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Location: California, United States

I am a neolibertarian minded individual who feels that freedom and individual rights take precedence over the wants of government. I believe government exists to serve the people and not to protect us from ourselves. I am an advocate for private firearms ownership, smaller government, reduced taxes and freedom to live your life however you choose, providing you do not directly hurt others.

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Open the menu below and select a month and year to view archived posts for that month.

If you enjoy reading, you really must get one of these. I carry mine with me all of the time and read at least 5 books per month on it.

A Feast For Crows
This latest installment of Gearge R. R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series isn't quite as gripping as the previous books but is still a pretty good read.

Book 10 in the Sword of Truth series continues to keep the reader riveted while repeatedly emphasizing the duty and importance of self defense.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
A follow up to Guns, Germs, and Steel that explains the geographic, environmental and socio-economic reasons that can cause civilizations and communities to collapse.

Mara Belly Dance Lessons Krav Maga Belly Dance
Return to p.i.e.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Brits Banning Glass Pints

When I think of going to a pub for a pint of beer, I have a few specific ideas in mind:
  • beer will be good
  • beer will be served at the perfect temperature
  • beer will have the perfect amount of carbonation from the tap
  • beer will be served in a nice and heavy pint-sized glass
If I'm going to leave my home, travel to a pub and then spend as much on a single beer as I would on a six pack at the grocery store, I want that beer to be perfect. I suspect that an awful lot of pub-goers share these opinions, especially during a global recession in which it is getting increasingly more difficult to come up with recreational spending money.

According to the BBC story in the title link, Britain has decided that pint glasses made out of actual glass are too dangerous to be tolerated and are considering banning them from pubs. The plan is to replace the traditional glass with shatter-proof plastic. Here's why:
"Official figures show 5,500 people are attacked with glasses and bottles every year in England and Wales."
At first glance, 5,500 people being attacked does sound frightening. A closer look reveals that this number includes both bottles and glasses. Of those attacks committed with glass pints, no indication is given as to how many people were actually harmed. Thus, the relevant number could be a lot less than 5,500. It sounds like a nanny state government is just blowing everything out of proportion in order to get credit for "doing something". When you weigh these 5,500 attacks against the roughly 6,552,000,000 (six point six billion) pints served annually, you end up with less than 0.00008% of the pints actually being used in attacks.

This is why I loath and detest government bans against practically any object. Bans almost always start the same way. Somebody gets harmed by a person using a particular object in an unlawful manner and makes a fuss. Law makers and bureaucrats eager to earn their keep decide to "do something" and protect people from an alleged new public menace. The object that was used for an unlawful purpose suddenly becomes "bad" or "dangerous", without regard for its usefulness and without any responsibility being assigned to the attacker who used it in an unlawful manner. The next thing you know, a ban deprives society of a useful object and the thug grabs the next closest item and uses that as a weapon and the whole process starts over again.

For the most part bans are nothing more than knee-jerk reactions foisted onto simple-minded people who lack the reasoning skills to comprehend that they won't solve societal problems. If the goal is to disarm thugs in pubs, banning glass pints won't help. Bar stools, chairs, silverware, bottles, billiard balls, pool cues, darts, loose coins in a sock and countless other objects are just as dangerous. The only way to make pubs perfectly "safe" would be to turn them into padded cells where customers are stripped naked and chained to the wall while a medical team carefully administers alcohol-free beer through a tube.

To make matters worse, the pubs are already being hit hard by the recessions, as shown by these other BBC stories:

UK 'is losing 52 pubs each week'
Pubs are closing, but who cares?
Our pub's about to shut?!?

Here we are, in the middle of the decline of an industry, and these people want to make struggling businesses spend money to replace their glass inventory with a product that is likely to annoy their customers. All so that less than one ten thousandth of one percent of the pints served each year can no longer be misused by criminals who will undoubtedly pick up something else to wield as weapons.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

72yr Old Businessman Shoots 4 Robbers

This is another good one. A 72 year old businessman sees one of his employees being pistol whipped by the 4 armed robbers that were in his store. He opens fire with a 12 gauge pistol grip shotgun and hits all 4 of the bad guys. Sadly, it looks like two of them might survive.

