Saturday, February 01, 2003

Sharp-eyed readers of this blog will notice that there are no shotguns pictured in this post. This might come as a surprise since I've long maintained that shotguns are my favorite weapon. Why not buy surplus scatterguns?

I've never bought one because brand new pump-action shotguns are pretty inexpensive already. I own two shotguns myself, both of which are this type. One is chambered for 12 gauge shells, and the other is chambered for 20 gauge shells so I can introduce students to shotguns without the massive recoil of a 12 gauge.

There are fancy shotguns out there that retail for more than $1,000.00 USD, and some that cost even more because they look so strange. The price of some "competition shotguns" are,.....well, they really need to be seen to be believed.

If you want one of those fancy shotguns and you want to cut the price down a bit then read the other posts above and pay attention to the rating system and all the other stuff I talk about. There shouldn't be any problems if you know what you're doing before you make the buy.

I'm old enough to remember the first walk on the Moon. Whenever I see a picture of a manned space launch I just can't believe it. That's impossible! We do it, though. We do it so often that no one even notices any more unless something goes wrong. That's a damn shame.

Planes crash all the time, killing many more people each time. Why do we pay so much more attention to smaller tragedies like this one? Probably because these people climbed into that big candle to do something extraordinary, something that's going to benefit us all. It's tough not to feel a small personal loss when we lose them.

Prof. Reynolds has a link to The Angry Clam. The A.C. has a poem by Robert A. Heinlein entitled The Green Hills of Earth. It's about how space travellers want to have one last glimpse of home before dying. It's a good poem and worth reading, but I don't agree with the sentiment. I don't think we've done enough to get out there. You have to leave home before you start to feel homesick.

Woke up a few minutes ago and turned on CNN. They're saying that Columbia broke up!

They've just shown the video, the one taken from the ground. I hope it was quick.

There's some speculation that it's a terrorist attack since they had an Isreali Air Force colonel along. I can't imagine how anyone would be able to get a bomb aboard. Probably just unfounded speculation.

Prof. Reynolds has a post on his blog that's worth reading. His daughter said "At least they got into space." Yeah.

He also has a link to a blog entry reporting that a CBC interviewer is suggesting that the crash is due to "American arrogance". Heck, that didn't take long! Then they state that conflict in the Middle East is due to "American arrogance". Yeah, that's right, Columbia failed because we're arrogant.

I was just shocked and concerned about the families of the victims of this accident. Now I'm pissed off at Canada. Good job, CBC! Poke America in the snout with a sharp stick some more.

Friday, January 31, 2003

I've always told my students that it was important that the first gun they buy be new. Little problems that could be fixed by an experienced shooter by adjusting the sight or filing down a rough spot could be a frustrating experience to the newbie. Another consideration is the warranty. It's an imperfect world and even new factory-fresh guns sometimes fail. The warranty that new guns have can mean the difference between a minor blip in your new hobby and having someone swear off all guns forever in frustration.

But after some experience is gained, there's no reason why someone can't explore the vast selection that is available through the surplus gun market. For the past 120 years the governments of the world have manufactured and stored enormous numbers of guns. Advancing tech has left them obsolete so they've been sold on the open market to civilians. Perfectly good guns that shoot as straight as the day they were made can be had for bargain basement prices. This is a good way to advance your hobby and improve your shooting skills without having to get a second mortgage.

I like to save money as much as the next guy. Let's crack open my gun safe and drag the surplus guns out into the light of day.

As you can see, I've been busy. I'll go over all of the guns in the pic in later posts, as well as how to get your very own, but for now I'd like you to think about the money I saved.

The three handguns at the top of the page are all chambered for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. Three autoloaders with extra clips? If bought new they'd go for about $450.00 per, say $1,300.00 all together. I bought those three for $800.00 all told.

There are three antique bolt-action rifles and three semi-auto rifles below the handguns. Bolt action rifles usually retail for, say, $650.00 or more per, and semi auto rifles sell for about the same if not more. That would mean that you could reasonably expect to pay about $4,000.00 for a similar collection if they were all new guns. I spent about $1,600.00 for those six guns.

This isn't to say that you should drop everything and start buying from dealers that specialize in surplus guns. There's a few things to keep in mind before you start. In following posts I'll go over those details for you, sharing my hard won experience that has been collected over more than a decade of screwing up so's I could learn from my mistakes. So get out your #2 pencils and put your thinking caps on. There's gonna be a quiz at the end.

