Monday, April 30, 2012

The new job, one week in

So far, so good.

As has always been my general policy, I won't be specifically identifying my employer, client, or co-workers.

The job is potentially very interesting. The job is also potentially very politically complicated. Thats never a good thing, but it's not exactly an uncommon thing either.

On the interesting side, there has never really been a standard security operations practice within the client.

On the difficult side, there has never really been a standard security operations practice within the client.

'Til now, security operations has primarily been concerned with authentication management, change control, and dealing with alerts from virus scan etc...

We're hoping to build up a full and robust security operations group; including risk identification and analysis, operational risk elements in project development and delivery, a full incident response practice including investigations and forensics, tools enhancement... and a hell of a lot of other fairly fundamental security operations functions.

Without rocking too many boats, spending too much money, irritating the wrong people, spending too much money...


At the moment I'm pretty much in current state analysis, and gap analysis mode; and I probably will be for several months.

From a purely personal perspective, yeah, the commute is a pain in the ass. I'm making it in a pretty consistent one hour fifteen +-3min, in mostly light traffic (rarely below the speed limit except through the lights in Coeur D'Alene and the last mile off the highway in Spokane) and averaging just under 26mpg.

So, for a full five day week that's 12.5 hours in the car, 750 miles, for about 30 gallons of gas, or about $120 these days.

Yeah... that sucks.

In a few weeks I'm probably going to go to a 4 days onsite one day at home schedule, which will help. I'm also hoping to be able to commute on the bike at least one day a week, maybe two; and it gets about double the mileage of the car. Maybe cut the total time and mileage down to under 10 hours (I figure I can make a bit better time on the bike... though not much) and 600... and the gas spend down from $120 to around $85

Meanwhile, I'm going through audiobooks at a prodigious rate.

Call me... cautiously optimistic and conditionally hopeful at this point.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yaknow.... Ferris Buellers Day Off takes on an entirely different tone...

When you know that Jeffery Jones (the actor who played Ed Rooney) is a convicted child molester and collector  of child pornography. His particular preference was for young teen boys apparently.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Well... I have officially survived to "middle aged"...

Or at least what used to be considered middle aged anyway. If you believe the viagra commercials I think "middle aged" is now supposed to be 60 or something.

As has been the case for a long time now, I'm old enough to know better, and young enough to do it anyway.

I've got the day off work, and I plan to enjoy it thoroughly, by doing...

... absolutely nothing involving actual effort, sleeping late, being as lazy as possible, and eating and drinking whatever I feel like...

Yeah... Sounds like a good plan.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dead on my feet

Actually on my stomach at the moment, since I'm in bad... in that weird spot between "too damn tired to stay awake" and "so tired I can't sleep".

It's been a busy couple days obviously, and the two and a half hours a day of commute isn't helping; but mostly it's because I've been sleep deprived for weeks.

Same old me; cycles of insomnia are nothing new.

I've only slept about 10 hours total in the last three days; only two of those hours in the last 24.

Sleep now.

Sitting in the middle of gods own fireworks show

See all those yellow, red, and green spots clustered all up in North Idaho?

Yeah... that's a strike map of the last 60 minutes; and we're right smack in the middle of a thunderstorm 100 miles across. Various strike counter websites are saying there's been about 1600 strikes from the storm in the last 60 minutes.

The strikes have been all around my house for around 20 minutes, along with torrential rain, and winds at around 45 knots. The thunder has been shaking the house, and I've actually watched a few strikes hit the mountain behind us and the lake in front of us, as close as a few hundred yards away.

The dogs were all cowering, trying to cuddle up to us as close as they could looking for us to make it better. Big babies ;-)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go

So, in about 30 minutes I will be heading off to my first ay at the new job.

This is going to be a big change for in a lot of ways.

Yes, it's back into the fortune 500 world I've been in for most of my career (either as contractor or as a direct employee or both), and it's still IT; other than that, it's a big difference.

For one thing, this is the first "9 to 5", sitting in the same office every day type job I'll have had in 7 years or so... And really, most of the other jobs I've had haven't been long term in the same company, they've been consulting engagements lasting as long as a year, sure (and technically this is a consulting engagement as well, but it's a permanent staff replacement thing renewed annually) but rarely was I going to the same office every day etc...

Even when I was the CTO of a startup, we were a consulting company, and I spent most of my time going between client sites.

By that reckoning, I haven't had a full time direct office job since 2000 (as chief security architect of another startup).

But I haven't even worked in an office with other people on a regular basis since 2005. I've been working at home (I do have a home office), and spending most of my days on conference calls.

This is also a change for me going back to operations. I've been doing mostly design and architecture, high level implementation, and policy work, for the last... I think 8 years since I was on an ops contract?

Not that I'm not capable in operations, or even particularly rusty (I've kept my hand in, and run my own systems and systems for small business clients etc...); but it hasn't been my official job in a while.

It'll also be the lowest paid I've been since... I think 1999?

And of course, it's going to be the first time I've had any real sort of a commute since I lived in California in 2000 (it was only 7 miles, but it was a 45 minute commute most days).

At 1:15 to 1:30, it's also going to be the longest commute I've had since that few months where I lived in Quincy (a few miles south of Boston), and was commuting to Marlborough (40 miles west of Boston); way back in 1999.

The last few years whenever I was so frustrated or irritated I wanted to smack somebody up side the head, I could always joke to myself in a ha ha only serious kind fo way "well, actually, they DO pay me enough for this shit".

That is no longer the case.

Not that I mean to sound negative here.

I'm actually really looking forward to this.

I'm thrilled to get my hand back into operations, where actions actually have results, and results matter. I like the new co-workers I've met, and my new boss. I like the company I'm working for, and at the very least the company I'm contracted to is an interesting challenge.

Wish me luck.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stress Test for IT Ops Shops

Cringely wrote something interesting today, ostensibly about how to fix IBM (a cause I believe is currently lost. their management is too far down the hole to see daylight anymore); but particularly, what I think is actually a pretty great stress test for any IT ops shop.

For those of you unfamiliar with the IT outsourcing business, many companies, both large and small; contract out some or all of the operations, design, implementation, maintenance, service, and support, of their IT operations to professional service providers.

These services can be on a long term or short term basis; and in scope can extended anywhere from staff supplementation (a few extra bodies), to staff replacement, all the way to complete "blackbox" outsourcing; where your company literally has no IT staff OR infrastructure whatsoever (sometimes even no desktop PCs), and everything is handled by an outside company.

This has of course been going on since the 1950s and 1960s with mainframes, and 70s and 80s with minicomputers; but over the past 15 years or so, has dramatically accelerated, to the point that many organizations even outsource all of their IT desktop and server operations, support, application management, administration... Some even outsource their IT management, policy setting... really everything related to information technology; except perhaps the senior management (CIO, CTO etc...).

Very frequently, this means that no single person actually employed by an organization, has any IT knowledge, expertise, or access to the IT resources of that organization; or, if they do, they don't have the time necessary to properly oversee these functions (because, after all, it's about cost savings; which means man hour savings more than anything else).

What results from this, is in theory a cost savings (and often in practice); but when no-one employed by your company has the skill or understanding to properly evaluate the service they are getting from these contractors... well, things can get out of control very quickly.

The U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, DOD, the State of California, and New York City (among thousands of other organizations around the world); have all found this out the hard way, to the tune of billions of dollars in cost overruns, and project failures.

As it happens, I have worked in this business much of my career; mostly in the design, architecture, and implementation functions, but some in the operations and support functions. In many of the roles I've held along the way, I've dealt with a lot of these contracts, in all their many variants; and the many companies that provide them (including IBM, and my new employer; both quite extensively).

