them the same.

courtesy of Giovanni Dall'Orto
Issue: Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer married in Canada in 2007, and moved to New York, which recognized the marriage as legitimate.  When Ms. Spyer died in 2009, Ms. Windsor was forced to pay over $365,000 in estate taxes because the Defense of Marriage Act excluded same-sex couples from the definition of marriage.  The IRS refused to refund the tax.  Ms. Windsor then sued because her 5th Amendment equal protections were being denied.  The US was not willing to defend the legality of DOMA in court, but still refused to pay the refund. 

Decided:  DOMA violates due process and equal protection laws.  Same-sex marriages cannot be denied equal rights at the Federal level.

Who's lying: I have unfortunately been frequently listening to CSPAN radio while in the car, and since politicians are primarily the ones speaking, I hear a lot of lies.  In this case, some of the most blatantly false statements I have heard in years are being voiced by Republicans.  I heard several different Republican representatives say, with sincerity in their voices, that the Supreme Court had removed the right of states to decide what laws were proper for that state's residents.

This is the opposite of what happened. 

Most of my readers, and indeed, most people who share any ideas with me at all, believe the Federal government has grown much too large and intrusive into states' business.  These principles apply even if a particular Federal law enforces an idea you believe in, and DOMA is a terrific example of this.  DOMA removed states' rights, refusing to acknowledge at the Federal level an agreement (marriage) that has always been granted by each state. 

United States v. Windsor is a victory against intrusive politicians.  It is a victory for states over our Federal government's overreaching powers.  It is a victory for individual rights.  It is a defense of our most basic and important legal document, the Constitution. And all of those things should be celebrated, no matter which consenting adults you choose to have sexual relations with, or not.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Consequences and the Nanny State

I like recycling when possible, whether it's just things like aluminum cans or actually turning something that's being thrown away into something useful.  I compost in a minor way, dumping all of my used coffee grounds, cigar remnants, plain white shredded paper, and sometimes bits of vegetable matter like seeds and stems into the planters on my patio.  Here is a picture of one of my planters, enriched with coffee grounds, and planted with seeds taken from peppers I ate.

Patio planter box

This NY Times story from 16 June tells of a plan by New York mayor Bloomberg to compost food scraps in the Big Apple.  Hey, I'm something of an New Millenium guy, who likes alternative energy, "lower footprint" living, and thinking outside the box- I should love this, right?  But I don't.

With any form of recycling, there are potential drawbacks.  The blue bins in front of my apartment complex are for recycling, but every damn time I drop some cans or bottles in those bins, I see some dumbass has dropped some boxes in there, because some folks are too friggin' stupid to take two seconds to look at the illustration on the bins showing what they do take.  Some of the boxes will be cardboard, which some recycle locations (not ours) collect, but sometimes there are waxed paper boxes, which almost no-one accepts.  After our recyclables are collected, someone at the recycle location will have to go through and separate out all the extra crap that dumb asses threw in, thinking they were "helping".  On my patio, I know that I can toss in a few stems or onion skins at a time, but that if I dump a lot of food scraps, I will have an insect problem, which will lead to a sanitation problem.  I can't even dispose of all my personal food left-overs this way, much less M or RC's.  Now, think of all the potential sanitation issues of collecting food scraps from an entire city

Bloomberg has been one of the strongest driving forces behind recent so-called gun control efforts in the United States.  Disinterested people outside the debate frequently say things like, "But is it really that big a deal?  Do you need 30-round magazines?"  There are several different issues to deal with in those questions, including the US legal ruling that able-bodied males (not in an organized military force such as the National Guard, Reserve, or active military branches) between 17 and 45 years of age comprise the unorganized militia.  Outside of those questions, and the obvious difference between the government's ability to control what I want to have regardless of need, you have the true root of the problem.

Probably the single most damaging idea to our freedom and ultimately preserving our national way of life is the mistaken idea that it is the Federal government's job to take care of our citizens.  In 1935, the Social Security Act was passed. This set the stage for the Federal government's assumption of a duty to take care of whole classes of people.  This, and so many other harmful pieces of legislation, all arguably stem from the somewhat nebulous meaning of the phrase "general welfare".  A particularly important note was made in the 1936 United States v. Butler case:

     If the novel view of the General Welfare Clause now advanced in support of the tax were   
     accepted, that clause would not only enable Congress to supplant the States in the regulation
     of agriculture and of all other industries as well, but would furnish the means whereby all of the
     other provisions of the Constitution, sedulously framed to define and limit the power of the
     United States and preserve the powers of the States, could be broken down, the
     independence of the individual States obliterated, and the United States converted into a
     central government exercising uncontrolled police power throughout the Union superseding all
     local control over local concerns. 

