Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not my idea of "Southern Style"

     By way of AD I learned this morning of a situation regarding a colleague of his named Robert J. Wilson . By all means click on the links to get the full story, but the gist is this: Mr. Wilson and his partner approached the individuals at Southern Style Granite for the potential purchase of some remodeling materials. They were asked about the nature of their relationship (!), and upon confirming that they were indeed, a same-sex couple, were rather rudely shown the door.

     This truly chaps my hide on several levels. First, the obvious - blatant discrimination based on sexual preference, which makes no sense in general, and even less in this case. More on that in a minute. The other thing is that these nimrods are putting themselves out there as representing "Southern Style". That shouldn't bother me - the business is in Baton Rouge, after all. But it does. 
     A lot of us southerners, who just happen to be intelligent open-minded individuals, are a bit sensitive to the "bubba" or "redneck" perception. You think you're making a little social progress, and then ignorant, inbred cretins like this come along. Actually, that's not fair. Calling them ignorant, inbred cretins is an insult to the knowledge-deprived and genetically challenged everywhere.

     Since, by virtue of my father's military service, I spent a great deal of my life in the north, allow me to qualify myself to speak on behalf of true southern folk.
     I was born in DeRidder, Louisiana, where the attending physician had to be instructed that a circumcision involves more than just cutting the webs from between the toes.
     Both lines of my family derive from southwest Alabama. Attempts to trace our family tree back more than about three or four generations show the information disappearing into the piney woods and red clay dust of the log trucks.
     I currently reside in the Great State of Georgia, where I obtain my CCW permit at a sign which reads: "Marriage and Gun Licenses" (Seriously. I'm getting a picture the next time).

     That being said, I consider myself to be a worldly, enlightened individual. I'm well-read, educated and fairly intelligent, and try to take a fair-minded objective view of issues. And far from being an exception, I can honestly say that many of the men and women I know and have known in my time in the South have been similarly open-minded. Not all, but many.
     So when Bubba #1 and Bubba #2 pull some crap like this, I am sad and angry. Not only for the the gentlemen who were insulted, but that the public perception of the redneck mentality has once again been perpetuated by the shameful few, while the rest of us cringe. "Southern Style", indeed. How embarrassing.

     So, then. To the other, and a very good point made by AD: these morons supply materials to interior designers. Interior designers. Have they never watched HGTV? My wife and I watch it all the time, and among the several very talented individuals, I have yet to see a squinty-eyed, chaw-spitting hombre check out a custom cabinet and say, "Nuthin' like a nice piece of hickory".
     It's usually a lot more hugging, hand-clapping, and, "I'm so excited - this is going to look absolutely fabulous!". And usually ridiculously expensive.
     So, way to alienate a big chunk of your demographic there, Cletus. Granite countertops all the rage? Not from your shop. Dumbasses.

     What I really fail to understand is why homosexuality bothers heterosexuals at all. To say that a straight person's sexual identity is somehow "threatened" by gayness is ludicrous. Cooties didn't work in the third grade, and they won't work now.

     The other arguments I hear are generally, "It's against God's Law". Well, maybe so. I won't presume to know the mind of God. But if that's the case, then you need to butt out. Let the Big Guy handle it Himself. People who deem themselves agents of the Lord concern me, and acting on what you decide to be His will is absolutely exceeding your authority.
     Try this: speeding is against the law of man, so on your way home tonight, pull over a few people who are running over the limit. See how that works out for you.
     Another argument: "I just don't see how a man/woman can be attracted to another man/woman". Well no kidding, Sherlock, that's because you're heterosexual. Sexual orientation is a complex mix of genotype, perceived gender identity and pre- and post-pubescent hormonal influences. Gay people are gay. Straight people are straight. Bisexuals are wired for both and are very popular at parties. Hell, I don't even understand why women like men.
     "When I think about what they do, it's just disgusting". Well here's a little thought experiment: go out in public. K-Mart, the grocery store, a ball game, anywhere. Pick out a random heterosexual couple, and picture them stark naked and doing the slickety-slap. Makes your skin crawl, doesn't it? I know pornography is a billion-dollar industry, but I think I'm safe in saying that generally, sex of any description feels a lot better than it looks.