In fact, the new job I start Monday is an operations role (managing information security operations), on a "staff" contract (which is one of the variants of these types of contracts, where instead of completely outsourcing the function, the company brings in outsourced contractors, who act within the structure of the parent company as if they were employees... thus "staff"... even though most of the actual IT roles are in fact filled by contractors).

I don't disagree with anything Cringely has written in his post; or for that matter, the rest of the post series on IBM (which, if you have any interest in IBM or in IT, you should read, if you haven't already. It's big news, and I think it's correct).

The test he proposes, SHOULD be one that any competent and well run IT organization SHOULD be able to pass; whether outsourced, or organic to a company.

Frankly, I know a lot of shops that wouldn't pass this test... In fact I don't know many shops that could pass every part of this test in a reasonable amount of time... and I'm willing to bet a lot of folks are going to be seeing this come from their clients or their management in the next few days or weeks.

So, the test that Cringely proposes:
Ask your IT outsourcing provider to produce the following:

1) A list of all your servers under their support. That list should include:

  • Make
  • Model
  • Serial Number
  • Purchase Date
  • Original and current asset value
  • Processor type and speed
  • Memory
  • Disk Storage
  • Hostname
  • IP address(s)
  • Operating system(s)
  • Software product(s)
  • Business Application(s)

Is this list complete? How long did it take your provider to produce the list? Did they have all this information readily accessible and in one place?

2) A report on the backup for your servers for the last 2 weeks.

  • Are all servers being backed up?
  • Are all the backups running in the planned time window? Is there ample time left over, or is the operation using every minute of the backup window?
  • When backup runs on a server there are always files that are open or locked and the backup cannot copy them. Every day the backup team needs to look at their reports and make sure that files that were missed are backed up. In your examination of the backup reports you should see evidence of this being done.
  • If you spot any potential problems with a server ask for a list of all the files on the server. The list should show the filenames, date’s, and if the archive (backup) bit has been flipped

Is this list complete? How long did it take your provider to produce the report? How often does your provider conduct a data recovery test? If a file is accidentally deleted, how long does it take your provide to recover it? Can your provider perform a “bare metal” restoration? (bare metal is the recovery of everything, the operating system included onto a blank system)

3) A report on the antivirus software on your Windows servers.

  • Is antivirus software running on all your Windows servers?
  • Is it the same (standard) version?
  • Are the virus signature file(s) current?
  • Ask for case information on any recent virus infections

Is this list complete? How long did it take your provider to produce the report? When a virus is detected on a server, how is the alert communicated to your IT provider? How fast do they log the event and act on it?

4) A report on your network. It should include:

  • Illustrations of the major network equipment including routers, switches, firewalls, etc.
  • IP address allocations.
  • Internal DNS entries.
  • Current routing and firewall rules.

Is this information complete and current? How long did it take your provider to produce this information? Is this information stored in a readily accessible place so that anyone from your IT provider can use it to diagnose problems?

5) Information on your Disaster Recovery plans Here is what you want to know:

  • Documentation on a recent DR test, the plan and results. It should show the actual times tasks were started and completed. Problems should be logged. (it is okay for there to be some problems, that is the purpose of the test)
  • Ask for a list of names from the IT provider of the people who worked on the test.
  • How many people who worked on the test live full time in the same country as your DR facility?
  • Did your IT provider fly in an army of offshore support folks for the test?
  • If there was a real disaster how long would it take your IT provider to assemble a team to support your emergency?
  • Ask for a list of your critical applications to be provided and supported in a disaster.

Is the list complete and correct? Is there sufficiently detailed information on each critical application? How much data is involved? Is the data actively sync’d over a network? How often is the sync’ing process checked? What hostnames and filesystems need to be restored? What application skills are needed to start up the applications?

6) Help desk information. Here is what you want to know:

  • Ask for a report of all the help desk tickets for the last 2 weeks.
  • Independently ask your company (not your IT provider) for information on known IT problems over the last two weeks.
  • Compare the information from the helpdesk and your company sources.
  • Pick a few random incidents from the help desk ticket report. How long did it take to discover the problem? How long did it take your IT provider to begin to work on the problem? How long did it take your IT provider to fix the problem? Was the problem really fixed?
  • Is there an active problem prevention program? Is your IT provider examining the reported IT problems and finding ways to reduce the number and frequency of problems?
  • How long did it take your provider to produce this report? Did they have all the help desk ticket information readily accessible to everyone and in one place?

7) Look for evidence of continuous improvement.

  • Repeat this process once a month.
  • Look for changes and improvements month to month and over several months.
  • Are the total number of problems being reduced?
  • Is the response time to fix problems being improved?
  • Is there clear evidence your IT provide has an active and effective continuous improvement program.

A good IT provider will have the tools to automatically collect this data and will have reports like these readily available. It should be very easy and quick for a good IT provider to produce this information.

A key thing to observe is how much time and effort does it take your IT provider to produce this information. If they can’t produce it quickly, then they don’t have it. If they don’t have it they can’t be using it to support you. This then will lead you to the most important question: are they doing the work you are paying them for?
If you're in IT, I'd be willing to bet your own shop can't pass this test in all aspects; at least not within 30 minutes or an hour, or even the same business day. In my rather broad experience across hundreds of clients, if you can even get most of it within a business day, you're doing pretty well.

That's not as it should be; but it's often how it is. Many shops, if not most, just don't have all the elements they need to maintain this level of operational fitness.

Something that Cringely didn't explicitly write here, but which should be addressed (and is implied in the test); is that passing this sort of test is really dependent on four elements:

  1. Proper tools: Your team needs to have the right tools, access to them, and have them properly configured; so that they can do all of these tasks efficiently, effectively, and consistently.
  2. Proper process: Your IT processes need to account for all aspects of your operations. They need to be easy to understand, well documented, readily accessible and readable by anyone who needs them, consistent but flexible, goal oriented and mission focused, PROPERLY TESTED; and your staff must be properly trained on them.
  3. Adequate staff levels: You need to have enough people to cover all the work required for your IT needs. To an extent, good tools and good process can reduce your staffing requirements (and in some ways, the skill and training requirements for that staff), but you can only cut so far. You MUST have adequate coverage, and that coverage must have sufficient skill, knowledge, and training; to meet your needs. Further, you must understand that your staff are human beings, with lives and pursuits outside of work. They have vacations, and family emergencies, and they get sick. They have different skillsets, and different skill levels. Some are more or less efficient or effective than others at some tasks . Treating your staff as fungible man hours is a sure and certain recipe for failure.
  4. Good IT management: Without good management, none of these things will happen. If handed them on a silver platter, without good management, they will stop working. Management must keep all these factors in mind at all times, and maintain MISSION FOCUS above all else. You are not here to meet a metric, you are here to get a job done; a job that enables other peoples jobs. Meeting your metric isn't doing your job; making sure others can do their jobs is.

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Going to have to cancel our trip to boomershoot this year

Well, Boomershoot is next weekend, but unfortunately, Mel and I won't be going as we had planned.

I'm starting my new job next week, and unfortunately between scrambling around trying to cover our bills 'til I'm being paid again, being mostly broke, getting ready for the new job, and just life in general at the moment; we haven't had any time (or money) to prep, and won't be able to have any time to prep before we'd have to go, and would only be able to get there Saturday (or maybe late Friday night).

Worst of all, I don't have any guns capable of shooting over 600 yards accurately, that are ready to go.

The only precision rifle I've got ready at the moment is my long range AR, and that tops out at 600 in no wind (a 75gr bullet just doesn't have the mass to resist major crosswinds)... There's never no wind at boomershoot. I'd pretty much be limited to 400 yards; and our spot is on the long range side of the firing line.

