Here We Go Again

February 12th, 2014


It looks like we're in for a repeat performance of the weather problems we had two weeks ago. As usual, our infrastructure is woefully underprepared. People may be stuck in their houses for several days, and power outages are likely. We can expect a bit of finger-pointing when it's over, but nothing will change.

In the meantime, make sure you've got batteries charged and your 30-caliber magazine clips loaded. For while we sit at home and eat Cheetos, the Draugr are training.

Everybody's an Expert

February 11th, 2014


The Truth About Guns has a review of the new Remington R-51 pistol in which the author perceives numerous shortcomings in the design. I might be inclined to take him seriously if he actually seemed to understand the gun in question.

It works more like a Luger P08 than anything else, with a fixed barrel and short-stroke style action.

The R51 doesn't work anything like a Luger. It uses a delayed blowback mechanism, while the Luger has a unique toggle-lock system. I suppose we could stretch the criteria and claim that the pistols are similar because both fire the 9mm cartridge, both feed from a removable magazine, and both have fixed barrels. Of course, that would mean the R51 is also identical to the Steyr GB or the H&K P7, which is hardly the case.

It's unfortunate he didn't like the R-51 as much as his Glock, but if he's going to sound credible, he needs to better understand the things he's reviewing. Some server space, a few advertisers, and some artificial controversy do not a gun expert make.

Acceptance vs. Investigation

February 5th, 2014


Last night, Bill Nye debated Ken Ham, the president of Answers in Genesis. It didn't go so well for Nye.

Why? Because Ham has certainty on his side, and certainty isn't something scientists do. Scientists don't accept explanations without proof, and they're smart enough to admit when they don't know something. Creationists, on the other hand, claim to have all the answers. At the end of the day, the latter approach appeals more to a crowd.

Creationists generally issue a few stock arguments against various theories, most of which are easily debunked by even the layman. Notice the insistence that the second law of thermodynamics (entropy, in short) invalidates the concept of evolution. What they're missing is that Carnot's law applies in a closed system, not an open one.

Someone needs to tell the guy in picture #21 that the Big Bang was not the result of an exploding star. The lady in picture #5 asks how we can have sunsets without God. That would be due to the fact that the earth is round. It rotates on an axis, and the part on which she's standing sometimes rotates away from the sun. We've sent out spacecraft which have more than adequately demonstrated this.

There are plenty of Christians who believe the earth is more than 4,000 years old, and there are many who have no problem with evolution. So, why do so many still choose dogma over demonstration? If one's faith is so fragile that it can't withstand new pardigms, that's a personal matter. The same things creationists want stripped from our textbooks are the very foundations of medicine, technology, and commerce.

Abolish those things, and we turn back 300 years of progress.

Gimmick Ammunition

February 4th, 2014

RIP bullets

It's a new year, which means we have to endure yet another company proclaiming a new and "revolutionary" bullet design. This time around, it's the tactfully-named RIP Ammo.

It certainly looks intimidating, but it's really nothing new. A similar design was used on the old Kaswer Law Grabber (also known as the Pin Grabber) back in the 1980's. Law enforcement failed to embrace the cartridge, just as they've ignored the terrorist-slapping hyperbole of a similar offering from Extreme Shock. Extravagant claims are made, but the ammunition inevitably fails to live up to them.

The RIP ammunition doesn't appear to be much better. Performance of their 9mm load appears to be equivalent to two rounds of .22 LR. So, there's that. I'd also expect serious deformation and setback when these are chambered more than once in an automatic pistol. Accuracy? Tactical Ninja LLC probably hasn't considered that an important factor.

Furthermore, consider being involved in a self-defense shooting in which there's doubt. Sure, the guys on the internet or at the gun shop counter make claims about "clean shoots," but things can go wrong and perception can vary. Are the detectives and the DA's office going to give me a cookie and a medal for cleaning up the streets?

Not always. If I get hauled before a grand jury, using this kind of ammunition could lead to some questions about motivation and mindset. Stick with proven, common designs.