Here's a frustrating pair of quotes from the story:
Augusto told cops he bought his shotgun after a robbery nearly 30 years ago. Browne said it was unclear Thursday night if Augusto has a license for the weapon.

A police source said that if Augusto is hit with a charge, it will be a minor one. "It doesn't look too bad for him," the source said.
The guy stops an armed robbery, saves an employee from a life threatening beating and reduces the criminal population by two, yet they have to end the story with thoughts of him possibly facing some sort of criminal charge. This guy should get a marksmanship award from the NRA and a good citizenship medal from the mayor. If they decide to charge him with something, I hope the neighborhood drums the district attorney out of office.

(As always, clicking on the title link will take you to the full story.)

Here's a link to the NY Times version of the story with a few more details.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Woman Beats Armed Home Invaders with Can of Peas

The title link is to a story about a Toledo woman who used some common sense survival instincts, ordinary household items and good preparation to triumph over home invaders. Per the article and the associated video interview, the woman heard a knock on her at 5:30AM. She thought it may have been her brother, so she opened the door and was attacked by two masked men, at least one which had a gun. One of the men pointed a gun at her and started pulling the trigger and for some reason the gun didn't fire. He then started beating her head and face with the gun. Fortunately for her, she had answered the door while holding her improvised home defense weapon, a long heavy sock with a can of peas at the bottom of it. She fought back and beat one of the attackers so badly that he was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Let's hope he doesn't pull through.

Let this story be a lesson to everyone. With a bit of thought, many common household objects can easily be transformed into effective and potentially deadly self defense tools. This woman said she stashed several of these sock and can flails around her house in case of emergency. When you use the sock to swing around a heavy object, the speed of the swing adds tremendous momentum and can deliver enough power to break bones. Even a large handful of change in a sock can be dangerous. For those afraid, unwilling or legally unable to keep a firearm for self defense, remember that you can still arm yourself in other ways. If someone starts pounding on your door at odd hours, having a weapon at hand when you answer the door could save your life.

Although I found it quite uplifting that this woman had the foresight and courage to fight back, there was one sad spot in the article. Here's a quote from a neighbor who witnessed the attack:
"Very scared. So scared that I thought I was going to die because I thought they were going to come to my place and kill me because I had my head out peaking [sic] out"
I find it disheartening that someone could witness this sort of brutal attack and do nothing more than "peek out". If people were quick to protect each other and fought back against crime more often there would be a lot less of it. Grab a chair, a wine bottle or a hammer and bash the attacker's head in while he is occupied with beating his victim. Stab them a dozen times with a kitchen knife. Come up behind them and kick them in the groin or knee as hard as you possibly can. Don't just "peek". Fear is never a valid excuse for not doing the right thing. I can somewhat understand not getting involved in a fair fight between two strangers when there is no obvious "bad guy" and "victim", but when you see two guys with ski masks bashing their way into your neighbor's home there is no doubt about who needs to be stopped. If a witness does nothing to help a victim they are partly responsible for whatever happens to the victim.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stop AB 962, The Bill That Could Kill

In the never ending war against liberty, California is considering passing a bill that would likely result in accidental shooting deaths and injuries. The bill would prevent handgun owners from practicing sufficiently to maintain their skills. If a gun owner is forced to use a firearm in self defense, society at large will be much safer if that person has recently been target shooting and is not fumbling around incompetently. Regular practice can mean the difference between the bad guy getting shot and a stray round striking property or an innocent bystander.

