Sunday, April 29, 2007

Those Tree Branches are Dangerous

Those of you who attend these musings might recall Wednesday last's posting, in which Our Hero was thwacked upon the spectacles by a maddened branch and had the right lens knocked from his glasses' frame and transported instanter to the Hidden Realms.

Yesterday, after our visit to the instrument festival and upon our return to the domicile, the on-going yard work was re-commenced and whilst Our Hero was -- more carefully! -- chopping away at the doomed flora, the vanished lens caught an errant gleam of sunlight and was found!


Deep in the bushes and six feet from the point of impact, the lens came to view, and once again, Our Hero has triumphed over the forces of adversity.

Unbroken, unscratched, the lens -- one cannot speak too highly of polycarbonate -- and it was but the work of a moment to replace the recovered item in the empty frame wherein it had formerly resided, and to resume life as a sighted person once again.

Victory is sweet.

Tai Kwan Leep

Some of you aren't old enough to remember the comedy group the Frantics, and might never have heard this. Go have a listen ...

Boot to the head

Marylhurst Guitar Show

What's black and white and black and white and black and white? See the first picture ...

Yesterday we went to the wooden instrument festival at Marylhurst University in Lake Oswego, Oregon. This is a collection of makers displaying guitars, violins, violas, double-basses, flutes, harps, parts, etc. coupled with a series of mini-concerts at a small theater across the lawn, for a grand three buck admission.

We got there at noon, ate a picnic lunch with the dogs, walked through the show, and then got to the little theater just as Alan Perlman started his set. He did some stuff on steel string, then
classical, both guitars he built, very nice.

It doesn't seem fair that you can be an excellent player and build fine instruments, too.

William Jenks then played a JM Blanchard classical, a spruce-top about two months old. Guitar sounded pretty good, though it hadn't opened up yet, but Jenks was having an off day, hit a few clams, lost his place on stuff I've heard him play flawlessly before.

Kristen Waligora played a cedar-topped classical by Dan Biasca, and both she and the guitar were terrific. She finished with a modern composition, I missed the composer, lotta dissonance and not usually my cup of tea, but it was a show piece for her technique and the guitar's
range. Had a lot of harmonics, pinch-harmonics, and the instrument's resonance was great.

What is hollow, made of wood, costs fifteen thousand dollars and you have to wait fifteen years to get one?

The second picture is a guitar by Jeffery Elliott. He stopped taking orders and hopes to live long enough to finish his waiting list. Talk about job security ...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Air Pistol

Small-bore air pistols powered by a cocking lever, generally .177 caliber, sometimes .22, aren't nearly as powerful as the PCP guns; however, they will shoot better than you can. The newer ones have electronic triggers and can put the pellets through the same hole all day long.

Some years ago, I taught a kung-fu class. One Christmas, the students all chipped in and bought me a single-shot target pistol, the Diana M-10, carried by Beeman, and at the time, was the most accurate production gun you could buy.

Look at the three-shot group at ten meters, pictured above. The target is somewhat deceptive, since what they did was to put the gun into a rest, crank off three rounds, and then paste the target over the group to center it in the bullseye, but still, what you have is one ragged hole, and adjusting the sights will put 'em higher or lower, left or right, as necessary.

I love the etching on the top of the receiver, that of the Goddess of the Hunt, Diana, tossing her bow away in favor of a rifle.

The gun has
reciprocating pistons, , so that when you fire it, one goes one way, and the second the opposite, to make the mechanism Newton-bleak -- i.e., no recoil.

At five meters, I used to be able to light kitchen matches with it, and I'm not that good a shot ...

More on Air Rifles

A little research shows a handful of guys who make custom air rifles. Two of the most prominent in the U.S. appear to be Dennis Quackenbush and Gary Barnes. (Top picture is one of the Barnes' rifles, bottom, one by Quackenbush.)

These are not cheap, you have to stand in line to get one -- and the waiting lists are long, but the air guns look way cool, and there are hunting pictures showing what they can do.

These are PCP guns -- precharged pneumatic -- and while not anywhere near as powerful as the biggest conventional gunpowder rifles, pretty interesting

Whether you are into hunting or not, a guy with an air rifle standing next to a buffalo he just took with it is fairly impressive, vis a vis the weapon's punch.

