Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Browncoat pop quiz.

Did this off and on with a friend via IM so I figured I'd throw it up here. I only have a couple known browncoats in the reading audience, but you never know when another might pop up.

So, a few quiz questions - feel free to answer in comments if you like. (The following are all taken from the same episode of Firefly - name it for a bonus point at the end) For a properly trivia minded Browncoat, they shouldn't be too hard. :)

1. Finish the quote, "Now we have a boat load of civilians...."

2. What, did Mal advise Zoe to do politely?

3. Finish the quote, "Cry baby cry...."

4. To what was Mal reacting to when he said, "Is that what they call it now?"

5. What was Jayne hoping to get from the Fed?

6. There's a rather ledgendary scene involving Kaylee and a piece of fruit. Name the fruit.

7. "Didn't she shoot you once?" "Everybody's making a fuss." - name the two characters in the exchange, and to whom they're referring.

8. Who provided the fruit mentioned in question six?

9. Name the Alliance Crusier that aborts its attempt to track down Serenity.

10. What is the Fed's full name?

Ok. thats enough questions - tag to any brown coats that feel like their own quizzes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Digging Fargo out, or why North Dakota living is an aquired taste.

Its o dark thirty on Monday morning, and I didn't go to work this morning. Why? Because Saturday night/Sunday morning Fargo got hit with a proper blizzard. I like Blizzards, and this one was a doozy. I worked Sunday morning, and getting to work was pretty easy, getting home... was an adventure.

Please note - in blizzard conditions, driving is generally a bad idea. I've been living in this country all my life, and I don't do it if I don't have to. Sunday morning most people were taking that advice. I didn't have a choice, I didn't want to stay at work.

There was a good solid four inches of snow in the parking lot when I left work. Thats just about enough to get your average two wheel drive small car or truck stuck if you stop in the wrong spot. I drive one of the probably TWO two wheel (rear) drive pickups in the state that get used at all in the winter (my dad owns the other one), and while our road crews are some of the best in the nation, I knew getting home would be... interesting.

It was. Visibility bounced from a couple hundred yards at best to zero, oftly fast. There weren't too many other vehicles on the road - and things went rather swimmingly (except for the few idiots who didn't understand that in conditions like this, as long as your not in incoming traffic, lanes are at best a suggestion - avoid the snow drifts people, your car won't like them :P) I kept an average speed of 25 to 30 miles an hour - slow enough to stop relatively quickly in the conditions - fast enough to keep my momentum up and hit most of the timed lights without stopping.

Interstate was closed from the Minnesota State line out to Jamestown so my typical route home was extended a fair bit. But I'd rather be breathing and slow, then stuck out in a ditch and freezing.

It got downright scary when I got south of 32nd Ave on 45th Street. This is the chunk of road that is always the most interesting. The road goes from four lanes to two, and its a rather narrow two lanes with steep ditches on each side. Cars end up in the ditch around here repeatedly in poor conditions.

Today was no exception. One poor idiot had forgotten that one lane simply ENDS south of 32nd and had driven straight into the ditch. The car was emtpy or I would have stopped to make a pick up. You just don't want to sit around out here like this - your car can be retrieved later.

It was a good thing I slowed down to check, cause when I looked back forward (there are no windbreaks down this section of 45th street) I see some jackass in a chevy impala BACKING UP at me.... through the white out.

I hit my brakes, the guy behind me did the same, and the guy in front of me apparently changed his mind and put it in drive. And then proceeded to inch along for just over a half mile at speeds topping out at 10 miles an hour, but consistantly dropping to about five.

Now, I'll give the guy the benifit of the doubt, it WAS a pretty solid white out, and hard to see. But I could make out the edge of the road - and I could see him - most of the time. Worse, he was weaving, and consistantly moving into the opposing lane. I had this image of sum dood swerving into my lane to avoid idiot number one infront of me, and running smack into me.

Luckily, he turned off before that happened, and I got to proceed at a safer speed of about twenty. I got back to my apartment to see a beautiful drift building in front of the driveway to the garages. So I whipped a cookie and parked it, and then went and walked the way back to my garage. I figured it was doable, but I'd have to keep my speed up. Which is hard when making a turn.

Which is why I'm glad my garage entrance runs straigh into a side street. so a cut down the street, brought the truck around without getting stuck, and took a bit of a run at it. Made it up to my garage successfully. A few minutes later I had it open (its got an opener, but it doesn't like hauling the door in the cold) and managed to squeak my pick up inside.

I got upstairs and after touching base with various people so they knew I was alive and home, went to bed.

Bout six tonight, I got up, and came to the conclusion that there was no way in hell I was getting to work. The roads were *mostly* cleared but my parking lot was not. There were five foot drifts in some sections, and it was heavy enough that I knew I'd never get to the road without a smile and a wink from $DEITY. So, I called in - expecting to work from home - which I can do.