The Social Security Act was unconstitutional, and was not overthrown only because FDR attempted to "pack" the Supreme Court with additional appointees, thus pressuring the sitting justices to rule in his favor.  The whole sordid story can be found here.  The passage of the Social Security Act, and acts based on similar thought, have led to a de facto system of economic slavery lasting four or five generations, slavery that is in some ways more soul-crushing and dignity-robbing than the evil practiced 150 years ago.  The net results have been higher crime, economic blight, national debt, and the loss of perhaps our single biggest national strength, individual self-reliance.  The passage of the Social Security Act started us fully down the path to socialism.  The question remains as to whether it is too late to salvage our great nation.

Does our national government have the ability to determine what is "best" for each of its citizens?  No.  Further, it doesn't have the right.  We must take what actions we can to regain our individual self-reliance.  I moved out of my parents' house at 21.  I don't need a committee of parental units in Washington deciding what I should do, and enforcing those decisions with the enormous power of the Federal government.  This country started with a national system of checks and balances.  Each of us must immediately work to help our state regain its share of autonomy from the Federal government.  We must support initiatives to reduce the size of the Washington bureaucracy from its current bloated size to an efficient, useful structure that is truly balanced with our local and state governance.  And we must do it now, while we still can.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Best Movie You've Never Heard Of

Minor spoilers follow.


Triple Tap, 2010.
Trip Tap is really two movies that director Tung Shing Yee foolishly tried to combine.  First, there is a fairly straightforward story about a world-class handgun shooter who stumbles into a bank robbery as he's returning from a competition.  This movie is extremely valuable, and it deals with some very important concepts: combat mindset, survivor's guilt, societal responsibility, and when moral people choose to act.  It shows a lot of knowledge about shooting in general, and also displays some of the best technical knowledge I've seen in a movie, some of it specific to the Asian market (for instance, Airsoft replicas are huge in Asia, and some of them are close enough in construction for parts to exchange with real firearms- the ATF has prosecuted at least one importer of M16 Airsoft replicas because the receiver can be used to build a working AR15 or M16).  My only complaints are that muzzle discipline during the competition could have been better, and that the third round of a "triple tap" doesn't go next to the other two.  This movie ends after a court scene.
4.5 of 5 stars

The second movie in Triple Tap is a psychological detective thriller.  In this movie, there's a good bit of implausibility in general.  All the technically correct elements of the first movie are gone, replaced by typical Hollyweird nonsense like shooting weapons out of people's hands.
2 of 5 stars

If you take this movie as a whole, it averages out to a reasonably respectable three stars, which isn't bad for a Hong Kong flick.  I don't think this is truly fair, though, because the first half or so, extending to the end of the hospital scene, is great.  It tells a complete story, and if you only ever watch this part, I think you'll enjoy this movie despite the subtitles and get a good deal of food for thought.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fiery Bacon Chicken and Pine and Suffering

Brigid has a nasty habit of tempting her readers with beautiful snapshots of her cooking, so blame her influence.

Fiery Bacon-Chicken Skillet
3-4 very small or 1 medium potato
3 slices center-cut bacon
4 chicken tenderloins, thawed or fresh
1/3 white or yellow onion
1 habanero pepper

Place a 12" skillet on the stove, and turn heat to low.  Dice onion and add to skillet.  Add bacon.  Cover skillet.  Slice potato into slices a little thinner than 1/4".  Dice habanero, taking care not to touch the inside of the pepper.  (You can use a glove, or hold the pieces you're cutting down with a fork.)  Stir onion and bacon to ensure they're not sticking and distribute the bacon grease.  Turn up heat slightly, if onions are not browning already.  Add chicken, habanero, and potato.  Cover again.  Stir often enough to keep from burning, and cook until potatoes and chicken develop a nice color.

Note: regular bacon can be used, but 3 slices of center-cut bacon will result in only 7 grams of fat in this entire skillet, which feeds 2, if you accompany with some rabbit food.  Serve with a good barbecue sauce, and cold beer.

I've been meaning to make this sauce for a while.  Despite the name, it's only middling-hot for real pepper heads.  I promised a friend I would make some toned-down sauce for dinner tomorrow night, so that recipe follows, for you wusses.

Pine and Suffering:
4 oz pineapple juice
4 habaneros
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
5-6 leaves fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt

Add juice to blender.  Slice habaneros, removing seeds (keep the seeds if you want a lot of heat).  Take care not to touch inside of peppers.  Add all ingredients to blender, and emulsify, taking care not to let any of this mixture splash into your eyes.  Also, I do not suggest you inhale deeply over the open blender, unless you're trying to clear up nasal congestion.  If you want more pine and less suffering, recipe follows.

