Thursday, November 30, 2006

Aargh, I hate being sick

Which I have been for a couple days now (yes, including while in court yesterday, which did suck mightily indeed).

Of course we have a 4 year old in pre-kindergarten, so we've got hot and cold running plagues in the house; but amazingly enough I managed to avoid being REALLY sick for the best part of the past year.

I think I've got some kind of sinus infection; pretty mild though, unlike my yearly amjor sinus hell weeks. I had a slight fever yesterday, and theres been some joint pain, oversensitivity to light and noise etc, and of course, the sinus pressure and drainage, but no nausea or anything.

I s'pose it's been complicated by the fact that I'm in the middle of a major insomniac episode. Last night was the first time I'd slept more than two hours at a time in about a week.

So pretty much just bleagh, sneeze, blagh sniffle, blagh.

Fun Little Quiz

Found this one at Ride-n-shoot "Gun Nut Quiz":

David E. Petzal's Gun Nut Quiz
Your score is: 20 out of 20
There were a few trick questions; but I recognized them as trick questions.

Scatology

Unc is going through the fun of potty training, and so are we.

Our youngest was 3 in September; and she was making progress on peeing in the potty for a while, but then she completely backslid. Oh she'll still sometimes go to pee in the potty, but most of the time she's perfectly happy to have that warm relief in her pullups.

Thing is, she just doesnt want to give up her diaper. She likes being able to crap in her pants whenever she wants to, and doesnt want to have to go potty.

I can sympathize I suppose; taking bathroom breaks when you REALLLY want to figure out Blues next clue must be a real inconvenience.

What she's coming up against though, is pre-school. She wants to go to pre-school next year like her sister (who'll actually be in Kindergarten next year), and she can't go if she's not potty trained.

You can see it like a little war inside her head "Donwanna use the potty... wanna go school like big girl, like my sister... but donwanna stop my diaper"

She's waking up dry most of the time these days; and if she wanted to use it, she'd have the control, she just doesn't want to. As far as she's concerned, things are jsut fine the way they are thank you very much, and ooops, I jsut crapped my pants, isn't that funny mommy.

On the one hand it's hilarious; on the other hand pullups are expensive, changing her all the time is a PITA, and of course there's the pre-school issue.

Ahh the perils and adventures of being a suburban dad

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I hate court, yet still I go

Chris, my parents, and I head to court tomorrow morning.

I hate court. Really, really, hate court. If I had my choice I would do everything ethically possible to avoid court. Court is not for nice people, and I really HATE having my name dragged through the mud.

But I can't avoid it without things getting worse, and therefore we go.

Once again I won't post any details, other than I wish this entire thing was already over.

That being said, please wish us luck and if you are so inclined, pray for us.

Mel


UPDATE:

Okay, that went a lot better than we expected. Not the absolutely best outcome that could have come about, but definitely good. We go back to court in January.

Saddling Up

So, a friend of mine posited the question, what would you have to do if you had to saddle up again; by which he meant you had to make a deployment, irregular or regular. What would you take with you, if you had a choice.

Assume two scenarios:

One: just you, any choice of weapons legally available to you within the means of a normal man (lt's say middle class to upper middle class) dedicating his entire financial worth to this project.

Two: You, and 3-7 other guys (for 4-8 total), presume limited availability of military hardware; such as security contracting companies have access to. Anything that's on the commercial market is fair game.

Presume you have time to train and condition, with the hardware you acquire, together as a team, before you have to deploy.

Those specific parameters are mine, not his; I chose them as seemingly reasonable for an excercise of this type.

He also posits a mission: After you have trained up, while awaiting deployment, your wife and daughter are trapped in central Mexico by a local "revolucion". They are in sometime communication, and are not being held by revolucionaries; but they will not be able to exit the area without armed escort, and possible direct force.

There have been border skirmishes between U.S. and Mexican troops and/or irregulars; and no governmental agency is willing or able to get them out (you could transpose this same situation to other AO).

Who and what do you do it with?

I'm game for this; could be fun eh.

Ok, first scenario, just me.

Primary weapon: Smith EBR M14 conversion, sage system, night force and an acog on QD mounts, plus BUIS, and an M6 (the big one, not the little one) on the rail with a QD. IR laser on the rail. A conversion sling (2 point, 3 point, 4 point switchable with QDs), and an LWS suppressor on a QD.

Sidearm: HK USP tactical, gemtech or LWS suppressor, M6 combo light with the IR laser.

10 spare M-14 mags (1 in the rifle), loaded up with 180gr Sierra Match King, and pouches. 4 spare mags for the USP (plus one in the pistol), 230gr .45 +p+/super hornady XTP loaded to just barely subsonic, with pouches.

Pop for a PVS7 (about 5 grand last I checked), or PVS14, a Dragon Skin, and a Blackhawk LBE setup, with a back frame (to lash the backup to, among other things), ass pack, and assault ruck with a 2 gallon hydration bladder.

Gerber multipro with toolkit, swamp rat camp tramp, a good set of dikes, a multi driver tool. a decent field spares kit with 2 of every pin, clip and spring, and a good cleaning kit with a couple punches.

20m braided spectrashield sheathed line, and 50m 550 cord, anchors, descenders, ‘biners. 50 zip ties of assorted sizes, 10 bungies of assorted size, 2 medium rolls hun-tape, 1 roll heat shrink electrical tape. 12 assorted cyalumes, pen pop flares, mini flares, two micro strobes, and 4 small personal lights. 2 full spare sets of batteries for everything. Baby wipes, simple green wipes (there are alcohol wipes and betadine wipes in the EFS kit), a bicycle inner tube, superglue, extra heavy duty aluminum foil, some microfiber cloth, baggies bags, rubbers or heavy duty baloons, clear nail polish, q-tips, some pencils WITH erasers, needles and thread (other than in the med gear), spool of fine safety wire, Lighter fluid (the ronsonol kind) or another flammable solvent, a half dozen disposable cigarette lighters, and a zippo

I can think of about a million little things that you’d absolutely kill for when you need’em, and you need’em more often than you’d think.

I’ll leave out the details of nav, comm, med gear, and food; suffice it to say I won’t go anywhere without an EFS kit, a double stuffed trauma pack plus SAM splints, my serious meds kit, a solid GPS, 2 short range comms and a long range comm plus spares (the choice varies depending on mission requirements, and support), and 5 days of minimally decent high calorie field food, plus about 15 energy bars, and 20 packets of gatorade.

Total load out, about 100 lbs including the weight of the food, water, LBE, sack, pack, and armor; most of which I had at one time, and had no problem with for short hauls (meaning less than 10 miles. You can generally handle about 1/3 your body weight for extended periods of time, and a lot of that weight is in consumables). Of course I’ll need a year to get back to where I can do it again, and I’ll need two solid knee braces, and a solid collapsible walking staff (cold steel and others make good weaponised examples).

Then give me a good 4x4 ATV, with a backrest pack setup, and front and rear rack setups; loaded up with ammo (say another 10 mags for the M-14), a shotgun as below, fuel, water, and spares... oh and a field genset, storage battery, a winch, a compressor, and another longer range com with a longwire setup. Seal the tires up with green slime. Give me a field bivvy with a breakup net over it for me and the quad. I may need to worry about transporting the rescuees back, so maybe throw in a trailer.

Another option would be a disguised 4x4. Stick all your Mil gear in with old tools, regular camping gear, etc.. and strap various items to undercarriage or under bodywork.

If I can pick out 3-7 other guys, things change completely. I’ve based this on hardware I own or can easily acquire, legally, within the next few months. If I have access to military hardware things change substantially, but not completely.

I’m thinking of a 500 mile infil-exfil corridor here, from between brownsville and mission (holes a mile wide down there) and northern Ouaxaca; we’d never be able to do it on foot.

One guy with an ATV could cover that in a few days, but four or six guys in an obvious off roader or two (especially if we could mix a woman or two into the op) would be better.

If it were stable enough for regular border traffic to continue, I’d want to smuggle the gear in and cache it overnight, then cross at a regular crossing with the proper tourist permits etc…

You’d be surprised at how much crap you can conceal and disguise on a couple of off road rigs; especially if you take lots of bribing cash.

Second situation, you have backup. Now, I said if I had otherguys things changed completely, and I meant it. Let’s explore that here.

First step, training. I need guys who do not quit, ever, no matter what. A man is never defeated until he concedes defeat to himself. I know some folks who’ll do.

