Friday, December 28, 2007

How prepared is enough?

In the online gun community, preparedness for every situation is well-discussed. People of course advocate carrying a gun, but many also advocate carrying spare ammo for the gun, a backup gun, and sometimes spare ammo for the backup. A high-quality assisted opening knife is also a must, plus several classes at elite gun training schools. All this is used to fight your way to your trunk or armored saferoom, where you keep a bug-out-bag that has a combat rifle with at least 15 fully loaded 30 round magazines, and supplies to live for several days. If you take this sort of thing that seriously, you have not only crossed from prepared to paranoid, you are now spending your time preparing for disaster instead of living. If you are not law enforcement and there is any significant chance that you will need more than 15 rounds of ammo, you probably need to make some changes to your lifestyle. I'm not saying that everyone who trains hard is paranoid. If shooting is a hobby and training is part of that, it is no more paranoid than a race car driving school. So what is enough? A basic gun safety course, preferably with live fire--The NRA course that most Ohio CCW trainers use is a good start, although with 10 hours of classroom time, some extra should be covered. 2 hours range time is decent, if it isn't split with one instructor and 15 students. You should have some training or practice in fast "close enough" shooting--have someone else signal when to start, and shoot 5 fast shots at a paper plate (or even better an IPSC target) at about 7 yards. If you miss the plate (or A zone) often, you are going too fast. If your shots are all centered in the plate, you are going too slow. Working with a shot timer is an added bonus--Time does funny things, and what feels like half speed may drastically improve accuracy with a minor increase in time. "You can't miss fast enough to win". If you will carry, it makes sense to do some practice from the holster--This is hard to do with live ammo, because most ranges won't allow it. I really can't argue with that rule, there are lots of people who shouldn't draw and fire unsupervised. I'm lucky that my club range allows "known action shooters" to shoot from the holster. You can also get some benefit from practicing with an empty gun, or even better an airsoft or BB gun. If you get a chance to shoot IPSC, IDPA or even Cowboy Action shooting, you will learn a lot in a few matches. These are sports designed aroudn scenerios--you will draw, fire and move around on the clock, and your score is based on time, with time added for poor accuracy. Much beyond that should be considered only if it is fun--If it isn't enjoyable, you should look at other ways to improve your safety. For strict time and cost-effectiveness, I should get a car with airbags before I spend money on self-defense stuff--I've been in far more car accidents than violent assaults.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I don't know how much mainstream press the problems in touchscreen voting has got, but it is an amazingly scary situation.

is just the top result from Google "Ohio Voting" on Google News.

An article from Wired: Magnet and PDA can change votes

It may seem odd to non-geeks, but the most secure cryptographic systems are the ones where the program source code is public--This lets experts verify that the code works as stated, and that there are not back doors. The code is public, but without the proper keys, the data is still secure. This is a bit like being able to examine the design of a lock to make sure that only your key or combination will open it, and there isn't a passkey or default combination.

Many (possibly most, or all) of the voting machine companies resisted having a human readable paper ballots as part of the system--Coincidentally the only way to verify that their machines are working properly. The problem here is not (primarily) random error, but either biased error or more importantly intentionally introduced error. In the Wired article they found that a person with a PDA and a magnet could make significant changes to iVotronic systems, even if they didn't know the passwords. In addition, there is an undocumented account that bypasses security--Essentially a master key, not unique to a particular machine, but common to all of them that lets an unauthorized user take complete control of the machine. iVotronic is not the only system with poor security--All the top systems have significant, exploitable flaws.

Premier Election Systems used to be a part of Diebold, who also makes Automatic Teller Machines. Odd that they have figured out security there (which includes a mechanically-printed audit tape...)

Various quotes from the voting machine companies say things that basically amount to "not fair, we fixed that in the next version". I reluctantly believe that this is incompetence and laziness rather than deliberate action. It doesn't matter though--Incompetence exploited by others is just as dangerous, and the amount of paranoia that is reasonable in this situation is nearly infinite.

The bare minimum standard is that there is a voter-verified paper ballot printed and saved. Machines should be randomly spot-checked, to make sure that the paper ballots match what is being reported. Any company that resists that should be immediately disqualified from building voting machines. Encryption, security and all software specific to the voting machine should have the source code available for examination--Ideally, all code would have source available.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

More zero-tolerance

Student Arrested After Cutting Food With Knife. The horror!

It should probably be against school rules for students to bring steak knives in, even if they are just for food. Pressing charges on this is utterly silly. Does this mean that staff can't have a Swiss Army knife? How do the cooks make lunch?

(H/T to Of Arms and the Law)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CCW class audit

My brother-in-law recently figured out he could get his CCW, despite a colorful past--None of his "youthful indiscretions" were serious enough for him to fail a NICS check, and from what he's told me, none should give him problems with a license. An added problem is that he grew up as a migrant, and can't read. We convinced my mother in law to go also--She can't read either, so my wife and I went along to help them with paperwork and such, even though both of us already have our licenses.