To read about these, check out Beeman's Link page

(Apparently Quackenbush and Barnes don't, uh, get along all that well, and some of their postings make for interesting reading ...)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

High Technology from Days of Old

I saw a fascinating show last night on the Outdoor Channel, part of which was about the air rifle that Meriwether Lewis carried on the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804. This was a 22-shot weapon, a Girandoni-system rifle, and would have been so far in advance of any other long guns being carried then as to seem the ultimate weapon at the time.

It's still not a bad weapon. Essentially, this was a pre-charged airgun, not too different from those being made and touted as state-of-the-art today. It held twenty-two lead balls, one the chamber and twenty-one in a magazine. The air reservoir, which served as the butt-stock, was filled by a hand pump, it took fifteen hundred strokes of the portable pump to do it, to what was probably about 800 psi. (They measured such things in "atmospheres" back then.)

Today, you can fill one with a compressor in about two seconds ...

How it worked was, you chambered a round and fired it, then you could jiggle a control, feed another round from the magazine into the chamber, fire that one, and so on, until you ran out of ammo.

It would have been so much faster than a flintlock as to seem magic. Quieter, and no smoke.

It was supposedly powerful enough to drive the ball (a little bigger than a .45 caliber) through a one-inch pine board at a hundred yards. It could fire between 25 and 35 shots per air charge, though the last few would have been noticeably weaker.

Why didn't they catch on?

They were handmade, labor intensive and very expensive, and required an expert gunsmith to produce -- and maintain. If it broke, the local blacksmith couldn't fix it, he wouldn't have either the knowledge or the tools. If you weren't well-off, you couldn't afford to buy and maintain one, and on the frontier, most people were cash-poor.

Lewis apparently used his air gun to impress the Native Americans and to convince them that his party was not to be trifled with. Must have worked -- they made it there and back and lost but one man the whole trip.

This is amazing stuff, and a lot of it was sussed out by the folks at Beeman, who make air rifles. To see the thing, and a long article on it, go here: Meriwether Lewis's Assault Rifle

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Better Than A Poke in the Eye ...

So I was out in the back yard today, snipping branches from the mostly-dead-and-finally-
going-away-evergreen bushes, a long-running project. Each week, I try to fill the green recycle bin with branches and needles and such.

At the current rate, I'll be done in about five years.

Um. Anyway, I grabbed a particularly springy branch I thought was still attached at one end, but wasn't, and it popped up and smacked me square on the right eye. Well, it would have, save I was wearing glasses. Instead of blinding me, it whacked the shatterproof lens hard enough to knock it out, and God-knows-where -- after an hour, I gave up looking for it.

I'm now wearing an old pair of glasses, squinting at the screen, and being thankful I wasn't wearing contact lenses, else I might look like the picture up top.

As soon as I can, I'll be going to see Dr. Lam to get some new glasses.

Never a dull moment.

Reasonable Concealed Weapon Laws?

What would I consider a reasonable middle ground for folks who want to ban all handguns, and those who advocate that everybody should be issued one at birth?

Okay ...

To get a concealed handgun license that would be good anywhere in the country:

You must be willing to undergo an FBI background check that shows you are not a convicted felon, looney tunes, a known drunk, drug addict, or underage; that you are a citizen in good standing of the USA, and the state and county in which the application is filed. And, yes, you should have to pay for it.

If you don't fulfill those qualification, the process stops there.

If you qualify that much, then you must present yourself to the local law enforcement agency in charge of issuing CWL's
-- they'll have access to a shooting range -- and you must demonstrate the following :

A knowledge of the local and state laws concerning concealed carry, use of lethal force, and when one may legally pull a weapon and use it.

A knowledge of the safety rules of gun handling.

These can be on a written test or an oral one; written would be better.

You get any of this wrong, no license, the process stops.

For the practical aspects:

You must demonstrate to the law enforcement range officer the ability to remove and replace a sidearm from whichever appliance or appliances you might use to carry it concealed -- holster, purse, belly pouch, backpack, briefcase, pocket, whatever -- without shooting yourself or bystanders accidentally.

You must be able to demonstrate how the weapon works -- how it loads, unloads, is made safe and ready to fire.

