Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates

Here are some potentially useful affirmations...


These are extracted from Schlock Mercenary, the Online Comic Space Opera by Robert Tayler (which I haven't had time to peruse so I can not yet recommend).  That said these aphorisms remind me more than a little of The Notebooks of Lazarus Long by Robert Heinlein.  Thanks for the referral, Mark!

Your 100th Serving of the Eclectic Breakfast

Wow, 100 posts already!

Image from Photos8.com

Looking back over the labels I've assigned the first 100 topics I see: alt med, astronomy, bicycling, blogging, compassion, critical thinking, education, ethics, evolution, firearms, friends, humor, hunting, law, leadership, medicine, memoir, movies, politics, pseudoscience, reading, religion, risk, science, security, service, skepticism, strange, and woo. Are there other labels you'd apply? Are there posts you were surprised to find here? Are there topics you thought I'd get to by now? Which topics don't interest you?  Please let me know. Be well.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Supreme Court Rules That Gun Rights Apply To States and Localities

We knew this all along...


The Supreme Court ruled on McDonald vs. the City of Chicago today.  In a five-to-four decision they confirmed that the Second Amendment’s protection of an individual right to bear arms applies to state and local governments, not just the federal government.  This is an expansion of the common sense and jurisprudence shown by the court in its ruling on District of Columbia vs. Heller in 2008.  Go SCOTUS!

Interdisciplinary Workshop on Security and Human Behaviour

Bruce Scheier reminds us the 3rd Annual Interdisciplinary Workshop on Security and Human Behaviour is underway at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory.


If you have any interest in "human side of security" - risk, social engineering, phishing, deception detection, etc. - the papers presented for 2008, 2009, and 2010 will keep you busy with eclectic reading for weeks.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations

One supposes the title of this lecture is play on the phrase “A Clash of Civilizations” coined by Samuel P. Huntington, who regarded conflict at the borders between civilizations as predictable and for the most part inevitable.


Recorded in 2007 at Duke University, the Kenan Distinguished Lecture in EthicsThe Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations” by Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, offers a thoughtful, deep, and useful exegesis on the theme of brotherhood found in stories that span the Book of Genesis.  No surprise, I suppose, that Sir Sacks has attracted the ire of the fundamentalists of his own tradition for daring to discern useful lessions for today from a book regarded by many as a text that is not to be interpreted but simply obeyed.

In The Sweat Lodge

I did my first sweat - more properly, a Lakota Inipi - in the fall of 2008, but had to bow out before completing it.  Even when done properly it is a physically challenging undertaking and I was not feeling well that day.  The reductionist in me could find psychological and neurological explanations for why I encountered the sensations and images I report here but I chose to simply engage the experience...



I am immersed in earth smells,
Pummeled by drums,
Flooded by the taste of sage and sweetgrass,
Lulled by rhythmic chants.
Other senses overfilled, my eyes beseech the darkness.
“Bring in Seven…”
In glowing orange orbs I witness
Newborn stars at the beginning of time.
In round river rocks cooling to red incandescence I see
The Earth before air or rain or green or life.
Black lines on luminous ancient stones draw for me
The thighs and belly of a Neolithic Venus.
Nearly hidden in the darkening pit appear
The dull red eyes of an angry black bull.
These fade and something in my center is stilled.
And, as ladles of cool water
Wash the last light from the rocks,
As we descend again into darkness,
The eyes of a tired but wise old dog
Open for a moment and then are closed.
Mitakuye Oyasin.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Security Leadership Research

I'm getting a lot of support and many useful research leads from my peers directly via email and indirectly by way of LinkedIn groups.  There seems to be a lot of interest in this topic...

image from wikimedia commons

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'm working on my Master of Arts in Human Development, concentrating on issues of ethics, leadership, team-building, and problem-solving. For an independent study this summer I'm researching the literature for examples of principled security leadership. My question is whether a positive, proactive leadership approach that centers on business success more productive (and perceived by executives as more productive) than pursuing regulatory compliance or giving in to fearmongering?

There is a marked lack of leadership literature specifically about the security profession, but I continue the search.  Some of the recommended references include:

Books directly linked to my topic...

Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice

Shackleton's Way

The first 90 days : critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels

Leadership That Gets Results

Less directly...

The Black Swan

Freakonomics

The Resilient Enterprise

Websites...

Security Executive Council

The Leadership Challenge

Please keep your cards and letters coming!

Is Skepticism Too Loaded a Term?

As much as I enjoy listening to the movers and shakers in the skeptic movement I admit this issue challenges me.  Is skepticism the same thing as critical thinking?  Is it the same as the scientific method?  Must skeptics be atheists, or a members of the new breed of angry antitheists?  Must skeptics extirpate falsehood at every turn?  When does preventing real harm peter off into simply being a know-it-all buzz kill?

images from wikimedia commons

Daniel Loxton is examining some of these issues in the context of his review of Benjamin Radford’s book Scientific Paranormal Investigation at Skepticblog.  Just as there is no alternative medicine only medicine, much as there is no pseudoscience only science, perhaps there should be no skepticism only critical thinking and the scientific method.

If conversations around my dinner table are any indication, to the casual, uninvested observer a lot of the current skepticism appears to be simple debunking reflexively applied by know-it-all buzz kills (the character Cliff Clavin comes to mind). Are there any ethical considerations when we encourage or demand critical thinking, skeptical inquiry, and application of the scientific method? Is it ever inappropriate to disabuse persons of an emotional commitment to magical thinking? Is helping a person become "disillusioned" ever a bad thing? I'm pretty sure there isn't.

However, framing the argument as the "Skeptical Community" versus the paranormal, SCAM, UFO, cryptozoology, new age, or religious communities may reinforce this perception, not only among those prone to magical thinking (and inclined to defend it), but also among the great majority of people who are merely disinterested.  So, does the term "skeptic" repel some folks who would benefit from a greater understanding of critical thinking or the scientific method?  I'm not sure.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Smarter Skimmers

Krebs on Security: In-Depth Security News and Investigation blog is worth a bookmark or an RSS feed subscription.

Image from Wikimedia.Commons

Brian Krebs reports on Sophisticated ATM Skimmer Transmits Stolen Data Via Text Message  This new twist eliminates the need for the crooks to return to the skimmer to collect stolen credit and debit card numbers and PINs.  This is shaping up to be quite the arms race.

It's Almost Never This Bad

David Malki on organizational change...