So rather than try to scramble and rush to make it work, like we did last year (and while we enjoyed the shooting and the hanging out, we were otherwise miserable, exhausted, sore etc...) were going to say, next year.

Obviously we're too close to the event to get a refund, so we've got two shooters slots at position 7, and two banquet seats open.

If anyone want's them, and is sure they can go, or if the folks in position 8 or position 6 want our slot for more space, they're yours for free; unless of course some kind soul wants to buy them off us ($336).

Also, if anyone wanted to stay at the best western, but they were full; we just canceled our reservation, so they should have at least one room free.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

He would have been 33...

My brother that is. Today was his birthday.

Patriots day. Warsaw uprising day. Waco Day. Oklahoma City Day.

Something fated about this day maybe. Great and terrible things.

Much as I hated him, I still loved him... still love him; and miss him.

Happy birthday Rob. I hope you are resting in peace now, you never had any in your life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The voices in my head - Part 1: Low Quality

"I'd always imagined you as a basso profundo, or a deep, gravelly voice." --A Reader in comments

I do actually, the mic just doesn't pick it up well; and I was feeling a bit sinusy yesterday.

Also, I tend to have a highly variable vocal range depending on the time of day, my energy state, and my stress state.

When I'm very relaxed, very tired, or I just wake up in the morning, my voice is VERY deep and rumbly. During the day, my vocal cords tend to tighten up, particularly as my stress level increases, or I get excited; and my voice gets higher, and tighter.

Also some of my medications can make my voice tighten.

Anyway, here's the low quality, afternoon sample. Tomorrow after I find my decent quality mic/webcam, and before I take my medication, I'll record another and you can get SOME of what my voice actually sounds like; but really, it's never going to come through in a youtube video because of the compression etc...

Statistically Deviant Systems Engineer

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Holy crap, did the Patriots get the easiest schedule in the NFL?

And this is coming from a hardcore lifelong Pats fan... but seriously?

Sunday, Sept. Tennessee.................1:00 p.m. ET........WBZ...............CBS
Sunday, Sept. 16........Arizona...........................1:00 p.m. ET........WFXT..............FOX
Sunday, Sept. Baltimore...................8:20 p.m. ET........WHDH............NBC
Sunday, Sept. Buffalo........................1:00 p.m. ET........WBZ...............CBS
Sunday, Oct. 7............Denver.............................4:15 p.m. ET.......WBZ...............CBS
Sunday, Oct. Seattle........................4:05 p.m. ET........WBZ...............CBS
Sunday, Oct. 21..........New York Jets................4:15 p.m. ET........WBZ...............CBS
Sunday, Oct. St. Louis (London)......1:00 p.m. ET........WBZ...............CBS
Sunday, Nov. 4............BYE WEEK
Sunday, Nov. 11..........Buffalo.............................1:00 p.m. ET........WBZ..............CBS
Sunday, Nov. 18..........Indianapolis....................1:00 p.m. ET........WBZ..............CBS*
Thursday, Nov. New York Jets.............8:20 p.m. ET.......WHDH...........NBC
Sunday, Dec. Miami..........................1:00 p.m. ET........WBZ.............CBS*
Monday, Dec. 10..........Houston..........................8:30 p.m. ET........WCVB...........ESPN
Sunday, Dec. 16...........San Francisco................8:20 p.m. ET........WHDH...........NBC*
Sunday, Dec. Jacksonville...............1:00 p.m. ET........WBZ..............CBS*
Sunday, Dec. 30...........Miami..............................1:00 p.m. ET........WBZ..............CBS*

Lesse, the Jets will be a couple of hard games, but generally wins for the Pats. The Colts are dead in the water. San Francisco was a fluke last season. Miami is a joke. Buffalo is always a joke. Houston, J'ville, the Cards, the Titans, Baltimore, Denver, St, Louis...

I mean, there's no such thing as a guaranteed win, any given Sunday and all that (lord knows last season proved it) but still.

I wouldn't be surprised to see 13-3 or 14-2. I would expect 12-4 at the very worst.

Monday, April 16, 2012

So you want to write about guns part four: It'll blow your head clean off

So, I was asked a question yesterday, that inspired me to write another "So you want to write about firearms" post; and made me realize I had to write another post that was related, but not exactly the same...

So I decided to combine them both into one, and write them out here today.

The purpose of these posts, is to inform the lay person, who is interested in either learning about or writing about guns; either in a non-fiction context (news reporting for example), or in fiction.

The problem is, most good writers don't know a lot about guns (there are a few exceptions, like Stephen Hunter for example) ; but a lot of them do write in genres that a lot of "gun people" like to read (military and adventure fiction, science fiction, thrillers and mysteries etc...).

The mistakes these authors and writers make are quite jarring to those of us who list guns as a hobby, a passion, or a profession; and they can ruin our enjoyment of the work. And for those who don't know, and aren't interested in guns, it spreads unrealistic, or even silly, stupid, or dangerous, misconceptions about guns.

Importantly, I don't just believe, I know for an absolute certainty; that silly stupid inaccuracies about guns in pop culture, are a large portion of the cause of the silly stupid laws and regulations made around guns; said laws and regulations mostly written by, and voted for by, people who don't know any better.

My hope is, that with posts like these, a simple internet search can help out someone who doesn't understand, and is willing to do some basic research.

For the non gunnnies, I am going to try to make this as clear as possible. I'm going to be pumping out a LOT of information here, and some of it is going to be mathy, and technical, and gun geeky. I'm trying to minimize it, but it's unavoidable; just be assured that if I mention it here, it's something you should probably know, or which will at least be helpful for you to know.

For my readers who are gun hobbyists, I will caution you, I am DELIBERATELY simplifying this stuff.

Yes, some of what I will be saying in this post is generalization, estimation, rounding off etc... Don't blow a gasket because I don't reference the exact mass and velocity of a particular cartridge etc... The people I'm writing this for don't want, or need, to know that extreme detail. What they need to understand is the general concept, enough detail to not make dumb mistakes, and enough specifics to understand WHY (because if you don't understand why something is what it is, you don't know when you're making a mistake). Trying to go deeper than that will just make the whole thing more difficult to read, and serve no real purpose except wanking.

Ok, moving on to the meat of the issue...

So, the question in question (forgive me, I couldn't resist) is VERY common... and in fact I'm surprised it hasn't come up in a way that made me write about it directly, some time in the last 7 years.

I've heard this question a million times, in a million different ways, but yesterday it was phrased thusly:

"What is the biggest, most powerful gun? Can you please tell me the specific make and model"

Whoa boy...


Now, my readers who know guns probably all just said to themselves something like "well, that's an impossible question to answer"... and as phrased it is.

There is no one "most powerful gun"...

And that is true for a number of reasons.

First, you have to make a distinction between "largest" and "most powerful". They're two very different things. Generally bigger guns are "more powerful" than smaller, but not always, and not necessarily in a consistent or even logical manner.

Then, in "biggest" or "largest", there's no clear answer, because there's a "largest caliber", there's a "heaviest projectile", there's a "longest projectile", there's a "biggest cartridge case", and other factors.

"Most powerful" is very hard to define as well, because you've got both mass, and velocity to account for; and the standard objective power metric of "muzzle energy", isn't necessarily a good predictor of combat, defensive, or hunting effectiveness.

Also in the "most powerful" question is the weighting of multiple rounds on target. A bolt action .50bmg rifle is capable of doing a lot of damage with a single round; but a machine gun in .308 can put 100 rounds downrange before the .50 can put two... and that is certainly more gross damage potential, but is it "more powerful" ?

I think, just to simplify things, we need to exclude machine guns, multibarrel rotary guns etc... from the equation, and just talk about the size and power of a single fired round. Also, we need to exclude things like exploding ammunition, recoilless rifles, rifle grenades etc...
Actually... even before all that, we have to limit ourself somewhat further, and assume that we are talking about "small arms" fireable by a single person without mechanical support; which is what most people mean when they say "guns".