Assume 4 man team total (the most likely scenario actually, and the easiest to insert and support) including myself. Everybody crosstrains on comms, and medical; with two specialists in both (I’m well qualified in either, but I could use an update on both). Everybody crosstrains on demo, with two specialists. Everybody crosstrains in basic vehicle maintenance. Everybody crosstrains on basic spanish (or the language of choice for the AO), with two specialists. Everybody crosstrains on navigation. I want two fixed wing pilots (I’m one), and two rotorheads if I can get them.

Physical conditioning. Runs are great for young guys, but don’t do much for knock knees like me. I can walk all day if I have to (it hurts, but I can do it). I can walk for four hours with my 50lb little girl on my back, but I can’t run for five minutes even when I get my fat ass back down to fighting weight, or my knees will collapse. That means hiking, in mixed terrain and hot weather, with field loads, in good boots. Minimum 5 miles per day, up to 20 miles per day. Bicycling, and circuit training for strength and endurance. Good supplemental regimen in place.

Gear loadout is a bit different. Still presuming no access to non-civvy gear, I change the mix up some. Everybody gets substantially the same personal gear I mentioned, but the doubled items get cut down to one per person, and some of the single items get cut down to two for the whole team. For example I’d mix it up with One heavy med kit, one medium kit (and two personal kits of course) the guys not carrying the big meds haul extra ammo, food, and water; along with 5ks each of commercial plastic explosives, and detonators; and some civvy flashbangs.

With 4 guys, I change out the weapons a bit. First thing, we all get the same primary weapon, but in different configurations. 7.62X39 ARs, with an AK magwell and a piston upper (I just don’t like the AK). Two configured as entry guns, two as DM rifles. Yes, the round is marginal for DM use, but I want to be able to “field resupply” if possible.

Second, two shotguns as secondary weapons: SBS mossy 590 with the Knoxx CopStock folder, a breacher standoff, side saddle, surefire forend (cut to clear), a ghost ring setup, and an IR laser. Fold the stock and lash it to the pack frame. 20 reduced recoil 00 buck shells, 10 hornady SST slugs, and 5 breachers, plus pouches..

Third, we change the pistols to 9mm, again for field resupply. I think I’d stay with the USP, but switch to the 9mm version; and an extended threaded barrel. Otherwise a Sig P226, same type of barrel.

Why the emphasis on field resupply with 4 when I went all out on power with 1? Because with one guy operating alone, I’m doing every single possible thing I can do to avoid ever having to use ANY of my ammo; and I may be able to get away with it. With 4 guys, the liklihood of getting into an extended firefight of some kind is much higher, as is the lilihood of needing to provide suppressive fire etc…

Also, everyone still gets two short range comms, but there are only two long range comms in the personal packs total.

We organize as mutually supporting pairs; one entry gun with one DM gun; and those pairs never have both pilots, both medics, both linguists etc.. if possible. We designate a commander, an XO, one primary RTO, and one primary medic, with their alternates.

If we get six guys, the equation changes a bit more. I still like the weapons mix, but with six, I really need some heavier weapons. At that point I have to have an LMG of some kind (with an SMG, or assault carbine as a secondary weapon), and one of the guys should have a long boltie in something heavy, maybe a .338. Also, with six or more, I need at least two ‘naders, and some personal frags, and some flashbangs. The infrastructure load out is spread out more, but we still maintain double coverage on all items and specialties. Instead of six atvs we go to two custom jeeps, or land rover defenders.

Organizationally, we remaing in mutually supporting pairs, with a pair designated to remain as ready reserve consisting of the tactical commander, and a designated medic, who is also a reserve radio operator. We also designate an XO, an alternate medic, and an alternate RTO as with 4.

Eight is the maximum I’d want for something like this, and again we’d spread the infrastructure load out, but instead of double coverage on critical items, we go to triple coverage. At this point I want an MMG/GPMG for each vehicle. Also, we can change calibers back to standard if so desired because we can carry enough weight of metal with us that I’m not as worried about field resupply.

Some organizational notes on 8 people: At this level we organize into two fireteams of two mutually supporting pairs each team. Also, at this point we designate an S2, S3, and S4, and their assistants; as well as a designated medic, two alternates, the tactical commander and XO (the XO is probably the S3), and a dedicated RTO and two alternates.

Funny enough, all of this is still civvy legal in the US, but expensive as all hell. Honestly, if I had to do this without legal access to military hardware here in the U.S. I’d train up and gear up with everything but the mil weapons, then head down to the CZ and pick up what I need there.

Now, reader Ross posits a different scenario. It's Tuesday, you get notice of the problem today; you have til Friday to infil and make the grab, and say the rest of the weekend to exfil until the excrement is throroughly splattered by the rotating ventilation device.

Scenario three:

You have no budget but what is in your bank account (presume appx $5000), and no resources excepting what you have, or can scrounge from friends in that time.

Ok, that's a pretty good scenario.

One problem in applying it to me: If it ever came down to life or death, I have friends who can get me almost anything I need from the list above within a couple days. Of course I'm still fat and out of shape, and don't have time to train or build a team... but I've still got some of those friends I mention, and not only would they be willing to go with me, but I couldn't stop them if I wanted to.

But, let's presume for sake of argument we are talking about J. Random Gun Nut.

Now, assuming no budget but what you have in the bank, and no friends to acquire from or use for your team, THATs a more serious limitation; but you can get everything but the night vision and the ATV pretty easily and quickly, even with just the cash in your bank account.

I cut the load by about 50%, and pick up a used but reliable beater 4x4 or something similar. My primary weapon becomes an AK variant, with an ultimak, a folder, and an eotech; and I pick up the cheapest gen 3 viewer I can find. I stick everything in like regular camping and off roading gear and come in on a regular tourist permit as described above. If I can't get the toursit permit because of the hostilities, it's still pretty much trivially easy to get into mexico (I've done it on ATVs and dirtbikes a bunch of times).

If I can get three to five solid guys to go with me (and I know I can), and they can use their budget as well, I can still do the two 4x4 gig; and there are a couple of women I know who I'd want to ring along. They're both great backup, and great cover.

Now, heres a curveball for you; presume you have access to a boat in brownsville, that is large enough to take you across to the central mexican coast, with 4 ATV's. Have one guy offshore, running comms for you, and coming in for extraction; how does that change the equation?

UPDATE: Clarified the original mission, training, equipment parameters etc... and added the section about an "instant" mission.

Monday, November 27, 2006

In a Clean, Neat, Military Manner

Just one little slip of the razor and...



Ooopsie, last time I had this haircut I was 19...

I WAS just trimming up a bit, when the shaver comb popped off and said shaver dug into my skull, and ouch.

Only one solution, and that's a huah, hot damn, that's right, high and tight!

also not far from the truth

not far from the truth

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A tradition continues

Last year, I bought my wife the first gun she ever owned, a Ruger SP101, 2-3/4" in .357.

Today, I continued that tradition with this, the first rifle she's ever owned (first of many):


It's an 1894c in .357, but we've got the one with the smooth (uncheckered) darker wood.

Oh, and I also got her one of these:
And tomorrow we're going to see them:


Should be a great day; for a great lady.

How to clean a Yugo Mauser 24/47

Step 1. Spray entire rifle, your whole body, your synthetic fabric clothing, and the driveway sealer with brake cleaner

Step 2. Have briliant idea, and take portable blowtorch to the metal, to melt cosmoline off

Step 4. Watch friends laugh at brilliant plan; while they clear the blast radius, and ready the fire extinguisher

Step 5. Get the camera, this oughta be fun

Step 6. Fail to resist the overwhelming urge to make a texas flame thrower with blowtorch and brake cleaner

Step 7. Arrange for replacement of that patio furniture... those potted plants were dead anyway

Step 8. Arrange for replacement of fire extinguisher, driveway sealer, and synthetic fabric clothing

If Only

Friday, November 24, 2006

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 18 - I'll give YOU a good stuffing turkey, and the whole meal to go with it

Today (actually, by the time I finish writing this, yesterday) is (was) thanksgiving, which to most of us mean turkey.

Hmmmmm turkey... and stuffing, and mashed potatos, and cranberry sauce and cobbler...

Oh yeah, that's some good stuff.

Now, we don't just eat turkey on thanksgiving; I'd guess we do them up once every couple of months, when it comes by on a major sale. A few weeks back a local market had them on sale for 44 cents a pound, so we picked up a couple. We ended up roasting one, and smoking the other while camping (and it was great).

I suppose we have a half dozen of them a year; and I could easily eat turkey twice a month. Also I love to make turkey, and turkey potato soup (I'll do that recipe shortly). I think turkey makes a much better poultry stock than chicken.