Except my cable kept conking out so that ended up being a no happening deal too.

It never really hit me just how BIG a blizzard we had til I got out this morning about an hour ago. I thought I'd drop by Denny's for a bite to eat, then bound back home. I got to Dennys just fine to find it closed. Dennys closes for about 6 hours on Christmas... and thats it around here. So I wandered back by Hornbauchers (24 hour super market which is just down the street from me. They were closed too. This never ever happens :P The only vehicles out were tow trucks and snow moving equipment. And they were still losing the battle in some parts of town I drove through (and I didn't get through much).

Today we're going to see wonderous temps in the -30s to -40s with windchill. More snow is possible, and the wind isn't expected to let up for a good bit yet.

Yep. This is a North Dakota winter alright.

God I love it.

-Jon

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Random Musings.

So this morning I had fresh roast beef, potatoes, and carrots for breakfast (keeping in mind my 'morning' starts midway through most peoples evenings, you'll forgive me)

I threw it together before bed around 9 am and got up to a well cooked meal. God I love crock pots. It did however make me think of this:

Arm Roast: Free (Provided by Uncle with too much beef)
Potatoes: 3.53
Carrots: 4.40
Assorted seasonings and crock pot: On hand.

Determining that despite still being a bachelor with rusty and dusty cooking skills - you can still throw together a decent meal without working too hard?: Priceless.

Realizing you still have no one to share it with?: Suck ;)

It wasn't perfect. I added too much water to the crock, so if I had wanted to, I could have turned the whole thing into a giant stew (which would have been good too) - but it was good. And I'll have plenty of food for a couple days.

I'm certainly no Bridget from Home on the Range - but then, who is? *chuckles*

I've been meaning to listen live to the Gun Nuts podcast I keep hearing around the corner of the blogosphere I tend to wander - but alas my work schedule means that about the time I should be tuning in, I'm usually thinking about a shower and waking up. However, I did listen to this week's show after the fact, and you can find a link to it HERE over at the Breda Fallacy. Good stuff - topic was Concealed Carry. Crank your volume when Lawdog starts talking cause really - he's got some interesting things to say.

Maybe next week I'll catch it live. We'll see.

I've still got a couple posts on high sea's piracy and the impending idiocy of the automotive bailout I'd like to put together, but like my pot roast all day yesterday, its still simmering.

Damn. Now I'm getting hungry again.

-Jon

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dreams and Happenstance.

I can always tell once we're well into the Christmas Season. How you ask? Well its simple - I start dreaming about Toys R Us. Back before I was a decently paid cubical warrior of extreme renoun, I was a retail drone making roughly peanuts. I have good storys and bad storys about that job, the primary good was that back then I was *almost* thin because I never got off my feet. (I'm not OMG overweight, but sitting at a desk all day doesn't promote weight loss either)

I miss that sometimes, but definately not around the holidays. Last night I got treated to a dream about trying to run a TRU overnight shift with a bunch of temp drones who had no idea how to face merchandise, throw overstock, or clean up after themselves. I suppose in a way it was a nightmare, but in another way it made me smile, because I don't have to suffer through any of that anymore.

I miss working with some of the people, but I damn sure don't miss the job.

On the topic of things from the past - a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (or about a year ago) I used to be a member of a singles dating site that was just starting up called SoulGeek. As the profile says, I'm a Geek, so it only makes sense to look for love in other geeks right? Anyway I hung out in the chatroom, and did some posting to thier forums, and along the way ended up a moderator. I'm not sure who was crazier, me for taking the gig, of them for asking me to do it. Not that it was hard or anything - at the time thier forum use wasn't particularly heavy.

Anyway, I met a fair number of like minded people there and even added a few to my MSN friends lists. I ended up drifting away from the community like I do a lot of things. I just don't have the time to invest in those places like they deserve.

Anyway, one of those aquaintences dropped me a line last week. I was at work, but I made it a point that next time I saw her online to say hello. Its been an interesting 'hello, rememeber me?' sort of back and forth. I don't know what will come of it - and honestly it doesn't matter. The mild flirting has been fun and if I score another long term friend - cool...

...and if something more comes about well, I wouldn't be adverse to that either. *shrug* I've learned over the years that what will be will be if I just let it. So I guess we'll see.

*chuckles*

Its been a fun early Christmas Gift in its own way, one way or the next.

-Jon

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Christmas Wishlist.

For lack of real content today - because I haven't thought up any - I present my 'wishlist'.

A 1911 Commander model with ambdextrous safety (at least) and if possible mag release. I'm leaning towards Kimber, but I wouldn't complain at a S&W or an honest to god Colt model. .45 of course. I'm leaning towards this as a carry pistol.

A 1911 Government model. What? I like the 1911, doesn't everyone? Same as above in all other respects.

