Saturday, December 22, 2012

Not All Private Voices Presage Madness

Some people's inner voices are smarter and more eloquent than others...

Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science, and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination by Daniel B. Smith is a brisk and compelling read.  Smith has a gift for making an ancient story current and a complex story accessible.  There's more to say on this but I'm behind schedule on a couple things...


Prayers to Broken Stones

Winter solstice is darker and more desperate this year...


The great stones stacked by our Neolithic ancestors mark the moment.  Death presses hard upon us.  The bereft wrestle with theodicy, faces numb and streaked with tears.  The sun returns but offers little warmth.  Prayers go unanswered.  The cosmos unfolds faster than light.  We scarcely notice.

The phrase, prayers to broken stones, comes from the title of a fine and sad anthology of fiction and horror by Dan Simmons.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Oh, Is That All?

I'm sorry, but a team of commandos in every school is not going to be one of the answers...

As a nation we are all reeling from the horror of Sandy Hook.  Even before we understand precisely what happened and why, we are flailing around for the means to reduce our fear of future attacks.  A company called Chameleon Associates posted an article titled, Countermeasures against School Shootings.  Some of their ten countermeasures are thought-provoking and bear further consideration, but number eight is typical of a very popular notion we've been hearing since last Friday.

“Have armed response capabilities – Having an armed security guard on premises does not mean you have “armed response capabilities”. Most armed guards are neither trained nor experienced with tactical response to an active shooter scenario. The armed security guards must be trained in: instinctive shooting, when-to-shoot scenarios, when to stop shooting or chasing, shooting through a face-forward crowd, hand-to-hand combat, aggressiveness training and more. The shooting technique for the guard must be based on an instinctive reaction where he does not need to think, only react and attack the shooter fully neutralizing him as soon as possible. He should not call for backups (someone else will.) He should not take cover (this allows the shooter to be in control.) He should not stop to treat or evacuate the wounded (someone else will.) The guard must know how to shoot while moving fast, forcing the adversary to defend himself. This type of shooting and response requires A LOT of training to the point where the guard’s response is completely instinctive.”

Oh, is that all? Most cops aren’t trained to this level; just ask the nine wounded bystanders at the Empire State Building shooting this year. I wonder what recruiting, screening, selecting, training, equipping, insuring, maintaining, providing time off, and supervising a person at this level would cost each year. How many of these shooters does Chameleon Associates recommend per school to provide sufficient counter-force for one attacker?  How many for two?  On these details they are silent.

Posting heavily armed and armored Navy SEALS in every school in America is certainly a comforting fantasy as we recover from the horror of Sandy Hook, but at some point we'll have to reclaim all our senses and find solutions we can sustain in the real world.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Not The Time For Numbers

The statistics that tell us mass murder and school shootings are rare offer very little comfort this weekend...

Along with the rest of our nation I'm numbed by the unspeakable tragedy that devastated the community of Newtown, Connecticut, Friday morning.  For now we'll mourn for murdered children and grieve with their families.  We'll take great pride and small comfort in the knowledge that several adults at the school died rushing the gunman in an unsuccessful attempt to stop him with their bare hands.  In time we'll learn more about the nature of the shooter's brutal derangement; knowledge that will come much too late for the 26 victims, their families, and their community.

Already there are pleas for more gun control - and less gun control - from each end of that debate.  Some plead for another assault weapons ban, while others ask that teachers and other adults be allowed to carry concealed handguns in school.  Ironically, while they go about it in different ways, people on either side of this culture war issue seek to create a sense of safety and control in the face of fear and uncertainty.

While this debate is likely to rage on for some time, there is one idea upon which I hope all parties can agree and then do something about today:

Persons suffering from psychotic delusions or personality disorders that make them a danger to themselves or others should not have access to firearms. 

This is not a blanket indictment of the mentally ill.  Most mentally ill persons are at greater risk of being the victim of a crime than they are to commit one.  However, while very few persons with mental health problems or personality disorders commit mass murder, almost all persons who commit mass murder (other than criminal massacres, go figure) have a serious mental illness or suffer from a dangerous personality disorder.

Under federal regulation and state laws persons with serious mental health or drug abuse issues are not allowed to purchase firearms.  Persons named in protective orders are not allowed to buy guns and they are also supposed to surrender any they possess.  These details are supposed to be verified before a firearm purchase is permitted, but dangerous people can and do defeat these safeguards.  Regrettably, the madmen who killed 32 at Virginia Tech, six in the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, and 12 in Aurora, Colorado bought their weapons while they could still color inside the lines.

