29 April 2008

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Doc Holiday said, "Take your time in a hurry" to describe how to win a gunfight.

Practicing at reduced speed will make you faster when you go full speed. But often full speed is slower than you think. There is a difference between going full speed and being rushed. When you are rushed you stumble, fumble, and are generally all thumbs.

When you go full speed you are going as fast as you can comfortably go.

Martial artists do this, soldiers do this, anyone trying to master a technique would do well to practice slow and increase speed only when it is comfortable.

EDIT:  This has been consistently my most viewed post ever.  Having gone through three more years of military service including a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan since writing it I can say that it still holds true.  DO NOT RUSH.  A lot of young NCO's and Officers like to "pile on the stress" during training to "simulate the stress of combat" and all it does is teach bad habits.  Train yourself to relax and perform the steps with efficient precision.   Train to relax, train to focus, train to muscle memory.  And when you are relaxed and calm and need to move fast, well you will move like lightening.

27 April 2008

Tactical knives

So I was discussing with a fellow soldier the benefits of various types of knife steels, and different brands of knives.

And he brought up Busse Combat. They make a fine knife, and the company has "spawned" two other "Busse Kin" companies, Scrapyard and Swamp Rat knives. All three companies use premium tool steels that are chosen for toughness and durability. These knives can really take a beating.

But they are also a pain to get. The wait list for a Busse knife is often measured in significant fractions of a year, same for Swamp Rat, and Scrapyard doesn't even have a wait list. If you don't order when a run by Scrapyard is announced you are SOL. These knives are so in demand that the used market costs more than the new market.

So if you can get one they will serve you well. If you can't then you need to look at alternatives.

One of the best alternatives is Fallkniven, they are a Swedish company that also uses premium tool steel and makes awesome knives. They are usually in the same price range as SOG fixed blade knives, but with slightly thicker blades and better steel. This puts them in the realm of "major purchase" for your average grunt, but only two to three times the cost of a Cold Steel depending on the model.

Truth be told a knife isn't the most important piece of kit we carry, but it does make life easier.

24 April 2008

Famine, Food, preparation.

So I have posted before about being prepared.

It seems prudent at this time to begin stocking up on preserved foodstuffs.

Canned and dried are good options. Frozen is a good option too if you can generate your own power.

The very worst thing that can happen is that you might need what you prepared. The best thing that can happen is that you don't.

Stock up on ammo as well.

23 April 2008

The libertarian/conservative/republican difference.

Libertarians are social liberal fiscal conservative policy conservative.

Conservatives are social conservative fiscal conservative policy conservative.

Republicans are social conservative fiscal liberal policy liberal.

Remember that there is an exception to every rule, including this one.

At least from my perspective, the programs set up by the Republicans that erode away the constitutional guarantees of due process, speedy trial, free speech, are not conservative policy. In fact based on performance the only difference between Democrats and Republicans is their social stand. Democrats being social liberal, fiscal liberal, policy liberal.

What this means is that a libertarian is going to be opposite of nearly every issue than the Republican party, and only loosely aligned with the Democrat party stance on social issues. The libertarian response is "leave it alone, it's not a government issue" and the Democrats usually respond with "more regulation".

Legislating our culture with things like "sin taxes" and extra special "hate crime" punishments is a bad idea. And who champions "sin taxes" and "hate crime laws"? Well that depends, but lately it's been Democrats trying to appear tough on crime or trying to "protect the civil liberties of minorities" (pandering for votes). Which means that the Libertarians (and similar minded independents) have pretty much been abandoned by both parties.

Which is why people are saying, "I'm voting for McCain, but I don't like it one damn bit."

He's a guy who has "reached across the aisle" to give us crap like McCain-Feingold. It seems that both parties can support restrictions on free speech. Oh wait, if there are restrictions on it then exactly how free is it?

20 April 2008

Napolean Dynamite.

I don't get it.

Famous Grouse

Famous Grouse is the most popular Scotch in Scotland, by bottles sold.

So I bought a bottle.

It has a nice peat flavor with a strong pine resin note. Good Scotch.

Scotch scotch lovey dovey scotchy scotch.

Scandinavian Knives

In my ongoing quest for the perfect knife I started getting interested in more traditional knives. It makes sense if you want a knife that has been refined over the centuries that you might use traditional knives.

More modern designs are sometimes a mixed bag of high tech engineering and "tacticool" crap. The best thing to ever come out of modern knife design are ergonomically designed handles that prevent hand fatigue.

