Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Saturday, June 28, 2008

    Hot diggity dog!!!

    Blizzard has announced Diablo 3!!!

    This means we have, in the works, a major project for each of their intellectual properties, with StarCraft 2 on the way, and World of WarCraft: Wrath of the Lich King anticipated for the fall.

    I have long been hoping for Diablo 3 to be a game where you could control a team of characters, a la Dungeon Siege, but that appears not to be the case. It looks like they're pruning the character classes back to 5 from the 7 we had in Diablo 2 (Paladin, Barbarian, Sorceress, Amazon, Necromancer, Assassin, Druid). So far the only two announced are the Barbarian and the Witch Doctor. The Witch Doctor looks very analogous to the Necromancer from D2, and the Barbarian is, well, the Barbarian. One of the things I like most about D3 right off the bat is the fact that they'll allow you to choose your gender for whatever class, meaning we can have female Barbarians and male Sorcerers (if that class makes it into the game).

    Speaking of making it into the game, I'll just come right out and predict what the other 3 classes will be. First, there will be a direct-damage caster type, like a Mage or Sorcerer, tossing around fireballs and icebolts and such. It's simply too much of a staple of fantasy gaming and the first two Diablo titles to not show up.

    Second, there will be a martial artist/archer type, to fill the role of the Amazon and Assassin. Look for something like a Ranger.

    Third, there will be some kind of holy-powered class like a Paladin or Cleric, wearing lots of armor with a shield, swinging a big mace, and prayerfully sending the evil monsters back to the Abyss from whence they came.

    Hopefully they will expand on the loot and equipment over Diablo 2, adding some of the cool stuff we've seen in World of WarCraft. I'd love it if they added a crafting skill system. Diablo has never had a lot of depth, so there's certainly room for them to make it just a touch more engaging.

    It's a good year to be a fan of Blizzard games!

    Posted by Tom, 6/28/2008 2:01:29 PM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, June 27, 2008

    Gun control I could live with

    Part of the Heller decision, the part that in my head I call the "weasel words", leaves the door open for some kind of gun control. The relevant passage:

    The Courtís opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

    The question of course is where the line should be drawn. Obviously, outright bans are unacceptable, as demonstrated by Heller on its face. This leads me to evaluate what sort of gun control I could live with and only grumble about, as opposed to fighting tooth and nail.

    Now before I get into this, I want to make something very clear: give me the keys to the kingdom, and "shall not be infringed" will mean exactly what it says. I would remove all restrictions on the ownership ("keep") and carrying ("bear") of any kind of weapon. I would go much further than most people who call themselves "pro-gun". "Infringing" on the right begins the moment you start trespassing on it... it doesn't mean that it's OK for some of it to be chipped away, as long as all of it isn't. And lacking the keys to the kingdom, I will always push for repealing any and all gun laws, however Quixotic that effort may be. I feel the same way about the other rights too, by the way.

    However I personally feel about the issue, I also realize that I share the world with people who, for whatever reason, can derive comfort in their lives only when their fellow man has some sort of chains about his neck. I also realize that these people generally mean well (see quote at top of page), though we all know the old saying about what the road to Hell is paved with. So let's get on with the assumption that I won't be given the keys to the kingdom any time soon, and take a look at what I could live with in terms of gun control. Again, this isn't a description of what I'd be happy with. It's not a description of what would cause me to stop advocating the repeal of laws. It's just what I could live with and not be entirely miserable.

    First of all, everything has to be back on the table. Big guns, little guns, handguns, fully automatic guns, you name it. ALL of it has to be available from new manufacture -- none of this 1986 BS on the full autos. Second, we're talking about equal parts "keep" and "bear". I'm not having any of this crap about "only in my home" or "only at the range/sporting club". And no more of this "gun free zone" crap either... we'll get into "areas of heightened security", but I'm not buying anything where a cop can walk past a sign and I can't. We're having the same rules for everybody.

    Got that? I'm serious about that part. Really.

    Now, the restrictions I'm willing to suffer have to adhere to two basic principles: "objective standards" and "leave me alone". I'm going to model it on the old "treat guns like cars" argument. We'll register every gun. If I sell a gun, I'll file the transfer with the government, noting make, model, and serial number, just like my car.

    Next up: licensing. I have already submitted to the process required for obtaining a concealed weapons license... twice. The first time was in Michigan, under the old law which gave a 3-man panel the ability to subjectively decide whether or not I was "good enough" to carry a gun. There were no guidelines whatsoever for the panel. They could decide they didn't like the way you looked, and deny the license. They could decide (and often did) that regardless of your situation, they just didn't like people carrying guns, and deny every application out of hand. This is not a process that is even remotely fair, and is the primary reason the voters and activists in Michigan (including myself) worked to get the law changed to one with objective standards.

    In Oklahoma, the process is simple: take the required class, pass the required tests, pay the required fees, and so long as nothing untoward turns up on your background checks, the license is issued.