Now doing the turkey is pretty simple as far as I'm concerned; but somehow, some folks just can't seem to get it right. Theres not much worse than dry, or greasy turkey, and lumpy gravy.

Then of course there's the rest of the meal; and I don't care how good the turkey is, it's the SIDES that make a good turkey dinner.

The problem is, most people are still dong those cheezy sides from the canned candied yams label their grandmothers were making in the fifties.

No more, men; I shall show you the way.

First things first, what makes a good turkey dinner? What are the essential dishes you need to have?

Well let's list the basics:

1. Turkey - obviously
2. Gravy - You just can't have turkey without gravy... or at least I can't
3. Stuffing - I hate most peoples stuffing, so I always make my own
4. Mashed potatos - The best side dish ever; good for almost anything, but best with turkey
5. Sweet Potatos - I don't care for them, but most folks can't consider it thanksgiving without'em
6. Fresh bread - gotta have fresh hot rolls, cornbread, or both
7. Cranberry sauce - I'm from Boston, and 80% of the cranberries in the world are grown in MA
8. Dessert - Some say it's apple pie, but for my money, I'd rather have an apple cobbler


There are other dishes that some consider essential; but most of them are in that heinous category of onion, mushroom, and green bean casserole dishes made up by campbells soup company to sell more cans.

No... just no.

Now, I said we were gonna do the whole meal here; and we are; but the bread, cranberry sauce, and dessert are going to have to wait for our next recipes for REAL Women post, coming shortly; because they are Mels department.

The Bird

Ingredients:
18 -22lb turkey (smaller turkeys are acceptable, but the quantities change)
1lb butter
Seasonings:
Herbal medley
(4 tblsp fresh sage, finely chopped
2 tblsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tblsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tblsp fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tblsp fresh marjoram, finely chopped)

4 tblsp fresh coarse ground black pepper
Salt to taste
The Brine:
1lb salt
1lb brown sugar
2 cups malt vinegar
1 full bulb garlic, crushed
4 tblsp dried rosemary
4tblsp dried oregano
2 gallons water
10 lbs of ice
The Injection/Basting liquid:
1 cup white wine
2 cups turkey stock
4 oz butter
6 tblsp herbal medley as above
1 tblsp fresh coarse ground black pepper
Salt to taste (depends on the bread type, and your stock)
Preparation:
First step, the brine. Brining the bird makes sure that it stays moist, and it intensifies the flavors. Really you can make a brine out of just salt, and water; but adding another acid, some herbs and spices, and some sugar to balance out the sourness (the purpose of the salt is to concentrate flavors, not for the sour flavor).

For this brine, we take a gallon of water in a six quart pot, and heat it up to just below simmering, then dissolve the salt, sugar, and all the herbs and spices. Take the brine off the heat and let it steep for a few minutes; then dump in enough ice to fill the pot, and let it cool down below the danger zone (bacteria love 75 to 120 degrees); stirring frequently to ensure nothing precipitates out or clumps up.

Prep your brining vessel by washing thoroughly, and making sure the turkey will fit, with enough room left over for the brine. I used a 32 quart cooler; but a large stock pot, or a five gallon bucket will do the trick.

Clean the bird, remove the neck, gizzard etc... pull them out of their bags, and put them back in the main body cavity of the bird.

Dump some ice in the bottom of the brining vessel, then rest the bird in the vessel. Pour the brine over the turkey; then add enough ice to fill the vessel. Store in a cool dry place overnight; you want the bird to brine for at least 8 hours, and 12-24 are better.

The reason for the ice is to lower the brine temperature, not just to avoid cooking the bird, but to keep the brine out of the bacterial danger zone. This is one of the reasons the cooler is a good choice.

Once the bird has brined, pull it out, and dry the bird off with paper towels. Rest the bird for a few minutes until it comes up close to room temperature.

Prepare your herbs, and takeabout half of them, and half the pepper, soften half the butter, then mix the herbs and butter together into a soft paste.

Turn your oven on to bake at 500 or 550, to preheat while you prep the bird.

Position the bird in the roasting pan, with the neck and innards resting on the bottom of the pan.
Slide your hand up under the skin of the sides and breast of the turkey, being careful not to tear it. It's easy to gently separate the skin from the meat. Once the skin has been loosened, take handfulls of the butter and herb paste and thoroughly rub the meat in with the paste under the skin. Leave a fair bit of butter under the skin. Then rub the entire top and side surface, including in the creases, with the butter herb mixture. The skin should be COMPLETELY coated with butter and herbs, like a thick layer of frosting. Then sprinkle the remaining herbs and pepper over the top of the skin. Sprinkle salt on to taste.

When the birds skin is prepped, it should look dry on the outside; and you should barely be able to see any bare skin.

Next, prep your basting liquid by heating the liquid above 140, but below simmering, and dissolving/mixing all the ingredients together. Let them steep for five minutes.

Now you have a decision to make, stuffed or unstuffed.

If the bird isn't going to be stuffed, you want to pour about half the basting liquid into the body cavity, and half the remianing butter. If the bird IS going to be stuffed, then rub the inside of the bird with butter, and pour maybe a cup of the basting liquid into the cavity, then stuff. Either way, break up the rest of the remaining butter into the pan, pouring the rest of the basting liquid in around the bird.

Cover the stuffing or body cavity with a double layer of aluminum foil, and put the turkey into the 500-550 degree oven for 30-45 minutes; until the skin is just on the verge of being blackened.

At this point, you want to do your first basting, or injection, or both. If you inject, shoot the large muscles (breast, thighs), with about a cup worth of the basting liquid. Otherwise just baste as normal.

Turn the oven down to 350, and insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast; and set an alarm for 161 degrees if you can.

Don't touch the bird for about an hour, then baste/inject again, about every half hour.

You're going to roast the bird for about 35-45 minutes for every five pounds if the bird is un-stuffed; or about an hour for every five pounds if the bird is stuffed. The problem is, every bird is different, every oven is different, and every stuffing is different. The important thing is to get the internal heat up to 161 degrees; and get the stuffing over 140 degrees if it's stuffed.

Once the breast meat hits 161, you're going to want to turn the heat off, and cover the whole bird with foil; letting the meat coast up a bit, and rest for about 15 minutes.

After the meat is rested, check the temperature of the stuffing, with a probe all the way through the thickest part. If it hasn't hit 140 degrees, you're going to need to take it out of the bird and bake it until it does. YOU MUST GET THE STUFFING OVER 140 FOR AT LEAST 10 MINUTES, or there's a good chance of you getting salmonela.

If a pregnant woman is going to be eating, don't stuff the bird, it's not worth the risk (like eating unpasteurized cheese etc...). Also, a stuffed bird doesnt make as much gravy; but with a bird this big, with this much butter, gravy volume isn't exactly a problem.

Personally, I like to strip the breasts, wings, and thighs including all the connecting meat off the bird , and throw the rest into the pot. I strip all the usable meat off, but not too hard; saving it for soup, but still leaving a fair bit of meat on the bones for the stock. I also strip all the skin and loose fat off and throw it in the stock pot, along with the neck, and if no-one likes to eat them, the heart, liver etc.

Take your meat, soak it in the drippings, and place it on a platter for serving.

Next step, pour off the drippings, to make...
The Gravy

Ingredients:
Drippings (a 22 pound bird, prepared as above should produce between 4 and 6 cups)
1-2 cups cornstarch slurry (equal volumes of water, and fine cornstarch, mixed)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk (appx)
2 tblsp fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
Salt to taste (probably none)
Preparation:
Making a basic white gravy is pretty damned easy. In this gravy, you don't even need a roux; though instead of a cornstarch slurry, you could easily make a half cup, to a cup of blonde roux (depending on how thick you want it).

Pour the drippings into a pan large enough to hold all the liquid produced (at least a 2 quart pot), and add the cream. Mix the cream in thoroughly (I prefer using a hand mixer), and heat to just below simmering. You DON'T want to leave it unattended at this stage, it's probably going to boil over if it ever gets to simmering.

Add in half the cornstarch slurry, stirring in thoroughly, and heat for about five minutes while mixing thoroughly. Now, it's adjustment time.

If the mixture is too fatty, but still thin; add half the milk, leave it on the heat while you incorporate, and adjust again until the fat balance is right; then thicken with about half the remaining slurry.

If the mixture is smooth, but not fatty, just adjust the thickness with the slurry. Be careful when you're adjusting because cornstarch won't reach it's full thickening for at least five minutes on the heat, so you need to add the slurry, then thicken for five minutes, then adjust again.