Wondermark for June 22, 2010 titled "A Dramatic Turnover in Management"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Things We Learn At The Public Deer Rifle Sight-In (2005)

There is an annual work requirement at the private gun club I belong to.  One of the ways to meet this requirement is to serve as a coach at the annual deer rifle sight in, which is the only time during the year that the club is open to the public.  Each weekend in October we meet with all kinds as they come to make sure their rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, and pistols are ready for the deer woods...

image courtesy of wikimedia commons

A completely difference breed of cat comes to the first weekend of the club's public deer rifle sight-in month. There were more bolt guns. Many synthetic stocks - good ones - were in evidence. A much higher percentage of Leupold, and better, scopes graced the rifles. There were fewer Remington 742s, and only a couple surplus SKS carbines. There were classics, a Savage 99 and a 1903 sporter. There were muzzleloaders - all inlines - that people shot actual groups with, even at 100 yards. There were shotguns people shot actual groups with, even at 50 yards. And there were magnum pistols people could shoot actual groups with, even at 25 yards. I only heard "Close enough" once all day, and this from a guy shooting into a couple inches at 200 yards.

A guy in his early twenties showed up early saying "My boss is taking me deer hunting in Canada, so I bought this rifle, but I've never shot one before. What do I do?" Never shot a rifle before? Oh why not, we have all day. He opened the case. He had chosen a Browning A-Bolt BOSS stainless synthetic in 300 Winchester Magnum wearing a Swarovski moon scope in the 4.5-14.5x range. Hmmn. We took him to 25 to make sure his "gunsmith boresighting" was worth what he paid for it. It was, the only time that day. He shot a one hole group a skosh low. Took him to fifty. He shot a one hole group on the money. Took him to 100. He shot into an inch about 1-1/2 inches high. Took him to 200.  He shot into an inch about 1-1/2 inches high. "What about 300?" he asked. Took him to 300. The wheels didn't fall off, but they wobbled a bit. He shot minute of buck about 10 inches low. He said "Gotta' go; my hunter safety class is starting." We wished him well and wondered aloud whether his boss had any more openings...

Early in the afternoon I was pacing the line. I stopped to watch a family of three each taking turns with their 300 Weatherby rifles in their shiny new shooting cradle. Each was a lightweight synthetic with a skinny fluted barrel. All three wore large Leupold variables. Two of three wore blast enhancers [muzzle brakes], both different brands. One with oval slots was the finest "stun grenade" I ever stood next to. A collection of brass lay in the gravel beside the bench. The empties just didn't look right. The necks were too short, way too short. I picked one up. The customary double venturi shoulder was there but the neck stop perhaps .15 past the last curve. Could it be? Would anyone be so stupid? I turned the case over to read the headstamp...yup, 300 Winchester Magnum! "Excuse me, sir" I interrupted before his next shot "Do you know you're using 300 Winchester Magnum ammo in your 300 Weatherby?"  The answer I dreaded most was only a moment in coming "Oh yeah, we figured it would be a cheaper way to get 'em on the paper". I told him I couldn't let him do that anymore today. He grunted and switched to the appropriate Weatherby ammo.

I quietly collected a few cases to share with the folks teaching hunter safety classes...

The Summer Solstice

Can't believe I almost missed it...

Image from Wikimedia.Commons

It lacks the cachet of winter solstice - which has been claimed by numerous religions over the millenia - but the two together probably constitute the holidays mankind has been celebrating longer than any others.  Did the solstices provide us our first sense that we lived in an ordered cosmos?

Would-Be Bombers In U.S. Hampered By Logistics

I notice my topics on any given day tend to be be similar...


Thoughtful article by NPR on the many difficulties encountered by would be terrorists in the U.S.  Here's wishing them even more confusion, frustration, poor training, and worse logistics.

CSOonline Delivers

I subscribe to a variety of security, safety, business continuity, and management online newsletters.  Normally they are mostly chaff but today's email from CSOonline is chock full of timely topics...

Photo courtesy Photos8.com

Social engineering techniques criminals use to get inside your company.

Banning worthless car alarms is an idea whose time has come.

The concept of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) gaining traction.

Not safe for work: What's acceptable computer use in today's office?

And the new CSO Daily Dashboard looks handy.

Loretta Napoleoni: The intricate economics of terrorism

This is one of the TED talks I used in class this spring...

photo from photos8.com

Economist Loretta Napoleoni made an interesting presentation to TED titled "The intricate economics of terrorism" I suppose I can understand that the average terror cell doesn't look for members inclined to think for themselves, but I was surprised to hear that being a terrorist is tedious work that primarily involves non-stop fundraising.  It's worth a look.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Principled Security Leadership

I don't intend to pose a false trilemma but...


I'm working an a Masters focusing on issues of ethics, leadership, team-building, and problem-solving. This summer I'm researching the literature for examples of principled security leadership. Is a positive, proactive leadership approach that centers on business success more productive than pursuing regulatory compliance or giving in to fearmongering? Citations welcome.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Speaking of Things Only a Dog Would Eat

The Octodog resurfaced at Scheier on Security yesterday...


I may never eat a skinless, tube-shaped, emulsified meat product again...eegah!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Relative Risk

What if you leave your child at home while you get milk and a bomber comes by?


I just now discovered Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids blog (thanks Bruce!).  Labeled "America's Worst Mom" after her article “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Take The Subway Alone” was published in 2008.  I remember reading it and liking it then.  Now she has a book subtitled "Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry," a blog, and a speaking engagements page at her web page.  Looks like a breath of fresh, unfiltered air to me. 

Evolution 101 Anyone?

A free podcast primer on the nature of evolution...


Zach Moore is active in the free thought community and featured prominently in the production of the excellent Apologia podcast as well.  His podcast lecture series titled Evolution 101 is a fine primer on biological evolution available at iTunes and other podcast directories.

Making of the Fittest

Fine book on the latest research into the nature of biological evolution...


Just finished Sean Carroll's Making of the Fittest  It's a very concise yet appropriately detailed study of the 3 billion year history of the DNA that makes us and other life on the planet what we are.  As mentioned in an earlier post Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful is an another excellent book for people interested in the science that undergirds our physical existence.  Endless Forms is also available in an mp3 on CD format at your usual online booksellers or at places like audible.com for your audio enjoyment.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Another Web Comic: XKCD

XKCD is pretty funny too....

Though some days it's like trying to talk with a distracted UNIX wonk.

An American Deer Hunter In Africa, Part IV

Finally, the hunting stories themselves...

Part IV: The Game

I hunted with my T/C Contender single-shot pistol first. It has a Pachmayr rubber grip but is otherwise as it left the factory. Before lunch on the first day I bagged a nice Impala ram with a single shot at 80 yards. The ram took the bullet through the shoulders and both lungs, ran 40 yards, then piled up.

On the second day I bagged a mature Blesbok ram with a single shot through both lungs and one shoulder at 40 yards. He staggered 20 yards and collapsed.

I shot a very nice Zebra with my Contender on day three. It was quite a stalk, perhaps the best of the entire trip. That story has been accepted for publication in one of the next issues of "One Good Shot," the journal of the Thompson/Center Association.

