Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Para-Blackwater Weekend

Well, the gun bloggers have come and gone for their little field trip. I'm definitely glad that Curtis and I were able to meet so many of them. I'm even happier that I was able to help out a couple of them buy letting Don crash on my sofa Thursday night and then Greg on Sunday night. Hopefully, I didn't talk their ear off too much while they were there. Sadly, knowing that I'm prone to talk "at" people instead of "with" them at time hasn't been enough to make it never happen.

This did serve as another reminder that I need to get a better digital camera. The Pentax Optio W20 is great for taking outdoor pictures while I'm out kayaking or riding my motorcycle. But it is absolutely horrible with artificial lighting. It rarely focuses successfully, so I usually have to manually focus. Even then, the end result is just painfully grainy. Hopefully, not being able to snap some shots of the guys that stayed at my place, or of anyone at the gun blogger meals, will help motivate me to finally start selling off some of my stuff on Ebay to pay for part of a Nikon D40 or the starter Canon Rebel.

Shall Not Be Infringed (SNBI)

Making Amends - Armed and Safe

As is often the case for me, I found that my comment to this post grew a bit lengthy. So, for once, I decided to just make it a post of my own. The main thing that got my attention in this post was his reference to the "SNBI extremist" slur that floats around some of the gun blogs. To that, I had this to say.

While I do see the "SNBI" mentality criticized off an on, I really don't see people criticizing the belief that "shall not be infringed" means just that. It was my understanding that SNBI was used to refer to people like the following:
  1. Believes that just yelling "Shall not be infringed", or similar, in debates/conversations about gun rights is an effective tactic to sway those in the middle with no real opinion.
  2. Sees any law pertaining to firearms that infringes in some was as a horrible violation on us, even when it's a law that actually makes things better for us.
  3. Believes there's a realistic chance of having every bad gun law (i.e. virtually all of them) wiped away in one fell swoop, and anything various groups do to improve things that still fall short of that are proof of us "selling out".
Frequently, the issue the people who use the term SNBI really isn't with a lot of what the "SNBIs" believe, but with how they present it. It's also with the fact that many of them don't take a long view of things, because that perspective requires patience. I actually had the misfortune to work the VCDL table (www.vcdl.org) at a gun show with someone that personifies what I think of when people talk about SNBIs. He wasn't a bad person. But he came across as almost beligerent when trying to get people to learn more about what the VCDL does for gun rights in the state. All that did was make people that aren't active in the gun rights community want to stay that way even more. He just had no grasp of the fact that we're trying to sell a product, that product being the concept of self-defense and individual rights.

There are a few things that I think are pretty safe to assume are true. First, gun owners are a minority, and gun owners that really care about gun rights are an even smaller one. Second, until we get more people in the middle to look at firearms the same way they do at a fire extinguisher, power tools, or a spare tire, we won't have much chance at getting the court decisions and laws that we would really like to see.

Personally, I refuse to alter my behavior to accomodate those who fight to take away my rights. But I will alter what I say and do to sway those in the middle towards my point of view. The way I see it, the former is just a pointless compromise, because nothing you will change their goal. But the latter drastically increases my chances of adding more people into our fold.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Primaries, Voting, and Teaching "Them" a Lesson

“How will [abstaining from voting] send a message? It will send the message that the "business as usual" way of doing politics is no longer acceptable. It will send the message that the American voters demand meaning in their politicians, and if they don't get it, they will turn away and strip them of their power.” – Nikki

As the primaries moved to the point where McCain seemed the obvious one to be the Republican candidate, I started seeing statements like this more and more on the various blogs that I read. Sentiments like this come up, to one degree or another, every election. But it definitely seems more widespread this time around. Every time, some disgruntled group decides that they’re not voting to teach “Them” a lesson.

Whenever I see people talking about this, I can’t help but notice that these otherwise intelligent people just can’t grasp how stupid their words sound. I hate to target Nikki specifically here, since I’ve seen this all over. But her post on this stuck with me the most since, of those that have said this, she's the one I respect the most. As much as I respect her opinion on most things, I really feel like she, and many others that feel like her, are letting their anger about how the primaries turned out blind them to truly effective solutions.