If you want a good BIG knife for chopping, get a Kukri. It chops almost as well as a hatchet but has the utility of a knife. Cost ranges from under 20 to well into the hundreds. Here is a link for anyone who is interested in using a Kukri in the woods. http://www.m4040.com/Survival/Ghurka/Khukri%20Modification.htm

If you want a good small to medium knife then it is hard to beat any of the Scandinavian knives. Good knives can be had for under 20 dollars and prices go up from there. Norwegian, Swedish, or Finn knives are all good hard working knives. Even Cold Steel got into the act with their made in Taiwan "Finn Bear". Mora knives are particularly popular with the survivalist crowd.

If you take those two knives into the woods you'll be better equipped than the Ninja who carries only a modern fighting knife.

A utility knife, Swiss Army or MultiTool style can round out your survival set. After all there are a whole lot of chores that involve tools other than blades.

19 April 2008

Feminism and Browncoats

From Firehand at Irons in the Fire I came across a modern "feminists" views on Joss Whedon's firefly. http://shrinkwrapped.blogs.com/blog/2008/04/on-firefly-and.html

I happen to be a fan of Whedon's work, having watched every episode of Buffy and Firefly. What makes Joss Whedon a feminist is that his female characters are NOT victims.

Think about that for a moment.

When you choose your own destiny who is victimizing you? People have called me a brain washed baby killer but their anti-military words and actions DO NOT CHANGE the fact that I am who I am and have chosen the life I lead.

I am empowered no matter how two dimensional someone else views me. The main female characters; Zoe, Kaylee, and Inara, have all chosen their place in life

The only possible victim in Firefly is River. River had her brain played with, but we see her becoming the focal character as she regains her footing and begins to empower herself. River also evolves into a badass with the help and support of the rest of the crew. She becomes empowered.

The complex relationships that go on in Joss Whedon's stories seems to be lost on "alecto", but that's ok, if it was easy enough for everyone to get I probably wouldn't enjoy it so much.

Numbers are Meaningless without labels

Two of the articles I've linked have quoted Robert Zoellick and some statistics he's thrown out there.

World Bank president Robert Zoellick noted last week that world food prices had risen 80% over the past three years, and warned that at least 33 countries face social unrest as a result.

"In just two months," Zoellick said in his speech, "rice prices have skyrocketed to near historical levels, rising by around 75 percent globally and more in some markets, with more likely to come. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice ... now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family."
The price of wheat has jumped 120 percent in the past year, he said -- meaning that the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food.


Everybody ready for a math lesson?

Let's take currency A, and for sake of argument we will name it the "T0ller". The Taller is the currency of a "First World, Industrialized Nation". Now let's currency B, and for sake of argument we will name it the "Pira" and have it come from some third world camel humping hellhole.

Let's set the exchange rate between the Toller and the Pira at 1 to 100 for ease of math. So it takes 100 Pira to make one Toller. If the price of bread "goes up" by 50% then we can easily calculate the price in Toller or Pira, 1.5 Toller, 150 Pira. Everybody with me?

Now let's talk about what happens when that exchange rate starts to fluctuate. On monday it could be 1:100, but that doesn't mean that it will stay that way. On Wednesday it could be 1:200. If we do the same math problem of a 50% increase, bread is still 1.5 Toller but now it is 300 Pira. That's not a 50% increase over the cost of bread on Monday from the perspective of someone with Pira in their hands, it's a 200% increase. All because the exchange rate changed slightly over time. This becomes really important when something made in the land of Tollers has to cross borders and be sold in Pira.

So which is the correct perspective? The 50% increase or the 200% increase? It really depends on how you want to sway your argument.

This is why numbers are meaningless without labels. Exchange rates can easily inflate your numbers for dramatic effect. I went to school with Hippies who absolutely LOVED unlabeled percentages to shore up a lame argument. Learning a little economic aikido will let you fend off the attacks of percentage voodoo.

More Famine news

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1730107,00.html?xid=feed-cnn-topics&iref=werecommend

The author of this article was doing a great job until the last two paragraphs.

The social theories of Karl Marx were long ago discarded as of little value, even to revolutionaries. But he did warn that capitalism had a tendency to generate its own crises. Indeed, the spread of capitalism, and its accelerated industrialization and wealth-creation, may have fomented the food-inflation crisis — by dramatically accelerating competition for scarce resources. The rapid industrialization of China and India over the past two decades — and the resultant growth of a new middle class fast approaching the size of America's — has driven demand for oil toward the limits of global supply capacity. That has pushed oil prices to levels five times what they were in the mid 1990s, which has also raised pressure on food prices by driving up agricultural costs and by prompting the substitution of biofuel crops for edible ones on scarce farmland. Moreover, those new middle class people are eating a lot better than their parents did — particularly more meat. Producing a single calorie of beef can, by some estimates, require eight or more calories of grain feed, and expanded meat consumption therefore has a multiplier effect on demand for grains. Throw in climate disasters such as the Australian drought and recent rice crop failures, and you have food inflation spiraling so fast that even the U.N. agency created to feed people in emergencies is warning that it lacks the funds to fulfill its mandate.
The reason officials such as Zoellick are sounding the alarm may be that the food crisis, and its attendant political risks, are not likely to be resolved or contained by the laissez-faire operation of capitalism's market forces. Government intervention on behalf of the poor — so out of fashion during globalization's roaring '90s and the current decade — may be about to make a comeback
.

