Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union...

...in a nutshell...
America, we've spent all your money, and the economy is a shambles. Now get out there and innovate, so we can have money to spend again!

Watching this room full of tax eaters makes me nauseous. Hmpf.

Monday, January 24, 2011


One of my friends received a $1500 (!) full-suspension Trek mountain bike for his birthday last August, and coaxed me into going out with him. My first impression was that $1500 was a hell of a lot of money to be dropping on a vehicle sans motor, my bicycle experience heretofore limited to the selections at Wal-Mart and Toys R Us.

My bike was a ten-plus year old fluorescent orange Huffy that a coworker had given to me back when my kids were sprogs. No suspension, rusty gears/chain, disintegrating handgrips, and a steel (read HEAVY) frame - but hey, it was mountain bike styled...

Not knowing whether I'd like this new found midlife crisis activity masquerading as a sport, I was understandably reluctant to drop that kind of money on a new bike, so I figured I'd hop on the Huffy, grit my teeth, and try it out.

There's a canyon nearby that is a favorite haunt of mountain bikers, so we started to go there, trying out the terrain. I'm out of shape, so these excursions into the canyon were very tiring... but I discovered that they were a lot of fun, too.

Going up the hills was a lot (a LOT) of work, especially on a steel-framed toad, but coming down was for me, just as exciting as riding a dirt bike (even more so, perhaps, since the Huffy had cantilever brakes, as opposed to the disc brakes that grace the modern bikes). An hour out in the canyon would find me exhausted, but happy, and looking forward to the next ride.

As I said, it's quite the popular spot for mountain biking, and over the weeks I saw plenty of people out there of all ages, and all sizes.

As well as riding the canyon, I persuaded my friend to come out to the Santa Ana river trail - a bike path, that when complete, will run alongside the Santa Ana river from San Bernardino all the way to the ocean in Orange County.

Although not as strenuous, a 20 mile jag along that bike trail is still a good workout and a lot of fun.

Bottom line, I was enjoying myself. I wanted to get a better bike, but I knew next to nothing about what I should get, and I balked at the potential price tag. Like I said, I had no idea about this whole "other world" of biking, other than the occasional sightings of spandex-clad riders on the weekends as I was out and about.

My friend's father-in-law has been into the sport for a few years now, and I hit him up for advice a couple of times - what to look for, how much I thought I could get away with, etc - and I resolved to save for a decent bike.

I had looked around on the Internet and had an idea of what I wanted. Disc brakes were a must - that Huffy had NO stopping power on the steep hills. I also wanted as light a frame as I could afford, and as much suspension as I could afford (full suspension bikes cost significantly more than hardtails - bikes with front fork shocks but a rigid rear frame).

After Christmas, I'd saved a fair bit - had some help with gift money - and decided to go to the local bike shop after a run through the canyon. The guy there was very helpful and showed me their full line of mountain bikes. One in particular caught my eye, a full-suspension Haro that was marked down 50%, as it was a 2008 model, although still brand new. It was the last one there in my size - and also about $400 more than I had planned to spend...

Well, lookit that! They had layaway! They even knocked off the tax - a not so insignificant sum at that price - so I pulled the trigger.

Every ride after that, I got more and more resentful of the Huffy, faithful beast though she had been.

I couldn't stand it any more; and this weekend, crushed some cans, made some sacrifices and paid the new bike off.

Saturday found me astride my new steed, and let me tell you - it is a world of difference. Better gearing, WAY better stopping, easier to pedal, lighter and more comfortable (once I got the seat height correctly adjusted, that is). I'm still having to get used to the suspension - after riding a rigid for so long, it feels distinctly springy - but it's a lot easier on the body slamming down a rutted trail.

So, after four months or so of riding my old bike, I think I showed myself that I was enjoying this new activity enough to invest a little more into it. No regrets riding the Huffy - it kept me humble, as well as kicking my ass. I'm going to keep it, too - so I have a back-up in case the Haro needs to go into the shop.

Oh, and my new Haro? It's orange too :)

The Huffy:

The Haro:

Friday, January 21, 2011

This week in entertainment...

I just got through watching the entire first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand on Netflix this last week. A not-very historically accurate soft-core porno, filled to the brim with bloody scenes of gratuitous, gory violence set to rock music, drenched with some of the filthiest language I’ve ever heard on TV (or real life, for that matter).
Lord forgive me, I loved every minute of it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On TJIC...

What happened to TJIC pretty much appalled me. Having the authorities come into your home and violate your rights to that extent because of some Internet post was something I would have expected to hear happen in a place like Egypt, or China. That it happened right here in the Land of the Free was a shock to me.
I talked to my wife about it, and how the gun blogs were reacting. She listened to my impassioned speech for a few minutes, and then calmly asked, "Bitching on the Internet is all well and good; but what are you going to DO about it?"
Contacting the PD directly - or local (MA) politicians is probably out. Regardless of how politely I voice my protest, they'll take one look at where my email is coming from, and pitch it in the circular file. I'm not a constituent, so my opinion will be worthless to them. I'm sure they'll be receiving plenty of mail on this anyway, and if I know the gun owner community, some of it will be distinctly unpleasant, which would likely have a negative effect.
Although his blog is down - which is why I haven't linked to him, as there is really nowhere to link to - I sincerely hope TJIC sets up a mechanism by which we can contribute to his legal fund. My money will do more good in this instance than my mouth in this case, I think.
That's why I love sharing this stuff with my wife. She understands my passion about this, and is in agreement with me, yet her questions and comments make me think, rather than just react.

