Tuesday, December 23, 2008

CURSE YOU, ILLINOIS WEATHER!!!

On Thursday, I got frozen out of my IPSC match night. Because of the impending Christmas Day holiday (and a beautiful holiday it is) we had this week's match re-scheduled for tonight.

So of course we get a combination of little snow in the morning, a crap load of freezing rain during the afternoon, and follow it up with regular rain that is beginning to freeze now that the sun has set. I tell you, how is a guy supposed to get a little recreational shooting in this week? Thursday is my only day off this week. (Yes, my state office is back on the clock Friday. I hope the other agencies lucked out with a day off.)

I guess I'll be waiting until Saturday and also waiting for the upcoming "Hangover Match" at the range on New Years' Day. Besides, this is probably God's way of saying "Save your ammo for next week. It'll be better then."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Weekly Bowling Night Report for 12/11/08

I shot really well tonight. There were a lot of A-Zone hits, but I also got the no-shoot target a couple of times. In all, everything went smoothly except for a little problem with a magazine at the start. I'll figure out what's wrong with it and put the pliers to it until it works again. I still need more shooting time, so it looks like the weekend just got a little busy with range time.

Friday, December 05, 2008

News crew appears in room full of gun owners, escapes unharmed

Okay, I was just being silly with that post title. The reporter in this news segment was at our IPSC shooting match last night and got some footage for the report. Two of the women in our group got some screen time, too.

I'm just glad they didn't film me while I was shooting. That course of fire hates me for some reason, and it's not even filled with steel targets.
The Annual Day of the Ninja is Here!

I know, I know. Once again, you promised yourself you'd do something ninja-related on Day of the Ninja. And once again, it just sort of snuck up on you. Well, it's the Annual Day of the Ninja. It's supposed to sneak up on you. And now that you know, go forth and embrace your inner ninja! If you see a ninja out there today, give him a hug and then tell him he has shamed his ancestors for being seen!

Ninjas have made a great transition in American pop culture. Whereas they were once looked upon as sneaky little spies and assassins thanks to James Bond movies, they went through a period in the 1980s of becoming pop culture icons. Don't believe me? Well, let's see... we had the American Ninja series of movies, the tv show "The Master" starring Lee Van Cleef and Sho Kosugi, the Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle (maybe it was called that in Japan, but I doubt it), GI Joe had all kinds of ninja-riffic servicemen and women, and of course, Blue Oyster Cult released an album in the mid-80's called "Club Ninja."

Of course, the most popular ninja of them all at the moment doesn't even wear all black like his predecessors. Apparently today's ninja wears safety orange. And if you can be sneaky in that get-up, you're pretty good.

So, have an enjoyable Day of the Ninja and try not to be attacked from the shadows.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Weekly Bowling Night Report 12/4/08

I didn't shoot so hot tonight, which is normal for a classifier. Most of the targets were partially concealed behind no-shoot targets, so trying to get a good shot in wasn't so easy. The first run was the best missing once on an unconcealed target and hitting only one no-shoot target. The second run was worse all around when I hit two no-shoots and missed one target completely, and with a longer time no less.

I think it's time to see if it's as much the gun as it is my technique. I enjoy shooting the XD40 but I need to seriously consider if it's the best gun for me in competition. It doesn't fit my hand "just so" and that can lead to problems with shooting it. The Model 1911 made famous by Colt fits my hand well, so maybe it's time to upgrade to a classic style of handgun.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 11/25/08

What's this? IPSC night is on a Tuesday and not a Thursday? Well, we had our IPSC night this week moved to Tuesday from its usual Thursday slot due to Thanksgiving. For a little fun, our club's head honcho and builder put together a Texas Star target: 5 small steel plates on a free-spinning spoked wheel. They balance each other out normally, but once you shoot one the wheel begins to spin and the targets move. Most of the steel targets I'm used to are regular knockdown plates or poppers. Having to knock down a small steel plate that was moving was a new experience for me, and I have to say that I like it. It's as much of a challenge as the spinning or other moving cardboard targets, if not a little more so. Some of the shooters tonight lucked out: two of our shooters knocked down two targets with one shot, and one shooter knocked down three targets with one shot. The spring-loaded latches are supposed to have some give in them to let the plates drop off of the spokes when they're hit, and if you luck out and hit the right spot on the spoked wheel, you might just knock down multiple targets. That's more luck than skill, though.

The poppers were a bit on the difficult side for me tonight, but I tend to be a bit weaker on them because of shooting at a downward angle and all. The cardboard targets were their usual selves. I wasn't expecting to hit the targets at all once they started moving around, so when I burned through less than one magazine on the star I considered it a good shoot. My first run wasn't so good, with one miss total (on the cardboard targets, no less) and a time of around 42 seconds. The next time I dropped it to 30 seconds and change with no misses. The XD40 performed in its usual workhorse style and didn't give me a single bit of trouble. Other guns may come and go, but the XD40 is still a keeper to me.

In all, the rotating steel plates may not seem to be the most practical or "tactical" of targets, but you're getting practice at shooting something that's on the move and acting in a way that looks like it's avoiding being hit. Shooting a moving target provides at least a little practice out there for everyone who normally stays on a regular shooting line with static targets. So regardless of the utter practicality of the target, it's a challenge. That challenge is enough to make it a hell of a lot of fun. I hope we use that target setup more often. If you've got some cowboy shooters out there with a target setup like that, ask if you can use it. I like it as a good timing exercise.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bowling Night Report 11/20/08

Tonight's shoot sucked, mostly because my mind was occupied with other stuff. I didn't have my mind on taking out the targets and it showed. The steel target curse came back in force tonight, as there were two smaller steel targets behind the regular-sized ones. Those were a bit tough to knock down and cost me some time. To make it worse, I couldn't keep a sight picture at all. I'm just glad it wasn't a qualifier or an actual match.

Yogi Berra was right. Ninety percent of the game is half mental. If your mind isn't on the game, you'll do poorly. Oh well, there's the match next week, too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

National Ammo Day

Today is a day with a very simple premise: go buy 100 rounds or more of your preferred ammunition. There are an estimated 75 million lawful gun owners in the United States. Some are veterans, some aren't. Some are doctors, some are lawyers, and a few even have regular jobs, too. They all have one thing in common: they obey the laws in order to foster the preservation of public order. They're the kind of people who can be trusted with 7.5 billion (yes, billion) rounds of ammunition.

As for me, I bought my 100 rounds, with another box tomorrow when I'm at the range. How did you fare today?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bowling Night Report for 11/13/08

I didn't get a chance to go tonight, which is too bad. It's going to start freezing like no one's business at range for the next couple of months so this was the last decent "no jacket needed" shooting night. I guess it's a good thing that I don't use a steel or aluminum-framed handgun during the matches. I wouldn't want to end up like Flick from A Christmas Story. Getting one's trigger finger stuck to the trigger would have all kinds of problems, the least of which would be lousy aim. There's always next week. I was really hoping to get to a B classification this year. Now that I can get extra time at nearby ranges I think it'll get easier for me.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 11/06/08

It was a decent night, but nowhere near as good as last week's shoot. I missed twice on my first run through, and once on my second. Those can really hurt you when you've only got 12 shots at most. Ah, if only they could use my non-qualifier scores from last week, too, I'd look like a much better shooter. I need to practice shooting more from behind concealment or cover, I suppose. When you can't take any steps outside a small boxed-in piece of floor, it's tough to get those good shots.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

St. Thomas More, patron saint of politicians, pray for our candidates and pray for our voters.

That's pretty much all I've got to say for today.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

It's that time of year again

Our gun club had its semi-annual clean up on Saturday, so Dad and I headed over to help out. The club is setting up a range that works for both trap and skeet shooters and the area around one of the concrete shooting pads is poorly-drained to say say the least. You'd think cutting a small trench for a length of ABS drainage tile would be easy, but I had the bad fortune of cutting through some of the worst mud I've seen in a while. With any luck the new piping will help to dry out that patch of ground.

I didn't get a chance to go shooting my IPSC matches last week, either. My sinuses acted up again. Eventually Illinois will make up its mind about the weather and decide if it wants to have a cold winter or a mild one. I prefer mild winters, but we do need some good cold days to keep the mosquito populations down.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 10/24/08

Last night I shot like a man possessed of greater shooting skills than he should have. Well, at least if felt that way. There weren't any steel targets, and the center targets were tough to point at due to the large number of no-shoot targets in between. Still though, I managed to do pretty well for my current skill level. I think I missed one shot total, and that was on a re-shoot.

Sadly, it doesn't look like I'll be hitting that B rating like I hoped by the end of the year, but you never know. With the opportunity to practice at multiple ranges I can get more time on the targets. Now I just need to start reloading so I can shoot more for the same amount of money.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Work and all that.