“..the American voters demand meaning in their

Sorry to break this to everyone, but they really don’t. The American voters are morons that demand about as much meaning from their politicians as they do from the shows that they stare at blankly on TV. Honestly, how much can you expect from our “peers” when the top 3 rated shows this week were American Idol, the American Idol results show, and Dancing with the Stars. American voters don’t demand meaning, they demand pretty hair and catchy sound bites. Hell, if they demanded meaning in a candidate, that might mean they were actually intelligent enough to know that the President can’t do most of what these idiots are promising.

Too many people are completely missing the fact that our “peers” are the ones that put McCain where he is now. Granted, part of the problem is that Ron Paul came across as a nut and Fred Thompson seemed to think he could campaign without actually campaigning. But, as far as I can tell, the primaries just turned into a big game of “Whose name do you recognize the most on the ballot.” The American people don’t research candidates, and they most certainly don’t pay any attention to things like past voting records. As I see it, there is nothing substantial we can do to fix things before this election. However, I think there are a couple of things we can do that will make a real difference in the next election, and one of those will require actual sacrifice on our parts.

The first thing we need to do is start reaching out to our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. We don’t need to make them agree with our beliefs. But we at least need to get them to care enough about their own to be willing to research the candidates before picking one the next time around. Honestly, can you imagine how much better this country would be if everyone, in every party, actually expected real substance from their candidates?

The second, and more challenging, is that we need to start getting involved in the primaries. All you have to do is look at the states that do their primaries earliest to know that most of us are effectively shut out of the process. By the time things reach the more populous states, a lot of the candidates have already been driven out of the race. The only way I can see for us to fix this is to take the time to go help campaign for our candidate of choice in those early states. If I think there’s a reasonable chance that my candidate still won’t be running by the time he reaches my state, the most logical thing is for me to convince those voting earlier that he should be their candidate as well.

I’ll be completely honest at this point and admit that I don’t have a clue about how to make that work. But I’ve got 3-4 years to figure it out.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Movies I've Seen Meme

Armed Canadian had an interesting post about the latest meme, so I thought I'd have a little fun with it as well. I would like to note two things: having seen a movie doesn't mean it wasn't under duress, and I'm counting movies that I've seen most of while channel surfing.

Rocky Horror Picture Show
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest
Boondock Saints
Fight Club
Starsky and Hutch
Neverending Story
Blazing Saddles
Universal Soldier
Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Along Came Polly
Deep Impact
King Pin
Never Been Kissed
Meet The Parents
Meet the Fockers
Eight Crazy Nights
Joe Dirt
King Kong (1933)
King Kong (1976)
King Kong (2005)
A Cinderella Story
The Terminal
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Passport to Paris
Dumb & Dumber
Dumber & Dumberer
Final Destination
Final Destination 2
Final Destination 3
The Ring
The Ring 2
Surviving X-Mas
Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
Practical Magic
Ghost Ship
From Hell
Secret Window
I Am Sam
The Whole Nine Yards
The Whole Ten Yards
The Day After Tomorrow
Child’s Play
Seed of Chucky
Bride of Chucky
Ten Things I Hate About You
Just Married
Nightmare on Elm Street
Sixteen Candles
Remember the Titans
Coach Carter
The Grudge
The Grudge 2
The Mask
Son Of The Mask
Bad Boys
Bad Boys 2
Joy Ride
Lucky Number Slevin
Ocean’s Eleven
Ocean’s Twelve
Bourne Identity
Bourne Supremacy
Lone Star
Predator II
The Fog
Ice Age
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
Curious George
Independence Day
A Bronx Tale
Darkness Falls
Children of the Corn
My Boss’s Daughter
Maid in Manhattan
War of the Worlds (1953)
War of the Worlds (2005)
Rush Hour
Rush Hour 2
Best Bet
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
She’s All That
Calendar Girls
Mars Attacks!
Event Horizon
Ever After
The Wizard of Oz
Forrest Gump
Big Trouble in Little China
The Terminator
The Terminator 2
The Terminator 3
Spider-Man 2
Sky High
Jeepers Creepers
Jeepers Creepers 2
Catch Me If You Can
The Little Mermaid
Freaky Friday
Reign of Fire
The Skulls
Cruel Intentions
Cruel Intentions 2
The Hot Chick
Shrek 2
Shrek 3
Miracle on 34th Street
Old School
The Notebook
Krippendorf’s Tribe
A Walk to Remember
Ice Castles
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Lord of the Rings: Return Of the King
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Waiting for Guffman
House of 1000 Corpses
Devil’s Rejects
Mothman Prophecies