Move the cursor over to the blogroll on the right and please drop in often to Rory Lee's place. She's new to this blogging thing but she seems to have started out without having to find her voice. She remembers where she put it and she's not afraid to use it.

Right now I'm watching a series of programs on the Discovery Channel. The programs are documentaries about Saddam Hussein and his rise to power in Iraq. The programs are very fair, pointing out that some blunders were committed by the US but that Saddam is a dangerous and calculating murderer who has killed with his own hands and won't stop now that he's got a larger canvas to work with.

You don't see balanced coverage very often.

There's usually a blank post at the top of this blog, like this one. The comments that this post collected prompted me to write this explanation.

Blogger is crappy, but it's free. Many people (like myself) could afford something better but we really can't justify the expense just to spout off on stuff. The way I look at it is that it's a diverting way to spend a few hours a week, reading interesting stuff and talking to interesting people. Spending money on it wouldn't gain any particular advantage for me, so I don't. This will probably be the situation until I start to get a readership like Ms. Mcardle, which essentially means that it probably won't change at all.

Blogger has this habit of refusing to display posts. You write something out and post it, then find that it just isn't on your blog when you check. I found it doesn't do this if I post something that consists of a single space. That's what was so puzzling. It wasn't that I wrote something and Blogger only displayed a single blank space, I was posting a single blank space to fool Blogger into displaying the more valuable posts below.

AND ANOTHER thing.... How come a blank post attracted three Comments when so much more substantial fare doesn't get any discussion at all?

It's like I'm a postmodernist blogger. "Less is more! Black is white! A blank post is sooo meaningful!"

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

I'm not one for TV, but I tuned in to the Sunday broadcast of Alias because I'd heard that they'd given Rutger Hauer a job. I'd been impressed with Mr. Hauer's performance in Blade Runner way back in 1982, but then he descended into alcoholic direct-to-video oblivion. Just wanted to see if he was still kicking.

I was impressed with the cast. One of the bit players was an actor from Kansas named Angus Scrimm. He made a splash back in 1979 when he played a hulking alien slavemaster in Phantasm. The movie was terrible, but great efforts were made to make it as spooky as possible even though the budget was non-existent. Mr. Scrimm's performance and prescence is one of the reasons that the film had an impact much greater than it deserves.

So what did Mr. Scrimm play in Alias? He was a computer expert, much like our own Jack Burton.

Considering how the truly great actors always strive to bring as much realism to their roles as possible, I can say that Mr. Scrimm comes off as a true computer expert. In fact the resemblance to Jack Burton is uncanny. Except that Jack has a mustache.

Blog goddess Natalie Solent has posted a link to an item on Steven Chapman's blog (bear with me on this, guys).

The link from Mr. Chapman tells the tale of a young girl in New Zealand who stabbed an attacker in the stomach while he beat her in the head with a wooden bat.

I can hear you shrugging from here. So what? Well it seems that the powers that be in NZ are probably going to charge the young lady.

Complain about the US all you want, but at least you don't live in New Zealand.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Mr. Bowen of No Watermelons Allowed has a interesting post RE the properties of steam.

I bet you didn't know that it was interesting, did you?

Prof. Reynolds posts to this excellent article about a class on self-defense.

Why do I think it's so great? Mainly because this is exactly what I've been saying to my own students for ten years or so, even though I've never been a police officer.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

So I finally went to see the movie that all of the critics seem to approve of. Most of them say that it's a slam bang epic that is a shoo-in at Oscar time. To be completely honest I was rather bored through it all.

The plot is that the son of a slain gang leader returns after 16 years to get revenge! Of course the crime lord that murdered the father takes the young lad under his wing as a surrogate son, never realizing that he's nurturing a viper at his breast.

What is it about these crime lords? Why can't they find some other punk kid who they want to adopt?

The film takes great pains to paint the gang members as being viscious types, which is certainly true. The slums are also realistically portrayed as filthy mudholes with the hogs eating the dead bodies that appear every night. If you're interested in the period the film is worth a look just to see the vast gulf that seperated the poor and the wealthy, and how conditions were nightmarish in the extreme if you were at society's lowest rung.

But the film takes great liberties with history. At the time the politics of the city were controlled by Boss Tweed, who was arguably the most powerful unelected official that this country has ever seen. In the movie he seems to spend most of his time wandering around the worst slum in America, making personal deals with the gangs so they'd get the votes he needed to stay in power. I don't mind a little revision to keep the story moving but this is surreal to the point of idiocy.

The gangs in question have elaborate rituals that they go through before fighting one another. They also have a strange code of honor. I couldn't figure out why anyone bothered since the main villian would routinely ignore the code when it suited him. It struck me as rather a waste of time to even go through all that.