On the fourth day I took a scar-faced, broken-tusked Warthog boar with a single shot through both lungs at 50 yards. He ran 300 yards before giving up, by far the furthest I've ever had any animal run on me. But for the uncanny abilities of the hunting and tracking staff I'm certain I’d have never seen it again. Next time I’ll be careful to put the slug through the shoulders as well as the lungs. As you might expect, no bullets were recovered, but the wide flat nose slugs pulped an inch and a half wide wound channel and punched through any bones that got in the way, just as they are designed to do.

For rifle work I brought my Remington 700 ADL in .30-’06. The stock is by H-S Precision, enhanced with a rounded butt pad and a third swivel for Eric Ching’s clever three point sling. For optics I zeroed two Leupold M8 four-power telescopes, each in Leupold Quick Release rings lapped and fitted to Leupold Quick Release two-piece bases. I've used the QR’s for a couple years now and find them sturdy and reliable. The zero seems well preserved when the scope is removed and reinstalled, at least when only shooting out to 200 yards, which is as far as I'm allowed to shoot in the San Jose, California area.

On the morning of the fourth day I switched to my rifle and took a nice Blue Wildebeest with a 60-yard shot. The bullet struck the right shoulder but did not hit any bones, penetrated the ribs, pulped the lungs, exited the ribs, and came to rest underneath the skin just behind the left shoulder. The bull staggered about 40 yards, shaking his head as he went. He then snorted, collapsed, snorted, and expired. The recovered bullet weighed 125 grains. Nice performance after penetrating two feet of Wildebeest bull.

On day six I took a Warthog boar with a 70-yard shot as it was trotting away at a quartering angle, right to left. He jinked to the right, turning straight away, just as my shot broke and the bullet landed just to the right of his tail, shattering the spine, pelvis, and bones of the right rear leg. The boar was down but not out. His rear legs of no use to him, so he continued his escape on his front legs. We closed the distance in the bakjie, dismounted, and I finished him with a snap shot at 20 paces which punched a great hole in the ribs, quartered through the lungs, and stopped in the right shoulder. During the skinning we recovered what was left of the first bullet. We determined that it had tumbled, peeled its jacket nearly to the base, shed its core, and gone on to completely wrecked the right rear quarter. The recovered bullet jacket weighed 29 grains and shows signs of having traveled in several different directions as it came apart and crashed to a stop after penetrating 12 inches of Warthog. I had expected the first 220 grain slug to stop somewhere closer to the boiler room, if it had to stop at all, but this is an imperfect business and Warthogs are tough little pigs. I regret now that I did not recover the second bullet, but at the time getting back into the field for more hunting was the priority.

Mid way through the hunt Schalk received word that one of his concessions was going to change title in two days. This particular, concession had a nice Leopard bait site on it that had seen some activity recently. He offered me the chance to sit for the Leopard, if I wanted to. I jumped at the chance and I rezeroed with Federal Premium Nosler 180 Partition spitzer ammunition, which has always worked well for me. Despite our efforts at bait site preparation the Leopard didn’t come back.

On day ten I used a single Nosler slug to collect a wary, old bull Gemsbok -- a trophy I've dreamed of bagging ever since my first business trip to Africa in 1994 - with a 70 yard head shot. We found a year's old handwoven wire snare embedded in his right front hoof; seems he was trapped and got away in his youth. The guides cut it out for me. It is quite the interesting conversation piece.

Despite the close ranges I encountered I did not want to muck anything up so my initial shots were taken either from shooting sticks or from an improvised rest. I might gotten away with a couple of my shots shooting from standing, without the sticks or a rest, but I try to take a steadier position if one is available. Some folks don't care for them, others swear by them. They have their place. Of course, if you don't like the idea of sticks you don’t have to use them.

So, are African animals tougher than their American counterparts? Based on our sampling of 24 game animals in 10 days, from Impala to Eland, I’d have to say they certainly seem tougher than the Minnesota and North Dakota Whitetail Deer I'm accustomed to. In the final analysis though, no animal got away that took a solid hit in the right place from a bullet that held together for deep penetration. On the other hand, several animals that were not well hit on the first shot seemed to take a lot of extra killing.

We elected to do our taxidermy in South Africa. It's supposed to cost less to have it done there and ship it home. They were due in late January, but we haven't received them yet. Until they arrive we won't know the cost for shipping and customs duties. My taxidermy bill last June was a little over $800 for a Zebra rug, shoulder-mounted Warthog, skull mounts for Impala, Blesbok, Warthog, Wildebeest, and Gemsbok, and one and one half warthog hides tanned into leather, and Impala, Blesbok, Wildebeest, and Gemsbok hides finished as flat skins. I'm hoping the shipping and customs costs don't rob me of this apparent bargain.

As "therapy" during my reentry to civilization I sent letters and photos to some of companies whose equipment I used. Joe Gauntt, president of Cast Performance Bullet Co., the company that made my .44 caliber LBT's commented "it is not often that hunters will remember that we like to see the product of our efforts." Send them a letter and a few pictures; you may be surprised with their response. My photos have been included in the 1998 Thompson/Center and Hornady catalogues. Ross Seyfried, the gunwriter whose views on hunting big game with heavy handguns shaped my approach, wrote about my letter to him in his monthly column in Guns and Ammo magazine.  I also wrote two articles; the one you are about to finish reading was rejected after four months of sitting in some editor's "unsolicited" in-box; the other, as I mentioned earlier, will be printed in a forthcoming issue of "One Good Shot," the journal of the Thompson/Center Association.

A final piece of advice. Keep a journal. It’s a handy place to save your exotic permits and receipts. It will remember things you'll forget. It will keep your memories fresh. It will be a comfort to you on the long flight home and after you've been back to work for a month or two. If you're very lucky, it might just become that yellowed, dog-eared, "Grandpa’s Africa Book," with which you can tell tales of adventure in an Africa long gone.

My New Ride

Reminds me of the Huffy I rode as a kid...



So, my daughter and I were at Valley Bike and Ski shortly before my birthday a month or two back and I saw this bike hanging from the ceiling.  Its knobby wheels looked improbably large and there were no derailleurs - it was a single-speed mountain bike!  This is the KHS Solo One SE.  The tires are in fact 29 inches in diameter instead of the usual 26 (note to self: buy some spare tubes).  As I rode it around the parking lot I realized that for the first time in over 30 years I didn't have to worry about what gear I should be in.  My daughter must have have told her mother about the smile on my face because on my birthday my new ride was waiting for me in the backyard when I got home from work.  Operating the Sole One SE is simplicity itself.  To go faster I pedal faster.  To ascend hills I stand up and climb "out of the saddle" instead of shifting down and down and down as I attempt to keep my RPMs in the 90s.  I can only go so fast on the downhills before I reach the limits of the gearing combination, so I spend more time coasting, just like I did as a kid.  I had contemplated getting a one-speed street cruiser for fitness riding and knocking around town but the Solo One SE also lets me take it offroad, where the larger diameter wheels seem to soften the trail.  I have little trouble keeping up with other casual riders both on city streets and off the road.  Yes indeed, simplicity itself.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jenny McCarthy Bodycount

A special sort of scientific denialism is the antivaccination movement...