Preliminary reports tell us the three guns used by the shooter in Newtown belonged to his mother and that he used one to kill her before leaving their home.  It's not my place to question her decision to own firearms, but I question her judgment in allowing her disturbed son access to them.  She would too, if she were still alive.  The rifle used to kill two and wound another at the Clackamas Town Center Mall was stolen from its owner by the shooter.  The AR-15 is a lawful implement with a variety of legitimate applications, but I question the owner's storage precautions.  I imagine he will too, for the rest of his life.  How might our world be different today if the guns used to commit these recent horrors had been locked away behind the armored door of a gun safe?

What about you, your family, and your friends?  Do you own firearms?  Do you know anyone who does?  What have you done to prevent these powerful tools from falling into the wrong hands and being used to perpetrate evil?  Do you have a sturdy safe in which to protect your guns from theft, misuse, and tragedy?  If you keep a pistol for personal defense do you store it in a lock box only you can open?  If you're an anti-gunner, instead of arguing with your gun-owning friends and relatives about the need for new gun laws, how about convincing them to buy a gun safe instead?  If you're a fervent proponent of the right to keep and bear arms, instead of rushing out to buy another assault rifle before the next gun ban, how about using the money to buy a safe large enough to secure all the guns you already own?  Think on it.  It's something every one of us can do without giving up an inch from our respective positions on the gun rights issue.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Or decontextualized?

There I was trying to decide between Schneier's Liars and Outliers or Bultmann's Kerygma and Myth for some late night bedtime reading when I defaulted to NetFlix.

I watched Battleship Potempkin for the first time.  The scene on the Odessa steps was pretty powerful - nothing says czarist repression like jackboots, bayonets, and live ammo crowd control, but otherwise it was not even remotely so awesome as its reputation led me to believe.  Subtlety was certainly not a option on Eisenstein's palette, but The Ebert tells us that was a deliberate element of his method.  Maybe you had to be there, or maybe it needs to be the first movie you ever saw, or maybe it would rouse you to action if you were actually a member of the proletariat?  I'm probably just некультурный.

I know, I know; I should have gone with the Bultmann...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Atheist Is Probably Right

But Homo Religiosus has all the fun...

Me, I find indulging my agnosticism - by way of a deep interest in the history and philosophy of religion - more interesting that being an angry anti-theist.  In that pursuit I am indebted to historians, philosophers, psychologists, and theologians of the 20th century.  Useful guides in this territory have included Tillich, Otto, James, Jung, Campbell, and several times now, Eliade

The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion is the most accessible of the several books by Mircea Eliade that I've read. History of Religious Ideas, Volume 1: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries, was pretty dense. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy was a bit of a slog.  Were you to read only one book by Eliade The Sacred and the Profane is the one I'd recommend, at least until I've read more of him.

Unlike the Angries who think religion should be simply and finally dispensed with by modern societies, Eliade (and the others) explain that some sort of religion is all but inevitable.  The religious impulse is hard-wired into how we perceive the world and interact with each other.  We've likely had religion for as long as we've had speech, music, and art; it may even spring from same nexus of traits that made us finally fully human.  What humanity has done with - and proposes to do with - this drive is as significant today as it was 2,000 or 20,000 years ago.  Religion is not going away, if anything the most dangerous sorts of it are resurgent.  Understanding religion and sort of certainty that leads to life-changing (or life-ending) dogma, doctrine, and action is more important than ever.

If the study of religion is your thing you've probably already read The Sacred and the Profane, but if you haven't, you should. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Discovering the Alien in Us

Deep thoughts, passionate characters, and a thrilling story, skillfully wrought…

Embassytown, by China Miéville, won the 2012 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.  It was also nominated for the Arthur C. ClarkeAward, Nebula Award for Best Novel, and Hugo Award for Best Novel. 

While Embassytown can be read as a subversively creative science fiction story, it works on a variety of levels, addressing addiction, allegory, American adventurism in the 21st century, apocalypse, armed rebellion in colonial states, civil war, the excesses of revolutionary movements, human perception, ineffable experience, mans' inhumanity, Marxism, metaphor, philosophy, post-WWII liberation movements, the role of language in cognition, simile, social justice, Taliban brutality, transhumanism, Western imperialism in China in the 19th century, and what it means to be truly alien.

evokes familiar and not so familiar images and concepts from literature, art, and politics as varied as Alien, cyberpunk, Dune, H.R. Giger, Homage to Catalonia, Lord of the Rings, Machiavelli, Marx, and Starship Troopers.