A good solid AR-15 Lower Reciever, with ambdextrous or left handed controls (Yes, I'm left handed.). Why only the lower reciever? Because from there I can do some research and decide what I want to put on the thing :). I'm currently leaning towards a heavy barrel and railed upper. But we'll see.

An M-44 or M38 Mosin, a M1 Carbine, a Springfield M1A (M-14), and an M1 Garand. I'm still poking around for choices on a shotgun as well.

That covers the things that shoot bullets wishlist :).

I need more .45 ACP. Preferably from a few different manufacturers. My XD has a tendancy when I'm doing things right to shoot about one inch low and two inches to the right from about 20 - 25 feet with Remmington UMC FMJs. (I think its Remmington :P). Since I'm left handed, I might be throwing in a pre-shot flinch, but a trigger jerk should be throwing the bullet to the left - I think.

I'm fully willing to believe its the shooter! But, I don't *think* it is. (I make nice groups in the area described ;))

A good leather holster (lefthanded) for the XD would be awesome. I've seen some good reviews online but I really want to beable to get the feel for the holster before I buy one - and thats been hard since the only Left handed holster that fits my XD that I've found in ALL of Fargo was an Uncle Mikes - which once I took off the really annoying carry strap wasn't *too* bad. But I'm thinking I need to sew a nylon loop in for a belt because the clip provided is absolute crap. Tends to come off my belt one out of five draws.

More Mags!

An an honest to god pistol belt.

Also, the usual gift cards to the usual suspects, Cash, and tools.

(But a guy has gotta have hopes, right?)

Attendum: I'll take one of THESE too. Cause you know, your own Nerf Squad Support Weapon is an important part of Cube survival.

-Jon

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thoughts on the CCW Permit Course

Let me preface my comments with the following information.

I am not an NRA rated instructor. I have never taught a CCW permit course, nor am I a former member of the military or a police officer. Outside of basic safety training, and my own personal endevors to this point, I am not in any way what you could consider a seasoned firearms instructor.

However, I did spend a large majority of the last three years in my job designing and then implimenting a training course for new desk technicians in the skill set I am fluent in. In fact, I was SO good at it, that while I could turn out a proper desk technician in a week, if I had too who wasn't a complete idiot while begging for MORE time to do the job right - they decided that if I could do it with NewPOS they could do it with the other desks... (sometimes being good at something isn't a plus)

So, I know a thing or two about engaging, and training adults, some of which very well may not want to be paying attention, or who may think they know more then you, etc.

I don't pretend to be an expert - but when I pay a hundred dollars for someone to provide me with a written test for the North Dakota permit, and an NRA basic firearms training course for the Utah permit (and the requisit stamps) I expect a certain level of professionalism in both materials, and what is covered.

I'm not expecting the second coming of an absolute gun god who knows everything there is to know and attempts to impart it on you come hell or high water - but I *DO* expect to learn something. Even if everything else is basics and I *should* and probably *DO* already know it, it pays to stress the basics.

There were somewhere between 20 and 25 people at the sportsman's warehouse for this training class. The trainer, who's name I will leave off this blog, was a nice enough guy, handed out the materials, and introduced himself as a former marine, former federal fugitive squad, etc etc etc. Basically a guy who'd been there and done that.

So I figured we'd get to hear a good story or two, and learn what I hoped to learn in a direct fashion.

We started with the ND Permit test. We were given a 2 sheet 'test' that was not even photocopied well that had all of TEN questions on it. I could have answered 9 of them correctly without looking at the study material.

Which we were handed. Apparently this was a 10 question open book test :P

Oh, and all the relavant answers were highlighted in the study material. Now, this study guide had REAMS of useful material in it. It was basically the entire ND carry code including anything and everything you'd want to know about how Deadly Force is interpreted in the ND justice code. At least, thats the way it looked. I managed to skim a small amount of it before the 'test' was over, and we moved onto the Firearms safety course.

Now, I paid a hundred bucks for this stint. One would think I at least get to keep his poorly photocopied study guides. You'd be wrong.

Can I find this on my own? Certainly. But this was part of what I was paying for after all - or at least that was my original impression.

The outline for the firearms safety course fit roughly what I expected from an NRA backed basic course. What we got in lecture, didn't exactly match.

First - in defense of our instructor, it is very obvious that he A: very much believes in concealed carry and B: Lives the lifestyle he preaches.

The problem is that we're all there to get through the hoops that are REQUIRED for concealed carry. That means we all pretty much agree that Concealed carry is a Good Thing (TM). And, while I've already decided that once I pick up a more CCW fitting firearm, I intend to carry it when and where I can - I don't think I'll ever match our instructor.

He was carrying no less then a Kimber 1911 (.45 ACP of course)in an inside the waistband holster under his long shirt, a S&W hammerless revolver of an unknown calibur, but from his statements it couldn't have been less then .40, and at least two different tactical folders. And from what I gathered during, and after, he probably carries more then that - too.