The bill would reduce safe practice by:
  • Forbidding the sale or transfer of more than 50 rounds of handgun ammo per month to anyone who is not a licensed dealer
  • Require ammo only be bought in person (i.e. banning mail order sales)
  • Requiring vendors to keep a record of every ammo sale and report all sales to the state
  • Require vendors to keep all ammo out of reach from customers so that buyers must seek assistance from staff before purchasing
  • Require vendors to pay a licensing fee to the state (even if they already have a license to sell firearms)
Anti-gun people will probably think I’m crazy for opposing these restrictions, but take a moment to think it through before you decide. A leisurely one hour practice session with a hand gun for most people consumes about 200 rounds of ammunition, even when most of that hour is spent loading magazines, setting up targets, inspecting targets, collecting spent brass and other non-shooting tasks. A semi-automatic hand gun fires a round as quickly as the user can pull the trigger. In a regular slow fire practice session, a person will fire a shot every few seconds. Thus, a standard 10 round magazine will be emptied in about 30 seconds. 50 rounds of ammo during an unhurried practice session can be consumed in about 2.5 minutes of firing. If the shooter is practicing double taps, defensive shooting and quick reloads they might go through 50 rounds of ammo in less than half of that time (1min 15sec). Do you really think it a good idea for people with potentially lethal defense tools to be forbidden to practice with them for more than 1-2 minutes per month? What will happen when an unpracticed gun owner tries to defend themselves? Where will the bullets go if they they pull the trigger and miss the bad guy?

To make matters worse, the law doesn’t seem to distinguish between different types of hand guns. A typical concealed carry permit holder might be allowed to legally carry two or three different kinds of guns. For example, they might be permitted to carry a tiny gun that can be easily hidden under summer clothing, and a regular gun that can be concealed under normal clothing. Chances are good that those two guns will use different kinds of ammunition. If you are only allowed 50 rounds of ammo per month and need to practice with two different guns, you can practice with each gun half as much. That brings us down to maybe one minute of practice per month per gun, less time than you spend brushing your teeth before you go to bed each night.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, gun owners commonly own both a rifle and a handgun that fires the exact same type of ammunition. This simplifies ammunition purchases and lets them carry a single type of ammo when shooting. .22 rimfire, 9mm, .38 special, .357 magnum, .44 magnum and .44 special are a few examples of ammunition commonly used by both rifles and handguns. How can you prove to an ammo vendor what kind of gun you plan to fire their ammo through?

A single round of .45ACP ammunition costs about $0.30 if purchased in bulk (1000 rounds) over the internet. If purchased in a typical 50 round box at a local gun store, a single round will cost about $0.40, 25% more than by bulk. If we ban bulk purchases and tack on licensing fees and compliance costs, the price of ammo could go up by 50%. The cost of ammunition for a typical one hour 200 round practice session with a common .45ACP pistol would go from $60 to $90 (assuming they remembered to save up 4 months worth of ammo to allow for a one hour practice session). Such a large increase would significantly discourage practice.

Note that a similar Federal law was repealed in 1986 after the BATF testified that it was useless at preventing crime. The City of Pasadena passed a similar law, and repealed it two years later after realizing that they were generating a huge and costly database wasn't actually helping the police.

Please contact your state assemblyperson and the senators on the California appropriations committee to demand that they oppose this bill. Even if you hate guns you should oppose this bill because it will only serve to reduce the competency of law abiding gun owners without reducing gun ownership. No matter how you feel about guns, it is in your best interest that whoever squeezes a trigger on a firearm be well practiced, accurate and safe when they do it.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Emergency Preparedness and Survival

Every time our country is hit by a major disaster, be it a flood, hurricane, fire or something else, the news is filled with sad stories about woefully unprepared people being left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Too many people falsely believe that our government and emergency services will take care of them and keep them safe. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests that people keep at least a three day supply of food, water and other essentials on hand at all times for each member of their household. They strongly encourage people to expand this to a two week supply if they can afford to do so. It can easily take several days for the government to get help to disaster victims. If the disaster is not limited to a small geographic area, it could take much longer. For example, if a tsunami wipes out the eastern seaboard or if terrorists detonate suitcase nukes in several major cities, there simply may not be enough emergency workers and supplies to go around.

