Monday, March 30, 2009


Some times, I wish I had the skill of a poet. I think there are times when I have the soul of a poet, but very rarely does the skill to translate into words what I see or feel ever come along with it. However, I'm willing to give it a shot :)

This morning was one of the yearly firearms recertification dates. About a dozen of us gathered this morning at an outdoor range owned by a county sheriff's office. Since our agency is spread through out the state, there were folks from several different county offices present, though all from our upstate area. It's kind of nice as we get to see folks that we don't see on a regular basis, renew ties, and catch up on the latest doings.

We always arrive a few minutes early, just so we can get together and catch up. So there we are, a dozen agents and four Instructors. It's been raining for four days straight, and I think there was a little trepidation on everyone's part that it would be cold and rainy. But the day dawned bright and clear, if a little cool. Temperature was probably up into the low forties by the time we got started.

We're all in position, listening while the instructors go through the obligatory speech on rules of safety. Listen to the Rangemaster, only load and charge on his instructions, follow his commands for the order of shooting, etc..

During a brief lull, I glance skyward. Above me is a young RedTail Hawk. Old enough to be in his adult plumage, yet young enough to still be a little smaller and more slender than a full grown adult. He's gliding effortlessly through the air about a hundred feet above me. Just as I register the fact of the hawk and his breed, he stalls. His tail flairs, his wings scoop forward, and he just sort of hangs there for an eternal second. A thrill runs through me, because I sense that he's about to dive. He's spotted something on the ground, that is about to go on the menu. Then suddenly, with a few quick flaps of his wings, he's back to gliding through the air. Whatever it was he saw, either moved under cover, or he changed his mind about putting it on the menu. It's a bit of a let down, but then I remember where I am, and why I'm there.

The instructors are done. We all step up to the line, load, charge, and re-holster. At the order, we step up to touching distance of a targets, and assume a standard interview stance. Everyone has eyes and ears on, and the stillness is calming, at least to me. In my peripheral vision, I see some starting to fidget. I smile a little, mostly on the inside. I think to myself that those who fidget, are those who view qualifying as an ordeal, and view it's approach with dread. If they just get out and practice more, they wouldn't feel that way. I'm letting my imagination run away with me, picturing how much better my companions might be with a little more practice... When my reverie is shattered by the Rangemaster's voice shouting "TWO!!"

Reflexes and training kick in and almost before I realize what's going on, I've smashed a strike into the face of the target while shouting orders, and am stepping and sliding away as I draw, and place two shots where the target's heart would be. The stillness I've been basking in is shattered as everyone else on the line is doing the same thing I am at that moment. Then it's over. The leftover whispers of shouted commands mingling with the dying echoes of gunfire up and down the line. The smell of gunpowder is now drifting through the air. I'm hard pressed to keep the big grin off of my face and get ready for the next command.

The grin is there because the entire time I'm thinking,"it's a beautiful day, I'm surrounded by friends and co-workers, I'm shooting, and to top it all off, I'm on the clock. I'm here, getting paid to have just about as much fun as you can have, and still keep your pants on :) "

SO....maybe not poetic, but it was a damn fine day, and I had a heck of a time. Hope you enjoyed your day as much as I did mine.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earthworm Invasion

It's been raining steadily here for several days now. I'm about done with rainy days, but don't want to complain too much, as we definitely need the rain. We're well below where we should be on rainfall the last few years, and have been in some stage of drought status for several years.

In addition to the grey, rainy days bringing out the melancholy in just about everyone, it's apparently bringing out the earthworms as well. I'm not an expert on worms or anything, but I'm assuming the ground is just too wet for them at this point. What that means for me is a veritable minefield of worms on the front and back patio.

It's really kind of disgusting. You can't hardly step out of either door without squishing a worm. There was even one hanging from the chest of one of one of my dogs yesterday when I got home from work and went to let them in. I guess he was lying on the back patio, and one got stuck in his fur.

It's kind of odd. Normally, worms don't phase me a bit. I dig them up to use for bait when fishing, or will dig some up and transplant them to an area of the yard that needs some help, and where I've just spread some compost or mulch or whatnot. However, and I'm assuming it's because of all the rain, this massive invasion of earthworms seems to be made up solely of slimy worms. Hehe, even just typing it I felt my upper lip curl in disgust as I recall pulling the slimy worm off my dog's chest.

It's really kind of gross. Anyone else seeing anything unusual because of the local weather?


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trigger Grip? or 1/4 of an inch....

I was at the range today, trying to get in a little trigger time prior to recertification in another week or so, and I learned something. Not so odd that I learned something, but odd that I'd never noticed this particular item before.

