Thursday, November 22, 2007

Warmest Holiday Greetings

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

There's some interesting history associated with this holiday. Apparently most are taught that the day of thanksgiving originated with the pilgrims in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. I was, and recall the story of the friendly Native American, Squanto, who helped the settlers through the difficult first year. In 1621, following an abundant harvest, a celebratory feast was organized. The Governor of Plymouth invited the nearby tribe to participate in the festivities.

In truth, it appears that this landmark date and occasion are predated by another, very similar event. On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkley Hundred, Virginia Colony, about 20 miles upstream from the original Jamestown settlement. Apparently wishing to get off on the right foot with the Almighty, the already-written charter of Berkley Colony specified, "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

The Berkley Thanksgiving celebration continues as a major event, at least locally. President Bush made his annual Thanksgiving address there this year. Apparently they held the celebration a bit early.

In subsequent years, the national Day of Thanksgiving (in the USA) was a matter of proclamation by the president or the congress, and it was done each year. Finally, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the fourth Thursday in November each year as Thanksgiving Day. However, this action was not approved by congress until 1941.

Historical considerations aside, though - - -
I think it is a wonderful thing, that we are all at least influenced to pause and take stock of our good fortune each year. It is so easy to become too busy to recall how good we really have it, compared to so many unfortunates throughout the world. Yes, we all have problems, and worries, and even downright hard times. But few among us in America will go hungry on any given day. There are far too many charities, churches, and benevolent organizations providing meals free to the needy, even the homeless are provided food.

On a personal note, I am fortunate - - In our household, we have our family. Beloved Bride and I have each other, and we have each other's families, including my two sons and Holly's daughter and son. All are healthy and gainfully employed. None have any legal problems. We don't get to see the kids as often as we'd like, but, hey, that's modern life. Elder Son Matt is on duty so he won't be able to attend. That being the case, his Sweet Wife and their two beautiful daughters are away visiting her Mom. Younger Son David is likewise working, but he'll come by for a visit and an early meal. BB's mother will attend. Her Tall Son is off on Thursday only and lives too distant to do the travel and celebration all in one day, so he'll not be present. Happily, her Angel Baby Girl will be with us, and a stepbrother and his wife, both just excellent people.

We're most thankful for our family of course, but also for our circumstances. Our health is generally good. There is adequate money for our real needs. We have transportation, insurance, shelter, and well more than sufficient food. While a bit more disposable income would be nice, we have enough that we can each indulge our hobbies to some extent.

All this personal stuff is very significant in our lives, and it becomes easy to overlook some other, tremendously important facts. We are blessed to live in a place and time where we have freedom and individual rights far better than the vast majority of the rest of the world. We may complain about taxes and governmental restrictions. We are certainly unhappy with our political situation and the office holders and office seekers, but these are changeable, and we give thanks that we have the opportunity to effect such changes. We are thankful for those in America's military services are on duty to provide their efforts and spirit and even blood in support of freedom loving people everywhere. Our gratitude extends to those in domestic public service as well. There are those on duty today who would rather be with their families or friends, but who have voluntarily serve our society. They have taken the responsibility of providing medical care, fire protection, keeping the public peace, and maintaining necessary public utilities.

I hope you all are having a good day, or did have, if you don't read this until later.

Best regards,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

“Guns are Good for Only One Thing”

Do you get ESPECIALLY tired of hearing that old scare line? I sure do. Of all the phrases and mottoes fostered by the anti-gun idjits, this is perhaps the shortest, handiest, and most frequently parroted. Their natural extension is, of course, “Guns are only good for killing people!”

Most of us, you and I, would have a ready rebuttal. We think about all the NON-people-killing uses to which we've put various firearms. Plinking with a .22 after a picnic, target shooting with the scouts or 4-H club, three generations of one family busting clay birds or calling waterfowl, the sharp clear air on a deer hunt morning. The joy of handling a particularly historic antique arm.

