Better And Better

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

House Party XLIV

I turned in a request for 24 hours off this weekend, to burn some of the 400 hours of vacation and 80 hours worth of holiday time. I feel bad about having another guy work for me, but it's use it or lose it, y'know? Then too, there's the issue of where I went, and why.

Phlegmmy threw a bit of a shindig at her house for our beloved LawDog.

The food was rich and very plentiful. There was a case of Nerd Beer for LawDog (written on the side: "LawDog's! No Fraudulatin'!") And a case of Nerd Beer for the rest of us rabble.("Fraudulate all you want.")

The stories were thick and well-told. The weather, on Saturday evening, was shirt-sleeve-worthy. Christina, Vine, Old NFO, FarmGirl, Jennifer and EvylRobot, me and my wife, Phlegmmy, LawDog, Ambulance Driver, my dad and his bride, and others all chatted freely.

Old NFO (whom I cannot believe was not linked here. What the heck?!? My shame is boundless. I had him on my Favorites that I would click directly to him on my browser. Fixed.) handed me a couple of interesting pistols. There were grins when I double-checked each pistol before handling it. Apparently, this was something of a theme of the evening: EVERYONE multichecked each gun before handling. If only it were understood how common that action is among responsible gunfolk. I don't mean to say that it's absent-minded. I just mean to say that, when handed a firearm, I have the sudden urge to check the status of that gun that is as strong as the urge to pee after having a triple-iced-tea lunch.

Old NFO handed me a like-new S&W 637 that he's been talking about just flat giving me. I could not possibly accept such a generous gift without recompensing him with something, yet I couldn't afford to give him what it was worth. He kindly accepted a promise of a mere pittance from me. I later found out that Dad and Holly covered half of that! My heavens, but the generosity of the friends and family around me is amazing. Thank y'all. More on that gun in a later post.

EvylRobot brought his home-roasted coffee, which I incorrectly declared to be too darkly roasted, but which LawDog used his fancier French press to produce utterly superb coffee from. I restrained myself to only about 25 cups of that coffee. We reloaded the french press approximately 20 times during the weekend. Note to self: trust EvylRobot.

Ambulance Driver had called me earlier and asked if I wanted to go in with him on a nifty gift to LawDog: a signed first edition of Elmer Keith's hardcover book "Hell, I Was There!" I kicked in along with others (I'm sorry; I've forgotten), but this was all AD's idea.

My own meager contribution was a fair bit of good loose tea for LawDog, and some muslin bags to make teabags with on the run, and a couple of bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon for the the house, to belatedly celebrate Phlegmmy's housewarming.

As the air chilled and the hour got late, several of us retired to a very nice inn that was just two blocks away from Phlegmmy's house, and found our underpriced quarters to be very pleasant. We planned on going shooting in the morning after breakfast.

Come morning, a front had moved in. Shooting just didn't sound that fun. We broke our fast at a joint with heavy smoke coming from the barbecue pit. Note: ALWAYS choose the smoked meats at such a place. We camped at our tables until lunchtime, then moved back to the house, where we hung out into the Sunday evening. Phlegmmy fed us yet again with a very rich dish, of which I was only able to get two or three bowls* down.

I was glad to introduce my own wife to some people she had not met before, part of the tribe that I've become part of. She, ever the introvert, said little. She said she liked it.

LawDog, an introvert his ownself, was at home. He was among people that had come a fair distance to see him because they love him. He was at his home, with a lovely lady who admires and revels in him. I've seen the 'Dog stressed, and I've seen him happy. I don't think I'm speaking out of turn to suggest that he was happy, this weekend.

I hope my own 44th birthday is as good and filled with good cheer.

Happy birthday, friend.





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*Large bowls.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Haiku #15: "Lift Assist" Call


My back is too tight.
Four dozen stone is HEAVY.
Diet incentive.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kel Tec

I'm a fan of Kel Tec.

Hear me out.