American History X
The Jacket
Kung Fu Hustle
Shaolin Soccer
Night Watch
Monsters, Inc.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Shaun Of the Dead
High Tension
Club Dread
Dawn Of the Dead
Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
28 days later
Kill Bill, Volume 1
Kill Bill, Volume 2
Mortal Kombat
Wolf Creek
Kingdom of Heaven
The Hills Have Eyes
I Spit on Your Grave, AKA The Day of the Woman
The Last House on the Left
Army of Darkness
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Ewoks: Caravan Of Courage, AKA The Ewok Adventure
Ewoks: The Battle For Endor
The Matrix
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
Evil Dead
Evil Dead 2
Team America: World Police
Red Dragon
Silence of the Lambs

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Vegas Baby!!

Not very long ago, my wife and I discovered the music of Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine. He and his band take popular songs, such as Baby Got Back and Gin & Juice, and turn them into lounge music. Since he was playing in Vegas on 12/29 and 12/31, we decided that warranted a trip to Nevada over the holidays.

The plan was to fly out Christmas morning, and then return on the 30th. The biggest issue I had was what to do with the rest of my time while we were there. I've never gone to Vegas before because I don't gamble and, since I won't even waste money on a strip club, the other popular past time in Vegas was never really an option either. Fortunately, my wife found out that the BMW motorcycle dealership in Vegas (BMW Motorcycles of Las Vegas) rents some of their bikes out. After a couple of emails with the owner, and a quick post on www.i-bmw.com for some tips on good roads to check out, I had a plan.

My initial plan was to rent a model that I was thinking of buying in a few years. Unfortunately, that only narrowed me down to the R1200RT, the R1200GS, and the K1200GT. Which of those I buy depends a lot on what type of riding I find myself wanting to do at that point, as well as on whether or not my wife spends any significant time on the back of the bike on trips. For the purposes of this weekend, however, the K1200GT quickly became the object of my desires. The primary reasons being that: a) I've never spent any significant time on a 4 cylinder bike and b) I wasn't going to going off-road anyway (or so I thought). So there I was, as the doors opened on the 27th, waiting anxiously to pick up the bike and get the heck out of Vegas.

Day 1 - 12/27 (approx 180 miles. temp: 45F-50F)

The plan for the first day was fairly simple. Since my wife was going to be coming along that day, it was going to be limited to a 4 hour trek along Lake Mead, with a detour to Hoover Dam. The first thing that we learned is that there is no such thing as a quick detour to Hoover Dam. We were barely out of Boulder City when the traffic came to a stand still. Since police in Virginia frown on riding the shoulder, or lane splitting, I spent a few minutes sitting in the traffic until a couple of Harleys with Nevada plates cruised on past me. Taking my cue, I shot up along the shoulder behind them.

Having seen Hoover Dam now, I'd have to say that, if you aren't planning to stay for the tour, it's not worth the hassle. Based on the traffic, it's also possibly the worst way imaginable to get to Arizona from Nevada. My wife and I hit the gift shop, took some pictures, and high tailed it out of there to find someplace a little less crowded. The rest of the ride was pretty nice. NV-166 and 167 along Lake Mead are a lot of fun, though I wasn't expecting the small toll to enter. We did have to take a pit stop for food, and to give my wife time to thaw her hands a little (it was 45F that day after all). NV-169/Valley of Fire Hwy, however, was a bit of a disappointment. The rock formations were beautiful. But there were just too many people pulling onto the road around every blind corner that we couldn't really enjoy it much.

