Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Looking back.

When I went off to Methodist Youth Summer Camp in early August of 1983, I was 11.

I had already gone to Boy Scout summer camp at Sid Richardson Scout Ranch the month or two before. It had been a long week of hiking, canoeing, and sweating. More significantly, however, it had been my first week away from home.

At Boy Scout camp, I remember going to my tent one evening, and crying. I still can recall hearing my best friend, then and now, remarking on it to someone (his father?), who said, "Leave him alone." Fabric walls don't stop even gentle words of concern. Grateful for the time alone and yet embarrassed that my sobs hadn't been effectively muffled by the Coleman sleeping bag, I stopped, and by and by joined the rest of the troop for supper.

It wasn't so much that I was a Mama's Boy (I'm fairly certain that I was) that drove me to cry "I want my Mama" into my sleeping bag, as the fact that I was away for the first significant time while my parents were beginning the separation that would eventually lead to their divorce. While I later felt that things actually got better for us kids after the divorce (Dad was very attentive as a divorced father, meaning that we actually seemed to see more of him afterwards), it was a time of Change, and a boy who is uncertain during change seeks his Mama. She wasn't there. Only boys and good men who volunteered as Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters were there.

The next month (or the next-- a quarter century has obscured some facts), I went off to Church Camp. It was way up at Lake Texoma, and we all gathered at a large regional church to get on the high-capacity vans to go. My father took me up there, and as I waited to get on the van, he handed me a paperback book. He asked me if I was nervous about the time away, and I said that I was not. (I felt that I was past that weak point, so long ago, about a month or two before.) He told me that a lot of boys were not used to leaving their families for any time when they were eleven years old, and somehow managed to compliment me for being mature enough to deal with it. I felt embarrassed, a little-- I should be mature enough. Just look at me: about 5'11" to 6'00" tall, eleven years old. Probably about 170 lbs. I was man-sized, in most cultures. [But still a boy.]

I got on the bus, and had an enjoyable ride with kids that I would get to know over the next 7 days. It's amusing that I still can remember some of the songs that we listened to on the radio; they tended heavily toward the Eurithmics. When I arrived at church camp, I found that our "cabins" were kind of bungalows spaced widely about the camp. I was in one with a group of 7 other boys of widely different cultures. I was neither the center point of our group, nor the outcast. I was an island unto myself; I was approachable, but discrete.

Well, a bit of loneliness almost set in, one night, when I opened my paperback (I think I was supposed to be studying a text for vespers, or something), and found an inscription from my Dad. I can't recall if it said anything more than "To Matt, Love, Dad." But does it matter? That's about the only part that matters in any inscription I've ever read: Who, why, and from whom. I seem to recall that he dated it. The paperback was a thick one, and had a painting of D.D. Harriman looking wistfully up at the stars with a spaceship in the background. It was The Past Through Tomorrow, a compilation of stories by Robert A. Heinlein.

I started with the first one, "Life Line." I was hooked.

My reading of Heinlein's works continued, with me consuming all that I could find in the school libraries (almost exclusively juveniles, but I found, inexplicably, a ratty hardcover copy of I Will Fear No Evil, which was racy stuff for a rural junior high school library). I kept it up long after the man died (I remember that hollow feeling, standing in Fultz's News when the counterman told me he had passed), and long after I had come to the conclusion that he was an idealist and a Dirty Old Man.

I don't doubt that a lot of my current philosophies have been influenced by a science fiction writer who died 21 years ago, and with whom I disagree about 1/3 of the time.

It's funny where you get your beginnings.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

To a guy I just met the other night:

Now, I realize that I'm just a front for the Nanny Government, but will you take some quick advice?

No matter how new your vehicle is, it will make a spark when you fire it up. Gasoline, diesel, electric-- all spark when you turn the key and go. If you can't understand this, allow me to explain sometime how a starter motor works.

I understand that it's your plan to sneak around the cops who have blocked off the city block, to go drive off in your new pickup.
Which is parked 12 feet from the high pressure natural gas meter new hole in the ground emitting copious amounts of methane at high speed.
And which is also parked 14 feet from a pair of gasoline pumps.
Which are about 20 feet from a huge locked rack of propane canisters.