If you want to include all things defined as "guns", the "most powerful" is going to be either the Gerald Bull "supergun", which though it never fired, would have been about 150 feet long and 16 inches in diameter, but which could fire a projectile into the edge of space; or an artillery piece launching a nuclear weapon. For "biggest" you would probably choose one of the absolutely gigantic 24" to 36" artillery pieces created during WW1 or WW2, which launched projectiles as much as 12 feet long and weighing as much as 15,000lbs.
So, moving on from that, the question is still basically impossible to answer simply, because the "power" of a firearm is determined not by make and model, or actually anything about the firearm itself; but by the ammunition that it fires.

Specifically, the power of a firearm is determined by both its chambering (the designation of the cartridge, generally signifying it's diameter and overall length), and the specific loading of that chambering (the amount and type of powder used in the cartridge, and the weight of the bullet used, both of which can variables in a single chambering).

In general, there are many different weapons, from many different manufacturers, available in most common chamberings. For example, pretty much every major handgun manufacturer makes guns in 9x19 nato (commonly just called 9mm), and .45acp.

As of 2012, these two chamberings are the most commonly available centerfire pistol chamberings in the U.S. ; though both chamberings were originally available in a single firearm, and have been strongly associated with those firearms, such that some people still refer to them as "9mm luger" and ".45 colt" (though both are inaccurate, and the second is ambiguous, because it's also commonly used for a large .45 caliber revolver chambering, developed about 40 years before the .45acp).

Also, in general, there are many different loadings (as I said above, that means different bullet weights, and different powder charges), at many different power levels, for most chamberings.

Further, many people hand load their own ammunition, to be more powerful (or more precise) than factory offerings (which is quite easy to do. Factory ammunition is generally quite conservatively loaded, to avoid product liability; as it may be unsafe to load ammunition "hot" - meaning to a higher power level - in older, or less well made guns).

There are only a few, generally very uncommon (or custom, called "wildcat", and usually not available from a factory other than that of its inventor/developer), chamberings, that are only chambered by one particular make and model of gun.

Finally, there are very big differences in the size, and the power, of revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, shotguns, and rifles; so much so that they are not directly compatible, and need to be taken individually as separate questions.

A few technical notes on ammunition, terminology, math, and physics:

Remember at the beginning of this post where I said I realized that the question asked required me to actually write two posts... well this is that other post.

In the second part post I am going to be talking about the mass, velocity, and energy of projectiles launched from firearms; as well as some details about ammunition.

In discussing these subjects, there are certain specialized conventions in terms and measurements which are unique to the firearms world; as well as some certain basic knowledge about ammunition that is necessary to understand the overall discussion.

I could have split this into two posts, but since I think it's more useful and easier to understand things in context, I decided just to make one very long post.


Ok, so what do you "need to know" about ammunition?

The first thing to note is that individual pieces of ammuniton are not "bullets", though they are often referred to as such; they are properly called either cartridges (for rifles and handguns) or shells (for shotguns).

Many people not familiar with firearms... and even those who are, and are just using it as shorthand (hell, I do it myself fairly commonly)... refer to an entire cartridge as a "bullet". This is technically incorrect, though common usage; and gives rise to the common misconception among the unfamiliar that the entire cartridge is fired from the gun.

The second thing to understand, is the parts of a cartridge or shell (as I have reviewed in detail in other posts; but I'll go over them here again for clarity).

A centerfire or rimfire cartridge has four basic parts, and a shotgun shell has five (which are slightly different than a cartridges parts):

The Bullet: This is the actual projectile that is launched from the firearm. When looking at a cartridge, the bullet is the rounded or pointy bit at the end; usually made of lead, or lead and copper (but sometimes made of other materials such as brass).

An important note: small arms bullets are almost never made of steel; though they may have some steel in them. The term "full metal jacket" (abbreviated as FMJ) is common, and correct; but usually refers to a copper, cupronickel alloy, or brass jacket, not steel. Many people believe that it means the bullets are made of steel, or jacketed with steel, but that is not generally true (though as I said, it sometimes is; notably a lot of eastern European ammo is either steel or steel alloy jacketed, as copper is considerably more expensive, and historically was more difficult to obtain in communist countries). some ammunition may also have a steel core inside the copper and lead, which increases penetration through hard surfaces. 

The Case: This is the part of the cartridge that holds the bullet (and the next two parts the propellant charge and the primer). It is generally made of brass, but can also be made of steel or aluminum; or brass plated with nickel. Generally speaking, the case is far longer and and far heavier than the bullet (or in fact, heavier than all the other pieces put together), and may be far larger diameter (frequently they are, in rifles, but rarely in hand guns). It is also often called "the casing", or "the brass".

The case itself has a few parts: The mouth, which is the open end that the bullet is inserted into, and in the case of "bottleneck" cartridges, the neck and shoulder; the walls or body, which are the sides of the case that hold the powder charge, and bear against the firearms chamber (the part of the gun that actually holds the cartridge while it is being fired. It's at the end of the barrel closest to the magazine of the gun); and the head (which includes the primer pocket, and the extractor groove or rim) which is thicker and heavier than the rest of the case to accept the primer, to handle the pressure of firing, and to handle the mechanical stresses of feeding the cartridge and extracting the case after firing.

Cartridge cases are generally marked on their case heads, with the manufacturer of the case, and the chambering the case is designed for. This is called the "headstamp".
One should note that headstamps are generally accurate and correct for factory produced ammunition; but many people hand load their own ammunition, in custom chamberings, using brass that was originally designed for other chamberings, and as such the actual chambering of a fired case may be different from the headstamp. 
The Propellant Charge: Also called the powder charge, the charge, or the powder; this is the actual propellant, which is ignited to fire the bullet out of the barrel.

Note, I did not say "exploded" or "explosive" I said "ignited" and "propellant", which is an important difference. The powder charge of a modern cartridge doesn't actually explode, it just burns very very quickly in what is called "deflagration". There are many different formulations of modern smokeless gun powder; all of which have different burning characteristics, and produce different levels of energy.

Modern gunpowder is considered "smokeless". Though there is some smoke from modern smokeless powders, it is very little in comparison to traditional "black" powder, which is chemically very different.

Black powder actually does explode or rather detonate, rather than just rapidly burning; and it produces an enormous amount of fairly foul smelling smoke as it does so.

Black powder is composed of sulfur, potassium nitrate, and charcoal which is combined into a wet slurry, then allowed to harden and ground down to a fine "kern" or "corn" (which is given a letter grade to denote fineness). Modern smokeless powder is composed of cellulose (plant fiber) which has been dissolved in nitrating compounds (usually nitric acid, or nitric acid and nitroglycerin), mixed with various additives, then extruded and dried into small cylindrical grains, balls, or flakes.


Many authors who don't know better have read the phrase "the tang of cordite in the air", and then reused it; almost all of them incorrectly and improperly.

Cordite was a specific type of smokeless propellant invented by the British in the late 1880s, used mostly by them (and their colonies and commonwealth members), and only commonly used in small arms ammunition prior to the 1920s (though artillery shells sometimes used cordite up through the 1950s). It was called cordite, because it wasn't actually a powder; it was actually extruded in long yarnlike strings or "cords".

As for the "tang of cordite", the stuff did have a very distinctive aroma of ammonia and potassium when ignited, but the amount ignited in a rifle cartridge is so small that the smell is quite faint (and yes I have fired 90 year old cordite ammunition. You can still buy the stuff that was made for world war one; though it's not particularly reliable, and it's horribly corrosive). It takes the large scale firing of machine guns, or hundreds of rifles, or of an artillery piece (which has the same amount of propellant as hundreds of rifle cartridges), to "taste the tang of cordite in the air".