I found the instructor online. I'd talked with him briefly at his shop, and thought he would get along with my BIL. I'd explained the situation, asked about sitting in, and he said it would be fine. Day of class, it changed to us sitting in if there was still room.

He would be OK for someone who already knows what they need to and just needs the course certificate with minimum hassle, but he was not the right one for someone who needs to actually learn.


Claimed it was illegal for a CCW holder to keep a loaded gun in a locked container under your seat. Ohio law says the container must be either locked OR in plain sight. I questioned this, read the part of the book that explained and he was all "I'm the expert here" about it. I didn't continue to argue, but he kept on the subject for a few minutes.

Was wearing a Concealed Carry badge to carry next to your gun. Technically legal, but the long-term gun guys I've talked to are about 95% against. Said that someone irresponsible wanted one, he refused to tell them were it came from. (Google search turned that site up as the first result)

Claimed that Extreme Shock was the best ammo ever, made out of powdered titanium (according to him). This ammo only does well when tested by people involved in selling it--In independent tests it is well below average, despite the cost of nearly $2 per round.

Said that carrying a gun where a business has posted signs against is only a $60 fine--Like a ticket. Advocated carrying a gun into a rest stop, despite the law, and didn't mention that it is a felony.

If he were injured by violent crime where guns were banned, or if a policeman violated his rights, "I would OWN them. I would OWN their ass!!!!" Probably 5 different scenarios caused him to say this, always at least twice.

A .22 will bounce around inside the body and cause more damage. (Um, no. )

Range time was mostly with a scoped .22 that malfunctioned often. He did have a variety of other guns of various calibers. The range was 25 yards--Not his fault, but fairly difficult to actually see what you are doing at that range. I got to shoot a Keltec PF-9, a gun I've been considering. Recoil was less than I expected, so I may get one later.

Gun cleaning was "Here's some Hoppes, oil and Q tips, go to it".. No explanation, no organization.

Maybe 6 hours was spent actually teaching. That is probably enough to cover the minimum course requirements, but since Ohio requires 12 hours of attendance, there is no reason not to use it.

I won't be recommending him over a random instructor advertised on a telephone pole.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Marko gets it right again:

The number of casualties at the site of an attempted mass shooting is usually determined by whether the gun used to stop the killer is already at the site, or whether it must be carried there in the holster of a police officer.

(Text by Marko, links mine)
I was half-listening to Divorce Court (or a similar show) when they were arguing about who pays for a child's health care. Fairly standard orders--If medical insurance is available from the employer, it must be provided, and the father is responsible for half the medical bills. In a divorce, I don't know if there is a completely fair way of handling this, and that probably is a decent compromise.

This led me to another thought--There is a belief that medical costs are all legitimate and necessary, and not subject to economizing. I've said before that one of the (many) problems with the US system is that there is no economy-class care, and neither the means nor incentive for most people to make decisions that will save money.

What could a doctor (or nurse-practitioner) charge if his care was "as is", with no possibility of malpractice recovery?

Some people would rather have a prescription than over the counter, because insurance will pay prescriptions. If two drugs work almost equally, should you take the one that costs 20 times as much?

Would you like car insurance that covers not only collision, but routine maintenance and repair? Oil changes, new tires, maybe even fuel?

Or, how about if engine replacement is covered, but oil changes aren't?

Of course, the average person will be paying at least the same costs as before, with some administrative overhead tacked on. In the case of the car--If fuel is covered, you'll be paying the average costs of people with no incentive to save gas--may as well drive as fast as you can without getting tickets, jackrabbit starts, no incentive to drive economically. Or if the engine will be replaced if needed, no reason to bother with oil changes. No matter how insurance like this is structured, it will change behavior.

This is one of the reasons medical insurance has screwed up our system--someone else pays the individual bills, and the incentive to reduce costs is reduced or eliminated. My employer is offering options where there is a high deductible for everything except preventative care, but there is also a medical savings account with employer contribution--I get to decide how to spend pre-deductible money, but I'm covered for extreme circumstances. It is decent for the individual, but I think the whole country would be much better off if this had been the standard for the past 20 years.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mistaken for a gun free zone

A gunman was recently killed by armed security during an attack on a Colorado Springs church.

Even in states with liberal concealed handgun laws, churches are often banned places. In Ohio, a church is off-limits unless specific permission is given by the church leadership. In other states, it is an outright ban I would not be surprised if the gunman believed he would meet little resistance, and used that in determining his target. While this is a tragedy, I am glad that he chose a church that believed in and could afford armed security. (Update: It wasn't a paid security guard, it was a heroic member of the church, Jeanne Assam) What about a little 200 member congregation struggling to just pay their basic bills?