Add the ground pepper in, and adjust the saltiness; if too salty, add more milk and cornstarch, if not salty enough, of course, add more salt.

This basic gravy goes great with...
Basic Stuffing

Ingredients:
2 lbs (or large dense loaves) stale bread
2 cups turkey stock
8 oz butter
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup shredded carrot (optional)
Seasonings:
4-8 tblsp herbal medley as above (to taste)
2 tblsp fresh coarse ground black pepper (to taste)
1 tblsp celery salt
1 tblsp garlic powder
1 tblsp onion powder
Salt to taste (depends on the bread type, and your stock)
Preparation:
Ok, so a basic stuffing is an easy thing. All you need is two pounds of stale bread, of almost any kind; but I think cornbread, rye, and sourdough do the best job. You need a dense bread, and crusty breads with a strong base flavor are preferred.

Take your stale bread, and cube it up into appx 1/2" cubes. Melt your butter and stir your herbs into it. If you are adding veggies, sweat them in with the butter at this stage.

Pour about half the butter herb mix evenly over the bread, and mix thoroughly; then spread the bread into a pan and toast it into the oven until just before the bread starts to burn. Basically to the level of dark toast; then let the bread cool.

When the bread cools, combine the rest of the butter herb mixture, and the turkey stock. Put the stuffing back into the bowl, pour the mixture over the bred and stir to combine. The bread should hold together, but still be lightly moist.

From this point you have two options. You can add another couple ounces of butter, and another 1/2 cup to cup of turkey stock, and then bake it outside the bird. You can use it as actual stuffing. You can take it and blend it into gravy, salads, anywhere you can imagine using stuffing.

Now, no matter what you choose, you're going to have too much stuffing for one bird. There's two ways to deal with that. One, you can just bake the rest in a pan, or you can do what I prefer. Leave the rest dry, heat it up in a pan, but don't fully bake it; then when the in-bird stuffing is done, fold the two together. You end up with a firmer texture, and a nice strong herbal flavor.
Fancy Stuffing

Ingredients:
2 lbs corn bread
1 lb smoked thick cut black pepper bacon
1 lb chicken apple sausage
1/2 cup turkey stock
1/2 cup cream
8 oz butter
1/2 cup softened cranberries from cranberry sauce
Seasonings:
4-8 tblsp Herbal medley as above
2 tblsp fresh coarse ground black pepper
Salt to taste (depends on the bread type, and your stock)
Preparation:
Ok, so a few months back, we did a 15lb roast turky stuffed with chicken apple sausage, smoked bacon, and cranberry stuffing; and DAMN it was good.

The stuffing was loaded with the same herb mixture as above; but the prep was a little different.

First, cube up the bacon, and saute 'til just lightly crisp. Then chop up the sausages into 1/2" or so chunks, and saute them in the bacon grease.

Next step, make a bacon grease corn bread with the pan drippings (we'll do that recipe later). You can also use a commercial corn bread, but taste it first, because you don't want a corn cake, or sweet corn bread, you want a standard savory cornbread.

Next step, melt your butter, cube, and toast the cornbread as above in the simple stuffing.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining grease, the remaining butter, the cubed bread, sausage, and bacon. Then mix the cream and turkey stock together, and fold it into the bread mixture; using enough to give a slightly damp but still firm texture.

Now stuffing is great, but no turkey dinner is "official" without...
The Potatos

Ingredients:
10 lbs russett potatos
1-2 lb butter
1-2 cups cream
1 cup gravy
Seasonings:
2 cups malt vinegar
2 tblsp fresh ground black pepper
4 tblsp herbal medley as above (optional)
salt, to taste
Preparation:

Peel and cube the potatos, into 1/2" cubes. Salt the water to almost the point of a brine, and add jsut enough to cover the potatos. Boil until very soft, drain, and then toss with the vinegar.

Cut up the butter into small cunks, and hand stir in half the butter, pepper, and if you want to, the herbs. Add half the gravy and half the cream in, and blend. Because potatos are different, it will take a varying amount of liquid and butter to reach the proper texture, so you want to slowly add and blend until the texture is correct. Finally, adjust the salt, pepper, and herbs to taste.
And finally for t'day, we have

The Sweet Potatos

Ingredients:
3-5 lbs white or yellow sweet potatos
1 cup cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 oz butter
Seasonings:
2 tblsp pure vanilla extract
1 tblsp fresh ground cinnamon (not cashia)
1 tblsp fresh ground nutmeg
Preparation:
Peel and cube the potatos, into 1/2" cubes. Lightly salt the water, and add enough to cover the potatos with hot water. Boil until very soft, then drain.

Melt the butter, and mix into the potatos. Add the brown sugar and spices to the potatos, and then blend; adding cream until the desired texture is reached.
Really, it's not hard. It took me longer to write all this stuff out, than it did to actually do the work of cooking it.

Tomorrow we'll finish the dinner, with the bread, cranberry sauce, and dessert.

And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 18 - I'll give YOU a good stuffing turkey (1)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 17 - REAL Coffee
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 16 - DTG (Damn That's Good) dip
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 15 - More Chocolate Than Cookie
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 14 - Millions of Peaches
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 13 - Mels 10,000 Calorie Butter Cookies
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving - And a bit of blatant fanservice

Happy thanksgiving y'all; and since I probably won't be posting much the rest of this week, here's a little teaser, some of the long awaited pics from our halloween party.



Aren't I a lucky man? This is what I'm thankful for.




For the anime fans out there:




For those of a more... agressive bent...




And for those of the other persuasion; my best friend making a complete ass of himself:




Oh and this is what I looked like this past halloween.




No, I wasn't really in costume, I was taking the girls trick or treating, and THAT is scarier than any monster; at least to a goblin or a liberal. Yeah that's it, my costume was "Chris the Liberal Slayer".

Oh and for those wondering, the badge is a bail enforcement badge, and those weird things around my neck and wrists are glow sticks. I must say, I lvoe my neighborhood. Not one person commented on the handcuffs or 1911.

Oh and theres a heck of a lot more pics from the party for those of you who are interested. Just check out "schoolgirl sexy wrestling" for a good laugh. It's worksafe, but questionable... No, we didn't set this up, but it happened and I certainly wasn't going to let this much potential blackmail material go undocumented.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An Open Letter to A Most Illiberal Liberal

To a liberal of my acquaintance:

It's not your core values I disagree with; it's pretty much every
concept you have about how those core values should be applied and
executed.

You seem to make all your judgements about the truth of something, not
by the actual facts, but the motives you assign to the people telling
you. Additionally you seem to ascribe nefarious, or malicious motives,
to anyone who disagrees with you.

I believe that you are wrong in almost every detail about political,
social, economic, and environmental law, governance, policy, and
actions. This does not mean I am stupid, ignorant, evil, selfish,
greedy; or otherwise; however because you ascribe positive motive and
intelligence to yourself, it logically follows (within your own mind),
that anyone who disagrees with you must either be ignorant, stupid, or
have negative motives.

This is perhaps the ultimate form of arrogance; though it runs rampant
on both the far left and the far right.

I must say, I don't consider you to be FAR left; you're far closer to the
middle than many I know; and I acknowledge that in general you have
good intentions. I simply believe that almost nothing you propose,
support, or believe in would have good results (or rather, good results
worth the tradeoffs required to get them).

Intentions don't matter very much in the real world; results matter. Bad
intentions with good results are better than bad results with good
intentions. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason, is better than
doing the wrong thing for the right reason(not that either are the best alternative).

Doing the wrong thing, for the right reason; is far worse than doing nothing at all.
I don't understand why leftists and other authoritarians don't seem to recognize this basic fact of life.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We've been through this before

35 - 0 to go to 7 - 3

Woot! Woot I say!

With the Jets losing today, it's all but mathematically certain that the Patriots will take the division.

Tonights San Diego - Denver game should be interesting; and the entire country is looking towards Dallas right now to see if they can knock the Colts off the undefeated mark (doubtful, but with Dallas you never know).

Either way, It is also all but mathematically certain that either Denver or San Diego will take their division; and the other will get one of the wild card slots. The race for the second slot though is getting more complicated, with Kansas City going past the Radiers, the Jets going down to 5-5, and Jacksonville going up against the Giants tomorrow night at home. The Giants are, by a bit, the better team; but I wouldn't count the Jags out, so we may see a three or even four way race for the second wildcard slot as the season runs down.