Let's All Get Along with Pine
6 oz pineapple juice
4 habaneros
3 tablespoons lemons juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5-6 leaves fresh basil
2 teaspoons salt

Friday, May 31, 2013

Early Summer Movie Blast

Warning: minor spoilers follow.
None of these are new movies,  but they are films that I either had never heard of, or had not bothered to watch, and a couple were surprisingly good.

Sniper: Reloaded, 2011
The "reloaded" trope is the taking of a popular older movie and remaking it with new actors, sometimes a rewritten script, and modern special effects.  Sniper: Reloaded is not actually one of these movies, as it happens years after the events in Sniper, a movie with notable strong points mixed with Hollyweird drama- reloaded is just a semi-clever play on the reloaded trend. 

I have never seen another movie that gets so many things right and wrong as Reloaded.  Towards the beginning of the movie, correct information is given about the AK-74, with year of adoption and correct bullet weights.  At the same time, we are treated to the scene of training service members firing .50 rifles with no hearing protection.  This type of thing continues throughout the movie.  I can think of two possible explanations.  The script writers might have received expert advice, and refused to follow some of it.  The other explanation is that the writers might have searched for information, and included it without realizing all the things they were missing and getting wrong. 

I'll give this four stars for getting so many things right, and good acting, and take back two of them for getting so many things wrong. 
2 of 5 stars.

The Dictator, 2012

I read a review some years ago that said Sacha Baron Cohen specialized in characters with silly accents, and this is true.  Even when he is not starring in a movie, every role seems to have a ridiculous accent.  Cohen also makes movies that are meant to both shock and amuse.  The Dictator is no exception, with jokes about rape, torture, murder, and terrorism, to name just a few.  At the same time, these jokes are presented in a way that makes the viewer aware that such horrors do exist, but we do not believe for an instant that the character we are watching actually committed them. 

Towards the beginning of the movie, Cohen's character "Admiral General Aladeen" competes in a sprint in his own national sports games.  He cheats by beginning to run before he fires the starting shot himself, and then, as the other runners begin to catch up, he shoots the closest in the legs.  Seeing their leader tiring quickly, the officials holding the tape across the finish line run towards him, so he can win.  In another scene,  Aladeen gives torture tips and encouragement to John C. Reilly before Reilly's character begins to torture him.  These tiny little sketches of comedy gold are the only redeeming feature of Cohen's work,  not the ridiculous excuse for a plot, or the campy acting of his female lead.  (Well, okay, this particular movie also features some old romantic US classics sung in real or pseudo Arabic, which is just hilarious.)  Whether you will find these worth tolerating the often juvenile humor, gross-out visual gags, and just plain offensive nature of much of Cohen's brand of humor will be a personal choice.
2 of 5 stars.

End of Watch, 2012

Like several of these movies, I had never heard of End of Watch before noticing it on Netflix. It stars Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Peña as young partner cops.   There is a plot, which isn't bad, but the movie is about the special bond between those in occupations that depend on their partners for their lives.  Unlike Sniper: Reloaded, I only noticed one factual error, and that was identification of some random knife as a Spyderco.  The characters act like people, not two-dimensional representations, and the acting is on point.  I'll take away half a star for the unlikelihood of a single pair of cops themselves stumbling into all of their discoveries, but this movie is perhaps the best buddy or cop movie I've ever seen.
4.5 of 5 stars

London Boulevard, 2010
Colin Farrell plays a parolee who is trying to go straight.  I am not a big fan of Colin Farrell, but he seems to be at his best playing quick-tempered Irishmen, like his role in In Bruges.  The acting is superb, and the story is interesting.  I'll take away half a point because I'm not a big fan of gangster movies.
3 of 5 stars

The Veteran, 2011

"Dead paras never die, they just re-org in hell."  The Veteran is another movie I had never heard of before seeing it on Netflix.  I don't think it even has music, but it has a real plot, impeccable acting, and Toby Kebell moves like a real operator.  If you don't know what that looks like, watch this movie- my sole complaint is once when he moves down the center of the street.  Not big budget, but definitely worth a watch.
4 of 5 stars

The Factory
Cusack does what Cusack does in movies.  Good acting, but lackluster storyline and very little surprising.  Not bad if you have nothing else to do, and time to kill.
2.5 of 5 stars

Meeting Evil

Some reviewers have suggested this is worth watching, just to see how bad Samuel L. can be.  Everyone except for co-star Luke Wilson plays their role perfectly, and some things are really well done, such as director Chris Fisher's leaving most of the violence off camera, where the viewer's mind must fill it in.  Unfortunately, the plot is just really damn unlikely.
2.5 of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Walking...In Memphis?