Reviewing reports makes for many long days and the occasional night of sitting around and not wanting to go out to shoot. This will hopefully get fixed Thursday night. I also need to head out to the outdoor range and test out the Hornady Leverevolution ammunition I bought for my lever-action rifle. It's in .357 Magnum, so I may try a couple out of my revolver as well. The ammunition is plastic-tipped so it's supposed to shoot flatter than regular hollow-point bullets. Will it make a difference in how I shoot? I honestly doubt it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 10/09/08

That was one of the most fun runs I've had in a while. I noticed that the first four targets on the 18-shot stage were steel. Steel is a very iffy creature for me. I either hit the popper targets the first time or I wind up emptying a magazine trying to knock two targets down. To top it all off, one of the boxes of ammo I brought had only 13 rounds in it, and I was scheduled to run the stage twice. I was cutting it close (for me) by having 63 shots to cover 36 shots total. If I messed up on the steel targets I might expend too much ammo in the first stage and not have enough to complete the re-shoot. So, nerves were my enemy tonight. Once the buzzer went off I went into a near-contemplative state, just relaxing, opening myself up to the environment, aiming casually but carefully and shooting. I ran both stages with 18 shots each, and did really well for my competitive class in terms of time. Now, if only I could do that during the qualifiers...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Go Cubs Go?

More like "No Cubs No" if you ask me. They can have next year's World Series, though. The Chicago Cubs have now provided baseball fans with a Century of Consistency. That's got to be worth something, right?

Unlike the Cardinals, the Cubs got to the playoffs this year.

Also unlike the Cardinals, the Cubs couldn't get past the playoffs, so I at least have that small comfort as an avid watcher of St. Louis Cardinals baseball games.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 10/02/08

Thanks to sinus pressure keeping me from sleeping on Wednesday night, I stayed home and missed a qualifier stage. I hate when that happens. Sure I tend to do worse on them because they involve not moving much and targets that are on average 10 to 15 yards away, but I'd gotten in more practice. So, no shooting fun last night. Next week, though, I should be there barring other problems.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bowling Night Report 9/18/08

Bleh. I only had enough ammo to shoot the stage once last night. The poppers got me right off the start. Okay, I'm aiming at the target. Front sight is clear, target is fuzzy. I've got all the stability I can get for recoil control and... the gun is pulling to the right. Five shots, not a one hit the popper.

Kentucky windage to the rescue! I shift the gun to where it's pointing to the left of the target. Ding! Down in one shot. It just wasn't my night last night for shooting. The shooting club has gotten some more new members and some more potential shooters in the past couple of weeks, too. I'm glad to see more folks coming out and shooting, even if the new folks are doing better than I am.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

61 years of Air Superiority

The entire letter, the entire Air Force philosophy boils down into the three last words of the letter issued by Secretary Donley and General Schwartz: fly, fight, win! This is as it should be. This is the task to which Airmen are entrusted. Maintainers keep the planes flying. Supply transfers the parts needed by the maintainers. Security forces protect Supply and Maintenance. All so some guys in funny green coveralls can go blow things up and generally make things easier for our fellow servicemen on land and sea. When our fellow servicemen need to focus on a specific mission, we take care of the rest. Why? It's to win. That's where Airmen should focus their energy.

Tonight, we a raise a toast to men like Billy Mitchell, Henry Arnold, Curtis LeMay and Robin Olds.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'm not forgetting.

Seven years ago, sitting in a basement of a local company and helping to get bills mailed to clients, I started my morning grumbling about New Yorkers. It was mostly about how the Mets mauled the Cardinals in the previous baseball season, but there was a bit of grumbling about New Yorkers in general. I think it was my general "Big cities. Blah." train of thought. Sure, there's exceptions, like the Brooklyn-born crew chief in my old squadron who I'd run around a cowtown in New Mexico with. For the most part, though, I could take or leave New Yorkers, especially the Manhattan crowd. There was also the usual mush about figuring out how to pay off my student loan quickly and saving up for a car and house. (Things went in a very different direction for me than I'd either hoped or expected and not necessarily in a bad way.) I heard about the first tower. I chalked it up to a tragic and weird accident. Then I heard about the second tower. That was no accident.

I stopped grumbling about New Yorkers. I still don't, unless it's about the Mets. New Yorkers are my countrymen, as American as I am, even during baseball season. I'm not forgetting you guys.

I heard about the Pentagon and wondered if I bumped into someone who worked there at the time. The armed forces are a smaller world than people might think. I still pray for you guys.

I thought about my parents, both in jobs that could put them in harm's way. Dad, because of his career as a police officer, Mom, because she worked in a congressional office.

The cops, the firemen, everyone who made a bad situation better by getting thousands to safety were now paying for their heroic actions. The towers fell, and many of New York's Bravest and New York's Finest wouldn't go home ever again. It didn't matter where the other people came from, the police and firemen got them to safety all the same. You want to know I don't grumble so much about New Yorkers? That's why.

Anything I do that helps get the bastards who planned or financed or worked on the attacks is my way of saying "I'm not forgetting." Anything I do to support those who are hunting them down is my contribution to their memory. If I had a better run time, maybe I'd be back in the Air Force and getting troops from Point A to Point B or making sure they had air cover. Regardless, I can still do something, even if it's minor.

I'm not forgetting, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bowling Night Report 9/4/08

Well, I shot like utter crap. As usual, most of my shots are going low. Saturday I headed over to my local range and shot from the 10-yard line. I was shooting low. I think I may have figured out a problem with how the XD40 fits into my hand. When firing rapidly I noticed that when the trigger resets to its full position, it's tougher to maintain good contact between it and my trigger finger. So when doing some dry-firing drills, I checked to see what point the sear resets and compared it to when the trigger safety pops back out and to when the trigger returns to fully forward. There's about an eighth of an inch of excess forward travel between when the trigger safety resets and when the trigger returns to full forward. I believe I'll need the assistance of a gunsmith on this one. If the trigger doesn't go so far forward, I have less chance of causing the gun to point downwards when I squeeze the trigger.

Well, maybe this will work, I don't know. I'll give it a shot.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

In a World Without Don LaFontaine...

People will agree with this article's last line that movie trailers will sound weird.

Leaving in 2008: Don LaFontaine. The "In a World" Guy. Anyone who can poke fun at themselves in a GEICO ad can't be that bad, can he?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's Official: Cops Have Some of the Best "There I Was" Stories

Go and read, ladies and gentlemen. Thrill to the tale of one man putting his life, his dignity, and possibly even his sanity on the line to take on some of the Criminal Geniuses of our time. Like all the commenters, this would have been better with video of the incident. Clearly, this will be a job for Bill Kurtis and Cold Case Files.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Like the one guy said in the horror movie, "My body is a road map of pain!" I shouldn't have taken the week off to relax after Abe's Amble. I feel like it's day 1 of my running training all over again. I had a nasty cramp on one side of my lower back. It just means I need to stretch more prior to running. I'm also going to walk on the nights I don't run. I figure some aerobic exercise is better than none.

I also didn't buy these moisture-wicking shirts and shorts because they're comfortable, that's for sure. I have a financial investment in my health, now, however small. It's enough to keep me motivated.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 8/21/08

Coming hot off the heels of a crappy qualifier run, I think I managed to get back into the swing of things very nicely. Tonight I tried timing my reloads. Instead of counting shots, I took a look at the stage and divided it up. It turns out I could divide the targets into three groups, so I did. Once I engaged the last target of each group, I dropped the magazine and loaded in a fresh one. I don't like that much simply because of the damage it can do to magazines, especially when they've still got five or six shots left in them. However, it kept my rhythm from being broken by not having a magazine run out in the middle of engaging a target. I saw a few shooters have that happen to them, and I didn't want to be one of them. It didn't help my time too much, but that's okay since it's the first time I studied the idea.

I'm also getting a lot of empty brass collected. It's time to clean out the basement and use the space for a loading bench. I'd like to shoot more ammunition at the same prices I'm currently paying for off-the-shelf brands.

Between this and running, I think I've got a nice little exercise program going on here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's Over!

Abe's Amble, that is. I walked more than I ran, and the results show it. 1:47:46 was my official time. I had an average pace of 17:23. I was expecting a 2-hour even time based on my times around the neighborhood, so I did better than I expected. So, can I run a 10k? Kind of. Am I better off running a 5k? Most likely. So, that's what I'm going to shoot for from now on. I need to cut a lot of time off of my pace, so that's the next part.

I doubt I'll ever really enjoy running, but at least I now have a baseline to use for future measurements of progress. I got a lot of good data out of this race.