The Jenny McCarthy Bodycount website credits McCarthy's high profile "vaccinations cause autism" activism with the preventable illnesses and deaths that have occurred as parents chose not to protect their children. Be sure to visit History of the Anti-Vaccination Movement and Links pages there.

What's the Harm?

Some people will ask the skeptic "what's the harm" of disbelieving in vaccination, believing in supplements, complimentary and alternative medicine in particular, or Woo in general?  "Even if this stuff isn't provable aren't adults are free to believe whatever they like?"  "It's all in good fun, right?"

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, there is a substantial body count, a long list of serious injuries, and billions of dollars lost to poor thinking about important issues that no amount of misapplied postmodernism or moral relativism can make right.  At his What's the Harm website Tim Farley chronicles many examples of the downside experienced when we relax our critical processes with regard to pseudoscience, medical quackery, and the paranormal.  In addition to the case studies the Resources and Press pages are rich sources of additional information.

Do You Know Any Anti-Vaxers?

In that case you may need some science to make the case for vaccination...


Mark Crislip's Quackcast #45 has a nice summary of the current crop of anti-vaccination arguments and their refutations.  Be forewarned, Crislip is contemptuous of people who think children should suffer and die from preventable diseases.

A Nation of Cowards

"A Nation of Cowards" was published in the Fall, '93 issue of The Public Interest, a quarterly journal of opinion published by National Affairs, Inc.  While 9/11 changed some attitudes about the individual's responsibility to the community - for better and worse - I think much of Jeffrey R. Snyder's essay still holds up.  What do you think?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The World's Greatest Minds

Are only a mouse click away...

Image from Wikimedia Commons

As I mentioned earlier much of my iPod listening involves podcasts dealing with critical thinking, skepticism and religion. In addition to a professional interest in ethics, creativity, and leadership, I have a layperson's interest in astronomy, evolutionary science, neurology, anthropology, history, politics.  There are only so many hours in a lifetime so I look for ways to cram as much great content between my ears as possible.  Enter the Applie iPod (the Touch in my case), iTunes, and iTunes U.  There are a near endless supply of interesting lectures available on iTunes and iTunes U or at many host organizations' websites.  There is no excuse for going without a cool content fix as often as you like.

The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University has many podcasts dealing professional and business ethics, culture and human rights.  Look for them at iTunes U.

Princeton University Podcasts features a wide variety of events and lectures in mp3 or mp4 formats.  You can also score them at iTunes U.

Also sponsored by Princeton is the UChannel where you'll find lectures put on by many universities.

Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA) and The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) can be found on both iTunes U and iTunes or at their websites.  I prefer the downloads from iTunes because I can listen to most of them at 2x speed.  They have video podcasts too but I don't time enough for screens.

The Stanford Technology Ventures Program has seminars, lectures, and events related to leadership in the engineering and high-tech manufacturing sectors.  You can access their podcasts at iTunes U or on their website; or you can stream their content directly to your PC.

ResearchChannel has a rich Health and Medicine Video section though much of the detail is above my head.

Ontario's public educational media organization produces a TVO Big Ideas podcast. 

The Commonwealth Club of California is a well known staple to public radio listeners but those of you too busy to listen on the lunch hour can subscribe via iTunes or download from the site.

Gresham College has been offering free public lectures for 400 years, podcasts not quite so long...

NPR's On the Media is a weekly analysis of how the news is reported.  Look for it at iTunes or stream or download the podcast from their site.

A person might be excused for mistaking a PopTech video podcast for an episode of TED as they address similar topics.  Available as an audio podcast too.

TED brings together brightest lights from the fields of technology, entertainment, and design.  TED has over 400 brief talks by some really brilliant people.  You can sign up direct with them or via iTunes.  Great stuff.

The thing I like best about all these resources is their generally optimistic tone.  Perhaps the doers, the movers, and the shakers are too busy making things happen to worry about whether or not they can.  There is a podcast for almost everyone. Find yours. Fill your brain.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Photos8.com

When I say "Photo courtesy of Photos8.com" it means...

Photo courtesy of Photos8.com

When I need an image for this blog, or the other websites and blogs I support, or to use a picture instead of a thousand words in a PowerPoint deck, the first place I check is Photos8.com, a source for thousands of high quality photographs.  The site is run by Sam Mugraby, an Israeli photographer and graphic artist who offers his fine work for free (with a liberal license) at Photos8.com or in the public domain at republicdomain.com.  As you might imagine many of his photographs have an eastern Mediterranean sensibility but a great many could have been taken anywhere.  Next time you need a fresh image to make your point give Photos8.com a try.

Updated To Add:

Got a note from Sam in response to this post.  He appreciates hearing from people who use his work.  He seems like a nice guy.

Friday, June 11, 2010

An American Deer Hunter In Africa, Part III

Funny how, years later, the details of the guns seem a little less important.  Still, some thoughtful choices and careful preparation will make your hunt more enjoyable...

Part III: You and the Gun

Carry as light and short a rifle as you can shoot well. Longer, heavier pieces have their place, but that place is not "walking and stalking" the bushveld. You’ll want a rifle you can carry in your shooting hand alone, for as long as you need the other hand free to negotiate the thornbush, jump quietly from the truck, or creep through the grass "on all threes." Do not worry so much about recoil from light rifles, unless it contributes to your flinch.

Do not practice for hunting by shooting from the bench. Zero your rifle—or handgun—then leave the bench to practice snap shots, offhand, post rest, kneeling, and maybe a little from sitting. You will almost never find a use for the benchrest and prone positions in the bushveld. Besides, you’ll likely be pleased to discover that practicing from field positions reduces your rifle’s perceived recoil. If recoil is still a distraction you’ll find a PAST Recoil Shield makes a long session with a handy rifle much more pleasant.

Our PH recommended that we zero our rifles for 100 yards. I didn’t change mine as I thought that was kind of close. Then over ten days my longest shot on eight animals—seven game and one varmint—was 90 yards. Shot placement is always critical, but it is especially important when dense cover is always only a few feet away. A "25 meter zero" or "Maximum Point Blank Range" zero will put most of your hits two or three inches above your point of aim over most of the ranges at which you’ll be shooting at game in the bushveld. If you zero for 100 practice enough to know where your rifle puts its bullets at 200 yards just in case, as you may encounter a longer shot. Usually, with longer range comes more time to think about your shot. If you going hunting in open terrain later, make sure you bring extra ammunition and make time to re-zero.