You must be able to actually shoot the weapon and hit something with it. This doesn't need to be the full-house tactical match at the IPSC national championships -- the old FBI saying is "Three feet, three shots, three seconds," so you don't have to drive tacks at twenty paces.

For my tastes, the shooter would have to be able to fire a magazine or cylinder's worth of ammo at a standard cardboard silhouette at combat distance -- call that twenty-one feet -- and keep them on on the target.

That's minimal. You don't need a two-inch group, but if you can't hit something that big at that range consistently, you ought not to be walking around armed. And that includes police officers.

Failure at any of the practical aspects, especially the safety part, and you don't get the license.

Is this more restrictive than a lot of shooters would like? Yes. But if you can pass the tests, then you should be able to carry your gun wherever you wish -- me, I'd include jets, post offices, and schools, since those seem to be particularly dangerous places, but I don't think that's ever going to happen. And if it was good enough for the great state of Wyoming, it ought to be good enough for the great state of New York, so reciprocity between the states.

This wouldn't satisfy the hardcore anti-gun crowd, of course, nothing will, but I think it would go a long way to convincing most reasonable folks that the legally armed among us were at least schooled in the necessary basics.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Boy Scout Motto

After the recent atrocity at Virginia Tech -- and in case you have been living in a cave on Mars of late, this was where a madman ran amok, shooting and killing fellow students and professors -- I got into an online discussion about the incident.

I've had variations of this discussion before, and it usually sorts out into something like this: On the far left side of the debate, people are appalled, and blame the problem entirely on guns. They want to make all guns illegal, possession of ammuntion worth ten years in the federal pen, and they say that will solve the problem -- without guns, nobody will kill anybody else, or at least it will be much harder to do so.

On the far right, people are appalled, and think that everybody should be armed, all the time, and that when some loon steps up and commences to commit assassination, he should be filled with enough lead to sink the Bismark, and, by the way keep your commie pansy liberal hands off the Second Amendment.

Like most people I know, I fall somewhere in between. As a hillbilly/Oakie/coonass redneck, I grew up as a shooter. Both my parents could outshoot me with a rifle until I was eighteen. They came from an age when a lot of folks still put much of their food on the table by hunting.

My own perspective as a martial artist shades toward the be-prepared side of the argument. (And it quickly stops being a "debate," with name-calling and much frothing after the first couple of exchanges. Gun-control is like abortion, politics, and beer -- reason goes out the window with the first sally.)

I'm am of the mind that there are wolves, sheep, and German Shepherd Dogs, and that the protectors of the sheep ought to have sharp teeth. This doesn't just mean police officers, because we all have our own little flocks and some of us don't believe the police will always arrive just in the nick of time.

No, I don't think Americans should be allowed to carry bazookas, hand grenades, or pocket nukes. Yes, I do think that people who are willing to be trained, fingerprinted, photographed, checked out by the FBI, and who aren't 1) felons or 2) children or 3) crazy should be allowed to own and possess firearms, and that includes handguns.

Would it have made a difference if there had been students or professors in that gun-free zone who'd been armed with a sidearm when Cho started shooting? I don't know. But the first rule of a gunfight is: Bring a gun. Otherwise, it isn't a fight, it's a one-sided slaughter.

One of the least compelling arguments to me is the issue of control. It goes like this: You can't control everything in your environment, that's an illusion. What if the Chinese Army comes thundering over the ridge? Your handgun won't do you much good, will it?

My answer to this is, Yep, you are right. You can't be prepared for everything. You could get hit in the head by a meteor, blap, you are dead. But -- because you can't control everything, does that mean you shouldn't try to control anything?

When was the last time the Chinese Army come over the ridge in your neighborhood? And when was the last time somebody got mugged or shot or robbed in your town?

I have insurance on my house, car, life, and health, with the hope I won't have to use any of them, but just in case. Mugger insurance makes perfect sense to me -- getting your head staved in or your throat cut just the one time is apt to ruin your whole day.

I mean, as a martial artist, I obviously have control issues. With my Virgo nature, I like to put my ducks in a row. I sometimes find myself straightening magazines on the rack at the bookstore. But I have a principle I use here: It is generally better to have more options than fewer. If I have a hawg-leg strapped and I don't need to pull it, then no harm, no foul. The non-violence of the strong is better than the non-violence of the weak, because I have a choice, to fight back or not.