This is the sort of novel one reads and then seeks out the company of friends, compatriots, and literate strangers with whom to tease out and argue over all the book's many ideas while drinking through long beer lists and eating too many peanuts.  My appointment for just such an ethanol and sodium-fueled recapitulation is this Friday.

If you love science fiction or fine writing read Embassytown.   It's both.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Foreign and domestic...

When America fails to abide by its laws, respect its Constitution, and live up to its ideals and aspirations it usually does so in a big way.  Our internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War was one of those failures.  In my youth I knew the Matsuura family.  Mr. and Mrs. met in the camps and both enlisted to serve the war effort.  After the war they took up a new life together, their former existence forever interrupted by this ugly spasm of institutionalized xenophobia, racism, and bigotry.  They seemed sad about the internment but not bitter.  In their lived response to this injustice they were better Americans than those who imprisoned them, and those who stood by and watched...

Tip of the hat to Christopher Bellavita at Homeland Security Watch for posting an article that reminded me of childhood friends and stories of bravery and resolve.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

e-Books On iPhones...Just Say No

It's like reading a novel written on a pad of Post-It notes.  

I signed up for a GoodReads giveaway for Freedom Club.  I didn't win the drawing, but was pleased and surprised to receive an email from the author Saul Garnell, who offered me an e-book download with his compliments.

Freedom Club takes its name from the writings of the PhD, madman, and domestic terrorist Theodore Kaczynski, who killed three people and maimed dozens more during his malignant reign of terror as the UnabomberGarnell does an interesting job of folding Kaczynski's madness into the plot.  In fact he makes frequent digressions into the history of a variety of deep (and - in the case of Kaczynski - evil) thinkers.

Cleverly plotted, Freedom Club features a variety of engaging characters and a story that is a plausible extrapolation of current social and technological trends.  Along the way we are treated to some moral ambiguity and and several very effective action scenes.  Garnell's writing reminds more than a little of early Neal Stephenson.

I did Saul's novel a serious disservice by reading it on my iPhone where this science fiction novel's 416 densely written pages were magically expanded to 1985 virtual snippets, each only a paragraph or two in length.  The format leaves much to be desired.

My next Garnell e-book is Eat Fish and Die, for which I must find a method to read in a full-size or at least paperback-sized format.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What's Not To Like?

Rats, Lice, and History, by Hans Zinsser, is a hoot!

Hans Zinsser - physician, scientist, war hero, and author - wrote a book in 1934, which he titled, with mock yet informative

Rats, Lice, and History: Being a Study in Biography, which, after Twelve Preliminary Chapters Indispensable for the Preparation of the Lay Reader, Deals with the Life History of Typhus Fever

Also known, at various stages of its Adventurous Career, as Morbus pulicaris (Cardanus, 1545); Tabardiglio y puntos (De Toro, 1574); Pintas; Febris purpurea epidemica (Coyttarus, 1578); Febris quam lenticulas vel punticulas vocant (Fracastorious, 1546); Morbus hungaricus; La Poupre; Pipercorn; Febris petechialis vera; Febris maligna pestilens; Febris putrida et maligna; Typhus carcerorum; Jayl Fever; Fievre des hospitaux; Pestis bellica; Morbus castrensis; Famine Fever; Irish Ague; Typhus exanthematicus; Faulfieber; Hauptkrankheit; Pestartige Braune; Exanthematishces Nervenfieber, and so forth, and so forth.
Any popular book on natural history that starts by skewering the news media, the literary establish, and social convention is going to be great fun to read.   Before engaging his topic he takes much time to explain the philosophy of science, the history of epidemiology, and microbiology as it was understood at the time.  Awarded many honors for his brave and selfless service as a military doctor working in the trenches of WWI, Zinsser makes much of the impact typhus and other diseases have had on military campaigns across history.  Throughout this informative book's text, footnotes, chapter subtitles,and myriad discursions, Zinsser applies wickedly pointed turns of phrase to criticize political fashions, military misadventure, and cultural norms.  This classic was well-received in its day and is still regarded as an important treatise.  Rats, Lice, and History should be read by anyone who is interested in history, biology, or literature.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Hazard To Navigation

And an impediment to productivity...