So... maybe just a touch overboard. (Thats probably an understantement) There's the boyscout motto... and then there's this guy.

Along the way he gave ancedotes, stressing that stress shooting isn't like target shooting (which its not) but not offering any ideas on how one might train for stress shooting, while stressing that you *MUST*. (I don't disagree with him, mind, but I'm paying you. How do you think I should train this?)

How the Cops aren't your friends in a Defensive shooting situation. And while he's right, in that you need to watch what you say, and do - especially in CCW hostile areas - some of the stunts this guy claims to have pulled would put him on my *immediate distrust* list as a Cop. And he had *all* sorts of stories about stupid Cops to illistrate his point.

We all have bad days, and we all make mistakes. An officer of the law's job is hard enough and thankless enough as it is. As an instructor you should be fostering a healthy respect for the law. This includes understanding that officers are human just like everyone else - and you need to approach self defense aftermath *smart*.

But don't go begrudging the fine people that put that uniform on every day. You wouldn't like it if I did it to the Marines, (I'm sure I can find some stupid Marine/ Marine MP stories somewhere) don't do it to the boys in blue.

I thought about recounting some of his specific stories, but I've decided against it. Instead I'm going to get back to this class we were supposed to be taking - a class room that taught firearm basics and safety.

He went through that so fast, I almost had to be sure I hadn't missed something. He'd get to a section and ask "Everyone here knows the difference between a bolt action and a semi automatic and an automatic."

And of course he'd get nods. I know the difference, but you might have a take, or a nuance on it I haven't heard before. But I'll never know. He skipped that section. (yes, I know, that's the simplest of simple, but when it comes down to it, there's a lot of history behind how they all came about. And while you might not *need* to teach that - you could touch on some of it... or at least not dismiss it out of hand)

Or maybe he could have spent some more time on the Four Rules. he touched on them, and recommended frangbles (something I had already pondered looking into) and a few other helpful hints that I'd heard from other sources already and had planned to impliment.

Oh, and he talked about how well set up his home defense set up was.

Good for you. Lets go back to some of these basics. Thats what the Utah law requires. You want to talk about Concealed carry while going over things, and how they relate - Great. I want to learn. But lets not half ass this, ok?

When I originally got done with the class I wasn't hyper annoyed. He told good stories, even if more then a few were probably tall tales. He did have some good examples, and he stressed many of the tenants of good carry.

But the signal to noise ratio was far in favor of the noise, and that disappointed me, especially the more I thought about it.

Oh, and while I knew this before hand... ontop of my hundred dollars I have another 90 to pay to actually apply and *get* those permits. (not counting any charges for the photos, ten cards, etc that are also required.)

That said - depending on what his overhead was, he pulled in a hunded bucks a person with 20 -25 people in the room, and we were done in under 3 hours.

Thats a fine days pay. I might have to look into becoming an NRA certified instructor :P

I bet I could give at the very least, a more professional LOOKING class. I at least am friendly with both my personal copy machine, and Kinkos.

Any thoughts from the blogosphere? Am I over-expecting here? Or what?

I'd really like to know

-Jon

Working on Broadway - or Guess what I witnessed on my way to work.

Well, theres a lot of things going through my head tonight that I want to excise into a few blog posts (I considered making it one really really BIG post, but decided it was better to split it up.). However, work tonight is new levels of swamped I haven't seen in almost a year. Always nice to be wanted, right?

So some of this will have to wait til I can spare a few more minutes.

But this should be pretty quick.

I work on Broadway - which in addition to holding my office building and a couple of banks, has the longest stretch of Bars in the Greater Fargo/Moorhead area, as far as I'm aware (I don't hang out in bars).

As I was walking to work tonight, I witnessed an altercation. between 5 folks dressed in hunting gear (including orange caution vests!) on the corner just down from Fort Knox (a bar, built in an old bank). I was on the opposite corner just after crossing the street. The biggest of the group yanked one of the smaller guys over, and down to the ground. It appeared the smaller guy was a bit of a beligerant drunk, and they were trying to get him into the car to take him home. (granted, this was a very *rough* way of doing it, but I've had to wrangle drunks before, and sometimes they just *don't* get it.)

However, from the slur in the other mans voice, I'm guessing he wasn't exactly stone sober. I stood on the coner, watching this for a good three minutes, fingering my cell phone the whole time.

Just before I made the decision to contact the police they pulled small guy to his feet and seemed to have a falling in, coming to a decision that didn't involve shouting. So I let it slide. I'm still not sure if I should have.

I knew for damn sure I wasn't walking over there and getting in between them unless it looked like they were honestly hurting each other - and even then, only in last resort. A: Its not my job, and B: I didn't want to complicate the life of the officer who might be called to the scene (or mine!)