    The argument among the anti-gunners is that your local sheriff should have a say in whether you get a concealed weapons license. Supposedly, your local sheriff knows you best and can make the determination of what kind of person you are, and whether you're going to go all loopy and shoot up a Cracker Barrel. The problem with that idea is, I've never met my local sheriff. Most law-abiding citizens haven't -- because we're law-abiding. Even a sparsely-populated county has several thousand people in it, most of whom the sheriff has never met, even if they voted for him. So let's just get past this idea that the local yokel has any clue who everyone is in his jurisdiction. His opinion can't be anything more than a guess based on a first impression, and unless he has some objective standards to follow, we will have more crap like that which used to prevail in Michigan.

    Instead, licensing should follow objective standards. Decide what should be licensed -- mere ownership, or carrying, or both. Open carry or concealed carry, or both. Set the standards, and make them reasonable (ie, no million-dollar fees or crap like that). Make me take classes... so many hours on law, so many hours range time, so many rounds downrange, etc. Make me take tests... written, verbal, practical, whatever. Make me put 5 rounds into the A zone on an IDPA target at such & such a distance, in such & such a time. Do a background check, looking for felonies or crimes of violence.

    If you decide we'll need separate licenses for rifles, shotguns, handguns, and full-autos, fine. Set the standards, and make them objective. If there's an "easy" license for open carry, a "harder" license for concealed carry, and a "hardest" license for carry into security-enhanced areas like courthouses, schools, and airplanes, fine. Set the standards, and make them objective. Make some of them difficult, if need be. For the security-enhanced, make it headshots on targets hiding behind "no-shoot" targets or whatever. Set standards for frangible ammunition in places like airplanes and so forth.

    Need some ideas? The United States Shooting Academy in Tulsa has a bunch of courses, available to the public, but which give credit to law enforcement officers for CLEET (Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training) training. Make me get so many hours of CLEET-equivalent training for the "harder" stuff.

    Whatever the test is, make it objective. And know this: I will make it my mission to pass every one of them.

    That's where part two comes into play: leave me alone. If I walk up to the metal detectors at the airport, and the little beep goes off because I have my Glock on my belt, once I flash my concealed weapons license with the airplane endorsement, leave me alone. If I go to visit my legislator at the state Capitol, and I've got an AK-47 strapped to my back... once you see my full-auto ownership license and my open carry license with a security-enhanced sticker, wave me through. I don't want any harassment, no cops ordering me to the ground because they're "worried", or anything like that. If I flash the proper credentials for what I'm trying to do, in whatever situation, leave me alone.

    And I will have the proper credentials, just like thousands if not millions of others like me. Some of us are dedicated to the proposition that we are the militia, in the noblest sense of the word -- an unorganized, volunteer force that responds to emergencies where needed. Others merely want to exercise their rights as law-abiding citizens. It may frighten the anti-gunners, but at that point, tough shit. No matter who whines about it, or yammers about how "afraid" they feel, it's their problem, not ours. We don't stop constructing tall buildings because some people are afraid of heights, so there's no reason to stop carrying guns just because a bunch of hand-wringers wet their pants every time a properly licensed, fully registered law-abiding citizen walks by with a 12-gauge looped over his shoulder. We've done all they asked. Now leave us alone.

    This post probably won't make me many friends on either side of the issue, but that's just the way I see it. You anti's want a "compromise" like you're always saying? You want to deal? That's the deal. Anything and everything short of that, screw you. Pro-gunners want to make me out to be an anti-gunner? Go ahead. I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with the idea, and I just might join you in excoriating myself. But this, I think I could probably live with, if it would shut the other bastards up. Sorry if that offends.

    Posted by Tom, 6/27/2008 7:40:00 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Stevens' dissent

    I have long maintained that those who believe US v Miller declared the 2nd Amendment to be a collective right haven't actually read US v Miller. And now it looks like Justice Stevens is one of those people, as seen at this blog entry:

    Comment on to previous post points out at p.2 of the Stevens dissent he refers to NFA and US v. Miller: "Upholding a conviction under that Act, this Court held that..."

    Same mistake the 9th Circus made years ago and had to issue a new opinion, since Miller was never convicted -- commentators noted this was pretty suggestive the court hadn't bothered to read Miller before citing it. First thing you look for in reading a case is what happened below, and what the Court do to that. Very first thing.

    US v Miller, as seen here, was a prosecutorial appeal over a quashed indictment. In other words, the actual case hadn't even gone to trial yet. They were trying to get the courts to agree that Miller could be charged with a crime, ergo he had not yet been convicted.

    An indictment in the District Court Western District Arkansas, charged that Jack Miller and Frank Layton 'did unlawfully, knowingly, willfully, and feloniously transport in interstate commerce from the town of Claremore in the State of Oklahoma to the town of Siloam Springs in the State of Arkansas a certain firearm, to-wit, a double barrel 12-gauge Stevens shotgun... The District Court held that section 11 of the Act violates the Second Amendment. It accordingly sustained the demurrer and quashed the indictment.