Now, you're a pretty good-sized ol' boy, and I can tell by the cut of your jib and the cut of your jaw, and by the way that you're reaching for your car keys, that you realize that we're all just a bunch of namby-pamby sissy boys who won't do what needs doing, which in your mind right now is to fire up your pickup and ride off into the sunset like John Wayne woulda done. ('Cept of course that the Duke wouldn't have driven a rice-burner.) You, sir, are a Man Of Action.

But I need to point some things out.

First, that gas leak is a few feet from some people's residence.
Second, I've told you not to go over to your pickup.
Thirdly, that guy behind you? My partner? He's not pulling out his Taser. Tasers spark, too. He's reaching for his expandable baton.

This lesson could get painful. Wouldn't you rather just cuss me from the other side of the barricades?

Kaythanxbai.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Astute readers

...will notice the addition of Blunt Object to my blogroll, at right.

I will warn you that he is a verbal arsonist. You will not agree with everything he says.

He's also an observer of our decline of liberty, and likes good beer. So what's not to like?

His Mid-Week Misanthropy series is good. Witness the Dwyer N.E.S. game referenced in this one.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gwinn. Don Gwinn.

I've written about him before. You know the guy-- a gentle giant of a man with a spiffy red beard who is a dedicated elementary school teacher, husband, father, and Second Amendment activist in southern Illinois. He also does a little home repair, blacksmithing, shooting, and he likes old Chevys.



So why am I writing about this guy again? Because he's moved his blog. He now resides at Pushing The Pull Door. He explains why he moved here. I hope he's saved his old posts, and didn't hit the History Erasure Button again.



Don is a good man. He's a personal friend. He's on my Hero List.

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Get this through your head, people:

The ability to do harm does not translate into the intention to do harm.

This seems to be the biggest mental disconnect that is missing in the minds of the network newsies when they see armed citizens protesting OUTSIDE OF (when did standing 100 yards off the property of a civic center translate to being "at a town hall meeting?" Hell, the next time my chief orders me to attend a city council meeting, does this mean that I can sit across the street and check my email on my laptop, and claim attendance?) town hall meetings.

"Who in their right mind would attend a town hall meeting with a gun?!?"

"This appears to have the potential to turn violent."

Etc.

First, they're not IN THE MEETING. They're making a legal, peaceful protest outside. They are abiding by the laws of the land, and local ordinances. They are also, sadly, invoking their First Amendment, as well as their Second Amendment. I say sadly, because it really shouldn't be considered a radical statement to invoke an amendment under the U.S. Constitution. But since it is, I would submit that protesters with guns get a double dose of Bill Of Rights protection to their peaceful activities.

In the meeting, I'm moderately okay with heaters being left outside, so long as there is good security. There are factions out there who seem to view a town hall meeting or a city counsel meeting or what-have-you as an opportunity to show their inner soccer hooligan. If you can assure that we're all safe in there, then, yeah, I'll accept a few minutes (or droning hours-- have you ever been to one of those things?) of being disarmed.

But outside, on the street? Hundreds if not thousands of feet from the actual meeting but along the approach? Prithee, what would be a more appropriate venue to voice a public protest?

  • Be more afraid of the guy with a Lexus and a case of beer in the back seat.
  • Be more afraid of the kid filling up the gallon gas can for his lawn mower, with a lighter in his pocket.
  • Be more afraid of the soccer mom making brownies for the little league team with a bunch of rat poison under the sink.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
I remember having a conversation with my liberal buddy in Boy Scouts, at age 14, one evening on a campout. He was shaken when I made my point thusly: "If you're so afraid of the ability to do harm, then why weren't you afraid that I might slit your throat with my pocketknife or my scatchet while you shared our tent last night?"

"You're scaring me, Matt!"

"Why?!? Because it just occurred to you that I have the ability to do you harm? Nothing has changed about me from five minutes ago, when I was your apparently harmless buddy. You've just realized that I possess the simple capability to hurt you. Now, in fact, I have no intention of ever harming you, and you don't ever have to worry about that from me, even if we stop being friends. But it's going to be a long, scary life for you if you can't get through your head that just because people can, doesn't mean people will. And for the most part, everyone can."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Recently, I disarmed a weird guy who was trespassing on the property of a single lady at night. I issued the guy a Criminal Trespass Notice, and kept his technically-illegal knife to go into my P.D.'s evidence locker. While giving the homeowner her copy of the Criminal Trespass Warning notice that I had served to the guy who had been on her property (he was a neighbor), I casually mentioned the knife.