The Oatmeal - whose writer, illustrator, and coder, Matthew Inman, loves dogs and fears cats - positively slays me (and has been since January 2011).

Oh, and he's leading a fundraising drive to open a Nikola Tesla museum in his original laboratory.

The Oatmeal rocks even better than Sriracha Rooster Sauce.

Visit today and be changed forever.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ochre and Bone, Flint and Clay

Not all evidence of civilization endures as history...

The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age is a fascinating examination of the period between the Upper Paleolithic Revolution and our earliest historical knowledge.  Civilization did not arise fully formed like a Venus on the half shell.  This wide-ranging but effectively concise book explains that our climb to modernity began many centuries before the Sumerians, Egyptians, and the Minoans began to create history.  Written by Richard Rudgley in 1999, Lost Civilizations foreshadowed wonders yet to be unearthed at Wonderwerk, Blombos Cave and other excavations where we moderns strive to discern the nature of our paleolithic origins.

Photo credit: The Museum of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium, by way of

Clever Isn't Necessarily Compelling

C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity is merely challenging...

A friend with whom I discuss religion asked me to read one of his favorite books and even made a gift to me of a copy. I've known of C.S. Lewis since middle school but I had not read any of his explicitly religious work.  Linda and I read The Chronicles of Narnia books to the kids when they were young.  They enjoyed them and so did we.  When it comes to religion Lewis was a skilled writer and speaker (Mere Christianity was originally a series of lectures he gave on BBC radio during WWII).  While not a theologian or a philosopher, Lewis was certainly a very clever apologist. He delivers his description of a manly, muscular Christianity in a rather neat package, with all the contradictory bits tucked away, snipped off, or just ignored. Lewis levels the field, minimizing the value of non-Christian goodness and explaining away the all too frequent examples of unregenerate behavior seen in many Christians.  I can see why evangelicals find him compelling, but I don't.  All that said, those who would debate Christianity - from any perspective - should read it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Footprints or Fossils?

Big news from the Curiosity rover on Mars!

Oh, please be footprints or fossils, please be footprints or fossils...

Seriously, the big news - "This data is gonna be one for the history books" - is apparently the result of work done with the SAM lab on the rover, so it's probably just interesting chemistry - organic molecules maybe.  Yeah, that's cool.  No really, it's very nice.  We should be grateful.  Thank you.  I mean what else could we possibly expect?

Not Tharks.  It's never Tharks...

UPDATE: NASA sez "Not So Fast!"

Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds -- carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics. 

The Mars Science Laboratory Project and its Curiosity rover are less than four months into a two-year prime mission to investigate whether conditions in Mars' Gale Crater may have been favorable for microbial life. Curiosity is exceeding all expectations for a new mission with all of the instruments and measurement systems performing well. This is spectacular for such a complex system, and one that is operated so far away on Mars by people here on planet Earth. The mission already has found an ancient riverbed on the Red Planet, and there is every expectation for remarkable discoveries still to come.

For more information about NASA's Curiosity mission, visit:

Not even organics...peh!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Should Probably Know Better

Than to read three books at once...

But I am.

I signed up for a GoodReads giveaway for Freedom Club.  I didn't win the drawing, but was pleased and surprised to receive an email from the author Saul Garnell who offered me an e-book download with his compliments.  Very cool!  Not so cool is reading it on my iPhone where this science fiction novel's 416 densely written pages have been magically expanded to 1985 virtual snippets, each only a few paragraphs in length.  It's like reading a book written on a pad of Post-It notes.  Many thumb-flick page turns have been clocked.  I'm on post-it 1183...

Speaking of page turning, The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age by Richard Rudgley, is a fascinating examination of the period between the Upper Paleolithic Revolution and our earliest historical knowledge.

A friend invited me to read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and made a gift to me of a spare copy.  His arguments are about as strong as I expected them to be (I've heard and read his arguments offered up by others on several occasions), but it's also telling me more about the man who wrote it and the very British perspective from which he viewed the world.

There are worse problems to have than too many books to read.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If Appreciating Krista Tippett Makes Me An Accommodationist

Then where is my Accommodationist T-shirt?

But before you leave have a listen to the The Civil Conversations Project at On Being.

The CCP is in its second season of bringing together really smart, truly passionate, utterly human people who are willing to disagree and remain in dialogue.  It's very cool.

