31 December 2008

Eotech HWS

Part of keeping an Infantry Company up and running is having a good handle on maintenance. A while back my armorers tagged all of the deadlined (in other words, broke) optics. Two ACOGs and four Eotech Holographic Weapon Sight.

The box of broke crap has been sitting in my office for a month now as I tried to find time to get to that particular chore.

Monday I got the Return Authorization for the ACOG's and shipped them back to Trijicon.

Today I pulled out the Eotechs and actually started reading the fault tags. The faults were as simple as "will not turn on" and "Battery connectors missing".

I was able to canabalize the one REALLY broken Eotech for parts to fix one of the other three, and used two paper clips to fix the remaining two. I feel pretty good about myself right now, but I'm also kind of disappointed in my armorers. Part of their job is to actually FIX problems like this so that I don't have to deal with them. However two of them are Infantrymen who have never had an electronics repair course in their life, and the other is a supply clerk who also lacks electronics repair training.

Anyways my field expedient paper clip repair will work until we can order new battery boxes from Eotech, along with a mounting crossbar. Thank goodness Eotech listed the National Stock Number for each part on their websight so it makes it easy for me to order.

Government health care

I can't believe that anyone still buys into the idea of Government run health care, or even Government run health insurance. With the debacle that is the UK health system, and the unreasonably long wait lists in Canada, and our own VA health system, there are just no good examples to encourage anyone from wanting Government run health care.

Monday I pulled Staff Duty Officer for the Brigade. It's a 24 hour duty cycle, and you are just basically on call to cover issues that come up, and if necessary inform the real command group if something serious happens.

On monday night we had a soldier found seizing in the barracks latrine. His buddies did the right thing and rushed him to the ER where he was admitted. Since I was the duty officer it fell on me to go find out exactly what the situation was, and whether or not we needed to wake people up.

The kid, all of nineteen years old, started having seizures a few months ago, and was put on medication that controlled the condition. He ran out of medication, and when he tried to get his prescription filled was told that the pharmacy needed 3 working days to fill that prescription.

Since this medication is something that the kid is stuck with for the rest of his life, the doctor who prescribed it just issued out a big bottle of pills and gave him dosage instructions. So the kid only knew he was running out of meds when the bottle got close to empty. Gotta love Army doctors, really good at patient education there. So he tries to get a refill, and was basically told "next week" because of the holiday schedule the pharmacy was running on.

So not only does the kid run out of his meds, but he has nearly a week long lapse. And so his buddy found him foaming at the mouth rattling around inside a bathroom stall. Then he went to the ER, where the doc loaded him up on meds and sent him home after a night of observation.

Now, there are three things that I want everyone to take from this story. First, the original doctor didn't help the kid out with "here, take these, get them refilled when you run out". Second, the pharmacy didn't help the kid out with "we'll get to you sometime next week". And third, the cost of an ER visit could have totally been avoided if both the original Doc OR the pharmacy had done a better job.

It is true that this case is not completely representative of the military health care system, but things like this keep popping up often enough to keep it fresh in my mind that government run health care is not the solution to whatever problem people think it is.

My wife has worked in the health care field for a decade and she knows that doctors aren't as perfect as the public expects. Every primary care provider has to make a decision based on the available evidence in a very short period of time to be able to see enough patients a day to keep their practice afloat. Now the vast majority of cases are situations where the patient will get better even if they never came to the clinic, but it is a statistically significant minority that gets misdiagnosed.

It isn't that doctors aren't good at what they do, the vast majority of docs are very good at what they do. It is that doctors aren't perfect. One of the reasons that I like "House" is that it shows the deliberation process that doctors will go through to come to a diagnosis, and that the diagnosis isn't always correct the first, second, or even third time. And getting to the bottom of a complicated issue takes a lot of time, and a lot of money. This is why my friend with a kidney infection was repeatedly sent away with ibuprofen for back pain (he finally just went to a civilian ER and a civilian doctor actually listened to him and figured out what was wrong). This is why one of our soldiers wives ended up in the ICU at Tacoma General, the docs on post just couldn't figure out what was wrong.

If government gets into healthcare, it will be fine for the people who really don't need health coverage anyways. It will never meet the needs of those who need it most.

29 December 2008

What is precious.

While listening to NPR a while back an interview with Bill O'Reilly struck a nerve.

O'Reilly also uses his new book to identify what he calls a central failing
of President Bush's term in office: Rich Guy Syndrome.
"The Rich Guy Syndrome
is, 'It's always going to work out, because it always has worked out, because we
have money.' So you get in trouble, you buy your way out."
That thinking was
not a good fit for finding solutions to problems in Iraq or the economy,
O'Reilly said. According to him, someone with a different background would have
had a greater sense of urgency in dealing with those obstacles. "Maybe a Barack
Obama will," O'Reilly said. "I hope he will."

So this idea "Rich Guy Syndrome" really isn't limited to the "Rich". To tell you this I have to tell the story of my dog.

My wife wanted a Yorkshire Terrier. I told her that if she could find one for free that we could get it. Lo and behold she found a 6 month old Yorkie puppie that needed a good home, her owner was getting married to a guy who refused to have a dog. And so Lexus came to live with us.

Yorkshire Terriers are an interesting breed, they are big dog personality packed into a teeny tiny package. They are great alarm dogs even if very poor guard dogs. Through discipline and affection we got her housebroken and relatively well behaved. After a few years I went back to Georgia for the whole OCS/IOBC/Ranger school experience and my wife moved down there, brought the dog, and we lived happily. Until about 14 months ago when Lexus developed pancreatitis.