So, I'm curious about this. Yes, we need better ways of keeping lethal hardware out of the hands of children, the demented, violent criminals, and lying Presidents, if that's not multiply redundant, and I'd be interested in hearing reasonable -- that's reasonable -- suggestions to this end.

But until the Messiah comes, how do you line up on this one?


And what music am I endeavoring to learn to play upon my guitar to some theoretical good effect?

Well. Hereunder the instrumentals: (in the interests of full disclosure, on a few of these, I do try and sing along:)

Guitar Clerk’s Bane, 1969
(This is a quick montage of: Smoke on the Water, Stairway to Heaven,
House of the Risin’ Sun, Classical Gas,
and Blackbird)

Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring


Bridge Over Troubled Water


The Minuet Baroque Down

Here, There and Everywhere
In My Life
Cast Your Fate to the Wind

Bouree in Em

Here Comes the Sun

Fleur de Leis

Canon in D


Hey, Jude
Cady Jo
Theme from The Godfather (Speak Softly, Love)

The Water is Wide

Ashokan Farewell

None of these can I claim to have mastered, but pretty much I can get from the start to the end on most of them, some of the time, from memory. (Not quite on Ashokan Farewell, yet.) Those in the public domain, or ones I've written, I sometimes share on Soundclick! The copyrighted work I'll need to get licenses for, if I ever feel like posting 'em or sticking them on a CD.

Maybe some day ...

I do have a whole bunch of songs that I strum or fingerpick whilst singing -- well, more like croaking -- along, ranging from The Kinks Lola, to Randy Newman's Sail Away, to some I've written, but since I'm focusing more on how to play the guitar, I don't spend as much time learning those as I do the instrumentals.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pickin' 'n' Grinnin'

Somebody asked me recently why I play guitar. Like a lot of stuff in my life, it falls into some familiar categories: It's creative, it's fun, it's learning something new, it's a discipline, I love music -- the usual.

When I got my first guitar at sixteen, it was because the folk movement in the U.S. had blossomed, and I had visions of myself on stage as part of Peter, Paul, and Perry ...

Never wanted to be a rock star, per se. Like a lot of baby boomers, I was drawn to rock during the time I came of age, and grew up along with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, but I played acoustic -- nylon strings -- and was trying to change the world, so I was big on Message: "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" "Blowin' in the Wind, and even "Eve of Destruction ..."

"Hey, Jude" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" came later.

All in all, I would rather have been Randy Newman than Mick Jagger.

Um. Anyway, at sixteen, I learned three major chords and one minor one, and started strumming and singing and writing dreadfully-dreary-and-sincere folk-and-protest music, which I'd sing to anybody who'd listen at the drop of a hat.

Me and twenty thousand other guys around town.

Buddy of mine got a guitar, so he and I started collaborating on dreadfully-dreary-and-sincere folk-and-protest music. We couldn't sing, couldn't play, and couldn't write, but other than that and a complete lack of performing talent, we were just like Bob Dylan. We had guitars, didn't we?

My buddy and I, and then his second wife, formed a trio. We sang in a couple of coffee shops, at hootnannies -- go look that one up, kids -- and even cut a demo tape of our material once. Gave the tape to an agent in L.A. and I expect it was in his trash basket before the door closed behind us. They say all you need is three chords and the truth, but I think you need more. We didn't have it; we were, not to put too fine a point on it, awful.

Worse, we didn't know how awful we were. We thought we were Simon and Garfunkel, or Lennon and McCartney, at least as good as they were. We just needed a break.

Being bad is one thing; not knowing how bad you are? Priceless ...

But -- being young and stupid offers one hope: You might grow out of it. And I pretty much did.

After my buddy got sent to Leavenworth for a long vacation -- another story -- I parked my guitar next to the file cabinet and let moss grow on it for most of the next thirty-five years. Now and then I'd get it out, usually when I was depressed. Sing a few sad songs, then put it away. I think I changed the strings on it three times in three decades. I didn't learn anything new.