     Now as for our fine examples of tolerant humanity down in Baton Rouge, I hope that every time someone Googles up "Southern Style Granite", one of these posts comes up that lays them out for the pustulent, slack-jawed microcephalic bigots that they are (I'll probably get a few hits on "chaps", too).
     Yup, say it with me: "Southern Style Granite" = ignorant, homophobic morons. I hope their business locks up and they only have one way to move their inventory.

     Eat rocks, you bastards.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Videocard Down!

     Sorry about the recent dearth of content here, folks, but at least I have an excuse for this weekend.
     It seems my big-bucks fancy-shmancy graphics card decided to fizzle out on me. On a Saturday morning, too. The very nerve. That's prime leisure time, folks! So I was left with a perfectly good computer system and a working monitor, and no way to see anything.
     The temporary solution was to run down to the local office store, and buy their cheapest card. I won't be playing Crysis maxed out, but I can see. The next step, of course, is to RMA the card, which means playing who's-on-first with the vendor and the manufacturer. Oh, joy.

     I freely confess to being a PC geek. I'm not a coder, and frankly get baffled by fairly simple networking problems, but I'm a gearhead. I like to build my own rigs, and tend to research components to a ridiculous degree, draw up parts lists, track prices and tech trends, and then save up and build my uber-PC.
     For those fellow geeks out there, the (currently dead) card is a Sapphire Radeon 5870. For me it hit the sweet spot of price, performance, heat and noise. I got it as part of a complete build earlier this year (along with an i7-920 processor, an Asus X58 motherboard, Windows 7 64-bit, etc...), when I decided that my six year old rig "Frankenstein", was getting old and inadequate.
     I loved Franky. Franky was indeed a monster: huge server-size full tower case, cutting edge (at the time) components, and most importantly, my homebrewed watercooling system.
     To the uninitiated and sane, the concept of buying the finest, most expensive electronic components you can afford, and then putting them in direct proximity to running water is simply not rational. The concept, however, is valid and fascinating. Quite simply, water has greater thermal capacity than air. It will absorb and transfer more heat. The cooler the system, the better it can perform. If you are overclocking your rig for performance (or just hot-rodding it for fun), heat is your enemy.
     Suddenly things like turbulence, boundary layers, thermal interface materials, lapping, etc... take over your thoughts.
     You research and buy pumps, hoses, custom waterblocks, radiators, etc... The end result can be exhilarating, and...


     Franky sat by my desk for six years, much as you see him here - no side panel, funky bluish-green tubes, and about the height and weight of a small child. An ugly small child.
     My wife hated it.

     My study is not the study she had in mind for me. She wanted shelves of elegant, leather-bound volumes of literature and philosophy, a fine desk and chair; oak and dark green leather, perhaps. What she got was my old college bookshelves crammed double-deep and sideways with Heinlein, Robert E. Howard, Burroughs, horror anthologies, etc... Family photos competed for space with Zeppelin and Pink Floyd CD's. One side of the room dominated by an old card table covered in a canvas dropcloth and littered with screwdrivers, files, stones, lubricants and assorted gun parts. My framed degrees and her picture on the wall, right next to the rifle rack.
     All this she accepted, but she hated Franky.

     So, when he became long in the tooth, and started running out of hard drive space, the petition for a new system was accepted. And this one is aircooled. The case is the HAF 932, High Air Flow, black, badass and elegant. High-volume, large diameter fans - actually quieter than the old rig. Should allow me to overclock the i7 from 2.66 GHz up to 4-ish easy.

     I'm happy, she's happy. Now I just need to get my gaming card back, and resume killing zombies.