My solution was to throw money at the vet and pray that everything came out all right. Part of that praying that everything came out all right was recognizing that sometimes the right thing is for life to end. There is a natural time for each of us to exit this planet, and no amount of money, medicine, or prayer can change that. I don't want to sound cold hearted, the feelings of anger at my own powerlessness and frustration were intense. I couldn't make my puppy better, I couldn't dry my wifes tears fast enough.

What I could do was throw money at the problem. I'm not rich, and even rich people know that money is a finite resource. They only time to throw money at a problem is when the reward is worth it. Whether you invest heavily in a new invention, or throw money at your company to get it through a lean period, the potential is that all your efforts may be in vain.

My puppy got better, her picture is my profile photo. But, I was prepared to stop throwing money at her problem if it became obvious that it was futile. Part of being responsible is knowing when to let go, and accepting the pain that comes from the loss.

Now getting back to Bill O'Reilly's hope that Obama would do things differently than GWBush. Obama is just as much a child of priviledge as Bush. Yes there is a difference in how much money daddy had, but they both went to prestigious schools, both had no problem with others opening doors for them, using their connections to get what they want. From my perspective Obama suffers from "Rich Guy Syndrome" every bit as much as GWBush. Throwing money at a problem can solve it, but not always.

Just take a look at where he wants to throw money. Yes GWBush flushed money down the toilet that is Iraq, but Obama wants to flush money down the toilet that is socialism. Spending money here isn't the answer, building wealth here is the answer. That is the difference between Eisenhower, Reagan and FDR. Eisenhower invested in roads which helps trade, which helps build wealth. Reagan invested in wealth in the form of research and development (never underestimate the spin off benefits from pure research). FDR invested in parks.

But "building wealth" isn't a soundbyte friendly platform. Ever think that Obama is the anti-Reagan? Many are calling for a "re-investment" into infrastructure; roads, bridges, etc. But now that is really a maintenance cost, not an investment. The best thing that Obama could do is invest in research and development. If the US can maintain a technological edge we will continue to see benefits. If we can't, we won't.

28 December 2008


RobertaX has been having some problems with a religious/philosophical argument spilling over into the comment section of her blog.

Here is a quick guideline for internet etiquette.

If you disagree with someone on the internet, you aren't going to win the argument. At most all you can do is find neutral territory and argue until you are tired of arguing. Some forums have specific subforums just for idiots to go bash each other with words.

Blogs are not neutral ground, the blog owner can always have the last word. So be respectful and polite.

Posting anonymously is automatically disrespectful. If you have to log in as "guest" or "anonymous" then sign using your handle at the end of your post or comment. Take credit for the words you thought were important enough to say. The internet is anonymous enough, pick a handle and stick with it.

Threats are stupid and immature. Telling me that I wouldn't say something in real life because I'd "get my ass beat" is both overestimating my intelligence and underestimating other peoples tolerance for exercising the right of free speech.

Name calling is also stupid and immature. I named the blog "AmericanMercenary" precisely because there are those out there who have tried to insult me with the title "mercenary". That and "AmericanBabyKiller" didn't have that "professional" ring to it, ya know? If you call someone a "Nazi" then they had better fact be a card carrying Nazi and proud of it. If you call someone a mouth breathing booger eater, well that's just uncalled for.

Spelling and grammar count. My retarded fingers make mistakes, sometimes I misuse hominyms, but I'm working on it.

If you can follow these simple guidelines then you will not have any problems on the internet.

Camoflauge basics

When you are trying to hide, remember the four S's. Shape, Shine, Silhouette, and Shadow. Notice that "Color" isn't one of the categories, as long as you are using earth tones you should be just fine. You aren't trying to fool the environment, you are trying to fool the brain of someone observing the environment. You want to seem so in place that you aren't "out of place".

Your eye will notice movement before shape, shape before silhouette, and silhouette before color. There are exceptions, such as a blaze orange hunting vest. Things that are designed to be seen usually work because they are automatically "out of place".

But when you are trying to blend in you don't want to have geometric shapes such as round optic lenses in the open. You'll want to dull anything that is reflective such as exposed skin, or metal surfaces. Break up your silhouette by having a few bushes between you and the area you are observing, or incorporate natural vegetation to break up the edges. Finally shadow, use shade to your advantage, avoid casting a large shadow.

If you can obey the four "S's" then you will be able to avoid detection by the vast majority of human beings. Maybe I should add a fifth "S" for "Stay Still" but you can move as long as it is slow and deliberate, keeping substantial vegetation between you and your target.

And remember, hide with pride.

27 December 2008

Gear updates

Well I've successfully transitioned to Ubuntu as my primary operating system, still keeping Vista on the hard drive for those MS only applications that seem to randomly pop up in life.

But, I hooked up the wife's camera to the laptop to see what Ubuntu would do, and behold it has it's own photo manager.

Here is an update on the Scrapyard Yard Guard knife.

The finish has started to wear off from splitting firewood. The gutted 550 cord handle wrap I put on to fit my big paws has started to loosen, but it doesn't need to be replaced just yet. The edge from the factory was very obtuse, good only for chopping. It took a bit of time with sandpaper and a diamond stone to reprofile the edge to something that would also slice. The now thinned convex edge slices nicely and edge retention is very good, now it is on par with the Ranger RD-9 in 5160 steel. I made a sheath for it out of an empty oil bottle, torn pair of jeans, and some 30 minute epoxy. It's ugly, but it holds the knife securely and the lessons I learned in making the sheath will make the next sheath better.