Then one day, in the middle of a book I was slogging my way through, knee-deep in the Really-sorry-I-took-the-job swamp, I scraped the mold off the guitar and decided it was time to actually learn how to play it. I was writing for a living, which some folks think is creative, but I wanted to do something just for fun, and not profit.

Unfortunately, I won't live long enough to master the guitar. I got a copy of "Guitar for Dummies," and started learning some classical stuff, some fingerpicking material I liked, couple blues riffs, and am even writing new songs. The difference is, this time, I know how bad I am, and I'm not looking to stand on the stage at the Garden -- or even the Onion -- and wow the crowd. Not my path, and I don't mind at all.

I am getting a little better, SoundClick! provides an outlet and that's enough. (Sure, there's always the fantasy that Springsteen will hear something I've written and cover it, but that's like the winning-the-lottery fantasy: not a reason to go looking for a Ferrari.)

It is true that I once sang "Hey, Jude," live with Paul McCartney.

Yeah -- me and twenty thousand other people, at the Rose Garden ...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hey, Jude

An image from a recent trip to the beach on the Oregon coast where, for some unfathomable reason, it stopped raining for a few minutes. Since nobody expected that, the beach was pretty empty, and we let the dogs off the leash.

Jude in the foreground, Layla in the distance. Click on the picture to get a closer look.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Techno-Dweeb Rides Again

So, a few months after I lit this blog, I went and found a hit/stat counter for the bottom of the page. No big deal, but I was curious to see how many folks dropped by but didn't say anything.

Turns out there are a lot more lurkers than talkers. I don't get much traffic, seven thousand hits or so since I put the counter up, but it's interesting to see where they come from, which the tracker tells me -- at least insofar as their net provider and OS go. On a slow day, twenty-five or thirty people log on; on a good day, might be as many as a hundred and fifty.

Yesterday, my counter died. Went blank. Several attempts to log onto the site that provided it came up with the "Unable to find URL" flag, so I'm guessing their database must have crashed pretty hard.

Fortunately, in the land of electronica, there are other folks who offer the same service at the same low cost, i.e., free, so I've added a different one. Unless you are doing mondo pages every month, the freebie should be enough. They track the most recent hundred hits for free, then start to over-write the first ones, but you can bump that to a thousand for nine bucks a month, and they can track up to a quarter-million. Not likely to be a worry for me ...

For people who use, it's very simple: You go to the counter website -- here's the one I'm using,

Once there, you fill out a form with name, email, your blog URL and a password. Pick out the button or counter you like, copy the HTML script that pops up, paste it where the page element section on your blog tells you, zip, you are done.

If I can do it, anyone can.

Second Verse, Same as the First ...

So at silat class this week, we went back to the defensive and attacking sambuts. (That word is pronounced "szam-boots," not "sam-butts," and is Bahasa Indonesian for "parry," or "ward off.")

These are essentially short combinations of techniques to teach body mechanics, and you wouldn't try to fight with them as such. We like to think of them as ingredients from which many things may be made.

This is after several weeks of working pukulan exercises: "pukul" means to strike, or hammer, and these drills are about hitting, primarily with the fist, and to learn how to use the back-up hand whilst doing the hitting.

Suddenly the sambut exercises are cast in a new light, and the use of the back-up hand becomes much more realized ...

Round and round in a spiral we go. Every time we pass the same spot on the mountain, it is at a slightly different vantage point, and it looks the same, but different ...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Star Wars: Death Star

Okay, so since this illo has now shown up on Wookeepedia and on the Random House site, I feel free to post it here on my blog, where the usual nine people might see it.

Book is due out October 16th, 2007. You should buy ten or twelve copies ...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Get a Rope ...

When I was but a lad in junior high school, lo these many decades past, I found myself in a gymnastics class. The teacher, who later went on to become the women's gymnastics coach in the Olympics, managed to scrounge enough gear to field a team that later took the junior nationals. Rings, bars, mats, horse, ropes, trampolines, all like that.

I was not on that team, being a scrawny kid who liked and did but one event, the trampoline, at which I was only so-so on my best day. Couldn't get past the double back summi.

However, one of the things that was still being done in AAU competition, though discontinued shortly thereafter, was the short rope climb.

