Better And Better

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

Monday, September 28, 2009

Courtesy of enough whacks to the head,

I have finally taken notice of the coolest cover band that I've ever heard: Me First And The Gimme Gimmes.

They will put a punk spin on any song you can think of. And it's frickin' awesome. (Listen. Wait for it. Wait... for it...)

ANY song.

They are all over YouTube, and yet I hadn't heard them before John Shirley got out the clue bat and gently nudged me, a few days ago.

A lot of their stuff that I've been listening to is live, and they're pretty tight, out of the studio.

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Training, with firearms. (Pt. II)

When my Lieutenant told me that I was to attend Firearms Instructor School, he handed me a printout of what was required. I was at first a little surprised at the ammunition requirements:

  • 1000 rounds of duty ammo for my duty pistol.
  • 250 rounds of revolver ammunition for the revolver (.38 or greater, 4" or longer) that I bring.
  • 50 rounds of duty-worthy 9-pellet 00 buckshot for the cruiser shotgun that I bring.
  • 5 rounds of slugs for the shotgun.
That's 1305 rounds, for those of you keeping track at home. Getting shooting fatigue is not an option: if you don't score 90% at the initial qualification course on Day 1, you pack your stuff and go home.

I was a bit surprised that there would be so much shooting, in a class that is ostensibly designed to instruct its students how to teach shooting. Presumably, we would already know how to shoot, right? Why all the shooting?

But after some reflection, it makes some sense. Weed out the posers and wanna-be's on the first day. Make sure that your candidates can actually shoot like an expert. Because who's going to listen to what they have to say, later on, if they can't shoot well, themselves? There's a strong potential for a credibility issue.

And while the basic state-mandated peace officer firearm qualification requirement is ridiculously easy (whenever I administer a firearms qualification, I write the course a great deal harder than the state requires), I have to believe that they're going to ramp it up a bit for the initial hurdle of this class. I can't recall the last time I've dropped more than a single shot at a firearms qualification (usually when firing weak-handed), but suddenly I find myself a teeny bit nervous.

Hey, what's that? "Nervous?" You mean that I feel tension about making the grade on an in-service class? Holy cow. I had forgotten what such a feeling even felt like. How lovely! No. Seriously. Tension drives us to excel. If you don't believe you can fail, then why put yourself out by trying?

So I'll be taking my issued duty Glock 31 that I'll be shooting out of my regular duty rig.

I'll take my issued duty Remington 870P that is in my patrol car rack.

And I'll be taking a revolver. Hmmm. Which revolver?

Initially, I had thought of a certain Model 10 that my father has, which has possibly the smoothest double action trigger that I've ever felt on a duty-worthy gun. But it has a 3" barrel, and the requirements for the class specify a 4" barrel or greater. (Why? I don't have a clue. But what's the point in questioning the specifications? Just show up with what they require. First rule of the range: don't argue with the rangemaster.)

Because I have few revolvers in my stable of personal guns, I of course requested permission to run barefoot through Dad's gunsafe to find an appropriate revolver for school. While we were sighting in a rifle (another post about that, later), Dad opened up a large pistol case with some likely candidates. I tried out several Model 10's, pre-numeral M&P's, and a nice M19 with an enormous target hammer spur. We had no 4"+ J-frame .38s, so that wasn't a concern. I decided against a Colt, because the vast majority of my double action time has been behind a Smith trigger. I decided against N frames because of holster, speedloader, and ammo (in some cases) availability. (Though it would be fun to shoot the 1917 in class.) I can't deny that I was not blind to Kewl Factors while choosing which revolver to shoot. But finally, I settled on pure practicality.







Yes, of course it's a Model 10. Bonus points if you can get the dash number on the first guess, without a book. I took off the wooden gold medallion presentation stocks without a speedloader cutout, and put on these ugly-but-highly-functional Pachmayers, which also benefit by virtue of sporting a built-in grip adaptor for my orangutan-like hands.