Black powder was used in the western world from the 14th century, until the early 20th century when it was replaced (except in recreational and "traditional" hunting use) by smokeless powders. The transition from black powder, to smokeless powder, began in the last two decade of the 19th century, and was complete prior to world war 1. These days, people only shoot blackpowder for fun, and because many states have a hunting season limited to blackpowder firearms.

The Primer: Smokeless powder isn't impact sensitive (or at least not significantly so). It isn't set off by the firearms hammer slamming into it; it needs an impact sensitive explosive to ignite it. That is the function of the primer.

The primer is a small metal cup, with a tiny bit of impact sensitive explosive sandwiched into it in between between a couple pieces of thin metal, shown here:

The primer is inserted in the head of the cartridge, which has a tiny hole drilled into it (called the flashhole). Shown here is a primer pocket and flash hole, as well as an expended primer in the case head (both showing the head stamps I mentioned above):

The primer is hit by the firing pin or the striker, which causes the impact sensitive explosive to detonate; and a tiny jet of flame shoots up through the flash hole, igniting the powder charge, and propelling the bullet down the barrel and out the muzzle of the gun (along with a lot of expanding gas, and unburned powder and other residues of gunfire, as so often described on CSI).

Ok, what was that about shotgun ammo?

Shotgun shells are a little bit different. They have five parts, which serve mostly the same functions as in cartridges, but are made a little differently.

Shotgun shells have a powder charge and primer that are largely the same as centerfire cartridges, but there are three basic differences:

The Hull: This is analogous to the case in handguns and rifles, but is slightly different. Modern shotgun hulls are generally made of plastic with a brass base, or "head"; though historically (and currently used in shooting events that recreate historic time periods) they have been made of paper and brass, or even all brass, like a handgun casing.

Also, rather than being capped off with a bullet, shotgun hulls have either a crimp, or a sealing disk of cardboard (crimp shown here as the kinda star shaped thing):

The Load: Shotguns dont fire bullets, they fire either shot, or slugs, and whatever is used as a projectile or projectile is called the load. Shot, is a number of small balls anywhere from as small as 1mm to as large as 9mm across, usually made of lead, but sometimes made of copper, bismuth, tungsten, or steel; and each shell could have as few as five or six, to as many as a couple hundred individual shot pieces (depending on the size of shot, and weight of the load). Slugs, are single large copper, brass, or lead projectiles, which look more like badminton shuttlecocks or salt shakers, than they do bullet; but basically they are just a REALLY big, soft, bullet.

Here are a couple different types of slugs:

And here's a cutaway showing both shot and slugs (as well as the rest of the components):

The Wad (or wad and Cup): In handgun and rifle cartridges, there is nothing between the bullet and the propellant, but air. With shotguns, because they often fire large numbers of small pellets, in order to keep the load all together moving down the barrel, there needs to be a solid buffer between the propellant charge and the shot load. That solid buffer was once almost always a few disks of cardboard or heavy paper (and still sometimes is), but for decades now it has frequently has been a thin plastic cup with a thick plastic base. It flies out the end of the barrel surrounding the load, but because it is very low mass, and has a high surface area, it separates from the load within a few yards, falling to the ground (though sometimes if you are close enough to a paper target, the wad will go through the target).

Here's a picture of an actual wad:

Here's another cutaway diagram showing the wad and cup a bit more clearly:

Now, some more of the terminology:

When we're talking about firearms "power", we need to talk about mass, velocity, and energy. There are lots of terms used in science for these things. In science, mass is generally denominated in grams, velocity in meters per second, and energy in joules for example.

In Europe they sometimes use those terms, but ballistics has been around a lot longer than the metric system, and in the U.S, we generally use the traditional terminology.

The actual caliber of a bullet is just the diameter of the bullet, expressed either in inches (or more commonly in fractions of an inch, as almost all small arms fire projectiles smaller than 1 inch in diameter) such as .45 caliber, or in millimeters, such as 9mm.

It is technically accurate to say something is in "9mm caliber", however it is not commonly done, as in general, when someone hears "caliber", they are expecting to hear an inch measurement.

All that said however, the bullets diameter isn't directly related to the "power" of the firearm; except in that larger diameter bullets tend to be heavier (have more mass), than smaller diameter bullets (though not always, as bullets can be short and stubby, or long and thin).

...Well that, and that bigger bullets tend to make bigger holes in whatever they hit; and bigger holes usually hurt more...

Bullets mass and powder charge are both denominated in grains, abbreviated as gr.

1gr is 1/7000th of a pound, or 437.5gr per ounce.

Note that gr=grains not g=grams.

So, a standard 230gr .45acp bullet weighs a bit more than 1/2 ounce; and a standard 9mm bullet weighs a bit more than 1/4 ounce. What generally surprises folks who aren't familiar with guns, is that the bullet for our standard military rifle, which is chambered in 5.56 nato, is even smaller; at just under 1/4" diameter, and weighing in at right around 1/8 of an ounce.

Smaller... but much more energetic; because kinetic energy is a function of both mass, and velocity. More importantly, energy scales linearly with mass, but exponentially with velocity (so velocity has a much greater weight in the equation as it goes up).

In American practice the custom is to denominate muzzle velocity in feet per second, and energy in foot pounds force, usually just referred to as foot pounds, and  marked as ftlbs or ft/lbs.

For those of you using the metric system, 1.35 joules is approximately equal to 1 foot pounds force, and 1 meter per second is approximately equal to 3.28 feet per second.

Now, the physics and the math...

The only really objective and quantifiable measure of firearms "power", is kinetic energy; which is conventionally called "muzzle energy" in ballistics.

Kinetic energy is calculated by the formula K=(1/2)MV^2, however as in any other equation, the units must be dimensionally comparable (remember dimensional analysis from high school?).

Thus, the equations work out as E=M*V^2/450400 for the American system and E=MV^2/2000 for the metric system.

M is bullet mass (denominated in either in grains or grams). V is the bullet velocity (in either ft/sec  or m/sec) The constants 450400 for american measurement, and 2000 for metric measurements, are the conversion factors for the dimensional analysis.

Here's a link for a calculator to do the math for you, which prints a nice little graph of total kinetic energy as a function of mass and velocity.

So, a 230gr .45acp bullet travelling at the standard 830 feet per second, has about 350ftlbs of muzzle energy; and a 62gr 5.56 nato bullet (which is the same as a .223 Remington, about half the diameter of the .45) travelling at the standard 3100ft/sec, has about 1300flbs of energy.

That's about four times the energy in the rifle round vs. the pistol round; even though the rifle bullet is only about 1/2 the diameter, and about 1/4 of the mass.

Physics is FUN YAY!!!!

So, all that said, let's make some basic assumptions and generalizations, and talk about some of the most powerful common chamberings, and some of the guns that chamber them.


Both the largest and most powerful handgun chambering is the Smith and Wesson .500 magnum.

It is a true .50 caliber pistol round (which is the largest caliber generally allowed under U.S. sporting arms regulations), with the same muzzle energy as a large magnum rifle. It fires up to a 500gr bullet at up to 1600feet per second for around 3000ftlbs of energy.

As of now, it's only available in the Smith and Wesson x-frame revolver, and a few custom revolvers; mostly because the cartridge itself is both too large (both long and wide) and too powerful, for most other handgun frames.

The most powerful commonly available chambering that fits into a "normal" sized revolver is generally considered to be the .454 casull; which is a .45 caliber round, at up to 400gr, and up to 1500feet per second for up to around 2000ftlbs of energy.