I'm likely going to mull this for sometime - if anyone has any thoughts or insight - I'd appreciate it. This sort of thing doesn't happen to me often - but I have a thing about 'being a good citizen' and when such instances do happen, I often wonder where the line of "Being a good citizen and doing once civic duty or whatever" intersects with "Going too far, and getting in the proverbial way."

More on other subjects, later as work time allows :)

-Jon

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Meme: Things I've Done.

Well, this has been going around the Blogosphere, so I figure'd I'd join in.

THINGS I'VE DONE:

1. Started your own blog. Gee... you think?
2. Slept under the stars. Yep. Quite a few times.
3. Played in a band. Elementary and Middleschool - gave it up to focus on vocals. (And because I hated one of the other people in my section)
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower. On top of a Butte with a super clear sky and no light polution no less. (I have no problem with light polution, but if you want a good view of the sky and to feel small, get away from it!
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. Frequently, when I was younger. I try to be more moderate these days.
7. Been to Disneyland. and Epcot. That was a long time ago.
8. Climbed a mountain. Not in the classic sense, with pitons and all that - but I walked up Rendezvous Mountain in Jackson Hole one summer. Oy that was work.
9. Held a praying mantis. Highschool Biology.
10. Sang a solo. Repeatedly. Choir was my activity in all levels of school. I even 'Lettered' in it.
11. Bungee jumped. Considered it a few times.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning. Never 'officially' (I've never been to the hospital for it) but I've had it. Last time was after visiting a Perkins in Clovis New Mexico. I really don't like that town.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. I've been to, and see the Statue - but the line was really really long the day I was there so we didn't go up. Wish we had.
18. Grown your own vegetables. Mom used to have this awesome garden. I assisted.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train. Nope. But I bought someone a ticket for a train once... now thats a story...
21. Had a pillow fight. How do you get out of childhood without one of these at least once?
22. Hitch hiked. Not in the sense of the word, but I have hitched a ride after my conveyance has broken down more then once.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. Call it what you will, but somedays you just shouldn't be at work - and its best that you aren't.
24. Built a snow fort. Many, many times.
25. Held a lamb. Never really liked livestock, but lambs *are* soft and cuddly.
26. Gone skinny dipping. Only in a tub.
27. Run a Marathon. *snort* I'm fairly sure I can't run a Mile anymore. Damn office spread.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse. I watched the last one that happened in... Middle school? Granted, up here in the North it wasn't a total eclipse... technically. But I did see it.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run. Does infield count?
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person. It was oftly pretty, and idiots in barrels deserve what they get.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35. Seen an Amish community. There's one not too far out of town. Menonites too.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. There is no such thing. Money does not bring satisfaction. But it *can* assist in the quality of life.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing. Only free climbing, and only as a teen, when I was willing to do truely stupid things :) Was fun though.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David.
41. Sung karaoke. Again - vocal talent :)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt. During a trip to Yellowstone that I *didn't* want to be on. I recall being underwhelmed, but in retrospect, it was pretty cool.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant. A mother and two young kids in front of me when paying at Denny's. She'd forgotten her wallet. I covered.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight. I highlighted this, but it really only counts if Lakes count....
46. Been transported in an ambulance. I was born almost 2 months early. I got an abulance ride or two, a life flight, and a cozy incubator. Never mind I don't remember any of it ;)
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain. ...that was a while ago. I need to stop being single so cool things like that can happen again.
53. Played in the mud. I used to *make* my own mud so I could play in it. The Well at the Farm was a lot of fun when I was a kid and could get away without working.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater. They're a touch overrated.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business. Gaming Unlimited Inc. First LAN Center in Bismarck (maybe North Dakota?). We lasted just over a year. Learned a lot about computers, business and friends. (note the last two do not mix.)
58. Taken a martial arts class. Never stuck with it though. One of these days I should get back into it. Not sure which discpline I'd prefer, but it'd be good I think.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Got flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma. I hate needles with a passion that knows no bounds, so I have never donated more then needed for testing. I have however, been Transfused a couple times.
65. Gone sky diving. My father's a pilot. I grew up around flying, and have always thought that jumping out of a perfectly good airplane (and even a few not so perfectly good ones) was mad. Still would like to try it someday.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp. I've never been out of the country, save for Canada, so no. But I've been to the Holocast Museum in Washington DC... I was physically sick for a few hours afterwards.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter. Considering all the fixed wings I've flown in - its funny that it took me until this year to finally get a helicopter flight. It was fun. Flying is fun in general. Kinda like shooting things. ;)
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy. Legos were by far my favorite toys in childhood. I still have all of them (hell I still build legos ever now and then. In my office you will find no less then a P-51D, Star Wars AT-AT, Star Wars Slave One, and a few other things - all built with legos.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square. And watched a fire in progress on the Sony Jumbotron... and then realized that it was just down the street.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job. Sorta. It was a temp job, and I was trying to make it perminant. One day they told me I was done on Friday. (that was Thursday).
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper. A few times. I think the last one was for our OM team...
85. Read the entire Bible. Twice. I should do it again one day, my retention of it isn't so great.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. Well, I've caught fish and filleted them (I don't eat them though, generally)
88. Had chickenpox. So glad thats a once in a lifetime thing.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury. Almost. I was up for jury duty a few years back. Never got summoned though.
91. Met someone famous. Jim Butcher
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone. Carried one since '00.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day. This would be standard operating proceedure, generally.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mental Exercise - What would you do in a Zombie Attack?