Let's be honest here. Take into account all the purely sporting firearms you know, fowling pieces, rifles for small game and large, FUN pinking guns, long range target rifles, the kid's first .22, the stinky black powder guns. Now, set ALL those aside, and stipulate that they will never, ever be misused, and you find that there are still a huge number of firearms designed for anti-personnel use. The short barrel shotgun, so favored for home defense, the police- and military-type handguns and “sniper rifles.” Any small, lightweight handgun specially suited for concealed carry. Each of these WAS designed for use against human beings. There may in fact be some fragment of truth to the statement that, “Guns are good only for killing.” Not precisely, no. Most of those guns are good because they are CAPABLE of killing. There is a LOT of value in deterrence and in simply making the option available to a possible victim of violent crime.

Jeff Cooper once wrote about being asked the “only good for killing people” question. His response was something like, “Unfortunately there are some very bad men who need be killed, when they attack us. And isn't it grand that we're fortunate enough to have such good implements with which to deal with them?”

For the vast majority of us, these arms will have fulfilled their purpose if they simply are available for emergency use. Much the same can be said for the vast majority of fire extinguishers, personal flotation devices, seat belts, parachutes, and smoke alarms in everyday use around the world. These are for unexpected emergencies, and as with the defensive sidearm, are of absolutely no use unless already at hand when the situation arises.

"But guns are too dangerous to even have around!"

Another favorite. The implication seems to be, if there's a gun on hand, someone will probably get shot. Well, no. Having a gun around gives one AN OPTION not otherwise available, but it will take no action of its own accord.

Consider a very efficient and businesslike firearm, say, a .45 automatic. It doesn't matter. I take that .45, insert a loaded magazine, chamber a round, and apply the safety. Or, wait, leave the safety off. I put the pistol on a table in a secure room, walk out and lock the door. Guess what? That type gun, having been used by men to kill other men for 95 years, designed specifically for battle, will set there and do absolutely nothing. It can remain in position until the table rots away. Until the entire building crumbles and falls down. The pistol will not fire, will not attack anyone or anything, unless and until someone messes with it. With any quality firearm, there is NO hazard if no human is involved. The most efficiently designed tool, carefully crafted and ready for immediate use, has no innate will, no independent spirit, and will not function unless directed in some manner by a human. The hammer will not drive a nail, the scalpel will not perform surgery, the chain saw will not cut wood, and the pistol will not fire, without some person's participation.

May we always utilize our tools in a proper manner.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why I Don't Name My Guns

Definition: anthropomorphic 1: Described or thought of as having a human form or with human attributes (~ dieties) 2: ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman things (~supernaturalism)

It is an old tradition, naming one's personal possessions, most especially weapons. I think this first shows up in the old Norse sagas or perhaps the Arthurian legends. A warrior dubbed his sword or battle ax Snickersee or Blood Drinker or something else he deemed suitable.

This naming of favored weapons definitely originated in a time when it was thought that many gods and goddesses held sway over the Earth, and spirits were everywhere. It certainly made as much sense to think of a weapon having a spirit, or being inhabited by a spirit, as to think of the spirits of the rocks, and the trees, and the grain. Perhaps even more sense. One tried to stay on the good side of the spirits controlling trees and crop production, because, in a season or two, a harvest might be effected thereby. But the warrior's weapons? Might not these items work or fail, preserve or lose the bearer's life, in the twinkling of an eye? Not some time this fall, but RIGHT NOW! Hey, a fighting person needed every break he could get, and it just didn't DO, not to cover all the bases.

The names of some of the famous weapons have been passed down to us in the legends and stories - - Hrunting,
Sword of Beowulf; Arondight , Sword of Lancelot, and that of his boss, King Arthur's Excalibur. There is an entire pantheon of famous, named swords.

