Sunday, December 30, 2007

What's He Up To

I've spent the week making a fair amount of deferred home improvements. The curled linoleum in my kitchen is now tacked down. Our good china is now in quilted containers in the new china cabinet. Except for the broken ones which went back to Bed, Bath, and Beyond for replacement. A bunch of pictures have been hung with something akin to care. All that and I've slept in, played Mercenaries on PS2, and gotten the cat reacquainted with what I look like. It's been a good vacation.

Ideally I'd have rebuilt my blog layout over the break too, but I may run out of time before that happens. I still have several items on my list and I don't know whether it'll get done before I go back to work on Wednesday. There's always my Friday off though.

Gift Cards

Geek with a .45 hates them, likening the gift card to giving someone foreign currency. On the other hand, Billy Hollis at QandO and myself (and the rest of America) gave them as presents. Why? Because this year people in my family specifically asked for them. Foreign currency? If you keep with that analogy, wouldn't real gifts be some type of barter system?

The key with gift cards is to treat them like gifts not like they're cash. Make sure you buy someone a gift card to somewhere they shop. Do not buy them one from somewhere you shop. For that matter if you're mailing it to someone out of town, make sure they have that store within convenient shopping distance. My sister gave my wife and I several gift cards to Trader Joes. It's a wonderful establishment and I'm sure my sister loves it, but the nearest one is 30 minutes of highway from us and we never shop there anyway. Amy's Grandmother gave me a gift card to Books-A-Million for Hanukkah a couple years ago. The nearest BAM is on the other side of Baltimore so spending it was problematic.

And despite what they say at Geek's, cash is a horrible gift. It generally says "I didn't spend any effort buying this gift." In comparison, a gift card says "I bet you like to shop here, buy yourself something on me." I've given someone cash once in recent memory. I thought they might have a better use for cash than an extravagant item, because the recipient had just been laid off. Looking back, it was probably a crappy present and I should have just bought him something nice.

A Word for Telemarketers

This applies to everyone but especially the Police Athletic League and Fraternal Order of Police. If you call my home at 8am on a Sunday and wake my wife up from some especially restful slumber, don't expect me to give you money. This goes double for the local FoP who seem to be dedicated to running good officers out of the force and opposing gun reforms.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Doors

After months of trying, Amybear and I have a new front door at Casa del Baptiste. When we bought the house, the front door frame was rotted out and the seal on the transom window was blown. I wonder if we can get any tax breaks come income tax day?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gun Myths: Part 1

If you read gun boards, you inevitably run across the same garbage over an over again. Here are two I saw today:

Myth 1: The amount of energy a bullet has is the most important thing in it's terminal ballistics.

Truth be told, bullets don't have that much energy. If you took all the kinetic energy from a bullet fired from my AR-15 and used it to heat a standard 8oz cup of coffee, you'd raise the coffee's temperature by a couple of degrees Fahrenheit. That's it, just a couple of degrees. And handgun bullets are much less powerful than rifle rounds.

This is important because humans are a lot like a cup of coffee. We're mostly water with some extra organic compounds. Bullets really don't have that much energy compared to what our body can absorb. So it isn't the amount of energy that matters, it is how that energy gets used. You want a bullet that is good at breaking stuff and the right stuff. You want a bullet that will penetrate deeply to the very important parts of the human body like the heart, lungs, and central nervous system. The parts that are buried deeply because it makes them difficult to injure. Then you want it to damage those critical parts when it gets there.

Now more energy is good because tends to help you put the hurt on. But "tends" is a key word because it doesn't have to do that. You really need to look at expected penetration and expansion rather than some energy number. Why? Because manufacturers like to sell ammo by putting up big energy numbers. They do this by using very light bullets that won't penetrate as well as a slower, less energetic round will. The light bullet just doesn't have the mass to provide adequate penetration.

Myth 2: Caseless firearms don't need extraction systems.