The most powerful chambering that people would actually carry for self defense, is the .44 mganum (.454 is used for hunting, and protecting yourself against bears), or a heavy .45 colt loading; and in general most still would consider those too hot for self defense, and use them generally for hunting.

The most powerful chambering that is commonly carried for self defense in revolvers is .357 magnum. Very heavy, very hot hunting rounds can be had with bullets up to 180gr and at velocities of up to 1500fps, for muzzle energies well over 800ftlbs; but that would be VERY hot ammo, and not safe for firing in most normal guns. The most powerful loads people would actually carry, are somewhere around 160gr at around 1500fps, for around 800ftlbs.

The great thing about .357 magnum revolvers, is that they can shoot the much less powerful (and much cheaper) .38 special ammunition (.357 magnum is basically stretched and overpowered .38spl in a tougher brass case). They can also be made quite small. I have a pocket sized 5 shot .357 magnum revolver that only weighs 10 ounces empty, and about 12 ounces loaded. It goes into my front pants pocket in the morning and doesn't come out until I go to bed; and I barely notice it at all.

semi-automatic pistols are, in general, not able to handle the same power levels as heavy, large framed revolvers, for a number of reasons relating to how semi-autos function. You CAN get very powerful semiautos, but they have to be very large, and very heavy, like the Desert Eagle or the Wildey.

The most powerful commonly available chambering in a semi-automatic pistol is the .50 action express; but it's only available in the Desert Eagle, and some custom guns. It shoots up to a 350gr bullet at up to 1500fps, for up to around 1600ftlps of energy.

There are also a few boutique chamberings like the .45 winchester magnum, the .45 wildey magnum, the .44 automag etc... etc... some of which are as powerful as moderate loadings of the .454 casull, but most of which are under the hottest loadings of the .44 magnum.

The most powerful chambering in semiautomatic pistols people actually CARRY, is probably 10mm (I often carry one myself); which fires up to a 180gr .40 caliber bullet, at up to 1350fps, for around 730ftlbs of energy; somewhere in between the .357 magnum and the .44 magnum revolver rounds (about the same as the much less common .41 magnum).

There are a number of pistols that can chamber rifle rounds; which are generally far more powerful than pistol rounds; but again, those are all rather specialized firearms.


The most powerful shotgun commonly available is the 10ga, but shotgun "power" is highly dependent on the ammunition you are firing... As it is for all other firearms certainly, but more so for shotguns.

Shotgun loadings are far more variable than handgun or rifle loads, generally because shotguns are used for a broader range of activities than other firearms; and also because shotguns will properly and accurately function with a broader range of ammunition, while rifles and handguns (and semi-automatic shotguns for that matter) need to operate in a fairly narrow range of mass and velocity to function both reliably and accurately.

These shotgun loads can vary from light trap loads, which generally use a shorter 2-1/2" or 2-3/4" shell (or even 1-3/4" in some specialty loads), and launch relatively light loads of very small pellets at a moderate velocity to hit clay targets; to heavy 3.5" magnum slug loads, which launch a single very heavy projectile, at relatively high velocities, for hunting and personal defense.

In general, you would probably categorize the most powerful ammunition options as 3.5" magnum slugs; which are available in 10ga, and 12ga.

A not on shotgun terminology; as with wire gauge, the smaller the gauge, the larger the diameter of the bore size. Shotgun gauge is also sometimes referred to as "bore", which was a measurement dating back to old blackpowder cannons. In this context refers not directly to diameter, but to the number of pure lead spheres of the diameter of the barrel that would fit into a pound of lead. So a 12 bore or 12 gauge shotgun has a bore diameter equal to that of a sphere of lead that weighs 1/12th pound; which corresponds to about .72". A 10ga that of a 1/10th pound lead sphere which is about .77" and so on.

A 10ga 3.5" magnum slug shell fires a .75" diameter slug, weighing approximately 2 ounces (I have seen a 2-1/4" oz slug load, but they are very uncommon. The heaviest common slug load would be 1-3/4oz, at approximately 1300 feet per second, for somewehere around 3000ftlbs of energy (which is about the same as the .500 S&W).

Oh I should have noted, the 2 ounce 10ga slug I mention above is about 875 grains; but traditionally, shotgun loads are denominated in ounces.


In rifle terms... there's really no answer to that question, as there are far too many variables.


The most powerful commonly available chambering is the .50bmg; a round originally designed in 1917 for heavy machineguns, and still used for that today.

There are hundreds of different rifles available in .50bmg; from around $1000, to over $20,000; including both bolt action and semi-automatic options.

It's the largest commonly available, because U.S. sporting arms regulations generally limit modern smokeless powder cartridge firing rifles to .50 caliber or below (there are a few exceptions), and also because more powerful weapons generally generate too much recoil and muzzle blast to be fired from the shoulder, and need to be mounted into the ground or on a vehicle.

There ARE a few rifles chambered in 20mm (which is about .79 caliber, and usually using aircraft cannon type ammunition with a solid projectile instead of an explosive shell) but they are very rare, very expensive, and very very hard to shoot; because of the massive recoil energy and muzzle blast they produce. They are essentially a curiosity.

The use of the .50bmg round in accurate bolt action and semi-automatic rifles however is fairly common these days. It has a fairly long history dating back at least to the 1950's (I'm sure people built .50 caliber bolt action rifles before then, but I can't find any references to it), and could now be considered on the edge of mainstream.

The .50bmg can be accurate at over a mile under the right conditions; and has made kills at far longer ranges (sniper kills at 1.5 miles; machine gun kills from indirect fire at over 2 miles).

The standard load for a .50bmg is an 800 grain bullet, that's .50" wide and over 2" long, at around 3000 feet per second, for around 15,000 ftlbs of energy.

That's about 6 times the power of a common large battle rifle chambering like .308 or .30-06; and about 12 times the power of the standard 5.56 nato assault rifle chambering.

Of course, it's also got about 12 times the recoil (actually, it's about 8 times the recoil impulse, and 11 times the total energy. Here's a calculator to help you determine recoil if you're interested) and needs to be fired in guns that weigh at least 4 or 5 times as much etc... etc...

The most powerful chambering commonly used by both hunters and soldiers, is the .300 winchester magnum, which fires a bullet between 160gr and 220gr at somewhere arounf 3000 feet per second, and somewhere around 4,000 ftlbs of energy.

The .300 winmag is used by snipers, and by long range hunters, as well as long range shooting competitors (my 1000 yard rifles are all in .300 win mag). It's very commonly available, with ammunition and rifles chambered in it both available at your local Wal-Mart in most states.

The .338 lapua is a chambering that has become more common over the past 15 years or so. It's also used by snipers and long range shooters, but not much by hunters; as it doesn't give much advantage over the .300 winmag until you go beyond 1000 yards range. It's got about 50% more energy than the .300, and is good out to past 1500 yards, with a few confirmed kills past 2000 yards; for a HUGE recoil, noise, and cost penalty (almost as much as a .50bmg when you consider it's being shot in rifles that weigh half as much as the .50s do).

There are other very large, very powerful rifle rounds sometimes used by snipers or other long range shooters, often based off of .50bmg cases, but sometimes based off of large magnum rifle rounds; but I wouldn't call any of them common, and none are actually more powerful than the .50bmg.

There ARE however rifles that fire larger diameter bullets, and even heavier bullets; they just fire them at much lower velocities.

These chamberings are the classic african "elephant gun" loadings; which went up as high as .70 caliber (the .700 nitro express), using bullets massing as much as 1000gr, and producing as much as 10,000ftlbs of energy.

Unlike sniper and other long range rifle rounds, these big monsters were designed to shoot at short ranges of under 100 yards (generally 50 yards or less in fact); and to deliver their HUGE bullets, at moderate velocities, to break through the heavy bone structure of African big game like Elephants, Rhinos, and Cape Buffalo.

