Monday, December 24, 2012

All Things Christmassy

Is that a word?

Even given the insanity that was the NRA's response to Newtown, I can't bring myself to comment on it at this time. Instead, I will focus on the season and a conversation at work this last week.

As with a lot of folks, we had a Christmas potluck at work. During it, we had a discussion of favorite Christmas music, movies, etc. A few of my choices were out there and a bit non-traditional. In order to enlighten, I'll offer the following lists for your listening and viewing pleasure.

Favorite Music: 

My favorite traditional Christmas song will always It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, the Nat King Cole version. This one has a special meaning to me as I will always think of my Grandpa Al walking around the house whistling the title phrase with his Characteristic emphasis on the last two syllables. Christmas to me has always, for some reason, brought back memories of my Grandpa Al's rather than memories of my own home. Odd, that.

Anyway, one person mentioned that it was a shame there were no "newer" Christmas songs. I told her that there were a bunch of them - they just had to compete with our collective memory of the old favorites.

Number 5 is at Daily Motion - the rest are on a YouTube Playlist...

5. Baby, It's Cold Outside, Buster Poindexter and Sigourney Weaver

"Baby It's Cold Outside" Sigourney Weaver&Buster... by alienfan

4. All I want for Christmas (is You), the Love, Actually version
3. Snoopy's Christmas, The Royal Guardsmen
2. I Believe in Father Christmas, Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer)
1. Christmas Must Be Tonight, The Band

Favorite Movies:

5. Die Hard - Yep. Die Hard. The reason they are at Nakatomi Plaza, the Santa on the Elevator, and "It's Christmas, Theo. It's the time for miracles."
4. The Ref - A cat urine-soaked burglar, an overbearing family matron, and a family in chaos... makes your holiday seem normal and somewhat boring.
3. Scrooged - Hilarious retelling of the old classic. Bob Goulet chased by a gator, Bob Goldthwait with a shotgun in his pocket, and Bob Mitchum kicking a cat are just a few of the highlights in this cameo-filled bit of holiday cheer.
2. Love Actually - Oh, you like cameos? You will love this one. Connections, Relationships, and Forgiveness abound in the inspiration for later holiday-based enseble productions.
1. It's a Wonderful Life - I know. This isn't a new one. In fact, given it's original failure, it is amazing it is still around. Not only is it still around, it has become a classic and has spawned numerous imitations in TV, in movies, and on the stage. My personal favorite was the Stick Figure Theater treatment on MTV's old Liquid Television show (remember Aeon Flux?).

And for all of them in a Playlist:

Now. Stop reading this and go back to your family and friends and give them all a hug and wish them whatever you choose to wish them.

Be good.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's a damn good thing the world is about to end...


Lots of conflict. So many kinds.

As with July, I really don't know what to say.

Actually, I know what I want to say. I am just not sure if I can say it in a way that won't come across as uncaring (because I'm not) or that I believe I know all the answers (because I don't). This is part of the reason I have held off as long as I have in commenting on the subject of the horror of last Friday.

Well, that and the fact that I wrote a rather longish blog post a couple nights back that was posted, published, and then passed on to Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+. The link on Facebook even showed an image from the posting. I woke up the next morning and it was gone. Poof. Lost in the Ether.

More Craziness

There was a period last Friday during which I seriously considered just going home, pulling out all of my guns, and selling them. It lasted all of about 5 seconds, sure, but it was there.

That's when I reminded myself that it would not resolve anything.

It would not keep those kids and adults from having their lives taken from them. It would not prevent such an event from happening in the future. It would not do anything except remove part of who I am. I am a gun guy. I am a Liberal Gun Guy, sure, but a gun guy nonetheless.

Since then, I settled. I shed a tear and felt some wishful thoughts about the situation in Connecticut. Then I went home and hugged my kids. I have a little Liberal Gun Guy who turns eight tomorrow. I also have a little Liberal Gun Gal who is five. I can't imagine. I just can't. Not enough band-aids to cover that cut.

Talking Heads

I currently have a sore neck. Nothing I did, really. I didn't sleep on it wrong. However, I did listen to too much commentary on the TV and radio. About every 5-10 minutes, someone said something that would cause a synapse in my brain to pop and my head to whip around, as if that would help get the factual errors out of my head.

I get that, though. I did nothing but guns for almost six years. I wrote a book on guns for Pete's sake. I can be expected to talk semi-intelligently about guns when needed. After the Aurora shooting, I even ended up on a legal-talk radio show talking about the ins-and-outs of obtaining guns.

99% of the folks I heard on the radio don't have that background. The reporters, news readers, guest commentators, and others made statements that represented levels of experience from watching an episode of CSI to growing up around (while not knowing a lot about) guns.

Clearing the Air

The other 1%, all three of them, impressed me. One was an antigun guy with an extensive background and some solid mechanical and legal knowledge. The two progun guys were similar except that their experience placed them on the other side of the discussion. Unfortunately, the rest of the week was misinformed or uninformed blather.

A lot of the last week's discussion has focused on a few subjects. Unfortunately, it has also been reflexive posturing for the most part. The usual suspects were there, saying the usual things, and repeating the usual memes. The big issues that registered with me during the last week (not all inclusive) are:
  • Reinstatement of the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban
  • Arming Teachers
  • Reworking our Mental Health System
  • Secure Storage of Firearms

How Congress Helped the Gun Industry

I'll let the Assault Weapon Ban (AWB) go simply by stating it was a bad law written by people who didn't understand what they were legislating. In effect, it made certain firearms less visually scary. The day it went into effect, it only aided the manufacturers of these arms by streamlining their product manufacture. "We can't put bayonet lugs or folding stocks on them? That's OK, we'll save money on a supply item and still charge the same." 

The only other effect of the AWB was the increase in the price of magazines that held more than 10 rounds or ammunition. The standard magazine size for an AR-15 prior to the ban was 30 rounds. The 10-round restricted magazines were priced at the same price point as the original standard magazines and the 30-round magazines shot from $10-20 each to $60-100 each. The last eight years has seen a HUGE uptick in the manufacture of these components though, so I don't think this will have much of an impact. And then there is Makerbot...

Reactivate the AWB and the industry will have the best quarter they have ever had. Want to keep those guns out of the hands of the wrong people? Establish a Gun Show background check.

Miss Janey's Got a Gun  

Arming teachers is problematic in that many (most?) teachers don't like guns in the first place. Those who do like guns may not necessarily want to carry. I have known Concealed Carry Permits holders who don't like carrying or, for a variety of reasons, choose not to carry. I think something like this would be similar to the Armed Pilot Program. Only 10% of pilots are trained to carry in-flight. And this is a population that has a very large prior-service military contingent. 

I have heard some of the folks proposing that teachers carry because Israel arms their teachers. Sorry, but it ain't the case

The Inmates are Running the Asylum

I'm looking at you, Congress. 