Imagine for a moment that a disaster hits your home or office. It could be a dam failure, fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake or even a terrorist attack. 3,000 gallons of raw sewage could erupt from your drains and toilets when city maintenance goes awry. A small plane might crash into your home without warning. Your building may be destroyed or authorities might simply deem it unsafe and force you to leave. Streets could be blocked, flooded or collapsed making it impossible for you to drive to safety. How would you fare if you have only moments to quickly grab a couple of items before you are forced to flee on foot?

Are you ready to survive in an overcrowded gymnasium or stadium for several days with nothing more than what you can carry? Will you be passably comfortable in a room packed with people when you have nothing more than a few square feet of space on the floor? Will you be like the hurricane Katrina victims that were stuck in rescue shelters and rooftops without food or water if the government is slow to deliver supplies?

All of the gear in the world is of little use if you don't have it packed into a portable and quickly accessible package when you need it. You might not have two hours to dig through piles of camping gear to find what you need when your house is about to slide down a cliff. Unless you are a die-hard backpacker, chances are good that most of your recreational outdoor equipment will be too bulky and heavy for you to carry very far if roads are blocked and vehicles can't be used.

For around $150 and an hour or two of effort you can easily put together a good emergency kit that will help you and a loved one survive for a few days without running water, electricity or help from others. Hunger, thirst, cold, wet, minor injuries and boredom need not overly trouble you if you are adequately prepared.

The ability to create fire, construct shelters, patch up injuries and plan for a variety of adversities helps distinguish humans from less intelligent animals. Please take a moment to look over your emergency kit and make sure that it is complete, accessible and in good condition. If you don't have a kit, get one. Here are a couple of links that may help:

The Disaster Preparedness and Survival Gear section of my Amazon store

The FEMA "Are You Ready?" page (tips, checklists and guides from the US government)

Once you get the basic survival gear together, consider adding these additional items to your pack:
  • Underwear and Socks in a zip-lock bag: Dry socks are especially important as they help keep your feet healthy so that blisters, infections, fungus and other things don't prevent you from trekking to safety

  • Paperback novel and a deck of cards in a zip-lock bag: Survival can be surprisingly boring. These can keep you sane if you get stuck in a shelter for days and can even be used as kindling.

  • Batteries for radios, cell phones, flash lights, GPS devices, etc.

  • Prescription medications for yourself, family and pets

  • Feminine hygiene products (tampons, pads, etc.)

  • Powder: It can prevent heat rashes, dry wet feet to prevent blisters, help sweaty hands grip slippery objects and partially deodorize clothing.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

'Anti-Stab' Knife On Sale in UK

New Point Knives in the U.K. is offering kitchen knives that are designed to minimize the risk of accidental and fatal stabbings while maintaining more or less their full functionality as food preparation tools. Many blogs and web sites are already overflowing with scornful comments about these products, with phrases like "knives don't kill people; people kill people" and other such rhetoric. Although I am about as pro-weapon and anti-nanny state as it gets, I decided to give this product the benefit of the doubt.
I am a somewhat serious amateur gourmet and am picky about my kitchen knives. They must each go into the proper slot in the cutlery block, be kept razor sharp, and must be washed by hand and put away the moment they are not in use. In spite of my fussiness about knives, I was hard pressed to come up with legitimate criticism for the concept of these new products. There really aren't that many uses for an endlessly long point on some larger types of kitchen knives. The New Point knives that I have seen so far do indeed have points, but the points are protected by a smooth rounded curve that would make it more difficult to thrust the blade deeply into something. Enough of the point is exposed to easily split the skin on fruit and even slice most food items. Granted, this sort of design would be impractical for various tasks such as boning, filleting and paring, but New Point doesn't appear to be offering those kinds of knives.

If the New Point knives are well balanced, sharp, comfortable and of high quality steel, I see no harm in their use and there are a few situations in which they could be quite helpful. For example, when teaching cooking in a home economics class, these knives might slightly reduce the risk of accidental stabbings in a room crowded with uncoordinated students. People with repetitive motion issues and nerve problems might find such a knife comforting as it would be less likely to stake a foot to the floor if it slipped out of a hand.