Splitting firewood isn't something that you really need to do in a wilderness situation unless you need to get to dry wood. But it gives me a relatively tough chore to figure out how my knives handle and perform.

The last time I posted pictures of the Savage it was fully assembled but without a coherent finish. So here is the update.

The purpose of the "oregono" base cote and splotches of "nutmeg" isn't to make a the rifle disappear in any specific environment. The purpose is to make it adaptable to a large range of environments. I chose paints that had a bit more reflection than flat paint because I want to see how that works verses the flat krylon technique that most of the snipers I know use. So far the results have been pretty positive, not that a semi gloss paint is superior to flat paint, but that it is just as good. Then again a camo job usually does more for the shooters ego than anything else, but I really needed to paint this stick to hide all the mismatched surface colors and textures from the different components.

26 December 2008

Elite equipment or elite skills?

COL Cooper said, "Good shooting will make up for poor gear, but good gear will not make up for poor shooting."

Sometimes good gear is better. Better craftsmanship, better reliability, better accuracy, whatever measurable metric you use to measure "better" means that sometimes you just can't compete without good gear. But what is right for one job may not be the tool you need for another. You don't show up to shoot benchrest with grandpa's 30-30, nor do you really want to carry a single shot Palma rifle with 30 inch barrel on your black bear hunt through the devil club thickets of Alaska.

A few years back Massad Ayoob wrote and article "Cheap Guns are Good Enough" where he analyzed the performance of his custom guns verses inexpensive off the shelf guns.

So why did COL Cooper and Massad Ayoob come to the conclusion that "poor gear" and "cheap guns" are perfectly adequate? Because they are.

Training will be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. But you can't pull out your "skillz" card to impress random strangers. You can pull out a great item of equipment and get a positive reaction. Unfortunately you really don't want to be the type of person that needs to impress other people.

I'll be honest, when someone walks up to me when I'm in uniform and feels the need to tell me that they "were a SEAL in 'nam" or "SF in Laos" I immediately come to the conclusion that they are lieing. On the flip side the guy who tells me that he was a "hull technician" in the Navy or "Electronics Maintainer" in the Air Force I immediately believe. There are not a lot of glamorous jobs in the military, most are just jobs with a daily grind.

Back when I was a young lad, my friends and I would argue over what was the "best" or "most powerful" martial art. Whether a wrestler was better than a black belt in jujitsu, whether karate was better than kung fu. Now there is "MMA" everywhere, and it turns out that it really doesn't matter what school you studied, either you are a FIGHTER or you AREN'T. Having a black belt means that you can teach the style, not that you are a fighter.

It isn't the martial art, it isn't the gun, it is the fighter. Consistant training is necessary, and suitable equipment is an asset, but at the end it is the person that counts.

25 December 2008

I love my wife.

I've been kind of bitten by the horology bug, I absolutely love timepieces.

So I was tickled pink when my lovely wife gave me this:

As far as I can find out, the movement is Japanese. I love skeleton watches because I love seeing how things work.

I love my wife, because she knows me so well.

24 December 2008

Men Bashing

I made the mistake of reading Dr. Helen and Rachel Lucas in the same afternoon, and now I feel compelled to comment on their words. http://www.rachellucas.com/index.php/2008/08/19/not-all-children-are-annoying-some-are-dead/ and http://drhelen.blogspot.com/search/label/Male%20Bashing

Hat tip to Breda.

I went to a blatantly liberal institute of higher learning, The Evergreen State College. As a graduate I am supposed to know that the white male is the sole cause of evil in the world. Never mind all the progress that men have put forth in every science, success means we caused the problems that our success aimed to cure.

But here's the rub. No one would be out from under the thumb of the white man if we didn't lift it willingly. For every act of oppression lifted it was never lifted by a minority seizing power, but by those in power choosing to act in a moral manner.

Yes the actions were immoral to begin with, but only when viewed through our current moral lens. One would think that women, blacks, etc, would express some sort of gratitude, but when was the last time any group expressed any sort of gratitude to another group?

It really doesn't matter, sexual politics are going to always be debated in public and successful couples will define their own relationships. A successful marriage is kind of like a casserole, only those involved in making it really know what goes into it.

Mastercard woes

Someone cloned my Mastercard and used it to purchase gasoline in New York. My bank contacted me today asking if I was in NY, so now my account is frozen pending the issue of another number.

Since I have only used my credit card twice in the last few months, both times at Best Buy, it seems that Best Buy may have a security problem.

'Tis the season....

10K, woot

Sometime this morning I had my 10 thousandths page view. Not exactly numbers that are really special in the blogosphere, but since it also happens to be Christmas Eve, I'm celebrating anyways.

Merry Christmas!

23 December 2008


Years and years ago, back when I was a wee soldier I emailed "Mad Ogre" about being cross dominant hand and eye. For the record I am left handed and right eyed. Being right eyed is lucky for me because every rifle in the inventory is setup for right eyed individuals. Ever since my relationship with George has been pretty much summed up in two emails, the occasional thread at TheFiringLine, and once when he posted my older Brother's email on his blog.

Now Don Gwinn has all done up and written a piece about the manliness of The MadOgre. Don's a nice guy, never met him in person, but I've followed his blog for a while. So when Don writes "I'm manly, don't get me wrong--but I'm not in that league. Neither are you, so don't get smug."

Ahem, I beg to differ on that point. Manliness isn't about how many of the enemy you kill, how many sons you sire, or medals on your chest. As much as fun as it would be to reference Madox's "The Alphabet of Manliness" the true definition of manliness is this; reliably competent.