Practice on practical targets. I used eight inch disks cut from cardboard cartons and paper grocery bags for my rifle practice whenever possible. Learn to concentrate on the center of a target that has no specific aiming point, while shooting from field positions, and you’ll be the better for it. By the way, you may notice you’re no longer cutting one, two, or even three MOA. Don’t worry; your rifle hasn’t suddenly gone sour. Practical field shooting tests you much more than the quality of your equipment and, yes, it is a humbling thing.

Use a low-powered scope. Set your variable at 1.5, 2, or 3 magnifications; you get the idea. Yeah, all the way to the bottom; then leave it there unless you encounter a long shot in the open. Yours only goes down to 4.5? May I suggest you find a smaller, lighter scope for this trip? I used a fixed four power glass and got caught watching the Impala on the left while a very nice Gemsbok wandered away to the right. I already had a nice Impala; I was hunting for Gemsbok. They were all of 75 yards away. My old 2.5 power Weaver would have been a better choice for all of my rifle shots in the bushveld.

Consider bringing two scopes, each already mounted and zeroed in its own quick detachable rings, especially if you plan to use heavy or hard slugs for close work in the bush, then switch to light slugs for long range hunts in open terrain. Zero one for each bullet. Scopes can go bad on you. One of my hunting companions had two scopes, of highly reputable American manufacture, crack up on him while preparing for the trip. It happens. He had time to mount and zero a replacement and a spare. If you have two good scopes, you can switch to the spare, re-zeroing it if necessary.

Nothing evaporates quicker in the bushveld than a really nice Kudu. I saw several nice bulls, but didn’t manage to get on them in time. Practice shooting as quickly as you’re able. A bullet that lands anywhere near the center of your homemade eight inch practice target right now is much better than a pinwheel you’re ready to deliver a second after the biggest Kudu you’ve ever seen has melted into the bush. On the other hand, learn your limits, so that you shoot no quicker than you can. Don’t take a shot if you’re not ready. Don’t worry about what your PH thinks of you --and your shooting ability-- at that moment. He would rather find you another trophy than spend the rest of the day tracking an animal you hit poorly.

Maker certain your rifle works with the ammunition you decide to bring. Do all your practice shooting from the magazine. I prepared a 220 grain handload that worked fine through the action of my .30-’06 Remington 700 ADL, so long as I only worked it quickly or firmly. When shooting for blood under the African sun I found out that the vigorous "bolt flick" Jeff Cooper taught me at his old Gunsite caused the round nose bullet to stop on the sharp, square edge of the chamber, every time. I bagged three animals with my "single-shot 700" anyway, but switched to 180 grain spitzer ammunition for my last few days of hunting. When I shot my Gemsbok on the last day of the hunt my bolt flick did not tie up the action. Not feeding roundnose bullets under rigorous conditions is no sin, but its better to discover such limitations at the range instead of in the bush. I’d have been happy to use a 200 grain spitzer had I known.

"Use enough gun." Our PH’s thought that anything between the 6.5x55 Swedish and the .350 Remington Magnum should do nicely for most any non-dangerous game in African bushveld, if you use a good bullet and can place it properly. Yeah, this will rule out the popular 6mm and .25 caliber rounds. The PH’s agreed that these rounds can do the job, especially for resident hunters who can afford to pass on "iffy" shots, but a little more bullet means the visiting hunter with only a week or two to hunt can take a shot that might not be prudent with the lighter rounds. The PH’s prefer to use Nosler Partitions in their .30-’06s and .375s to sort things out for their clients on non-dangerous game. They don’t see the need for a bullet any "harder" than the Nosler Partition, which offers quick expansion and certain penetration from almost any angle. They do not think much of high velocity magnums for bushveld hunting, as they favor an initial velocity of 2400-2600 feet per second for close work in the thornbush.

The PH’s quite liked the performance of the.350 Remington Magnum rifles carried by two of the hunters in our party. It may be an obsolescent cartridge (all but abandoned by Remington and fully appreciated only by a dedicated few), but topped with the 225 Nosler Partition at around 2500 feet per second it worked on everything from Impala to Zebra, from 40 yards to over 200 yards. The PH’s thought the .350s might have offered quicker kills if they had used a softer, single core bullet, but as it was they preferred the penetration guaranteed by the Partitions. You’ll hear that a lot; placement and penetration. By extension one would expect the .35 Whelen, the .338-06, and the .358 Winchester to do very nicely as well. I think the quick handling the original Browning Lever Action in .358 Winchester would be right at home in the bushveld. A Remington 600/660 (or a Seven from the Remington Custom Shop) chambered in .350 Remington Magnum would be quite the gamegetter in the thornbush; and most anywhere else in the world for that matter. A six or seven pound .350 is going to kick you enough to notice, but, man, it sure would be handy.

Stick close to your PH or your tracker; step in his footprints if you can. You’ll assume his pace, stop when he stops, be able to help each other quietly negotiate the thorn, and --most importantly-- you’ll be in a position to see what he sees.

Shooting sticks. Wow! Shooting sticks may just be the single best artificial shooting aid since the shooting sling. As one cannot count on using prone, sitting, and sometimes even kneeling, positions in the bushveld shooting sticks come into their own. If you are serious about preparing for Africa, get yourself some sticks or fabricate your own and get used to working with them. Ours were carried and set by our PH or tracker, which is by far the most convenient way to work with them. The [sticks] can be inconvenient and noisy if you try to deploy them yourself and handle your weapon at the same time. I missed a shot on a nice Warthog while fumbling with the sticks while drawing my pistol from its holster, all for a shot I could have taken from post rest or kneeling if I’d had no sticks or holster to worry about.

If your rifle is light enough you might not need a carry strap and there’s something to be said for always having your weapon in your hand. You may need a shooting sling though. There is none finer or quicker for practical shooting and hunting than the Ching Sling, as originally manufactured by the late Bruce Nelson, but now made only by Galco. You won’t always have, or need, the shooting sticks. If you know how to use a shooting sling you won’t miss the sticks, if the grass isn’t too tall.

As for handgun hunting; the bushveld is perfect for it. I used a .44 Magnum Thompson/Center Contender with a 10 inch factory barrel wearing open sights. I handloaded a 320 grain LBT Wide Flat Nose bullet, as hard cast and heat treated by Cast Performance Bullet Company, over a maximum charge of Hodgdon H110 and CCI Magnum Large Pistol primer. I zeroed it two inches high at 50 yards and had a great time. I took Impala, Blesbok, Warthog, and Zebra at ranges from 40 to 90 yards. The PH’s were impressed by the effectiveness of hard cast flat nose slugs, saying their .375’s with Nosler Partitions could not be counted on for better performance at close range. I expect the .41 Magnum, the .44 Magnum, the .45 Colt using Hodgden silhouette data in Ruger revolvers or the Contender, and the .454 Casull would all do very nicely as hunting handguns in the thornbush. In a Contender the .45/70, in a barrel short enough to be handy, would be a sledgehammer on game if the hunter is prepared for the challenging recoil.