There have even been a very small number of even larger rifles made; which shoot bullets so large they are referred to by "bore" rather than caliber, much as shotguns are (shotgun gauge and shotgun bore are technically interchangeable, but "bore" is archaic... though still commonly used among older shooters, and the english).

There have been 8 bore, 4 bore, and even 2 bore rifles; again used by african hunters, and firing projectiles spanning as much as a 1.32 inches diameter, weighing as much as 8 ounces, and producing as much or more energy (from about 1/2 ounce of black powder, which is generally less energetic than modern powders) as a .50bmg (though at much lower velocities of course)

I have heard that a few folks have, in recent years, produced 1 bore rifles as stunts; but I don't think anyone ever actually made them to go after game in Africa... In fact, with a 1 pound projectile at around 1200 feet per second, producing 23,000 ftlbs of energy; when fired from a 20lb gun, I'm pretty sure you couldn't fire one from the shoulder without actually doing damage to yourself. The recoil energy and impulse of such a weapon would be enough to tear your shoulder out of its socket.

These rifles are very rare, very expensive, and very specialized. They are not in common use by any stretch of the imagination; but they are out there.

So then, what IS the biggest, most powerful gun?

Well, given all that I've just said, and since there is no one answer... why don't you tell me?

Like I said, it depends on your definitions of "largest", "most powerful", and "gun".

Hopefully, 6000 words later; I've given you enough information here that, in the context of what you are trying to write, you can figure those out for yourself.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I've intentionally stayed out of the whole Hilary Rosen / Ann Romney issue. For one, I in my own mind have no dog in this fight. I'm sick and tired of petty bullshit games that traditionalists and new wave feminists play. Just because one woman makes a different choice than you in the same circumstances does not make that choice "bad". That's the thing about choice; it's a direct consequence of YOUR values and YOUR circumstances. No one can fully understand the "why" of someone else's life choices unless they've lived that other person's life. I will say, however, that Rosen stuck her foot so deep in her own mouth by assuming that she does understand Ann Romney's situation and by passing judgement on that choice.

That rant aside, what REALLY pissed me off today is this particular quote:

Not to be left out, the ever-entertaining Little Miss Mandy gets her hate on

Hillary Rosen sensibly goes on TV and points out that this claim doesn’t even make sense, since Ann Romney is hardly the expert, being a lifelong housewife married to an incredibly rich man who doesn’t know the first thing about what it’s like to try to live off a paycheck [...] But Romney has a secret weapon up her sleeve: Housewife Romanticization. She knows the feminine mystique still runs strong in this country, and that there’s a strong tradition of idiotic platitudes about the greatness of housewives that exist to conceal very real concerns about inequality and female dependency, concerns that were raised in the 60s and haven’t ever been completely killed off despite heavy use of meaningless platitudes.
Oh boy....

Before I woke up to reality and started casting off the "feminist" ideals indoctrinated into me, I actually believed in the inherent evil of "female dependency".

Now, having grown up and experienced life in a way few ever have (thank God) there is no faster way to get me swearing than to mention "female dependency". The problem with that particular concept is the lack of it's complementary statement, male dependency. Or, as I prefer to look at it, familial interdependency.

I've been a single mom, a stay-at-home mom, a working mom. None of them were particular easy, though each has different challenges.

Nothing prepared me for the role of cancer patient's wife. NOTHING.

That's right, I'm playing the cancer card for the first time ever.

The base assumption of the whole Ann Romney debacle is that she lives an easy life because she is married to a rich, successful man and doesn't need to work for money. That may or may not be true, we don't know. Maybe she is completely dependent on Mitt, though I suspect that isn't the case. I would suspect that he is just as dependent on her. Financial dependency isn't the only kind of dependency out there.

BCD (before cancer diagnosis) Chris carried the family financially while I stayed home with the kids, or just stayed home. I depended on him for financial support and emotional support; he depended on me to be on call for him and the kids and take care of the inane details of life so he could focus his mental energy on his job. This interdependency worked for us. In the meantime he was encouraging me to learn how to handle all of the family affairs on my own, just in case he would ever need to travel or for some reason he became incapable of doing so.

That ending up being very prescient on his part, and I am extremely grateful.

We've not written about this, but before Chris's cancer symptoms were brought under control he lost the ability to do a great many things. This fortunately is no longer the case, but for a while there I picked up quite a bit of slack.

Nothing hammers home the concept of your spouse being dependent on you quite like being the only one with any physical energy, functional knees, a job, and health insurance. EVERYTHING physical became my job, from the shopping to the mowing of the yard to fixing the fence to getting the oil changed to cleaning the house. While working, dealing with a series of catastrophes, deep depression, and very high anxiety.

Nothing quite describes the terror of 1. knowing the love of your life has cancer and 2. knowing that if you lose health insurance coverage, things could become VERY, VERY BAD. This is the definition of a nervous breakdown perfect storm. Honestly, there are days I'm surprised I'm not in a fetal position in a corner somewhere.

And if I believed in the feminist lie that I should pursue complete independence, that women don't need men and men don't need women, that we should work only for ourselves, I would have hit the road a long time ago.

Chris and I work towards one common mission: the health, wealth, and happiness of our family. Both of us work towards that mission 24/7. For years that meant he pursued a paycheck and I took care of the household and we both took care of the family; now it means we are each other's emotional support, his job is finding (and now starting) another job and getting better, and my job is to work and keep him insured while he seeks treatment.

If and when the situation changes, what we each need to do will change as well. We'll adapt, just like we always do, and between the two of us we'll take care of the family.

This is what is referred to as "interdependence" and every successful relationship is based on the precept of being there for each other. Chris needs me as much as I need him; I'm not caught in some patriarchal trap of being dependent on a man to live while he finds me replaceable.

I'm not replaceable, and I suspect Ann Romney isn't replaceable. We are needed for more than our ability to earn money.

Anyone who believes the only worthy pursuit in life is earning money is deluding themselves. Anyone who believes their only worth is as a money earner is to be pitied, not be held up as the female (or male) ideal.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Oh, I think we have all been there...

I'll never forget you -- at least, the parts of you that were important red flags

... though I'd say I've been there more often... and more screwed up... than most.

Oh and trust me, click through for the alt text.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I need this framed

Yes, I know it's a fake but I love it so much:

More Good News Bad News on the Job Front

The good news: I am once again gainfully employed

As of today, a written offer has officially been extended to me by a top twenty fortune 500 company, for a relatively senior technical consulting position.

I have accepted their offer.

In this position I will manage the information security operations of a multi-state "infrastructure" provider (vagueness at employers request, to prevent identification), and will not be required to travel; though it is a 65 mile one way commute to the office (but it's really only an hour and fifteen minute ride most of the time so it's not that bad).

The bad news:

It's about a 40% pay cut from my previous job. They tried to get budget approval for the next higher tier position, but couldn't, and I agreed to come in at the lower level, provided we agreed that I would be promoted to the higher tier (presuming performance warrants) in twelve months. The next higher tier is still a 25% pay cut from where I was, but it's certainly much better.

The manager understands that he's hiring me at a position and pay far below my experience and capabilities, and he'd like to correct that. Frankly he'd like to hang on to me for more than a year or two, and he knows the way to do that is to make sure I'm not getting better offers from competitors every six months. I don't expect it will be a problem advancing within the company, now that I'm actually IN the company. The hard part was getting me hired in the first place.

The important part is, I'll be taking home more than our "monthly cost of living plus 20%"... though unfortunately not MUCH more.

Oh and on the slightly irritating front, it took them FOUR MONTHS to extend an offer from the date of first interview, and exactly two months from the day of my tentative verbal offer to the day they cut my offer letter.