Caseless ammunition is ammunition that does not have a traditional brass cartridge. It uses a different technology so that, if everything goes well, the case is either consumed in firing or sent out the barrel with the bullet. The closest caseless ammunition has been to fielding is the G11 rifle the Germans were working on when the Cold War ended. Caseless has its problems, like ammo durability and heat transfer issues. One of it's reported strengths is that it simplified gun design because you not longer need to extract the case. This is largely BS. Why? Because there are lots of reasons people want to get a bullet out the chamber of a rifle.
  • If the gun fails to fire, the standard clearance drill is the Tap, Rack, Bang drill. You tap the magazine to make sure it is seated properly, rack the bolt to get a new round in the chamber from that magazine, and fire the gun. If you don't have a manual extraction system on the gun, you can't do the rack step so it won't clear several kind of problems. This is something that needs to be done easily in combat.
  • Standard procedures for making firearms safe and storing them generally require an empty chamber on the gun. How do you do that without an extractor of some sort? This is something that is performed routinely and ought to be accomplished easily.
So you need at least a manual extraction system even for caseless guns. Once you have a streamlined manual system, making it automatic isn't hard. You just make sure recoil or gas pressure exerts similar forces in similar places that the rifleman's hand does.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I share John the Methodist's love of the Western. I've read a few Louis L'amour books, but really it's all about John Wayne movies on AMC. I watched a lot of Gunsmoke and Maverick on TV Land when I was out of work after I finished Grad School. I have half a mind to put a few disks of Have Gun-Will Travel on my Netflix queue.

I almost bought myself a cowboy pistol this weekend. When I stopped by Millers Gun Center in Newcastle, they had an Uberti Cattleman Hombre chambered in .38/.357 for $300. I don't love the guns matte finish, but the price is right and with .38 specials I could actually afford to shoot the darn thing. In the end I passed on it, mostly because I don't actually like Colt Peacemakers very much. My hand doesn't fit on the grip quite right so the recoil bugs me. I might not have that problem with a .38, but why risk it? Besides I have more important things to spend $300 on right now.

UPDATE: Reminder to self, Numrich Gun Parts carries a variety of .45 ACP cylinders for the Uberti Single Action Armies. They even have them in the rough but cheap matte "millenium" finish. For about ~$110 you can turn a .45 colt SAA into a .45 ACP SAA. This is important because a .45 colt gun costs almost twice as much to feed as a .45 ACP gun and, since my 1911 is also .45 ACP, I already have the ammo lying around. The cost of the new cylinder would probably pay for itself within 500 rounds.

UPDATE2: John waxes poetic about the Winchester rifle, but he wants a Marlin. I guess Winchester's marketing department isn't what it used to be. I wouldn't mind trading my M1 carbine for a good lever gun myself.

UPDATE3: Turns out the .45 ACP guns are generally more accurate than the .45 colts. .45 colt has a huge amount of case volume compared to more modern cartridges. The amount of modern powder required to achieve it's pressure spec is just tiny. You can do the same thing with a .45 ACP case and have much less wasted space, which makes for a more accurate round.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Clinton III: Bride of Clintonstein

QandO is discussing Bill Clinton's worth as an asset to Hillary's presidential campaign:
Bill's addition to the campaign is reminding voters that the Clintons come as a package and what they're getting is not change, but the return of the old guard.
Amybear and I were watching a Babwah Waltahs special a little while ago. Babwah was profiling the years most interesting people. One of them turned out to be ole Slick Willy himself. The interview eventually tackled the topic of Hillary's campaign and his position in her potential presidency. But what Bill said was essentially "well I wouldn't want to sit in on every cabinet meeting..." Klaxons started going off in my head.

Bill expects to have a position in Hillary's presidency similar to her position within his own two terms. Unlike most First Lady's who are little more than presidential cruise directors, Hillary was a serious policy maker. Bill is not going to be a grand old man standing aside to let his wife make all the decisions. Bill's presidency was criticized for being the most joint presidency since John and Abigail Adams. Hillary's will be the same. Shudder.