Always with the Democrats

January 31st, 2014


We've got eleven Democrats retiring from Congress this year: four from the Senate and seven from the House. While gun owners will hardly miss Carolyn McCarthy or Henry Waxman, we're also losing a few allies. For all the facile claims that the Republicans support the 2nd Amendment and the Democrats don't, this may be of interest.

Tom Harkin of Iowa and Carl Levin of Michigan both co-sponsored the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act and have F ratings from the NRA, as does Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. On the other hand, consider Max Baucus, who holds a B rating. Despite some weirdness about "smart guns," he voted against the Manchin-Toomey amendment. You may recall that Manchin and Toomey are both Republicans, not Democrats.

In the house, we bid adieu to McCarthy and Waxman, who were of course rated F by the NRA. Also leaving are Jim Moran of Virginia and George Miller of California, both of whom sponsored the magazine ban (I am not writing that out twice!) when it was in the House. Both have F ratings from the NRA.

But we also lose Jim Matheson of Utah, who has a B+ rating and broke ranks with his party by voting to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt over the Fast & Furious debacle. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina holds an A rating, and Bill Owens of New York holds an A+ from the PVF.

So there we are. The Red/Blue dichotomy isn't as clear and simple as many would claim, and we do ourselves a disservice by assuming it is.

49 Words for Snow

January 29th, 2014

49 Words for Snow

There's a longstanding myth that the Inuit have 50 words for snow. While they do have quite a few, there are just as many in English. Consider "flurry," "blizzard," and "sleet" for example. In fact, there are quite a few similarities between languages, such as the ubiquitous phrase, "umiatsiaasara pullattagaq nimerussanik ulikkaarpoq."

Snow Day

January 28th, 2014


When it snows, the wolves come.

Maia Derping

…or at least, Derp Hound. As far as I know, this is the first time Maia's seen snow. She seems to approve.

Frozen bird feeder

Meanwhile, my whole yard looks like a Joni Mitchell album cover.

Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

January 28th, 2014


Folk singer Pete Seeger died this week. He leaves behind a profound, if mixed, legacy. He was instrumental in the folk music revival of the 1940's, and yes, he was a Communist.

That last point is something people will never let go, but does it even matter anymore? He was hardly the only artist of his time affiliated with the movement.

His father was Charles Seeger, a musicologist who worked with Alan Lomax to preserve traditional American folk music. Seeger was also a respected conductor and composer who taught Henry Cowell and influenced the writing of New Musical Resources.

His mother was Ruth Crawford Seeger, an imaginative composer who studied under Nadia Boulanger. While largely unknown in her lifetime, her String Quartet 1931 is now considered a landmark in modern music.

Both Ruth and Charles belonged to the Composers' Collective, an organization whose mission was to unite an artistic proletariat. Cowell belonged to the group, as did Hanns Eisler, Marc Blitzstein, and one Aaron Copland. Yes, that Aaron Copland, the all-American composer loved by Presidents and concert audiences for his bland if not evocative portraits of the mythical frontier.

Communism in the first half of the 20th century was just something young idealists did, like group sex or marijuana. If we're going to judge artists by their political indiscretions, we might as well throw much of our art under the bus for the sake of political expediency.

Which is exactly what the Communist regime did. Seriously, get over it, folks.

The Grammys

January 28th, 2014


As a matter of course, I don't pay much attention to these. The whole nomination process reeks of high-school politics, and the most deserving artists are nearly always ignored in favor of radio-friendly unit shifters.

However, the classical awards can be surprising. Last year saw the ensemble Eighth Blackbird receive the attention they deserve, and there's been a decided shift towards rewarding the work of living composers and independent labels. Maria Schneider's Winter Morning Walks may be the biggest news. It took four awards, one of which went quite deservedly to Dawn Upshaw.

For a project commanding that level of talent, one would assume it was bankrolled and released by a major label, right? Nope. It was entirely crowd-funded. That's no mean feat considering the logistics of hiring, rehearsal, and recording.