Happy trails,


Monday, August 23, 2010

Dry Spell

Fragile tumbleweeds of thought are blown randomly astray by the dry wind.

          A single idea howls at the moon; mournful, primitive, wordless.  
 It is answered by others, but each is alone. In concert only in their solitude.

         Dust clouds the mind. Shapes swirl like devils, taunting, formless.

One prays. For the clarity of a cool stream. For the slow light of dawn.
 And in the dark turmoil the answer:
Peace, Child. It shall come.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"American Cop" magazine

     I started getting this magazine by accident. When I got the first issue at work, I thought it was promotional. Then they kept coming. My best guess is that the subscription to American Handgunner (same publisher) that I never received got somehow bungled up.
     In any case let me make this clear from the outset: I am not a law enforcement officer. I have the utmost respect for the profession, but my law enforcement experience generally consists of being pulled over for speeding. (Note: if you keep a gun in your glove compartment, keep your registration and proof of insurance elsewhere. Otherwise awkward moments may occur that involve the phrase, "How would you like to proceed, Officer?")

     The format is the same as Handgunner, but more importantly, the editorial attitude is there, and then some. Practical, street-level, no BS articles and advice from cops for cops. Again, not being an LEO, I could not directly relate to most of it, but it gave me a much greater insight and even more respect toward one of the most underpaid, underappreciated, high-stress, low-reward jobs ever created. And I used to be a public school teacher.

     Gear reviews (guns! gadgets! computers! more guns!), dealing with administrative bullshit (not trying to be crude - the magazine has a tendency to call bullshit, well, bullshit), coping with stress, techniques for survival on the street, etc. Really interesting stuff. I can only imagine how cool all this would be if you actually were a cop.

     So check out American Cop . And to MattG , Lawdog , and all the other dedicated men and women of law enforcement out there, Thank You.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

They walk among us...

     OK, yesterday we found another patient who had listed "brain transplant" in their surgical history on their patient information form.
     Seriously. Not trying to be cute. Right there along with their appendectomies and open-heart surgeries.
     This makes twice we've seen this procedure listed. Two different patients. Same surgeon. Hmmm.
     Swap, maybe?

     "Honey, you seem... different."
     "Ah, must be the brain transplant."
     "Brain transplant? Where did you get the brain?"
     "I'm not sure. The jar said, 'Abby'... something..."



Tuesday, August 17, 2010


     Discussions of the 1911 pistol usually revolve around the standard, full-size, 5" barrel "Government" model. With good reason. It is the original configuration for the gun, and is arguably its simplest and most reliable platform.
   The introduction of the aluminum framed Commander model, followed by its steel Combat cousin, got people thinking.
     Mainly, "Hmmm. I can have my 1911 and carry it too." (I know, people carry full-size 1911's every day. But it's a lot of gun, and not everybody wants that much size and weight).
     Then the Officer's model came out, and it was downright little. A shorter frame and grip, and a 3 1/2" barrel. Some people loved it, and still do. Some people noticed reliability problems with the shorter slide and barrel that weren't as prevalent with the longer barrels of the Commander and Government models.
     So now what?
     The grip's the part that that sticks out, so let's keep it short - how about we keep the Officer's frame, and then stick the shortest reliable barrel and slide on it - the Commander's. Voila, the CCO was born.
     "CCO" is an abbreviation for "Concealed Carry Officer". I always thought that was a misleading name. It implies that the base gun is an Officer model that has been optimized for carry. How, by making the slide longer? The 4 1/2" barrel and slide are there for maximum JMB design-spec functionality. The carry-friendly aspect is the shortened Officer-style grip. So by rights, it should be a Concealed Carry Commander, or "CCC".
     Anyway, this is as good a time as any to make a point: everything I've described up to now has referred to models of Colt pistols. We're not talking feverish wartime production, so no Remington Rands or Ithica's, and Kimber, Wilson Combat and all the custom and production/custom shops have not yet exploded across the landscape.
     So what? Well, most of what follows will refer to the CCO form factor, and I have no doubt that someone out there will protest that I can't refer to my Springfield Armory gun as a "CCO", as it "refers strictly to a specific model of Colt pistol" (insert haughty tone here). Well, guess what, my friend, so does "1911" (*Update: I'm wrong). And "1911" has officially become the "Kleenex" of the pistol world. Published gunwriters, and other people with lawyers attached to them, may refer to "1911-style" pistols, but most normal people will look at a Les Baer and say, "Hey, nice 1911". So with all due respect to the Prancing Pony People, a gun by any manufacturer with a 4 to 4 1/2" barrel on an Officer's-size frame is basically a CCO. Sorry. Have a drink. It'll be OK.