I, apparently, have large hands. Large enough that when I draw my duty weapon, a Glock 22 in .40 S&W, the most comfortable, and automatic grip, puts my trigger finger in the wrong the place. I've always had a bit of a problem shooting low and to the left(I'm right handed) and have been told various and sundry things that were probably causing that. Now granted, even though I'm shooting low and to the left, I shoot enough, and am a decent enough shot, that my rounds are still good shots, just not where I think they should be.

I went with my partner to the range today, and after I popped off my first mag of 15, noticed that while I had a good grouping, my group was about in inch out of the X10 ring at about 0730 on the clock. I consulted with my partner, a better shot than myself, and came up with the usual answers. Anticipating the shot, and jerking the trigger, etc.. Since today's session was to focus mainly on target acquisition, smooth trigger pulling, and utilizing the trigger reset on the Glock, I spent a little more time analyzing what I was doing.

For the first time in how ever many years it's been since I was issued my first Glock, I noticed that when I draw from the holster, assume the shooting stance, and place my finger on the trigger, my finger is too far over. I realized that I had the trigger resting inside the first knuckle of my finger. Epiphany time. That's what has been pulling my shots low and to the left all these years. You can't pull straight back, if the trigger is inside the crease of your knuckle. Well, you might be able to, but I sure can't.

So I make a conscious effort on the next draw, and once I'm on target, make sure I've pulled my trigger finger back about a quarter of an inch, so that the pad of my index finger is resting on the trigger instead of the crease of my first knuckle, and WHAMMO!! I'm dead on target, knocking the X ring out of the target. Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm tearing up the X ring, and no longer low and to the left.

I shift up to the head shot, maintaining the pad of the finger on the trigger, same results. Lots of little holes in the face of the target, none on the chin.

I've always qualified, and qualified well, if I do say so myself. I've always been able to hit what I aimed at when plinking, though now that I stop to think about it, I've always compensated just a bit for that low to the left shot. I've been shooting for years, and had multiple instructors of varying levels of skill(all above mine) at the Academy, and subsequent re-certifications, that have always pointed out that I must be jerking the trigger to keep pulling my groups like that.

I wonder why none of them ever looked at where my finger was placed on the trigger? Probably because I've always shot well, just never dead center. I've always had good groups and high scores, just never the highest scores, because my groups were always a little off, low and to the left.

We'll have to see how this affects my shooting, or if today was just a fluke at the range. However, I foresee higher scores at this years re-certification. :)

Remember, sometimes, actually most of the time, it's something little, that's so obvious, no one thinks to look for it.....

Shoot straight....


Old and out of shape....

Getting old just plain sucks. To be honest, I'm not even that old. Pushing 40, but still doing good. I'm not really carrying a bunch of extra weight. I've got a little bit of flab, but am dead in the middle of the charts for weight range at my height. I don't look like some cut young athlete or anything, but I don't look like a couch potato either.

A couple of days ago, it was pointed out to me that looks are most definitely not everything. I've slowed down a bit, but still move around pretty regularly. I don't have a regular exercise routine, but probably end up walking a little over a mile every day just running back and forth between our offices.

The other day we had a Code call come over the loudspeakers. One of ours was assaulted by an offender in his process of resisting arrest and fleeing the scene. We all sprint out of the door, and take up the foot chase. Across the parking lot, down a steep embankment, up a hill through the park, down through the nice shopping district downtown surrounding the park, and over the river. Ended up being about a mile and a half foot chase before we were able to get the guy into custody with the assistance of the local City PD.

This experience has really pointed out to me how badly out of shape I've let myself become. About halfway into the chase, at about the end of the long incline coming up out of the park, my calf muscles felt like half melted jello just sloshing around on the bone, with my skin being the only thing keeping them in place. I made the chase, and though huffing and puffing, was there and in place when some of the younger guys and the PD drug the guy out of the river and put the cuffs on him.

Two days later, and I'm still sore. My calves only hurt a bit that first day, but my thigh muscles are still aching. I've also learned that it is possible to overwork whatever little muscle that is on top of your foot, going up over the ankle. I apparently stretched those a little more than they were used to when I went down the steep embankment, because they ache, and really get my attention when I try to walk downhill now.

Ah well, we got the guy in the end, and made a point to everyone who saw any part of the chase. To those who might be on the wrong side of the law, they saw definitive proof that we won't stop until we get you, even if you go sliding down steep hillsides and splashing through rivers. To the law abiding citizens who helpfully pointed out which way the guy was going, we also demonstrated that we won't quit when someone is out there that threatens their safety.

It was a good chase, that ended well, with nothing other than a few scratches, and some thorn rips in pants for everyone involved. It showed cooperation between our agency, the local PD, and event a unit or two from the local Sheriff's office showed up to assist. Good times all around, and great stories to share when we're allowed to discuss details.

However, it points out that I'm no longer as young as I used to be, and can't just float along on my good metabolism keeping me thin. I'm actually going to have to get off my bum, and start getting some exercise.