Whoever wins in Denver tonight will also be tied with New England for third in the AFC, behind Indy and Baltimore; which funny enough puts pretty much the entire top half of the AFC ahead of the NFC, with only Chicago having more than six wins (that should change tonight or tomorrow though, with Seattle at San Francisco; or the Giants - Jags game). In fact, it's entirely possible both Seattle and New York will be at 7 - 3 tomorrow night - of course if by some miracle SF wins, and the Jags pull it out past the Giants, then yeah that would be bad for the NFC as a whole.

Oh, and in case anyone was paying attention; the AZ Cardinals continue to be the worst team in the NFL, though Oakland, Tennessee, and Detroit are all making a valiant effort to claim that coveted title.

The Cardinals are in fact the oldest organized football franchise; and are now, as they always have been, one of the worst. Thus far, the Cardinals have played 1151 games in their 86 year NFL history (they were founded in 1898, 22 years before joining the NFL); winning only 451 of them; for the worst winning percentage (.392) of any team other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at .390).

Up until this year the worst team historically was generally considered the New Orleans Saints, but the recent reversal of the saints fortunes has put them at least part way over the top of the Cardinals with a 244-366 record for a .400 win/loss percentage.

There is some debate as to which team really is worse, because the Cardinals HAVE won their divison four times; and during the pre-superbowl era the Cardinals did win two NFL championships; neither of which the Saints can claim (2 division championships, no conference championships, no superbowls).

Also, the Cardinals have had more over .500 seasons, and a greater percentage of over .500 seasons than the Saints. Unfortunately, their last season over .500 was in 1998 (9-7 with a first round playoff loss); and the last before that was 1984.

In the superbowl era, the Saints have had six playoff appearances, the Cardinals only five; and both teams only have one playoff victory. The next worst team, the Buccs, has had 14 playoff appearances including six wins, in 30 years; and has actually won a superbowl.

Yes, they really are that bad.

UPDATE: Well, the Cowboys (and the Chargers too) brought their game today, and there are no longer any undefeated teams in the NFL.

It didn't suck

"It" referring to the new James Bond filem, "Casino Royale".

So,

The good:

Lots of great action, and very little cheese. Other than a couple of the fight sequences being somewhat Jacky Chanish (awesome physicality, just a little unreality); the action of this film is gritty, dirty, and entirely believable. Without trying to wow with big fancy effects or gadgets, this is one of the best straight action films I've seen in a long while. The freerunning sequence in the beginning of the film is mindblowing, and still believable at the same time. I never said to myself "no way could they do that".

The pacing of the film is absolutely relentless; though it's over two hours long (2:24 actually), you never notice it; and I don't think more than five minutes goes by without an action piece.

Better though, this film marks a return to the Bond of the books. James is hard, cold, angry, a sociopath... This is James Bond, looking like Hoagie Carmichael, but with a cruel smile; and a comma of hair that never quite stays in place.

Oh and one more for the fans of the book; the movie is without doubt the truest to the book Bond movie yet made; and I hope there are more in this vein. In fact, I wouldnt necessarily take exception to remaking the original movies, in the order written by Fleming, IF they would keep to the books.

The Bad:

Dialogue? Was there any, I didn't notice? Story, plot, not so much. Of course in the original book, there wasn't very much either; it was really an overlong short story. The pacing of the movie didn't really allow for any story, and real character development etc...

Also, the editing of the movie was somewhat irritating; with a lot of odd camera angles, bad jump cuts, and some chronological discontinuities that I found disorienting and distracting from the story. Several points were left hanging badly, where I felt there was resolution, that may have been cut out.

On a purely story front, I think there was a LOT chopped out, and a lot that could have been done that wasn't taken advantage of.

The Ugly:

Daniel Craig. No, he himself is not an ugly man; in fact he was chosen for how good he looks with his shirt off; and the physicality of his part here is amazing.

The problem with this James Bond is simple: Daniel Craig has all the personality, charisma, charm, and presence, of dimensional lumber.

They didn't give him much to work with; and he didnt do much work with what they gave him. At no time did I ever feel the character as a live human being through his dialogue. The only real spark he had, was when he was showing the cruel cold side of James. Perhaps this was intentional; an effort to reinforce the characterization of Bond the sociopath, but I don't think so; I don't think Craig is that good an actor, and I think if he was, he would have done a better job of conveying that sense.

Overall, the movie wasn't bad; it was a typical action movie, and about middle of the road for Bond films. Better than all the Roger Moore pics; far better than the Dalton movies (though Dalton himself wasn't bad) or the excerable OHMSS (which should have been one of the best movies, it was one of the best books; and Diana Rigg is awesome, but the writing and acting of everyone else was awful), and even better than the last couple of Connery films (I don't count Never Say Never Again, it never happened, do not speak of it again).

Actually, if craig had even a bit of the charm of charisma of either Connery or Brosnan, this movie would best all but Connerys first four (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball), or perhaps even the first three (thunderball had great moments, but isn't exactly great when taken as a whole); though of course Craig can't hold a candle to Connery.

I like the leaner, more stripped down production, less gadgetry and gimmicks, more action, and more real James Bondfrom the books; I don't like Daniel Craig. I won't say he was awful, because he wasn't; but he wasn't great. Daniel Craig isn't a star, he's a good action man who worked cheap in comparison to Brosnan. I predict he will pull a Dalton here, and we'll see another Bond in two movies (the next movie is already in production).

Oh, and I saw another movie today; one that I wholeheartedly and without reservation will tell you you should go watch right now if you are any kind of fan of noir, or neo-noir of the Tarantino/Rodriguez variety.

Lucky Number Slevin. Go watch it right now. I'm not kidding.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A fitness progress report

Well, as of the 11th of this month, it was two months since we started our diet; and a month into our excercise program.

I've got pretty good news, and some not so great news.

The pretty good news? I've menaged to drop 40 lbs. I'm down from 425, to 385 as of this morning. I've actually seen as low as 377, and I've been floating up and down around 380-385 for about two weeks. I'm consistently dropping around 4 pounds a week, actually as much as seven and as little as one averaged out; which I'm pretty happy with.

Mel has had somewhat less dramatic results, she's down to about 210, and has pleateaued for a while. She's been losing 1-1.5 pounds a week average; with as much as 4lbs, and as little as even money, with no weight gain excluding water retention.

We're not hungry all the time, we're happy and satisfied with what we're eating, and we don't much feel like we're on a diet; certainly we don't feel deprived... though Mel is sometimes irritated because she cant give in to her cravings for candy.

Even better news, I've lost almost 7% bodyfat; which I'm THRILLED with (just another 25% or so to go...)

The not so great news?

Well, our excercise plan has hit a stall; or at least mine has anyway, as Mel hsan't settled on a routine.

I went camping two weeks back; and on the trip I managed to bugger up my knees a fair bit; so I've had to limit my excercise somewhat. I'm easing back into it now.

The weeks that I was excercising heavily were very dramatic in my tone, my energy levels etc... though my weight loss was reduced. I think that the significant bodyfat loss in that time period, is primarily from the heavy excercise weeks, which again I'm very happy about.

Now I just need to get back into the regular moderate excercise.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Happy Feet review

I love animated movies. I think 10 times more creativity and time goes into animated movies and it shows. I do however prescreen animated movies for my kids as I am a fan of anime (wonderfully done and usually bloody Japanese animation) and more “adult” cartoons. I now have another reason to prescreen my movies: Ferngully is no longer the worst indoctrinationist kids’ movie I have ever seen. Happy Feet is.

But first, the good parts. It’s gorgeous and extremely well done, and the voice acting is flawless.

The not so good is that for a certain age group, the movie is extremely inappropriate. For one thing, one premise of the movie is that penguins attract mates through their singing. A few songs chosen: “Kiss” by Prince (you don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on, I just need your body baby from dusk to dawn”, and “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men. Yeah, slightly inappropriate there.

Now, the really bad.

At first, I thought the storyline was good. It was about a penguin (Mumble) who instead of sings (which he does badly), dances. For this he is shunned, and he eventually meets a group of penguins who accept him for this and actually think it’s kind of cool. I can deal with that kind of storyline.

But then Mumble returns to his colony, bringing his dancing buddies with him and subverting his fellow youth. The elders get really upset, because they think Mumble has created the new food shortage by offending the great Penguin God with his un-penguinlike dancing. Mumble doesn’t agree, so in order to prove it’s not his fault he goes in search of who is really causing the shortage of fish, which of course turns out to be overfishing by MAN.