Perhaps the most famous named firearm (actually firearms) were those of David Crockett
: Betsy, Old Betsy, and Pretty Betsy. (Just plain Betsy was the one that Col. Crockett brought to Texas, and which was lost at the Mission San Antonio de Valero . The other two are exhibited in museums.)

The problem with anthropomorphizing weapons is that when you do, you needs must allow that have a certain amount of WILL, apart and separate from the wielders. Such a viewpoint MIGHT start an impressionable person into a spiral of loss of logic and reasoning, a slippery slope which ends with feeling the inanimate object is capable of possessing a will of its own. By extension, it might well be capable of independent action. This would be bad enough, Lord knows, but it goes farther, giving the weapon the power to influence the possessor, or even those nearby.

Now, all this is different from a good workman liking a particularly dependable or finely crafted tool. A carpenter may go through several hammers to find one that "feels right." And every shotgunner above the grade of novice knows the importance of having a well-fitting gun for wing shooting. This has to do with design and balance and ergonomics, not a spirit or demon inhabiting the tool. The US Marine Corps Rifleman's Creed
expresses the interdependence of a highly trained person and a precision tool, edging right up against anthropomorphism, but not attributing free will to the weapon.

I know many shooters who put a name on their favorite firearm. This normally from a sense of tradition, or in memory of long and dependable service. It does no harm to the user, certainly. The problem, though, is when the anti-gun forces turn this benevolent practice against us. When they see us giving human characteristics to a gun, they make free to go a step farther. If you listen to the hoplophobes, the mere possession of a black-stocked rifle, or one with a longish curved magazine, causes an otherwise rational person to become a mass murderer. Simply dubbing (erroneously) a firearm an ASSAULT RIFLE imbues it with the magical power to cloud men's minds, send them to a workplace or a McDonald's full of kids, and start shooting.

Probably, most of those who read my blog already understand the truth of the matter: Certain tools are particularly well designed to perform a certain task, in the hands of a knowledgeable user. It is the user, not the tool, that determines if it is used for good or ill. It certainly has nothing to do with the supernatural or with any magical powers ascribed to firearms in general.

I don't know about you, but I have a hard enough time dealing with everyday aggravations. What with the IRS and the city utility office and the neighbors' dogs, I just don't have time to deal with malevolent spirits in my cherished firearms.


[TU20NOV2007 Edited to correct spelling error. JPG]

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"The Blog Readability Test"

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I guess I should be happy with this one. I finally granulated college in 1970, and in the next three decades, a lot of supervisors and lawyers kept telling me to phrase my reports in a simpler, less abstract manner. I also drafted a lot of political speaches and came to learn how most candidates wanted to address the constituency.

I'm just now getting over all that.


Okay. Honesty compels me to admit - - This test, like so many others, can be manipulated to some extent. The first time I checked, I just entered my overall blog address, and it came up with a "High School" level. Then I went to archives and pulled out just one month, and it showed "Junior High School." So I chose ONLY the month of October and got the rating above.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

AIRCRAFT: My first meme

Frankly, I've never taken part in the meme thing, but this one is a Must-Participate. I was very interested in airplanes long before I got my first real gun or ever even thought about becoming a peace officer.

The way I understand it, this particular meme was pretty spontaneous. The esteemed Kim du Toit called for favorite automobiles but NRAhab modified it to be airplanes instead.

Kim's original criteria was "Most Beautiful Cars," and he specifically asked that entrants NOT give reasons why a particular marque or model was chosen. Very good, and I think Kim started a worthy project. With Ahab's changeover to airplanes, though, bloggers and commenters alike make free to give their reasons. I kinda like that. Anyhow, I've seen posts from several other bloggers, most specifically Tamara and Matt and I am shamelessly following their lead.

Top five only? These are difficult choices, including ALL types of aircraft - - ALL the warbirds, bombers, fighters, transports, trainers, and then some really beautiful commercial aviation and private planes - - Like Matt's choices, mine are subject to change, according to what I've been reading or viewing lately.