    Is this (and the subsequent blunder noted at the blog above) a minor technical foible? Or does it speak to Stevens' bias in the case... a bias that leads him to skim lightly over the case law he cites, then misremember the pertinent facts? I think at best, it displays a disregard or even contempt for the idea that the court should be a finder of truth as opposed to a mechanism of social engineering. After all, keeping the "little people" disarmed is just so darned important, we shouldn't let a few facts get in our way... should we?

    Posted by Tom, 6/27/2008 5:24:19 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    More Heller

    I finally got done reading the majority opinion (the dissents will have to wait). First, I must applaud Justice Scalia for taking it as far as he did. He basically addressed every one of the specious arguments we've been hearing about the right to keep and bear arms, showing why they're wrong and making a forceful argument to the contrary in each case. He covered much more than I really expected him to, and did us all a great service by doing so.

    The opinion reads like a total smackdown of anti-gunners, but is particularly scathing towards dissenting Justice Stevens, who apparently chose to regurgitate the Brady Campaign party line. In one section, Scalia compares Stevens to the Mad Hatter. In another, after thoroughly eviscerating Stevens' weak and tortured reading of US v Miller, he writes sarcastically, "This is the mighty rock upon which the dissent rests its case." A friend of mine wondered aloud if Scalia and Stevens might just want to "take it outside".

    Granted, the opinion has some issues. It pretty strongly indicates that further review of the 2nd Amendment will use a "strict scrutiny" model, as with other individual, enumerated rights, but it also leaves open the door for "reasonable" regulations. The question then becomes, "what's reasonable?" This means there's a whole kettle of worms left to mess with.

    The opinion strongly suggests that banning guns "in common use" by regular folks is blatantly unconstitutional (and uses that as the foundation for striking down DC's handgun ban). This says to me that the ban on so-called "semi-automatic assault weapons" is unconstitutional (since millions of civilians own them), and may mean good things for gun owners in the fight to keep that law from being renewed. It also makes some positive statements with regard to open carry.

    Anti-gunners across the nation were of course given to fits of apoplexy, the most entertaining of which was Chicago Mayor Richard Daly. Others included Senator Dianne Feinstein, Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center (who accused Scalia of being bought off by the gun industry), and of course the mayor of Washington DC, Adrian Fenty. The worst was Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign, who basically said that the opinion changes nothing for his organization, since they've only supported "reasonable" regulations all along. Apparently he forgot the part where his organization filed an amicus brief supporting the TOTAL BAN on handguns that the case was all about.

    Overall, it's a good day to be a gun owner. The court left enough on the table for the gun grabbers though, that we definitely need to be on guard.

    Posted by Tom, 6/26/2008 5:42:58 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    DC v Heller

    The Supreme Court has ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, unconnected to military/National Guard service. I've got a copy of the decision here. I'll have more to say once I've had a chance to read it in it's entirety.

    Posted by Tom, 6/26/2008 9:03:30 AM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    The 21st, obviously

    This writer seems to have missed something in his commentary on the latest Don Imus flap:

    'What color is he?'' When I saw those words in print, then heard the recording of the actual question, my first thought was: What century is this from?

    Huh. My first thought was "What college admissions form is this from?"

    Posted by Tom, 6/25/2008 4:10:11 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, June 22, 2008

    How quickly they forget

    This lady has her panties in a bunch over the rising open carry movement. This is where, in jurisdictions where it is legal, folks carry their handguns in plain sight rather than concealing them. She seems to be of the opinion that it's some form of compensation, which is one of the standard lines trotted out by the anti-gun types. Her partners in paranoia join in:

    ...the OpenCarry movement is a mystery to me. What kind of psychology - overcompensation, paranoia, antisocial personality - is behind that thinking?

    Steven Gunn, an attorney and board member of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, believes it's pure ego.

    "We have inconsiderate boors walking around on the street carrying firearms openly," says Gunn. "I don't think they are truly afraid for their safety. Most of them are trying to make a statement about the Second Amendment."

    I wasn't involved in monitoring the push for concealed carry in Utah, but I have monitored the fight in other states, including Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, and Kansas, and I participated in the fight in Michigan. In every case, one particular argument kept coming from the other side:

    "Open carry is already legal, so there's no need to license people to carry concealed. If people want to carry guns in public, let them strap them on and go about their business -- at least this way, the rest of us will know who's armed."

    The argument is so ubiquitous and predictable, I cannot imagine that it did not pop up in Utah. Ms. Walsh and her cohorts, or their spiritual kin, were the people most likely to advance it. And now it turns out that the anti-gun folks would like to quash open carry -- the same policy they previously defended. I haven't looked (yet), but I'm sure the Utah anti-gunners aren't the only ones that are or will be grumbling about open carry.

    There's not enough here to cry "blatant hypocrisy!" (yet), but my gut tells me these folks are just getting warmed up. As the open carry movement builds up steam, the hand-wringers are going to make more childish attacks like this. I wonder how many other pro-gun folks are going to remember, like I do, that this is a practice the anti's once said they wanted.