Next time, though, I'll run the 2-mile at the beginning of the fair. This 10k stuff is crazy for a weekend athlete-type.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sunday Sunday Sunday!

Sunday is Abe's Amble. I hope I can remember to wake up early enough to get there. It sucks being a nightowl sometimes, especially when you're doing something that requires you to be awake by the time you're usually going to sleep on a weekend.

Am I ready? No. Am I going to go through with it anyway? Yes.

From now on, though, it's nothing more than 5k runs. I can switch over to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday running schedule and 3 miles per run is acheivable on a regular basis. This Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday workout routine intereferes with way too much of my regular lesiure activities.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 08/07/08

Some days, you're as good of a shot as Wild Bill Hickok or Rob Leatham, some days you're replaying Don Knotts' role in "The Shakiest Gun In The West."

Yeah, I was shooting more like Don Knotts tonight. There's only one cure for that: more range time.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Chicago Sun-Times: Daley giving up the fight on Chicago's Gun Ban?

Residents of Cook County: What's going on up there? The Cubs are in first place in the National League and the best team in baseball, and now Mayor Richard M. Daley is looking at giving up on maintaining Chicago's gun ban, to the point of not even fighting it in court? What's next? Flying pigs?

(hat tip: Second City Cop)
On things that make Modern Americans happy

One of those things is getting your car's title seventeen months early. I'm one of those happy Modern Americans today.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 7/31/08

The motto of practical shooting (more specifically IPSC, the International Practical Shooting Confederation) is "Diligentias, Vis, Celeritas" or "Accuracy, Power, Speed." Well, I've got the accuracy and the power parts down pat, but the speed isn't there just yet. I was only able to shoot one stage last night, so I had to make things count. I got a lot of maximum-scoring hits in the A-Zone of the targets, but I was about seven seconds slower than I would have liked. It was nice to hear all those calls of "Two alphas!" after the shoot, though.

The stage had a fun start as well. One of the targets was a steel "popper," like the ones that made my life difficult last week. That target was attached via cable to a disappearing target. When you shot the steel target, it would trip the cable and allow the disappearing target to swing up and down quickly, like someone popping up, then diving for cover. Those targets, spinning targets and hiding targets are a great way to test for speed, since you don't get points unless you hit the front side of the target. I got both shots dead center of the disappearing target last night. Even the best shooters in our group had trouble with it last night.

Another thing I'm happy to see in my weekly shooting matches is the presence of law enforcement and military personnel. They take the matches seriously, since quick reactions are even more important to them when it comes to gunfire. You want to talk about fast and accurate? These guys were running under 10 seconds in something that took me 21. I'd definitely call on them for backup if I was in an LE job.

They didn't get the disappearing target as nicely as I did, though. I guess I can live with that. Too bad it wasn't my qualifier, but that's for next week.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Morton Grove Rescinds Gun Ban

(Via Instapundit)

Rocket J. Squirrel said it thusly: "Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle!"

Fred Sanford said it thusly: "It's the big one, Elizabeth!"

Keanu Reeves declared: "Whoa."

This is the village that enacted the first handgun ban in the United States in 1981. For them to drop the ban without any fanfare is amazing. Now there's just one big honkin' hole in Cook County's map of Handgun-Friendly Cities. Gee, I wonder which city it could be?

(For those of you who shouted "Could it be.... SATAN?" in a Church Lady-esque voice, go to the back of the line.)

Yep, Chicago is going to fight the handgun ban on grounds that DC v. Heller only affects federal lands, not city lands. I think they're a little off on that account. There's that whole Incorporation Clause in the first part of the 14th Amendment that gives federal rights to all citizens in the state. I really don't think we want to see an abrogation of Constitutional rights, now, do we?

Most importantly, what does Marathon Pundit think will be the net result for his quiet suburb?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bowling Night Report for 7/24/08

I converted a lot of money into noise last night. The normal-sized steel popper targets were okay. The cardboard targets were okay.

The half-sized popper targets? Thanks to trying to be a completist, I expended a lot more ammo than I should have. I averaged 25 rounds for an 18-round stage. Oh, I will get my revenge on you little metal bastards. I will. You will not know the time or the stage, but I will knock you down repeatedly with great enjoyment.

I can't wait for the new sights to come in for my XD40 as well. They just got declared to be legal for Production class, so I can shoot either Limited or Production with my handgun. They ought to help quite a bit.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wilmette's Handgun Ban Struck Down in 7-0 Village Board Vote

Ah, DC vs. Heller causes another village in Illinois to rescind its ban on handguns.

In a just world we would see a luxuriously engraved letter of apology hand-delivered to Hale DeMar, too. He deserves it. It's nice to see that he has been at least somewhat vindicated after the December 2003 shooting of an intruder in his home. Why am I so interested in this compared to other suburbs who still ban handguns? Some of my first blog posts are on Hale DeMar's defense of his home, his willingness to explain his actions, and a bill defending his action submitted from an unlikely place. I hope Mr. DeMar gets some kind of justice for the trouble placed on his doorstep four years ago.
Formal Training for the Walk, Week 1

Very little has been going on last week, except for one thing: work. We had a lot of panicked callers to the agency and little time for anything else. It was the filing period for semi-annual reports from our registered committees, and I've been spending most of my days looking through math errors, misreported vendors, incomplete information, and the like. So I didn't have much time for shooting or the like.

Like I said last week, I had to switch from a running group to a walking group. One of my ankles is bad from a pair of nasty sprains, and my knees aren't much better. I do know I can at least run around the block a couple of times before I get winded now, so that's a bonus to me. If I don't run more than a mile or so, I'm okay. At two miles, I'm beginning to feel sore, and forget about three at the moment. That's going to take a few more months. I did a little running for a warm-up, then got to walking last night. If it's as sunny in mid-August as it usually is around here, even walking the 10-kilometer route will be hot, sweaty, miserable and still strangely fun. I did a lot of work on hills and upward slopes, so the hilly parts of the route will be easier.

The only difference this will make to me is that I have to walk a lot more often. I'm not exerting as much energy when I walk, so I need to walk a lot more often. I'll also be very very bored. When you run for exercise, you're going nowhere just like in walking for fitness, but at least you're getting there faster.

If it wouldn't cause dozens of panicked calls to the police, I suppose I could walk to the range instead of driving...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Formal Training for the Run, Week 8

Like a certain detective once said "A man's gotta know his limitations." Week 7 was a bust, and Week 8? Well, 2 miles instead of 4 says that I didn't hit my target at all for this week's run. This sucks, ladies and gentlemen. I'm beginning to wonder if I can do this at all. I don't like thinking that way, either. All I seem to do is fall back further and further from the rest of the group. So, I have no idea what's next. I may need to switch to a walking group or something, or else I'll just have to run as much as I can and walk the rest of the way. This is a pretty lousy setback for me.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What a week. Thunderstorms on the days I want to run, no competition shooting, either. One good thing did happen, though, and I got into a local private gun club. As long as I have spare time and spare ammo, I can shoot to my heart's content.

Hmm. I may just do that in a bit, too.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Where We Stand

As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says, we've got a lot left in our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot give up for the sake of our nation and for our newest allies. When we've got two new governments where regular, orderly change can be made via the ballot box instead of the gun or the bomb, where people can breathe free of religious oppression and worship freely without threat of government retaliation or even not have any religion in their lives, when violence is eschewed in place of argument and debate, we'll have victory. We're getting very close to that. I hope it will happen soon.

Compare this and this with this. It's the same nation of which they speak, yet neither is being officially censored or repressed. We may choose to point and laugh at one or the other, to shake our heads and say "What fools these mortals be" when taking issue with either site. Each author knows that he or will not be shut down because a government official has a personal grudge against them, their faith or lack of it. It's these simple things which we take for granted that are being fought for overseas. The concept of "America" is as important as the American soil on which we tread. Shortly after 9/11, a speaker at Columbia University hoped for "a million Mogadishus," echoing an earlier (and now quite dead) Communist icon's call to arms. Today, I'll hope for a million Springfields, a million Evanstons, a million St. Louises, a million Carbondales instead. I hope to spread the American ideal from each city, despite the local silliness unique to them. Some might think we're in horrible shape. I dissent. We haven't reached our destined glory, not yet.

Another July 4th, another Independence Day, another reminder how much is required to protect the freedoms we use daily. Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The "Half-Way 5K" for Week 6

I ran very slowly and walked even slower than normal last night due to eating a very heavy lunch. Lousy hydration and a body still trying to digest lunch made for a very miserable run.