5. Douglas A-26/B-26 Invader.
This beautiful and deadly attack aircraft was the cause of some minor confusion. First flown in 1942 as a light attack bomber, while the Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber was still in service. By 1948, when the USAF renamed the Invader as B26, the Martins were long out of service. This aircraft served through WWII, Korea, and in Vietnam. It was also a would-be feature player in the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. The majority of the later versions had the solid "gun nose" replaced with a Plexiglas enclosure and a bombardier position.

4. F-86 Sabre.

The Sabre was America's entry into the true jet fighter field. Preceded by a couple of others, this plane had speed, maneuverability, endurance, and handling to cope with the MiG 15 over Korea. It had clean lines, the graceful swept wing, and with external drop tanks, and the range to take the fight to the enemy.

3.. Douglas DC-3.
The DC-3, aka C-47 Skytrain, R4D, Dakota, etc. THE definitive airliner from roll out in 1935 through the 1940s. Even with the advent of the four engined Douglas airliners, it served smaller carriers well into the 1960s. There are some who say that the allies could not have won World War II without this aircraft. Perhaps the C-47's single most famous role was dropping paratroopers into Normandy on the night of 5--6 June 1944.

2. Supermarine Spitfire.

All of 'em are beautiful, but I'd probably choose the MK II or MK IX version. Let's be honest: The Hawker Hurricane made a more substantial contribution to winning the Battle Of Britain in 1940 than the Spitfire. And there were later, better fighters in WWII, but none to equal the sheer beauty of that elliptical wing. Oh, yes, speed and roll rate were improved with the later, clipped-wingtip marks, but they lost something . . . .

1. North American P51 Mustang.

Working to fill orders for Britain, the engineering and drafting staffs at North American Aviation outdid themselves. The first prototype Mustang flew in less than six months after the initial order was placed. The original Allison-powered design, while much faster than the Spitfire, was disappointing above 15,000 feet. An inspired scheme hatched by the Royal Air Force led to installation of a Rolls Royce Merlin 61 engine. The initial prototypes of this hybrid flew at 433 mph at 22,000 ft, and could reach 40,000 ft. This performance, coupled with the relatively lightweight airframe, allowed the "Little Friends" to escort the US heavy bombers deep into Germany, hastening the end of the European War.

Well, those are my choices, and I'll stick with 'em. At least for today. I'd like to read about yours.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Successful Enough

In only a couple of days, two favorite cop bloggers wrote on inventive ways of handling a tense situation.

In the PawPaw's House
installment of 7NOV2007, a veteran recalls the resolution of a would-be brawl with a formidable fighting drunk by application of the “Work Smart, Not Hard” paradigm.

And in a blog entry eititled “Wakey, wakey!” MattG
tells of how an inventive officer managed to awake a proven violent individual safely and defuse a potentially lethal situation.

The latter tale produced a rush of memory from 'way back when - - -

One early evening in the late 1980s, I met a new lady friend for drinks before dinner. Our drinks were ordered but hadn't arrived when my pager went off. I returned the call to a sergeant at a nearby small town police department. Seems they had red hot information on a major drug case pending and needed help moving on it RAT NOW. Their chief of police was seriously ill and literally couldn't leave his bed, their (only) investigator was out of state, and they literally had no one who could draw a search-and-arrest warrant affidavit. The sick chief and I were old pals and he said to ask me to lend a hand.

I explained to the lady friend that duty called and she could take her choice of a rain check on dinner, or she could tag along while I interviewed a couple of guys and wrote up an affidavit. She was an enthusiastic new social worker and wanted to come meet some new cops.

This job should have taken an hour of so, but there are always delays. I needed to interview the informants before I'd write the affidavit for the lead cop. Such a tale of drugs, violence, weapons including a machine gun, and a couple of well known outlaws! Over TWO hours later, the affidavit was finished, submitted to the judge, and the warrant signed. I gathered my briefcase, and went to shaking hands and wishing them good hunting. The sergeant asked me to take a phone call. It was the sick-unto-death police chief who asked me to please, help out his troops - - Organize the raid and go with them. He was frankly worried that he'd lose someone if things heated up.