The last few days have been pleasantly mild, but a damp heat is stalking this way. It will be choking us in Maryland by the weekend.
The sweltering humidity of the Southeast is my least favorite part of the package, I think. But the South has some unique, and I usually think, valuable characteristics that I think are rarer in other parts of our country.

Gone, but Not Forgotten

Another Memorial Day has come and gone, leaving our departed comrades in the peace that sometimes escaped them in life.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What If Our Government Was Corrupt and Despotic?

Jon Stewart has frequently poked fun at some things I believe in, but his analysis here is spot on. (H/T to Matt.)

Small Impact Tool Basics

I frequently suggest 2-cell AA or 123 flashlights as being one of the best small weapons to carry if firearms are not an option.  It is easier for someone with little or no training to stop someone quickly with a small blunt object than with a small knife.

BUT, some people have no idea where to start.  It really isn't enough to know how to hit someone with a flashlight or a pen.  You have to consider factors, like knowing where trouble is likely to be, and not being there.  I wrote an article about it here.  I also reluctantly added some video for illustrative purpose.  There was a lot of wind, but at least the point should be clear.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bitty Sharp

This is a somewhat more traditionally-styled Daily Kiri.  This one is in coated 3V.  The GunKote reduces the chance of rust, however it will show wear eventually, and this one does show some wear from the tight friction fit of the kydex. 

Traditional kiridashis are "chisel ground", but this one, like all the Daily Kiris so far, has a symmetrical grind.

Ssssslitherin' Along

It was an absolutely gorgeous day to take a boy and dog for a walk. We encountered an example of Opheodrys vernalis as we made our way back through the woods. 

Oh, and I ate a bug.  Oh, well.  Add 5 calories.

Met this little guy on the way back.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Friends and Tools

I like knives.  I like talking about knives, and I like designing knives.  I suggested to Sam Owens in late 2010 that he consider making knives, and that was towards the beginning of what has become a very valuable friendship and enriching continual learning experience.  Sam is a genuinely great guy, patient and kind, appreciative, dependable, and hard-working.  It is a pleasure to know him, and an honor to be able to design tools with such a promising craftsman. 

Before Sam and I worked together, I had a relationship with Eric Draven.  I met Eric through my moderation of the Non-Firearm Weapons forum on  Eric and I began corresponding through PM and email, and even began speaking frequently on the phone.  I gave Eric advice on how to better market his products, ideas for new products to exploit niches he was covering, and designed several knives with him.  Eric and I sent each other gifts- I sent him a Himalayan Imports kukuri, and he sent me a hat, and a few small knick-knacks he'd made. 

I was hoping to help Eric make a series of small knives that would be priced within the range of most "knife people".  I suggested names for the knives, and we hashed the details of what the knives should look and feel like.  I finally sent him a total of $410 for four small knives and shipping.  Eric claimed a few problems in production, my last email from him being in February of 2011...and then, I never heard from him again. 

The four on the left of the top pic I designed with Eric.
I'm sad about how this ended.  I considered Eric a friend.  Outside of my personal feelings, our working relationship seemed like a good way for him to get some badly needed advice and perspective, and for me to see some neat items brought into the world.  I've lost a lot more from some friendships, though, so I suppose I was lucky to only lose $410.

On a happier note, here are some Daily Kiris.  :-)   The left is the first Daily Kiri-EC (Extended Choil).  It's been used quite a bit, so the GunKote is starting to show some wear.  The middle Super Daily Kiri is 35VN steel.  The right knife is a 3V Daily Kiri with GunKote and paper micarta scales.

With 87mm Persian 2 for scale.
Sam, you're a great friend.  Thanks.

Home from the Hill

I know I've been quiet for a longer-than-usual time.  I had a four day battle assembly, and drove in two days early to assist in last-minute prep for the exercise.

I find it funny that the preparation for the exercise was more stressful than the actual exercise.  Also, I freaked out a staff sergeant on the last full day of the exercise.  I was playing a displaced civilian, angry because my family was hungry and without shelter.  I had no weapon, and was not even moving especially fast.  The rules for the exercise mandated no physical contact, so I was annoyed when the SSG gave me a very hard shove.  I knocked his arm off me while I stepped to the side, and advised that if he touched me again, I would subdue him.