    Posted by Tom, 6/22/2008 5:43:25 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Summer Movies So Far

    Well, I've seen a few movies and have neglected to comment, so here's the wrap-up:

    First off, Iron Man absolutely kicks butt. I used to be a big comic book fan, but it was more X-Men and mutants than Avengers and assorted heroes of varying origins, so I didn't really "get" Iron Man as a comic book character. That said, the movie was awesome, and Robert Downey, Jr. totally nailed Tony Stark as the talented, wealthy jerk. He did so well that I have difficulty imagining anyone else in the role. He is Tony Stark/Iron Man.

    The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was somewhat less great. It wasn't a very good adaptation of the book, having taken way too many liberties with the timeline. It also obscured what I thought was the major point of the book (on believing even when those around you don't), though I was fairly comfortable with the point they offered as a substitute (on doing things God's way rather than our own). So while I was disappointed in the movie, it wasn't as disappointing as it might have been.

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on the other hand, was a complete bust. I really wanted to like it, but there was just too much that I couldn't hang with. The biggest problem I had was that right at the beginning a giant plot hole reared it's ugly head that totally blew my suspension of disbelief. Yes, it's an action-adventure movie, but it needs to make at least a little bit of sense within its own framework. So when they find the big whatsis that's supposed to be ubermagnetic, the guards are having their belt buckles and such pulled toward it, in some cases violently, but their guns are somehow unaffected. That drove me so nuts that the rest of the movie was basically wasted on me.

    The Happening, the new film by M. Night Shyamalan, has been getting torn apart by the critics. Personally, I liked it. I tend to think of Shyamalan as more of a storyteller than a movie maker, and I like the stories he tells. I think far too many of his critics have gotten used to the "surprise ending" in his earlier films, and are mostly disappointed by the lack thereof in his later work. I said as much in my review of Lady in the Water. Some have said that The Happening is an enviro-weenie propaganda piece, but I don't think so. First off, Shyamalan himself has said that he thinks of it more as a zombie movie, and secondly I think it's more of a "boogeyman" take on global warming than a serious cautionary tale. Anyway, if one can go in without expectations from his previous films and just experience the story as he tells it, I think it's pretty enjoyable -- perhaps not stupendously great, but enjoyable.

    The Incredible Hulk is another one that's been taking a beating from the critics, and this beating is wholly undeserved. It's the absolute best Hulk movie ever made, bar none. It certainly cleans up the putrid stain left by the 2003 movie. It has cameos by Stan Lee (of course), Lou Ferrigno, a posthumous one by Bill Bixby, and a nice little tie-in cameo by Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. It approaches the characters of the Hulk and Bruce Banner in a way that doesn't treat the viewers like morons, and most importantly it kicks ass. Stuff gets torn up like crazy, from cars to jeeps to tanks, and the final battle between Hulk and Abomination completely RAWKS. Best of all, they decline to make the big mistake of killing off Abomination... one of my pet peeves ever since the 1989 Batman killed off the Joker. The only bummer for us was the fact that we went to see it at our old theater, whose sound system has gone downhill, making it very difficult to hear the dialogue.

    While at the theater, I saw a teaser poster for another upcoming Marvel comic book film, and one can only hope the third time's the charm. The Punisher's 1989 and 2004 film incarnations were absolutely godawful. Now that Marvel has its own studio, it appears to be trying a fresh new attempt at the character. One can only hope that they finally take the curse from the character and render it in a way that doesn't suck. Perhaps if they do that, they can go back and salvage other characters who've been ruined on the big screen by crummy acting and/or writing (*cough* Daredevil *cough*).

    Anyway, it's been a pretty good year so far for comic book characters turned to film. I'm looking forward to seeing if the trend continues with The Dark Knight, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and Will Smith's homage to the genre, Hancock (which I'm totally stoked about). Any way you look at it, it's a good time to be a comic book movie fan.

    Posted by Tom, 6/22/2008 3:02:33 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...


    Study: Most Children Strongly Opposed To Children's Healthcare

    Posted by Tom, 6/22/2008 7:15:34 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    Pet Peeves

    I'm fairly open with people about my gun nuttery. I realize there's a time for discretion, but at the same time, the only way we'll ever get past the prejudices of those who are against or afraid of guns is to demystify them. So I play evangelist from time to time, and am pretty much willing to discuss them with anyone who wants to have a reasonable conversation.

    That said, there are some ideas that just won't seem to die. One is the perpetual confusion in the minds of non-gunners about the difference between "fully automatic" and "semi-automatic", and the deliberately obfuscatory definition of what makes an "assault weapon". But that's a whole other post. Today I'm mostly grumpy about the one that just keeps popping up, over and over and over again. Stop me if you've heard this before:

    "If you shoot someone, and they die on your porch, be sure to drag them inside the house so it's nice and legal."