Shaving Tools

Kim du Toit is chastising James Lileks for his choice in shaving implements. Now, if there is one thing that men care about, it is shaving. Why? Because we all hate slitting our own throats, that's why.

I'm a Mach 3 guy. I don't care about the three blades, but I do really like the head design. It just tracks my face well. I seem to cut myself less with it than it's predecessors. I started using it after a boss told me the hype was justified. On the other hand, one of my coworker's hates the Mach 3 and won't use anything more modern than a 2-bladed Sensor. I'm sure there are people out there whose tool of choice are old-school safety razors or even cutthroat straight razors.

Shaving foams are the same way. I also use aerosol foam and I don't really care about which kind. They all keep my place equally well. But I know people who demand a badger brush or a particular brand of soap. To each their own.


The Right Coast is discussing watches and they recommend the Seiko Black Automatic Diving Watch. I suppose it is a nice piece of equipment, but it is also massive. I don't like massive watches because I have rather fine wrists. I'd rather not look like I'm carrying a diving bell around on my wrist.

I bought a Hamilton Khaki automatic as a splurge gift on my honeymoon. It is a great watch as long as you wear it. It's an autowinder so if you leave it on the nightstand for a day, you'll have to reset it. I love the sapphire crystal which is so hard that scratching it would require actual effort. It also has military time on the face, which I require in all my watches because I actually use it at work.

I still wear the Timex beater it replaced, usually to the shooting range. It is a good solid watch, but it's also disposable.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Buggerit Millennium Hand and Shrimp

Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. The announcement on Paul Kidby's website shows he hasn't lost his wit though:
I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Does My Life Amount to Something?

Bold the ones you've done:

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm.
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise

14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can

32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster

35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer

40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero

58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football

61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain

65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married

73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music

87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about

130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

From Paul Smith

Hostile Work Environment

All my coworkers are sick. They're hacking up lungs on the other side of the cubicle dividers like two pack a day smokers. Its times like these that I really wish I had taken more Vitamin C this morning.

UPDATE: The prime cough contributor has realized that they are sick and went home early. Woot!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Sales

They're fun, especially when they involve full tang carbon steel katanas retailing for under $50. These aren't the greatest katana ever, but they will hold up to my typical light cutting exercises like soda bottles.

UPDATE: In anti-zombie equipment news, Cold Steel has most of their "special projects" items on sale. This includes their handy tomahawks and their pole axe which is actually on closeout for $30.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

About Integrity

Paul Smith has a good piece expressing concern about Mitt Romney's "JFK" speech:
The problem with both Romney's and Giuliani's statements (and JFK's) is that they seem to compartmentalize their religious beliefs. They are claiming to have religious beliefs, but that they won't carry them over to their activities as President. If you're truly devoted to God, how can your belief in Him not carry over to every part of your life? We should strive to make God part of every moment of our lives and allow Him to direct us at all times, not push Him aside at certain points. Now, realistically, due to our imperfections, we don't live up to that standard, but that should be our goal at all times. We can't consciously decide to push Him out of a certain part of our lives because our faith might inconvenient to ourselves or others.
Exactly. I touched on this a bit some years ago with a piece on morality and integrity. Integrity is not about whether you are a good person or not. It is about whether you are a consistent person in different settings and situations. Romney's speech was largely about compartmentalizing his faith away from everything else. You can't do that and have integrity. Perhaps Romney has been in politics too long to realize this.

The sad thing is that too many people don't seem to understand this concept.

Revisiting Guns in Church

Considering recent events in Colorado, a lot of people are re-examining the issue of concealed carry inside of church buildings. Mostly because it was an armed church member who stopped the mass murderer. John the Methodist is conducting a discussion over at his place on the topic.