I also tried out holsters, and was surprised that, between Dad and me, we didn't have a handy thumb-break duty-style holster available. But with a bit of practice, it's surprising how fast you can get with a snap-down holster. I tried the various snap-downs that Dad had, and liked this one the best. This is an interesting example of a very distinct style that was born in the 1960's, with a rear-sight shroud. It's hand-made by Oliver Ball, a holster-maker of some fame, of Fort Worth. My father knew Mr. Ball, and learned a bit of holster-making from him (Including how to stamp that quality of basket-weave). I hope he'll post a little something extra about the history of this holster, on his own blog.





So now, with a week before class, I suppose I should, uh, cheat.

I'm going to go practice.

More later.

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Training, with firearms. (Pt. I)

Over the years, I've taught a few people to shoot. While I've shot untold thousands of rounds of pistol and rifle fire over the years, and snapped at least as many more dryfire practice shots, I don't take it upon myself to teach a lot of people to shoot.

Why? Because, frankly, it's a lot of trouble to do right, and I'll be damned if I'll do it wrong.

I finally settled on teaching the most basics:
  • Safety
  • Sight Picture
  • Safety
  • Trigger Control
  • Safety
If I had a dollar for every time that I've quick-sketched something like this
during my safety lecture... well, I could buy a couple more boxes of ammo.

Frankly, if my student can recite and explain and demonstrate The Four Rules of gun safety, can demonstrate that they understand and can implement a good sight picture and trigger squeeze, then my work is done, for a beginner. I'll let them shoot and shoot with just attention given to those issues before we move on to Reloads, Positions, and Presentation (intermediate) and Speed With Accuracy (advanced). I suppose that expert falls into shooting on the move and at moving targets, and perhaps shooting accurately with specialty guns (like pocket pistols).

Oh, sure, I cheat up on myself a little. I start my beginner students with a proper general stance, so that they get used to how to hold the firearm correctly. But I don't dither over the details when we start. Frankly, this is where a quality air rifle or .22 rimfire rifle is mandatory, in my opinion. Sure, your student may plan only to shoot a pistol, but they will get sight picture and trigger squeeze a lot faster if you have them plunk a few rounds into the target at about 5 yards with a light long gun that will not recoil and punish them for holding it wrong.

Soon enough, you point out how much better that they do with their cheek to the comb, and they get that. Soon enough, you point out how much better they do with the butt firmly in the pocket of their shoulder, and they'll get that, too. With the rimfire or airgun, they learn with a carrot, rather than a stick. This is a Good Thing.

Then comes the fun of rimfire handgun shooting, and a good, accurate, long-barreled (5" minimum) revolver or semi-auto is the best tool. A Browning Buckmark 6" or a heavy-barreled Ruger (any mark) or a S&W M19 or a longer-barreled Kit Gun are just outstanding in this role. Moving on to reactive targets makes all the difference. Students soon find their own reward for shooting better, and then the training becomes infectious, and you couldn't stop the train if you tried.

This is how I've done it quite a few times. And it works.

Sure, I've had some errors. And, following the rules of trial and error, I seem to have learned as much from my mistakes as through my successes.

My very first student, who was (and still is) my best friend Scott Minke, was not wearing eye protection. This was obviously my fault entirely. The instructor is the range safety officer, and part of safety is seeing to basic safety equipment (How had I remembered ear protection but not eye protection?). Scott, a natural athlete, was doing so well with a borrowed Browning Buckmark .22 LR that we quickly moved on to centerfire pistol. On his very first magazine (possibly his first shot?) of firing a Series 70 Mark IV 1911 Colt .45 acp, a primer gave way, and burned, burning, and unburnt Unique powder spewed from the back of the chambered round. Most of this was contained within the pistol, but some of it was flung out upon recoil, and a fleck found its way into Scott's eye. Fortunately, Scott wasn't permanently injured, but the shooting session was over. It easily could have been far worse, and I've remembered that basic lesson ever since.