    The worst part is that the advice usually comes unbidden AFTER I've described the sorts of classes I've had to take to become licensed to carry. You know, the ones with 8 hours of instruction regarding the laws surrounding the use of deadly force in self-defense. It's only then that they spill this BS into my lap. Perhaps they're under the impression that in the teaching of the course, the instructor somehow forgot this golden nugget of legal wisdom, and thank God they're here to save my bacon. Why, without them telling me about this crucial loophole, I might be in trouble!

    First, the advice sucks because it's usually coming from a non-gunner who doesn't know anything about guns save what the anti-gun media tells him. Second, it sucks because it almost guarantees prison time. Tampering with evidence in a potential homicide case? Not exactly the brightest move. Thanks for the help there, Einstein.

    I'm never really upset at the person for being ignorant, honestly. It just boggles my mind how, in a country where some of the top shows on TV are "CSI" types, this can be seen as any kind of a good idea by anyone with a couple of brain cells to rub together. And the fact that it's so pervasive -- I've heard it from all kinds of people -- just makes me want to scream. And then there's the authoritative manner in which they make the pronouncement... as though they've just finished up a seminar in criminal law, and would like to give me the benefit of their education.

    I guess I'm just saying that I'm glad some people have elected not to own guns. Those who do, and still believe ideas like this, seriously need to get some real education on the matter.

    Posted by Tom, 6/20/2008 7:48:34 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    Hope & Change vs Land of the Free

    This guy sums up my opposition to Obama pretty well.

    Posted by Tom, 6/19/2008 6:16:43 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    The will to live

    This post is profound and sobering:

    One day last winter, I pulled on my boots, buttoned up my coat and went out into the snow to fill the birdfeeder. We kept the seed in a large bucket in the garage and when I went to scoop some out to carry to the feeder, I noticed that the supply was running low. It was dark in the garage and even darker in the bottom of the bucket. I tipped the bucket a little and was startled to hear a faint skittering noise inside. I looked in...a brown field mouse was trapped down at the bottom of the bucket! My first surprised thought was "eek!", quickly followed by "awwww, cute! mousie!" And as I squatted down next to the bucket to get a better look at my new furry friend...

    ...the mouse growled at me.

    It was a small sound, barely audible, and if the world hadn't been so hushed and muffled under its thick blanket of snow, I might not have heard it. I went very still, holding my breath - I heard it again.


    Not too long ago, Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina ran an emergency response drill. A campus police officer posing as a gunman burst into a classroom, where he proceeded to hold the students hostage and terrorize them with a fake gun for 10 minutes. Not one of the students fought back. Not one thought to pick up a chair or a desk, or even a book, to defend themselves. They all lined up against a wall and passively waited for death.

    One of the students said, "I was prepared to die at that moment." Several students say they considered leaping from a window.

    My mouse had more courage than this. Against insurmountable odds, it growled at me and prepared to fight, even to its death. The college students who meekly bared their throats to those who wanted to rip them out are dead already - they just don't know it.

    The will to live is life.

    How very sad for the human race, that we're raising generations of people who have no will to live. This is what we get for trying to turn the world into a child-safe environment with padded walls and safety nets everywhere: people -- ADULTS -- utterly incapable of functioning in a life-or-death crisis, and simply giving up, mere sheep for the slaughter.

    That euphemism, by the way, has more meaning for me now. While in Australia, I witnessed a sheep being slaughtered. The most disturbing part of the whole thing was how calm the sheep was. It wiggled a bit while being moved into position, but only because it couldn't find its balance. Once it had been laid down, it stopped struggling at all. It just laid there waiting for its throat to be cut, with the butcher's knee on its shoulder and hand on its head. I wonder if this is what the Jews had become when they were being loaded onto boxcars.

    I once read the story of a soldier who'd been in a fair number of life-or-death fights. He said that weapons and training were pretty important, but in the end, victory usually goes to the one who wants it the most. This is what the trainers mean by "combat mindset".

    Life is and should be a struggle. If we don't contend, challenge, defy, and wrestle, we don't live.

    Posted by Tom, 6/18/2008 7:05:55 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Yes, some do "get it"

    Here's a newspaper and sheriff who "get it", and were bold enough to say so:

    Fuel Prices have become so oppressive that Sheriff Terry Maketa has no option but to park his patrol cars. In 2000, the sheriff's department budgeted about $160,000 a year for fuel. This year, with driving reductions in place, Maketa expects fuel costs to exceed $700,000. Drive all night, and costs would approach $1 million this year.


    The idle patrol cars mean county residents need to take more personal responsibility to protect themselves, their children and their properties - a better system of genuine public safety. This may come in the form of dogs, fences, alarms, better locks and doors, weapons training, neighborhood watch organizations, family curfews and a variety of other lawful options for personal protection. Maketa has long advocated that citizens obtain concealed weapons permits, explaining that police can't be everywhere.

    The energy crisis demands that individuals rely more upon themselves, and less upon third party oil dictators, public utilities, and roving law enforcement. In that sense, at least, the high cost of fuel may strengthen us all.

    Bonus: the newspaper even comes out against higher taxes...

