Friday, September 06, 2002

It looks like the anti-war camp has hit on an objection to those that favor the coming war with Iraq: they insist that anyone who thinks the War on Terror is a good idea is some sort of COWARD unless they sign up for the military and get in to combat themselves.

I don't mind dissent, that's how this country weeds out the bad ideas. But this just seems to be a way to personally attack those with a pro-war stance. Any time a debate degenerates in to personal attacks you might as well give it up as a waste of time.

It would appear that blogger Dr. Weevil is kinda tired of the accusations of being a coward. He's offered to pay the travel expenses of any anti-warrior who wants to go to Iraq and act as a human shield. This way, the good Dr. explains, they can put up or shut up. He's asked for pledges to help defray the cost.

So the debate degenerates even more with the level of emotion being ratcheted up without any meaningful progress. Still, I couldn't help but pledge $150.00. Somehow I don't think I'll have to actually pay any money.

During the 1950's it was noticed that some police officers that died in gunfights would be found with their open revolvers in one hand and six spent cartridges in the other. Eyewitnesses would report that the officer had started the fight just fine, drawing his weapon when fired upon and (usually) taking cover. Then something strange would happen. The officer would start to reload but, after ejecting the spent shells from the cylinder, would stand there with the brass in his hand and look around at his feet. Sometimes he would break cover to peer around at the ground.

What the heck was going on?

It seems that many police firing ranges were managed too efficiently. The range officers would demand neatness from the officers using the range, so they'd put a bucket for spent brass by the feet of everyone who came by to practice. When the lead started to fly and the stress level went through the roof old habits took over. Many of the men who died were going through the same motions they'd gone through a thousand times before. They were looking for the bucket.

So it was the training that had failed, not the gun or the man. When the problem was identified training methods changed. Realistic gun handling was stressed. Buckets were removed. Speed as well as accuracy was considered important, reloading quickly while under fire and shooting from different positions was added to the course. Different weapons the officer might have to use was included, and the idea of using cover was considered for the first time.

Good ideas all, and realistic training saved lives. But with all of this shootin' goin' on another thing was noticed. The guys who practiced drawing and reloading their weapons with inert ammo started to do some amazing things on the range.

The idea is that the physical act of drawing, firing, and reloading can be learned on an instinctive level. Called muscle memory it's the idea that you can practice certain movements so many times that you will be able to perform the action without thinking about it. Taking concious thought out of the equation speeds things up to an incredible degree. It's considered to be possible to train up to this increased speed after repeating the action 1500 times or so.

So get some inert ammo and practice 50 or 100 times every night before going to bed. Use the TV for cover, move from room to room. Practice clearing jams and reloading on the move. The wife may think you're crazy, but you're just doing it to be ready in case the family needs you to be ready.

And always remember: When the lead starts to fly then you don't care where the bucket is.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

This is what I'm talking about.

I've always thought airships were neat. Pity the idea didn't take.

My favorite airship of all time is the U.S.S. Macon. A really, really big flying machine, it was almost twice as long as the Hindenberg. It even had fighter planes that would be launched from the belly of the airship to provide air defense for the mother ship.

Neato stuff.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Just go read today's Lileks' Bleat. Read it to the end.

Are you done? Good. Now go and read this news article where the majority of Europeans think that the U.S. is partly to blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I'm going to try to forget that they said that.

According to Jane's Defence, the U.S. has teams trained to disarm detected nuclear weapons. Called N.E.S.T. (Nuclear Emergency Search Teams), these guys have detection equipment and are trained on how to disarm various explosive devices (which are needed to set the nuclear material off). According to the article, they can respond in four hours.

Just got the latest from Jane's Defence. They've put together an on-line briefing about Iraq. Cost is $400.00 which is why I don't know what the good people at Jane's say, but they wouldn't have put this together unless they thought people would be paying the big bucks for the info.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Well, not often. Working the late shift like I do means that the modern shows aren't on when I want to relax and watch some TV. When I click on the TV the only stations that aren't running infomercials are the little affiliates that don't have the money for anything recent.

davidmsc mentioned the old television series UFO when he was responding to my question about favorite TV theme music. The series was created by the same husband and wife team that eventually went on to be the driving force behind Space:1999, another classic Brit sci-fi show from the 70's.

The idea behind the show was that a secret invasion of aliens would be thwarted by a secret military force that would operate in all theaters. (Why so secret? To avoid panic, of course!) My favorite is the submarine with a jet attched, although I don't think you have to be Freud to figure this one out. The biggest puzzle was why they picked an albino to command the organization.

Of course the series had to have a bunch of babes wandering around the facilities. But in a move unusual for the early 70's one of the command staff, a Colonel, was a woman. Unfortunately this wasn't her duty uniform, but the duty uniforms of the women assigned to the submarine made up for it. Hey, someone could put an eye out! (just call me a pig).

Many future shows would mine UFO for ideas (secret government war against the aliens, moon bases, crashed UFO's being captured by the military). Although influential, the show itself wasn't very good. At a 1 hour running time there was just too much time to fill and the episodes often drag on and on. Sort of like this post, so I'll end it now.

Everybody's always talking about which gun is best for self defense. Everybody has an opinion, everbody thinks that those with different opinions are a bunch of idiots. Well, I'm about to give it to you straight.

The best gun is the one you're comfortable shooting. Period. End of story.

I've seen a fair number of pictures from crime scenes (those detectives from Homicide seemed to like me for some reason) and I can say that the wounds received from a handgun, even a big handgun, simply don't compare to the wounds produced by a shotgun. So a shotgun is better for defense, right?

