France: The Real Tragedy or, No Free Lunch

It’s been a long time coming now.  For more than a decade, France has pushed an immigration policy that left, first, massive rifts in its social structure, and now – with much of the Levant destabilized after another decade of war and another massive refugee push outward toward Europe – the largest of what may be a series of structured, targeted attacks across not only the nation, but the continent.

And so today, while I flip across Facebook and the wave of French flags “waving” in support of the people, I’m pressed – the optimist I am – to not be merely indifferent.  I’ve been forced to delineate between the nation that has allowed themselves this – indeed, invited it to the table – and not only the innocent people who lost their lives, but the families that lost theirs too.  Between a government and a culture at-large that has weakened their domestic policy to the point of being an open international policy.

Still, I choose hope and love, knowing all the while that it is no mask for strategy.

Que Dieu vous bénisse et vous garde.

C|P

Internal Opposition: Desires

I had a strange hope and feeling the other day while talking with my boss.  His son and daughter-in-law have been mired in painkillers and meth over the past few years, to the point now of her being in a revolving rehab cycle and him being in prison for 18 months.

Their two children, five and three years old, are now in the care of their grandparents – my boss and his wife, and their father’s mother – and have adjusted quite well to a new life of stability and love.  They are intelligent, kind, well-mannered kids, and they have a good chance as it stands to go on to live a productive, fulfilled life.

The DIL – who I will henceforth refer to as “R” – is also possessed of severe personality disorders, of kind and number sufficient that you could probably spin a wheel with a random list of the usual variety and hit the jackpot.  She’s mean and spiteful, and refuses to take responsibility for the position she is in; she texts family members and blames them for her troubles, reminding them that she is a good mom and that the family has screwed the kids up – nevermind that her and (as he will hence be referred to, “B”) dragged them around town at all hours, sleeping in motels and trucks and, ultimately, losing all their possessions when they didn’t pay the rental truck company.  She’s sick in the head on top of the drugs, and likes to believe she will get he kids back and disappear with them forever, robbing the grandparents of the joy of watching them grow up.

Unfortunately for her, she’s on her last leg.  Having failed a number of drug tests and tox screens, and having failed to hold a job or place to live, and having failed to show up for her supervised visits with the kids or without the money to do what she scheduled for them to do, she’s been read the riot act and is going to pay come November for what she chooses today.

Which brings us to my strange hope and feeling (these things are important, dear reader): I genuinely hope that she (“R”) cannot get her life together, and that she falls into the pits of misery and waste, and that the state gives formal, legal custody of the kids to the grandparents and that they never see her until they are grown.

And I realized that was the first time I have ever genuinely, from-the-bottom-of-my-heart, with all my conviction, felt that way – and I didn’t know what to think about it.

The immediate feelings at having thought and said this were myriad, chiefly: did I really just wish the worst failure and destitution of a human being short of death?  But that wasn’t where the real feeling came from: it was from the realization that in this life, the chance and hope of a good life for some people rides on the failure at life of some other, and that the only way these two intelligent, thoughtful kids would ever make it is for their mother to never have custody of them again and, perhaps even, to never see them again.

But on the other hand, being myself a man of many struggles – and believing that Providence has sacrificed a great deal to allow me to be so – I am asked and obliged to hope counter to my thoughts.  To hope that B and R find redemption and live happy lives with their two happy children, and that they all may know the love of which they are capable.

You see it’s not so much what we think, but how we challenge our thoughts.

 

C|P

Which Is To Be (Jobless) Master?

Good news this week from the U.S. Dept. of Labor: unemployment is down to 5.6%!

Good news, that is, unless you’re actually unemployed.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

C|P

Formula One Legends: Jim Clark

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There were few things I craved more as a child than speed, competition, and a sense of ever-present danger.  Incidentally, none of those desires have devolved much in the time since, having found but different avenues of exploration.