     When I first heard about the concept of a CCO, I was immediately interested. I had a Government model 1911, and loved it. Big. Heavy. Steel and walnut. Carry? I didn't think so. I was new to carry anyway, and was looking for the best of all possible worlds, and the CCO looked like a perfect solution.
     So here I am at the gun show, with a few hundred dollars in my pocket, and a roving eye. What I was actually hunting for was a S&W 625 in .45 ACP with no lock and in the half-lug Mountain Gun configuration. For a good price. Yeah, I know. Good luck, Charlie.
     So, striking out on that front, I began browsing. I passed on a very nice Model 28-2 for $400 (Stupid.Stupid.Stupid), then headed over to the bottom-feeders. At this point I was through tire-kicking and was just sightseeing. I figured I would look around a bit, stock up on bulk ammo with some of my money and go home.
     I skimmed over the new-in-box guns; I was looking for someone with a table full of old iron. "Used" to me means more interesting, and sometimes less expensive. I saw an old man with a motley assortment of pistols and revolvers. A 1911-shaped object caught my eye. It looked short - 4" barrel maybe. I asked if I could handle it. Whoa! Lightweight! The slide said Springfield Armory. Good. My other full-size was an SA GI model, and I was happy with it. Good steel, dimensions to standard spec; a good gun. The model on this one's slide was "Compact". Never heard of it before. Then I noticed the grip. Short. Officer-sized.
     "Interesting", I said aloud.
     In my mind: ("OMG!OMG!OMG!).
     "Do you mind?"
     "Go ahead".
     I checked for clear. Twice. Then gave her a good once over. No cracks, fairly good fitting, nothing obvious.
     "Trigger's a bit rough...".
     No shit, dude. Massive understatement. Ever toss a handful of gravel into a running blender? Of course not. That would be really stupid. Anyway, that's how this trigger felt.
     And here's where I made my mistake. Instead of insisting that he knock about $100 or more off the price to cover the cost of parts and a trigger job, I said, "No problem, I can fix that".
     Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
     I paid the cost of the gun plus the stupidity premium, and took it home.

     I disassembled the poor thing, and jeez, what the hell? The sear looked like it had been polished with a chainsaw, and the disconnector wasn't much better.
      How the hell does that happen? No, seriously, these are Internal Parts. Did the former owner say, "Hey Dave, I left my Dremel at home - how about we just run over these parts in the parking lot a few times?"
     Anyway, it explained the trigger pull.
     Fast forward. The new parts arrived from Brownell's, and I tried again. Much, much better. Time to go to the range.

     This is where I discovered the minor glitch in the "perfect solution/best of all possible worlds" concept. If you take a gun, make it smaller and lighter, and keep the ammo the same, guess what happens? Yep. I was used to the firm but genteel "push" of my all-steel Government model. I pulled the trigger on the CCO, and it said, "BARK!". I pulled the muzzle back down from the ceiling, and tried again. "BARK!"

    Well, OK then. I actually got used to it pretty quickly, but it was a prime example of TANSTAAFL in action.