Another lesson that I've learned is to NOT let my students start too far away from the targets. This lesson is one that I neglected to follow early on, because I wanted to shoot, too. Three to seven yards just isn't much fun when you're interested in your groups at 25 yards. But your student learns little when he or she doesn't get feedback instantly. And there is a hidden lesson here: don't abandon your post. If you're focused on doing your own shooting, then you're not acting as a good instructor, nor as a good RSO for your newbie. Leave that to another time. I'm afraid that I probably wasted a lot of valuable time and a fair amount of ammunition before I got that one through my head.

That first time that I went out to teach, my father had cautioned me with a rule that I'd practiced, but never really thought about before: "Don't let guns dangle. When not shooting, reholster, case them, or put them down." This helps prevents violations of the Four Rules, and makes for a safer range.

Come Monday, I finally take a class that I've been meaning to take for some years: the TCLEOSE Police Firearms Instructor course. I've been a trained Range Safety Officer for years, but this course has eluded me to take. It's only 40 hours, but that week's worth of training requires that my shift be covered by another officer while I'm getting paid to basically have fun burning up the department's ammunition. Add to that the fact that I wasn't even eligible to take the class until I first had three years' experience and an instructor's license (another 40 hour course, see above for problems), and you can see how much of a pain it is to get a supervisor to sign off on taking this. (And tempting as it was to take this course on my own dime, that really ruins it for everyone. Start down the slippery slope of paying for your own training, and departments will expect you to pick up the tab for your mandated in-service training before long. Not Good.) At any rate, this is an opportunity that I've waited for, and I'm pretty pleased. But I'm also taking it seriously.
Stay tuned for Part II.
__________________________
(I'd like to note right now that Blogger's spellchecker doesn't recognize "rimfire," "centerfire," or "reholster." Huh.)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pale blue dot.

For too many, Carl Sagan was just a running joke about "billions and billions." But the man was taken with the giant* scale of the universe. As a thinking man, he couldn't help but have that affect his philosophy.

Take three and a half minutes, and go listen to the simple, profound words of a great thinker whom we lost too early.

_______________
*Edit.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Not no, but HELL NO.

Comes now the government's proposal to bail out the flagging newspaper industry.

Come on-- really?

Is this one that hard to see?

Look, I've got newspaper nostalgia, too. My mother was a longtime reporter for a major newspaper, and I grew up a believer in newspapers. In fact, I was invoking her journalistic ethics when I was crying foul over the reporting of our President's "jackass" comment last week. (Good reporters respect "Off The Record.")

But even if you believed that our country had PLENTY of money to just give away (it doesn't), surely anyone can see that you don't want our newspapers to become beholden to the government that they're supposed to be critical of?

If the newspaper industry tanks, then I'm damned sorry to hear it. But that's free enterprise. The people will get their news, and evidently will have to seek it from other sources. But do NOT support the federal bail-out of your news sources, unless the idea of a weekly "Letter From Our Leader" column sounds good, along with White House review of editorial police policies.

The truth will set you free? Set us free from the Pravda.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

A polite society.

Yet again last night, I saw another example of it.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
I had run into the medium-large town down the road to pick up some groceries. I had my 7 year-old daughter with me. I was wearing a clean T-shirt, some cargo shorts and tennis shoes, and my assorted pocket plunder.

As I finished putting the groceries into the trunk, I realized that I was being approached by someone. I turned around to meet them, with my right hand casually dropping into my right pocket.

The individual was a man, not of my race or ethnicity. He looked like a working man, of younger middle age, still in his working clothes of a pair of worn khakis, an untucked non-labeled button-front short-sleeved work shirt, and a very worn clip-on ID tag that was smudged beyond recognition. I didn't know him, nor did I have the impression that we had met, but we might have. I meet a lot of people who remember me, whom I forget pretty quickly.