On the plus side, my ankles, knees and shin didn't hurt. I made it through with an absolutely horrible time, though.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

St. Irenaeus, confirmer of truths and revealer of falsehoods, pray for us so that we bloggers will always strive to seek the truth and avoid mistakes and errors that would lead our readers astray.

I've considered St. Irenaeus to be the unofficial patron saint of bloggers since I first read his work "Against Heresies." His writings helped to solidify in words what Christians believe at the core of our faith. His desire to seek the truth and confirm it is a proper reminder for bloggers everywhere.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bowling Night Report 6/26/08

I think the Heller decision must have made me extraordinarily giddy. The first run through last night's stage was in a word, awesome.

I have lost my apprehension of having to shoot at falling steel plate targets, too. Consider this: I'm shooting at something a little smaller than a dinner plate at 30 feet away. Now if it's at chest level, that's not too tough. Your eyes are judging everything at a parallel to slight angle. The falling plate target I was shooting at was about 12 inches off the ground, making the proper judgment of aiming more difficult. Usually you have don't have to worry about adjusting for slope until you're shooting at 50 to 100 yards away (as if you were really shooting uphill or downhill and have to adjust a scope accordingly) but even our best shooters can have problems with it. Then again, it's sort of like having to make a shot to stop an alligator or dog, though with the top of the target being about 20 inches high that'd be a mighty short dog. It's about chest high for the larger ill-trained dogs like the ones that recently attacked a mailman here in town. I'm no advocate for going out and shooting Fido, Rover, or even your local pet alligator (like Elvis from "Miami Vice," remember him?) to test this, though. Stick with the metal plates instead. They may not keep you up at night with incessant barking, but your neighbors won't be mad at you, either.

I also got the chance to handle Springfield Armory's latest plastic-framed import from Croatia, the XD-M. Sheer willpower prevented me from buying it on the spot. The trigger is wonderful right out of the box, as they appear to have taken the excess pull length out of it. On my XD, that requires a steady hand and a gunsmith fee. The sights are really nice for starters as well. Then there's my favorite part, especially as a competitive shooter: the XD-M uses 16-round magazines compared to the 12-round magazines I have for my current pistol. That would have helped me in both runs of last night's stage, as I miscounted the shots before my magazine change. Having to rack the slide wastes time. The grip of the gun also felt very nice, and with those interchangeable backstraps, it could fit my hand even better than my current pistol. A better fit leads to better accuracy, fewer misses and fewer wasted shots. I think I just found something for my "must-buy in the near future" list. I'll want to try it out at the range soon to be sure, though.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heller prevails, D.C. fails

Yes, I'm interrupting the stunning week-by-week story of my attempts to get into better shape and become a better shooter for a healthy dose of opinion on gun ownership and today's decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is a significant victory for lawful gun owners in the United States, one that affirms that yes, your home is your castle and you may defend it with commonly-held firearms, including handguns. You may also keep firearms ready for use as well, as this decision also does away with the crippling restriction in the District of Columbia that guns must be dismantled when stored in homes. The result of this decision should also have an effect on the varying handgun bans and restrictions throughout Illinois. For one, Chicago will likely have to reinstate their registry, and also likely be quick about issuing permits for the guns brought in. The various suburbs such as Evanston, Winnetka and Park Ridge will also likely have their total bans rescinded. Home defense will be allowed once more throughout Illinois.

This is a small victory despite its importance, though. Gun owners will still see various attempts to limit what kind of firearms can be owned, what various accessories can be allowed to make the gun more accurate, what cosmetic features are allowed (like the feared bayonet lug) and even a call for restricted-capacity magazines. We've had the right affirmed with the Heller decision. We're now going to need to raise awareness that a lot of the features found on civilian rifles are as a result of the development of military rifles and make the weapons more accurate, and thus less dangerous when used lawfully. The intent of lawful use of a firearm is to hit your target and not hit anything else.

Here's something from the decision that might also allay those fears of endless bickering over details to restrict the scope of the decision a little:
“We therefore read Miller to say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.” (53)
US v. Miller from 1934 has been used to justify restriction after restriction. I've got news for the feature-restricting types: there are a lot of 30-round magazines for the AR-15/M-16/M-4 series of rifles in civilian hands, and they're used lawfully at the range for plinking, at numerous shooting classes, and for sporting competition. Trying to pass a restriction to 5 or 10 rounds per magazine, or requiring a non-detachable magazine goes against the decision found here as well as a proper re-reading of Miller.

To put it into baseball terms, today's decision is a solid RBI double. All the upcoming legal wrangling will be what determines how well the next batter will do. The struggle for gun ownership is not yet over, folks. We will have to constantly reaffirm our rights to rapid issuance of permits where no restrictions are found, to use of current calibers and future technological improvements in firearms, to simple possession without police interference. Those cities that go the registry route will likely need to be guided forcefully into not using those registries as political or social weapons against gun owners. There are many small battles left to win in this struggle, yes there are. We who own guns lawfully must not relent in this argument.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Formal training, week 5

I had a setback this week where I couldn't complete the entire run. I ended up having to head back early due to my right shin. The shin splints were working overtime yesterday. All they are (as if saying "all they are" makes it better) are tiny stress fractures. I have had to deal with these when I run for most of my life, including my time in the Air Force. It's why I didn't like running in the past. Yesterday was a big setback for me in not being able to run the entire 3 miles with my group. Next week is the "mid-term exam" for everyone, as we'll be running the first part of the race itself as a 5k run. This will be to get us used to the idea of needing to wear shoe tags for timing purposes, figuring out how to avoid the faster runners at the start and how to keep a good pace. Speed work is now part of the run, I guess. Distance isn't the only thing to worry about now. Six weeks ago if you told me I'd be running around 3 miles every other day I'd have said you were crazy. I was wrong, though. I'm able to do it, just very slowly.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No shooting match tonight. I went with a short run instead, 2 miles. I wasn't feeling up to lugging all my gear to the range tonight. With any luck I'll have a bit more access to nearby ranges soon so I can get in more pistol practice between Thursday shooting sessions. This will hopefully occur very very soon. As for tonight, though, a run was enough for me. The bugs are very much out in force tonight.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Formal Training, Week 4

Saturday, I ran my running group's usual jogging/biking trail with my new patellar knee bands, and my new ankle brace. The knees? No pain. The ankle? No pain. The shin? I still had the pain of shin splints.

Tonight, I ran part of the Abe's Amble with the addition of a shin compression sleeve.

I noted approximately zero shin pain, no knee pain, and no ankle pain. This gave me the opportunity to focus on my muscles and see how the leg muscles are doing. Apparently my quads still aren't up to snuff, and I had to stop for a few seconds on the leg back to our finish point to get my calves stretched.

I did a bunch of stretching prior to tonight's run. Legs, torso, lower back, shoulders, arms, everything I could think of stretching. My back didn't hurt like it did without stretching. My joints felt fine. I was sweaty and need to work more on breath control, but I felt really good with the alternating running and walking.

I thought that the whole 10-kilometer run might not be achievable when I started this project. It is very achievable. For tonight, though, I'm going to kick back, grab a little ice for the sore muscles, and call it a good run.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shout Out The Cadence Loud and Strong!

It's the 233rd anniversary of the founding of the United States Army. Happy Birthday, Grunts!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bowling Night Report 6/12/08

Tonight the steel popper targets had a friend. One of the targets had been replaced by a falling steel plate. Unlike the popper targets which are designed to fall over, then be propped back up on a hinge, this is literally just a steel plate that falls over. Even more unlike the poppers, this thing is a 12-inch square set about a foot off the ground. A popper's main target area is about 3 feet off the ground. It took about two shots each time for me to finally knock that plate over.

I suppose this means that Smurfs will never have to worry about me shooting them in case they should try to overrun the city.

Also another sign of firing wildly as opposed to firing in a controlled manner: I hit my target tonight right on the outside edge of the target's border. That counts as a miss by IPSC rules. It was my only miss, but it was still significant enough to note.

I followed shooting tonight with a short run. Handy rule: when running, don't be in a hurry to run. Stretch, warm up, all that stuff. Between a low amount of stretching and the heat, my run was way too short.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Formal Training Week 3

My running isn't getting much better. I've got some serious pain right below each knee at the patellar tendon. It looks like I'll be getting some of those knee bands a lot of athletes use. There's also a lot of icing going on, too.

And to top it all off, I gave myself a case of heat exhaustion due to poor hydration last night. This morning, I felt the after-effects of it. It's not good. Drink more water if you're running, folks.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bowling Night Report 6/5/08

The lesson for tonight, kids, is this: speed kills, just not who you expect. No, there weren't any injuries at the range tonight or the like, but I shot some of my fastest times ever on a qualifier stage. The problem comes in where I missed a lot of shots on my first run through. If those would have been armed assailants, they would have been able to return fire easily. As it was, I just got a lot of misses and ruined my score.