It doesn't matter who the man is; fictional character or real life figure, the standard for manliness remains the same.

James Bond? Does the job, always delivers.
Audie Murphy? Did the job, always delivered.
You name it and the standard applies.

It isn't "what" you do, a fireman is no more manly than a cop or a Soldier. It is THAT you do something, that others rely on, and you do it well. And being a husband and father, two really tough jobs, reliably every day, with competent skills, is the ultimate measure of manliness.

And I have a feeling that if you ask George and Don about the most challenging things they do, husband and father will be at the top of the list. Normally I try to avoid putting words into other peoples mouths, but my own experience as a husband seems to be pretty typical.

So I would rate Don in the same level of manliness as George? Hell yeah.

The Buddy System

Everybody has a buddy, that's the rule in the Army. From the beginning of Basic Training the buddy system is indoctrinated into every recruit. "Two is one, one is none" is a good line from "GI Jane" that sums up the buddy system, another chestnut is "Strength in numbers".

Your odds of survival increase when you work with another person. This is why I prefer not to hunt alone. Sure I'm out there in the woods with my gun, commo gear (usually a cell phone plus a 2 way radio), knife, and sundry other essential items. I am an apex predator, but even an apex predator can have an accident such as a tree limb falls on my poor tender head. Or I slip and knock myself out on a rock.

I don't need a buddy for the things that I can do myself, I need a buddy for the things that I can't do, and he needs me to be able to do the same for him (or her).

The reason I bring this up is that the folks who don't believe that guns can stop crime always say "travel in groups, avoid dangerous places" and a bunch of other common sense advice. Guess what, the difference between my buddy and their buddy is the flipping gun and the mindset to use it.

My buddy is also an apex predator. We are like two lions prowling, a fierce team ready to respond to opportunities and threats. Or if you prefer, we are like two buffalo, happy to go about our business but always ready to stomp some threat into red paste.

If you are a sheep, and your buddy is a sheep, then traveling together really doesn't help. Sheep are easy to drive into a dangerous situation. Sheep lack the means to defend themselves. Even the mightiest Ram is poorly armed to defend himself and his own, his horns are for butting and pushing, not ripping and tearing.

So use the buddy system, it is good sound advice. But remember that the buddy system works best when both buddies are hunters, not prey.

After all, some predators use the buddy system too. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28358244/

22 December 2008

The Eskimo have 20 words for "snow"

And 19 of them are curse words.

It is an old joke, but like most things contains a grain of truth.

When snow started falling last week it was "dry powder" the light fluffy stuff that drifts softly. Two days ago "graupel" started falling with more moisture, it froze overnight and made a crunchy crust over the powder base. Now what was passable driving conditions have become dangerously slippery as water compacts with snow and freezes overnight into sheet ice.

Wish us luck as we drive a friend to the airport.

21 December 2008

Bushcraft knives

There are at least two widely agreed upon schools of thoughts on survival knives.

First school of thought: Carry the biggest, toughest, knife that you can. A big knife can do everything a small knife can but a small knife can't do everything a big knife can.

Second school of thought: A small knife, no bigger than a Scandanavian Puukko is all that you need. It's not the size it's how you use it. This is the "Bushcraft" school of thought.

And the bushcraft school of thought isn't exactly wrong, just that it doesn't tell the whole story. If you are only going to have ONE tool, that tool needs to do it all. A Puukko knife just doesn't cut it as a chopper, even though it is a fine slicer and piercer. If you combine the Puukko with a small axe then you have all bases covered; slicinging, piercing, and chopping. Something like this makes a lot of sense, http://www.gerber-tools.com/Gerber-Gator-Combo-Axe-22-49470.htm , since it gives you a medium knife and a small hatchet.

But if you are going to carry multiple tools, one of the popular methods is the "Nessmuk Trio". A small knife, a medium knife, and a hatchet or small axe. If you have a good quality pocketknife and a Gerber axe/knife combo then you have a pretty good variation on a Nesmuk trio.

But if you are only going to carry one tool, then you need a knife that chops, slices, pierces, and makes french fries in three different shapes. And that means a big knife. Something longer than six inches, weighty enough to chop, tough enough not to break. If you are looking for such a knife, I am happy to report that Justin Gingrich of Ranger Knives reached a deal with Ontario Knife Company and you can now buy a Ranger knife without having to wait. http://www.chestnutridgeknifeshop.com/ has Ready Detachment, Nightstalkers, and Afghans in stock. The Ready Detachment comes in blade lengths from 4 inches to 9 inches, and for a do it all, you'll wan't a blade length of at least 6 inches. The RD-7 is very popular. I don't get any money for endorsing Ranger Knives, just that I've been comparing the Scrapyard Yardguard against a Ranger RD-9 and am pleased as punch with the Ranger. Don't get me wrong, the Srapyard is a great knife, but it is more of a dedicated chopper than a real do it all knife.

Bottom line, "bushcraft knives" are great as part of a larger set of tools, but I wouldn't want to carry one as my only tool. Cold steel has come out with a new axe to compete with Gransfor Bruks, which looks really interesting.

Christmas Memories

Inspired by Brigid and Shrugged, here is a small list of Christmas memories.

Growing up my family didn't celebrate Christmas. My church was so conservative that anything festive such as a Christmas Tree was considered a false idol. My Christmas memories really don't start until I was 22 and had finished my first 4 years in the Army.