His eyes got wide.  "Are you serious?  Index!" ("Index" indicates the end of the exercise, which the SSG did not have the authority to call.)

Anyway, I'm in the "recovery phase", which involves HALO and beer.  I did have some hard truths brought home once again.

1.  Be prepared.  I brought almost no "snivel gear" out with me because it was so late in the season, but temperatures were in the 40s most of the time.

2.  Bring (and drink) water.  My E5 got dehydrated after spending a good part of the day out of the range.  Just because it's not hot doesn't mean you shouldn't be hydrating.

3.  Protect yourself at all times.  It is easy for emotions to get out of hand when practicing against an opposing force, especially if soldiers have not performed this type mission before.

4.  Give yourself time.  This is especially important when it comes to convoys.  Moving large groups of people simultaneously can be frustrating.  Try to figure out all the ways things can go wrong, and plan for them.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


If you shower in common showers or in unfamiliar environments, you should protect your feet.  Sharps and chemicals can injure or even kill you, and even just avoiding fungus is worth taking precautions for.  These might seem obvious, but there are some other hazards that good footwear can protect against.

I took a pair of Teva sports sandals when I deployed to Afghanistan.  The review is here

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Gloves: PPE for Your Hands

I'm a big believer in personal protective gear, partially because of numerous scars and injuries received when I was younger.  When it comes to manipulating weapons, there is a trade-off.  Wearing gloves while shooting can protect your hands from being burned, cut, or crushed, but if the gloves don't allow good control of your firearm, your hands could be safe, but you might have failed to return accurate and timely fire...and still die.  Gloves that can be worn while hunting or deployed in cold environments are another concern. 

I used Mechanix gloves daily for several months while finishing my tour in Afghanistan, and they protected my hands from sharps and hot metal in what is a really bad place to suffer even minor cuts.  I had a chance to talk to Mechanix while at the SHOT show, and was sent a pair of their M-Pact Women's Glove.  It turns out women's hands are shaped differently than men's- in any case, my tester certainly had very definite views about the M-Pact.

If you shoot, or anticipate shooting, anywhere but an indoor range, you may find these reviews useful.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

On the Boston Maniacs

Her: It would really be great if Muslims stopped screwing each other over.

Me: It doesn't really matter. People are always going to find a reason to kill each other.

Her: Yeah, that's true.
If it wasn't Islam, it'd be hats.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Custom EDC Blades for Sale

I have two smal fixed blades for sale.  Both knives are based on traditional Japanese knives, with modern materials and design enhancements.  Both were designed by Sam Owens and I, and made by Sam.  Heat treat is by Bos.  Neither have been used or sharpened.

The first is my little Super Daily Kiri.  This is an extremely useful small knife based on the kiridashi.  Unlike most kiridashis, this is not "chisel ground", so the blade won't tend to cut unevenly.  I wanted the Daily Kiri to be a great task knife, and it is, but one of the first recipients is a woman who says it is also an ideal small defensive knife...and that it doesn't set off the metal detectors at her work.  The shape of the blade and the choil combine to make this knife very safe to use.  This one is in 440C.  "440" has gotten a bad reputation because of 440A and B, but  440C is a great compromise between rust resistance, strength, and edge holding.

Model:     Super Daily Kiri
Steel:        440C
Handle:     Pale jade G10
Length:     1.5" cutting edge
Weight:     1.6 oz
Sheath:      Kydex dangler/pocket
L-R: Perrin pen for scale, Daily Kiri, Samto

The second knife is the first defensive-size prototype of what I call the "Samto".  I've been encouraging my buddy Sam Owens to make a tanto-shaped blade for a while.  This one has a real tanto blade shape, but with the additional security and control of a choil.  This is one of the first knives Sam has made in super-premium S35VN.  The handle is a beautiful black G10 with green streaks.  The very secure Kydex sheath is fitted wtih a Mini Tek-Lok appropriate for dress belts.  It is currently configured for left-side hande-up OWB carry, but can be changed in two minutes to right side, and horizontal or inverted wear.  I'm not a big fan of horizontal carry, but on a slim knife like this it could be carried on the belt line very unobtrusively.