She lost her mind. I mean, LOST HER MIND.

Look, this fellow wasn't right. I'll admit that. He was acting strangely. I don't make it a habit of disarming people over minor technicalities in the law, but this fellow pinged me as being a tad off plumb. But she had been in her open house, and he was outside, and he hadn't been waving the knife around-- it was just clipped to his waistband. You would have thought that she had just survived a hail of gunfire. I explained that I wouldn't interpret his possession of the knife as direct threat to her, but that I think she ought to have a plan in place, both for dealing with him specifically, and her personal protection, generally.

"So you think I should get a gun, then?"

"Lady, I said no such thing. But if you do, I strongly suggest that you get trained in the proper use and safety of it, by highly-qualified instructors. All I said is that you need to have a plan," I said.

"I never thought that I needed one," she told me.

While I appreciate her honesty in admitting this, I think that this is a kind of reality check that she has been lacking, in her assessment of the world: All weapons presented a threat, and she had no plan of action for her personal safety.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wow. Just... wow.

I've been in a few pursuits, and things have gotten exciting on occasion. But never anything quite like this. Wait for the end. This one is almost as impressive as the famous Montana pursuit of a few years back.

Please remember that it's hard to get bullets to go where you want them to, when shooting through compound complex curved safety glass. Even harder when, as the good sergeant in this pursuit had to do, you're shooting through TWO pieces of glass. (His own windshield, and the bad guy's.)

Woa.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Not worth it, IMHO.

I've generally been pretty impressed with guns of the Thunder Ranch-endorsed line.

Today I found one that I didn't care for, because of one feature: the tolerances were too tight.

I had to deal with a Les Baer T.R. Special 1911 .45 acp that one of my cohorts had seized for evidence, today. It's a very nice looking gun, with a decent satin blue and rosewood stocks. It had no full length guide rod, which made me happy. It had an extended thumb safety, which made me happy. It had a nice ski-jump tang/grip safety, which made me happy. It had good high-profile tritium sights, which made me happy. It had good 30 L.P.I. checking on the frontstrap and on the mainspring housing, which is nice. I could accept the flat mainspring housing. The trigger was a bit heavy for a custom 1911 at 5 lbs [not 4 as advertised (I measured, with weights)], but I could deal with that, because it was crisp.

No, what pissed me off about it was that, even with a bushing wrench, the damned thing was almost too tight to get apart. Good LORD it was tight. It took me a few minutes to take it apart.

Look, I'm impressed with the things that Les Baer has been able to make. I'm impressed at the accuracy of the pistols. I like the touches that I saw on the pistol. And, yes, I noticed that the barrel is matched by serial number to the slide, which is matched to the barrel bushing, which is matched to the frame. But if I can't easily take it down when I want to, then I'm out.

If this is representative of the breed, then I'm a little surprised that Clint Smith endorsed them as a fighting pistol.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

So I've got this girl that my wife and I are rearing. . .

She's just about eleven, and she's a very bright girl. She's bright enough to pick up on things that are not talked about, as well as those that are. And it occurred to my wife and me the other day that she knows a fair bit of things that we've not formally talked with her about, including, apparently, sex.

So, in an effort to find out where she is on the education of the subject the other evening, my wife and I asked her questions in a frank one-on-two discussion. It did NOT go well. She was embarrassed. So much so, in fact, that she actually cried when we asked her to be specific about what she knew. Oops.

So, last night, as I made chipped beef over rice for me, and quesa dias for her, my daughter and I talked one-on-one about sex. Apparently this more conversational approach was FAR less embarrassing, and she was forthcoming about her knowledge.

The girl is bright, and evidently a pretty good researcher. We went over mechanics, which she understood, and nomenclature, and Problems.

Really this last section of our chat was the meat of the discussion, and in it I explained the really pragmatic reasons behind moral guidelines on expected behavior. This part of our chat was supplemented by educational photos of advanced cases of incurable STDs, found by simple Google image searches on the house desktop computer. (Heh. She may be off her feed, today.)

She also got reassurance that there were NO topics that she couldn't bring up with her mother or me, and that we would be unembarrassed and straightforward in our answers. She was also ordered not to try to "educate" her school friends, and was explained to why not.

All in all, it was a good chat, and when I sent her to bed, she seemed to regret not being able to stay up and talk more. That's good. These are important things to talk about, and I feel like her mother and I are actually pretty good sources of such information.

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