Back in the mid-to-late 1990's, when we were first beginning to see the first wave of states (including Texas) making concealed carry by its citizens an option, the choice in affordable, concealable, lightweight carry pistols in a decent caliber was pretty thin. If you wanted a gun that weighed about a pound or less, you pretty much had J-frame Airweight S&W revolvers firing 5 shots of .38 Spl. If you were willing to accept another several ounces to the package, you could get a Colt Officer's ACP, but you would blow your budget.

Then came Kel-Tec.

For under $200 in many shops, a citizen could buy a small 9mm pistol that weighed well under a pound, which would carry 11 shots. Double action only, the P11 was safe to carry, and it could be had with a nifty belt clip on it. It was at its time something of an innovation. The "frame," as I thought of it, was a plastic body that saved a lot of weight. The actual serial-numbered receiver was an aluminum insert that set in the plastic body. It was a marvel, in that it was at the time the lightest 9mm that I knew of.

I bought mine used for $125. (Which was actually a very good deal at the time.) It became my off-duty gun, and backup gun, worn clipped to the inside of my ballistic vest. I qualified with it every PD qualification for years. The only time that I ever had it malfunction was when I found some S&B ammo with particularly hard primers that it didn't care for. Easy fix: don't shoot that ammunition through that gun. It loved my department's duty hollowpoints. (Gold Dot).

When Kel-Tec offered their new P32, I was amazed again. How could a workable semi-auto be made that was under 3/4 of an inch thick, which weighed just 9 ounces? My father, who like me was a member of the KTOG site, vied to get one, and got a very early serial number. (Below 00150, if memory serves.) I shot it, and was only middlin' pleased. Later copies proved to be very reliable. Several of my friends and family got these tiny little guns that were actually smaller and lighter than previous .25 acp carry guns, and were happy.

About the time that I would have gotten one, though, Kel-Tec came out with their P3AT (pronounced "Pee Three Eighty"), which was almost precisely the same size and weight as its predecessor, the P32. (I believe that the P3AT is 1/32 of an inch wider.) I was so impressed with the lightweight, shockingly thin little .380, that I went out and bought one from Cheaper Than Dirt as soon as I got the scratch together, in the summer of 2004. I was glad that they had two in stock that night-- they were actually selling them as soon as they got them in, and with no haggling. For $260, I had my tiny gun. I got the little clip for it, and proceeded to carry it as my backup gun, wondering how I had ever put up with that thick brick of a P11 inside my vest. I had to be careful when I went to the jail, as I could actually forget that I had it on, when going in. (Jails are no-gun zones, even for cops.)

My P3AT ran fine on everything, except Winchester ammunition. Something about their rim thickness made it not run right in my gun. No problem-- there's a whole world of other ammo out there, and the rest of it ran fine in my pistol. I only had to deal with the fact that it came with terrible sights, and poor inherent accuracy. Head shots on silhouette targets were very chancy beyond 15 yards. Okay, okay: beyond 10 yards, it's hit or miss, and concentration is required to hit the head beyond 5 yards. I've been planning for the past few years to get a Crimson Trace laser for them, but Lord knows I don't ever leap into something too fast with guns.

The prices on these little plastic guns made them attractive to people on a budget, but they had something else going for them: real innovative concepts that allowed them to be lighter, thinner, more carriable than anything else in the market.

The problem was in the execution.

As I say, the accuracy of the first three Kel-Tec guns was marginal, at best. But at least mine were reliable. Well, mine were. But some people got some bad apples. The quality control was apparently not super-high. The good news was that Kel-Tec's customer service was pretty good. I had an ejector break on my P-11. I called up Kel-Tec customer service, and was sent a new one immediately, with no questions asked, and never even paid so much as postage.