The majority of the mass shootings in the last 30 years involved shooters who showed signs of mental illness prior to the shooting. Yet these people were able to possess firearms. Even going through the right channels and processes. This tells me that the reporting mechanism has issues, or the process to adjudicate is flawed, or that doctors, friends, and families don't feel comfortable facing the fact that there is indeed a problem.

I fell into that last category once upon a time. A good friend of mine committed suicide after he went off his meds - one of them an anti-psychotic. A few of us knew what he was taking. We knew he was a gun owner. He was a retired Air Force security officer. He didn't drink or smoke. He was active in his church. He was a straight arrow. Health problems led to the meds. Going off the meds led him to threaten his family (scared them enough to drive 90 miles to stay in a hotel). The next morning, he shot himself.

I still feel guilty. I feel I could have talked to him or others prior to that in order to help make sure that he would have been safe. But I didn't. I didn't want to be the guy who said, "I don't trust you to be safe with your guns, even with the thirty years of training, instructor time, and being one of the most squared away folks I know."

I do believe that we need some sort of meaningful legislation to change how we look at gun ownership by those who have the potential to be unsafe

Put a Lid on It

If you leave guns where someone can get to them, and that person is not you, you are asking for any bad things that happen. Kids in the house? Roommates? Family members with mental illness? LOCK UP YOUR GUNS.

One of the major causes of accidental firearm deaths is this.

The next step - make sure that EVERY. PERSON. who will come into contact with the gun has training. Now, I am not talking about uncle Jimbo taking little Stevie out to the quarry to show him how to shoot. I am talking about taking an NRA Firearms Safety Course. These two steps will cut down on accidents like you do not believe. 

The Upshot

We are finally moving somewhere on a discussion. Unfortunately, I doubt much will come out of it that is meaningful. However, we are talking a bit more and looking into causes before we look at solutions - a nice change in and of itself.

I still feel that education is essential for everyone. Learn what a gun is. Learn what it isn't. Learn how to be safe, not sorry.

I will leave you with two last beliefs of mine:
  1. The only safe person with a gun is the person trained to be safe.
  2. The only safe gun is the gun that is unloaded and not in someones hands.
Cheers, and keep the community of Newtown in your thoughts.

PS - this includes the National Shooting Sports Foundation, headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Nerdiness and Addiction... and weird music... and guitars... yes, guitars...

A Slight Departure

Given the previous week's events and the current trends in the gun market, I had planned to do a writeup on how to buy guns (or what you have to do to legally buy guns and who can legally have guns, if you prefer). Instead, I chose to look at something that is equally close to my heart. It is also a lighter topic - something we could all use on occasion. All work and no play, you know...

Related to today's subject is this week's music video. Given that I am on the road this weekend, I wanted to post early in order to beat my usual Friday release. If you can't wait, scroll to the end, otherwise, enjoy!


So. I'm not the only one. Not in this house anyway.

My wife is a nerd. It's one of the things that helped us understand each other and it was part of the attraction. but enough of that.

The Gateway Drug

She is now an Asian Pop Culture nerd. She always liked anime. I'm not talking Pokeman, Avatar: The Last Airbender, or even Naruto. Assuming that anime is simply Japanese for 'kid's cartoon' would be akin to thinking that all live action TV dramas are only for kids (or adults for that matter). Yes, lots of shows are for kids or teens, but the great majority are produced for an adult audience. Imagine your favorite soap opera or police procedural drawn as a cartoon. There you go. That is anime.

We watched InuYasha for years when it was on Cartoon Network. InuYasha is currently streaming on Hulu - if you want an intro to anime, this is a good place to start.

You know what they say about men who carry big swords, don't you?
You know what they say about men who carry big swords, don't you?
So, over the last six months, herself has been getting in deeper. She started watching more anime on demand on cable, on NetFlix (having a Wii is the awesomesauce for this alone), and online (Mainly crunchyroll and AnimeHere). Other than gaining a crush on Ichigo Kurasaki from Bleach, no harm no foul... I am that secure in my relationship... and it gave me free time to blow up digital tanks...

A Slippery Slope

As with other addictions, anime was the gateway media. from there, my wife started to hit the hard stuff: Manga.

In the same way that anime isn't just cartoons for kids, manga is definitely NOT just comic books for kids. American Geeks, Nerds, and other Fanboys have been attempting to defend the US comic industry for years. In Japan, manga are a respected part of culture (not so much in Korea and China, but they are still there). Kids, hipsters, wives, and salarymen all read manga.

Normally, anime begins life as a manga. InuYasha, Bleach, and others started out in this form - small black-and-white books read right to left, back-to-front (from the American viewpoint), concerned with any subject or literary style imaginable. There are modern, sci-fi, fantasy, historical, and other styles of manga. Some sources for free Manga include Manga Fox,, and MangaHere. If you have an iPad, enjoy, you'll have a ball sitting on the couch!

One benefit from all of this is that she has learned about 100 words and phrases in Japanese. Quite a few of these are useful in conversation. A number of these are the words for some of the different regular story line types, categories, content descriptions, etc. Unfortunately, these leads to knowing some terms that may make American audiences uneasy. Much of this is from the different societal mores and concerns. While the broader American audience may take issue with a gay male couple and have no issues with a tattooed hero, it is the complete opposite in Japan.

We have Christianity, they have Yakuza.

The Last Straw

Eventually, the desired anime and manga ran out...

But wait! They make live action dramas of some of them, as well! (The term 'Drama' is generic to any live-action show - whether drama, comedy, action, etc.)  In our house, it started at Gokusen, a hilarious drama about a Yakuza assassin-princess cum-school teacher - trust me, it works. Gokusen had already been read as a manga and watched as an anime. The live-action was definitely funnier based on the outbursts of laughter from the desk five feet to my right. The big differences between these series and American television series are the lack of violence and the lack of sex. LOTS of love triangles, family conflicts, and money issues though...

The hit parade kept a'rolling for awhile. A. Long. While. Brother Beat, Nobuta wo Produce, Yukan Club, Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge, and others. Many others.

Japan failed to keep up with the voracious appetite, unfortunately, so off to Korea we go...

The First Step to Recovery... admitting you have a problem.

Coffee Prince, Shut Up Flower Boy Band, Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, and other Korean dramas.This led to looking for the music, which led to trolling the news for the various 'Idol' bands - The Korean Music Industry is a machine... dorms, training, choreography, curfews...

This led to last week's video, PSY's Gangnam Style. I saw this on The Soup's feed and recognized it for the brilliance it is.

You're welcome.

Wait. You Want More?

Now that you had to go through all of that, here is this week's music video - Led Apple brings us another K-Pop video that will make you wonder what they are feeding to the Korean Musicians.

Again, you're welcome.

The Upshot - or, DOES THIS EVER END???


Check the guitar on the right...
The upshot about all of this is that I became aware of one of the coolest instrument concepts I have ever seen. While watching another Led Apple video, I saw the guitar player playing what looked like a funky Steinberger Demon. I was intrigued, so I looked up what he played. IT. IS. NOT. A. STEINBERGER.

Now, I am quite familiar with the history of guitar-style midi controllers. However, I am drooling over the 'guitar' controller they made. All I need now is $800... and for them to make a bass version...