     In fact, when the gun ran, it ran great. I had never used three-dot sights before, and didn't think I'd like them. Well, they worked pretty well. The barrel lockup on this gun was much better than my .gov, and resulted in a very rewarding level of accuracy. The fit to my hand and the weight - the overall feel of the gun, was perfect. But the damn thing wouldn't run consistently.
     As a courtesy to those of you who've made it this far with me, I'll spare you a rundown of the wierd little hitches and glitches that this gun has presented me with. I honestly think the next step is a trip to Springfield. Then maybe to George Smith at EGW for a steel feed ramp insert. And finally maybe to John Harrison with a case of his favorite hootch and a really, really pitiful letter.

     Because I want to carry this gun, dammit. It's just too perfect. But in the meantime I'll be at the gunshows. Sightseeing. Because you never know.

* It occurred to me later that "1911" and "1911-A1" are of course military model designations, rather than copyrighted private company model names. So not only was I wrong, but invalidated my own point, and was a smartass about it to boot. Lovely.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pseudopost: Actual content to follow....

     I'm currently working on a long-winded gun post, so in the meantime, here's a picture of some dancing mice....

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ivory Tower Academia

     The other day at work I was reminded of a picture I had seen in an old textbook of mine. After a bit of Googling, I found it:

     The image is of a small Paleolithic era carving known as the "Venus of Willindorf". What struck me is the great quantity of sociological and anthropological analysis that has been devoted to this carving's appearance.
     In many cases, significance is given to the fertility aspects of the image, based on the "exaggerated" depictions of the subject's anatomy.

     Why was I thinking about this at work? Because anyone who thinks that this image represents "exaggerated" anatomy has never worked in public healthcare. They've probably never even been in a downtown hospital ER waiting room in the middle of the night.

     Folks, this is a portrait of the Public. And the fact that it was the norm since the Paleozoic says more about humanity than any analysis of our needs to "deify an ideal of reproductive abundance".

     Hell, put a cotton shift and a pair of flip-flops on her, and she would represent a fair percentage of my call-in patients.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In the News...

     A few nights ago, Wife and I are watching the evening news, and coverage of the immigration debate was on. The talking head was talking, and they were showing footage of the demonstrators carrying their signs and chanting, etc...
   Then one of the signs broke through my protective anti-news fog and brought me to attention. DVR remote: rewind, pause. Stare. Blink.
    I have no recorded image to back me up, but I swear upon all that's holy, the sign said - and I quote:

                                 "ILLEGAL IS NOT A CRIME"


     Regardless of your views on the actual issue under debate, this represents such a perfect, clean failure of logic in favor of politics as to numb the mind. And I have no doubt that the person who composed, constructed and carried that sign did so with no sense of sarcasm, humor or irony.

     I can only laugh, or cry. And if my wife didn't have this thing for Shepard Smith, I'd be watching Mythbusters.    


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Origin of the Name

     This being the internet and all, it is not only possible, but preferable for many of us to operate under pseudonyms. "Rick O' Shea" is obviously not my real name. But I earned it.

