Not for the weak minded.

Scared of Guns

April 29th, 2009 Josh

 

IMG_2028.JPGGuns are totally a guy thing. Guys like to throw rocks, make loud noises, play with fire, and try to pretend like we understand machines too complicated for our brains to handle. I know, because I’m a guy.  A firearm is basically the culmination of all primordial things “manly”. These are the reasons that I enjoy shooting.  Unfortunately you can’t overlook the fact that the reason guns were invented in the first place was to kill (hunting or war… I don’t know which came first, but I’m guessing war). I can definitely see how this reason is a good basis for being afraid of guns. With all the shootings that have happened lately, that thought can easily be reinforced.

I can’t count how many people I’ve met throughout my life who are scared of guns.  If you agree that guns scare you, I would like to share my thoughts about guns. You don’t have to agree with me,  but at least think about what I have to say.

fearFirst, I would like you to consider changing your perspective on guns from “I’m scared of guns” to “I don’t like guns”. Now this may not seem like a big difference at first, but people who are scared of guns are generally ignorant of gun operation, use, and safety. The reason is that they are “scared”, and if you are scared of something, you usually don’t want to be in the same vicinity, let alone handle and learn about that something. If you change your thinking to “I don’t like guns” then we can go to the next step and tack on, “but I respect them.” And to respect something you must learn about it.

The leap requires you to get over your “fear” of guns and actually learn about them. At this point, if you are saying “no way will I ever handle a gun” let me set up a very common situation:

Uncle Bob is on vacation for a few weeks and you said you’d house sit for him. You take your kids to uncle Bob’s house to let his dog out.  Your kids are horsing around in the living room, and all of a sudden, they knock into Bob’s favorite recliner. On of your kids says “mommy mommy, look what I found!” and points to a gun that fell out of the chair. 

kidwithgunIf you’re afraid of guns, what would you do? You have two weeks until Bob gets back, and you can’t just leave it sit there on the floor with your kids there. Any good parent would know to tell their kids to not touch it and get back, but would you know how to safely handle it? Do you know how to tell if it’s loaded? Could you unload it to make it safe in case someone else found it again? (Your kids are sure to be curious to where you put it – especially if they are boys.) 

Now that is a pretty extreme case, but there are other cases that are just as likely. Considering that there are 9 guns for every 10 people in the US, your chances of encountering a gun are pretty high. Maybe your husband forgets to put a gun away before running to the store and you have company knock on the door. Or what about having a roommate that owns a gun – could you tell if they were safely handling it? These situations are very controllable and safe, as long as you don’t flip out. Twice in my life I’ve picked up a gun belonging to someone else and found that it was loaded. Since I know how to check that a gun is safe, there wasn’t a problem.

Unexpected situations like these make it prudent for you to learn about guns, even if you don’t like them, or ever want to own one. There are many ways to learn to safely handle a firearm, and chances are that you have a respectable friend who would be willing to teach you for free. Other resources include your local Police/Shariff’s office, and many ranges offer safety classes.

I hope that, after reading this, you are willing to attempt to change your view from “fear” to “respect”. It is a big step, but learning about guns can only help you out.

I help lead a target shooting life group at my church. If you have a few minutes, check out our site:  http://sharpshooters.lifegroupcentral.com/

We generally limit our group to gun owners, but if you want to learn about guns and gun safety, we would definitely be willing to take you along on our next outing.

Yes, I’m Addicted

April 23rd, 2009 Josh

To anime.

Now hang on… chances are that the first thing you think of if you are not familiar with anime is something your kids watch. This is not what I’m addicted to. Anime covers such a wide range of genres, artistic styles, lengths, and ages that the word itself is misunderstood by anyone unfamiliar with it. Good anime can put 90% of hollywood movies to shame.  So what I’m going to try to do is explain it. At least explain why I like it, and why you should too.

I’ll start out with my general overview of anime. (Bear in mind that I have no education in the visual arts whatsoever, so my classifications are not based on any real categories – only my opinions) I like to break anime int 3 different distinct classifications. The first (and least interesting IMO) is the stand-alone, sitcom-style. Every episode has a plot that resolves, and you can watch any episode and be satisfied. The second is episodic anime. This (as I understand) is the classic type, and usually has a plot that extends through one season (25-26 episodes) to resolve in the last one or two episodes. Each episode is still generally stand-alone, but the sub-plots are developed throughout the season, over many episodes. The good thing about this is that there is usually a definitive end to a series. My favorite anime of all time falls into this category.

The last classification I like to refer to as epic-dramatic. When I say epic, a series in this classification can be several hundred episodes, and span years with each episode highly linear in the overall story. These are the most addictive. I’m currently addicted to one of these – I’m at episode 80 of the second actual series. I watched the first series back in college and seriously watched about 160 episodes and never saw the end of the first series. I just recently picked up watching the second series because it’s available on Hulu (which is even worse since I can watch as many as I want in a sitting).

So why is epic-dramatic anime so addictive? Because it’s epic. When the writers have limitless episodes to build a single character, plot, sub-plot, setting, etc… the level of detail for each is ridiculous. The average mini-plot for this type usually spans 3 episodes. In fact the whole reason I’m writing this is because in the show that I’m watching now, one of the main characters died in the episode I watched today. And it was a death worthy of Shakespeare. The show is about some ninjas in a made-up land (don’t laugh) and the character that died spend the last 3 episodes fighting one of the baddest of the bad guys, and lost. In the episode today it took him 15 minutes (out of the 20 minute episode) to actually die. That’s 3/4 of the episode, just to die. And the bad guy got away.