Enjoy this last video (a demonstration at NAMM 2011).

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Disappointed at the mall

I know. It isn't hard to be disappointed at the mall...

I was about to comment on lots of folks spending about $6 to get 1000-1500 calories in order to support their beliefs... but I am too disappointed right now.

I took my son to his tae kwon do class at the mall and to do my walking. I was impressed (but not surprised) by the number of folks supporting CFA. The line was 50-60 deep the whole time. Seeing as we are in Enid, it was to be expected. And, to make it clear, while I disagree with the corporate beliefs of CFA, I think it is great that their supporters came out. That is to say until we left...

The disappointment kicked in when, on our way out, I saw 20-something guy in the line wearing a T-shirt on which he had written out John 3:16. I don't take issue with that so much as his modification of the verse. He had a line through "the world" and inserted "straight people".
For God so loved the world Straight People, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
He may have changed something else - that was all I caught in my attempt to get to the door.

If the mall didn't have two security guys right there making sure no one took any pictures, I'd be sharing the joy.

During this whole CFA deal, I have been concerned, surprised, and, at times, amused. This is the first time that I have been disappointed by the actions taken by anyone (besides public figures).

I know that this guy does not represent all (most) Christians. I suspect that this guy would also not have worn this shirt in public without the belief (correct or not) that everyone around him agrees.

I am most disappointed in myself in that I did not point out his 'correction' and inform him that not everyone agrees with him.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Go Team USA!

We're a mixed bag

With all of the bad press going on about guns lately, I am glad I have the chance to get on my soapbox so I can talk about the positive side of gun culture. Also, keep in mind that I am the Liberal Gun Guy, so my view is more middle of the road. My views on the world are like those of many Americans - mixed. I lean left on some things and right on others. Sometimes these views conflict and I have to work it out - I supported Afghanistan, but not Iraq for example.

Once we all start to accept that people can be a mix of beliefs and not just black-and-white, I think we will agree that we agree - at least on a few things.

Now. With that off my chest, I realized that other than referencing Kim Rhode's ammo use, I failed to mention that there is a small sporting event going on in London.


You know? Where the history is from.

Olympic Shooting 2012

There is a lot going on in the way of shooting at the Olympics! The largest field of Shooting competitors ever will be at the games.

By the time I am writing this, the Women's 10m Air Rifle and the Men's 10m Air Pistol are over. The US was out of the medals in each, but the female shooters represented us well, coming in 5th and 7th.

One of the great things about the Internet Age is that the network of tubes we rely on will allow us to watch some of the events that typically do not allow spectators or attract many viewers. NBC, this years contracted broadcaster, will be streaming most, if not all, of the shooting events - including the qualification rounds. All I know is that I will be watching Kim Rhode shooting skeet at 8AM Sunday morning! Between this and her chance in Trap, she has the opportunity to become the first American to medal as an individual in five consecutive Olympics.If that isn't awesome, I don't know what is.

Good luck to team USA!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How much ammo does one person need?

Guns and Ammo

No, I'm not talking about the magazine. I am talking about Guns and I am talking about Ammo.

Actually, I did already talk about these once today. I had a great time on internet radio with Bennet Kelley (and here) on the CyberLaw & Business Report. We spent a half hour discussing some of the various points of purchasing guns and ammunition online. In light of last week's shooting (no, I'm not linking to it), we looked into the various rules and regs of buying guns, magazines, and ammunition.

The best thing about this is that I was able to walk Bennet and his listeners through what it takes to purchase these online, talk about how more regulations won't necessarily be a good thing, and how some common sense and education would definitely be a good thing.

Note to Gun Guys: DO NOT EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER sell a personal firearm to someone across state lines or who even jokes about not being able to pass a NICS check without going through an FFL!

As a sidenote, I want to give a nod to HARO (Help A Reporter Out). This is a website set up to help reporters get into touch with subject specialists. I jumped on the mail list and within a few days I was on the web (and getting hits as a result).

Now on to business...

How much ammo does one person need?

Over the last few days I have been in a few conversations about the shooting in Aurora (nope, still not linking it). Each one included the question, "Why did he need six thousand rounds?"


A little voice in the back of my head snarked, "Because he couldn't afford seven?"

I had to ask why that was a problem. It wasn't like the shooter needed much. By all of the reports I have heard, the C-Mag in his M&P 15 jammed - but we have not heard when. His shotgun likely carried 5-8 rounds (several versions of the Remington Model 870 exist). The standard magazine for the Glock G22 holds 15 rounds. There are extended magazines available (similar to those used by the shooter in the Tucson Shooting), but there have been no reports of these being used. Totaling that, we are looking at about 123 rounds (barring any backup magazines or loose shotgun shells). With some number of those not being fired, this is less than 2% of his ammo stash. 

I'm just damn glad it wasn't stadium seating and that the C-Mag jammed. Seconds here... seconds there...

Shooters and Ammunition

I remember years ago (as a young Liberal Gun Guy) buying a box of shells,  going to the range, and shooting EVERY LAST ROUND. How many rounds were left at home? none. I couldn't afford any ammo other than what I put into the cinder cliff behind the target. Now? I'll shoot about half of what I buy (maybe). If I'm in a 100-round trap shoot, I'll get 150 shells and come home with 40-some. Sure, those extras get shot at some point, but they build up.

As a result of the conversations recently, I did some mental calculations. Given range bringbacks and the odd lots I have picked up along the way, I think I have about 1500 rounds of different types - 40 S&W, 12 gauge, .410, .30-06, 7.62x54R, .303, and .22. I think I also have some loose .45ACP (which I don't even have anymore...). Don't think I'm the only one. I didn't intend to get there. I just did. Now, if I was an active shooter (in a local-gun-club-regular-shoot-winner), I would be buying or reloading hundreds of rounds a week (high power rifle maybe being a little less).

Shotgun sports, 3-Gun, Cowboy Action Shooting, name it. If these folks want to stay on top of their game at the local/regional level, they will shoot (conservatively) 300-500 rounds a week - often a non-standard round. That is somewhere around 5,000 rounds in a few months. This is a supply that can't be supplied by your FLGS (Friendly Local Gun Store) or Wal-Mart.

Kim Rhode, two-time Gold Medalist in Double Trap, shoots 500-1000 rounds A DAY. Even on the south side of that (and taking a couple months of over the year), this comes up to more than 150,000 rounds over a year. Take that order to the Gun Shop up the street.

EDIT: I was reminded by a Facebook Friend that another reason competition shooters buy in bulk is to ensure that the ammunition is part of the same production lot. This ensures that differences from cartridge-to-cartridge and box-to-box are kept at a minimum.

Unfortunately, these aren't the folks we hear about. We hear about the folks stockpiling against armageddon, further government regulation, and zombies... OK, maybe not necessarily the last.