Model:     Samto 33
Steel:       S35VN
Handle:    Black and green G10
Length:    3.3" cutting edge
Weight:    2.6 oz
Sheath:     Kydex with small Tek-Lok

Money order or personal check are preferred.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Musical Interlude

What do I stand for?
A persistent earworm for the past few months has been Fun's "Some Nights", from their album of the same name, so after technical difficulties, I finally managed to download it yesterday. The lead singer has some spastic dancing- it reminds me of me- but there are still some touching moments in the video.
I find myself deeply concerned about recent political events, more so than I have been in many years. There are some other, very troubling issues- a runaway Federal bureaucracy, a national president perfectly willing to execute US citizens with no apparent limits on such conduct- but firearms have been an enormous issue for the past five months. I was thinking about it today, and the ultimate issue is not actually guns at all. Firearms are just a symbol and tool for what some of us will not willingly lose, and what others will not let us keep, something that frightens them: our freedom.

If I believed in a deity, I would be praying that some power-hungry politicians would come to their senses. But I have no faith anymore, just hope, and after witnessing how so many of my countrymen behave, I have precious little of that left on this issue.

I could use some friends for a change...

Monday, April 8, 2013


Good for you, good for me! Operation "Improve PT Score" has been a resounding success, with me dropping two minutes off my run time, and scoring a respectable 267 just 17 days after my last test. Yeah, I'm happy.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Those Were the Days

Yesterday was amazingly beautiful, sunny and mildly cool, with an occasional breeze.  Temperatures were in the high fifties but the "Real Feel" was about ten degrees higher.  I took a boy and a dog for a stroll in the Green Belt park.

Green Belt is not a huge park, but any time you're going to be outside, and more than a few minutes away from a vehicle or shelter, a few things are a good idea to have.  Water, spare socks and an extra shirt, and a lightweight water-resistant jacket are the bare necessities.  At least a little food is also a good idea, though it's not nearly as important as water.  RC got the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator pack, which (though unnecessarily aggressive-sounding- I think it rounds the corner into Fairy Land) is a good lightweight hydration daypack, and I had my trusted Camelbak HAWG, which I've used extensively for the last ten years.  The HAWG is slightly more capacious and heavier than the Predator, but they're both good packs.

Young RC tends to dawdle, so I encouraged him to speed up by giving him Stella's leash, pulling out my Soto Pocket Torch, and lighting up a Perdomo Champagne Noir.


That did the trick.

RC and Stella

And the cigar was good, too. ;-)

It was a good time, and great exercise.  One of the great tragedies of our modern life is how little exercise many US youngsters get.  Some of the responsibility is theirs, certainly, but we adults can do our part by sharing activities and demonstrating healthy behaviors.

A beautiful day, and a dog to share it with.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Want to Lose Your Gut? Bacteria Check

A story in the New York Times reports on studies that rearranging bacteria in the gut may be responsible for some of the weight loss experienced after gastric bypass surgery.  Doctors hope that treatment options that isolate these bacteria may be used in the future to help some obese patients without need for surgery.

To test this hypothesis, a study performed surgery on groups of mice.  Interesting reading, though this article contains two words that I had hoped to never hear in sequence: "fecal transplant".

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring. Spring?

So, we're almost into a week into Spring.

I'm not seeing it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What We Think We Know...about Victorians

Every somewhat literate US citizen "knows" we live longer than past generations.  We also "know" that the average height has been slowly increasing since, well, forever, as our nutrition improves.

As I told my classes full of juvenile delinquents at the beginning of the term, says who? Do we indeed live longer and stand taller than previous generations.  Hm.  I think the Masai give the lie to the "modern Westerners are the tallest people ever idea.

This article  on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health site claims that Victorians in general lived longer and were healthier than many modern Westerners, including US citizens.  Diet is the reason claimed, though of course this of course might not in fact be the cause.  Worth a read, in any case.

H/T to Pergelator for the story.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

In the Air Today

 I visited a back doctor Monday, and took a PT test Wednesday.  While I passed, saying my run time was "not great" would be generous.  I'm going to take another APFT in two weeks, to get a score closer to what I usually get.  I obviously need to build up some leg muscle and endurance, but my back hurts too badly from the test Wednesday to run.  What to do...

The first day of Spring was just two days ago, allegedly.  I was certain someone had screwed up a calculation, but today was green, sunny, and not too cold or windy. I thought a brisk walk would be a good way to get some exercise and conditioning while still staying inside my current physical limits.  Today even Maryland was beautiful.

I guess even Maryland can be attractive in a certain light

I was walking fast, and Stella was eager to go fast, too.  We burned out three miles in 43 minutes, including a cool down.

A dog, a beautiful day, and a stretch of road.
A bit later in the day, I took RC a little over a mile up the road to Lowe's, where we looked at plants.  Most herbs still aren't being sold yet, but berries and some shrubs are already selling.  As we walked back, we saw a falcon perched in a tree.  I think he was enjoying the day, too.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Overheard a Few Minutes Ago...