Bike crashes were the norm growing up, as were visits to the ER; so frequent were the visits that at one point my parents were questioned by Child Services under suspicion of abuse.  I’ve had stitches (thrice – narrowly avoiding a fourth time by having my eyebrow pieced together with super glue), my jaw wired shut after being crushed by a tractor, my gums split open twice and teeth knocked loose once, and two titanium plates and twelve screws in my right forearm.  I’m also pretty sure I now have a tear in my left knee. C’est la vie.

Just the same – thanks in part to the aforementioned desires and largely to a favorite daily-reader, Silodrome – Formula One has recently captured my attention.  It is fraught with what I love – speed, cars, innovation, danger, great style and championship – and has a history that is purely fascinating.

One of the greatest F1 drivers of all time comes from an early period of the sport, beginning his career in the decade following the War.  Jim Clark was in many regards different than other drivers.  His path to the sport was unconventional, his spirit indomitable, and he was considered by friend and foe alike, while fierce, a gentleman racer.

His involvement in a deadly crash early in his career provided an experience and guilt that would stick with Clark for the rest of his life.  Eventually, he was, like many great drivers of the era, killed in his prime, leaving behind an astounding legacy with 25 wins on 33 pole positions and 72 Grand Prix starts.

Feel free to have a look for yourself at Jim Clark: The Quiet Champion

(Thanks to BBC and Silodrome)

Video

Supercharged: Grand Prix Cars 1924-1939

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This is a short film (50 minutes) highlighting the technological development of Grand Prix cars from 1924 to the beginning of the Second World War.  Any interest in motor sports will be livened by this.

Heads up: some accidents shown are graphic in nature, including possible fatalities.

(Hat-tip to Silodrome)

EDC: Glock 17

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To get some material going, I’ll share my everyday-carry Glock 17, modified slightly over the ~9 months I’ve had it.

This Glock came to me in June 2013 as a standard 3rd Generation Glock 17 complete with the stock plastic sights, plain as they come.  Its exact birth date I can’t recall at the moment, but sometime in 2012 a close enough guess.

ImageJust a plain-jane Gen3 Glock 17 9mm. (photo borrowed)

I knew before I purchased it that it would go for a Cerakote paint job – Patriot Brown the chosen flavor – and the week following its arrival at my door it took a trip to Washington.  In the meantime, I took the slide to get a pair of night sights put on.  I scooped the only pair I was familiar with – Meprolight TruDot – after having bought my first Glock (a Gen2 G19 that I still regret trading) with the same set attached.  I would later switch sights, but they served their purpose for the time.

A few weeks after sending it off (and more than a week after I was told it would be finished), the frame came back….Patriot Brown! OD Green.  Now, if you’re like me and have had poor eyesight your entire life – and sometimes just flat out don’t trust your eyes – perhaps you could convince yourself that this is brown, and I tried my damnedest (yes that’s a real word).  It wasn’t until the GF said “Ooooo I like the green!” that I had to sit down and do some investigating…apparently my eyes weren’t making this stuff up!

ImageThat’s brown…right?!

Still, it wasn’t until I met up several months later with a friend of mine who had done his own Glock frames in Patriot Brown that I had the chance for a direct comparison of the two colors.  Below: (Top) Patriot Brown G19, (Bottom) My OD Green G17.

ImageAs you can see, they are two distinct colors.  On the bottom is my OD G17, on top the Patriot Brown G19.

At this point, I had a some options.  The first was to contact the gentleman who had initially done the wrong work and see if there was a remedy or refund available.  I felt, however, that a refund was unlikely given I had waited several months to say anything (never mind not having had opportunity for a direct comparison during that time), and I really didn’t have the stomach to pay round-trip shipping again and not have my pistol for another 2-3 weeks, all the while hoping he understood me this time and I would have what I wanted.  That coupled with the fact that my friend has the necessary equipment and paint I needed and my creeping urge to begin custom work on the frame persuaded me to cut losses and move on.  I had things I wanted to do.

My first venture into Glock frame custom work (if you can call it that) began as a simple trigger guard undercut.  I had seen it before and felt I had no use for it, but after handling a friend’s Glock on which he had undercut the trigger guard I was sold and set to work on my own.  Still, I knew I wanted to avoid the straight-into-the-frame, block-cut that many amateurs do.  Whether they think it looks good or whether it just is easier, I don’t know, but I think it looks like hell. My undercut got rounded and beveled, blending as best I could the edges.