The price of oil has more to do with the price of food than the mythical idea that biofuel crops are raising the cost of food. The author states that this isn't a lack of food, "there is food on the shelves but people can't afford to buy it" is contained within the very same article.

Money is many things, but what it really boils down to is time and energy. You can walk from Seattle to Portland using your own energy for really cheap, or you can pay Greyhound to bus you the same distance, or pay Alaska Airlines for a hopper flight from Seatac to PDX. Each option uses a different amount of energy, and has a correspondingly different cost requirement.

Transporting food is no different than transporting people. Except that most food doesn't have it's own legs or any desire to transport itself for consumption.

But the author of this article, Tony Karon, doesn't really understand what is going on. He writes that food prices have gone up "80%" and oil prices are five times what they were in the 1990's. That means that food prices are not keeping up with oil prices, after all 5 times is also 500%. So if a loaf of bread cost a dollar and a barrel of crude cost twenty dollars now the loaf of bread costs a buck eighty and the oil costs one hundred. Numbers are meaningless without labels, and it is poor journalism to not have those labels.

This isn't a famine because we can't grow enough food, it's a famine because the cost of transporting food to impoverished areas makes the food too costly for the poor. Why the hell Tony had to invoke the tired rhetoric of Marx makes me wonder what his point really was. And why the heck did he try to blame biofuel when biofuel is supposed to be a step away from dependence on oil, which is what is driving prices up in the first place?

So at the end of his article he seems to be calling for more government intervention. Tony, is this the same government intervention that subsidizes ethanol production? You can't have one without the other. The laissez-faire free market WILL find a way to get goods to market for cheaper, after all that is what the free market is all about.

I have never seen a government program figure out how to do something "cheaper". I'm ok with people rioting for food in other countries, because it seems that every country listed in the article has tried some form of socialism or dictatorship, the most "intervention oriented" forms of government known to man. Free market economies are not having this problem, so it is a problem of development and not scarcity.

If it really comes down to a famine, where the supply simply cannot meet demand, then no "government intervention" will solve the problem. The only thing the "government" can do then is ration so that some die and some don't.

17 April 2008

War Famine Plague and Death

War: Global War on Terror.

Famine: Food costs increase to the point of subsidizing bread in Egypt. Rioting in third world.

Plague: Flu vaccine ineffective, bees die off mysteriously, bats suffer from "white nose" fungal infection and die off.

Death, Earthquakes, killing sea lions, blah blah blah yada yada....

Not exactly the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but interesting juxtaposition of headlines I've read lately.

Molon Labe

The other day I noticed a Tab underneath the top flap of one of my soldiers left shoulder pocket when he pulled out a notebook.

It was a lot longer than a "Ranger" or "Sapper" tab, too long to even be a "Special Forces" tab. Some soldiers put the tab they are trying to earn under the pocket flap as a "Drive On" tab, a reminder to keep going when things get tough.

I thought perhaps it was a "President's Hundred" tab, but I had to inspect it closer.

"Molon Labe" An unauthorized tab bearing the famous words attributed to Leonides.

I laughed. "Come and get them", I didn't need to say more than that because one gun guy to another, we all know the meaning and sentiment.

"Molon Labe" could also be translated (loosely) as "From my cold dead hands".

16 April 2008

Knife Comparison: Cardboard

Since moving into our "new" house the number of brown cardboard boxes has accumulated as we unpack.

Getting rid of these packaging containers is easy enough, carve them down into manageable chunks and burn in the fireplace, turning waste into heat. A win win.

So far I've used a couple different knives for this task.

A Gerber Paraframe folder, a Buck 119 special. A Camillus Pilot Survival Knife, and now a Benchmade Nimravus.

Worst knife, the Gerber Paraframe. The edge didn't last very long and the handle gave me a blister.

Next worst a tie between the Camillus and Buck. Both of these have Bowie style blades that are just too thick to easily get through the cardboard without binding. Both of these knives produced a lot of tearing. Good points for handle design, both are large enough to really put some elbow grease into the job. These are good general purpose field knives.