He tries to chase the fishing trawlers but fails, and is spit up by the ocean onto a beach somewhere. He’s taken to an aquarium where he tries to talk to the humans but fails because they don’t speak “Penguin”. He eventually figures out that he can get the necessary attention with his dancing and the humans start “listening”. Somehow, by some miracle that the movie doesn’t explain, he is let back into the wild with a radio transmitter and finds his colony. He convinces all of them to dance to get the attention of the humans following his transmitter. The humans find him and the penguins dance for the humans who figure out, “oh, they’re trying to tell us something!” All of this is interspersed with film of real humans (very artfully done actually) and these real humans tape the dance and it gets sent around the world.

Because of this display of intelligence, the humans figure out the penguins are starving and due to overwhelming public support of the penguins’ cause, the U.N. BANS ALL FISHING, and eventually all eating of fish. And this is the great big happy ending, showing the penguins happily devouring THEIR fish.

Yes, it is and environmental nutjob and PETA wet dream. I wasn’t kidding.

Am I exaggerating? Unfortunately NO. I wish I was. I had high hopes for this movie. I’m just glad I pre-screened it before taking the kids.

Mel

Just call me Mel, everyone else does.

Tell it like it is

When Police Behave Criminally

I want you to watch something:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3GstYOIc0I


This is one of the clearest examples of criminal misuse of "less lethal" force that I have ever seen.

I watched the video; the kid shouldn’t have been tasered. No way that was a justifiable use of force. The security officer didnt use any escalation protocol, and it seems to me (and this is me talking, I’m FOR sensible profiling) to be a clear case of profiling; combined with an overreacting undertrained campus cop.

I may be wrong on this, but I believe that the UC system campus cops are in fact sworn law offficers in California; and also that in order to lawfully carry a taser in California you have to be certified in it's use, including escalation of force training.

Actually, I believe the Cal state standard uses "continuum of force" training, which is intended to emphasize the de-escalation of conflict;in addition to minimizing the use and degree of force.

The proper response to a beligerent subject is to follow a force progression/escalation protocol. They vary from organization to organization, but would typically look something like this, in escalating order of threat/response:

1. Verbal
a. Polite command
b. Strong command
c. Close Physical presence and strong command (optional)
d. Moderate physical reinforcement of command (including a hand on a shoulder or something similar, optional)

2. Physical restraint, compliance, or control technique (arm bars, wrist locks etc...)
a. Restraint of a subject by hand
b. Use of a compliance device in a restraint, compliance, or control technique (come alongs, batons used for compliance)

3. Use of direct physical force to provoke complaince through pain, with or without a device (striking with a baton, striking sensitive areas of the anatomy etc...)

4. Use of a less lethal pain complaince device such as pepper spray, stun baton, or taser (
May be used in some protocols before the use of direct physical force such as batons)

5. Use of lethal force

Now, if officer safety is ever in question, it is acceptable to progress to a higher level of response; but it did not appear that either the officer was in any way threatened; nor, other than beligerence was the victim (and yes, that's what he was), non-compliant. He was exiting the building, and reacted beligerntly to the officer putting a hand on his arm; however this is not even close to grounds for the officer to feel threatened, or to escalate their response.

They tased the guy four more times while he was on the ground, and clearly presented no threat. Even if he was beligerent, repeated tasing was inappropriate. They could have very easily subdued him (by that time there were four officers completely surrounding him) and restrained him if they believed there was really a threat.

They repeatedly tased him for refusing to stand up; when in fact many people are unable to stand after being tased, and certainly after being tased repeadetdly.

Not only that; but if you believe someone is a threat, you do not order them to stand up when you have them surrounded and subdued (that would simply give them greater opportunity to injure an officer), you have them lie flat on their stomach with their hands clear, and you restrain them.

The officers then repeatedly told the victim to stand up, and stop fighting them. At no time was the victim physically fighting back, or threatening the officers; he was merely beligerent and non-compliant.

Even if it isn’t profiling; this guy has a serious Barney Pfife problem. He shouldnt be allowed anywhere near any kind of weapon.

Some security officers are taught that Tasering isn’t all that serious; if they’re taught anything at all. They are dead wrong.

http://anarchangel.blogspot.com/2005/12/less-lethal.html

Less lethal force is never really a good option (it's there so you can avoid having to shoot someone, not simply for officer convenience); and because it’s “less lethal” or worse “non lethal”, lots of people think it’s acceptable to use it in situations that have not reached a significant level of force/compliance escalation.

Since the rise of electrical and chemical "less lethal" force response technologies and methodologies has become popularized (mainly in the last 15 years); the escalation of force beyond the verbal/simple restraint phase has skyrocketed. If this were simply because the "less lethal" technologies had given officers another option less serious than the use of a baton or a gun; then one would expect a corrseponding decrease in the use of those levels of force; however not only is there no decrease, there is a huge increase.

We grant the police a conditional monopoly in the use of legitimate force to enforce civil order; in exchange for the guarantee that they will behave lawfully, and enforce the law legitimately.

When the lawful representatives of the state excercise legitmate authority, they are protected under the law and by the full force of the state. When those agents act with no authority, or illegitmate authority, they are no longer granted the protection of the cloak of state.

These officers should be stripped of the protections offered them by the state; and should be prosecuted for assault with a deadly weapon. Quite simply, what they did was criminal; and it should be treated as such.

Yes, I know cops have a hard job. I train cops all the time, and I have quite a few cops in my family. Yes I know that they put their safety, and their wellbeing on the line every day. Yes I know they get huge amounts of stress and aggravation from the worst people in the world, who they deal with every day.

None of that excuses criminal behavior; or treating every person they meet like a criminal, or like the enemy.

The police have a monopoly on legitimate force against civil crimes; but when that force, or the authority they use that force with is illegitmate, they have commited a crime themselves; and they must be punished for it.

Quis custodiet ipso custodes?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Godspeed Milton


Milton Friedman, perhaps the most important economist of the 20th century after Hayek, and Von Mises; has passed on today from heart failure at the age of 94.

Though I don't fully subscribe to his monetarist and NAIRU theories; he was one of the most significant and influential proponents of free market economics ever; and certainly of this century. His thoughts on the nature of income and consumer choice are I think among the most important economic insights into behavior patterns and markets.
"I am a libertarian with a small l and a Republican with a capital R. And I am a Republican with a capital R on grounds of expediency, not on principle; but I think the term classical liberal is also equally applicable. I don't really care very much what I'm called. I'm much more interested in having people thinking about the ideas, rather than the person."

Happiness found in an unexpected place

Wow, life has been odd lately.

It feels like I haven't posted anything in ages, and there is a reason for that. I've been a bit busy preparing a court case, getting ready for Christmas, and generally getting things done. I am, in other words, completing my transformation into a Catholic housewife. There is, however, one problem with the situation

No one warned me this life would be so good.

I know writing about things going well isn't nearly as interesting, but this is honestly something that I don't think gets enough press. Being a full-time wife/mother/member of the community is far more pleasing and rewarding than any leftist/feminist/metrosexual would have you believe.

Granted, I am lucky in that I have Chris and friends to help take the load off when I need it, and I am grateful that Chris's income more than covers our expenses so I can DO this. However over the past couple of months I've met more women like me who make do with much less, and are just as happy with their circumstances, if not more because they don't have spiteful ex-husbands and court cases to deal with.

Forget what everyone learned in the 80's and 90's, that money is power and money is the only truly "fulfilling" pursuit. Money is a tool to alleviate worry, nothing else.

Over the past couple of months I have almost completely taken on the lifestyle of a Catholic housewife. I've been taking care of the household and my usual duties taking care of the family, participating and helping in church and school functions, and being a better mother than I have ever been. I've been doing something far more fulfilling than any work I've ever done, I've been raising my kids and involving myself in the community. And it's been GREAT.

Has there been any monetary reward for all of this work? Well, no, unless you count the money I save by not working elsewere. The rewards are much more intangible amd incalculable.

Now my mother was a stay-at-home mom until I reached grade school, and when I originally stopped working I thought my life would be more like hers. Except my parents were always short on money, and for some reason short on friends, and I always considered my mom's time staying at home to be a rather lonely and stressful affair. I couldn't understand why all of these "overly religious" full time mothers were so happy. I honestly thought they must have been brainwashed. Now I know better.

What a stay-at-home mom with a religious community nearby gains is incalculable. And when I say community, I really mean it. What is gained by having multiple families who send their kids to the same school, go to the same church, and engage in the same charity work together is a sense of community I've never had before. Even in the small town where I lived (and my parents still do) the community isn't nearly as tight knit. I now understand why the Amish and Quakers are so happy with their life; it's the same concept, and the same feeling of belonging. It doesn't matter how you feel about their beliefs, there is something to be said for the lifestyle.