Here's how it worked: You sat on the floor holding onto an inch-and-a-half rope that ran up twenty feet to a circular board called a tambourine. When the whistle blew, the clock started, and you used your upper body -- no legs -- to rise from the floor, hand-over-hand up to whap the tambourine, at which event the clock stopped.

Guy with the fastest time was the winner. Wasn't a female version, though I don't know why -- at one time, I recall correctly, the record for one handed-pull-ups was held by a woman who was a trapeze artist in the circus.

We had a kid who could do the twenty-foot rope in six and something seconds, and he won the championships in Florida that year.

It was an event that needed as much strength as the rings to be competitive. The world record at twenty-feet was -- still is, far as I know -- held by a man named Donald Perry -- no relation to me.

Back in the fifties, Don, a UCLA student, could go from the floor to the top in 2.8 seconds.


Think about that. If you've ever tried climbing a rope, that should impress you no end.

If you want to see something else that will impress you, go look at this: Whoa!

Anyway, rope climbing is a terrific upper body exercise; done right it works the front and back of the upper arms, the forearms, hands, shoulders, belly, back, abs, lats, everything from the ass up.

I used to do it years ago when I snagged a piece of ship's hawser from an abandoned dock in Baton Rouge and hooked it to limb up a live oak in the front yard. Alas, I didn't bring the rope when we moved to Oregon.

I'm gonna be sixty next birthday, so to that end, it seems like a good idea to get back into shape. I've ordered a piece of rope long enough to loop over a tree limb out back, and I'm gonna try it again. Limb is only about fifteen feet up, so that'll make it easier, though I suppose I could just go up and down more times.

Once I get back to the point where I can go up and down it one time ...

Cue the Tarzan yell: Uhhhahhuh-ah-uh-ah-uh-ah-uhh!

Friday, April 13, 2007

That's Not a knife Defense, This is a Knife Defense ...

I happened to catch a show on the Outdoor Channel the other night, in which the subject of knives was discussed -- in the context of when was it okay to bring a knife to a gunfight.

The man showing the knife stuff, a fellow well-known as a blade guy in MA circles, did some okay drills, and some demonstrations of how effective a knife could be in close quarters.

He did a few things against a guy coming in with a blade, using his own training knife, that didn't look terrible.

So far, so good.

Then he did a bare hands defense against an attack, which ended with a takedown, in which the knifer's arm and weapon were unsecured. I watched this, and I was thinking, "Hmm. He doesn't have control of that arm."

Sure enough, the attacker ended up on the floor, but as he went down, his extended arm slid through the defender's grip and the point of the weapon came to rest against the back of the defender's neck ...

Good Lord. What a wonderful way to get yourself killed.

I dunno who shot or produced the sequence, but that scene should have gone away. You don't want to be showing folks stuff that they can see won't work without putting their necks -- literally -- in jeopardy ...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Slow Boy

Sean Stark, with whom I've corresponded for some time, has a blog in which he talks about "explosiveness" in silat. You should check it out -- just go over to the list of sites, there on the right side of the page, and click on it.

It's very interesting material, presented well.

By explosiveness, I think he means going from zero to sixty in a hurry, and it sounds like a wonderful skill to have.

Unfortunately, being old, large, and slow, I'm not going to achieve that one.

Fortunately, the silat style I study relies more on position than anything, which gives me a certain hope.

Being in the right place, able to move smoothly, and with some practiced tools will, we believe, accomplish much the same effect as being fast and powerful. You might not be fast, but to somebody else, you will seem fast, and that might be enough.

We believe that it is.

I played with this idea in The Musashi Flex. One of the characters augments his normal speed with chemical assistance, so that he is much faster than usual. This is sufficient for him to kick serious ass -- but it works primarily because he is using it against others who also rely on speed and power. When he comes up against someone who can't compete with him speed-wise, but who relies on something else, it proves to be -- in my mind, anyhow -- an interesting match.

For me, a martial art that relies primarily on speed and/or power is, by its nature, limited to those who are strong and fast to be of optimum practicality. Coming up on my sixth decade next birthday, and having been a heavyweight for most of that time, I've never had the moves of a lightweight, nor is that gonna happen at this late date. I've managed to stay in pretty good shape for a man my age, but a fit twenty-year-old is going to have better reflexes, and the potential, at least, to be faster and stronger at the same size. Since I can't match that, any art I study and might actually use needs to offer something that will balance things. Mine does, which is one of the big reasons I train in it.