In short, I think it silly for someone to get angry about these products, especially if the person claims to believe in liberty and personal choice. Although I have no interest in owning one, I see no reason to grumble about them being on the market. To be honest, I think such grumblings just portray the pro-weapon and anti-nanny state people as unreasonable and makes it easier to dismiss their opinions on more serious issues. As long as nobody mandates their usage or tries to ban traditional knives, they aren't hurting anyone and could even be useful in certain situations (if they are of decent quality). I do, however, hope that people are not so foolish as to think that these are magically safe knives that can be treated carelessly or that all knives should use this design. They still have an edge and presumably can remove fingers and open arteries. Nonetheless, they may slightly reduce the frequency of some of the more serious accidental kitchen injuries that are commonly treated by emergency room staff.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

TV News Ignores Iranian Election Protests

I’ve been following the Iranian post-election protests and riots via social networking sites like YouTube, Twitter and others. Last night while the streets of Tehran were filled with people chanting “Death to the Dictator!” after a clear case of election tampering, CNN was running a fluff piece about whether or not Obama is more popular than effective. Los Angeles based TV news programs talked about illegal aliens working at a car wash, a newsworthy discovery on par with finding tools in a hardware store. FoxNews ran a story about a peeved Sarah Palin. A continuous scan through all available satellite TV news channels revealed similar drivel, with nothing of substance about Iran.

I find this disconcerting given Iran’s important role in the Middle East, their efforts to become a nuclear power and their influence on international policy. Iran is one of the world’s most powerful theocracies and their government has more or less been an enemy of the United States for decades. When their people protested a rigged election, did battle with police and chanted “We want freedom!” in the streets they were mostly ignored by American news networks. This lack of coverage is even more disappointing now that the Iranian election protests have spilled over into large American and European cities.

I realize that there are logistic difficulties in placing reporters inside of a nation that is hostile to foreign press, but this didn’t entirely stop the BBC. Their reporters managed to capture video footage of the protests and were even briefly arrested while reporting on this story. They managed to get enough footage out of the country that Iran has since been actively jamming the BBC communications satellite.

CNN is a very active user of the Twitter microblogging service and used to seem savvy about social media. They were one of the first Twitter users to achieve over a million followers and at one point had 45 official twitter accounts. Why did they not improve their coverage after being twittered with thousands of requests for this? At the very least they could have put a political analyst in front of the camera to discuss what was happening. For many hours, the 2nd most popular trending topic on was #IranElection and the 3rd most popular was #CNNFail. I am surprised that an event of global significance combined with this much social media outrage wasn’t enough to motivate them to cover the story.

The more that I use the internet, the less use I have for main stream media and entertainment. I found dozens of videos on YouTube covering the Iranian riots while they were actually happening. There were hundreds of photographs of the riots on web sites like Flickr. I even found live clandestine coverage on twitter purportedly from a protesting Iranian student as police assaulted a university. I’m beginning to think that traditional news media outlets no longer have much to offer. They are slow, unwieldy and subject to the bias of advertisers and network executives. Television news networks often worry so much about ratings that they focus on entertainment as often as information. "News" stories about “American Idol”, “24” and Obama going on a date with his wife get nearly as much coverage as events of global significance. Once upon a time they may have cared about facts and integrity, but stories like the Dan Rather incident have shown us that their slowness is not caused by diligent fact checking.

If traditional media networks do not find a way to more effectively leverage emerging internet technologies they will soon find themselves without viewers and sponsors.

CNN's coverage has improved today and they even acknowledged the criticism they have been receiving from the internet/Twitter. Ironically, #CNNFail is still in the top ten list of trending topics on Twitter, and comments there indicate twitterers are either too busy watching the internet to notice CNN's improved coverage or are still angry that it took them so long to start covering this issue.

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