The second run through showed the problem from the first. I was aiming low, a constant problem with my handgun at ranges beyond 15 yards. It was tougher than normal to get a decent sight picture, but these things happen. I didn't miss any on the second run, just by giving myself an extra four seconds to shoot. So, while speed kills when it comes to cars, going too fast on a stage might "kill" you instead.

And now, off for a late-evening run.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Formal Training Week 2

Wow. I even forgot to write about my shooting match last week. Well, this week is the qualifier for ranking, so the first week of every month is most important. I did very well, by the way.

Anyway, back to running: 2 miles, mostly walking, but I did a lot of running and ran the last section prior to the finish line. I'll be really impressed when I can run that entire 2 miles. Hopefully I'll be running more than that! I had a lot of fun with my running group, and hopefully I'll be able to wake my lethargic butt up on Saturday morning for another run. I can't wait to go out and run some more.

Tomorrow, though, I'm taking a day off from running. I may do some walking and other exercise.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Formal Training, Day 1

My shins and ankles felt tight towards the end, but I got 1.6 miles done in today's group run. I'm in the second slowest group, but I don't care. I couldn't run it the entire way around, as I had to slow down to walk a few times. At the .8 mile mark, we could stop if we wanted, but I was here to do 1.6 miles no matter what. I did. I haven't run that far in a very long time. I'm nowhere near the times I used to get in the Air Force (I timed myself, even though I was in during that stupid bike test/ oxygen check era) but I got around. I completed 1.6 miles without a single wheeze, just a lot of phlegm. I can handle phlegm. No wheezing, though. I think my body is finally repairing itself from the years I smoked all those menthols.

I am not as out of shape as I thought, but I am nowhere as in shape as I should be. Training for Abe's Amble is going to change that. Next week, I'm going to do great, and do better than I did today.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

Sometimes our men and women in uniform can't express their opinions in public. This isn't because we love censorship, but if you're in uniform and well-meaning and community-minded journalist asks you about something political, they might wind up (though I'd never say it was out of laziness or due to bad editing) using your comments as the "official opinion" of your service or any other part of the Department of Defense. Trust me, you know when you've been given the official opinion of the DoD or your service, as those come down from your Chiefs of Staff, service Secretaries, the Secretary of Defense or President.

So, what's a serviceman going to do when he's got to get something off of his chest? Well, he can blog it, or if he's of an artistic bent, he'll grab a artist's pad and stylus and make webcomics.

The best place to start for these is Armed Forces Comics. I have a special place in my heart for Air Force Blues and The Crew Dogs having been a witness to many junior officer shenanigans during my time as a flightline avionics specialist. Some civilians won't get it. Some might even be offended. This is part of the military life: complaining. Your worst enemy during peacetime is boredom. Your worst enemy in times of war is the guy trying to kill you at that moment. Regardless, there's going to be something to complain about when you get back from your day's mission. These artists can at least take the complaints and make light of them, making a lousy situation a little better.

So, if you've got nothing to do today once the parades and memorial ceremonies are over, go click on that link and work your way down the list. Hit the archives on each page, too. There's some truly funny stuff in there that lets you know how well the American serviceman can adapt and make the best of lousy situations.

Happy Memorial Day to you all.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Abe's Army Meeting

I attended the orientation meeting for Abe's Army, the first-time runners who are going to be training for a 10K run. The meeting was actually way more informative than I expected. I had expected everything to be simple "Here's where we meet, don't forget to stretch, and try not to die on the first night" speeches. I got a lot of good information on how to properly stretch, why carbohydrates are a good thing, and even got to see that the training was going to be provided for smaller groups than I expected. The biggest challenge doesn't seem to be mastering the run, it's getting the proper mindset. I can't wait to start next week. One of the things we got in the starter kit was a running log. Between that and this blog, I should have a good record for other couch potatoes who want to become former couch potatoes. I'll probably be spending this week and this weekend getting some last-minute informal training in. Whee, fun.

Another option given to us is racewalking. I never knew about this style of footrace, and after seeing what it can do for you, I may switch to that in a few years. Right now, though, my goal is to run Abe's Amble. I can walk it later.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Well, I took this week off. I didn't go shooting tonight as I didn't feel like fighting the rush hour traffic in the rain. I didn't run, either, due to sheer laziness. Next week is the first meeting for Abe's Army, a large group of people training to run in Abe's Amble. I'll be getting in plenty of running very very soon. I'm excited. I won't have the speed I used to have, but then again, I'm much heavier now. Hopefully this will reverse some of that problem. Until next week, though, I'm going to take it easy.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bowling Night Report - 5/9/08

This is my 500th post in almost 4 and a half years. That's not exactly what I'd call stellar performance. Regardless, it's time for a shooting report. Tonight's stage was 17 shots, so it was a bit tougher on the shooters who used Model 1911 handguns. Those usually only carry seven or eight shots per magazine in the single-stack format. Fortunately for me, I use an XD-40 and get twelve shots per magazine. Timing your reload is always important as having to release the slide stop on your pistol can slow you down. My first run was excellent. I had a decent time and lots of high-scoring hits. My second run was a mess; I got sloppy in my aim and wound up scoring worse, including missing a shot on a target.

The stage was a good example of counting your shots and doing a tactical reload. For newer shooters out there, a tactical reload is when you change magazines before the current one is completely emptied. Normally in IPSC you'll drop your magazine since it's as much a game as a shooting discipline, but other shooting groups may have you retain your magazine in case you need the remaining shots. I may try that and see how well I do next time. I know I could use the ammo on some stages. Tonight though, I did pretty well.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Informal Training for the Run Day 6

Okay, I know I don't have this down right, as I'm not training on a regular basis. So, instead of running to failure (basically run until it hurts to keep running) I'm going to try a new tack instead so I can run without 4 to 5 day gaps in between runs. What I'll do instead is walk for 5 minutes then run for 15 minutes a day, regardless of distance covered. I think with the 20-minute run on a daily basis I'll do better. So, hopefully tomorrow will be as good of a run as today.

Friday, May 02, 2008

No, I didn't go shooting or running last night. I went instead to the SIU-Carbondale Saluki Caravan. It was a chance to hear from the football and basketball coaches about their recruiting endeavors, mingle with fellow Carbondale graduates, and basically pack a downtown bar with alumni who are all looking for one networking opportunity after another. I also got to see an old classmate who's working with the Alumni Association.

For the football season, the Salukis have a new coach, Dale Lennon. He's a former Division II NCAA football coach from North Dakota State, and they tended to do very well in their division. Division I-A isn't a prestigious division, but it is competitive when you've got teams like SIU, Northern Iowa and Delaware. It's good football. Also, there's a chance (improbable, but not impossible) that someday you could see a Harvard-SIUC game for the I-A Championship. He's picking up where Jerry Kill left off so Coach Lennon has some huge shoes to fill. While we might not get perfect seasons like he did in Division II, it looks like the Dawgs are still going to be competitive this year.

Next up was Dana Eikenberg, the head coach for the women's basketball team. It sounds like her overall program deals with creating good players as well as good students. I'll be the first to admit that I don't get the appeal of women's basketball, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

Finally, Chris Lowery, the SIUC basketball coach took the stage and went over the program, his latest recruits from within in Illinois and his plans to get back into the NCAA tournament this coming season. He was right when he said that going to the NIT is no reason to hang your head in shame. If television revenues weren't so important to athletic programs these days, the NIT would likely still be the place to crown a national champion. The NCAA has more teams, so there's likely to be more eyes glued to sets. The only men's basketball that I watch is during the tournaments and once my teams are out, I don't bother with the rest of the games. Still, it will be nice to see the Salukis get back into the NCAA tournament next year.

That's really about the total of my previous evening. It was worth attending to see how each coach was handling the situations caused by last year's highs and lows.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Informal training for the run, Day 5

Well, I got off my butt again for another 20 minutes of fun on the treadmill. I'm making progress in that I'm running more and walking less. I did a warm-up walk the first two minutes, then ran five minutes, then walked three minutes, ran five, and walked the next five. My calves hate me at the moment. I don't care. I ran for a longer period of time, which is what I've been trying to do for so long.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, I found an article by someone who shares my enthusiasm and feels my pain. It's going to be worth it, I keep telling myself. I will keep telling myself this until the I take my last step of Abe's Amble over the finish line.