Ok, I admit it - attack of killer Zombies is about as likely as Mr Obama becoming conservative - but it is an interesting mental exercise - and it can pay dividends in other areas. While I'm not a 'survivalist' of any sort, I'm fully willing to admit that theres always a possibility of a worst case senario - and having to find a way to deal with it.

So, I present to you - in short form, what Jon would do in the coming Zombie Apocolypse!

First - lets consider a few things. I live in a three story apartment building thats part of a complex that serves 'upper middle income' type folks with familys. Its not the greatest digs in the world, but its comfortable.

I live on what used to be the outskirts of Fargo. Three years ago, you thought you'd left town by the time you found me. These days? Not so much. Five years from now? Yah - they're planning on building a Walmart south of me a good bit. Then I'll be in the middle of a fairly heavy residential area.

I own a high calibur, high capacity handgun, and of late haven't kept less then 200 rounds availible at any given time. I have intentions of picking up a semi-automatic carbine or rifle in the near future - but for the moment, I don't have one.

I own an old, beat up '87 S-10 Pickup. It has power nothing. Five speed transmission, and I have enough tools in the pickup's tool box to tear it apart and put it back together again. (When you drive something old, and worn - it pays to know enough about the mechanics of your vehicle to do your own service work. Plus, its not overly hard - if you can put the effort into learning.)

So. What do I plan to do?

First, and formost? Get the hell out of Dodge. Or in this case Fargo - as the largest population center in a hundred miles it will be the epicenter of zombie activity in the area. Since I live on the outskirts (for the moment) this isn't too horrible of a problem. Just pick a road and drive. I'd avoid interstates, and main highways until a good distance out of town as they're likely to be congested with paniced motorists. As a primarily agricultural state, there are plenty of back roads to get where you want, as long as your patient.

While part of me thinks that zipping into town avoiding Zombie hordes and looting the local Scheeles or whatever might not be a bad idea (whoever heard of having too much ammunition) - the reality is that in this situation, survival comes first. Ammo won't guarentee survival. Getting away from Zombies, will.

What do you take? Well, admittedly I don't have a great selection of ready to go in a moments notice things. I have a few things prepped if life goes to hell - (they also work great if you find yourself a little strapped for cash.) First - warm clothes. This is North Dakota 6 months out of the year it probably averages below freezing in this state. Maybe seven or eight. Pack light. Weeks worth of clothes, in an easy to carry pack - layer a sweatshirt and a good coat/parka on with what you're wearing - but be comfortable.

Food is also a necesity - I keep onhand dry goods out of habit. They seldom go bad, and those months I don't budget so well, I don't go hungry. Plus they're cheap. You can get soups and carbs that only require fresh water and heat to prepare for very little these days if you know what you're buying. So my stash goes into the back of the truck. (You can even eat most of them dry, in a pinch)

So does a couple (full) cans of propane, my spare gas can, a small portable grill/hotplate thing I aquired a while back that runs on propane, my tent and two sleeping bags. Oh, and my propane heaters. (I did mention it gets cold as all get out here right?). My spare fluids for the truck, and the extended version of my tool kit goes in my truck's toolbox.

Pistol, loaded mags, spare ammo, cellphone, emergency jump kit, car charger (for cell phone) a standard plug in charger, and a first aide kit that includes a decent stash of excedrin all go in the cab.

That, and my emergency stash of cash (yes, I have one - don't you? Plastic only works if there's power and the banks are operational - more importanly then the 'crazy' theorys - again, an "OMG" back up can get you through a minor finacial crisis.) and its time to go.

So - where to I go? Ideally, I can hook up with some friends and we convoy the hell out of dodge, and head north, or south. My friends have places out of town in less populated areas that would be a great hole up spot.

But, lets say for a second that those aren't an option - for no better reason then because this is a mental exercise - and fun.

I don't keep water on hand - and honestly, with a zombie apocolypse, I'm not going to hang around to fill the bathtub or whathave you and try to bring fresh water along. I don't keep any - so I don't have any - but I'm going to need some. This is a survival situation after all. I have maybe three weeks, if I'm lucky, of food on hand. So I need somewhere where I might beable to find food, or aquire some before I run out.