I'm not going to say that my brothers and sister were ever deprived of presents, I have an amazing set of parents who were always good about giving "just because" presents. But after I got married I got to be part of my wife's families Christmas traditions.

So here's a few good memories. My wife's Grandmother, Esther, got to see us get married, and have our first Christmas together, and that year I got my wife a printer. Not really romantic, but for a crafty woman like my wife it tickled her pink. Anyways every year since I got her some little computer part or upgrade to keep her going with the digital photography, scrapbooking, or whatever. It's kind of a tradition now, my Aunt gave my wife Photoshop. If you haven't heard of digital scrapping check out my wife's blog http://utopianrain.blogspot.com/ . I will admit to having a small ulterior motive, digital scrapping takes a LOT less room than physical scrapping.

Another tradition is "Christmas PJ's". When Grandma Esther passed away I kept on the tradition of giving my wife PJ's for Christmas. This year my little hunny bunny gets camoflagued flannel.

So even though I don't have a childhood that was filled with Christmas memories, I do have a pretty awesome life.

20 December 2008

Effects vs. Delivery System

Ever wonder why some weapons are "cool" and others are just "so-so"?

Lawdog opined eloquently about the difference between a gentlemen who carries a 38SPC revolver day in and day out, and a cop who doesn't practice. There is nothing special about a 38 Special revolver, but it is nowhere as "cool" as a Custom 1911 chambered for a hot rodded wildcat cartridge.

But I really don't get it, as long as a firearm is safe and reliable then "coolness" just doesn't matter for anything other than "bragging rights". But having something a little different must be a human trait or something.

For example, if you have a nifty looking H&K or FN firing 223, what is the flipping difference between your weapon systems effects and that of a lowly Saiga 223? The real difference is price I guess. Or the guy on thefiringline who had a 270 Win with chrome lined barrel (damn near impossible to shoot out) rebarreled to 257 Roberts Improved (barrel life of about 5,000), what the hell is the ballistic difference between those two? But there is something cooler about saying "Custom Mauser with Shilen barrel in 257 Improved" instead of "Mauser in 270".

There is no difference in effects, both put the lead downrange, and anyone one the receiving end of either isn't going to be able to tell the difference. Being a soldier I get told what gear I can use and issue to my men. But if I had a choice I would base the arms issued on the effects desired balanced against what is available.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy what you want, or modify your firearms the way you want, it's still a mostly free country. But think about what exactly that new firearm really DOES before you think about drooling over the latest and greatest unobtanium tactical thingummie.

Then again, maybe the firearms industry is driven totally by hype?

19 December 2008

Michael Newton: Mall Ninja Hero

It turns out that the "well respected firearms authority" that Mykal Banta mentioned was in fact the same author of the Mack Bolan pulp novel that I read on my last staff duty shift.


Notice the cover art, a H&K G36C, M145 Elcan sight (I know that Canadian troops use them on M4's, but Americans use them only for machine guns, the sight picture is abysmal when compared to an Aimpoint, EOTech, or ACOG), notice that the brass flying away from the wrong side of the rifle is PISTOL brass, notice that there is flame ejecting from the end of the suppressor (maybe the artist put the flame there so that people would really get the point that Mack is pulling the trigger). Also, who the hell fires from the hip?

I don't know who the cover artist is, but I am no more impressed by his work than I am by the author's work. Michael Newton as a firearms authority? He gets the specs correct, listed almost as if they are plagarized from "Jane's Gun Recognition Guide", but a complete FAIL when it comes to anything resembling tactical proficiency.

Mall Ninja Defense League Strikes Again

Another "Anonymous" comment.

AmericanMercenary: One shouldn't take such an elitist attitude toward the Mack Bolan adventure novels. I have found them often well written and often very exciting. While they will not suffice as a special forces training manual, I think to suggest same is to demonstrate an ignorance of their appeal to readers over the world.

Also, there is a team of writers that write this series of novels. All are professional writers that work in many genres. Some, like Mike Newton, are firearms experts and have written extensively on the subject. To call the author of the un-named novel you read a “hack writer" displays, again, an ignorance of the world of professional writing. Until you have written on a deadline, for a living, you haven’t got the right to call anyone a hack.

You have a small area of expertise, presumably military procedures and weapons, that you are using a yardstick to gauge the value of a book. I think this is terribly narrow minded, and to suggest that only teenage boys could appreciate Bolan seems, oddly, juvenile itself.

Oh wow. Where to begin.

The author(s) of the particular Mack Bolan novel were not even given credit on the inside cover, so I have no flipping clue who wrote that particular gem of pulp. Michael Newton did in fact write "Armed and Dangerous: a writer's guide to guns" but just because you get the facts correct about a particular firearm (which the author(s) of the Mack Bolan novel I read did) doesn't mean that the characters showed any flipping clue on HOW TO USE THOSE WEAPONS EFFECTIVELY.

So once again, we are back to some hack writer cranking out gun stats in the form of mall ninja porn with phrases like "capable of firing 3,000 rounds a minute" or "pulled the sniper rifle from his DUFFLE BAG".

I want one of those magical duffle bages that can hold a complete Dragunov sniper rifle and still fit on the floor of a car without interfering with the driver or passengers legs. Seriously, that would make going to the field so much easier.

Whether a pulp novel is "well written" or not is debateable, pretty much any modern word processing software will get rid of those pesky spelling errors and awkward phrases. So saying "well written" doesn't really MEAN anything.

"Fast paced thriller" means "short book".