M: A paragraph's worth of foreign words.

Me:  Is that French?

M:  Yes.

Me:  Make it stop!

(And not a moment too soon.  I was starting to understand it!)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In the Place Where You Are

I think it's easy for some of us to have the idea that, if we can't run six-minute miles, or knock out 55 push-ups in a minute, there's no real point in exercising.  That overlooks the fact that it takes starting at a lower level to achieve those results, genius!  I have been guilty of this type of thinking myself, sometimes not wanting to exercise if I wasn't physically running near 100%.

Unfortunately, as we age, the times when we don't feel in peak condition are going to increase, and if we don't exercise anyway, we're going to be in even worse condition- it's a continual cycle.  My back has not reacted well to my volunteering to be on baggage detail for the ride back to the States in October.  I am not used to feeling fragile, I'm used to feeling like a pocket battleship, punching well out of my weight class.  Still, doing nothing would mean I would just get flabby and even less robust, so what to do?

Tai Chi is one of the best exercise routines to add to fitness regimens for almost every age and fitness level.  If the practitioner is at a poor fitness level, Tai Chi can safely increase core strength, gently increase flexibility,  and dramatically improve balance.  If the user is already very fit, Tai Chi will enhance fitness, increasing balance and muscle control.  I've had a few Tai Chi videos, but the Matthew Cohen video is a really good introductory one, easily adaptable for more or less effort, not too complicated, and presented in a thoughtful but down to earth manner.  Click the picture for the DVD, or follow this link for the downloadable version.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Google Gets Spanked for Peeping

Internet and computer super giant Google has "Don't be evil" as its unofficial company motto.  Google supposedly fosters a welcoming corporate environment, and even has a "mindful eating" vegan meal at its main office once a month.  Google's Android phone software takes the opposite approach to Apple's iPhone.  Where Apple tries to strictly control "apps", Google shared the system and encouraged as many companies as possible to create programs and hardware that used it.  (There are positives to both approaches, though Apple is still well ahead in sales.)  Google has been a leader in (obviously) search engines, email, video, voice, and text chat over the internet, and even blogging and advertising.  In many cases, a Google user can easily set up an Android phone to easily access most or all of his needed programs from his phone.

With its easy to use multiple-service portal and applicability across wireless devices, along with its attempt to project a positive corporate image, Google could seem like an ideal business model for this century, but there is a darker side to this entity.  Google has been called out for "mining" the mailboxes of customers to target them for ads.  Google protested that it was not truly jeopardizing its customers' privacy since the data collected was anonymous.  As GPS and WiFi-location-based map applications on the ubiquitous smart phones enable continuous data collection combined with locations accurate to within a few feet, privacy advocates are not the only ones reacting in alarm: there have even been national security questions raised. (If you choose to use your Google Maps WiFi location feature on your Android now, you must agree to allow Google to "anonymously" collect your data.)

Karen Bleier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As a historian, I am used to collecting information about a subject from a variety of sources.  The more legitimate sources one has, the more likely a true picture of an event or an individual can be constructed.  Google has claimed that it is acting in good faith, and that only anonymous information is given to advertisers.  Is this true?

In a story from the NY Times, Google admitted to California officials this week that it had collected a variety of individuals' personal information as it cruised around neighborhoods photographing for its Street View application.  A mildly punitive fine has been levied, as well as some other slap-on-the-hand punishments, but it's a start.

The ability to extract an American citizen's exact location and a variety of other personal data without a warrant is especially disturbing, given that the current administration has a "kill list" of US citizens with no real oversight to ensure that US citizens are given due process.  Even more alarming is the 2012 report seeking to base drones out of 110 locations in the US.  

Let's recap: this country has a very popular provider of network services, including real-time geographic location for millions of US citizens.  This provider, Google, has a poor record of safeguarding that information.  This country also has political leadership that is killing US citizens without any transparency, and with little or no oversight.  We even have the senior law enforcement official in the US refusing to deny that the president can use a drone strike on a US citizen on US soil.  

I am not much of a tinfoil hat type, but it would be oh-so-easy, and very convenient, for any political adversaries to have their real-time location pinged...and a missile land on them.  Accidents happen.

Google needs to be called to heel, and this administration needs to have clear, transparent oversight for the decision to use lethal force against US citizens.  If we settle for anything less, we make a mockery of our Constitution and we open ourselves up to living in a prison without bars.  

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Drink Water!