His voice was kind of gravelly as he said, "Excuse me...?" and continued walking toward me. This was in the parking lot of a large strip shopping center that also contained the huge supermarket where I had just finished my shopping. The man came from the end of the shopping center with all the little shops that had already closed for the night. He looked mildly aggravated. He didn't seem to notice my hand in my off-side pocket. My daughter was standing next to the back door of the car, waiting for me to get in and unlock it for her from the inside, but had the trunk of the car between the man and her. She was out of traffic, and reasonably out of harm's way.

"Yes, sir?" I responded. I kept my face open, and my eyes moved from the man's face to his hands to his waist and pockets and back to his face.

"Do you know this area?" he asked. "I thought that there used to be a store that sold cut-rate cigarettes here, somewhere." I now recognized that annoyed look on his face as being the frustration of someone who has made a trip that he is discovering to be a waste of time.

"Yeah, there was, wasn't there?" I said, searching my memory. "Wasn't it in that empty spot over there? Or that one over there? I don't smoke, so I don't pay much attention," I said.

"Naw, it wasn't that one, but maybe the other one. Dang. I don't smoke, either. It's for my brother," he said. "I heard they moved, but were still here somewhere."

"Sorry, man. Maybe the front desk guy at the restaurant there will know?" I suggested.

"Just came from there. Well, I'll have to get 'em at the convenience store. They want a lot of money, you know?" he responded.

"I heard that," I chuckled, and got into my car and opened the door for my daughter to get in. "Good luck." He waved as he walked away.

As I drove away from the parking lot, I noticed a new store, closer to the road than the rest of the strip center, with a new tobacco store in it. I tried to change lanes to get back into the parking lot to go tell the guy where it was, but couldn't safely make the turn, and gave it up for lost in the medium heavy traffic.

My daughter asked me who the guy was. "Just a stranger," I told her. She asked me why I had talked to him (she herself has strict orders never to do just that, with strangers). I explained that he was just someone who was seeking help, and wasn't a threat to me, and that I try to help people when I can do so safely.

She said, "Oh, because you're a police officer."

This was complicated. "No. Not just because I'm a police officer. Grownups should be able to try to help each other, if they can, without worry about other grownups. I wasn't talking to him as a police officer, but just as another adult. We were both citizens. Do you understand that?"

She nodded. "Uh huh. And my daddy's not afraid."

"Well, not of just passers-by, er-- people-- on the street," I reiterated. "You're a little girl, now. I don't let you talk to strangers because you're very [I tickled her, at this point] pretty, and someone might want to take you away. But someday, you will be an adult, and on your own, and you will make your own decisions about who you talk to, and about what. This will be based on your own comfort level with people. That's why we talk about bad guys, and how to deal with them," I said. I realized that I was going on a bit too long for a 7 year-old.

"But that wasn't a bad guy?" my daughter verified.

"No, sweetie. That was just a guy," I responded.

"Smoking is bad for you," she said, changing the subject at c speed.

"You're absolutely right, it is," I agreed. "That's one reason why Daddy never smokes."

"You smoked a cigar with John [Shirley]," she said.

"Well, yeah, you're right, I did. And that, my dear, is the exception that proves the rule," I admitted.

"What's that?" she demanded.

"Another time, kiddo. But Daddy doesn't smoke," I said.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

If it hadn't been for my seven-year-old using the Socratic method, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. I am more willing to engage in conversation with strangers, and at least attempt to help them, because I am armed, and feel few concerns about my safety. This happens all the time. It's a genuine example of cultures intermingling in a generally pleasant manner, because the participants weren't worried about each other.

Want to engage in peaceful multiculturalism? Speak kindly to a person of another race, culture, or ethnicity, and try to help a brother out. You can't do that if you're afraid of the world.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So much geekiness...

...so little time to see it all.

(Don't miss the Fans In Costume galleries. Literally hundreds of women dressed up to look like Leia in a metal bikini.)