ImageImageProfile of the undercut.  Notice the pencil marking around the mag release where I had begun toying with an release scallop.

ImageThis is how it begins!  Ugly, and you can see the black showing after taking off the thin top layer of OD Green Cerakote.

By now – after having hacked off a good bit of polymer from this thing, I began to get confident.  I also began to look a bit closer at what the pros were doing.  Ben at Boresight Solutions quickly became the standard I wanted and, while I wasn’t going to put $1000 into my Glock, I was going to analyze his work and try to emulate it.  From this, the idea was born to bevel the magazine release as well.  So, here I am, using a $10 rotary tool (my Dremel being 1200 miles away at the time; no fear!) hacking away at my $400 piece of plastic.  Despite my handicaps and that I had never done any of this before, I was somewhat pleased with the result.

ImageImageImageImageCut and polished.  As you can see, I got a little wrapped in the project and straightened the front edge of the trigger guard.  Hindsight finds me regretting it.

I had a pretty good idea what I liked and disliked by this time.  Having perused hundreds of Glock customizations, I knew that I didn’t like simple, flat-edge undercuts.  I wanted thin, clean, beveled edges and contours.  While the above work left me satisfied that I could do acceptable work with a rotary tool, it left me wanting more.  I wasn’t going to paint it again until I got it to finished form, and that meant diving in head first and completing the undercut along the length of the trigger guard, and even stippling the frame.  As it turns out, two more mistakes lay ahead for this project.

The first of the last two mistakes was not sanding the frame smooth prior to laying the iron on it.  This would require a bit of time and detail in removing the finger grooves (which I find all Glocks seriously wanting to do without) and making even the rest of the frame, and quite frankly I got lazy and/or in a hurry, neither of which generally being conducive to a job well done.  Still, I was happy enough with it to send if off to be painted real Patriot Brown.

Image

ImageImageImageFinished product!  For a short time.  Alas, there was one mistake left to come.

So there she is, finished after a few months of tinkering.  But she would stay this time only a short while.  As with the start of this project, a friend’s work would push me a step beyond where I felt I could go.  He showed me his newest Gen4, from which he had removed the finger grooves and sanded smooth the entire frame prior to stippling.  That was it: the finger grooves which I had wavered about since the day I got the pistol had to go, as they should have from the first day.  And this is the second of the last two mistakes.

When you stipple polymer plastic, you essentially melt and raise the surface of the material, creating a raised, textured surface.  Keep applying the iron to it and the height gets compounded, and quite frankly begins to look really poor.  Still, after racing home after work and hacking off the grooves – revealing the base black polymer against the painted frame – I decided to make all the stipple black by applying the iron once more, if only lightly.  Turns out it doesn’t work that way.  In order to bring the black to the surface, a lot of heat has to be applied, creating an unsightly texture.  Thankfully, a light sanding was able to knock off some width/height and retain the texture decent enough.

ImageFinger grooves removed and re-stippled.  I nearly screwed the pooch on this part, but was able to salvage it enough to keep myself happy.

  Just the same, the whole thing received a media blast to clear the old color away in preparation for a new coat…that never came.  I came to like the beat-up gray that was left over following the blasting, leaving slight traces of Patriot Brown and, yes, even the OD Green that started this whole mess.  Hell, it’s a Glock: you can’t make ’em pretty, just less ugly.

ImageImageAs it stands now.  Undercut, beveled, stippled, hacked, beat, and blasted.  Great as ever.