Well, sure, if you're comfortable with them. They make a great deal of noise, they're pretty heavy, and the recoil can be uncomfortable. I like taking my students to the range and have them pace off the greatest distance that they can find in their house, like the length of their upstairs hallway. Then we shoot fist-sized holes in doubled plywood boards from a 12 guage at that distance with whatever is on sale at their local sporting goods store, usually #7 birdshot. Give it a try yourself if you don't believe me.

So my favorite is a 12 guage loaded with cheap, light birdshot. It'll do a number on anyone who breaks in and it has reduced range and down-range penetration to keep the neighbors safe. I've also trained long enough so I can pump off 2 aimed shots every second. But what's good for me doesn't mean that it's good for you. Some people have reacted with outrage and anger when I would suggest a shotgun, mainly because they're intimidated from the size and recoil. Although I didn't appreciate the personal remarks I always understood that they knew their limits. If they weren't comfortable with shotguns then that just means that they should find something else.

Handguns are best as long as they're considered to be emergency arms, something to use when there's no other choice. Tiny guns for CCW that still fire a potent cartridge are great. Even those chambered for less potent calibers are alright if there's nothing else. After all, the first rule of a gunfight is to have a gun. But considering that handguns are inherently inaccurate compared to other arms they shouldn't be the first line of defense.

Rifles are fine as long as you live on an isolated farm. Those of us who live in cities have to worry about the neighbors. After all, most of us would probably object if a stray round came through the wall so we have to assume that the people living around us would feel the same. Keep in mind that there's people sleeping just a few yards away with only a few inches of aluminim siding and drywall between you and your gun. Use your surplus Warsaw Pact rifle or hunting rifle and some innocent might just be hurt.

So we shouldn't fire our rifles in the city. What choice other than a handgun is there for someone who doesn't like shotguns?

There's a number of small rifles on the market that fire pistol cartridges. Some of them are very reasonably priced, and they offer increased control with less than rifle penetration. Some of them are even chambered for very potent handgun cartridges.

All in all, though, I think I'll stick to my shotgun.

Last year 60 Minutes aired a segment that reported on anti-American elements in Kuwait. It made a big impression, such a big impression that the Kuwait government wrote about it on their official website.

Whether or not this was accurate, Kuwait has voiced criticism of the U.S. because of our support of Israel. Some people have pointed out that this is why an invasion of Iraq has to be staged from somewhere else.

The Captain pointed out a few days ago that the U.S. agreed to sell some attack helicopters to Kuwait. Delivery is to take place in 2005.

So I'm reading Reynold's blog a few minutes ago and he links to a news item that states Kuwait doesn't consider the war with Iraq to have ever ended.

This is why I read the blogs. I don't have to bother reading all of the on-line press to find the nuggets, I just have to other bloggers do it for me.

Monday, September 02, 2002

One of my readers, davidmsc, has suggested that I discuss the things that I think are wrong with the new Mel Gibson movie Signs. Please note that spoilers are about to be revealed. Don't read any further if you're planning on seeing the film.

Mel Gibson plays a Pennsylvania farmer who finds a cryptic symbol carved in to his field of crops. It soon becomes apparent that hostile aliens are using the crop circles to navigate, and that they are establishing beachheads by landing right on top of the circles. Mel realizes that he's going to have a rampaging horde of aliens come down out of the sky just a few hundred yards from his front door. The decision is made to barricade the family in the farmhouse and, I dunno, wait until the aliens get bored or something.

I mentioned in my previous post about the movie that Me's character doesn't own a gun, even though he's a farmer in the U.S. Many people who live in towns or cities think of firearms as being nothing more than devices of crime and destruction, but to the farmer they're an indespenable tool for controlling animals that would eat the crops. Heck, even countries with insane gun control laws, such as England and Australia, still allow their farmers and vets to own guns. The idea that Mel would be completely unarmed is idiotic.

Mel and his family live in a wooden farmhouse, and the aliens have a problem breaking in to the place. They eventually find a way, though, so everyone retreats to the cellar where a single wooden door is the only thing standing between the family and certain death. This simple wooden door completely defeats the alien's plans. They came from someplace light years away and no one thought to bring a few tools along. Nor do any of the aliens think to rummage through Mel's barn for an axe. If the aliens ever do invade we don't need secret military projects to combat the UFO menace, all we need is to build wooden privacy fences around the crop circles!

At the end of the film the aliens suddenly pack up and leave. The radio reports that although it appears that the aliens landed to harvest the humans as food, someone in the Middle East had discovered a weapon effective against the unstoppable foe (unstoppable if you don't think to lock your doors, that is). The weapon is water, which causes the alien's skin to dissolve.

Oh, come on! Didn't they have windows in their freakin' spaceships? Couldn't they just see that the Earth was lousy with water? And they had scouts wandering around for a few days to make the crop circles and check things out for the invasion. Wouldn't at least one of these guys have walked through a sprinkler or walked through a creek or something?

The final scene with the aliens has Joaquin Phoenix beating one to death with a wooden baseball bat, even though splashing some water on the creature helps things along. It's obvious that the aliens don't have any tools or weapons, can't fight a guy with a baseball bat or other primitive weapon, aren't smart enough use the tools lying around a farm and have water soluble skin.

I can see why they'd never make a movie about aliens landing at my house. It would be boring to see a movie about an old fat guy defeating an alien invasion using the antiques from his gun safe. Or I'd just use one of these. It would be a cheap movie to produce since it would only be 20 minutes long.