You can't handle the geekitude.

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"What's the big deal? We were just funnin'."

Babette Perry, a pharmacy tech in Mount Holly, NJ is suing her company because they decided to "test" her by threatening her life. The pharmacy employed a man in a ski mask to come in and point a gun at her and demand Oxycontin. She was terrified, and is suing for post-traumatic stress. The pharmacy company admits that they sent in the guy, but whines that the gun wasn't real.

Here in Texas and in other states that permit their free populace to go armed, this might have gotten even more traumatic... for the robber.

And, had this little incident happened in my little patch of Texas, I would have sat down with the felony intake D.A. and discussed whether he wanted to run with Aggravated Robbery charges, or just good old Aggravated Assault charges against the actor. We also would have discussed, after all the facts were in, whether Criminal Conspiracy charges were appropriate for the actor's employers.

Acting recklessly can create unintended consequences. It would be best to think twice before proceeding.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Political Distribution.

There are shades of gray.


It would seem that people are so busy identifying the difference between black and white, that they forget that the vast majority of the world falls somewhere in between.


Most people tend to think of their political affiliations as falling along a single line, like this:






But it's not really that simple. It's at the very least two-dimensional, like this:

The above graphic is one that I sketched from memory, from a lecture by Dr. Robert Taylor in a graduate class on terrorism. This was early on in the class, and we were discussing what drives people that were allegedly on opposite ends of the political spectrum to take up very, very similar positions and tactics.

It's funny how worked up people get in their identity with regard to which side of the centerline that they fall.

I worry about the polarization that I see in our nation.

I worry about the civil Cold War that looms.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Not skeered.

As I drove my daughters (ages 7 and 11) to school this morning, I thought about discussing President Obama's speech today. I thought about, as a parent, what I should say to warn my kids against incipient socialist indoctrination.

But why? I daily have shown my children the way of life that I lead and expect them to lead. They will hear an 18 minute speech today, and I PROMISE you, they will be bored. It's doubtful that they will much listen, anyway. It will be the same desk, in the same office, with the (apparently) same flags in background, as when, back in 1988, I was herded in front of a television to hear President Reagan speak. I remember the incident; I do not remember what the man said.

I'm not afraid of my children hearing what Barack Obama has to say about school. Hell, he's probably got some reasonably good input to give about it; he's a case study in how far you can go with a good education. And, no, I'm not afraid of my children being "indoctrinated" by a single 18 minute speech heard over the television. While I don't agree with the methods that our President chooses to use to lead our nation, I personally don't believe that he's got an evil subplot.

I believe that my kids should recognize who our nation's President is, and should respect the office. Thus, I want them to sit quietly, and listen to what the man in the Big Chair says. Tonight, I'll sit down with them and talk about what they saw and heard. In all probability, there won't be anything impressive to discuss. My elder daughter already hears the message from me that her education is her responsibility. If she can hear our nation's leader say that, then I'm okay with that.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Good Gawd.

One of my co-workers has informed me that he has decided to step into the world of revolvers, and purchase a Smith that he could consider tactically ready for duty. My initial reaction was "Great! Are you thinking about a Model 60? Oh, you say you want a large-framed revolver? Perhaps a 625? Or..."

He was fiddling around on the internet while he told me about this. He muttered something about thinking it was a .357, and I said "well a Model 27 is certainly viable..." as I turned to look at... this thing. A Performance Center 327.


He claims he's serious. I don't know why I even bother talking to him.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Edit.

The link to my Blip.fm radio station, mentioned below, is fixed.

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Interesting concept.

John Shirley invited me to "Blip.fm". I went, and listened to some of his music that he had chosen, and it was nice. John's in love, and can be excused if his chosen music tends to be more, uh, treacly, lately. ;)

On a whim, I opened my own account, and tried to see what it's about.

Actually, it's pretty simple.