UPDATE: After reading this post, it turns out that TJIC is not yet asking for donations, so I followed Top of the Chain's example and made a small purchase at Heavy Ink, a comic-book distribution business owned by TJIC, by way of support. Been a long time since I've read comic books, and the ones I did read were in the country of my childhood, so I don't know squat about the ones here in the US. I'll likely buy more, when I'm not so tired and have the time and energy to peruse his wares in more detail.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Leads to confiscation. TJIC, a blogger in MA, has just had his Second Amendment rights violated for exercising his First. A snarky comment on his blog earned him a visit from the local constabulary and the confiscation of all of his guns and ammunition without a by or leave - and certainly without due process. Apparently the authorities will be holding on to them while they conduct an investigation into whether they deem him fit to possess them.
He committed no crime; indeed, scrupulously following the law in MA he got permits for all his guns - so they knew exactly what he had and where they were.
Put up a post that the man doesn't like? Well then, I guess you'd better watch your back.
Image borrowed from borepatch. I put it up because this could happen to any one of us, especially those of us who reside in the Brady's "A" states.
Give the man back his property.
H/T to DirtCrashr for the heads-up.

Range Stories...

I'd always heard a few, or read about them on the Internet, but my trips to the range had always been uneventful - aside from the fun I'd have with the stuff I brought, of course.
Since my range of choice has for all intents and purposes been effectively shut down, I have been going to one that's quite a bit further away and quite a bit more expensive to shoot at - two factors which have contrived to make this a much less frequently enjoyed pastime.
It's a little less, shall we say, polished than the one I was used to, too.
Anyhow, the last couple of times I've been there have been... interesting.

Back in November, I took my dad and the kids out there for a plinking session and a young guy sets up next to us with what looked to be some pretty old, dirty guns (later verified when he offered to let me shoot his Llama 1911 clone, which was the filthiest gun I'd ever seen). About half an hour into his shooting session, he turns to me with the remains of his crappy old TEC-9 in his hands, and a wide-eyed look on his face.
He'd been blasting away with this thing, shooting as fast as he could pull the trigger and reload, when it pretty much disintegrated in his hands. First time I'd ever seen a kaboom, and I have to say, I wasn't surprised given the type of handgun and the condition it was in. We all felt a little more comfortable when he finally packed up his gear and split.

The next trip I took out there was a little more unsettling.

I had gone with a friend who had wanted to test out a couple of ARs that he had just put together in a very legal, CA-compliant manner. It was a weekend morning, so the place was fairly full.
During one of the ceasefires, a US forest ranger (the range is on leased National Forest land) ambled by to inspect the firing line, paying particular attention to the black rifles that were present - looking for bullet buttons, etc, I imagine. He paused by one, then worked his way up the line, pausing again at our station. He then returned back to the first one, fiddled with it for a couple of minutes and asked loudly whose gun it was. The owner stepped forward and they began to talk - too far away for me to hear. After a few more minutes, the gun owner stepped back, raised his arms and the ranger frisked him. They talked a little while longer, in between the ranger talking on his radio, and then the ranger bagged up the rifle and escorted the guy to his truck. The whole firing line was held up for this entire time, and there was definitely a feeling of tension in the air.
It totally killed my friend's desire to have anything more to do with his ARs that day - we spent the rest of our time popping away with .22s - and it sure spooked me too.
I kept an eye on the goings-on around the ranger's truck, and after about half an hour, the guy was released along with his rifle. He promptly packed up without a word and boned out.
So he must have had a completely legal rifle.
Very chilling effect this whole scene had on the rest of us there, though. The whole lot of us stood there mute, while this whole thing went on. I got the very clear impression that this officer was not a fan of the black rifles.
Climate of fear indeed. I haven't been back since.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

AB962 Struck Down! Par-Tay!

Today, AB962 - the CA ammo ban law set to go into effect on Feb 1st that would have banned the Internet sale of "handgun ammunition" as well as mandated fingerprinting and ID for face-to-face purchases - was struck down by CA superior court judge Hamilton as being unconstitutionally vague.
Specific calibers were not mentioned in the law and since many calibers have utility in both rifles and handguns, this understandably created a lot of confusion amongst ammunition purchaser and sellers, as well as those in law enforcement whose task it would be to enforce the ban.
This law is dead for the time being - pending appeal (which in a sane world, would NOT happen in a state teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, but hey - this is California, after all) and ammo sales can continue legally.
While the rest of the country sees gains in their Second Amendment rights, we here in California are just pathetically grateful to be able to hold onto what rights we've got. Wins like this, however, even though they're essentially a holding action, still offer us beleaguered CA gunnies a huge morale boost. Even here, in the Golden State, the gun-grabbers can be stymied.
Many thanks to NRA, CRPA, Calguns and all the plaintiffs who made this important victory possible.