ImageSenator DeLeon’s Original Ghost Gun

Following is a list of parts/mods/changes/add-ons not mentioned above:

  • Trijicon HD Night Sights – replaced the Meprolight TruDot sights I had put on when I first got the pistol.  The TruDots are a fine NS, but I found them lower than I wanted and quite frankly outmatched by the HD’s U-Notch rear sight and hi-viz front sight.
  • Replaced the full-size Glock smooth-faced trigger with a factory Glock grooved trigger.  No practical advantage, but I prefer both the look and feel of the grooved trigger, perhaps owing to my first Glock being the G19.  Glock is required by United States law to import pistols shorter than its full-size models with a grooved trigger.  There is no real sense to this, but the more hurdles to import a gun the happier the Ban Everything Committee.  And me, apparently.
  • Vickers Tactical extended magazine release (and slide release: now removed) – Vickers mag release is longer than stock, but shorter than the extended mag release Glock offers (which is, I believe, just their large frame model mag release – G20, G21, etc.) that tends to be too long and has a habit of inadvertently leaving your mag lying somewhere behind.  I also had a Vickers extended slide release lever installed, which is a great piece of gear, but found that my thumb kept resting on it during shooting, preventing the slide from locking open when the mag empties.  Not a good feeling when doing speed drills or – I can only imagine – in combat.
  • 3.5lb Connector and Extra Power Trigger Spring – ZevTech makes the spring, and I couldn’t tell you who makes the connector (perhaps Zev as well?).  I don’t generally like tinkering with the internals and I steer clear as much as can be helped, but the 3.5 connector and increased power spring as stand-alones have been a very nice improvement over factory internal settings, reducing the trigger pull to a comfortable, but not absurd, level.  Crisp, clean, but still strong, and not a problem yet with several thousand rounds on those parts.  In fact I have had less “grit” in the pull while shooting in the desert when things get dirty than with the factory connector.  Perhaps it’s placebo, but I’ll stick with it.
  • Lanyard Plug – I forget who makes it, but it’s the only one out there.  I enjoy having the lanyard option and having the rear closed up (the arguments for/against this go on for days, and I have no real opinion on the matter save that I like this way better…just because).  The downside with this particular part is that the stock screw supplied with it was considerably too short, and required me finding a specialized parts store and then cutting the screw down a bit, damn near cutting my finger in half with a pair of needle nose pliers.  Yikes!  Still, it hasn’t budged and I like it.
  • Surefire X300Ultra – 500 lumens, long life, clean light, great throw.  I had previously rocked a Streamlight TLR-1HL which, at 630 lumens and a strobe feature to boot, is a beast of a light.  Still, I found the X300U to have better throw and a cleaner light, and just better lines (I know: not a reason to rock a piece of gear that may save your life one day).  Is it worth nearly double the HL?  I can’t honestly say it is.  I would trust myself to either brand in a pinch.  I just prefer the X300U, simple as that.

That’s about it for this thing. I have done what I can to keep the pistol as simple as it comes from the factory – it only goes on if it serves a clear, demonstrable purpose.  Certainly I haven’t covered everything here, either because I have forgot or it’s unimportant, but there have been a ton of lessons learned with this pistol project.  I have done things that have worked well and even better than predicted, and some that I wouldn’t do again; I’ve shown what can be done with $30 in parts and untold hours of labor and thought (oftentimes in that order); and, importantly, I have set a framework for future projects.

Image12yds, standing.  One flyer.  Paper is nice, but steel and shot timers are where the work is.

C|P

“Dear Son,…”

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I considered keeping this for myself, but it’s too pretty to smother with my selfishness.

A bit about the designer, from Kaufmann Mercantile, where I discovered it:

Artist and designer Stephen Kenn moved from his native Canada to pursue a career in denim and leather accessories design in Los Angeles. He started his own line when an industry friend let him in on a little known secret: a stockpile of leftover fabrics and textiles from World War II was ferreted away in a downtown warehouse. Awed by this discovery, Stephen visited the warehouse several times, sitting atop a mountain of surplus material and pondering the war heroes that once donned these garments. Eventually, he was inspired to create a line of minimal, comfortable furniture using these recycled fabrics. His product line has now expanded to include bags and accessories, which also pay homage to military aesthetics.

I was curious what video could possibly be made about a bag.  I still don’t have an answer to that, because this video is so much more:

 

C|P

Veneficium! or, Who Gets The House?