Well, it's nice to be wanted, and to have a measure of respect. I offered my would-be girl friend my car keys to get home. She was a very good sport and insisted that she wanted to go along. Nope, sorry, impossible. Yeah, she was a public service employee, but no kind of peace officer. Can't do it. Okay, she'd stay in my car so that we could leave the scene as soon as things were secure.

The target residence was at one end of a mobile home park. We left the cars down the street and around a corner. One group went wide left and I took my three other guys round the corner and up the street in the dark. Shotguns, carbines, spare ammo - - It reminded me of the final reel of “The Wild Bunch.” One rookie cop was very eager to “kick the door.” "We'll see. Promise you won't until I give the word."

Perimeter secured, we went up on the front porch. I politely knocked on the door. “Who is it?”


“J who.”

“Aw, if you don't want my money, just forget it.” **scamper scamper** Door opens a crack, cautiously.

“Who - - “

NOW, Rook!” The door opened rapidly, knocking the inner guy back, the young officer fell to the floor, the sergeant and I stepped over them, announced, “Police officers with a warrant!” and set about securing the premises. A quick scan of the living room and two young men and two, uh, female persons were set upon the floor to be watched by the eager rookie. I slung my shotgun and went into the front bedroom, saw a lot of pills and some marihuana, and called the designated property logger-and-gatherer.

I heard shouting from the living room and went to see why the excitement. Officers from the perimeter team had entered and the back door was standing open, immediately to the right of the closed back bedroom door. “What's up, Sarge?”

“Guy in there says he just rents that room and says we got no right to come in.”

“Oh. Did you mention that we have an order from a judge to enter and search the entire premises?”

“Uh, yeah, but he's got the door locked and says he wants to go back to sleep. Can we, uh, . . . .?”

“Let me try. Hey, in there - - We're county and city peace officers with a warrant. Open this door at once!” The occupant suggested I engage in an improbable physical act.

“I'm going to count three! One!” CRASH! I weighed about two-forty in those days. The hollow core interior door was no real obstacle to my 13-D black sharkskin Tony Lama boot. The door facing splintered, the top hinge came loose, and there was a good deal of noise.

Two officers with flashlights illuminated the man face down on the bed until the light switch was located. He was well covered with a blanket. His face and both hands were buried in the pillow. I told him, “Mister, don't move an inch until I tell you.” I asked one of the officers to remove the blanket. The fairly large guy wore cut-off jeans. He was bigger and rougher looking than any other occupant.

I told him, “Now listen. You make only the moves I tell you to, okay? Alright, turn your head to the left and look at me. Good. This is a Remington twelve gauge. The safety is off. [A lie, actually.] Good, face forward. That's the muzzle resting between your shoulder blades. Please don't twitch. Now, when I tell you to, you slowly move your right hand out into the open, palm up. Move.” He did so. We repeated it with the left hand. I asked two officers to stand him up.

I was thinking, Well, that was all pretty melodramatic. I reached and flipped the pillow to the floor. On the dirty bottom sheet was a revolver - - A German-made copy of a Colt Single Action, caliber .357 magnum. The hammer was at full cock. It was loaded with three magnum and three .38 cartridges. A magnum was in the top center chamber. I asked that the evidence guy come and take a couple of photos. I went outside to light my pipe. It took about six matches.

The lady I'd left in my car was standing across the street, about thirty yards away. She had my binoculars and had been looking right in the back door. Walking back to the car, she said, “Well, that was pretty exciting.”