And fundamentally that is the difference between the author(s) of Mack Bolan novels and Tom Clancy. Tom Clancy doesn't just get his equipment facts straight, he gets the tactics, techniques, and procedures correct as well.

I know that pulp novels aren't meant to do anything other than entertain. And if it is elitist of me to point out where entertainment divorces itself from reality, well then I am an elitist. Maybe I should adopt a French accent to go with the beret while I sip my overpriced cup of coffee whining about how life isn't fair.

So to anonymous, grow a pair of balls and start posting under a consistant handle so that your ignorance is exposed to the light of day, and start reading better books than "The Executioner" because it isn't any better for you than really bad TV. EDIT: Anonymous does in fact have a pair, thank you Mykal Banta for your honest in the face of my hostility.

As an F.Y.I. Special Forces training manuals are a crap ton more boring than any Mack Bolan novel, but that is the difference between textbooks and fiction.

Ubuntu Firefox Flash Fix

One of the trickier problems with64 bit Ubuntu 8.10 for for me was getting Flash applications to work across the many different websites that use different standards for data feeds.

Sometimes youtube would work, sometimes it wouldn't.

So I downloaded all the Adobe flash updates, all the Macromedia plugins... finally I got smart and right clicked on a broken Flash movie and chose "about" and found that for all my upgrades that swfdec0.8.0 was still the default Flash decoder/utility/plugin whatever you want to call it.

The only problem is that Mozilla Firefox doesn't manage swfdec as a plugin, you have to uninstall it via a terminal or package manager like Synaptic. On a whim I uninstalled swfdec and low and behold, Firefox can now make use of the plugins, and I can successfully navigate Flash intensive sites like scifi.com

Easy fix after days of work.

17 December 2008

Snowed in, sorta

Western Washington is not exactly known for white winters. Every couple of years a mass of arctic air will come down and dump a few days worth of snow on us and then we go back to a soul crushing season long drizzle. Those who get transplanted here don't understand why there is a coffee shop on every corner until they go through their first winter, then they get it.

But we've had freezing temperatures for the last couple days, which sucked the ambient ground temperature down to below freezing, which allowed the snow that did fall to stick, which caused schools to close and Fort Lewis to go to "minimal manning".

It doesn't matter how much or little snow we get, there are enough drivers here that don't know how to drive in the snow that they slow down everyone else. And by "knowing how to drive in the snow" I mean that you've already had a couple winters, and a couple spin outs, and at least one car in the ditch experience.

But we have a fire going, the electricity is still on, I'll see how the roads are tomorrow before venturing into work to find out how the weather has affected our equipment maintenance scheduling.

As a side note, we got lucky that we haven't had torrential rains that saturate the ground prior to this freeze and snow pack. Here in Western WA that is a recipe for flooding for sure. When this snow melts there will be some room in the soil to help slow down run off.

16 December 2008

Court Date

One of my soldiers is going through a messy divorce, and tomorrow I will appear in court to answer any questions the Judge has about allegations made by his wife about his mental health.

I am not looking forward to being drawn into a legal battle.

14 December 2008

Computer stuff

So I've been using Ubuntu as my primary OS since I installed it, and as problems come up with functionality I work the problems until a solution is found. Latest problem was DVD playback, after two afternoons worth of work I got a fix by adding the xine backstream to the Totem media player.

As far as other computer problems go, I'm working on my sister in laws laptop, which came up with the most unusual error when I have ever experienced. Her old hard drive went kaput so a new drive was in order, which means a fresh OS install. Win2K gave me a "non ACPI compliant BIOS" error. The current workaround is to load up an ancient copy of Win98 and upgrade to 2K.

I ripped apart an old Dell 5625 laptop last night to check the power connection to the motherboard. Turns out that the connections are all right, which means that the power pack is bad and won't charge the battery. Currently I don't have the 1337 skills to fix a power pack so it's going to just have to stay an AC only pc.

13 December 2008


Washington, District of Columbia arrived from google.com on "AmericanMercenary: Molon Labe"


Your result for The Steampunk Style Test...

The Explorer

14% Elegant, 34% Technological, 50% Historical, 88% Adventurous and 20% Playful!

You are the Explorer, the embodiment of steampunk’s adventuring spirit. For you, clothing should be rugged and reliable, and just as functional as it is attractive. You probably prefer khaki or leather, and your accessories are as likely to include weapons as technological gizmos. You probably wear boots and gloves, and maybe a pith helmet. Most of what you wear is functional, and if you happen to wear goggles people had better believe that you use them. In addition to Victorian exploration gear, your outfit probably includes little knickknacks from your various travels. Above all, you are a charming blend of rugged Victorian daring and exotic curiosity.

Try our other Steampunk test here.

Take The Steampunk Style Test
at HelloQuizzy

Believe it or not the essence of Steampunk drives quite a bit of the home decor in my house. The wife approves of the "timeless" nature of retro-Victorian and it fits in well with her preference for natural wood tones and rustic colors.

Food for thought from Mulligan...

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"

Virginity is the natural state of an organism, and that state is taken away by screwing.

Peace is the construct of nations living in some sort of harmony with one another, and that state is taken away by an act of aggression.

So lets change "virginity" to "abstinence" so that:

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for abstinence"

This makes more sense, because Fighting is an absence of Peace and Screwing is an absence of Abstinence. Both activities require at least two parties (screwing yourself doesn't count unless you consider it Civil War), and the winner is the party that finishes first, or sometimes finishes multiple times. Kinda like the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, it is the multiple orgasm of ongoing conflict, I guess if they could both just finish at the same time....