Day 2 - 12/28 (350 miles. temperature: 26F - 55F. Altitude: 8668ft to -250ft)

Today was the ride I had been looking forward to since we planned this trip. After gorging ourselves at the Mandalay Bay breakfast buffet, I split off from my wife and our friend who came along for the Dick Cheese show to start my ride. The first destination was Mt. Charleston and NV-158. Anything that looked that twisty on Google Maps couldn't be a bad time, and my assumption was correct. In no time at all, I found myself more than 8000 ft above sea level, and the temperature had dropped to 26F. The view was absolutely beautiful, the roads were fun, and I hated finding myself heading back downhill on NV-156 so quickly. But Death Valley was waiting for me, and sundown comes quickly this time of year.

Next stop was bustling Beatty, Nevada for gas and food. I had hoped to find some real food there in Beatty, instead of settling for a small sub from the gas station there. But when you live your entire life on the east coast, you grow to expect people, as well as gas stations and restaurants, to be everywhere. From there, it was off to Death Valley.

The first thing I that really hit me when I got to Death Valley was how little there was there, and how far away I could see while still not really seeing anything. "Vacant" seems like an understatement, especially once I passed Furnace Creek Ranch and started riding down Badwater Rd. The other thing that caught me off guard was the salt pack in the middle of the valley. My first thought was "How in the hell is there snow out there when it's 55F?". Even when I got a closer look at it, it didn't really sink in that it was salt. It wasn't until I got home and looked around the internet that I learned what it really was.

After the winding, though somewhat bumpy, trek down Badwater Rd, the ride started straighting out quite a bit on the way back to Vegas. Not being one to pass up an opportunity like straight roads in the desert, I decided it was time to see just how fast I could get a K1200GT to go. It took three attempts before I got my comfort level up enough to really peak things out, and it turns out that 156mph is the fastest I could manage without a gravity assist. After that, all that was left was to fill up again in Pahrump, NV and then head back to the hotel.

Day 3 (244 miles. temperature: 45F - 55F)

Since I had to have the bike back to the dealer before they closed, this was another shorter day. If I had it to do over, I'd have just spent it back up at Mt. Charleston, but not for the reasons you might suspect. I had planned to take I-15 to I-215 and then head down to Searchlight. But, having completely missed the sign for 215, I decided to just go ahead and ride back and forth on NV-164 rather than double back. There's really not much to say about the first part of the ride. Aside from seeing so many joshua trees in one place, there wasn't much to see on the ride. There were a few things I would have liked to photograph. But, being the ADD wonder that I am, the battery for my camera was still in the charger back at the hotel.

I was surprised to see even less at the "towns" along this ride than I saw in Beatty, especially when I hit Nipton, and then Cima, with a low tank. By the time I hit the truck stop at I-15, after putzing at 45mph to conserve gas all the way from Cima, the estimated range on the bike had been flashing "0" at me for about 3 miles. When you live where I do, you sort of expect the find gas anywhere that rates being listed as a town on the map. Obviously, I have some things to unlearn if I plan to spend as much time riding around the continent as I do.

After I hit the interstate again, I was off to Jean, Nevada and Sandy Valley Road. I learned a couple more valuable lessons here. First lesson: Sandy Valley Road ROCKS! I could spend an entire day on here and not get bored. Second lesson: when I set up the route for the day, Google Maps was determed to make me double back through Vegas to get from point "E" on the route to point "F". If I had looked at the estimated travel time once I forced it through Sandy Valley, I might have guessed why. Since I didn't pay attention to that, I ended up learning how to take a K1200GT offroad for about 16 miles. I started out going pretty slowly because I thought the rock/gravel road would turn back to pavement after a few miles. Once I realized that I was wrong, I only had 10 miles left, so I just kept picking up the pace. By this point, I might as well have been on a GS. I was doing 35-40mph, standing on the pegs nearly the entire way, and the K1200GT just ate it up. I couldn't even find a mark on the fairing once I finally reached NV-160.

After this, I headed over to Red Rock Canyon to check out the scenery on my way back to the dealership. Despite the dust, and going over on mileage, they didn't charge me anything extra there. I think the only thing I could possibly think to complain about with them was that they didn't have any dealership t-shirts in stock at the time.