    The sheriff's department can't afford to cruise. And no, it's not evidence of a need for new taxes. Citizens have their own tanks to fill. Instead of getting raises, they're getting pink slips. They cannot afford to have officers burning fuel nonstop at $4-plus a gallon. Maketa should be applauded for acknowledging this.

    Now if only more local media and governments could follow this fine example.

    Posted by Tom, 6/17/2008 8:01:21 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Monday, June 16, 2008

    Six and a half minutes

    Minutes of horror as Turlock father beats, kills his son

    Six-and-a-half minutes.

    Six-and-a-half minutes for two men to try to stop a father from beating "the demons" out of his two-year-old son in the middle of a dark country road. Six-and-a-half minutes for a young woman to crouch in her car and watch in helpless shock. Six-and-a-half minutes for a police officer to land in a helicopter, run across a cow pasture, and shoot the man squarely in the forehead.

    Six-and-a-half minutes of horror.

    ...six-and-a-half minutes that could have been six-and-a-half SECONDS if just one of the onlookers had been carrying a gun, instead of waiting helplessly for a cop to show up with one. The little boy might still be alive. But of course, the legislators of the State of California, in their infinite wisdom, have seen fit to make legally carrying a gun a rather difficult proposition. I hope they're sleeping well tonight.

    Actually, no I don't. I hope they're plagued by hellish nightmares. I'm sure the witnesses are. I wonder if any of them wishes they'd have had better tools available to put a stop to it.

    Posted by Tom, 6/16/2008 8:36:33 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    Year of the Masquerade

    This year's elections are starting to look like a costume party, from where I sit in the cheap seats. First we have Obama, the leftist anti-gunner trying to look like a centrist who's "reasonable" on 2nd Amendment issues. Then there's McCain, the Democrat trying to look like a Republican, and Bob Barr, the Republican trying to look like a Libertarian. I suppose Barr's simply the natural response to Ron Paul, the libertarian who spent all that time trying to look like a Republican. New York DA Arthur Branch dressed up as a real person and tried to convince us his name is Fred Thompson (as if). And let's not forget Hillary Clinton, who was trying to pass as a woman.

    Yeah, I went there.

    Looking over the field, Obama scares the bejeebers out of me. It's not because he's black (I voted for Alan Keyes in one election or another). It's because he doesn't seem to see any problem that doesn't need the "help" of a command-and-control government program. Reading through his website makes it sound like he's running for CEO of a mutual fund, not president of the country, with all this talk of "investing" in this or that. The problem is, true investing generally results in an objectively measurable and easily quantifiable return, whereas government programs need "studies" to guess at how much "return" was actually generated. When it's government spending tax dollars, "investing" is simply a euphemism for "pissing it away". Add to this Obama's horrid record on gun issues and his pathetic attempts to whitewash his image in that arena, and he's just not the guy this gun-totin' redneck wants in the driver's seat.

    Bob Barr probably won't matter to me, because he probably won't be on the ballot in Oklahoma due to our ballot access laws. That leaves McCain, who I've already complained about many many times. I don't like the man. He's just as much a command-and-control guy as Obama. The only real difference is what he wants to command and control. Fortunately (or unfortunately), he seems to want to push foreigners around at least as much as citizens, so his attention will be divided. His record on guns and other individual freedoms is not as bad as Obama's, but still sucks. And of course, he wants to turn Iraq into the next Korea, with entrenched military presence until the end of the age.

    If I were a betting man, right now I'd put 5 bucks on McCain winning. Obama's supposedly got "the young people" fired up. Pshaw. We've heard that from every Democratic candidate for decades, and the fact is that the young people don't pull their heads out of yesterday's bong water long enough to show up at the polls. Obama's ticked off women voters with his sexist attacks on Hillary (yeah, I made one above, but then I'm not running for president), and rural voters with his talk of our bitterness and clinging to hokey religions and ancient weapons, not to mention the good blasters at our side. And I think Obama's got an uphill battle going for the over-50 set. Baby boomers have more veterans than most age groups, and more people who remember John McCain the war hero. This leaves Obama with those folks in the 25-50 age range who haven't yet been horrified by his wife's (Obamamama?) disturbing rants. I don't think there's enough big-city liberals in the country to overcome the numbers McCain will have going for him.

    And let's not forget that the presidential elections proverbially come down to a "race to the middle". McCain's already there, straddling the fence. He doesn't have to move anywhere. Obama's got to come all the way out of the Socialist Paradise of the Watermelon People (green on the outside, red on the inside), cross the River of Aging Hippie Tears, and go through Big Laborland, just to be within a stone's throw of the middle.

    What am I doing? Haven't decided yet. As I see it, my choices are either A) abstain from voting, or B) hold my nose (very tightly) and vote McCain. Not that it'll matter. Oklahoma will go McCain over Obama in a landslide -- McCain's people probably already have an electoral map up on the big board with Oklahoma inked in as a "sure thing". The only question is, how much does Obama scare me?