The hare is faster, but sometimes the tortoise wins the race ...

Tack Driver

Want to see a serious sniper rifle?

Check out the record page:

CheyTac M-200

And while you can't legally get the military/police model, since that's restricted to, well, miltary and police, if you could, it would run you about $14,000.

Spendy. Then again, it will punch a hole through a half-inch steel plate at six hundred meters, and unless you are wearing four-inch armor glass or rolled homogenous plate -- i.e. a tank, if the shooter can see you out to a mile and half or so, he can thump you.

Makes the .50 BMG look like a pansy round ...

And So It Goes ...

Kurt Vonnegut

And so he went ...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Is it Safe? Part Two

Saw Dr. Lee today and had another fun session involving needles and drills and fillings. Fun.

Got an email from my son with a bunch of Star Trek "inspirational posters" somebody came up with. This one was my favorite, the plight of the red shirt crewman ...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Just Another Guy in a Skirt

One of the first things I heard my silat teacher say was the title of this post. A buddy of mine and I saw his demo at a science fiction convention, and my buddy, enthusiastic about what he had witnessed, was waxing complimentary, going on about how impressive it was. That was my feeling, too -- soon as I could get to a class -- the next one, actually -- I started lessons, but I loved my about-to-be-teacher's response. "Ah, I'm just another guy in a skirt ..."

And after more than a decade, I am coming to realize that it's all ... simple.

Not that I have it, mind you. But I can see, off in the distance, that if I can stop getting in my own way, I might really have something ...

Simple is not easy, noooo, but what we do is not nearly as complicated as some silat schools. In the end, we don't have a shitload of complex techniques, there some principles, but not really that many of them in toto. If I can but figure out how to do them in balance and with the proper timing?

Reminds me of the old cowboy saying, "Beware the man who has only one gun."

If you have a handful of things you can do well? You are better off than having a thousand things you can only do so-so ...

And so, as Vonnegut says, it goes ...

And One More ...

This is a classical piece by Barrios that demonstrates tremolo, a technique of giving a guitar string sustain by rapidly plucking it repeatedly. In this version, Canadian-Romanian guitarist Ioana Gandrabur plays "Una limosna por el amor de dios," usually just called "Limosna."

It is perhaps a bit more remarkable that the woman was born blind ...

And Now Some Soothing Classical Music

To go along with Jake's uke, here's a kid who spends a lot of time in his room ...

Ukulele Weeps

If you haven't seen this before, I thought I'd offer a little musical interlude. Enjoy.

Here Comes the Sun

Now and then around this time of year here in Oregon, we get the perfect spring day: Sunny, warm, not too hot, a little breeze blowing, and you just want to go outside and soak it all up.

Interesting that on such days, people seem to develop sudden, if short, illnesses. (At least if you judge by the number of people who call into work sick ...)

Yesterday was one of those days, and today is going to be another one. Probably will rain Saturday and Sunday, but that's then. Today is one to take the dogs for a long walk and revel in the promise of spring. After the cold and gray and damp of the winter, the flowers are blooming and the cycle of rebirth has cranked up at least one more time -- something for which to be thankful, even if the pollen from the trees and weeds makes you sneeze.

As icing on the cake the newest grandson, Nate, has just learned how to crawl. So all five of the boys are now mobile.

Later. I be going outside now ...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Perry Drops the Other Shoe

Mr. Rate

Okay, so nobody picked up on my posting about Shooter, the old cracker gunsmith in the woods. Must not be any old hippie readers here who saw the movie.

Truth is, I didn't recognize him, either.

Actor who played the part, stole the scene, and had the funniest lines in the movie?

Levon Helm, drummer for The Band ...

Aaannd, you put the load, put the load right on me ...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


So, my outline for a new Predator (tm) novel for Dark Horse, who now publishes the books, has been accepted. Great people over there at Dark Horse, a class-act all the way. Probably I'll get my daughter to help me, since she has now written more Aliens and Predator tie-ins than I have.

The book is tentatively entitled Turnabout, and that's pretty much all I can tell you until it's a little further along, except that if you like Stephen Hunter's character Bob Lee "The Nailer" Swagger -- from Hunter's books (not the movie version, Shooter), you might have a fun time with the Predator book ...