Here’s where epic anime shines. 20 episodes ago, this guy was a background character. They spent about 20 episodes bringing him to the front, developing him, and then killed him.  Amazing. The kicker – the last, most important character that was killed off was this guy’s dad, killed by the ultimate bad guy.

How would you feel if Joker killed Robin in Batman? You know Robin. You like Robin. He’s a good guy. Now he’s dead. That’s about the feeling of how killing off this guy was. Shocking enough to make me write a blog about it.

Now after raving about how good the series I’m watching is, I must say that it’s really hard to find good anime on American TV. Most stations play garbage directed at kids, but once in a while, you’ll find the good show that is geared for adults. But unless you know what to look for, you won’t even have a clue it’s there.

There are many other reasons why I think (good) anime is worth watching. Namely, each show has it’s own signature art, music, and plot development. There are anime shows for any genre taste. I’m primarily into the ones with martial arts, but that’s quite a few of them. Like any other form of art, chances are you won’t like 99% of what’s out there; but when you find that 1% that you like, you’ll be addicted too.

Here are my favorites (most have been featured on [adult swim] on cartoon network at some point):

  • Cowboy Bebop – all time favorite. Only 26 episodes, and is so good that it has a cult-status.
  • Ghost in the Shell – slow, but great plot and not epic (it actually has an end)
  • Full Metal Alchemist – pretty childish, but I liked it.
  • FLCL – this one is just plain off the wall
  • Bleach – carefull… it’s epic
  • Naruto – also epic (this is what I’m watching now)
  • Trigun – yet another epic
  • Frisky Dingo – this is not what I consider anime, but it’s a cartoon with the most complex comedic story line of all time. I appreciate a good story line.

Suitcase Computer: Finished Again

April 15th, 2009 Josh
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The last time I wrote about my suitcase computer (the one I started back in December), it wasn’t quite finished. As I had feared, the single slot-fan was not able to keep up with the heat. I thought about adding another slot-fan, however the first one was noisy and it would have been tough to fit a second one in. So I decided that my plans to leave the top of the case intact for the “clean” look were going to have to be scrapped in order to install 2 tried and true 80mm fans.

These axial fans turned out to be quieter than the radial slot fan, and push about 10x the air through the case. I had thought about just going with one 80mm fan, but decided that I didn’t want to spend another night after that installing yet another fan when the first wasn’t enough. With the addition of the second fan, I also added a second intake vent, and got 2 filter covers to take care of the dust.

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At the same time, I decided to install the ¼” audio jacks that would enable the live guitar effects processing that I originally wanted this machine for. I also bought a distribution block so that I could change around the connections internally if needed. There are a total of four ¼” jacks, two mono, and two stereo. The mono are also switched, and tied to the ring on the stereo jack. This gives 2 jacks for input and 2 for output, for two audio signals each. If I have a stereo signal, I can plug it into the stereo jack. If I have a mono signal, I can plug it into the mono jack, and it switches off the ring of the stereo, essentially turning the stereo plug into a mono plug. This means I can either use 1 stereo, or 2 mono cables for both input and output.

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On the inside, in order to wire the ¼” jacks to the sound card, I took a six foot 1/8″ stereo extender and cut it in half. I then wired it to the other side of the distribution block, making it essentially an internal hard-wired patch bay. The 1/8″ plug simply plugs into whatever sound card port I want to use. The only thing that I am still missing is a mic input for when I play games online. While writing this, I came up with a great way to remedy that. Next chance I get, I’ll simply wire another 1/8″ plug to the input (which is on line in at the moment) which will send the signal to both the line in and mic in on the sound card. This will enable me to select which one to use in software without having to manually open and swap plugs, or install another jack on the case for just a mic.

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With the computer now 99.99% complete (I never know when I’ll want to add something to it) I am quite happy with how it turned out. It is a highly portable, power-packed, multi-purpose computer – exactly what I intended to make when I started. It serves up flawless 1080p HD video to my TV, plays the latest games, processes live music at high quality, and doesn’t sound like I have a hurricane in my living room. If I were to do this again, I would remove the video game requirement. I don’t play video games that often, and it really killed me on several issues. Without that requirement, I could have a super-low power, compact system that would give me all the HD and audio processing I need. Oh well, next time. For now, I’m calling this project a success. For real this time.

Enjoy the entire gallery of pictures from the project HERE.

Grandpa’s Tour of Duty, Part 1: Beginings

April 13th, 2009 Josh
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Tour of Duty

It has taken me all too long to take the time to split up the video and publish it, but here is the first part. There is a little bit of discontinuity in the first 3 videos because I was late in starting the video camera after he started talking. So after he finished I had him recap the beginning again, so the first three chapters were actually told after the other chapters. This is why there may be some references to parts of the story that actually fall later in the story.

At the end of all of the posts, I will attempt to post a map of travel, though dates will be hard to back out of this. If you want to help by commenting on where you think he is at what date, feel free! Dad- if grandpa watches these, maybe he can trace where he was on a map at what dates to make it easier….

The first 3 chapters here tell the story of his enlistment, qualification troubles, a little training, and his diversion from PBY to B24.

Stay tuned for the next set. It may take a while – I know this more than a month to get posted!