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The Code of Hammurabi (18th c. BC) prescribes for sorcery that the person on whom the spell was cast should be made to walk into the river.  Should the river consume him and thus find him guilty, the man who cast the spell should acquire the guilty man’s house.  Should he live and be found not guilty, then the accused shall get the house, and the man who cast the spell put to death.

But that’s not to say the Babylonians had anything unique going on; in the twenty centuries succeeding the laws put forth by the king, tens of thousands more would be put to death for sorcery – or even the mere allegation of it.  Ancient Egypt followed close on the Babylonian style, and pagan Rome perhaps leads them all in executions on suspicion of sorcery, especially if the crops were bad.  The Middle Ages define for many of us the image of the witch hunt, if not the Salem Witch Trials of early America.

But for much of the civilized world, witch hunts largely ceased after the mid-18th century.  In England, the last executions for witchcraft occurred at Exeter in 1682 when three woman were put to death.  Nearly thirty years later, in 1711, Joseph Addison would publish an article in the highly respected The Spectator journal (No. 117) criticizing the irrationality and social injustice in treating elderly and feeble women as witches.

Still, not everybody gets The Spectator. (*NSFW Warning: May Be Graphic To Some Viewers)

Witch hunts still happen today, particularly in places where the belief in magic is prevalent – largely Sub-Saharan Africa, India and Papua New Guinea (though it should be noted that Saudi Arabia is the sole remaining country where witchcraft is legally punishable by death).  A 2010 estimate places the number of “witches” put to death annually in India at around 200; and the Simbu province of Papua New Guinea alone! accounts for nearly 150 deaths annually for acts and accusations of witchcraft.

Just the same, it’s hard from where I sit to imagine such a thing.  We read about it in old books and forget about it as quick as it came upon us.  Hell, the idea of witches and witch hunting is more foreign to most of us than walking on the moon.  Think about that.

Still, don’t think I have looked beyond the evil that swells upon our own shores; everyday callous people rape and torture and murder other human beings for nothing more than sport; they target strangers in a now-popularized “game”; they shoot up schools and malls and public places because they are unhappy.  Or perhaps because they’ll become famous.

Considering that, perhaps it isn’t the action that still shocks me so much as the inaction.  That people would walk themselves to their death, never giving back the fight.  It’s sad, really, that a person can be made to be that way.

Lord help the men who come to take me to the pyre.

You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.

– General Sir Charles Napier

C|P

Thanksgiving: Family and Turkey…and the Dogs

I spent Thanksgiving this year with the girlfriend’s family in Carmel; a good bunch to spend the holiday with, and a great place, as well.  Weather was perfect, food was plentiful, and the people were fun.  Her great-Aunt Lee even complimented my legs as I left to get in some morning PT.

I’ll take it.

But the humans are just, well… the human part of the family.  There are two dogs, as well.  The Lab is pretty unremarkable – a good thing for a dog to be.  The Shepard, however, is trouble.  He’s the kind of dog you have to keep tabs on, because if he ain’t with you he’s into something you don’t want him in.  Like, four surgeries worth of stuff.

Always good for excitement, he didn’t disappoint.  Someone noticed he wasn’t around, so the first place to look was the kitchen.  Can you guess where this is going?  There, on the floor, was the just-fried turkey, right breast torn into, and I recall a leg separated as well.  Yells were heard, the family summoned, and since laughing was the only option, that’s what we did.  Then we ate what remained of the turkey with our hands.  An hors d’oeurves, or sorts, if the hors d’oeurves were also the main course… which was still a go thanks to a little foresight and preparedness; two turkeys remained on deck to pick up the slack.

Beyond that it was dinner, replete with botched prayers (which there isn’t such a thing), thanks and remembrances, and stories and more laughter, all of which eventually migrated to the patio fireplace for mild drinks and music.

It’s been a good year.

C|P

“Utopia sounds great…but I would f***ing hate it.”

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There is little known about this video, aside from it being a Levi’s Concept Designs production. What is known is that it is beautifully well-done and worth a few minutes.

“Things that don’t change, die. That’s a part of life…”

Pretty well sums it up.

C|P