This would be a better story if the guy had been some prison escapee or a wanted murderer. Nope. He had a lengthy misdemeanor record: Theft, drugs, assault, resist arrest – but no felonies. Or, if I'd thought to finish the count after crashing into the bedroom. Or if there was a proper celebration with the new girl friend. We just had a sandwich at a Jack-in-the-Box and went to our respective apartments. Oh, well.

Five to jail, a few pounds of weed, a few hundred pills, some white powder, and one gun logged in. No bloodshed, no shots fired, no uneasy calls to the boss, no interviews with the Rangers or the Grand Jury. Something to laugh about in times to come. Not a BAD evening's work, really.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Of Health and Fame

One of the “benefits” of becoming a senior citizen is that one gets to meet so many different health care professionals.

I suppose it's logical. The more complicated any mechanism, the more different things can go wrong. While the machinery is pretty new and in good condition, it can go for extended periods without a great deal of maintenance. If subjected to hard use and even neglect, more care and repair may be needful. At the risk of straining the human body/machinery analogy, we can also observe that additional upkeep and even parts replacement are sometimes needed when wear-and-tear afflicts the entity.

So, one of my doctors decided I should undergo a diagnostic MRI
to establish that some of my inner workings were in decent condition. No use grumbling about it. When I retired, Beloved Bride and I discussed health issues and decided to spend the extra money on the best insurance plan available on my retirement program. This has proven to be one of our better decisions in light of the unpredictability of life. The relatively high premiums we pay monthly have been more than justified, if only by my broken hip last year. Yeah, there's always considerable out-of-pocket expense, but nothing like what we'd face without a decent insurance plan.
I went to the imaging lab at the appointed time, prepared to spend the standard lengthy period of filling out page after page of history and releases. It was made worse when I realized I'd forgotten to bring along a book I'm currently reading. I checked in with the receptionist who asked for my insurance card and driver's license. When she made the photocopies, I had to ask her NOT to detach the DL from my Concealed Handgun License. (Texas law requires that the CHL be presented to any peace officer asking for identification.) She didn't bat an eye. Lo and behold! She asked only a few questions to verify perishable personal information. No sooner had I sat down than she called my name and sent me through a door. Seated in a comfortable chair before a cheerful clerk, I signed the necessary waivers and payment arrangements. Total time, maybe five minutes. Back to waiting room.

I got a cup of coffee and a dull-looking magazine but never turned a page before being called into another room. A pleasant and professional young woman asked me to fill out a single sheet, front and back, with some health history. No sooner did I finish than she returned and took me to the preparation room just outside the MRI chamber.

MAGNETIC resonance imaging entails some extremely strong areas of magnetism. The young woman and a male technician (technologist??) told me what all I had to leave outside the room. I'd brought my own canvas shoulder bag so I wouldn't need to leave my pocket plunder out in the open plastic tray. When I placed my alloy .38, pocket holster, and Speed Strip in the bag, the only comment made was that it would be secure in the office. (Note to fellow Texans: this imaging lab is NOT part of a hospital, which would entail some restrictions on packin'.)

The male tech made pleasant conversation as he got me situated in the MRI room. My data sheet showed me as RETIRED, and he said something about military or police service. I said that my Air Force Reserve time was long ago, but that I'd spent some 40 years as a peace officer. He said, “I thought you were some kind of expert witness.” Hummm . . . .

The actual MRI scan was somewhat confining and uncomfortable - - One must remain practically motionless for 15 minutes. The noise level is at times very high, and I was grateful for the foam ear plugs provided. In due time, the clamor ended and I was slid out of the chamber. As he gave me a hand up from the table, the tech said, “I thought I recognized you. I read your blog.” The image at the top of my blog page is an unfortunately accurate likeness, and the tech, Rob, is an observant individual. He had my data sheet and noted that my initials matched. He was complimentary about my writing, and I was apologetic for not writing much recently. For several minutes, we had a very nice visit about guns and shooting, until his duties called him.

Hey - - It's really nice to meet a reader. This is the first time it's happened to me. **GRIN**