So - I'm going to the farm. As I've noted before - I grew up around a small grains farm in Northern North Dakota. Unfortunately all the buildings (except for some grain bins) are now gone, due to time, and a tornado. However - the shelter belts are still there (Trees put up to block the wind), its fairly close to a few small towns that might be explored for resources, (or, if the zombie apocolypse hasn't reached them yet, cash still spends) it gets plenty of snow that can be melted for water in the winter (using either wood, or my propane) and has three possible sources of fresh water beyond snow that I can think of within a mile. (four, if I can scroundge together a pump for the onsite well)

Its not perfect. There are no sold structures that aren't bins locally, so I'll be roughing it in a tent, unless one of the bins is empy. (And even then, the bin will keep off the snow and the wind, but it won't be particularly warm, very often - and I'd have to remove the bin cap to feel safe burning anything inside. But I'd be well away from major population centers - its within driving distance for my pickup (if barely, with my reserves) - and it would give me a fighting chance.

Sometimes, thats all anyone can ask for.

It certainly wouldn't be *fun*. But I'll take alive to shambling undead anyday.

Think about it sometime - its a fun 'what would you do' scenario. And it can give you ideas on how to prepare for other, very real problems you may face.

And hey, if we *do* get a zombie infestation - you'll be ready!

A brief Review - Codex of Alera.

Well, I mentioned I was going to review the latest Codex of Alera book - and now that I've finished reading it - I've made a decision

I'm not going to review it. I am, instead going to review and give a general overview of the series as a whole. Mainly because starting a story near the end doesn't make much sense.

So - the basics. The Codex of Alera is planned to be a six book series by Jim Butcher. The most recently released book is the fifth - the sixth is expected in December of next year - so you all have plenty of time to get caught up. The first book of the series is "Furies of Caldron." The story through the entire series follows a main character who starts as an adolensent boy in a world that is an interesting mix of Ancient Rome and a sort of magic. The Magic is provided by Furies - which allows for flight, strength, fire basically the whole gamut you can think of.

The main character previously noted is named Tavi - and he's a freak. He's the only person in collective memory that *can't* use Furies - at all. He can't even turn on the lights in his room, for instance.

He and his family are drawn into the political machinations of Alerian Society when their Home is attacked by a barbarian horde not seen in almost two decades. The first story is full of action, intregue, political machinations, and generally well thought out plot.

Unlike Butcher's other foray into a major series the Dresden Files, the Codex of Alera is written in third person, and while it typically follows Tavi and his exploits, the scenes change as needed to flesh out secondary characters, and give the reader a better feel for the overall plot.

The first three books of the series are extremely strong in this reguard, and while I wouldn't say Butcher writes an overly complex set of political machinations in with his action and adventure - they are well thought out, and you seldom find a character who you stop and scratch your head wondering "Wait, who was that, and what was their reason for whatever?"

But the action and adventure are what will keep you coming back. Butcher knows how to write a good action sequence, and makes it hard to put down. The Main character is likable, and you find yourself wondering how he's going to solve each problem he's faced with - as he struggles to prove himself in a society where he utterly doesn't fit. Along the way he picks up a central cast of friends that support him as he becomes rather the brains of the outfit to his friends brawn.

The fourth book stumbles a bit I think, as Butcher explores a bit more of the political machinations of the realm, and what is going on around Tavi in some of his later exploits - and this is more to do with the fact that I feel certain decisions get made that don't seem to fit with the characters as well. It was still a fun read, but I was grinding my teeth through about a four chapter section, until the book returned to its strong suit, and at least temporarily resolved my 'problems' as it were.

The fifth and most recent book is a return to form, with a lot of big reveals - including a few things that make some of the choices I cringed about earlier in the fourth book make more sense... in retrospect. However, knowing that the main character didn't know these things, when the decisions were made, does not completely absolve my mild annoyance. It also feels just a tad rushed - which when you consider that Butcher is putting out two solid books a year, and working on at least three other projects I'm aware of - isn't really surprising. There are a few editing problems with the first edition - but I've found this is fairly common from Ace books.

All in All, the Codex of Alera is, so far - a great first foray into fantasy for Butcher. Its not for everyone - but if you like action and adventure mixed with a bit of mystery, subterfuge and political machinations, Butcher and his strong central cast will keep you coming back for more.

Today the first four books are out in paperback, and the fifth book is out in Hardcover.

They are, in order:

Furies of Caldron
Academ's Fury
Cursor's Fury
Captain's Fury
Princep's Fury

Go check em out.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Aftermath - or look what followed me home!

Well I'm home in one piece again. Thanksgiving was fun, even if I was extremely run down when I got home... (I left Fargo for Bismarck immediately after work, and we ate as soon as I got home, so I was up for 24 plus hours.) Spent some time with Mom, and some time with Dad, ate too much, and came home again (with some minor, but annoying drama in between). Spent another 25 plus hours up the day I came home since I had to be at work Sunday morning at midnight like usual.