It Looks Like It Would Be Pretty Weird: Lars and the Real Girl

But it's really a very gentle, clever, and heartfelt story...



The performances by Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, and Paul Schneider are spot on.

Adult Literacy Volunteer Opportunities: Making a Difference in My Community


Photo courtesy Photos8.com

At mid-life I'm looking for some way to make more of a difference in our community. Supporting adult literacy appeals to me because of the tremendous impact reading has had on my life. I figure the kids have school districts looking after them (I could be wrong on this; educate me). If there are adult native and non-native English speakers who want like to learn to (or even enjoy) reading I want to help. With the able assistance of my personal "Board of Directors" I've identified the following programs to look into:




Are there any other volunteer adult literacy programs in the Twin Cities you can recommend?  Please let me know.  Thanks!

Updated To Add:

A member of my "board" sent me an excellent reply I wanted to share with you.  It speaks eloquently to the process of choosing an organization in which to volunteer.  My friend asked that I remove identifiers so as not to give the impression these comments were being made on behalf of any particular agency, employer, or client.  That's a shame because I'd be happy to give this agency credit for employing someone with this sort of brains and passion.

"As an employee of a social services non-profit, I've learned a great deal first hand about need in our community that results from generational poverty and immigrants who come to US in search of safety from war and genocide. My work has boiled down to the very basic survival needs of food, clothing, and shelter. These needs are very real and have an effect on all of us as a whole, even if we feel we are "outside" of them, and you could volunteer in these areas for the rest of your life and never run out of people and places that are short on resources.

However, I urge you to go with your passion, which is education and literacy. As a volunteer coordinator, I've seen countless people who give in order to "just do it." While their intentions are no less positive and their contributions are no less valuable, it doesn't maximize the experience. For example, I've gotten a lot of people settled into volunteer positions in the food shelf, and they feel good about being there and everyone benefits, but really what they are thinking while there is, "I feel best when I pack a food order for a family suffering the fallout of domestic abuse." The issue of family violence puts a fire in their belly more than the issue of hunger in general. Then that person goes to volunteer at a domestic violence shelter, and boom, they come alive in ways they couldn't in the food shelf, therefore contributing their best, therefore allowing others to benefit from their best. What used to be helping becomes HELPING, and what used to be helpful becomes HELPFUL.

We each have things that we care about for our own reasons, and we each have our own gifts and talents to contribute. It sounds like yours is education and literacy. Imagine if everyone was focused on the hunger problem and there were no resources to help people read and therefore learn, write, work, and grow. And that doesn't even touch how literacy has a profound effect on future generations. So don't doubt yourself. Follow your heart and your gut.

The Volunteer Match web site (www.volunteermatch.org) will give you a boatload of options and inspiration. It's a clearinghouse of sorts for countless agencies, is powered in large part by United Way, and most volunteer-based organizations (United Way connected or not) use it heartily. You can team up with a specific position at a specific location, see what organizations go by that spark your interest and then look them up independently, or even discover an organization that doesn't have a literacy component but is a natural fit for you to bring one in. Another good resource for your situation may be the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (www.mncn.org). You may also be interested in checking into the school systems, whether the K-12 category or community colleges and universities. You could be a tutor for students who don't have the knowledge or gumption to seek out help and resources in the greater community. Between human pride and inexperience, people are often willing to go down the hall for help because it's "right there," but separate outside sources of help go underutilized because people are either embarrassed about needing the help or they simply don't realize it's out there.

I'm so happy that you're getting involved and doing what you can to improve the world. You're an inspiration. Go dig around, see what moves you, and enjoy the adventure! It can't all be work - have fun, too!"

Corporate Safe Rooms: What Lies Beneath?

"Not just for celebrities, businesses often use hardened safe rooms for potential harboring of executives..."


Hmmn.  I have mixed feelings about providing executives a bunker in which to save themselves when a criminal attack or other disaster strikes.  While there are a few companies whose fortunes rise and fall with the physical and emotional well being of their "rock star" CEO, a sumptuously appointed corporate safe room, provisioned for days of use, and equipped with alternate escape tunnel smacks of an Enron-sized ego. Who would like to work for an executive who plans to hide behind a locked door and leave the rest of his staff to face the threat?  More to the point, what board of directors of a publicly traded US company is spending the sort of money this solution requires instead of implementing precautions that protect the entire workforce.  Perhaps this sort of perk is popular with royalty and oligarchs who are spending their own money, but I'd like to think real leaders will make arrangements to look after every member of their teams, whether they work in the lobby or the boardroom.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another Exquisite Movie: The Fall

A visual feast...


It is almost impossible to describe this 2008 film by Tarsem Singh without giving too much away.  A clever story wrapped in stunning visuals. It's rated R for some violence but I predict you'll be comfortable letting older children watch it after you've screened it.  Try it.

An Under-rated Treat: Charlie Bartlett

I skipped this at the theater but enjoyed it a lot on DVD...


When's the last time you saw a teenage actor hold his own in the company of Robert Downey, Jr.?

The Culture of Character: Building Strength through Study and Service



I just listened to a marvelous lecture by Eric Greitens titled "The Culture of Character: Building Strength through Study and Service" at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.  It was recorded in late 2008 but it's still well worth a listen if you're interested in issues of ethics, leadership, courage, and compassion.  You can find it on iTunes U.  Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University has many other excellent lectures available to interested persons at no cost, other than a brief investment of your time and attention.

A Tire Company Takes Driving's Impact on the Environment Seriously

Interesting...


Michelin has released a free sustainable mobility book - Driving in the Future  It looks very thorough.  Of course Michelin gets to sell tires for any vehicle that uses them, regardless the propulsion method.  I guess we can save our skepticism of their motives for when they offer their opinions of mass transit solutions that do not use rubber tires...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2012

Apparently 2012 catastrophe hype is scaring young children in some communities...


As a thoughtful counter-point this well-written article is far more interesting that the alleged imminent event itself.  By the way, when did 2012 stop being a silly notion and become a pseudoscience hoax, complete with its own conspiracy theory?

An American Deer Hunter In Africa, Part II

There are things the hunting magazine articles rarely mention and the classic books on the subject only offer up to careful scrutiny...