Also, unfortunately, we have the guy in Colorado. I don't know his deal. He had a lot of ammo. He also had a lot of issues (based on numerous articles and his appearance at his hearing. It does reflect poorly. I want to stress that while he had lots of ammo, he didn't apparently have a plan for it except to leave it in his apartment to burn it. This may give a tip to his knowledge of guns and ammo.

Ammunition in a fire will go nowhere - it needs a chamber to prevent a splitting case and a barrel to give direction. I have seen the aftereffects of a house fire on several hundred rounds of .30-06 stored in a wood case. It was a beautiful, semi-artistic piece of lead, mangled cartridge cases, and copper bullets.

The Upshot

Seeing as how he passed a series of background checks while purchasing four firearms over the previous several months, the knucklehead in question would have undoubtedly passed any sort of check someone would want to create for ammunition. There are legitimate reasons (sane or otherwise) to obtain or store bulk ammo. Registering bulk purchasers would be tantamount to registering gun owners. To my mind, this seems to be something that the majority of gun owners would oppose. I don't mind some regs and laws, but I don't want my name on a list.

Weak close, I know, but I had a good (long) day and I am glad I got to teach some folks about guns.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gun Violence, Personal Choice, and America in an Election Year

OK, we know what happened...

So, I won't go into the details. There.



First, I would like you to watch this video about the Winnendon school shooting in 2009. I found it in Patton Oswalt's Facebook feed (I freaking lurve Patton Effing Oswalt). Pay really good attention starting at 1:34.

Now. I will let that point sit on its own. Please don't go all 24-hour-news-cycle on us. We don't need to see his face. We don't need to hear nonsensical eyewitnesses give their side of the story using hyperbole and incorrect gun terms. We don't need news readers making comments of a technical nature.

We do need facts. We do need what happened (as far as we can tell). We do need who did it (as far as we can tell). We do need to know what we need to do next (lock our doors, pack our bags, hug our families).

We do need restraint. 

We do need to get on with the other things going on in the world. This may sound callous, and my heart does go out to the victims, their families, and their friends, but I am glad I have the internet so I could see if there was something else going on in the world.

First Response

I guess you know how I feel about the network coverage. Between the inane rambling of people still on an adrenaline high after surviving the worst shooting since the Va Tech Massacre and the inane rambling of a news anchor who knows next to nothing about guns (I love you, Robin Meade, but you need to get to the range sometime), I was boggled. The only decent eyewitness account I felt was legitimate was that of a combat-experienced Marine who was with his wife. He calmly described what he saw and heard. He didn't exaggerate. He didn't make guesses. He told what he knew.

Sadly, I believe the best journalistic effort of the day came from the Onion, citing an imaginary person as saying "Nothing really surprises me when it comes to this kind of thing anymore. And that makes me feel terrible" and "In exactly two weeks this will all be over and it will be like it never happened."

Yep. This.

The United States of Guns

I'll let most of the pundits go into the facts and figures.

TL:DR - There are more guns in the hands of fewer people now than there have been historically. Violent Crime has been decreasing rapidly. Concealed Carry is available in almost every state (several without permitting).

Let me use my golden, reassuring voice to scare you into buying something.
Since Senator Obama was nominated as the Democratic Party Candidate in 2008, sales of guns and ammunition went up in the mistaken belief President Obama would take all of our guns away because of his following a European socialist who was attempting to ban our guns. I was there and I watched it happen. The last four years saw the gun industry as one of the only recession-proof areas of the economy other than the gold sellers advertising via Glenn Beck. (I do have to admit, I expected the bottom to fall out of the gold market by about 2010-2011... I was wrong)

I like my guns. I like being able to shoot them. I like being able to teach people about the role of firearms in American and World history. I like teaching museum people about firearms (reaaaallll small slice of the Venn diagram there...). I like talking to Gun Guys (and Gun Gals).

However, I also can't stand talking to Gun Guys.

Most Gun Guys I know are great people. Some are religious, some aren't. Most are on the right, some are on the left. Some are active shooters. Some are collectors. Some just buy guns. Most are the salt of the earth. Most are white. Most are upstanding members of their communities. Genuinely nice folk, for the most part.

Sometimes, though, being around guns has placed me in the company of some people I really did not like. Racists, White Supremacists, Anti-Government Conspiracy Theorists, Separatist movement folks, and a few Aryan Nation folks. Real great crowd. Shining examples of a group of otherwise great people. Also, the folks who will easily get on camera because they fit the stereotype.

Stuck on the NRA

Then there is the mix. Good people who are believing everything the NRA is telling them. When pundits mention the core of the Republican Party, they are talking about these people. I have written previously about my feelings on the NRA. I will reiterate that I appreciate the non-lobbying activities - firearms use and safety training, youth shooter programs, and grants for ranges to make improvements, to name a few. As I am happy to share, I am a life member of the NRA. However, I have to admit I giggled when I saw the Onion giving Wayne LaPierre a dig.

Over the last couple of decades, Wayne and his people have been pushing Social Security off of the third rail of the political subway and replacing it with Firearms. For the last 10 years especially, they have made the life of our Congresspeople harder than it already was. Vote the wrong way on a bill and every gun owner in your district will find out. nice.

The NRA, as usual after a situation like this is lying low. They did the same after the Gabby Giffords Shooting - smart move on their part.

Some folks, however, are pointing to a decline in the power of their organization. There are different reasons behind why this may be happening. One is that they are outliving their utility as a result of one success and one failure. The success is that they have pushed back or removed many gun restrictions across the country (including hamstringing the ATF through limiting their investigative power). The failure has been in catching the graying of the gun community too late. The retirees with guns are passing away. The greatest Generation is all but gone. The youth are in single-parent homes with no dads (This is what happens when you believe "Only boys shoot guns"). The majority of our population lives in an urban setting. On the one hand, you have one of the most liberal environments for gun usage. On the other, the percent of the population that does own guns is decreasing.

Worshipping at the Altar

The result of this is that those with guns see themselves surrounded by those without. Tie this with the belief in family, church, and country shared by many of these folks and you get an almost religious fervor that has spread among the gun-owning public.This was best shown through the Pat Robertson-esque comments made by Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert. Referring to our Founding Fathers and asking repeatedly, "Where was God in all of this?" he is searching for ties that aren't there. In asking why no one in that theater was carrying concealed, he is making an assumption of your typical concealed-carry permit holder and the situation in the theater. My money is on Representative Gohmert never having a concealed carry permit.  

I have. After arriving in Wyoming in 2003, I applied for and received my concealed carry permit. That permit allowed me to carry concealed in more than 1/2 of the United States. I regularly did. Even in Cody, Wyoming, I would carry to Wal-Mart, to restaurants, and, yes, to the movies. Why? Because I knew then what some folks are just starting to understand. This can happen anywhere. Statistically, you have a better chance of getting cancer, but there is always that chance.The best training doesn't just teach safety and how to shoot. It teaches you when to shoot and how to determine IF you should shoot. Many was the time at Wal-Mart when I knew that I would not be shooting - I would be grabbing my kids and doing my best Franco Harris impersonation.