My partner, who I had been hounding to carry some kind of gun off-duty, finally said that he would buy one of those cute little P3ATs, if I would find him one. I found a buddy who was selling his along with some accessories and ammo, and brokered the deal for him. His gun didn't work so well. We struggled with ammo combinations, and this last qualification, noted that it didn't eject well, and then didn't fire. I looked at it, and found that the extractor spring retention screw had backed out, which accounted for the problems with extraction. It also served as the firing pin retention screw, which accounted for the fact that the firing pin and its spring were gone. Not Present. Well, this was fixable. A call to Kel-Tec, and they again sent the parts free of charge. The lady with tech support cautioned us wisely: "Whenever you turn that retention screw, be sure to put some LocTite red on it before putting it back together!" Excellent advice. We found that the new package not only included a new firing pin and spring, but also a new screw, extractor, and extractor spring. I replaced them all on my partner's pistol, and qualified him on it at my range. The gun finally ran flawlessly.

While I would love for my partner to carry a more substantial gun off-duty, it took a gun this small, in a pocket holster, to get him to finally carry at all. As he's quite adept at irritating bad guys by putting them in prison, I am pleased to see him armed. So, interestingly enough, is his wife. As he is the sole income provider for their family of 5, and she is a full-time student, their budget is fixed. My partner can't afford fancy high-dollar alternatives. This is a good match for him.

Kel-Tec makes guns that gun snobs often sniff at. Their guns are plastic. They have a spotty record for running. They are inexpensive. But their customer service is superb. This is a large plus in my book. If you get one and it doesn't work, and they can't talk you through its fix, then send it Boca Raton, and see if they can fix it. You're not out too much money.

My online pal Oleg Volk does photography for Kel-Tec, and often has interesting stuff from them. At the last Blogorado, I shot his specimen of the then-BRAND-new PMR-30. It was a fascinating pistol: a lightweight semi-auto pistol in .22 WMRF that held thirty rounds. It seemed the ultimate backpack gun. Problem was, as we all passed it around and got it dirty shooting it, its functioning got to be unreliable. Maybe we shot it more than I thought, and the gun was just filthy. But it didn't seem to be. Maybe it was just too early of a copy. Maybe the bugs are worked out of the new ones. But I wouldn't just take that gun with me on a backpacking trip, and that's a shame; it was a really light, really accurate little flat-shooting pistol.

Oleg also brought an SU-16 rifle. It was light. It took AR-15/M16 magazines. It had an acceptable trigger. It was REALLY light. Good stuff, right? But it took me what felt like 30 seconds of "looking" with my index finger, to find the cross-bolt safety on the thing, as I looked through the sights on it. The ergonomics on the thing are just stupid. WHY would you put the cross bolt safety above and behind the trigger? I literally had to change my grip position to use it. Yes, I understand that it's nice to be different from the plethora of AR-15s on the market, but this is just dumb. I hope that Kel-Tec fixes it.

Now come the reports of Kel-Tec's first attempt at a shotgun: a dual-magazine tubed bullpup pump. The innovation, again, is there. It's got interesting features: Switch from one magazine to the other for different loads. Ambidextrous. Magazine cutoff. Sight mounting rail. Good stuff, right? Except for the flaws. It won't reset the trigger if you rack it while the trigger is still depressed. When Caleb asked Kel-Tec about this, they responded that this is just the civilian version, and that the military and police model will actually slam-fire when operated with the trigger depressed.

Um, what? As a firearms instructor for my department, I will NOT authorize a shotgun that goes "bang" without specially aiming and pulling the trigger. This isn't a good idea for police. Maybe military.

I don't know that George Kelgreen intended it to work this way, or if the marketing guys are just trying to make lemonade out of the lemons that their gun shows. ("It's not a flaw; it's a feature!") But I'm inclined to agree with my friend Tamara's assessment, that if Kel-Tec would just spend $25 more per gun, they'd really have something there.

Certainly, that's exactly what Ruger did, when they made an almost exact copy of the P3AT, and called it the LCP.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Get busy documenting.

My Sony CyberShot camera cost me $89 at Buy.Com. I had to then buy an SD card for it, and it's probably given me 1000 pics on the two AA lithium batteries that I got for it. (Trust me: those overpriced lithiums are worth the money.)