    UPDATE: This guy sees it exactly the opposite of the way I do.

    Posted by Tom, 6/15/2008 1:11:12 PM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, June 14, 2008

    Way back when... 2000, when I was plotting my escape from the Land of Mordor (aka "Detroit"), one of the places I briefly considered, on the basis of available tech jobs, was Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Now that the town is completely underwater, I'm glad I didn't choose it.

    I just hope St. Louis is built high enough to keep O-Dawg's little feet dry when the floods move his way.

    Posted by Tom, 6/14/2008 7:04:31 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    What a difference

    Today was my first day carrying in my new Galco F.L.E.T.C.H. holster, and I gotta say it's amazing. It was extremely comfortable, stable, and sits perfectly on my hip. As I previously imagined, the two widely-spaced belt loops made a considerable difference in keeping the gun from flopping around as I walked, as compared to the single loop behind the holster body that my other holsters have. It makes me wish I could go back in time 10 years, grab the old me by the shirt collar, and demand for my own good that I get a "real" holster instead of screwing around so long with the cheap crap.

    Of course, the experience was not without some pain. When the holster arrived yesterday, it was like a new baseball glove, only worse. I tried to shove the gun into it, only to have it hang up halfway in. It took several attempts to get the gun properly seated, at which point I figured I was done and looped it through my belt. Then I attempted a practice draw and pulled my belt up so high I gave myself a wedgie.

    Finally lowering myself to reading the directions that came with the holster, I discovered that it needed to be worked by hand for a short while (in practice, about an hour) before it would loosen up enough to manage a respectable draw. Sort of. I kept after it, and while today I couldn't have won any quick-draw competitions, I was reasonably confident that I could actually get the holster to let go of the gun. And now at the end of the day, it's breaking in enough to where I think it's going to work pretty well.

    Posted by Tom, 6/14/2008 5:36:33 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    TV Wars

    One of the things that's a constant source of tension around my house is the topic of what to watch on TV. Chances are, if Mrs. Curmudgeon gets hold of the remote, 99% of the time the TV is tuned to HGTV or TLC, whichever one is showing the latest home shopping/remodeling/decorating program. These were fun for me for a while, but after watching the 347th couple with the one partner who has to be dragged kicking and screaming through the process, or couple with completely unrealistic expectations, or surprise reveal that completely upsets someone, I'm pretty much done with this crap. These shows really don't give the viewers that much information or instruction on home decorating, so I can't even view them as educational.

    My personal favorite type of show to watch is stand-up comedy. Mrs. Curmudgeon almost universally despises it. A good measure of the balance of power in our house is the fact that when she gets the remote, it goes to "morons shopping for houses", and when I get the remote, it goes to "anything but stand-up".

    The fact is, stand-up makes me happy. First, it's funny (usually), and that generally helps in the happy department. Yes, some of it is raunchy or off-color. OK, a lot of it. But that doesn't change the fact that it's funny, and I don't care how grumpy I am, if something can get me laughing, I'll be in a good mood in fairly short order.

    Second, good stand-up speaks the truth courageously. Observational humor takes something we've all seen or done, and looks at it in a new light. It re-examines our prejudices and assumptions. It points out our flaws and challenges us to overcome them. And it speaks the truth even when the truth is especially painful. Someone once said that all comedy has an element of tragedy, and this is especially true in acts like Christopher Titus, who draws on the dysfunctionality of his family relationships for material. It's obvious in some segments that the memories he discusses are still a source of fresh hurt, but he talks about them anyway. He even wraps up his act by saying that it's better and cheaper than therapy.

    Finally, good stand-up is philosophical. Heck, half of the collection of beliefs I'd call my "philosophy of life" is cribbed from stand-up acts. I'm not joking. From Greg Behrendt's "You Must Rock" (about living your life to the fullest) to Chris Titus' line "come down off your cross, use the wood to build a bridge, and GET OVER IT" (about working through, rather than wallowing in, your history), there's something more than just a few good yuks in every comedy act worth mentioning. There's always something to walk away with and chew on for a while. Jeff Foxworthy tells us to own our inner redneck -- in fact, be proud of him. And where Foxworthy talks the talk, his buddy Larry the Cable Guy walks the walk.

    I guess what I love about good stand-up is the same thing I love when I love other forms of entertainment -- it's multilayered. It has something for immediate consumption, and something to digest. There's the immediate silly stuff like Jim Carrey and the delayed cerebral humor like Stephen Wright. The worst stand-up is the stuff I laugh at and then forget. The best is when, years later, I'm still remembering it and either chuckling about it or contemplating it.

    As for my television woes... thank God for DVR.

    Posted by Tom, 6/13/2008 6:16:05 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, June 12, 2008


    Reminds me of a movie I once saw... (good movie, you should rent it).

    'Warcraft' Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing 'Warcraft'

    Posted by Tom, 6/12/2008 5:42:38 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, June 8, 2008


    Today Mrs. Curmudgeon and I went shopping for clothes for our Alaska trip. The folks running the excursions we're going to be taking warn that we should not wear cotton clothing, and instead should have layers of synthetics. Cotton, as you may know, soaks up sweat and water and keeps you cold.