Part of the reason I support legal carry is simply that I have met too many idiots with guns. Most of them, fortunately, do not get the concealed carry permit. Sitting in a class for 16 hours (in a lot of states), filling out forms, writing a check, and then waiting is too much for some. Others aren't legal residents of the state in which they live. Some get refused because of a past crime. Some have "issues." These folks decide to carry concealed for reasons unknown. These are the people I worry about. 

And then there are the people like Aurora (I won't call him by name). He picked out what he wanted to do. He picked a great place to attack. He chose a good time to go "in costume." He chose some good weapons for the job. The guns were purchased legally. There were no warning signs (that have been reported). He was not going to be stopped.

Weapons in the Hands of Private Citizens

Even if someone had been carrying (like that Marine I mentioned earlier?), I would expect that their first and best response would have been to get the hell out of Dodge and keep your eyes open. This is due to the stories of the smoke grenade (if that is what it was) and the combination of the Remington 870 and AR-15. If I have a handgun and the other guy has a rifle or shotgun, I am finding hard cover. Why? Because they can do more damage and are more accurate over range.

The larger firearms (and the ones folks tend to freak over) have historically been designed and used for hunting. Even the venerable AR-15 uses a round very similar to small game cartridges. I have an 870. I've shot trap, grouse, and rabbit with it. I would likely own an AR if I had the spare cash. Why - because they can be so heavily modified. Otherwise, there are other firearms that don't look so scary that are more dangerous because that can fire larger ammunition just as fast.

Whether or not we should have these firearms is, to me, not an issue. I believe we have the right, but I would give them all up for a happy peaceful world (this is why I am damned to be a Liberal). The more I have thought about it, though, the more I am surprised the Democratic Party is not on the side of gun rights. This is one of the only rights issues that the Democratic Party does not support. We support the right to choose, the right to love who we want to love, the right to vote, the right to think and worship (or not worship) as we wish. We should be the gun rights party.

The Upshot

I'm just rambling now, but there are bigger issues than gun rights and bans. There is the issue of our society. There is the issue that we have a nation that does not pay attention to mental illness as it should. There is an issue in that our society does not engender more empathy and respect for life. It's not guns, it's not video games, it's not kids underlining 'Eskimo' in their copy of Moby Dick. It's responsibility, it's family, and it's love.


Peace, out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Planning for the Future - Firearms and your Estate Planning

It always starts the same...

"Mr. Kennedy?"

"Yes, how can I help you?"

"Well... my husband passed away."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Thank you. It's just that he was a gun collector and..."

The rest of the conversation usually pans out the same way. Almost every time. The husband had lots of guns - maybe 20, maybe 50, maybe 100, maybe more. He died. She didn't realize how many he had, what they are, what they are worth, and (most importantly) who to trust.

The reason I get this call is that some buddy of the late Mr. Hoplophile is nosing around, knows a little (or a lot) about the collection and wants to help the widow by giving her some money to help her out by buying one (or more) of the guns - with a pained expression and at a cost WELL below retail. I received calls like this about once or twice a month while I was the Curator at the Cody Firearms Museum. I still get them through friends and acquaintances now. Maybe I seem to be the trustable sort. Maybe it's the boyish good looks, maybe it's the glazed look and the paunch, I don't know.

The sad thing is that it is preventable. As fanatical as many of us are with our guns while we are alive, we sure don't seem to care much about when we're dead. This needs to change.

Why is it always the Gun Guys?

I'll tell you why. It's because we did all we could to beg, borrow, and steal to get them in the first place and we don't want the government (or anyone else for that matter) to take them from us.

Take the guy from the opening scenes of Red Dawn for a case in point. Cue it up to 1:30 and enjoy. I'll wait.

Now. That guy isn't too far off from the truth. I have known... well... not this guy, but many like him. According to the American Firearms Institute (an organization devoted to defending gun rights) "there are 250 - 280 million firearms in the US" and "40 - 50% of US homes own a firearm, that's 120 - 150 million people". Easy math. that averages out to 2 per household in about half of the homes in America. However, as with most averages, there are outliers. I know many folks who own just one gun. I also know a couple guys who could outfit a small Latin American country, so long as they don't mind bolt actions from the two World Wars.

What is common amongst all of these people? They will not give up their gun(s) easily. If they are like this while they are alive, why do it when they are dead?

I don't know. 

I don't know if it is a lack of planning, an unrealistic belief that they will always have time to divest themselves of the collection before they pass on, or just simply believing that it will work itself out on it's own as part of the rest of the estate. But it drives me crazy and tells me that they care more for their guns than they do for their wife and family.  


Many gun owners arm themselves initially because they feel they need to TCB - Take Care of Business. This could be defending life and limb from an intruder or getting groceries through the barrel of a gun. However, we all protect ourselves and our families in other, less dramatic ways. Unless you are supporting your self solely on Social Security, you are taking care of business - financial business. 
Elvis (Mr. TCB) and a few of his guns - note the Luger on the left and the suppressor on the top right

Think about it. We all plan in the boring, mundane, "Gee, I hope the economy doesn't tank again before I retire or die, taking my nest egg with it" way. We set up retirement plans, 401(k)s, investments, stocks, bonds, annuities, and all sorts of other things that make me fall asleep. Some of these guys have retirement plans that cover EVERYTHING - except their guns. No plan, no inventory, no appraisals (scrawling a list of 100% values from the Blue Book doesn't count). I don't get it. But I have come to terms that it happens. Every day.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail

Regardless of how you pass on, not having a plan for your guns is a bad, bad thing. Think about it. No matter how much warning you have, you cannot prepare. You die in your sleep of a heart attack (you eat red meat and stay off the treadmill, right?), you get an aneurysm on the floor of the gun show (we've all seen prices on guns that could lead to this...), or you stroke out on the golf course. 

Just kidding. That last one never happens to gun guys. They stroke out during a round of Sporting Clays.

During any of those, there is no time to prepare. But that's OK, you have emphysema, ALS (I know way too much about that one now), or the big 'C'. I'll have plenty of time. Sure. Once you get past "Depression" and on to "Acceptance", you have a short window. By that time, though, you will be hip-deep in medical bills, clinic appointments, and last checks on your bucket list. There will be time to take care of the guns later - besides, you may get better. You're right. You might. Lots don't.