A quick look down this year's list shows that the classical industry is much closer to the ground than most would think. Sure, Deutsche Grammophon was represented by a few works, including yet another Wagner cycle, but most of the acclaim went to independent labels like Naxos, New Amsterdam, Naïve, and BIS.

Likewise, the slavish recycling of standard repertoire is fading in favor of modern music. There's still room for new interpretations of Bartók, Ligeti, and Messiaen, but most encouraging is the presence of so many living composers on the roster. Along with Ms. Schneider, John Corigliano, Magnus Lindberg, and Esa-Pekka Salonen received nominations.

Women are also represented more than ever before. Caroline Shaw (who recently won a Pulitzer at 31) won for her album with Roomful of Teeth, and the magnificent Kaija Saariaho got a nomination for an album of chamber works with the Calder Quartet.

While the Grammys may often represent complacency in most genres, they really do have some credibility in the classical industry lately. If the aim is to reward excellence and merit, this is what they need to be doing.

Connecticut Already Considering an Amnesty

January 27th, 2014


Compliance rates for the gun and magazine registry in Connecticut are much lower than expected. This comes as little surprise, since post offices closed early the day before the January 1 cutoff and most people wait until the last minute to meet deadlines like this. In an effort to salvage some credibility, the state is already considering an amnesty and a second chance at registration, less than a month after the original deadline.

Historically, such schemes have met with little success. Canada and Australia should be considered as test cases. There was little reason to expect better results in Connecticut.

Before we start with the mah cold dead hands claptrap, let's bear in mind that Governor Malloy didn't seize power in a coup. Nor was the legislature who wrote this law appointed by some shadowy star chamber. The people of Connecticut voted for these people, and this should be an abject lesson that local and state elections matter.

The Wages of Microstamping

January 21st, 2014


If a manufacturer wants to sell a handgun in California, there's a process. Samples have to be submitted to the state Department of Justice for testing and approval. Certain state-specific limits and safety devices are required. Even then, only that particular model and iteration is permitted. The manufacturer must periodically resubmit guns for the same process, or they fall off the list.

In 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed off on a bill that added microstamping to the list of required safety features. At the time, there was no workable method, so the bill stated that the process would be required whenever it became viable.

That happened last year. From this point forward, any handgun sold in California must have those little engravings on the firing pin and breech face. Who pays for it? The manufacturer. AB 1471 precludes the state from having to reimburse them.

Several smaller manufacturers have registered their displeasure with the whole shebang, but the big news has come over the last couple of weeks. Ruger announced at the SHOT Show that they will not be submitting any new semiautomatic pistols for approval, and Smith & Wesson appears to feel the same. I can't imagine Glock putting up with this either.

Where does that leave things? Consumers in California are soon going to have very few choices in pistols. As the largest brands become unavailable, only a few smaller manufacturers will fill the gap, and we can expect to see a corresponding rise in prices.

To the people who pushed this initiative, this is the best kind of regulation. It's not an explicit ban, but the effect is the same nonetheless.

Ghost Guns

January 21st, 2014


It's no secret that California Senator Kevin de Leon hates guns. His voting record shows ample proof of that. His latest crusade is against so-called "ghost guns."

What is a "ghost gun?" Apparently, it's a convenient catchall phrase (like "assault weapon") that includes polymer receivers and guns without serial numbers. I'd ask Kevin himself, but he seems to be a bit fuzzy on technology. A shorter version of the video is here, but the gist of it is this statement, which is taken verbatim:

This is a ghost gun. This right here has the ability 30-caliber clip to disperse with 30 bullets within half a second. 30 magazine clip, half a second.

Right. So, um, that clears it right up. It's a weapon chambered in 7.62 with a cyclic rate four times faster than the M16. I'm honestly unaware of any such thing.

Please, nobody ask him what a barrel shroud is. It might shatter his delicate constitution.

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