    We started at Sportsman's Warehouse, then went to Bass Pro Shop, then went to Academy Sports. We checked out stuff by Under Armor, which is apparently all the rage these days, but were somewhat put off by the prices. Sixty bucks for a shirt seems rather excessive. Similar store and knockoff brands were less than half the price, which makes me think a lot of the price was wrapped up in that little UA logo. Bass Pro had some Columbia items on clearance, so I snagged a nice pair of nylon pants instead of the store's "Redhead" brand.

    Since my clothes shopping goes considerably faster than hers, I had plenty of time to check out other stuff in the stores, and spent a great deal of time pawing through the holster selection... such as it was. It strikes me that if someone really wanted to set up a nice little boutique shop, a gunleather store would be awesome. The internet is all fine and dandy, but a holster shop where you could browse a nearly-complete selection of Galco, Don Hume, Bianchi, and others would be great. There's far too much shelf space being given over to Uncle Mike's holsters, which are the epitome of "you get what you pay for". Sadly, the higher quality holster selections are usually limited to a few models of Glock, 1911, and maybe some S&W J-frames. I don't mean to complain, but surely one of these multimillion-dollar stores could stock a decent selection?

    Anyway, beyond the holster selection, another thing that bothers me about the first two stores is the godawful amounts of camouflage this and that. Camo clothes, camo coolers, camo shot glasses, camo sunglasses, camo hats, camo shoes, camo wristwatches... it's insane. Seriously -- if you're not hunting or going to war or playing paintball, why would anyone think camo is appropriate attire? Sportsman's Warehouse is the worst offender, with only a tiny selection of "normal" clothing. Bass Pro Shops are much better in that regard.

    That said, Bass Pro Shop has two other flaws that make me hate shopping there: first, they have these people pressure-selling vacations and crap right near the checkout lines, so you have to listen to this intense sales pitch as you're waiting to get rung up. And second, as if to enhance the torture of the high pressure sales, the checkout lines are always clogged and slow as molasses. The minute they institute self-checkout, it'll improve the experience 100%.

    Gripes notwithstanding, we did manage to survive and pick up some gear for the Alaska trip. We each have a piece or two to find yet, but there's plenty of time.

    Posted by Tom, 6/8/2008 5:21:21 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, June 5, 2008

    Who says...

    ...shooting's not for girls?

    Mrs. Curmudgeon clearly needs a setup like this. Mama Curmudgeon too.

    Posted by Tom, 6/5/2008 5:23:47 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Welcome to the Jungle

    The old Guns & Roses tune comes on. Hear the thunderous guitar intro, speaking of an approaching storm. Look at the bar... loaded with more weight than I've ever moved. More than my body weight. More than I've ever weighed, even at my fattest. A good 10 pounds over last week's personal best. Crap that's a lot of weight.

    Stop thinking and just do it. Feet in position. Imagine the lift. Stop. Sweat in my eyes. Take care of that.

    OK, feet back in position. Axl Rose screams somewhere in the distance. Down. Hands on the bar -- double overhand grip, cuz that's how I roll. Head up. Back straight. Butt down. Deep breath.


    Heels push through the floor. Bar comes up, scrapes over my kneecaps. No pain, no gain. Locked. Down again. That wasn't so bad. I love deadlift day.

    4 reps to go. Settle the bar. Butt down. PULL.



    Last rep. Body feels good. Fingers going numb. Re-adjust grip. Wrap thumbs over fingers. PULL. Left hand losing it. Got it, but hurry the hell up. Locked out. Down again -- stay under control.

    The Animal within snarls, then roars victory over its adversary. Wait, did I do that out loud?

    Welcome to the jungle.

    Posted by Tom, 6/5/2008 4:37:46 AM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, June 1, 2008

    New links

    I added some links in the sidebar for guns and ammunition. I'm especially interested in finding places where I can buy practice ammo in bulk and on the cheap. Cheap is of course a relative term these days, but I'm thinking .45 ACP for under $.30/round. So far the only stuff I've seen is that steel-cased Wolf ammunition that the Russkies make. I've never used it, but I hear it can't be reloaded, which kind of seems like a waste even though I don't reload. Anybody know where I can find some brass-cased stuff at or near the price I'm looking for?

    Also, I'm trying to remember the name of some outfit that used to send me catalogs regularly. It might be Sportsman's Guide, but I don't think so. I keep thinking the name had something vaguely military-sounding in it, and the words that pop into mind are "brigadier" or "cavalier" or something. It was a place that sold ammunition in GI surplus ammo cans... you'd get a can full of loose ammo in whatever caliber you wanted, and it seemed like it was pretty cheap. They also had a bunch of really ugly surplus camo clothing from various countries.

    Posted by Tom, 6/1/2008 6:53:25 AM (Permalink). 6 Comments. Leave a comment...