Multiple victim shootings happen disproportionately in places where guns are not allowed--According to John Lott, ALL attacks with more than a small number of victims take place in "gun free zones". To be fair, I don't know how relevant some of these cases are--It is possible that the last two malls with shootings only technically banned guns, but not in a way that most legally armed would be required to obey. I've heard rumors that many malls in my area ban guns, but rather than posting the restrictions 'conspicuously at eahc entrance' as the law allows, they are in the middle of long lists of rules. As long as I don't see the buried prohibition, I am still legally allowed to carry.

I don't think the biggest benefit to concealed carry is to me personally. I live a low-risk life, and I am unlikely to need my gun. I believe that the benefit is to society--Criminals and madmen are less certain who and when they can attack without resistance.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sleepy boss

If your offices are at the customer's site, and your boss is snoring really, reeally loud, what is the proper course of action?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Walking in snow

Work now has instructions posted on the door on how to walk in snow... Previously unknown tips like:

"Don't jump out in front of cars, they may not be able to stop in time"

"Watch out for black ice-It is extremely slippery".

No kidding.

Parable of the bird feeder

Had this sent to me by a co-worker. Original is in indented italics, my comments are standard full-margin.
(Full Disclosure: My wife was born in America, but of Mexican descent)
An interesting parable

I bought a bird feeder. I hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed. What a beauty of a bird feeder it is, as I filled it lovingly with seed.

Within a week we had hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and
easily accessible food.

But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue.

Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table ... everywhere! Then some of the birds turned mean.

They would dive bomb me and try to peck me even though I had fed them out of my own pocket. And others birds were boisterous and loud. They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill it when it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even sit on my own back porch anymore. So I took down the bird feeder and in three days the birds were gone. I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio.

Soon, the back yard was like it used to be ... quiet, serene and no one demanding their rights to a free meal.

Now let's see .... Our government gives out free food, subsidized housing, free medical care,

OK so far....

and free education

Probably a good idea to continue this. I want the country run by smart people--We are competing with the whole world, no sense handicapping ourselves by a lack of education.

and allows anyone born here to be an automatic citizen.

Part of the constitution. This is nowhere near a big enough problem for me to second-guess the founding fathers--They were a lot smarter than I am, and did an amazingly good job.

However, just because Junior is a citizen doesn't mean we have to let Mom and Dad stay here--Junior can stay with a legal resident guardian, or he can come back when he's 18 to claim his citizenship.

Then the illegals came by the tens of thousands.

Non sequitur--Most of the illegals are here to "take our jobs", not to live off our welfare. Most of our welfare requires ID.

Suddenly our taxes went up to pay for free services;

Another non sequitur--Most illegals work "real" jobs, with taxes deducted. Illegals cannot claim social security or many of the other services they pay for.

small apartments are housing 5 families; you have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room doctor;

This is because emergency rooms are not allowed to say "you don't have a real emergency, go away". Patients can pay a taxi to take them to their family doctor who will also expect to be paid, or they can call an ambulance to take them to the ER, costing them nothing--Where they will complain about "poor service".

your child's 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half the class doesn't speak English.

...instead they speak some ghetto dialect, and deride their peers who try to learn for acting like they are special.

Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box; I have to "press one" to hear my bank talk to me in English,

Not a problem until they make me press 2. If you were in a foreign country would you insist on only using the native language, or would you prefer businesses that would work with you in English?

Should businesses have mandated standards of customer service, and be forbidden to use other languages?

and people waving flags other than "Old Glory" are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.

Valid point. Maybe they would prefer Mexican immigration law...Probably not, ours is lenient by comparison.

Just my opinion, but maybe it's time for the government to take down the bird feeder.

No argument at all. While there are a few immigrant shitbirds, the majority are native. Some people are willing to live among shit to be supported without working.

You don't see Americans trying to get jobs as day laborers--They are hanging around the bird feeder, bitching because it isn't filled with Caviar. "Lazy Mexicans are living off our welfare....and stealing our jobs!".

If you agree, pass it on. If not, continue cleaning up the poop!

I'd love to get rid of the poop, but I sure as hell don't want to sort it into piles--American poop stinks just as bad, and there is a lot more of it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Customer service

I ordered 2 pepperoni pizzas from the place down the street. They sent me 2 cheese instead. When I called to get the right pizzas, the manager seemed to think that because the computer said "Cheese", that must be what I ordered. He finally relented, said he'd send the pepperoni.

When they got here, there was a $1.50 delivery fee. When I was going to call the store, the driver didn't insist on charging me. I called the manager back--He seemed to think it reasonable to pay another delivery fee, after all "you've got two free pizzas" as if that is what I intended in the first place. I told him he can have them back, I don't like plain cheese. He kept arguing with me until I hung up on him.