Part II: Your Kit

Make certain all of your equipment is completely silent. I had a creaking left boot tongue that was quieter if I tied it just so. The other boot was silent. Perhaps I’d never been anywhere quiet enough to notice before. Your rifle’s sling swivels probably clatter a bit did --like mine-- unless you have already silenced them with bits of cloth tape. If you use your host’s masking tape for this chore you’ll appear to be very dedicated hunter who didn’t sort things out before hand, or who forget to pack a small role of duct tape --Ol’ Indispensable-- along in his toilet kit. Cordura --apparently outdoor equipment manufacturer’s favorite fabric-- is extremely noisy in the bush. Shorts, pants, and shirts made with "hard" cotton cloth worked well for me. Velcro fasteners on pockets are common, and noisy as well. Buttons are quieter, but the thornbush will sometimes unbutton them for you. The leather holster in which I carried my Contender pistol creaked every minute I wore it. It even creaked when the my only motion was breathing. I gave it up --the holster, not breathing-- at lunch on the third day.

Dress for the weather. You’ll probably be hunting during the African winter. There isn’t much chance of snow, but it can be chilly in the mornings. Depending on the time of day and the whims of nature you could need rain gear, a coat, balaclava, sun hat, gloves, long sleeve shirt, long pants, shorts, short sleeved shirt, boots, or low shoes.

Short pants and short-sleeved shirts are quieter in the bush, but only because your skin makes less noise when snagged by thorns. I looked liked second place in a cat fight by the end of the first day, but as our host, Schalk van Heerden, says, "Your skin will grow back, but you may not see that Kudu again this week."

The bushveld will untie your bootlaces and then shred them for you if you let it. If you wear socks or laced boots with your shorts get yourself some gaiters to keep your boot laces tied and your socks free from all sorts of very persistent "stickers." Of course, most gaiters are made of Cordura, so you’ll probably need to fabricate your own of some quieter fabric. I suppose the well-heeled, lazy man could always bring enough socks to throw his bramble-laden pair away each evening. The rest of us will have to pick the burrs from our socks by the fire each evening.

Spare no expense on your footwear. If you’re going to "walk and stalk" (think "stillhunting") you’re going to be on your feet at least eight hours a day. Buy the very best boots or walking shoes you can afford. My Gore-tex lined Danner’s have a lot more character now then they did before the expedition, but everything but the laces survived in great condition. Get the best socks you can find, even if you plan to throw them away. Thorlos worked very well, keeping my feet warm but dry under all conditions, in temperatures that varied from the low 40’s to the upper 80’s Fahrenheit. Unless you are hunting in rocky, uneven terrain, heavy boots with lugged soles may be noisier than you want. A low rise leather shoe with a soft sole might allow you to feel a dry twig beneath your feet before you break it at the closing moments of a very clever sneak. It may be just me, but I’d swear dry twigs in Africa snap much more loudly than those in America.

Consider wearing a hat with a large enough brim that you don’t have to wear sunglasses. My fancy "city-boy" clip-on’s had a brown tint which is precisely the wrong color for hunting clever brown animals in the tall brown grass. Gray or green sunglasses are probably much better, but you’ll note that your tracker never wears them and your PH rarely does.

Wear lip balm, and sunscreen on at least your neck, ears, and nose. Wear rub-on bug repellent on at least your legs to keep the ticks away. African ticks are bigger and uglier than our ticks. Our tracker used a panga to kill one he found crawling on him. I packed along spray-on DEET, just in case mosquitoes ("the deadliest animal in Africa") were a problem. They weren’t. I did, however, encounter a species of fly in Africa that will deliberately crawl up your nose if you don’t stop it.

Bring as small and light a good camera as you can. The larger or heavier the camera the more likely it is to get left behind, as mine did when I doffed my Cordura buttpack on the second day. Things sometimes change in a hurry in Africa and you’ll miss some great photos unless your camera is in your pocket. You may spend the rest of your life describing what its like to be in the middle of a Red Hartebeest stampede (instead of being able to show your family and friends photographs of what it looks like) simply because your camera was only as far away as the front seat of the Land Cruiser.

Bring some light, compact, and easy to use binoculars. Even in the bush binoc’s come in handy every couple minutes. No, that is not what your rifle scope is for. My 10x Vivitar’s offered perhaps just a bit too much magnification, but they served well although --no, perhaps because-- they were not quite pocket sized. They were light enough to wear all day without causing a strain on the back of my neck and small enough to pop down the front of my shirt if the action called for crawling or if the sneak would tolerate no chance of my binoculars clattering into my rifle.

Carry a decent knife of moderate length. It is customary to finish not quite expired game with a knife blade slipped between the between the base of the skull and the first vertebra. Your PH will carry such a blade, but your tracker may not. The ranch hands are very polite when you offer them your Leatherman "folding toolbox," but it’s pretty clear they appreciate the pliers a lot more than they do the knife blade. I think I’ll carry a Cold Steel Master Hunter next time. It’ll be sharper than anything the help is used to and will make a nice gift to some especially hardworking staff member when the safari is over. You won’t be doing any skinning, but you might find yourself loaning a good, sharp blade to the staff to keep the work moving forward on the larger trophies late at night.

The PolitiFact Truth-o-Meter

This seems like a really good idea...


Haven't had time to screen the PolitiFact Truth-o-Meter for bias but on first glance they seem happy to skewer anyone bending the truth and credit even the most unlikely persons with telling the truth sometimes.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

H&K P7 PSP - A Blast From The Past

The Heckler & Koch P7 Polizei Selbstlade Pistole (PSP)...

Image from Wikimedia Commons

The P7 PSP is one of several pistols developed in response to a functional specification let by the German state police in the 1970s as they sought to modernize their equipment in the wake of the Munich Massacre.  Several manufacturers produced pistols that met the spec in different ways.  German police organizations were free to choose from the results. Instantly ready with no switches, instantly safe when dropped, totally reliable, and possessing some of the best ergonomics of any pistol every made, the H&K P7 met the sensible specification with a collection of clever design elements.

I took a P7 PSP on my first trip to Jeff Cooper's Gunsite for API-250 Basic Pistol in 1986. I got ribbed for bringing a staple gun to a shooting school. I got ribbed - "Hey, where's the rest of your holster?" - for carrying it in in a very minimal Rogers holster; a hand-signed early laminate job not much larger than a pager, a surprisingly secure speed rig, of which I've never seen another example. The Old Man said, "That's a fine pistol; too bad it's chambered for the wrong cartridge."

The P7 takes much less force to hold at full cock than it does to cock it. Anyone who can't cock a P7 is likely going to have trouble racking a slide or squeezing off a double action trigger. It is not noisy when cocking but it does make a distinct "clack!" when you release the cocker (unless you have the time, presence of mine, and fine motor skills under stress to do the silent decocking trick).