God help me if I say "Hey, let's do this again tomorrow!" when I finish.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bowling Night report 4/24/08

I wasn't much in the mood to go shooting tonight, mostly due to the weather. I also wasn't much in the mood to do any running, either. I'll need to rectify these problems this weekend for sure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Informal Training for the Run, Day 4

I took the weekend off, including Monday. I've been using the treadmill more and more, as it's easier on my legs than the pavement. I'm doing more running and less walking, which is always a good thing. I still have a long way to go, but I think this will help me out with the "formal" running training in "Abe's Army." I hope I don't look too awful on the road course.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bowling Night Report 04/17/08

I had the opportunity to do very well tonight. On my first run through the stage I did great. Shots on target. I get to the last three targets and start firing, not noticing that the holes hadn't been taped over. The range officer was being generous and said "You engaged the targets and hit before you saw it, you can take the best shots from the targets if you want. Or you can reshoot."

I took the re-shoot. As much as I would have liked to have those perfect shots on my scorecard, it wouldn't have been right. It was three sets of A-Zone shots, too, which are the highest-scoring shots. Yes, the recovery group made an error by not covering those holes, but I didn't want to take credit for someone else's good work.

Honesty pays, folks. I took five minutes to reload, then got back in to re-shoot. After a few more minutes, I went in to do my second re-shoot which I'd already scheduled. I like to go through each stage twice when I can. I shot two of my faster times for the number of targets presented, and got the steel targets (long a bane of my shooting career) in one shot each. Ha! Take that you lousy steel targets! In all, my first run through the stage was good, but the second and third runs were just as good, if not better. I at least earned my A-zone shots on those runs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All kinds of things today

First, the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech Massacre. Take time to remember people like professor Liviu Librescu, a righteous man who gave his life to defend his students. Remember that the best defense will always be what's between your ears, but even that needs backup. It's time for colleges to realize that they have adults on campus, and said adults should be treated as such. Allow them to defend themselves by allowing concealed carry on campus.

Second, Pope Benedict XVI has arrived for his first visit to America. Welcome, Your Holiness. Thank you for speaking out immediately about the sexual abuse problems. The faithful expected something, even if we only heard a little bit on the radio. Now, if you can do anything about restoring the Catholic character to our Catholic universities, we'd appreciate the help.

Third, it was another good night for me on the treadmill. I'm not happy that it's not the road, but anything that doesn't cause me to get shin splints is a good thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A year already?

I was surfing the net and started looking through some various links when I was reminded of the anniversary of Cathy Seipp's death. She made southern California seem to be a more inviting place than Los Angeles' usual offerings to outsiders. I'd love to see the fun she'd have with the current crop of presidential candidates.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Informal Training for The Run, Day 3

Yes, I took Friday off. I'm not much for running in cold weather. I consider cold weather to be anything under 70 degrees. What can I say? I like heat. You don't have to scrape heat off of your windshield in the morning, or shovel heat off the driveway. Warm weather is definitely my friend. Anyway, it was cool enough to annoy me, so instead I borrowed my mom's treadmill and did 30 minutes of running interspersed with walking.

Wow. No shin splints! My legs aren't killing me for once. I think I've found a regular exercise helper until such time as I can face the concrete again.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Informal Training for the Run, Day 2

My legs are killing me but I got farther today than Monday. I got a mile in altogether. I haven't done that in years.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Informal Training for The Run, Day 1

Well, at the very least I established a baseline for how out-of-shape I really am. The shoes worked nicely, keeping my legs from killing me immediately after the run was over. I'll have to stick with New Balance from now on. I just have to find the right shoe width is all.

For now, though, getting around the block once without having to walk is the goal. That's half a mile. I got half that if people want to be generous. My goal is to be able to run a 10k race and finish without having to walk any of it. I don't care so much about the time, I care about the distance and endurance necessary to complete that distance.

You may wonder, why do I label this under "comedy?" Because watching me run my fat self around the block is pretty amusing. I intend on being less fat in time for the Amble.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 4/3/08

Tonight's qualifier was the true IPSC classic scenario, "El Presidente." It was designed for revolver shooters at first. You have a maximum of 12 shots in this scenario. You start with your hands raised and your back to the targets. The targets are set close to each other and are 10 yards away from you. When the buzzer sounds, you turn, draw, fire two shots into each target, do a mandatory reload, then engage the targets again with two shots each. As usual, I shot low, missing a shot on two of the targets. So I got 10 hits out of 12 on my first run and on my second run. For some reason, I couldn't see my front sight at all. It's like it was gone. Without a good sight picture, it's tough to get accurate shots.

Yes, I need a lot more regular practice and possibly better sights that won't "disappear" on me.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day! Finally!

It's Opening Day, and naturally Our Heroes The St. Louis Cardinals get rained out. However, we did get to see Albert Pujols belt a single-run homer and Rick Ankiel continue his progress in the major leagues. I remember watching him self-destruct as a pitcher in the 2000 NLCS against the Mets and thinking that his career was done, kaput, finito. I'm pretty happy to say that I was wrong. He's turned into a decent outfielder and isn't too shabby with his bat. Considering we saw the team lose a lot of steam in 2007 and collapse further in the off-season with the losses of defense players David Eckstein and So Taguchi and Scott Spiezio's major troubles with chemical addiction and problems with obeying laws, the team has nowhere to go but up. I wonder if Tony LaRussa is going to continue with the small-ball strategies now that he's got a little more oomph in his lineup? I hope to see the game continue tomorrow.

Oh, and the Cubs snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Opening Day once again. Here's to a Century of Consistency, Northsiders!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bowling Night, 3/27/08

I think I'm really beginning to like switching up to Limited from Production. Being able to use my magazines at full capacity is really nice in terms of balancing the gun and while my aim still isn't the best on run-and-gun courses, it's getting better. Last night showed that speed isn't always all it's cracked up to be. My second run on the stage was five seconds faster, but I missed two shots. The saying goes "You can't miss fast enough to lose" and I saw how that can happen.

The shooting club also had about four or five new shooters last night. It's good to see more people come in who are interested in taking up the sport. Practical shooting competitions really add to the fun of a day at the range.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Taking a big step, or at least a few thousand of them

So, I signed up for the yearly 10K run in my hometown. I have three reasons for this. One, I want to see if I can even run 10 km in one go. I rarely ran more than two miles prior to this, either in school or in the Air Force. Two, I want to lose weight, since I’m carrying a lot of extra flab. Extra weight can lead to all kinds of health problems that I don't particularly want to deal with. I have a feeling I’ll be running slowly for a while. Three: I figure that being lighter and faster will help my IPSC times on both the stationary and the run-and-gun stages, and I’d like to get a B classifier sooner rather than later. I think switching to Limited is going to be my best bet on that. (Production is geared towards 9mm shooters, as everything is scored as minor. Compared to the .40 S&W round, the standard 9x19mm/ 9mm Parabellum/ 9mm Luger round has milder recoil.)

Why did I pick running out of all the other aerobic activities such as hiking, walking, cycling and such? The only aerobic exercise that will keep my attention is running. Stationary bikes, treadmills, all the various other types of aerobic exercises including regular cycling bore me after about two or three minutes. Boredom leads to going back to the computer to play City of heroes for hours on end. While that isn't a horrible thing, it's not exactly getting me a lot of exercise. I need to do something that will keep me occupied, and running is good for that. I also fully intend to blame every pound lost on my co-workers and their contagiously healthy lifestyles. I'll get around to telling them that sooner or later.

Thankfully there’s a group training program for new runners that goes with this run that starts in May. I’m starting this week on just some basics, as my good running shoes won’t be in for another week. It sucks having short and wide feet, as most regular shoe stores here don’t carry running shoes in double-E widths. It’s either D width or EEEE width, with nothing in between. I’m just glad there’s a specialty shop in town that can find the right shoes and get them in quickly. That was a nice surprise. Usually, I either have to go with larger than normal shoes to get the width I need or I have to wait for weeks on end to get a properly-fitted pair of shoes.

Well, here’s hoping I don’t place last. I'm sure I'll post a few things here and there about this as my training progresses.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 3/20/08

The stage had 10 Steel targets tonight. I really hate steel targets as I tend to hit low on them if I hit at all. Well, tonight I did pretty damn good on them. I still hit low, but I knocked them down quickly. My second run through the stage was better than my first. I was still slow but more accurate. For some reason, switching from Production to Limited class has really helped me relax, and I'm not sure why. My shots score as a Major power factor (the bigger and faster the round, the more likely to cause a stopping shot on a person, thus you get more points for using a bigger bullet. Most shooting games like this tend to favor .45 handguns.) but I only get two more shots per magazine, from 10 to 12 rounds. Well, whatever it is, I'm digging it. I definitely need to get a practice day in every week in addition to my weekly shooting match. I want to see what I'm doing wrong with my aim.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

DC v. Heller Heard Today

I had a chance to listen to the oral arguments for this case over lunch today. C-SPAN is a greater asset than people realize because of things like this. The Justices were pretty fair to both sides, though they really seemed to treat Walter Dellinger, counsel for the District of Columbia, like he was very slow on the uptake. Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg got into the act, sounding very incredulous about the logic behind the handgun ban in Washington D.C. In return, they grilled Alan Gura, the attorney for Richard Heller, on the arguments made to remove the ban. Their tack seemed to be focused on the plaintiff's historical arguments, and whether he submitted that "reasonable regulation" could be considered. He listed what can be considered reasonable regulations, which is sure to anger more than a few "no rules no way no how" gun owners. The "well-regulated militia" clause was well-argued by Gura, stating that certain weapons should be beyond the purview of bans, but that handguns are not one of them. I could see perhaps no crew-served artillery, mortars or grenade launchers as destructive devices needing more scrutiny than a personal rifle or handgun.