Religion isn't even a necessary part of the lifestyle. The sense of community I get through helping the school and getting to know the other parents is immensely gratifying. We all have something in common, that we're sending kids the same age to a private school and we're all heavily involved in our kids' education, and therefore everyone else's kids' education. That alone ties us together in a way I never experienced in a public school. If I had to work as well, I would miss all of these opportunities to get involved and miss the community as well.

Do I think more women should take on this sort of lifestyle? If they can handle it and their spouses can handle it, yes. But it's not for everyone. That being said, I don't think enough good things could ever be said about how fulfilling the life of a full-time mom and member of the community can be. For decades the media has told us that stay-at-home moms are downtrodden and miserable. And like in most things, the media is wrong. I'm not downtrodden or miserable, and I've never been happier.

Mel

Just call me Mel, everyone else does.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Second Half Predictions

Okay, other than that completely inexplicably bad performance against the Jets, and the total domination of the Vikings (I was expecting a much closer, hard fought game), the pats are about where I expected for the season so far.

At the beginning of the year, I predicted at best a 14-2 season, and most likely a 12-4 season; well three of those four losses are down already, so let's take a look at the rest of the season:

1. @Green Bay - Likely win
2. Chicago - Likely loss
3. Detroit - Almsot certain win
4. @Miami - Almost certain win
5. Houston - Almost certain win
6. @Jacksonville - Likely win, but a tough game
7. @Tennessee - Almost certain win

So again I stick by my likely 12-4 prediction; barring another Jets type debacle. Brady really needs to get his head back in the game, and stop making those turnovers.

Now as to the playoff picture; things are certainly intereting in the AFC, with Indy remaining undefeated going in to week 10; and a three way tie for second place between Baltimore, Denver, and San Diego (the pats are in 3rd/5th behind the tied teams).

I had predicted good things from Baltimore and Denver this year; but SD was a surprise to me.

Looking at schedules and records, It would surprise me very much if this wasn't pretty close to the playoff picture for the year; with the second wildcard slot being uncertain at this point.

Baltimore and Indy have pretty much clinched their division championship; either Denver or San Diego are mathematically certain to take the west division leaving the other to fight for wildcard; with the Patriots are likely to take the east. It 's possible the Jets could make a comeback, with the easiest second half schedule in football; but it's unlikely they are going to win all seven of their remaining games (especially against chicago this week); which is likely what they'd have to do to beat New England.

The Denver/San Diego games this week and on the tenth are likely to decide that division title; with the losers fighting for the first wildcard; because it's entirely possible both teams will win all their other games for the year. It could even end up in a tie, in which case Denver would win the tiebreaker.

The second wildcard picture is wide open; or even both slots, if SD loses both it's games to the Broncs (which I dont think is likely). The Jets, the Chiefs, and Jacksonville all seem like reasonable prospects; with the playoff cutoff for this year likely to be 10-6 or 11-5. My money is on San Diego and the Jets being the wildcards, but a lot could happen in the next seven weeks.

As to the eventual results of the playoffs; god only knows. If the playoff picture looks like New England, Indy, Baltimore, and Denver, with San Diego and New York in the wildcards, as seems entirely likely; the AFC championship race is wide open. Of course Indy is heavily favored to be in that game, but between the rest I dont think there are any clear competitive advantages or disadvantages; and it really comes down to any given Sunday, with maybe a slight edge to New England, and Denver.

All in all, a pretty exciting year for the AFC.

The NFC is a complete mess; as it has been since the downfall of the Cowboys in the late 90s.
Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that the Giants, Bears, Saints, and Seahawks would all be leading their divisions?

Ok, I predicted a good performance this year from Chicago and Seattle, and I thought the Giants could be strong contenders if they got their act together, but the current parity (excepting CHicago), is pretty interesting.

Even more interesting, is the Saints. They are historically the worst team in the NFL; but this year they are just on fire.

It seems likely that the division leaders right now, will finish that way; with Atlanta, Carolina, Philly, and Dallas duking it out for wildcard slots. I was hoping for more from Philly and Dallas this season, but I don't think they're going to hang together for the rest of the season, and I'm guessing we're going to see Atlanta and Carolina in the hotseats.

As to the championship game? Well I'd love to see Saints Bears; but I jsut don't think the Saints will sustain this momentum through the playoffs. The bears on the other hand I'm almsot certain will. Really though, I can't predict their opponent at all.

Now, who wouldn't love to see a Patriots Bears superbowl again? Though I think the result may be a bt different this time. I wouldn't say it would definitely be a patriots win, though I honestly think the Pats are the better team (they've just got tougher competition so the record isn't as good); but I can damn sure guarantee it wouldn't be a 46-10 blowout.

The "top ten" battle rifles huh?

So, I'm watching the military channel; and the "Top Ten Military Rifles" comes on. This went around the gunblogs a few months back, but I never got to see it, so I didn't comment.

Well, I'm watching it now, let's see how they do.

First thing, the presentation is unbearably cheesy; and while some of their experts really are (William Atwater was one of their primary experts, and he's the curator of the national military small arms museum for example); some of them are most definitely not (random Canadian journalists).

They're rating each rifle by the following criteria

1. Accuracy
2. Combat effectiveness
3. Innovation
4. Handling
5. Service length

Unfortunately they provide no explanation for the ratings they have given; or the standards by which they are judging, so these data points are not very meaningful.

We'll just live blog this as we go.

10. M14:
Accuracy: Excellent
Combat effectiveness: Excellent
Innovation: Average
Handling: Average
Service length: Very Low

Well, if you only count the original service life I suppose you can say it's low (only 8 years), but if you recognize the fact that the weapon has been in continuous (if limited) service since 1956...

The rest of the ratings I have no trouble with (the rifle as originally issued is a bit long and heavy; but in more recent variants I would say handling becomes excellent); I'd simply rate the rifle much higher in the list of great rifles.

Oh, and I think properly, the M1 garand, BM59, and M14 should all be grouped together.

9. Stg44:
Accuracy: Poor
Combat effectiveness: Excellent
Innovation: Very High
Handling: Average
Service length: Very Low

Yup, the very first assault rifle; and definitely a milestone, but honestly it's not that great a weapon. It paved the way for a LOT of great weapons though, and should be recognized, but above the M14?

The weapon itself had mediocre accuracy; not much in the way of killing power, and was fiddly to manufacture, and maintain.

Of course it also led pretty much directly to the AK47, so...


8. 1903 Springfield:
Accuracy: Excellent
Combat effectiveness: Low
Innovation: Low
Handling: Low
Service length: Very high

The grandaddy of modern US battle rifles; and one of the most successful Mauser variants; but it IS a Mauser variant, and as such I don't think it should be taken as it's own design. To my mind, it should be grouped in with the Mauser 98 and its derivatives; AND they collectively should be listed as the number one battle rifle of all time.

As to their ratings, WTF are they smoking rating combat effectiveness low? Yes, it's a bolt action rifle and as such you can't use suppressive volume fire (as an individual rifleman anyway), but I don't know very many well trained riflemen who would consider themselves poorly armed with an '03. Worse, rating the '03s handling as low? No, just flat out wrong.

7. Steyr AUG:
Accuracy: Average
Combat effectiveness: Very good
Innovation: Very High
Handling: Excellent
Service length: Low

The first widely successful bullpup; but I won't hold that against it. I think the entire concept of the bullpup as a general issue weapon is flawed; but the AUG is an excellent weapon. It's well made, accurate, reliable and durable, versatile... really the only faults I find with it are in ergonomics; and that's a LOOOONG discussion that I've already covered elsewhere.

Lest anyone think I'm an anti-bullpup bigot; let me say again, I think the Steyr AUG is an excellent weapon; I just think the bullpup concept as a whole is not a very good idea; except in those applications where minimum length is a high priority.

As to their ratings, I don't know where they got their rating ideas from. One of the best things about the AUG, is it's accuracy. Also, it handles better than any other bullpup I've tried, excepting the odd trigger.

Oh, and it's also seen fairly limited deployment and use around the world; so it's track record is somewhat limited for me to consider it a "great battle rifle".

6. Mauser 98K:
Accuracy: Excellent
Combat effectiveness: Average
Innovation: Very High
Handling: Average
Service length: Very High

Honestly, as I said before; I think all the Mauser variants should be grouped together and then collectively rated as the greatest battle rifle of all time.

Simply in terms of impact, the Mauser 98 alone should be declared number one; even without collecting all the variants together.


