Monday, September 17, 2012

Winter is coming...

Winter is coming...for those who have read GRR Martin's series of books, that phrase has more than one meaning.  I think it applies to the here and now as well.

On the one hand, NASA is predicting the current solar cycle (#24) to be significantly lower than #23. Cycle #24.  There was also an article released by NASA stating that current predictions for #25, set to begin after 2021, will be even lower.  Cycle #25.  Now, when that big hot yellow round thing up in the sky fails to put out as much solar energy, what do you think will happen??  Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!  Yes, it will be cooler here on the 3rd rock from the Sun!

This year's US winter forecast from the ECHO storm team bears this out also.  ECHO Forecast.  From their forecast, 2/3 of the country is looking at a normal to severe winter temperatures, and most of the US is looking at an increase in precipitation in one form or another.

On the other hand, I think the Arab Spring is over, and we are now looking at the Arab Winter.  If you have not had your head in the sand (or other places where the sun don't shine) recently, you will have noted news from that region of the world isn't so spiffy any more.  Embassies have been attacked.  Embassy staff murdered. More reports of jihadists in uniform attacking their trainer troops and the local police forces.  Sadly, this latter event does not surprise me at all.  TPTB should have seen it coming.  And I expect, that when we pull out our major regular units , we will simply leave behind vast stockpiles of ammo and weapons, which will then make their way into the wrong hands by theft, or black market sales.

The real important question in my mind, is What will Israel do, and when will they do it?  You know what I mean...will they attack Iran's nuclear program, and will they initiate a nuclear exchange, or respond to an attack that way?  Even if they stay conventional, the resulting mishmash is likely to bring down the House of Cards that is the Euro, assuming the Euro survives that long!  Especially if the Straits of Hormuz get compromised.  That would interrupt the flow of oil to Europe, and other places.

Crashing the Euro, will have a significant effect on the US economy, no matter what the .gov says.  Our banks are far too heavily involved in propping up the Euro to not be affected.  Even China will feel the effects, since if we crash, we will stop buying their stuff.  Think about it.  It could get ugly.

It's only mid September here in the South, and already Fall has arrived.  This week's forecast has temps down into the 40's to 50's for lows.  You can feel it in the air...

Winter IS Coming!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Forget

Where were you, early this morning, eleven years ago?  Me?  I was sitting in my truck, outside the office, some 15min before my shift started, listening to the radio.  The usual news broadcast came on, and I remember the announcer saying something about a plane hitting some big building in New York City.

I remember thinking about the time a B25 Mitchell bomber crashed into the Empire State building back in 1945...and assuming some poor soul had inadvertently flown a light aircraft into some skyscraper.  Little did I know, at 07:45, 09/11/01...

My job was frustrating, annoying, and honestly I hated it.  I was 6mo pregnant with our first child, and although I loved the folks I worked with, having worked with them for most of 13yrs under a different employer, I hated the new job.  I was sticking it out, for the healthcare coverage, until the baby arrived.  So, going inside to start work was drudgery...

There was some smalltalk floating around the cube floor, apparently others had heard something about the plane crash too... We settled in, and I flipped on a small radio.  Soon it became apparent that 'something' was up--that maybe it was not an accidental crash--that it was a big jet, not some little Cessna--and then word came that a second plane had hit the other building.

Only a few folks had limited 'net access back then in the office, and the radios were so full of misinformation early on.  The only TV in the break room couldn't get a picture, as the cable didn't work.  We were tantalizingly, horrifyingly in the dark news-wise.  Then the towers fell.  I had heard a report that up to 30,000 people could have been in each tower on any given day.  I knew it was going to be bad...and then we heard about the Pentagon.  And then Flight 93...we wondered how many more many more souls would be lost that bleak day?

I went out to the parking lot for lunch, after the FAA had grounded ALL commercial aircraft.  The sky was eerie in its emptiness.  As I looked up, I saw one lone contrail, flying over Lawrence, KS, going due north, well off the usual commercial flight paths.  I realized later that it was Air Force One, after I heard that Pres. Bush had been flown to Offutt AFB, SAC HQ, in Omaha, which coincidentally lies almost due north of Lawrence.