Oh yeah, the "plastic handgun" scare tactic came into play again. Like "assault weapons," the term "plastic handguns" is pretty nebulous. For example, my XD40 has a plastic frame that holds the trigger assembly, magazine release, sear assembly, slide stop and slide rails. Everything listed there that isn't the plastic frame is steel or aluminum. My slide is steel, the barrel is steel, the springs, extractor, and firing pin are all steel. If my gun goes through a metal detector, it will be detected. The infamous Glock handguns are exactly the same. The parts where the cartridges are held and fired is all steel. Why? There aren't many cheap polymers out there that can handle the levels of pressure generated when firing a bullet from its cartridge casing.

In short, the attorneys for the District of Columbia tried to stir up scare tactics about easily concealed guns showing up everywhere. Dear leaders of the District of Columbia: that is ALREADY HAPPENING! Criminals are ignoring your handgun ban regardless of what you do to the people who do obey the laws there! All it does is make more targets of the people you are supposed to protect. The defendants mentioned the shrinking crime rate, and that's fine. They have to realize that the murder rates grew in DC despite the Brady Bill of 1993-2004 and despite their handgun ban of 1976.

As I'm not a lawyer, I'm keeping my guesses on the results to myself.

Monday, March 17, 2008

So, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Halabja massacre in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein thought that chemical weapons and defenseless Kurds made a great combination. Remember that mass attack by a government on its own people when deciding where you come down on the 2nd Amendment. Heller vs. DC starts tomorrow in the Supreme Court. Sometimes creeping incrementalism leads down a slipperier slope than normal.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 03/13/08

Clever folks will notice that there's no report for last week. Why? Last week sucked as far as shooting went.

This week, though, I shot amazingly well. I wasn't rushing myself like I do in qualifiers and it showed. There weren't any misses at all, and even the steel dropped faster than normal. I'm pretty happy with tonight's results.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, dead at 69

(Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg at The Corner.)

Holy smokes. Another one of the people who shaped my outlook on life has died within the week. Gary Gygax is best known for creating the Chainmail miniatures rules system with Dave Arneson in the late 1960s-early 1970s. In 1974, the two revamped the system further into the game we know as Dungeons and Dragons.

The company co-founded and fronted by Gygax, TSR (for Tactical Studies Rules, for those of you who wondered), quickly became the first 900-pound gorilla of the gaming world. Other game companies such as Steve Jackson's Metagames (later Steve Jackson Games) and Champaign-based GDW (creator of such RPGs as Traveller and Twilight: 2000)were able to ride the wave of fame and infamy created by this wonderful game. These games became the road to ruin for many a young man in the Midwest, spending most of his hard-earned coin on books, books, and more books to add excitement and novelty to the role-playing games. There were and still are people who will refuse to have any contact with role-playing games in the belief that such games are Satanic. The urban legends of game-related suicides (hyped by Rona Jaffe's book Mazes & Monsters) and the shoddily-researched Pulling Report (written by Patricia Pulling, whose son's suicide was blamed on the occult influences in D&D) added to the notoriety of these games. Even Jack Chick, that ever-tolerant illustrator known for his religious tracts came up with Dark Dungeons, a tract that is now a rightly-lampooned joke. Nevertheless it was suddenly becoming dangerous to be a nerd. It wasn't dangerous because you'd go out and kill someone, but that your mortal soul was in danger just by reading the charts on what a fighter needs to hit a monster with Armor Class 6. You were on the road to spiritual ruin by playing these games.

Vae mihi. (That's the approximate Latin for "Oy gevalt!") Look, folks, D&D isn't a horrible gateway to Satan. It and the games spawned to compete with it were great ways to get together with friends on a cold February day to hang out and have fun. Any spiritual ruin was brought on by other things in this world, but not by a game where evil appears and your fictional characters go forth to whoop up on it.

Now, I got a chance to meet Mr. Gygax when I still lived in Wheeling. One of the major gaming stores in the suburbs (in Mount Prospect) was hosting a games day. Gary was running his new game for a group of local players and they seemed to have a lot of fun as he wove a pretty-decent story of the land and creatures the characters faced. Myself, I opted for a different game, focusing on superheroes in World War 2. With the first sessions done, we took a break and headed to a local place to get something to eat. I got a chance to talk to Gary.

He was full of himself, in a good way that a person can be full of himself. A cynic would say he loved to hear himself talk. He's a gamer. Gamers love to talk about the games where they took part. They're fishing stories, hunting stories, and general yarns meant to entertain others. Sadly not every gamer is as self-possessed or as well-versed in public speaking as Gary. That is, Gary also knew when to stop talking. He wasn't without fault, though, as he did one-up a gamer at this lunch break. Competition is a human thing, after all. He loved playing the games he made, though I wonder if even he could wrap his head around the system he created for the game "Cyborg Commando."

I can't say what kind of bad blood went on between him and TSR or him and Dave Arneson other than what I've read on the internet, and I wasn't about to ask him, either. That's something you save for when business proposals are on the line. He loved his work, though, and the huge number of add-ons to the games he made showed what a good cottage industry came from gaming. It was capitalism in action.

Much like William F. Buckley, Gary Gygax increased my love of reading as a young man and expanded my vocabulary. Where else would you hear the word "millieu" on a regular basis outside of the literary world, and D&D proved that the dodecahedron isn't just for math majors anymore. I'm also indebted to him for a love of history. If it wasn't for Gary Gygax, I wouldn't have read Greek myths of heroes like Odysseus and then read further to find out about the people in Homer's day and age. I wouldn't have read about kings and knights and how the world of high fantasy was very different from historical reality. I probably would have watched a lot more television as a child, or at least done more homework.

Albert Einstein once said that God does not play dice with the universe. God has a sense of humor, so I could easily see Him rolling a d20 for initiative now that Gary has brought Him a full set of polyhedrals. Rest in peace, Mr. Gygax. You'll be missed at the head of the gaming table.
Late for practice? Just fly there!

I usually try not to link to the Trib, since it often requires registering to read articles. This one was too good to pass up, though. In order for his son to get to a tennis practice match, a Lake Villa resident flies from his home to the country club in Lincolnshire. I know you're probably thinking "hey, it's this guy's money, if he wants to fly, let him."

Now, if this was a club with a private landing strip, there'd be no problems. However, said aerial genius landed across the street from the country club, which just happens to be one of the fairways on the Lincolnshire Marriott resort's golf course. Like the article says, it's as if people were supposed to ignore a small plane circling at low levels over a place that isn't an airport. Now, if this guy had flown to nearby Palwaukee Airport, rented a car and driven, he'd be normal. But no, this mental giant decides that he's going to get his darling boy to tennis practice, respect for others' property and federal aviation laws be damned!

So, this guy breaks trespassing laws, laws dealing with filing false flight plans (or worse, no flight plans) as well as possibly damaging private property. And what's the kicker? The kid didn't even make it to the match, having to watch as his Dad got perhaps the best "Why did you stop thinking?" speech ever.