My P7 is utterly reliable. It never once failed to feed, fire, extract, or eject all week, unlike most of the 1911's I've shot or seen shot. During the failure drills rangemaster Louis Awerbuck told me "the P7 doesn't stop, but you need to play along." In my direct experience the only other pistol that comes close to this level of reliability are the various Glocks.

It's fast. I wasn't often the first from the holster, but I was always the first one done. It was Wednesday before I realized I was shooting "hammers" back to 10 meters. The magazine change is faster than it looks as it does not share the usual disadvantages of a heel mounted magazine release. Press the P7's latch and the magazine fairly springs from gun, if you aren't already removing the magazine as your hand sweeps down on the way to your mag pouch. It's sights are fairly coarse which contributes to speed at 25 meters or less. 

I used more ammo than most making the hard set poppers fall over in the outdoor simulators - "Better switch to the head," and shot halfway through the shoot-off (there were only two other minor calibers s in the class). I was looking forward to the .45 ACP version, but the prototypes circulating through various law enforcement agencies at the time did not deliver on the promise. The few shooters I spoke with who got to try the 45 ACP version admired everything about it except it's reliability - seems the 45 ACP pressure curve was all wrong for the gas-retarded action. That's probably for the best as I'd have only "needed" one pistol if there was a P7 .45 ACP in the world.

The PSP had a few flaws. The slide serrations tended to rub a fella's strong hand thumb to the pink. A touch with a fine file can fix that. The squared trigger guard slowed my presentation so I had the Gunsite 'Smithy round it off for me.

The trigger on my P7 is not as nice as that on a 1911 when being used for precise work at a long range. The "sear" feels like it's rolling off its engagement, which combined with PSP's coarse sights, makes deliberate work on the 50 yard line pretty challenging.

The P7 PSP could certainly heat up to the point of discomfort if shot a lot. This is a problem only on the training range. I read one Usenet anecdote of a cartridge "cooking off" in an overheated P7 but have never seen another.

You can't use lead in the P7 or it will gunk up the gas system. Big deal, only junky gun range 9mm ammo comes with lead bullets. At least the P7 won't go "KaBoom!" like a Glock does when fed a steady diet of cheap remanufactured lead bullet ammo. It only eats jacketed ammo of high quality, but who would anyone fight with anything less?

Being all steel, except for its synthetic grip panels, the P7 is heavy for its size.  These days single stack 9mm pistols weigh half as much.  Still, none of them combine as many nifty design elements in one handy gat.

The later P7M8 and M13 were less comfortable in my hand and the sharp little magazine release flippers were not nearly so fast as the heel latch on the PSP. The heat shield on these later models were a nice addition at the range, but even at Gunsite my PSP rarely got so warm I was uncomfortable. The 380/22 convertible was interesting but not that much smaller or lighter than the 9x19 and it was bloody expensive. The P7 M13 "Gordo" and the P7 .40 "Orca" (my nicknames for them, not the factory's) were bulky and abominably top heavy, respectively.

The P7 was a certainly a poor choice for cops transitioning from DA revolvers to self-loading pistols. Many many cops, rangemasters, and administrators learned the hard way that the boys in blue had been drawing their revolvers with their fingers on their triggers all these years.

My experience with the P7 was that that it's manual of arms made it a good choice for the one gun man (or woman) who is inclined to undertake serious professional instruction. Its price put it out of reach of all but the most serious pistolero. The average cop has proven much happier with DAO self-loaders in 9x19 or .40 S&W. Serious special weapons types and other operators seem still to call on a tricked out 1911 in .45 ACP when it comes time for precision in a hurry. Unless the GSG9 is still using their dream gun it seem the time of the P7 has come and gone. 

Still, I guess I like mine.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blackpowder is not for those in a hurry, or "Hey, where is my ramrod?"

An email account of a trip to the range back in 2002...




So, I went to the range last evening to do an hour's worth of shooting before closing time. Should have picked something other than the .54 caliber flintlock Lyman Great Plains Rifle, but I wanted to shoot it from the bench one of these days, so why not today?

I loaded 90 grains of FFFg Goex blackpowder and topped it with a .530 ball and a 0.010 patch. The first shot was in the black at fifty. Then I hunkered down to concentrate, settling both the forestock and butt on bags. Four shots went into about two inches, a few inches right of point of aim. I ran out of balls, so I switched to a new box.

The short starter required quite a rap to get things started, so I glanced at the new box of balls...these were .535, but I was still using 0.010 patches. No problem, I just use the ball puller to remove it. No ball puller. Aaack! Okay, Plan B calls for seating the ball on the charge and firing it out. The ball won't seat with hand pressure...or two hand pressure...on the rod, so I resort to the Continental method used to seat unpatched, oversize balls in the Jaeger rifles - I drive the rod down the bore with a hammer improvised from one of the short pieces of lumber they leave at the benches with which to assemble shooting rests.

I prime the piece, hunker down, cock the hammer, set the trigger, press...psst! Flash in the pan. Reprime. Repeat. Psst! No problem, I'll use the vent pick (a fancy title for the unlooped paperclip in my shooting box). No vent pick in the shooting box. Thppt! No problem, Plan B calls for making one from local materials. Whittle one from a piece of the shooting bench. Insert it, twist, poke, prod...break the homemade toothpick off in the vent. Aaack Thppt! Plan C would is to find a better material with which to fabricate a pick. The trash brass buckets are sealed with loops of wire. I cut one loose with my folding Seeber folding tool.

I clean the vent. I prime the pan. I hunker down at the bench, but pick another target, as all the abuse this load has received cannot help accuracy. I cock the hammer, set the trigger, touch off the shot. BLAM! Damn, that hurt! What happened? I was wearing the PAST Shield, but could feel where the heel and toe of the hooked buttplate had stabbed at me. The first five shots kicked like a 12 bore trap load, this one felt like the time I shot a .458 Winchester Magnum.

Okay, be calm. Inspect the gun, check for damage. The breech is fine. The barrel is fine. I pick up the gun to look at it more closely. My hand closes on the underrib where the ramrod is normally placed when not in use. Where is my ramrod? Dislodged by the fierce recoil? No. Leaning against or lying next to the bench? No. The most likely scenario whispers to me through the fog of denial. Did I launch my ramrod downrange with the troublesome load? I can offer no other solution, let alone one that accounts for the facts of the case.

I spent the last fifteen minutes of shooting time, and the first fifteen minutes after shooting time, looking for my unfletched, brass tipped shaft. I was grateful no one else was there. I did not find it after multiple grid searches from 0-50 yards, and saw no trace of it from 50-75 yards, either. Had it been wood I might believe it had disintegrated, but this was one of the indestructible synthetic jobs - the sort that might still be serviceable after such treatment.

Perhaps the mower will find it...