CamelBak is one of my favorite brands, for very good reason.  All the CamelBak products I've bought have proven to be tough, well-designed, and long-lasting.  My review of the CamelBak Better Bottle is up at Seek Cover.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


(Minor spoilers follow)

I watched a few episodes of Supernatural in the past, and always enjoyed it.  The most basic premise is that two brothers travel around the country fighting unnatural bad things.  On that level, it's an enjoyable show, if you tolerate some grimness.  I discovered the show was on Netflix a few months ago, and started from the beginning, and that gives a completely different perspective.

Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padelecki) have grown up in this lifestyle due to a tragedy in their childhood.  They travel in their black 1967 Chevrolet Impala to mysterious occurrences around the country, usually masquerading as federal law enforcement to find more about the situation.  There are additional plot arcs, but each episode can be enjoyed as its own separate story.

This is by nature a dark and brooding epic, but it's much different than the Twilight "please drink my blood!' romantic nonsense.  Sam and Dean have favored weapons (a SxS 12 gauge and 1911 for Dean, a sawed-off pump and Taurus 92 for Sam), as well as an additional arsenal against the forces of evil.  While not likely to bother adults, I would never let any 10-year-olds watch this show, and probably want watchers to be 14 or older.  This is both because of gore and disturbing ideas and images- again, if you're a reasonably sane adult, you may very well enjoy it, but this isn't a kids' show.

The characters in this show are frequently in desperate circumstances, and often feel they are trapped in a hopeless existence, but this bleakness is offset by frequent lighter-toned episodes that relieve the tension, and that are usually very funny.  The writers freely invent fanciful "facts" (Samuel Colt was a demon hunter who built a revolver that could kill almost anything evil, for instance), but sometimes also write in real history, such as the "Murder HotelHerman Webster Mudgett used to kill at least 27 people in the 1890s.

It's rare for television programs to hold my attention for long, and the ones that I do like quite a bit (Lie to Me, Dead Like Me) have a habit of being cancelled early.  It's nice to find an fun and engrossing television serial with entire seasons to enjoy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pepper Power

I love sauces, especially spicy ones.  I thought today would be a good time to talk about some sauces I've used in the past few months.

Mrs. Renfro's Ghost Pepper Salsa is the first "sauce" on my list.  Mrs. Renfro's is a brand from Fort Worth, Texas, that offers very high quality sauces.  Salsas tend to be used more liberally than other sauces, as they don't tend to be as concentrated.  This salsa,'s flavorful, but HOT.  Use with caution, sparingly, like you would a standard very spicy sauce.  If you like the convenience of ordering of Amazon, the link is below, but it's cheaper to just order directly from Mrs. Renfro's.

Mrs. Renfro's Habanero Salsa is not an insanely hot as the bhut jolokia* Ghost Pepper Salsa (Scary hot, kids!), it's just delicious and hot.  If you like a lot of heat, you can use this salsa in moderation.  Again, you can buy directly from Mrs. Renfro's, or click the link below.

Bufalo Chipotle hot sauce isn't really hot.  There is just mild heat, and a delicious smoky flavor.  It's a good general usage sauce for meats and other foods that benefit from adding a smoky tang.  You can buy it here for a couple dollars, but I have found it locally for less than $1.  

Yeah, I like this stuff.

There are several brands of chili sauce, such as the excellent Huy Fong Sambal Oelek Chili Paste that are readily available at any Asian food mart in the US, as well as in many ordinary grocery stores.  These are usually inexpensive, and add a really nice flavor and mild-to-medium heat to foods, with a little sharpness that  kicks up the flavor of a dish.  I was shopping in Springfield on Valentine's Day before picking up my order from the Springfield Butcher, when I saw what appeared to be a very similar sauce, with similar ingredients.  It was reasonably priced, and every brand I've tried of these pepper sauces primarily made of ground peppers, vinegar, and salt has been similar, so I picked it up.  The Ziyad "Red Hot Pepper Sauce" was horrible!  It was not hot AT ALL, and had almost no flavor except for overpowering salt.  I have mostly remedied this by mixing in almost an entire bottle of my hottest sauce, the deadly Wicked Tickle Bhut Kisser.  Now I have something that has some heat, and a flavor other than salt.  Don't buy this swill, unless you're out of salt, and need to pickle something.

Do NOT buy.  You have been warned.

If you're interested in hot peppers, whether just trying new varieties, or want to learn how to grow them, check out the New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute.

*bhut jolokia was the hottest known pepper in the world, but has been surpassed by- I swear I'm not making this up- the Trinidad Scorpion, some variants of which are literally as hot as OC spray.  If you want to get a little bhut jolokia to make your own sauces, here's a link.  This one ounce of bhut jolokia flakes will probably be about the right amount for a GALLON of hot sauce.