That all of this happened in my old stomping grounds is pure comedy gold to me. I used to live in Wheeling and Palatine, and worked near the Lincolnshire resort where this happened. Some of the well-to-do had the "What's the harm?" attitude it takes to pull a stunt like this. I have a sneaking suspicion that this guy would be very angry if people started using his home as a skydiving target, and might even rail about how no one respects property rights. He deserves more grief than he'll probably get over it, though. To paraphrase Don King, "Only in the Northwest Suburbs!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On the Passing of William F. Buckley

The first time I ever read his column, I think I might have been 11 or 12. My class had taken a trip to the main branch of the local library to do some kind of research paper using periodicals as our main sources. Well, instead of settling in to do research on the 1950s, I looked through all of the various magazines to find information on President Reagan and the latest happenings in Washington DC. I went through the racks and found National Review sitting there, apparently unopened by human hands once it was received. Most of the information went over my head at the time, but I remember that Tom Selleck had advertised it as a good addition to a regular newspaper and better than the main weeklies like Time and Newsweek. (I also tuned in to Magnum P.I. on a regular basis, but the reasons for that were the Ferrari, the helicopter, the guns, and the comedy. The women showed up on my radar screen later.) I had a feeling there was something worth reading when both he and President Reagan extolled the virtues of the magazine. I read through his columns, then the whole magazine, and then read it again. The joke has always been that you read a William Buckley column with a dictionary at your side. That was no joke for me, and it got to the point where I needed a better dictionary. So off I would go to the periodicals section on a regular basis to read National Review. I always hoped to be able to use language as he did: using obscure words to fit perfectly the idea you were describing because no ordinary words were perfect. I also reveled in the idea that Catholics could be something other than socialist-leaning liberals, and it was thanks to his work that I had an intellectual reinforcement of my beliefs in things both mundane and spiritual.

I read a few of the left-leaning political commentary magazines my freshman year of college, but none of them ever came up to the same standards as National Review. When I was in the Air Force, I was the only guy who tuned in to public tv to watch Firing Line. In fact, the first thing I bought when I returned to Illinois from my time in the service was one of those page-a-day calendars. It happened to be Mr. Buckley's "365 Words You'd Like To Know." I think the only one of those words I've used on a regular basis has been "mandarinate." When I went back to college, I was too busy to read NR as often, but the Internet provided where the library could not. National Review's website has become one of my major stops in news and political commentary. I found there many more amazing writers, such as Jonah Goldberg, Jay Nordlinger, the late Cathy Seipp, Deroy Murdock and found a regular place to find Thomas Sowell's columns. That Mr. Buckley could find such a varied cast of writers and wrangle them all into his magazine showed the variety of thoughts that made up modern conservative culture.

I certainly do miss Notes and Asides, his column on using proper words in the proper contexts. The columns both laudatory and censurious of political figures are now something to leave as examples of How It's Done in discussing the issues of the day. Godspeed to you, Mr. Buckley. You will be missed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Little Something For My Leatherneck Readers

23 February 1945: Four days after the initial landings on Iwo Jima, 1stLt Harold G. Schrier led 40 men from Company E, 2d Battalion, 28th Marines, up Mt. Suribachi to secure the crest and raise the small American flag that battalion commander LtCol Chandler Johnson had given Schrier. Within an hour, the patrol reached the rim of the crater. After a short fire-fight with Japanese defenders emerging from several caves, the small American flag was attached to an iron pipe and raised over the island.

This is one of the best-known moments of history that have come to define the spirit of the Marines. We should never forget it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lent 1, Doughnuts 0

So, for Lent I gave up having doughnuts for breakfast. I usually get them two or three times a week from a certain glorious manufacturer of breakfast pastries. It's a local chain, too, and has basically sent the other doughnut chains packing when they've come to town. Yes, they're that good.

This morning, what do I find at the office as I walk in to get my morning coffee and warm up the breakfast I'd brought from home? Yes, two large two-dozen boxes of the One True Doughnut. Every time I'd go to get a refill on my coffee, they sat there as if they were staring at me and chanting "Eat us! We're delicious! No one will know!"

I managed to avoid the temptation. Chalk up one more little Lenten victory.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another shooting at a university has occurred today, this time at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Yeah, this is just what we needed, another mass shooting. I guess Virginia Tech taught us nothing about what to do when the need arises to meet force with force. Once again, if there'd been one student who could have returned fire the shooting might have been able to stop sooner. Maybe there'd only be one dead, not six. My prayers go out for the families of all involved, even the shooter's family. I do want to know what brought this on, though. Will it be another case where a student decided to believe that no one understood him, was it a crush that went terribly wrong, or something even worse than those two?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bowling Night, 2/7/08 edition

The weather was finally good enough to head to the range tonight for our monthly qualifier shoot. I looked down the range and two of the dreaded steel targets were there, waiting for me to miss many times before hitting them. Well, tonight, I dropped both steel targets with the first shots I took at them. It was just shoot-drop, shoot-drop.

The cardboard targets were a different matter. I missed one target completely and our no-shoot target had two nice holes where I nicked the edges. Well, I at least did well against the steel targets tonight, and that's a big improvement for me. I still have a long way to go for increasing from a "D" classification to a "B." I think I can do that by the end of the year if I get more practice in during the week. So, that's what I'll have to do. I'll just have to grit my teeth and go to the range two or three times a week. Darn my luck.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Well, it's Super Tuesday. So, for those of you in the 24 states who are running primaries today, GO VOTE if you haven't already. Vote before work, or after work, or at lunch. We're narrowing the fields of contenders today, so this is your chance to see how your party will shape up. I'm not going to stump for any of the candidates, nor am I going to rail against any. I just want you, the reader, to go out and participate in the electoral process. Just remember this: in the United States, you get the government for which you vote and you get the government for which you don't vote. So, here's your opportunity to help make a decision on who's running the place. The general election is nine months away, but your vote in the primaries determines what each party will have to offer in November.

The rest of the country had their big event Sunday, for politics-watchers like me, this is like the playoffs. The first Tuesday in November is my big event.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

It would figure...

I hate snow, so when does it decide to dump snow on my little city? Why it's the same night I'm supposed to go shooting! Seeing that I don't trust other drivers much at night when it's snowing, I stayed home.

I can only practice drawing and getting a sight picture so much before I want to hit the range again.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Eh, there's really nothing much to talk about. The cold has kept me from hitting the range recently. The range I go to is indoors, but if it's cold out, it's really cold there. Likewise, if it's hot out, it's even hotter inside.

I love the place anyway. It's a pretty tight-knit group of people there, shooters and staff both.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Marines 1, Car-Vandalizing Lawyers 0

That's a nice headline right there. I can't really do much further justice to the story. A Chicago lawyer decided to vent his anti-war frustrations on a local Marine's car and expected the Marine to be deployed before any legal action can occur. No one ever said you had to be smart to get an advanced degree, and the lawyer in question proved it. Considering the judge who heard the case served in the Marines himself, I think the lawyer got a light slap on the wrist for the criminal damages charge. I think the civil trial for restoring the damaged vehicle is going to be anything but civil, though.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bowling Night Report, 1/10/08

Well, it's a Non-Bowling Night Report, actually. I didn't go shooting tonight.

So, I'll just instead pay my respects to Sir Edmund Hillary, the man who proved that Mt. Everest was conquerable. I remember reading about it and thinking "Wow, that's a brave man" when I was little. When I read about it as a teenager I thought "Sure, he did it, but so what?" Now that I'm older I realize why he did it.

It's because the mountain was there to be climbed. No one had ever gotten to the top of Everest and returned to tell about it. It was something that couldn't be tamed, but it could be beaten for at least a little while. It was a challenge to prove that man could survive no matter what the world threw at us. It was proof a man could master himself and achieve his goal.

When I think of it in those terms, I realize that while my goal of becoming a better shooter and better competition pistol shooter is nowhere near as dangerous as his goal, I realize that I can achieve it. I may never take home a trophy or any other prize from a national competition, but I will become a damn good shooter through hard work and practice. Sir Edmund's death can trigger a reminder like that.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bowling Night Report 1/3/07

Yes, it's a bit late. I shot poorly, to say the least, but I'm seeing what there is to correct. I keep shooting low, and when the bottom half of the target you want to shoot is covered by a no-shoot target that's bad. I'm really beginning to wonder if the gun is too big for my hand or not because what's happening to my shots are consistent with having too big of a grip for one's hand. With a polymer-framed gun like the XD series, I can't change to a thinner set of grips or sand the frame to where it fits me better. For one, I couldn't shoot in Production division anymore since the frame would be modified and for another it would compromise the structural integrity of the frame itself. I really don't want to do that to my gun, either. I'll see if I can get someone to check my grip on the pistol this week.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year! Let's go shooting!

My local practical shooting club had its annual "Hangover Match" today, so I got to the range at 9am to begin the fun.

Captain Ahab had Moby Dick, King Pellinore had the Questing Beast, and I have the nemesis known as Steel Plates. For whatever reason today, I could not shoot the stupid targets if they were made out of steel. The cardboard targets were no problem; I hit them poorly, but I hit them quickly. The steel plates, though, decided to give me more fits than normal. Even slowing down to shoot did nothing to help.

What I need is an opportunity to shoot between weekly sessions where I can work on a variety of paper and steel targets. The steel targets are usually no more than three feet off the ground, so I'm having to shoot low to begin with. I will get the hang of shooting them more often.

I will be a very happy shooter when that happens.