So. While you are still healthy, wealthy, and (hopefully) wise, here are some things to do to prep your collection for your demise, sudden or otherwise.
  1. Inventory - Get a list with make, model, and serial number (separate from any bound book you may keep as an FFL or C&R). Tag the guns - you can use those little hangtags they sell at most office supply stores. For Pete's sake, no tape, no markers, no pens, pencils, sticky dots, or other adhesive badness. 
  2. Photograph - Get digital pictures of it all. Use a generic mount (you can use a range sled/sandbags with a nice cloth over the mount). Get both sides and necessary details (barrel address/sns are not necessary but inscriptions/engraving are). Have a card in frame showing make, model, and sn. Use decent lighting - a shop light behind the camera on the left and right should be good - prevents flash shadows. Use a tripod. Use a neutral background - not a plaid tablecloth. VERIFY that all of the pictures are clear.
  3. Appraise - Get a legitimate appraisal. If it is a few nice guns, you can Blue Book it. Write it down. Again, record make, model, and serial number with the value, the source for your estimation, and why you think it fits in a certain grade/%. Depending on the size or value of your collection (and your insurer's limits), you may want to go to one of the major national GUN auction firms or a private appraiser. Repeat this at least every five years - or if something happened that would otherwise increase the value of your collection. Legitimate appraisers will charge you for their time, per gun, etc. If they charge a percentage, they benefit from high-balling your collection. 
  4. Insure - Theft, fire, or any number of other things can happen. Now that you know what you have, insure it. Most reputable companies have a firearms policy rider. Boost the limit to whatever you are willing to go to, not surpassing the value of the collection. If you think the value has gone up, get it reappraised and insure accordingly.
  5. Secure - Keep it locked up. Keep it in a safe. Keep it in a locked display case. Keep it in a locked room. Ask a trusted (industrious) buddy to figure out how he would steal your guns. Fix what he would do. Why? Because someone will try to steal them (with a check or otherwise) after you are gone. Also - make sure someone trusted stays at the house while you are in the hospital or the casket.
  6. Allocate - Figure out where they go. Now. Just like anything else in your will (the house, property, etc.), this should be established well before you are de-established. Which ones go to your son or daughter. Which ones go to which friends. Make conditions (with a list of prices) to allow private sales (helps with the 'buddy' mentioned above). ID which guns go to an auction house. Figure out which ones go to a museum.  Figure out which ones go to other non-profits (If you plan to send them to the NRA, let the NRA know first).
  7. Note on Museums - Make arrangements with any museum AHEAD of time. I have had to refuse gifts from the deceased because of conditions they set. There are things responsible museums cannot agree to, in good faith. I am certain they were small issues that could have been resolved simply through a discussion beforehand, but legal conditions are exactly that.
  8. Organize - Keep all of the documentation on ALL of the above in hardcopy and on a USB thumb drive. Keep these in at least two places - with the guns and off site (safe deposit box if you have it). 
I recognize that some of this appears to be expensive. That's because it is. Ask yourself how much you spend on investment counseling, overhead fees on your IRA, or your accountant. Now ask how much you are willing to spend to take care of your family in this way.

Step up. Do it.

Now, on to the ammunition...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sorry, but we can't fail...

I love how folks on both ends of the political spectrum believe that their beliefs are the only ones that support Freedom and Liberty and that the other end of the spectrum is, at best, sending our Country down the drain or, at worst, actively striving to destroy the country or turn it into some sort of fascist or socialist state (depending on how you roll).

The beauty of our system is that NO ONE PERSON who gets elected - regardless of office - is able to irrevocably harm the nation. As the Chief Justice just told us, if you don't like what someone does, vote them out. If they do something illegal, they will be prosecuted. If they do something stupid, they will be called out for it. If the minority gets beat up, they can (and often do) come back in the next election.

No one person can destroy America. 236 years of various idiots, plutocrats, warmongerers, adulterers, liberals (Yes, I consider TR to have been a Liberal), conservatives, slave owners, racists, gays, Christians (they were all Christians of some sort), or other -ives/-ists have failed to screw it up beyond recognition yet.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Argument Clinic - or "How I Disagree with the White House"

This isn't an argument... It's just contradiction...

Lots of fun lately watching people on the talking box "discuss" things. 

Quite often it's as Jonathon Bernstein pointed out - the "out" party gainsaying the "in" party, regardless of where they stood when they were in power, a la Monty Python. The President or Democrats say one thing and the Republicans are instantly against it - especially if Grover passes it along as the official line on the weekly phone call.

However, I think one subject has been gaining some traction lately. It is something that people can form a little bit of a personal opinion about and a subject that was not much of an issue a few years back. It is the use of a 'kill list' and its widespread use around the world and across borders.

I have asked a few people if they can think of something illegal or unconstitutional the President has done. I rarely get a response. Often it is something easily disproved by a quick trip to or [As a side note - anyone concerned by how "Liberal" these sites are needs to go back to them, you would love how they have been finding fault with the President. They are equal-opportunity fact-checkers.] This is the one thing on the top of my head that I have questions about - legality.

Men and Machines

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Drones have been in use by the military in a wide variety of purposes since World War I. The MQ-9 Reaper is the current top-of-the-line version of the drones that first arrived in the 1990s. The US Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency use these to kill targets around the world - mainly in the 'Stans - 309 in Pakistan, alone. However, there have been strikes in Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines.

These missions have been carried out from bases around the world. Besides bases in-theater, there are now 64 known drone bases in the US. Some of these bases are for training, some of these bases are for war fighting, some of them are for national defense. Some are all three. Most of the drones are for optical/signal surveillance only. Some can be configured to carry ordnance.

Unfortunately, this means that some of these birds can "accidentally" spy on you (even though the military is not allowed to do so). I'll be the first person to say that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about. However, as much as I trust the military, I harbor less trust for local and state jurisdictions operating these UAVs. Granted - there are the legitimate uses we hear about, but my money is that there are as many times (if not more) in which somebody was wondering why that remote control plane was orbiting their yard while they were sunbathing.

On the civilian front, there is a growing culture of amateur UAV pilots who are using their camera equipped drones for fun. Some of them are inadvertently catching evidence of illegal activity. My thoughts on this are about the same as my issues with Law Enforcement using UAVs. Pervs will Perv.

Legality and Targeted Killing

I can understand how it is OK to kill an enemy combatant with any weapon. I was in the Army. We were soldiers first, regardless of our MOS. Granted, I was a Bass Guitar Player for two different units that were without arms rooms, but I was still a soldier and knew what it could entail.

From my historian perspective, I know that you win wars by the correct application of force. Add in a little politics... A little economics... A little public relations... and you have a won war. This one, I am not too sure about.

I know that assassination is illegal. You can't just go out and kill someone who your country doesn't like. In the realm of targeted killing, however, the target has lost protection of the Geneva Convention through a "allegedly taking part in an armed conflict or terrorism, whether by bearing arms or otherwise". The 'allegedly' part is what concerns me. The only time I hear the word 'alleged' in conversation, there is a court, a judge, and a jury involved. Many of the targets had it coming to them, I am sure. Some of them concern me (there I go using that word again).

None of my reading has given me sufficient satisfaction that due process is being followed and that some attacks have been badly-researched, badly-thought-out, or badly-executed.

Much of what has been happening in Pakistan and elsewhere has been the result of the CIA, not the US Military. Concerns have been raised as a result of both this and that Pakistan is not "a zone of armed conflict." Even though we may see this as being a fully legal act, I doubt that Pakistan, a sovereign nation the last time I checked, considers it to be against the law. And 74% of Pakistanis consider America to be an enemy... hunh. I wonder why.