The best (so far) is the Benchmade. The 154CM steel holds an very well. As a side note ATS34 and 145CM are interchangeable as far as a knife user is concerned. The handle is simply "canvas micarta" slabs fixed to the the blade. The blade is thinner than every other knife save for the Gerber so it slid through the cardboard with much less effort on my part. This is a pretty light knife, but I am looking forward to giving it a shot in the field.

Hopefully some Cold Steel knives will arrive soon so I can see how they work.

14 April 2008

Percentages are meaningless without context

World Food Prices Skyrocket

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/04/14/world.food.crisis/index.html

If food prices rise 120% that tells you absolutely nothing without the context of price, wages, inflation or deflation, etc.

The article linked doesn't give us a concrete sense of exactly what the numbers mean.

That means either the author is deliberately trying to mislead you into believing that things are going to hell in a hand basket, or they are incompetent.

Either way, propaganda or incompetence, I expect more from those who would fashion themselves dispassionate reporters of truth. Then again, most reporters AREN'T dispassionate reporters of truth, they are liberal crusaders out to change the world.

Just don't call it progress

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,351201,00.html

"The Iraqi army stormed the house and overcame my guards and they burst through the door," Butler said. "I had my hood on which I had to have on all the time and they shouted something at me and I pulled my hood off."

They are being trained by the best America has to offer. A functioning society doesn't form over night, nor does a highly effective military.

People seem to forget that the average American unit trained for over two years before it ever saw combat in WWII.

We have the munitions and people, do we have the time?

13 April 2008

Tactical Gear

I've blogged about this before, but it seems that the marketing departments everywhere have convinced the gullible that "Tactical" means the absolute best.

Is a Randall knife better than the Cold Steel UWK clone? Sure it is, you bet. One is a handmade work of art the other is a mass produced made in China copy.

Can your average grunt afford a Randall? No. Can your average grunt afford a Cold Steel knife? Yes.

So what do you see grunts carrying? They carry what they can afford that does the job they need it to do. There is a wealth of knives that cost under 50 dollars that all do the job.

The SOG Seal Pup is available at the PX for 49.95, a K-Bar for 32, a Camillus pilot survival knife for 22, a Cold Steal SRK for 49.95, a Buck Nighthawk for 35. These are all tough field knives that will do the job.

It's kinda like how all my Joes carry Springfield 1911s instead of Kimber's. It is what they can afford.

Just because something is called "tactical" doesn't make it any better or worse than another product but you should do your homework. Except for S&W brand knives, those are complete trash with a good marketing department. And pretty much anything else sold by Big5 or sportsmansguide.com.

Do your homework, buy quality once instead of crap multiple times. It'll save you money in the long run.

12 April 2008

Stolen military gear on eBay

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/04/10/military.loot/index.html

We have an Army that is fighting in multiple theaters and now gear is turning up on eBay and Craigslist. This is not news. Military gear has been showing up all over the place for YEARS now.

What is, or may become, news is how the military conducts inventories and equipment accountability. Units have property books and are required to conduct monthly "10 percent" inventories as well as periodic "100 percent" inventories.

Each major item is signed for, such as a vehicle, weapon, or Night Optic Device. Each major item also has subcomponents that make it complete, such as the "skullcrusher" head mount and rhino mount for NODs. Normally these subcomponents are "class 9" and are expected to break with regular use, so it isn't a big deal to order them as a replacement part.

Which means somehow a NOD, specifically a PVS-7, ended up on eBay means that somehow that particular item fell off the books. This can happen in a number of ways, they could get lost in combat and a combat loss statement dropped the item off the books. Say PV2 Snuffy bought the farm in Iraq and the unit couldn't find his NODs because he loaned them to SPC Beltbuckle for a mission and he took an IED blast to the head and can't exactly remember things clearly. The NODs are still in Army control, but no one in leadership knows where they are so they sign off on the combat loss. SPC Beltbuckle comes back to the states, ETS's and finally opens up the assault pack he personally owns to find a set of PVS-7's.

Another situation is where someone working at a direct support unit assembles a working NOD from several broken systems. Since the broken ones were "coded out" then the working system never existed.

There are opportunities for equipment to leave the military where we leaders just can't figure out how it got out there because our paperwork is all in order. But this is true of ANY large organization. Just imagine the IT department of a large corporation. By selectively pulling parts from broken or outdated computers they could assemble enough PC's to sell online at pure profit to themselves.

I don't believe that there is a widespread problem with servicemembers defrauding the military, the consequences of getting caught are not worth the risk. But maybe CNN does, after all their URL contains "military.loot".