Season Two, which I found more fully formed than the 2011 season, features:

In 2011 Season One offered us topics like:

Frankly, I frequently find her equanimity maddening.  Listening to episodes of On Being, and her earlier Speaking of Faith, my inner voice sometimes shrieks "Call him a liar!"  But she doesn't, and I keep coming back.   If Tippett is not radical enough, or reactionary enough, to suit your perch on the continuum of such things perhaps you should consider the merits of dialogue instead of diatribe, or the very important difference between passion and hatred.

There are better people out there than you and me.  Krista Tippett is one of them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

None of Us Got Everything We Wanted

But there is wisdom to guide us...

The day after our deeply divided United States of America held a strongly contested national election, Philip Palin, one of the several skilled writers at Homeland Security Watch, reminds us we have faced periods of much deeper division, harsher challenges, and deadlier threats, during which perhaps the finest President in the history of the Republic sought to bind our wounds and prepare for the work ahead.

Philip quotes from the Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln and several commentaries on it.  His post is worth reading in its entirety, but here is a taste of what Presidents used to be like:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Now there was a President far better than any we’ve had in quite some time.  Last night none of us got everything we wanted, but we all may have received more than our efforts warrant.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sometimes Just Enough is Just Right

A 3x3 with the 223...

Erik and I committed to hunting with non-lead bullets this year.  His Kimber 84M 308 weighs all of six and a half pounds so I loaded a 130 grain Barnes TSX over enough IMR3031 for an estimated 2700 fps.  As I was essentially creating my own managed recoil ammunition - but with a non-lead bullet - I needed charge weights below the usual minimums for 308 Winchester ammunition. I settled on 300 Savage loading data, which has similar case capacity but a lower operating pressure thus less velocity.  The special recipe worked fined; too fine, actually.

Earlier this fall I set up my Remington 243 and 30-06* rifles in their youth length stocks for my cousin's kids to use (but they never got around to borrowing them - one bagged a buck in a pre-season youth hunt and his older sister chose to hunt with stick and string this year).  My other 30-06, a Clifton-Gunsite 1903 pseudo-scout was in the middle of an adventure in scope ring replacement.  Mjolnir was ready for action, but our shots these past couple years have been mostly first light or last light terminations of relaxed deer eating their last meal.  A .458 350 grain flat nose soft at 1800 fps seemed needlessly energetic for the freezer doe I would likely drop the hammer on.  [Yes, the Hornady InterLock is a lead bullet but the data suggest a bullet at that velocity does not shed nearly so many, if any, lead particles.]  I decided to try my custom 223 Sako L461 again.  I used it to take an adult whitetail doe in North Dakota eight or nine years back, but that time it was loaded with Winchester 64 grain PowerPoints, their smallest big game bullet.  This time I wanted a non-lead slug and settled on the Hornady GMX 50 grain hollow point.  I loaded it over a case-filling maximum charge of IMR3031 for an estimated 3200 fps.  It was an inch or so high at 100 yards and range the gong just below center at 200.  I was good to go.

Then the deer didn't show up.  The population is down and the feed plots we usually hunt over had not been planted.  Usually a fella gets a glimpse or two of deer in the distance or fawns frittering the day away while mom and the aunts remain carefully hidden.  Not this time.  It was like Waiting for Godot...With Guns.  I saw nothing all day but trees, melting snow, dirt, and sky.  I read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity - a gift from a friend, sipped Gatorade, nibbled on salty crunchy snacks, peed into Gatorade bottles, and took intermittent cat naps, all day long.  

Late afternoon on Saturday I heard a shot from the direction of Erik's stand.  He confirmed via text message (we still get two bars all of ten miles from the Canadian border) that, yes indeed, a doe had made his acquaintance much to her terminal regret.  Erik's 2012 doe, a yearling, came nosing around his stand and stood for her broadside all of 10 meters distant. The doe made a short dash and expired. The TSX passed through both shoulders without hitting bone, took out the ribs on either side, did in both lungs, and slashed off the top of the heart. While the bullet hit no shoulder bones, blood had ruined the stew meat by the time we got round to skinning her forequarters the next day.