Casey (aching in Carolina)

On Smoking

I am a smoker. I understand that's not the most popular thing
these days, but there you have it. I smoked my first cigarette when I
was about 12 years old. That was way back in 1982 or so. If you do
the math, that means I've been smoking about 27 years or so. Kind of
scary when you put numbers to it :p

When I was in college, I stopped smoking store bought cigarettes,
and started rolling my own smokes. This was about 1990-1991. So,
I've been rolling my own smoke for almost 20 years. I have been a
steady client of a company called Natural American Spirit. The offer
a variety of tobaccos, including 100% Organically grown, and 100% US
grown tobaccos.

To be completely honest, I probably originally switched because I
was a bit of a crusty-love liberal in college, and NAS has the
association with western indian tribes, including the always cool
Thunderbird logo. However, after switching, it's become quite a
favorite. While I may be addicted to tobacco, I'm addicted to good
tobacco. I enjoy smoking a pure tobacco, that doesn't have any of the
extra crap added in.

It's actually kind of funny if you stop and think about it. I've
become a bit of a cigarette snob. I enjoy my hand-rolled cigarettes,
and look down with a bit of disdain on store bought smokes. Mostly, I
think it's because of hte smell associated with cigarettes. My
home-rolls, while definitely smelling like tobacco, don't have the
acrid smell associated with manufactured cigarettes. I've often had
people who can't stand the smell of a manufactured cigarette, tell me
that they like the smell of my smokes.

While I hold no illusion that smoking is anything other than bad
for you, I've clung to the hope that my hand-rolled smokes, being of
natural tobacco and cotton fiber rolling papers(Rizla Blue by choice)
is not nearly as bad for me. I don't know if that's an enabling
attitude that I've used to justify smoking, or maybe an actual fact.
I'll leave the final decision to someone smarter than myself.

Things have changed now though. While I still enjoy smoking as
much as I ever did, I have other factors to consider now. I've
stepped outside to smoke for years now, out of consideration for my
better half, who doesn't smoke. She tolerated me smoking inside the
house for a long while, because the tobqacco I use doesn't leave an
acrid smell. However, I started stepping outside several years ago,
the first time she got pregnant. Now that I have children, I still
step outside, but I'm beginning to worry about the image I might
present to my little ones. My oldest is pushing 3 years old now, and
I don't want her to grow up thinking that cigarette smoking is
something she should try.

I've smoked cigars and pipes off and on down through years, and
have accumulated a modest pipe collection during that time. I've been
thinking of trying to switch to smoking only a pipe. I don't know
why, but that seems a better option in my mind. Not for any health
reasons, as I'd still be smoking the same type of tobacco, but for
image reasons. In my head, I can imagine my oldest, several years
down the road, wanting to try a cigarette from a peer, because she's
seen me smoking, so it can't be all that bad. However, if her images
of me smoking all revolve around a pipe, I don't think it conveys the
same image. It seems to me, and I may be wholly wrong in this, but it
seems that smoking a pipe is something that's looked on fondly by
people as something their elders do. Not something you'd want to try,
and certainly not something young people do. I'm thinking that
perhaps if my children only see me smoking a pipe, they will be less
inclined to try smoking when they get older.

I guess that makes me somewhat of a hypocrite, but aren't all
parents to some extent?

I'm going to explore my options. I've always favored small pipes,
that don't hold more than say 15-20 minutes worth of a smoke. I've
got several that are the big hour+ smoke bowls, but have never been a
huge fan of those. I'll ahve to see what I can find available out
there. I've actually always been a fan of the small, clay pipes.
used to be that I could pick them up for a couple of bucks at the pipe
shop, and when it broke, as it inevitably would due to my rouch
handling, just pick up another for a couple of more. It seems that
for some reason, the small clay pipes have fallen out of favor amongst
the pipe-smoking community though. I find very few clay pipes in the
shop anymore, and the ones that I do find, are larger, and the
manufacturers seem to be very pruod of them, judging by the price-tags
hanging on them.

Ah well, something to investigate. If anyone knows of a source
for inexpensive($5 or less) small, clay pipes, please let me know, as
I'd love to have a source for them. I don't know if my attempt to
switch to pipes will be successful or not, but I'm gearing up now for
a switch in the next few weeks. Maybe Easterish. The end of Lent
might be a good time for the switch, as I'll be able to partake of the
things I've given up, so giving up a habit for a different one might
be a little bit easier.

I'd better run, Oh-Dark-Thirty comes early tomorrow....


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thoughts on the Zombocalypse

Kind of joking around with a friend about the Zombocalypse, after seeing the wonderful Zombie targets for range practice, and had an idea. Now, you'll have to work with me on this, as it's a bit of a stretch, but just suppose, the zombies really do attack...