I've touched on this a couple of times now. The first was almost two years ago when a church in Harford County, Maryland was robbed at gunpoint. The second was about ten months ago and has a more thorough account of my reasoning on the subject. Most of the arguments for prohibition fail to get any traction with me, the two most common are:
  1. "We should trust God to protect us!" Really, does your church have fire insurance? Flood insurance? Regular termite and pest inspections? If you don't trust God to protect the building with his divine presence, how much more should you actively safeguard the people inside the building. Because the church building is just a building, the parishioners are actually God's Church.

  2. "Weapons are evil!" No, weapons are inanimate objects. They are things. They have no intent or moral nature in and of themselves. They only acquire moral nature through the perceptions of people. Some people's perceptions on this subject may get in the way of their worship, which is why concealed carry is a good idea. They'll never know and be disturbed by it.
If I had a concealed carry permit, which I don't because Delaware's permit process is deliberately laborious and labyrinthine, I would probably carry during my usher rotations. I would do it for the same reason I keep my CPR, First Aid, and Defibrillator training current: it is the responsible thing to do. Otherwise, probably not. I don't want firearms to become an idol to me.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Black Cherry Fresca

Amybear and I drink a lot of diet sodas. We've found that it's a great way to cut empty calories out of our diet. And if you drink them enough, you stop noticing that they taste funny. Until you hit one that tastes really strange. Black Cherry Fresca is just such an animal.

We like fresca a lot. The Peach flavor? Also good. But Black Cherry Fresca tastes like you're chugging Hubba Bubba. I rarely chew bubblegum and I certainly don't want to drink it. Because I bought a 12 pack and because I'm too cheap (or well raised) to throw away perfectly good soda, we'll be drinking it for about a week.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Public Service Announcements

Unlike American PSAs which aren't allowed to actually provoke a response in people, Canadian PSAs seem to have taken the opposite approach. They appear to be made by horror movie producers. Via Tamara

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hannukkah, Channukkah, Schmannukkah

Amybear is listening to XM radio's Hanukkah music channel via Directv. When she initially told me about it, my reaction was "How many arrangements of Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel can there be?" Amy didn't think that joke was as funny as I did. What was really funny is that when she told her father about the Hannukah channel, our family's very own Jewish patriarch said the same thing I did.

Actually there is a pretty wide variety of Hannukah music. So far I've only heard a lot of klezmer music, a fair amount of unintelligible (to me) Hebrew, one arrangement of Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel and another of the Hannukah Song. I think I'll keep count.

UPDATE: Two, Two Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidels... Ah, Ah!

Oh and turns out the Jews have the same sort of goofy children's music that Baptists do. Go figure.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Turns out that legal immigrants aren't fond of amnesty. This is important because currently legal immigrants are the only ones who can actually vote in elections. I'm sure the Democrats will keep trying to change that. It also turns out that legal immigrants vote Republican a lot more often than some other minority constituencies.


The latest episode of Project Runway made me cackle with unrestrained mirth over the weekend. Finally, after four seasons, the challenge was tackling menswear. Could these people reinvigorate the business suit? We'll see.

Let me just say that the contestants failed miserably. And it was wonderful. Most of the designers had never worked in menswear. It showed. It made giggle with glee since in previous seasons, the menswear designers made hasty exits. They simply didn't have the requisite skills and background to compete in a competition dominated by the female form. If this episode did anything, it was show that the problem goes both ways.

The Manolo points out that the challenge they were given was almost impossible. He's right. Not because menswear requires years of experience, but because the designers should have had access to their models much earlier to aid in fitting. Nothing fit as the photos Manolo linked to show. They also should have had access to a more full featured accessory wall that includes ties, belts, and perhaps even dress shirts.

The performance was sad. It wasn't just because nothing fit, it was because their design choices were so very boring. Everyone was trying to make a business suit. I find it sad that the first thing that came into these innovators heads was a 75 year old clothing design. The winner, Jack, made a shirt and pants. His major fashion innovation was cutting some shirt material on the bias. Yawn. Kit's fleece sportjacket was at least clever and innovative in comparison.