    I've only actually been a shooter in the last few years of my adult life. I had a BB gun as a pre-teen, and picked up a .22 rifle sometime in my post-grad period.
     When I came to Georgia in the late '90's, I encountered colleagues who were into recreational shooting at the mild obsession level. The best I could do to participate was to dust off the old .22 and make little pings alongside their big pings.
     The desire for "Boom!" rather than "pop" was created, and soon I was the proud owner of a Ruger Vaquero and a Winchester 94, both in .357 Magnum. Everyone asked me if I was into CAS and SASS, to which I replied "Huh?". I was just being a kid again, and was enjoying myself immensely.
     One weekend, my colleague/shooting buddy/enabler said that an old friend of his was coming into town, and would I like to meet them out at his club's range and do some shooting? Silly question.
     The friend had a box of .357 reloads, and a double-action stainless steel snubnose revolver. In my mind's eye, I see it as a 2 1/2" barrel S&W model 66, but my mind's eye also remembers all my old girlfriends as beautiful. It was probably a Ruger GP100 or SP101. Anyway.
     I had never shot a double action before. My range experience in general was limited. I knew the Four Rules, and my understanding of the fundamentals was mostly academic. We were shooting at steel plates about 12x18" in size from a distance of, oh, maybe five to seven yards at most. I took aim at the center of the plate. Boom! But no "ding!". Again, boom! Nothing. Where were the dadgum bullets going? I was right in front of the target! Finally, boom! - ding! Yay! I hit it! I looked proudly at my comrades, and they were in spasms. It seems that I had been shooting furrows in the ground about two or three feet in front of the plate, and that last one had actually skipped up from the ground and hit the target.
    "Way to go, Ricochet!" "Nice ground game, Tex!" "Gopher hunting?" Ricochet, thankfully, was the one that stuck. (Well, "Tex" wouldn't have been so bad, if not very original. "Gopherbane", on the other hand...).
     Fortunately, after the mandatory mockery, we had a good session of new-shooter training regarding this thing called "flinch". Apparently (as determined by the old random-empty-chamber drill), I was squeezing the trigger with my whole hand instead of just my trigger finger. Pretty common rookie mistake. I was also closing my eyes in anticipation of the shot, so the last thing I would see was a perfect sight picture. When I hit that empty chamber and kept my eyes open, I saw what they had been seeing - the gun being yanked down into a nosedive while my whole upper body jerked and stiffened up.
     So then to the correction: firm grip - mental and physical separation of the trigger finger from the grip - Focus On The Front Sight - and bring the trigger back smoothly until Surprise!(Boom!). Even more surprising, "Ding!". Well, hot damn.
     We spent the next half-hour or so working on smoothing out the DA pull while maintaining sight picture, and reminding me that with eyes and ears on, I didn't need to cringe at the flash and loud noise.
     Anyway, that's the sad tale behind the nickname. And for those of you introducing newbies to shooting, bring a .22. Or at least some nice .38 wadcutter loads.

     And for those wondering, until then I couldn't hit a damn thing with the Vaquero, either. I was convinced that the name was Spanish for "shoots low and left".

Monday, August 9, 2010

Life in the lab

     "Your next patient's here, and check out her paperwork."


     "Under 'Race', she wrote in 'Human'..."

     "Cute. I just love it when people try to get witty on their patient information forms."

     "Dude, seriously. Did you see her? I think she might just be trying to reassure us."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why "Political Science" is an oxymoron.

- Because you cannot derive facts from an accumulation of opinions.

Might as well get the "Grandpa" thing over with...

     Earlier this year, our kids graced us with our first grandchild. To say we are thrilled is, well, you can imagine...
     I told myself not to use the blog as a grandbaby shrine, with pictures and cute stories, and more pictures, etc.

     HOWEVER ---

A basic introduction should be in order. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present:

     The finest man-child to set forth upon the earth. If I do say so myself.

Howdy, Folks....

     This is my attempt at a blog. Why another blog in the vast wasteland of mediocre ideas, political rants and general self-absorbed blathering?
     Because sometimes I have stuff to say and no one to say it to (at least, who would appreciate it), because sometimes I feel like I will explode if I don't get stuff off my chest, and because I read a lot of blogs every day from some very talented writers and thinkers, and presume to join their company.
     I feel in many ways that the blog is the new home of a great literary tradition: the essay. The bloggers I read may occasionally throw out a snippet of thought, or a quick rant, but often the longer posts are true essays deserving of recognition as fine writing by any standards.
     The title of this blog serves two functions - as a reflection of my rather obsessive interest in firearms, and as a descriptor of how I will probably post. Most of my thoughts come as brief statements, with occasional longer rants bubbling beneath the surface. Bullet points. Think, (breathe, front sight, press) think again, repeat as necessary.