In those days following 9-11, I found the images, and news reports compelling.  Dave didn't want me to see them--he was worried I would be too distressed by some images, such as those who chose to jump.  I wanted to help--but at 6mo pregnant, there was nothing I could do but pray, and I was only newly come to faith, and lacked the confidence in prayer that I enjoy now. 

I still find the images compelling--not in a voyeuristic way--but as possibly the most significant news event of my life.  Much as my parents generation recalls Pearl Harbor, I recall 9/11.  There was a tribute video done in the days following, done by a New Yorker.  It uses a song by a singer, Enya.  To this day, I cannot hear that song without that video playing in my mind.

I saw in the news today how in Egypt and Libya, our embassies were besieged and damaged--flags torn down and burned, crowds chanting.  It brought to mind, seeing Palestinians dancing and chanting with evil joy on 9/11/01, when they learned of the attacks on America.  I remember too, the crowds chanting and attacking another US embassy, many years ago, in Tehran/Teheran,  when the now-Iranian President was a young well educated radical, taking our personnel there hostage.  I remember watching the news with trepidation, this past year of the so-called Arab Spring...and it occurred to me tonight between what our government is doing now, and what another government that should've known better too, achieved, when in 1938 they proclaimed "Peace in our time!"  Appeasement doesn't work...when will we ever LEARN?

Perhaps more importantly, from whence will come our Churchill?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Caliber contemplations

I seem to be facing a mild dilemma.  As one who suffers somewhat from joint degeneration in both thumbs, my grip strength has decreased, and my hands can be painful.  This was what led me to my recumbent bicycle, more than anything. and the recumbent is a true joy to ride!  But I am speaking now, of calibers--as in handguns. 

It has been a while (too long truthfully) since I pulled triggers on anything, let alone a pistol, but with my hand pain I needed to see how it affected my ability to shoot an XD45, and  an all-steel 9mm.  I have been contemplating downsizing to a 9mm, possibly a M&P 9mm but I have not yet had a chance to try one out.  So I went to the local indoor range yesterday to see how my hands did.

First up, was the XD45 with both a full size magazine and the compact one.  Other than an issue with the fiber optic part of the front sight deciding to fly out (at least I found it later) in mid-mag, I shot the .45acp rather well considering the absence of practice in recent memory.  However, I did notice the recoil in my hands by way of pain.

When I switched over to a FM Detective High Power, by first thought was WOW!  Where's the recoil??  I had forgotten the difference caliber and steel can make in felt recoil.  No pain.  However, the sights on the FM are somewhat lacking (and that is being generous!  In truth they SUCK.)  However once I saw where the holes were appearing on paper, I was able to adjust to a suitable point of impact.  I did notice though, that my shots tended to drift left of center, possibly due to too little trigger finger, or pushing it left as I squeeze the trigger.  I will have to work on that.  Oddly enough that was less of/not an issue with the XD.

My dilemma is this:  Do I find a new 9mm ($500-800) and get rid of the XD?  Do I seek to upgrade the rear sight on the FM (about $230 all said and done, from Novak)?  Do I stick with the XD45 despite the noticeable pain in both hands after I was done shooting (zero cost factor)? 

Part of me is enamored of the "new toy" idea of a new pistol.  But that does involve a fair bit of expense--not just in the pistol, but in spare magazines, and a new holster.  Part of me says to upgrade the FM, and run it instead.  That would be the mid-range cost factor and within my available budget.  And my Scottish ancestors are all in favor of just running the XD and calling it good until the pain becomes unmanageable.

Maybe I should go back to the range, and try some of the rental pistols.  I have several different pistols I would like to try out.  That would help me see if a change of platform would work.  It would also give me some more trigger time so I can see if I can work out that left-drift of my shots.