Sunday morning Erik slept in while I dragged myself out of the sack at 5:00 AM thanks to the ill-timed switch to daylight savings.  I sat in the stand Erik used the day before until 10:00 AM and decided to pack it in.  We still had a deer to cut up and 400 some miles to drive.  As I walked back to the truck I encountered an interesting deer trail and took it as a detour.  After a few minutes of strolling I bumped a doe out her bed but had no time for a shot.  I ambled in the direction she had sprinted, thinking I might encounter her or her neighbors again.  I came across a narrow lane that had been bulldozed into the woods earlier this summer.  There was some greenery, deer tracks, and game trails so I decided to sit for a spell.  Seems I must have closed my eyes for just a minute because I was looking at the inside of my eyelids when I heard a crash just across the lane from me.  I saw a buck doing a 180 back into the woods.  He hadn't expected to see me I guess.  He wasn't large - six points, a 3x3 - but he'd make for tasty venison.  He disappeared into the woods on the other side of the lane but I expected he'd show himself again shortly.  Sure enough, he cut a semi-circle and reemerged, a later lazed 38 yards, down the lane to my left.  He was contemplating me skeptically, but not cautiously, as I laid my cross-hairs on his shoulder, slipped off the safety, and pressed the trigger.  At the shot he jolted straight into the air.  He came down heavily and staggered away on three legs.  There was no blood at the point of impact or for the next 30 yards, but I found him quite dead at the end of a sparse blood trail about ten yards long. 

As I field dressed my 2012 venison I determined that the bullet hit the left shoulder, blew a two inch hole in the ribs, ruined the top half of the left lung, destroyed the top half of the heart - both atria and great vessels alike, damaged the bottom half of the right lung, pierced the diaphragm, shredded a path through the liver, penetrated the diaphragm back into the chest cavity again before exiting between the last couple ribs on right side. 

The grisly detail is offered because the 223 Remington, the civilian version of the U.S. military's 5.56x45mm, is not usually regarded as a big game cartridge.  In this case the monometal GMX hollow point did everything a bullet traveling on the same path might be expected to do.  I've used bullets from 357, 44, and 45 pistols, 223, 243, 270, 308, 30-06, and 45-70 rifles, and .54 and .62 caliber flintlocks, from 80-405 grains, at velocities from 900-3200 feet per second, to inflict essentially the same wounds with essentially the same effects.  That said, the blood trail was non-existent to begin with and sparse even toward the end, a shortcoming I've encountered several times when using the 243 and on one occasion with 30-06 managed recoil ammunition, so this is probably not a round to use in the rain or at the end of the day unless your game is out in the open.  Frankly, I had wondered a little how effectively the wee pinhole of a hollow point would help the solid gilding metal spitzer open up.  I needn't t have worried.  The cone-shaped wave of destruction caused by this well-engineered pill blew out two ribs on the way into the chest.  If anything, Hornady's 55 grain GMX (or even their 70 grain, if it will stabilize in my Sako's Shilen 1:9 twist barrel) arriving with less impact velocity might have expanded a little less violently on the near quarter and cost me less meat.  Still, it's hard to argue with success.

So, can the 223 Remington be successfully used by whitetail hunters?  I vote Yes, if the correct bullet is used and the hunter can put it where it counts.  In addition to Hornady's fine little GMX there are other .224 bullets intended for use on deer-sized game.  Barnes offers their TSX all-copper bullet in this caliber, in six different weights no less.  If you're not averse to sprinkling your stew meat with lead Nosler makes a 60 grain Partition (which I never had any luck getting to shoot accurately).  The Winchester 64 grain PowerPoint is both affordable and accurate.  Are any of these the right bullet to use on the south end of a north bound monster buck?  No, but when did that sort of shot get to be a good idea anyway?  Should it be used to bag that doe at the other end of the quarter?  No, but I've noticed the hunters who bag their deer reliably tend to do so with shots this side of the 100 yard line anyway.  As for putting the bullet in the right spot, a younger, smaller, or newer hunter might practice more with a rifle that offers only the lightest nudge of recoil and costs but a fraction of larger, noisier, harder-kicking rounds.  More trigger time per dollar and more fun at the range might just result in more success and more new hunters in the woods.

Sometimes just enough is just right.

PS I am reminded that the Soviet-era 7.62x39mm shares many of the same attributes when looking for a light-kicking, deer-capable cartridge that is cheap to shoot.  If anything, its similarity to the 30 WCF make it a better choice.  Unfortunately, other than the SKS carbine, affordable and accurate rifles chambered for it are harder to come by.  