After having registered, you search for songs and albums and bands that you like, and the site searches for them on the net. It seems to lean quite a bit on YouTube, but that's not quite half of the source. You can preview each song, and then remark about each song that you select.

Other people then come across your "radio station" and vote on whether they like your format. The more votes you get, the higher in the ratings you will be, which presumably will bring in more listeners, and more votes, if that's your thing. More votes for you means more credits to vote on other people's broadcast tightcasts. You start with ten credits.

The bonus for the company running it seems to be that they don't actually have to host the music, and get to post ads on the far right side, and they get kickbacks from iTunes and Amazon, who each get a link for each song played.

If nothing else, it builds a stable of music that I can listen to, when away from my music at home or my mp3 player. It may --I say again may-- be feasible as a business plan. I was quite sorry when the Yahoo radio station went away, and haven't started playing with Pandora.

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Let me have your take on this:

Times seem to have changed. I've about gotten over the shock of seeing blue jeans and tennies at the occasional church-type event I go to (these days, mostly weddings and funerals.). But I'm still shocked at seeing jeans shorts at graveside.

I wear a uniform a lot. Most of the formal events that I go to involve court, where I wear a Class A uniform.

Let me hear your take on appropriate clothing.

When is a suit mandatory for a man to wear?

When is a dress shirt and tie mandatory?

When are tennis shoes out of the question?

When are walking shorts out of the question?

You opinon on caps and hats?

Collared shirts (golf shirts, polo shirts) versus T-shirts?

Tucked shirt vs. untucked?

And finally, buttoned-down collars on dress-shirts vs. non-buttoned-down collars? (My old college roommate Bill, has a wife who insists that button-downs are completely out of fashion, and are altogether too casual. Really? Since when?)

Gimme.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

"But it's my own child!"

Friends, I understand that things don't work out sometimes in relationships. You married him or her, you had a kid, and bam-- it hits you-- this isn't the one you want to spend the rest of your life with.

So you get a divorce. No big deal. There's no social stigma anymore. Everyone does it, right? The kids live half their lives under someone else's care anyway. What's the problem with only seeing them on the weekends? Or on holidays. Or whatever.

But then you decide that, for whatever reason, you want more control over the kids' lives than you believe you have. You start taking advantage of more of your opportunities to spend time with the kids. Maybe it's because you really love the kids, and miss seeing them every day. Or maybe it's just to show that bitch of an ex who's really in charge, here. You have your rights as a parent, and you'll be damned if you're not going to exercise 'em.

So you begin to invoke your right to take the kids to their doctors' appointments. To attend their school events. To take them to special church events, when you heretofore cared nothing about church. Or whatever. Involved parent? Or lashing out to attempt to regain some control?

Then, one day, you step over the line.

You go by the school, or the daycare, or where-ever, and try to pick up your kid on a time other than the scheduled time. The person charged with the care of your kid waivers. She's been told to watch out for something like this. . . . Something about sticking to the court-ordered schedule. She picks up the phone to call your ex spouse, and learns that you've not coordinated this pickup. That you're trying to take the child at a time other than your regularly-scheduled time.

The cops get called. And this is where I get involved. I don't want to get involved with your admittedly petty custody disputes. But I've been called, and here I am. The spouse says he or she knows nothing about your attempt to pick up your kid. The court order explicitly says that you have no right to do so. The caregiver makes clear that you got pretty adamant that you were by-Gawd going to take your kid and leave. Pushy, in fact.

So what am I, the cop going to do? Here's a court order, signed by a District Judge, ordering you to abide by the terms that you've signed (yep. There's your signature, right there.) off on.

In Texas, Kidnapping means to take physical control of a person that you didn't have a lawful right to take control over.

Do you see where this is going?

Don't put me in that position. Please.

If you don't like the terms to your custody agreement, then try to get them changed. Don't just violate them to show your ex. Because you might just lose that little show, and lose big.

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