But here is the base truth; if you won't fight FOR peace then you won't HAVE peace. If you will always roll over and spread your legs willingly no matter the circumstances then you technically can never be raped, but it won't be a peaceful existence. If you decide, that you WON'T be a victim, a plaything for someone who wants power over you, then you will HAVE to FIGHT to assert your independence.

War is both good and bad for my profession. Bad because people die, it is harder to fill the ranks, and it is harder to keep your most talented new people. However, conflict hones the Officer and NCO corps in a way that peacetime cannot. If you want a truly professional military there must be experience in the ranks, experience dealing with the issues that never come up in training, never come up in planning.

Maybe we need a new slogan..

"If you won't fight for peace you are fighting for oppression"

Family Budgeting

Now that we are less than 10 weeks from the birth of our first child my wife has finally stopped working her "Temp" job. The temp job was supposed to last three to four months and she was only supposed to clean out the unpaid bills from a legacy billing software suite while the hospital transitioned to the new software. The hospital was happy enough with my wife's work that they decided she was all they needed instead of two temps, so the estimate went to six months. Six months came and went and the hospital tried to keep her on permanently, but by that time she was visibly pregnant and we decided that we could afford for her to be a stay at home wife and mother.

So for the first time in our marriage my wife isn't looking for a job or working for a paycheck. But with the loss of her paycheck comes a slightly tighter budget. So we did a quick rundown of our bills and realized that our "discretionary" income is going to go down quite a bit, but still in the realm of comfortable. We'll still have more discretionary income than we did a few years back when I was finishing up college.

Hopefully the decreased expenses in gas and other incidentals will offset the increase in things like diapers and whatnot. Last night the wife snuggled up next to me on the couch while we watched "numb3rs" (The wife is a big fan of David Krumholtz) and the puppy dog snuggled down on my lap, and I just had to realize how lucky I am. Life is good.

11 December 2008

3% verses Pragmatists

The gun grabbers will never stop until you are disarmed.

So if you are a gun owner you have to decide for yourself what you will do. Either you will submit or you will resist. There is no point arguing whether training to resist is any more noble than lobbying for fewer restrictions.

Bottom line, it is a waste of energy to fight with fellow gun owners.

If you have the energy to engage in a flame war on the internet you have the energy to TRAIN (or write letters to congress critters).

10 December 2008


Pregnant wife, long hours at the job, all leads up to me running on empty.

There is only so long that anyone can just "Ranger Up" and keep moving. Took a two hour nap when the wife nodded off tonight. Feels good.

08 December 2008

Book Review in Progress: State of Disobedience

Written in 2003 Tom Kratman's book is hopefully not prophetic.

The names have been changed, but you the characters; Hillary Clinton, Janet Reno, and Lon Horiuchi, come through with clarity.

I'm one chapter in, and what scares me is that many of the "radical" ideas put forth have been bantered around the national political scene during this last election cycle.

The other thing that I'm worried about is the Florida recount hysteria has taught the Democrats a lesson that they learned really well. After an initial 200 plus lead in 2004 Republican Dino Rossi lost after recount after recount gave a dishonest lead to Christine "The Cryptkeeper" Gregoire. The same technique is being used by Al Franken now. It is like the gubernatorial race was a test run at the state level for a state position, and Franken is the test run at the state level for a federal position.

What the hell happened to us?

06 December 2008

Video Drives Updated

Less than an hour after the wireless issue was fixed I found the fix for the video drivers.

Officially Ubuntu 8.10 is the fasted Linux install I've ever got to user friendly.

Ubuntu Linux

I started playing around with Slackware Linux when I was a lower enlisted Signal Corps Soldier. Things I learned then was that Linux once you get the OS set up and all the drivers happy that it is plenty stable. However it is a complete pain in the arse to set up a Linux OS to get it running the way you want.

Fast forward 9 years, and I've tried RedHat, Mandrake, SuSe, FreeBSD and Lindows in the the interim, and all have fallen short of what I want as far as a "plug and play" experience from an OS. Microsoft may not make a perfect product, but they damn sure make one that meets my needs.

However based on reviews from others I decided to give Ubuntu a chance, after all why not? One download, burn to CD, install from CD and I was up and running with a reduced function laptop. The webcam doesn't have any support, the video card is reduced to 800x600 resolution, and the wireless network card didn't function at all.

Since I can live with the absence of webcam just fine, and the video card drivers just need a little time and effort to get them updated, I spent the last four hours working on the wireless problem. That may not seem like a lot of time, but Microsoft has spent years working on building driver libraries for all sorts of hardware, and the linux community just doesn't have the resources or engineering department to compete with that level of customer service.

Linux will always be a step behind Microsoft, but that is ok in this day in age where a four or five year old computer can still run WinXP just fine, and finally run a version of Linux that offers almost the same user friendly experience.

Bottom line: Ubuntu linux is up and running on a fairly new laptop with less than 12 hours of work by a guy who has only dabbled with *nix over the years. This is a huge leap forward.

So I am posting this using Ubuntu, how cool is that?

05 December 2008

Range Report

At the range I encountered a pretty random assortment of characters. Three guys with more money than training were having a blast session, just throwing lead downrange as fast as they could pull the trigger. Two of them had tricked out Ruger 10/22's that were quite accurate if actually aimed. One 10/22 was a Tactical Solutions product http://www.tacticalsol.com/store/pc/home.asp which I wished I had borrowed to try out. Later on an unlikely pair in the form of a Father/Son duo showed up, the Dad looked like a normal guy for the area, the kid wore black goth clothes, chrome chains, and had a 12" fantasy dagger strapped to his hip. The kid was the most interesting guy I've met at the range in a long time.