5. FN FAL:
Accuracy: Average
Combat effectiveness: Average
Innovation: High
Handling: Average
Service length: Very High

The first of the modern black rifles to see wide deployment, the FAL is a truly excellent weapon; though it has some ergonomic oddities, and is a HEAVY SOB.

Reliable, accurate, widely distributed with TONS of parts available... really the only problems with it are the weight, the sometimes clunky operating controls, the difficulty of controlling it in full auto (common to almost all 7.62x51 weapons), and the issue of inch vs. metric guns.

Oh, and rating the FAL as just average in combat effectiveness? No, I don't think so.

4. M1 Garand:
Accuracy: Good
Combat effectiveness: Excellent
Innovation: High
Handling: Good
Service length: Average

The first widely deployed, successful, full power semi-auto battle rifle; and the weapon that in the main won the infantry war of WW2. Described as the "finest battle implement ever devised by man".

There's only a few issues with the gun. First, the en bloc clips work; but they aren't the worlds greatest solution. Second, the gun is long and heavy. Third, they are just a bit ammo sensitive, in that very hot rounds can bend the op rod and bind the weapon up, and not hot enough rounds wont cycle reliably.

As to their ratings, I would say the accuracy of the M1 is excellent; and the service length was from 1936 to 1954 officially, and there were M1s being used by our allies all the way 'til the 70s, so that should be rated higher.

3. SMLE:
Accuracy: High
Combat effectiveness: High
Innovation: Average
Handling: High
Service length: Very Long

One of the best bolt action rifles every deployed; reliable, accurate, slick and smooth, and with a 10rd. magazine. The same basic pattern of gun stayed in service from the 1895 until 1956, and all the way until the 1970s in some variants.

Honestly; a well trained infantry company armed with Enfields can manage almost the same rate of aimed fire as modern semi-autos.

The only rating I'd change here is moving combat effectiveness from high, to excellent.

2. M16:
Accuracy: High
Combat effectiveness: High
Innovation: High
Handling: High
Service length: Long

I'm a big fan of the Stoner AR system and it's variants; though I prefer the 7.62x51 variants to the M16. I've trained with and carried an AR variant, I've owned many of them, I think they are excellent rifles; for all their faults.

The 5.56x45n cartridge on the other hand... well that's just not on, but hey. Of course it also means you can carry twice as many rounds, and control the gun during full auto better. Tradeoffs are what they are.

The gas system is of course the second biggest point of contention; and yes, it is higher maintenance than an op-rod or tappet based system; but they are nowhere near as bad as the haters of the system (and that hate is amazingly hyperbolic; and mostly, though not entirely unjustified) would have you believe.

The current issue with the rifle, to my mind, is that they are issuing a short barreled carbine with a marginal cartridge (and a marginal loading of that cartridge) as a general purpose rifle; when they should be issuing a full barreled rifle with a more effective chambering, or at the very least a more effective loading of the primary chambering.

I can definitely see it in the top five on this list, but not number two.

As to their ratings, I would say the accuracy and handling are excellent, but otherwise I don't much disagree.

1. AK-47:
Accuracy: Average
Combat effectiveness: Excellent
Innovation: Excellent
Handling: Excellent
Service length: Very Long

Dead simple, dead reliable, easy to manufacture (you can make one in your garage with sheetmetal, basic tools, and a basic parts kit fer chrissakes)...

There is no more widely distributed rifle in the world (though the Mosin Nagant is up there); and I would venture to guess that no individual cartridge firing small arm has killed more people (take that as you will). It just plain works.

To my mind, it's the second greatest battle rifle of all time.

Now, as to their ratings though, I think they are all off. The rifle is clunky to handle, heavy, very inaccurate, and not particularly innovative.
Ok, so what are MY choices?

First, we need to refine the parameters here:

Assuming we limit this list to modern cartridge based battle and assault rifles and carbines, that were widely issued either by a large military, or by multiple small militaries; and assuming we exclude full light machine guns and machine rifles like the SAW and the BAR, and sniper/special operations only weapons, what's my list?

1. Mauser 98 and variants (including the '03 Springfield)
2. AK47 and variants
3. M1 and variants, including the BM59 and M14
4. AR-10/15 system and variants
5. Lee Enfield and variants
6. FAL
7. HK G series, and variants (including the CETME)
8. Winchester lever action repeating rifles, all variants (other than the 1895, the post Henry rifle/carbine models are similar enough to be taken as one; and I think the '95 should be included as well)
9. Mosin Nagant and variants
10. Stoner AR-18 system, and variants (including hybrids of the 18 and other designs, like the FNC and SIG rifles; and those actions based on the design, of which there are dozens)

The Swiss K30 and 31 are incredible rifles; but they weren't very widely used or issued, or it would have replaced the Winchester up there.

A lot of people have their own favorite issued boltie; but I'll be you that almost all of them are a variant of one of the rifles listed above; presuming we are adhering to the restrictions listed. There are maybe a half dozen widely issued, and effective, military bolt action rifles that aren't a variant of one of those listed for example.

There are a LOT of really great rifles out there, that I don't consider for the list because of a lack of wide deployment, or very short service life, because they violate my restrictions (like the BAR, or Remington M700), or because they are essentially a variant of one of the designs I listed.

I don't think I missed any of the "best battle rifles" ever, based on my criteria and restrictions, but if you can think of something, remind me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Actually, they got three of their own questions wrong

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz



I know, because the first time I took it; it said I only got 86%, so I went back and looked at the three I thought they had wrong, I changed the answer to the ones I thought they wanted to hear; and I got 100%.

Also, they figured their percentages wrong; or rather they more likely rounded improperly, which is a common programming mistake.

I'll give you one of them: Yes, in fact Columbuses ships DID land in North America in 1492. They landed in the Carribbean, then Hispaniola and Cuba, in October of 1492. All of those places are by traditional continental grouping, in North America; unless you take the communist revisionist position that Hispaniola, Haiti, and Cuba are not in North America, but in fact are either their own special area, or are part of South America (to set them up in opposition to American interests).

Yes, I'm aware that geologically those islands are not part of the North American plate; however for 400 years before we figured that out, the islands were included in NA; and politically should be.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Happy Anniversary Honey

So Saturday was our anniversary; and Mel hates jewelry and impractical gifts (she feels guilty about wasting the money), so I decided to go a little bit of a different direction from the traditional anniversary gifts.

They were at least packed in paper... cardboard is paper after all; and the back of my expedition was completely full of the stuff.

The big thing was one of these:

But instead of six chairs, we got four chairs, and one of these:

Also, we have a lot more stuff than we have shelving and storage space, so we also picked up some book cases, including 3 of these:
Except in the shorter (countertop height) birch version.

We also grabbed one of these in birch, to act as a room divider in our overlong living room:
The picture doesnt really show what it looks like very well: it's just under 32" high, and about five feet long; so it should act both as storage, and as a good divider.

Along with those, we grabbed extra shelves for our existing utility shelves, and our other book cases.

We also alleviated our massive workspace shortage (every horizontal surface in our house becomes a vertical surface pretty quick); by picking up two basic utility table/desks, one 4 foot by 3 foot; one 6.5 foot by 2 foot.
Finally, we picked up a replacement mattress. We had originally gone for a lower end Sealy; but when I went to the warehouse to pick it up they had a couple of higher end Sealy, extra thick, extra firm innersprings with sewn in memory foam toppers on closeout; originally $800, marked down to $500, and I walked out the door with one for $485, with tax.

Let me tell you, this mattress is a dream, no pun intended. In just a couple days of sleeping on this mattress my back pain has gone WAY down. The thing is both twice as firm as the old mattress, and twice as soft (and twice as thick). If you understand the difference between firmness and hardness, thats a VERY big deal.

I HATE pillowtops, and generally I hate foam toppers (even the sewn in ones); but honestly this is the second most comfortable mattress I ever slept on (the most was a special belgian orthopedic luxury mattress I owned when I lived in CA, but it cost $3000).

The best thing is, through the wonder of eil globalization, and the exploitation of third world workers and resources (which they are thoroughly glad for by the way, since it's more money than they could possibly make any other way); I was able to pick up all of this for a very low four digit number.

No, it's not heirloom quality stuff; but it will suffice until I have the time to make our own from good hardwoods; and THAT WILL be heirloom quality.

I learned to build furniture in my first real job, restoring and refinishing antique furniture in my uncle Carls refinishing shop. My work is certainly far better than Thomasville or Ethan Allen type crap for one fifth the cost; and I get the satisfaction of knowing my family is eating off the table I made with my own hands (plus it means I get to buy all the tools I want to make them).

In the mean time, this will do just fine.