Saw Shooter last night with my son, by the way. Okay, but very much a boy picture -- lot of people getting shot, exploding heads, blowed-up helicopters and car chases. Conspiracy out the wazoo, mucho macho action, definitely not a date movie unless your girl carries guns and knives.

The movie is not in the same class with the novel, the original title of which was Point of Impact. Bob Lee Swagger, just a good old boy ex-Marine sniper, gets set up. Then they shot his dog ... and they might as well have just jumped off a tall building once they did that ...

There was one short sequence that is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time, I was laughing like a pack of hyenas over it.

Bob and the geeky FBI agent who is convinced he didn't really do it, go to see an old cracker gun expert out in the woods. Gun guy is mostly blind, and they are querying him about who could have made the shot that took down the Archbishop of Ethiopia from a mile away. Only three or four people in the world might-coulda, the old cracker allows: one is Bob, two are for sure dead, and one was an evil son-of-a-bitch had a building fall on him and disappeared.

Besides, the old guy allows, whoever did is probably dead, too, that's how those boys work. Hell, those fellows on the grassy knoll in Dallas? They were gone a few hours after Kennedy got it, dead and buried in the desert out past Terlingua.

You know that for a fact? the FBI guy asks, eyebrows raised skeptically.

Sure do. I still got the shovel around here somewhere ...

Best movie-character in recent memory, albeit a minor one. That whole scene is terrific, worth the price of admission all by itself ...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Things That go Bump in the Night ...

I believe that most people are born either owls or wrens -- that is, night people or day folk. Yeah, you can learn to do the other if need be, but left alone, not slaved to a clock, one's natural biorhythms kick in.

A word or two of advice for those of you considering marriage and children. Marry your opposite. It might seem better to match an owl if that's what you are, but trust me, with kids, especially when they get sick, you need a shift change. If the child is a wren and you and your spouse are both owls? Somebody is gonna have to get up, whereas if you have an owl/wren combo, one of you won't mind getting up early and the other won't mind staying up late.

Me, I'm an owl. I've had jobs where I had to be up at five and at work by six a.m. and I could do them, but if I lived alone, I expect I'd be going to bed about dawn and getting up around supper time. One of the vampire crowd.

For years, I walked the dogs at midnight. With the German Shepherds, this was both choice and necessity -- we never properly trained them, and they always carried on when they saw another dog, barking, lunging, and generally behaving like, well German Shepherd Dogs:

"Wolf!" they warned me. "Look, it's a wolf, it's a wolf -- !"

"No," I'd say, "it's not a wolf, it's a miniature poodle!"

"No, wolf, wolf ! Look! Look! Are you blind! Yes, it's small and has white curly hair, but IT'S A WOLF!"

With a pair of dogs who, together outweighed my two hundred pounds, having them hit the end of the leashes frothing was not a pleasant experience. On a rainy day, you could water ski behind them. I have a scar on the web of my left hand where I caught the edge of a Flexi-Lead once and sliced the flesh like a sharp knife.

At midnight in my neighborhood, I seldom ran into another dog walker, so I didn't have to deal with all the hubbub.

Of course, I didn't know until that habit pattern was well-set that avoiding other dogs was exactly the wrong thing to do to cure mine of their bad behavior. One reason why big, smart dogs are not always the best with which to get your dog-learner's permit -- they'll run you.

Live and learn.

The Cogis, being both people- and dog-friendly usually get walked earlier, so that we will see other dogs and get used to the idea. That's working so far.

But tonight I did a midnight run with Jude and Layla. The reason was pragmatic -- my wife is out of town, and she normally gets up at five a.m., being a wren, and the dogs rise with her.
Since I have no intention of getting up at that ungodly hour to feed and play with happy critters, I figured a late-night stroll would wear them out enough so they'd sleep in ...

Being a night person, strolling through the park at midnight under a full moon is comfortable for me. Some folks worry about things that go bump in the night; not me -- I'm one of those things. I feel right at home skulking in the shadows. I even did it professionally for some years as a private eye.

I saw an old hippie walking his dogs in the park at midnight, and his hair was ...

Well, short. A short-haired hippie?