First off, most folks subscribe to the head-shot school of thought when it comes to zombies. Head-shot equals zombie down right? However, consider that when the zombies come, they don't come alone, or even in pairs, it's usually large groups or hordes. With me so far?

So I started thinking, and remembered a study done by the NYPD and FBI jointly(if I recall correctly) that took place after an NYPD Officer was stabbed to death by the knife-wielding suspect who was actually already dead, and just didn't know it. The Officer had done as trained, and placed multiple shots(I believe the final tally was 7 shots) center mass. The subsequent autopsy revealed that the first shot fired actually destroyed the suspect's heart. However, the suspect was still able to close the distance, and stab the Officer multiple times, resulting in the Officer's death.

The study was long and involved all sorts of stuff, but what it boiled down to, was establishing a 'safety' zone. I don't remember the exact terminology used, but they determined that a subject who is aggressive, and moving, can continue to move a certain distance and complete his goal, even when enough damage had been done to kill the subject. Hence their recommendation that once an aggressive subject breaches that 'safety' zone, the shooter should switch from a center mass point of aim, down to a pelvic girdle point of aim. I shot into the pelvis, that breaks the pelvic bone, puts a suspect down, because without a socket for the ball of the leg bone to fit in, it can support no weight. Hence the subject should drop to the ground because his body if physically unable to remain in an upright posture.

So, what does this have to do with zombies you ask? I was thinking of zombies, when the faint tickle of rememberance brought that study to mind, and I kind of meshed the two together.

If you put the zombie down with a headshot, the zombie is down, and no more than a low impediment to other zombies. However, if you change your point of aim to a knee or pelvic shot(which you should be able to do if you're taking head-shots anyway) then you not only have slowed your target zombie, but possibly some other zombies as well. Your target zombie is still going to be flailing and trying to claw his way towards his goal(most likely you), and if he's in the midst of other zombies, will be clawing on them, trying to pull himself forward. Causing a slowdown of the general zombie horde, and bringing them together in a knot of undead, especially if you target your zombies at a natural or manmade chokepoint.

With a large group of zombies, now slowed an piling up on each other as the injured tries force his way forward, you can set down your rifle in favor of more area of effect weapons. Grenades are always fun, but kind of rare if you're not active military. I'm not sure of the effetiveness of incendiaries, such as molotov cocktails, against the undead, but that would be an opportune time to test the theory out :) Also, even though I know I have never, ever, made any sort of IED out of firecrackers, or gunpowder and CO2 cartridges, or anything of that nature, and I'm sure you haven't either, I'm given to understand that such things could be made, and might make an effective weapon against a knot of undead flesh.

Anyway, just a thought that came rambling down through the old brainstem. Hope your zombie plan is a good one ;)


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mac Frustrations

So, I'm still trying to figure out how to get the best use out of my Macintosh iBook Indigo that I purchased last fall. It's got OS X 10.2 installed on it, and seems pretty fun, if only I can figure out what I'm doing, right?

I do a little surfing, and find out that we have a local Mac User's Group(MUG) in the area. I check out the website, and it says that they have stuff for beginners, and make sure to bring your laptop, because they have a wireless network. Sounds perfect! I cajole my better half into taking care of the kids after work, and I toddle off to the MUG meeting, Indigo iBook in hand.

I get there, and have trouble logging into the wireless network. The pulldown shows the network as out there, I try to get in, using the password provided, and I keep getting errors. After 15 minutes of fiddling with it, someone points out that since I'm only on 10.2, and I don't have access to the latest, greatest, Secret Squirrel encryption, which is, of course, what they're using.

SO, trying to learn macs is turning out to be a lot harder than it seems like it should be. I can't even get into the network for the MUG for pete's sake. Then they launch into how to use iTunes, and it goes on for hours. Well, I assume it goes on for hours, because I leave after the first hour or so. Learning how to copy a music file from a CD to my iTunes, isn't going to help me in the process of learning how to use the basic aspects of the macintosh world.

I guess I'm going to have to just muddle through this on my own. I have to say, the more I get involved, the harder it seems to get anyone to point out just the basics. I've found some documents on teh Apple-Support page, like MAC 101, and Siwtching 101 that were helpful, but that were almost too basic.

I need to learn how to install programs and things, and why they don't work when I try to install them. Like Firefox. Got it downloaded, try to install it, and the little icon blinks at me, then is done. Why is that? Who knows, maybe I just don't have the Super Secret Squirrel passcode. But I have to say, I can't see me dropping the kind of money on a Mac that these things cost out of the box, if I don't have some grasp of how to use the bleeding thing before I buy it.

Oh well, back to piddling. Maybe things will slow down enough that I can start getting more posts up, and seeing what's going on in the world. It's been a crazy couple of months around here....