It takes decent pictures, if the light is good enough. But the thing about it is that it has a pretty decent digital video feature. If you've bought a digital camera in the last two to four years, it probably has one, too, with sound.

Use that thing. Turn the switch over to video, and record your kids, and catch them talking. Record your father, talking. Get your mother telling you some bit of family lore, or have her talk you through her method of making your favorite dish. Then upload that to your computer, and back it up with off-site storage.

The "film" is free. The memories are priceless. I recently found audio of my 12 year-old, that I made on a then-new-fangled digital recorder in 2000. It brought tears to my eyes. I wish I'd had video then.

We all know an "Uncle Jimmy," if we're lucky, and you can record treasures like this one.
(No, I didn't record it, but I wish I had, and I thank the anonymous guy who took that vid of his Uncle telling a damned funny story.)

If you're my friend or family, and it's been bugging you that I've been sticking a camera in your face, don't worry. I'm not posting them anywhere; I'm just keeping memories for me.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

The damage done by one man.

When you're a parent of a child with severe autism, you may very well find yourself search for a reason why your child was born with this inability to relate to the world. I imagine that it would be very easy to find yourself grasping for something, anything, to make sense of why your child had this handicap.

So when we started hearing about a study in England, relating vaccinations to the uptick in autistic cases, it must have been very seductive indeed for those parents to believe in it, even before the study was validated.

Good science has peer reviews, and has validity questions asked and answered. If your samples are contaminated with poor representations, or your data was not interpretted the same way, or you used biased methods, then you will get junk science, which cannot be replicated when good solid methods are used.

The English study, conducted by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was worse than junk science; it was fraud.

And that fraud has led to a giant decline in vaccinations throughout the UK and even the US. Consequently, measles is up to the highest level in 13 years. Vaccinations rates fell 80% (can this be true?!?).

Another scientist named Deer says that he has not only found clear fraud, but a clear motive: pounds sterling. Apparently, lawyers were paying Wakefield to find these "facts," Deer says.

The British government have stripped Wakefield of his medical license. He says that it's a witch hunt to get him for saying something unpopular.

But there have always been scientists who were willing to speak out and say something unpopular, in the defense of good science. If Wakefield's notorious conclusions are correct then he'll receive support of his methods by legitimate members of the scientific community.

At this point? We don't have any proof of a link between vaccinations and autism. Even if there were a link, we can't point to Wakefield's study for proof.

But we can point to damage done to many children, but the acts of one bad "scientist."

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Monday, January 03, 2011

A retraction.

A month or so ago, I wrote about Dr. Bill Holda's misstatements about the Killeen massacre. The statements were harsh contrasts to historical reality, and were being used to explain his position against concealed carry on the campus of the college over which he presides.

I declared him a liar.

It would seem that I was wrong: he was simply not educated on the matter, and is doing what he can to educate himself.

Popgun has contacted Dr. Holda, and invited the college president and his wife out for an educational day of shooting.

Go read. Seriously. It's a remarkable story.

Dr. Holda is thinking outside of the box that he had been led into.

For that, I applaud him.

I formally retract my declaration. A large note will be placed on my original post.
----
H/T to Tam, and a bigger tip of the hat to PopGun. GREAT job, friend!

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Well, at least her credibility is shot.

Two years ago, Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said that the availability of handguns in the city would make the city more dangerous. The Supreme Court (where she was disarmed to enter, to her delight) overturned D.C.'s thirty year ban on handguns, and we have ended up with the lowest homicide rate in Washington since the 1960's.

But Chief Lanier has a reason for this:


Chief Cathy Lanier attributes the continuing drop to more community involvement, aggressive pursuit of gun crimes and better technology.
So what was she doing from 2006 to 2008? All of a sudden, community involvement and better technology has made this massive leap forward? Before 2008, the DC Metro P.D. didn't aggressively pursue gun crimes, but decided to do so, now?

In other news, injuries due to slipping and falling in the blood in the streets are down. Officials report that this is due to citizens wearing better foot gear.

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