Which of course meant I was *ripe* to pick up a doozy of a cold. And I did. Started with just minor stuffyness, and moved upwards and onwards from there. Now I've got a full blown head cold, with wonderful sinus pressure, and a real humdinger of a sore throat.

Life is such a joy some times. With luck this won't last more then a week... but I guess we'll see.

On another note - I mentioned I'd be taking my mother to the range.

Well I apparently wasn't quite explict enough when I explained to her what size of handgun I owned, because the indoor range in Bismarck (that is currently open, apparently they're opening yet another one. Damn it - Fargo needs an indoor range....) is only for rifles and pistols ranging from BB to .22

She got it when I pulled an old .22 shell I found in my truck out, and held it up next to a .45 ACP round. The "Oh Gee" amused me.

So - no range time. We did do some dry drills, and I can see that the 5 inch XD .45 might be a bit big for her hands. The first issue is weight, but that can be adjusted for and practiced with - the second and more difficult issue is that the double stacked mag means the pistol grip is a big thicker then she finds comfortable. She'd probably handle a single stack mag a bit easier. But part of this issue is also probably a general unfamiliarity with pistols. I think once she gets a chance to see it fired she'll catch on. I might look at picking up a .22 plinker (first because .22s are a hell of a lot cheaper) that she could also fire - to get a feel for things.

Apparently gun ownership is yet another on her list of things she 'wants to do' - for example, as I found out - my mother has a motorcycle license - which she apparently aquired last year. She doesn't own a motorcycle, and while I knew she liked them - this was news to me.

So, we're waiting to hear about the new range in Bismarck - our plans postponed, but not canceled.

On the subject of Mothers... mine apparently decided to finally bite the bullet on a new computer purchase. She has a rather tight budget - but its not horribly tight - and I've been leaning hard on the Mac angle. I'm not much of a Mac user myself - though I've pondered picking up a Macbook or similar when I get around to buying a Laptop again (I probably won't, but I've pondered it) - but for my mother, who considers IE her 'email' (hotmail is her homepage, and she seldom goes farther then that) who wants to do some light photo editing and has to write something in a word processor about once ever six to seven months - a Mac (specifically a MacMini) will probably serve her better then a PC.

My primary angle on this is the fact that my mother picks up an astounding amount of malware, spyware and virii. This is partly from her internet browsing habits (she is apt to randomly click on things most experienced web heads wouldn't touch with a twenty foot pole and a foolproof firewall) and partly from her insistance on opening every single attachement to every single forward she gets (which is most of her email - her friends and family like passing around random crap they find on the internet, which is usually infected, or picks things up along the way)

This of course has a seriously negative effect on the performance of her computer - and while I'll admit her PC is probably well past its prime (I built it almost 7 years ago, and even then on a shoestring budget) I spend as much time on her PC at home when I'm there cleaning up various problems that have cropped up as I do trying to keep up with my various net ramblings.

And its never very long after I've given her PC a clean bill of health that it starts all over again.

With luck, a MacMini will solve *many* of these problems - and the somewhat simplified user interface (Mac Owners will probably shoot me for calling OSX simple - but it can be) and one button mouse will finally give my mother what she wants from her computer. Something simple that she can use to keep up with email, do light word processing, and image modification - without the pesky need to have good net habits to keep computer performance in the green- since she seems to be absolutely resistant to learning them.

My brother doesn't think I should "dumb it down for Mom" like that - but then, Bro doesn't live in the same state anymore or have to field tech support calls from family, so his opinion is less then valid. The Mini also fits Mom's want of having a reduced footprint for her computer - though she's also all for reducing cabling - which, no matter what route she takes, isn't really going to happen. I've finally gotten her to understand that part - so in the next week or so I'll be ordering a Mini for her. With luck she'll find it to her liking :)

(And not just because my rep is on the line)

And thats really all I have to report. I've had some random thoughts about the recent upswing of actual ocean going piracy (ARR MATEY!) I might turn into a post somewhere down the line, and an impending review of the latest Codex of Alera book once I finish reading it (of course first I have to recieve it... last time I pre-order a book online :P).

Jim Butcher is definately my favorite 'currently writing' author. I'll even throw in a shameless plug and say if you have any interest in either classic fantasy or 'urban' fantasy (think Anita Blake, with a hell of a lot less sex and more action) I really do recommend you take a look. He's got a pretty decent sized backlog now, and while none of the books are mindblowing in length - Butcher does tell a good story. Insert shameless web link - Now

There I go rambling again. I should probably get back to my worklist, it looks like theres a case in there I should be fixing... and then I need to do some writing for my Simms... and I'm out of Green Tea again, time for a trip to the break room.

*Wanders off*

-Jon