I can only imagine how the US would feel if we were to suddenly experience a spate of (officially) unauthorized attacks by a nation-state on American citizens because they are involved in some sort of military adventure in a 3rd-party country. I think that would last about 2.4 seconds before we would be going on alert as a nation.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Differences of Opinion

I've been getting into trouble recently

A few of my Facebook friends... OK, more than a few of my Facebook friends (and a number of my real world friends) are very Conservative. I mean, c'mon, how can you be involved in firearms without knowing some Gun Guys (and if they aren't a conservative bunch, I don't know who is).

I was called out for offending someone with cartoons and posts that made it seem I was trying to say something about them personally. Most of the posts/shares I made were attempts to show the political beliefs I espouse or to ridicule what I see as the low side of both ends of the political spectrum. One cartoon was about the lowest common denominator within a conservative political group (and something I have seen first hand).

I have known your run-of-the-mill Conservatives, religious Conservatives, economic conservatives, some people who are Reagan Republicans, some folks who think of themselves as Reagan Republicans (but aren't), a number of Libertarians, some folks who think of themselves as Libertarians (but aren't), a guy who thinks of himself as the modern incarnation of Theodore Roosevelt (without using the word 'environmental', because, you know, only Liberals have something to do with environmentalism - and, no, he isn't on Facebook), and some folks who make the John Birch Society look like the Socialist Party of America. I have gotten along with them all - granted some better than others. I even changed some minds in the process - while I had mine opened as well.

I myself, as the blog title suggests, am not conservative. Well, not about most issues. I have also started to become less quiet about my beliefs.

Given the various places I have lived and one particular job I had, I now tend to let people know what I am thinking about a political subject. I got tired of having to nod, smile, and say, "Sure" when someone suggested the President was born in another country and how he was going to try to force Socialism on us and take our guns away. In the position I worked, I would likely have lost my job if my political leanings would have been made public.

So, back to Facebook...

Lately, I have been sharing some comics, graphs, and other things that support my worldview. Some people have taken issue with these beliefs and think that because I don't like some of their personal and political beliefs that I do not like them. This could not be further from the truth.

The first thing I ask myself: 

Are you a mean person? I have known Liberals and Conservatives both who were complete asses. There are people across the spectrum who want to hurt people, who don't respect property, and who think of those who disagree with them as lower life forms. A perfect example of this are some (not all) of the Occupy protestors at Zuccotti Park. Closer to home are people who abuse their family members. Douchebaggery knows no political lines.


Do you use your worldview to determine how you treat others (coworkers, people on the street, customers, etc.)? For some people this manifests itself through ignoring those who do not attend your church, go to your political club, or attend your rally. An extreme case is robbing and murdering people because you don't like illegal aliens...

If the answer to either is yes, I may not want to be your friend. In a lot of ways this comes down to a simple question: "Would I want to have a beer with you?" In the case of the current presidential election, I could answer yes for either of them. Hell, I would have said yes to Ron Paul. Most of the others would be a solid no.

I can't think of a person I am friends with that I wouldn't want to have a drink with. I hope you feel the same way.

What is my worldview? 

Here is a short list.

(Note - I have the right to add, delete, or modify anything on this list without notice)
  • Yes to separation of Church and State (much of the rest hinges on this)
  • Yes to Taxes - especially yes to raising the capital gains tax back to pre-Clinton levels; especially no to a flat tax
  • Yes to reducing unnecessary governmental spending
  • No to continuing tax credits or subsidies for US corporations keeping headquarters/money overseas for tax purposes 
  • Yes to Evolution
  • Yes to Gay Marriage
  • Yes to Social Welfare, unemployment, food stamps, etc.
  • Yes to a program allowing illegal immigrants a means to become legal citizens (Not Amnesty)
  • Yes to Gun Rights although I agree with background checks at Gun Shows and take issue with some of the nonsense spewed by the NRA
  • Yes to cutting back on the military - specifically the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter
  • Yes to Health Care Reform
  • Yes to reproduction rights for women. However, while I support the right to it, I do not support the act of abortion. 
  • I disagree with the Citizens United Decision
  • I believe that many Tea Party members are genuine in their interest to see a better America and that the end result is similar to my image of a better America. Now if we can only agree on how to get to this shared destination
  • I believe that the people running the Tea Party (There are several Tea Parties to choose from - each supporting slightly different things) have been very good at pulling the wool over the eyes of the rank-and-file, hiding the corporate/1%er wolf under the sheep's wool of God, Flag, and Family
  • I believe that teachers do not get paid enough and if the pay was better, we would get better teachers. 
  • I believe that unions are a good thing for disenfranchised workers - until they get too greedy for their own good. 
  • I believe that the Amendments to the US Constitution compose a list of our rights, first and foremost. Any attempt to amend it in order to infringe the rights of ANYONE goes against that theme. (There is no such thing as a right to not be offended)
  • I believe that the President is an American Citizen, a Christian, and the legal Commander-in-Chief
  • I believe that there is no Muslim agenda to destroy America - I am more worried about a Christian Identity member with a U-Haul full of ANFO
  • I believe that the 1% is padding their wallets and that the rest of us are suffering as a side effect
Yes. I am the Secular Humanist your parents warned you about.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Health and, well, not...

Clunky title, I know.

I have been finding myself thinking about health for awhile now. Between signs my body has been giving me and signs I have seen in others over the years, I have a nice list of what-not-to-dos.

Unfortunately, while somethings are obvious - don't smoke (will likely get a sign someday), don't drink too much (already got a sign a few years back), don't eat too much (trying not to get the sign) - some things are not so obvious.

Although a lot of diseases have their known causes, there are others. The problem with these is that you could be doing everything right and you can still get it - certain kinds of cancer fall into this category. The one at the top of my mind right now is ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Oddly enough, this leads me to food...

About a year ago, I had some huevos rancheros. best. huevos. rancheros. ever.

I was on a road trip across the Southwest. It was past lunch and we were hungry. It was also Sunday afternoon in Gallup, New Mexico. The offerings were fast food, Chinese buffet and what appeared to be a "homestyle" diner (read: bland, pre-packaged, oily, and overcooked food fit for a retirement home). As I have had most of the fast food in Gallup over the years and I know better than to chance a buffet of any kind on the road, we chose the diner... the Route 66 Railway Cafe.

As soon as I walked in, I changed my mind. I smelled the authenticity. I saw the plates on the tables. I read the look of smug satisfaction on the faces of the diners. As soon as I read the menu, I knew.

I wanted the huevos. It was a late lunch, but it's always a good time for huevos.

So, one piping hot cup of coffee later, the huevos showed up (with green sauce, of course). My travel companion spent the next half hour laughing as I "Mmmm"ed and "Ohhhh"ed through the plate (did I mention it was good?). We had a great time complimenting the food, the coffee, and my error of judging the book by its cover. I will never forget that lunch.

We left, heading east. A few hours later, we stopped at Cline's Corner. We were waiting for the vehicle we were traveling with - it had developed issues coming through Albuquerque. We decided to go in, sit down, have a 10-100, and a milkshake. best. milkshake. ever. Again, this made all the more enjoyable for the company.