11 April 2008

Live fire exercise

This week my company went to the woods, set up a live fire range, and ran fire teams through it so they could practice working as a maneuver element with real bullets.

I told this to my wife, who grinned and said, "Awwww, you REALLY DO dress up and go play soldier!"

Jesus said "A prophet gets no respect in his hometown." (I'm paraphrasing, forgive me)

Evidently a soldier gets no respect from his spouse. But it's ok, I love her dearly.

06 April 2008

Chinese Ammo

This isn't new news, but I've been pondering it over the last few days.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,342268,00.html?sPage=fnc/politics/pentagon


Evidently this guy contracted to supply the Afghan military with 7.62x39 ammunition. He supplied some Chinese ammunition in shoddy packaging, somebody starts questioning the quality of the ammo and next thing you know all the bruhaha is on foxnews.

First off Chinese ammunition has been supplied to the Afghans before, in flipping HUGE quantities during the Soviet invasion. Evidently when the CIA supplies Chinese ammo it's ok, but when a contractor does it it's not ok. I understand that if the contract specified Hungarian ammunition he was in breech of contract for that issue, but the ammunition is good ammo.

If you haven't read "Charlie Wilson's War" you really ought to put it on the queue.

And if you have an AK or SKS you might want to invest into some commie ammo, it lasts a dang long time and always goes "bang" when you pull the trigger. Prices are only going to go up.

Congressman Adam Smith

So a few weeks back I blogged about "no knock" warrants causing both innocent people and police to die and I wrote my representative. If you haven't, I urge you to write your congresscritter and express concern over wartime military tactics being used in domestic law enforcement.

It amazed me to no end that I got a call from Smith's office concerning my email contact. I don't expect that any legislation will come from this, at least not from just my email. But the Constitution guarantees us the right to be secure within our homes.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Having a warrant doesn't mean you can just bust in and violate the security of a home.

But treating "shall not be violated" and "shall not be infringed" are evidently no longer guarantees that we can keep the government out of your personal life.

Contact your congresscritter, let us work to bring back civil rights to this country.

04 April 2008

Winchester pre-64 model 70

Well today I bought my Grandfathers rifle, wouldn't have it given to me. It's in "poor" condition with some surface rust from years of hunting, but the bore is bright and the action is smooth.

The rifle was built in 1951, chambered for 270 Win. This is the rifle that Jack O'Connor made so popular. Only a few of the hunting stories have been passed down to my ears, men in my family are pretty good story tellers but somehow those stories didn't make it down.

This was the first true "big game" rifle I ever shot.

Somehow it saddens me. Like a once great lion made weak by age we all succumb to time eventually. Someday I too will pass on my weapons to a younger generation.

Shaving

When I began to grow whiskers I ended up with the blue goo from a can and a cartridge razor. Truth be told they did a decent job and only rarely would I ever cut myself. But the shave was not what you could call "close".

So a while back I "discovered" double edge safety razors and since then have been working to master the traditional "wet shave" technique. The steps can be as elaborate as you want.

Step one, stubble preparation. Stubble that has been soaking for a bit will be softer and easier to shave than dry stubble, so I normally splash warm water across my face for a good minute or two. When I'm feeling very good I'll shave right after a shower.

Step two, lathering up. The best way to apply the shaving lubricant is with a brush, and the experts recommend Badger hair, but if you are philosophical/religious convictions about animal products there are synthetic shaving brushes. The brush allows the lather to coat each hair which helps them stand upright for cutting.

Step three, shaving. This is where shaving with a DE razor or straight razor is different from a disposable or cartridge razor, you feel the blade slide across your skin. You don't have to press hard at all, the blade slices through the stubble like a hot knife through butter. Press hard and you will bleed. The technique takes a little time to master, but soon you'll enjoy a closer shave than you've ever had.

Step four, skin recovery and cleanup. Rinse all the lather off your face, pat or air dry, add some aftershave and rinse off your brush and razor.

03 April 2008

Field Time

Got back today from a short stay in the field. Just us officers out having some quality bonding time going over Troop Leading Procedures, battle drills, squad and platoon missions.

And we got some time out in "The Suck".

There was this valley with a creek running through it. Officers who have been in the Army at least as long as I were amazed at how thick the vegetation got. I grew up in Washington so I'm a little more familiar with how impassible some of the terrain can get. Although no terrain is truly impassible for someone with enough time and proper resources.

A sniper or scout team would have had no problem with that terrain. 6 men maximum with lots of time to take care choosing a quiet route. We couldn't maneuver an assault force simply because as more people get involved, things get more complicated and harder to control and coordinate.

Pretty good training all things considered.