*UPDATE This weekend my niece Kyra is going hunting in Wisconsin.  She's going to use the short-stocked 30-06 Remington and handloaded 130 grain Barnes TSX, again at an estimated 2700 fps.  The day before she tried lighter loads in a rifle that fit she had shot her boyfriend's 30-06 with full power loads and a 243 youth model rifle.  She thought these just enough loads in just the right rifle kicked less than the 243.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ruined For Life?

Old news from the 2012 deer gun sight-in...

I volunteered for 400% the required annual dose of coaching at the Dakota County Gun Club's annual public deer gun sight-in.  Eight hours is all the service hours club members need to provide each year, but I enjoy the work so I support as many of these weekend sessions as I can.

  • 12 gauge is still the favorite diameter for those condemned to hunt in a shotgun zone.
  • 30-06 remains the most popular rifle cartridge, even though no whitetail on the planet calls for that much juice.
  • Remington self-loading rifles of the 74xx series are neither reliable nor especially accurate; cheap scopes, soft mounts, mediocre care, and crappy ammo don't improve upon its attributes.
  • Cheap scopes fail.
  • Soft mounts loosen.
  • Rifles filled with gummed up oil or swathes of rust do not always cycle.
  • Sometimes ammunition covered in verdigris goes bang, whether it should or not.
  • The owners of rifles with tiny sight adjustment screws never carry the correct tiny screwdriver for the tiny sight adjustment screws.
  • Knives make crappy screwdrivers, and ugly knives after their tips snap off.

There were a few positive developments:

  • Smart hunters still bring new scopes, new guns, and new shooters to the 25 yard line to start their time at the range.
  • The quality of scopes is getting better - Redfields and Nikons were seen in abundance.
  • Remington Managed Recoil ammunition is a really good idea, especially for 12 gauge slug guns.
  • We saw several shooters in the parking lot putting on PAST Recoil Shields  before stepping to the line.
  • The nasty Remington self-loading rifles of the 74xx series are not being replaced by Remington's new 750.
  • The entry-level bolt-action package guns from Savage, Marlin, Mossberg, and Remington give good value for new shooters and the box or two a year man.
  • Teenagers with 20 gauge slug guns fitted with recoil pads shoot much better than their dads who insist on gutting it out behind their hard-butted 6 pound 12 bores.
  • Hunters with 243s shoot better than those with 30-30 or 30-06 rifles.
  • Now that 223/5.56x45mm is legal for deer in Minnesota shooters with M4-geries (and a few bolt-guns) shoot rings around even the 243 users.  The 223 is no sledge hammer, but with the right bullet it's a better choice than using a rifle one is afraid of.

There was one sad case that we hope is not permanent.  I recognized a repeat customer, a fellow who had his two teenage sons shoot full power 12 gauge slugs from his 870 slug gun last year.  Having learned his lesson he purchased Remington Managed Recoil slugs - one ounce @ 1200 instead of 1600 fps - which kick only about half as much as the full-snort grizzly blasters.  He shot much, much better.  His boys, who suffered bravely trying to make Dad happy last year, declined the chance to shoot at all this year.  Remember, we can ruin a new shooter for life with just a couple shots from a 12 bore slug gun.  Do not perpetrate this testosterone-driven offense upon anyone you care about; our sport needs all the new hunters we can find.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Omar From Los Angeles Asks...

Are there any podcasts which help you develop your professional tool chest?

I love it when my LinkedIn peers ask questions that let me reassess my podcast listening habits.  As you may know, my tastes are eclectic. I subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes but you can go straight to the source too.  These look like a lot of ear bud time but I listen to most podcasts at 2x on my iPhone during my commute.  As for which of these add to my professional toolkit I have no precise answer... 

Great question, Omar. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fiction is Not the Same as Falsehood

Were the gospels "performed stories of faith rather than factual histories?"


Makes sense to me, especially after reading Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite, by L. Michael White

White's detailed examination of the cultural, religious, and literary traditions that gave rise to Christian bible is similar to work done by the better known Bart Ehrman.  A full appreciation for the intricate details of his arguments call for a fine-grained knowledge of scripture I have not developed.  There are deep layers of Dr. White's analysis that are lost on me, but the notion that oral traditions evolved over time, that early authors rearranged and edited earlier texts to suit changing audiences, and that the movements' theologies became more sophisticated iteration after iteration, is communicated in a compelling manner.

Whether you are a believer or not, the early history of Christianity is fascinating stuff and L. Michael White illuminates a very interesting portion of the path.

The title of this post is taken from White's quote of David Kanstan (pg. 418)