The kid with the fantasy dagger asked me about an "X harness" to hold "two nine millimeters" against his back because he "wears a trenchcoat in Seattle" and wants to be able to get a weapon with either hand with a motion that looks like he's "reaching for his wallet". He told me about his katana, that he bought from a pawn shop, that he KNEW was folded because he saw the pattern in the steel, but that it was only from WWII because it had a metal military scabard (I didn't have the heart to tell him that his pawn shop find was nothing more than a mass produced Chinese knockoff that has been flooding the market).

The kid seemed like every stereotype about the anime watching goth generation, he had more info on weapons from cartoons than any other source. Not a bad kid, I let him shoot the Glock and we talked. I hope he took away some good memories and in a few years grows into a normal adult.

Anyways, on to the important stuff.

9.3x62 Mauser rifle. Definitely a shoulder thumper, but more push than crack. Load was Prvi Partizan 285 gr soft points at approx 2250 fps. This is a more sedate load than a 286 gr pill at 2400 fps which I would use for actual hunting of something like a Cape Buffalo. The Prvi Partizan is fine for pretty much everything I hunt here in WA.

Savage MkII 22lr rifle. 100 rounds through a bolt action 22, probably the best thing to keep from developing flinch from shooting larger rifles. This is a fun little rifle, I wish I had spent more money to get a wood stock for more weight, but I have no complaints about accuracy.

Glock 19. I practiced draw, rack, and shoot. Found that some magazines cause an initial misfeed if they aren't perfectly seated. Lots of people carry Glocks with one in the chamber, but I will not do that, hence the "rack" portion of the drill. I think perhaps the Glock will be trade in material for a revolver.

AK. I took the AK to test out the TAPCO AK74 style muzzle brake. To sum it up, well worth the 20 bucks as I could get back on target much faster. Lots of fun.

04 December 2008

OODA loop

I was nitpicking with Ted in comments and I used the term "OODA loop". Since it is bad form to use an acronym without spelling it out (although in these days of Google and Wikipedia it is a very forgiveable sin) I am going to write about the OODA loop and police activities.

My opinion here is not formed on anything more than the second hand experience from friends and aquaintences who are MP's or Deputies.

When you represent the side of Angels, law and order and all that bit, and you enter into a situation where there is chaos, the first thing you do is OBSERVE the situation. You will observe the situation until you can ORIENT on what is causing the chaos. Once you are properly targeted you will DECIDE to do something. The very last step in the OODA loop is to ACT out your decision.

The more chaotic the situation the longer the initial "OO" in the loop is. Limited information, conflicting information, and even dated information also prolong the "observe, orient" portion of the loop.

This is why the Police at Columbine hid behind cruisers until they could get a handle on the situation. Every single one of them was talking or listening to dispatch, scanning hands of fleeing students, and trying to get a grip on the situation. The cops in Mumbai hadn't had any real firearms training, so none of them DECIDED to ACT by using the arms that they had.

Cops are not superheros with the ability to immediately discern the truth and put the bad guys to justice. Cops are ordinary people who volunteer to do heroic things and be held to a very high standard. But like all humans, they need time to figure out what to do.

That is what it means to be "stuck in the OODA loop". When you can't make a decision because you can't get a grip on the situation. This is why "A 60% solution today beats a 100% solution tomorrow" when it comes to maneuver warfare. This is why Eisenhower famously said, "Ask me for anything but time". However, if a Cop had the 60% solution to shoot everyone with something threatening in their hands and plugged a jock running from baseball practice along with Sumdood and Assmuncher, well that 33% solution just isn't good enough. Cops are trained to come up with 100% solutions, and that takes time.

This is why training is the most important thing that Soldiers can do. Training gives us something to do IMMEDIATELY when the situation rapidly changes. We have training that shortens the OODA loop to muscle memory.

I cannot draw my pistol from it's concealed position any faster than anyone else, and I'm probably a bit slower. But part of my training is that I won't draw my pistol until I've hit the "D" portion of the OODA loop, the quicker I can get through "Observe" and "Orient" instead of standing there like a dumbass trying to get a grasp of the situation, the more effective I can be.

And please do not get me wrong, PRACTICE DRAWING YOUR WEAPON FROM YOUR CARRY POSITION!!!! But care LESS about speed and MORE about smoothly making it MUSCLE MEMORY, because once it is muscle memory you won't have to think about it when you come to the "D" in your loop.

03 December 2008

RD-9 Revisited

I've been using my Scrapyard Yardguard and Ranger RD-9 to split all my firewood this year.

I do have an axe. But I get to really test which knife my hand prefers.

So far the winner is the Ranger. I have large hands and the Ranger has the larger handle. Edge retention is also better on the Ranger.

02 December 2008


Long Slow Distance run.

4.3 miles in 38 minutes.

Not a very good time, but I knew I would be slow today. Running is important for cardio health, but there aren't a whole lot of 6'1" 210lb marathoners out there for a reason.

One of the reasons that my time is slow is that I took a whole mile to work out the kinks and let my body find a rhythm. Some days it seems like the stars align and I move with the precision of a swiss watch. On a bad day I won't ever find the rhythm and the pain in my joints won't fade as the miles pass. Today wasn't that bad, a mile to warm up, two miles to "glide" and pushed myself the last mile.

On a side note my trigger finger is getting pretty itchy, a range trip will be in order Friday.