Another absurdity. Leonardo di Caprio as a tough, hard fighting he-man. (chuckle chuckle snort)

The story about the gangs took place just as the New York draft riots were getting started. The worst riots in the country in protest of America's first military draft were very destructive but there wasn't much of a body count. The best estimates place the number of dead at 119. Some historians claim that many more corpses were carried off by their families and given secret burials. Okay, ten times that number? Pretty high, but within the realm of possibility. 20 times that number? No, you couldn't hide that many dead people.

In the film thousands of people are shot down by federal troops called out to quell the violence. Naval battleships even shell the city from the harbor! I realize that Hollywood has to play around with the details to make a more interesting story, but come on!

I'd say go see it for the sets and costumes and the way that slum life is portrayed. If you're not interested in any of that then I'd suggest you go see The Two Towers again.

I've become pretty disillusioned with the Europeans over the past two years. Silly me, I thought free democracies worked together to promote human rights and the formation of more democracies. The Eurowheenies have shown that they're only interested in blaming the US for every ill in the world while doing absolutely zero to help. It's unclear to me if they actually believe the drivel they spout even though easily perceived reality proves them wrong. If they don't then they're cold bastards that are using the American bogeyman to get votes and distract the voters from their own incompetance. If they do believe then they're delusional, which says a great deal about the people who'd vote madman into office.

I don't think these guys are insane. Look at the way that European defense budgets have declined over the past fifty years while the US budget has grown. It's pretty obvious that the cynical and manipulative Euro politicians realized right away that the US would protect them through NATO so they started to shunt the money towards bread-and-circus social programs to keep the votes flowing. Now the Euro military is a pathetic joke. If you don't agree with me then all you have to do is point to the Rapid Reaction Force that has been talked about for the last 10 years. Doesn't exist? No money for it? It's just been rhetoric spouted off by the Euro elected officials to distract the voters from the fact that they depend on the US for their safety? What a shock!

So let's say that the US pulls out of NATO and lets everyone know that Europe is on it's own. Recently 7 new countries have been admitted, but the money to re-equip and modernize the armed forces of those new countries up to NATO standards is coming from the US. Without American dollars NATO is so screwed that it's member nations can't even field forces that can fight together. Without American military might NATO is so weak that they would be hard pressed to stop a drunken brawl in a whorehouse. What happens then?

Arms race. Oh, it would take awhile to get started. The Eurowheenies would have a real hard time grasping the fact that Washington just didn't care even if the Russians pulled a bunch of T-80's out of mothballs and started another Evil Empire. Then it would dawn on them that, say, France might decide to pre-emptively attack Germany to destroy that threat before it has a chance to play WWII all over again. Germany would have to get their military together just to make sure that something like that didn't happen. After they actually got a military worth a crap they might just decide to use it.

Call me a sadistic screwhead if you like, but I'd dearly love to see the economies and societies of most Euro nations collapse because they have to pull the money they've allocated to butter and start buying some guns instead. The only problem is that the threat of increased hostilities between the suddenly rearmed countries is all too real. And this time they would all have nukes.

This is why the US pretty much has to stay in NATO. You would be insane to hand a loaded gun to a 5 year old that was throwing a tantrum. Better keep them all locked up until the kid proves that it's mature enough to handle the responsibility.

Most police forensic work is dull and boring. You take the prints and get the evidence, type up the report and make sure that the file is up to date, and then you pass it along and forget about it. It might be months before you hear about it again because you have to testify, and then you have to go check your notes and the case file to refresh your memory. Sometimes the suspect skips bail and it's years before you find out the rest of the story (will he be convicted?). Sometimes you never hear anything at all about it ever again.

The Guardroom has a post that links to this article on a Canadian news server. It discusses the methods that experts use to try and keep modern crime dramas on TV accurate. It's worth a read if your interested in that sort of thing.

Now all I have to do is figure out a way to get these guys to hire me!

I was in the movie theater today and I saw a trailer for Quentin Tarantino's new film Kill Bill. Judging by the trailer it's a revenge flick where Uma Thurman kills everyone with a sword.

I used to fence some a long time ago. The easiest way to get me in the theater is have a sword fight in the trailer or have a guy holding a sword on the poster, so you guys know I'll spend some money and go see this one. Other than that, I'd have to say that while Ms. Thurman seems to have had a crash course in swordplay she doesn't look very comfortable slinging that katana around.

You can see the trailer yourself here.