I was hoping to start next week, but it looks like with the pre-hire paperwork etc... they won't be ready for me until the 23rd.

Funny coincidence, that will put me out of work exactly six months; tieing my previous longest time involuntarily unemployed (though frankly, I could have been employed in November or December... I just really didn't want those jobs).

What about gunsmithing?

This won't be stopping me. Crispin Arms is still going forward. My FFL paperwork will be reprocessed shortly.

It's just that now I'll actually be able to... oh, I don't know... pay my bills?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The Guncounter Forum is Successfully Migrated


As of midnight Sunday, April 8th, the Guncounter forum is migrated, up, and
functioning, with apparently zero data loss, on the new server.

Until the DNS change is made, the forums can be reached at

I also have a redirect from the old server to the new, so that as long as
they're hitting the old (except via a specific bookmark), they'll be
redirected; but that should transparently go away when the DNS is changed

The only weirdness will be the cookies on the board won't work until the
DNS change propagates. Once you stop seeing the forum at and start seeing it at once again, the cookies will work again.

Again, please let me know about any other weirdness, either responding to
this post, or posting to the thread of the same title on the forum.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Commentary from an Honest and Self Aware Liberal

They do exist...

For me, the epiphany came in my second season on Roseanne. At thirty-nine years old I finally woke up to the fact that the principles I was taught as a child, like fairness and justice, have no place in the world of power and money. The rules of the sandbox, strictly enforced by a wise and compassionate adult, are laughable when the sandbox is the television business and there are Mercedes and Bentleys parked alongside it. What's odd is that twenty years later, despite my belated awakening to the reality of amorality, that old schoolyard programming continues to insist on its rightness. Ideas like "play nice," "share your toys," "no name-calling," "take turns" and "misbehaving gets punished" still resonate inside me as if they were some sort of fundamental truths. Of course, I now know that they are not. At best, they're ideals. Lofty goals to aspire to. The truisms of the real world are more along the lines of, "my ball, my bat, my rules" and "money talks, bull$#*! walks." Which brings me to our impending presidential election. A classic showdown between the lessons we all learned as children and, well... reality. Further complicating the situation is our collective, unconscious desire to be supervised by that wise and compassionate adult. But there is no such adult. The truth is, we are alone in the sandbox. The game we play, seemingly forever, is called "Ideals vs. Money and Bats." For what it's worth, I'm betting on the latter, but there's a little boy in me who insists on voting for the former.
This would be a liberal admitting that their ideas don't work, that the world isn't the way they want it to be or pretend it is... but that they keep voting for it anyway because they WANT it to be that way.

Of course, they think the reason it doesn't work is because the other side are bad people, and they're wrong about that; but hey, can't win'em all.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

How far we have fallen...

Crossposted from The Liberty Papers, where I am a contributor:

Reading these point/counterpoint posts on the question of how the supreme court would decide on Obamacares constitutionality, was quite disturbing to me in several ways.

On the one hand I was heartened, because clearly both Brad and Doug are sane and rational folks with a reasonably solid background in both law and politics, and a foundational understanding of the constitution…

Of course, that only highlights how many people in this country are not.

Any reading of the constitution… of the very intent of the founding of this nation… makes it clear that our federal government is meant to be one of of limited and enumerated powers. If the government can mandate this, they can mandate anything. This is the fundamental argument about the necessity for a limiting principle to any government act.

And anyone who doesn’t want unlimited, unconstrained government can see that. Sadly, it seems that the idea of unlimited, unconstrained government is quite popular in some quarters… even with some supreme court justices.

The basic liberal/progressive/leftist argument for socialized medicine is “we should do this even if it IS illegal and unconstitutional, because it’s the right thing to do so the supreme court should uphold it”.

I.E. “It’s good because we want it, and therefore it should be legal because it is good; and we need to get rid of this whole “limited government” thing, because it gets in the way of us doing what is right and good.”

What I also find heartening is that both Brad and Doug both seem to have a good sense of all of this…

But that is also disturbing…

Because both of them seem to share the same actual opinion:

Both believe that Obamacare is ACTUALLY unconstitutional, and should be struck down…

…It’s just that Brad is cynical enough about the supreme court and the political aspects of the decision that he thinks enough justices will be able to argue themselves into ignoring the constitution and doing what they want to do, rather than what is right.

… and Doug believes that there’s a good possibility of that as well; he just has a bit more hope that they won’t.

… and if you look around the commentariat, that’s pretty much the split of positions that every other knowledgable observer has as well.

And if that isn’t disturbing to you, then you really have no idea what is going on, do you?

TheGunCounter Forums are Migrating Software and Servers this week

So, one presumes most of you know that I am a cofounder and administrator of The GunCounter forums, whether or not you happen to be a member or regular reader.

I am crossposting this here now, so that people who go looking for the forum and notice it is down at some point this week, will know what's going on.

Also, it should explain some why I'm a bit busy this week.

For several months, our hosting provider has needed us to migrate from our old server farm, to a new server farm with updated OS, libraries, tools etc... The old servers are running on worn out hardware, and obsolete software revisions, and need to be decommissioned.

One of the things hindering that process has been that we were two revisions back on our forum software, and the current revisions of PHP and MySQL (the underlying language and database for the forum software), were not bug compatible with the version of the forum software we have been running. Unfortunately, through several test cycles, I had not been able to successfully perform a non-destructive upgrade of the forum software.

With the newest release of the forum software however, in theory, there is both a seamless non-destructive upgrade path from the old version to a current version; and a compatible migration path to the newest revisions of PHP and MySQL on the new server farm.

So, around midnight pacific time last night, we conducted a number of maintenance and cleanup operations, got a full backup of the site and database, then upgraded the boards software to the latest revision. After the upgrade successfully completed, we tested it briefly, and then got a post upgrade full backup of the site and database as well.

All of this is in preparation for the move to the new server farm, which must occur before Sunday. We are working on the test servers for the migration now.

We hope to be able to conduct a seamless migration; shutting down for maintenance some time late Friday night or Saturday (at the latest. We may do it overnight on a weeknight if we're ready earlier), completing a migration of the forum and database to that point, throwing DNS over and then going live on the new servers.

In this process, there will be some disruption of service; as little as an hour or two for some (depending on how long it takes to do a final migration. It's not a small database), to as much as 24 hours, depending on exactly what corner of the internet you are in relative to our hosting provider, and how long DNS changes take to propagate.

In the changeover, the new site will most likely become accessible to different folks at different times, because of this. This isn't a bug or a deliberate rolling upgrade, it's just a part of how the core technologies of the internet work.

If all goes well though, most people should be able to access the site within a couple hours.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to successfully test a site migration thus far. We are hoping that the new revisions of all the software in question (php, MySQL, and phpBB), and some newly installed tools on the new server farm, will allow us to migrate successfully; and we will continue to work on this and test through the week.

However, no matter what, before noon on Sunday, the Guncounter will be on the new servers; because the old servers will be powered down.

If we are unable to migrate our current software, that may mean a change of forum software. Even if we are able to migrate the software, we may not be able to migrate the database properly and It may mean a loss of content. We hope not, we don't think so, but it is a possibility.

In the mean time, as I said, we upgraded to the latest forum software revision last night; and I need folks to be on the lookout for weirdness between now and then. Post any glitches, misses, bugs etc... here in this thread.

Thanks, and hopefully we'll get through this fully intact.

Monday, April 02, 2012

What a contented puppy-cat

That by the way is the top of the back couch cushions. Both Zoe (pictured) and Wash, like to roost up there... when we let them get away with it. One should note... That cushion is about 3 feet wide, and about a foot thick. Zoe is about 60lbs, and Wash is about 70. That is not a small couch, and these are not small dogs.