I was regaled with tales of a lifetime of stops at Cline's Corner - all the way back to the late 1940s on old Route 66 in a Plymouth sedan with the windows rolled down - no air conditioning back then, you know. Many other trips occurred over the decades with her folks and her brother. Years later, these trips were her and her dogs.

This visit with me was her last stop at Cline's.

The reason for our trip was to bring my mom back home. Not eight months earlier, she had been diagnosed with ALS. When the diagnosis was made, everything started to add up. Little things here and there - at one time played off to allergies, asthma, arthritis, and other ailments - were now easily explained. As near as we can guess, ALS had started to show up in our lives two years prior - maybe three.

Within a few months of the diagnosis, she needed a walker on occasion. By Easter of last year, we borrowed a wheelchair so she could enjoy the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, AZ. The first day of this move, she drove from Scottsdale to Payson, Arizona. I think that is the last time she drove more than 30 minutes.

As of this Memorial Day weekend, it will be one year back in our hometown. She is now living with my sister and is in hospice status. Spirits are high. Friends and family are near. Laughter is still in her eyes.

So. Here we are. ALS is on our mind. I wrote this partially to let some air out but to also try to do the little bit that I can to raise awareness of the disease. Those who are friends of mine on Facebook have seen my profile pic for the month of May. It is the symbol for the ALS Association. They have been great to my mom and our family. The services and support they provide have been wonderful at a time when we needed them. The support groups associated with them have been helpful for my family, as well, for the advice in dealing with bureaucracy and anything else associated we just don't get.

If nothing else, learn the signs and symptoms of ALS. There is not a cure yet, but there are some treatments and clinical trials that are looking good. It's only too late if it is too late.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Museums and Firearms - why I do what I do

Well, today finds me in Montana, relaxing at my in-laws place. Tomorrow will find me at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman (where my museum career effectively began). I will be presenting my day-long seminar on Museums and Firearms at the Museums Association of Montana (MAM) Conference.

The first time I did this presentation was for the 2004 Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA) Conference in Casper, Wyoming. I had been at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center as the Firearms Curator for about a year-and-a-half. I was leading a charmed life. I had my (at the time) dream job, I was being paid to talk to people about guns, history, and museums, and I was starting to build some great friendships in MPMA.

Anyway, here I am, almost eight years later. I moved on to a great (and in many ways better) job at a different museum. I am still involved with MPMA (I've been a board member for 6 of the last 8 years). I still love talking to people about guns!

Part of what I love about this is that I get to help cross the great divide - the divide between the gun guys and the Museum world. It's not that there are no gun guys in the museum field or museum folks who like guns. However, this is a small slice of a huge Venn diagram. There are lots of gun guys out there who like - but misunderstand - museum operations. There are many museum professionals who are responsible for firearms in their collections but don't fully understand them as objects or have concerns about guns and their accoutrements.

Unfortunately, the channels of communication between the two groups are limited. There are about a half dozen titled Firearms Curators in the country. I know most of them by first name. Some of these guys, by choice or job description, don't have the opportunity to talk to the general museum field. The museum field, tending to skew politically liberal, are often not gun owners. I, on the other hand, fall into both areas to a certain extent. As I have titled the blog, I am a Liberal Gun Guy.

Having set myself apart and acknowledging this difficult and sometimes tenuous position, I am more than happy to talk to both groups about how we can all get along. Tomorrow will be the sixth time I have presented this specific seminar. It has been seen by about 100 museum professionals and others to this point. I had several hunters skip the opening day of deer season to catch the talk in Bismark, North Dakota (thanks to the State Historical Society of North Dakota). I have had input from the (at the time) Firearms Conservator from Springfield Armory National Historic Site. I even have done the unthinkable - I enlist the aid of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

With the aid of these folks (and the host organizations I have dealt with), I get to talk to 20 more people about two of my loves - museums and firearms. Safety and identification, legal issues, conservation and care, and exhibition and curation will all be covered.

It'll be a great day!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mmmm... New Computer Smell...

OK, I'm a nerd. I'm not proud. Well, I think I fit more into the geek category than nerd. Different sides of the same coin, but with social skills being the determining factor.

So, with that stated, there is an expectation that I would have the newest, greatest technology at hand. I would tell that expectation to not get ahead of itself.

We have had a pair of Dell Dimension 4600s since about 2005. They weren't bad when they came out. However, time took its toll. We added RAM - one is at 1.5GB, the other at 2.0GB. We added a DVD drive to one when the CD crapped out. We added some hard drive space. We upgraded the video cards. They weren't bad figuring the biggest load they had to operate under was playing World of Warcraft (we don't play anymore, but tell me if you want an invite).

So, here we are in 2012, with one computer running World of Tanks at about 12 FPS and the other freezing up on Frontierville (holler at Heidi if you want a neighbor). This doesn't even take into consideration the time needed to copy files, load graphics, or download video from Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go, or any of the Anime herself has been watching...

Now, thanks to me overpaying my taxes last year (that is SOOOO getting fixed), we (well, OK, I) bought a pair of new PCs. We now have matching Dell Inspiron 620STs (review is for the MT). 3.0 i5 processors (go Sandy Bridge!), 8GB RAM, 1TB hdd... shweet! We kept our old monitors (we have extra still...).

Now for the hard work to kick in. Windows 7, while awesome in many respects (Have you tried Vista???), does come with a learning curve from the administration side, having spent most of the last decade in XP. It does work, though, and the hurdles are worth it.
  • Admin account - Check!
  • My account without admin privileges - Check!
  • Kid's account without admin privileges - Check!
OK, copying over the files we want from the old PCs...
  • Documents - 7800 files = 6.5GB... that seems a lot... I'll need to go through and cull some of those later... Check!
  • Music -  3239 files = 11GB... and all legal - Check!
  • Movies - 146 files = 2.5 GB... We will need to start culling some of those as well... The little girl likes to shoot videos of the TV sometimes... Check!
  • Images - 8200 files = 19 GB... Goodness... that will take a bit. Waiting until no one needs the system
Copying over some various game files I don't want to lose... (I didn't work that hard to get to the last stage of Medal of Honor: Airborne Assault just to have to start over again...) Oh, and the pirated copy of the old D&D software (check my D&D Posts here, here, and here)...

Now... for the old PC... hmmm... kid's PC... paperweight... Let's check Lifehacker... they are always good for things like this... hunh... Media Box or Network attached storage (NAS)...

NAS it is!

We have about 1 TB spread across several hdds in the house. Once everything is off these, they will go into one of the old PCs, the RAM will get consolidated, and then I have a decision:

  • Install Ubuntu and go from there,
  • Install Free NAS, or
  • Keep XP, remove all the crapware and set up a dual-boot with Ubuntu...
For now, I think I may go with the latter... Always open to input. No action taken as of yet.

The Upshot - What works here as NAS or backup or whatever you want to call it may end up being what I end up using at the museum. We have been looking at a couple options for backups or fileshares. Unfortunately, we may be limited to the use of Windows...