Sunday, February 28, 2010

Interesting...

One of the first things I learned about shooting was that the brand of ammo you use really matters. You can take two identical rifles right off the production line and one will drive tacks with a particular brand of ammo while the other will be far less accurate with them.

What I didn't know is that this rule is about a million times more important with an air rifle.

You see, I've put at least 15 different brands of ammo through my .22LR and the difference between the best and the worst at fifty yards has been about an inch and a half.

Well, a few days ago I bought a Gamo sampler pack with four different types of Gamo brand pellets and finally got a chance to try them out today. Best by far was the Gamo 'Hunters'. This is an eight shot group at 40 yards (each square on the target is exactly 1"):



Then I tried the Gamo 'Magnums' and oh..em..eff..gee:



I only fired six shots this time when I realised that I wasn't shooting a 'group' so much as a 'spread'. The first group was about a 1" group (and about 3/4" if you don't count the one low 'flyer')...this group was just over 5")

I have some pellets I use for precision target shooting, others that are slightly worse I use for knocking over tin cans... but I think I'll keep the Magnums handy in case there's ever a broad side of a barn I need to shoot.

(Oh, and I should make it clear, I'm not saying Gamo Magnum's are bad pellets...I'm just saying that my rifle absolutely hates them. You might try them in your gun and put them through the same hole).

Let's just say I fully understand why a good number of people bought a Crosman Storm XT and returned them to the store for being innaccurate. This is the accuracy mine's capable of after I've broken it in with well over 800 rounds...I shudder to think what this gun would do with Gamo Magnums before it was broken in.

Ladies Take Note…

Yesterday, Sunny told me that, today, she'd like to go see her daughter's new house.

Let me be clear here, that's exactly what she said. We were watching TV and she said, almost to herself: "I wanna go see Julie's new house tomorrow."

So, this morning I got up, took my diabetes meds and went for my walk. It was a beautiful sunny day, the first we'd had in ages, so I decided to take the opportunity to get outside and shoot my air-rifle for a while. When I got back from my walk Sunny was on the phone. Not wanting to disturb her, I just walked to the bedroom, grabbed my air-rifle and headed to the front door.

"Hey, you're not going out shooting now are you?" She asked.

No, I thought. I just thought I'd carry my rifle around for no reason….What I actually said was:
"Yeah."

"But I told you I wanted to go to Julie's new house today." Sunny said.

"Yeah?" I made the internationally agreed upon sign for 'and…?'

"Well, I want to go soon before it gets dark." She said, looking slightly angry.

"And?" I said "You want to go see Julie's house… and I want to shoot…I really don't understand the problem."

"Fine!" She said, in an obvious huff. The way she said goodbye when she left can only be described as 'icy'.

Of course, at that point I knew she wanted me to go with her…but I also knew I really didn't want to go. Firstly, when Sunny and her daughter get together, it's actually impossible to get a word in edgewise (Basically, imagine trying to thread a sewing machine while it's running and you're in the ball park.) …plus they tend to talk about people I don't know, so I couldn't really join the conversation even if I could get a word in. Basically, I go with Sunny to visit pretty much any member of her family and five minutes later everyone has forgotten I'm there.

Secondly, it really was the first bright, clear, windless day we've had in months, and I was really looking forward to properly zeroing in my new air-rifle and experimenting to see which pellets it likes.

Thirdly, I'd just like to point out that I'm more than happy to do anything for my wife…I just have this weird thing where I kinda expect people to actually ask me for what they want, rather than just drop vague hints that Sherlock fucking Holmes would miss on his best day while using his biggest, shiniest magnifying glass.

Anyway, this evening we were talking and Sunny mentioned how she (surprise, surprise) had wanted me to go with her to see her daughter's house. I explained why I didn't want to go.

"Yeah," said Sunny, as though she was explaining the obvious to a retard "but I wanted to go for a ride or something after."

At this point, the part of my brain labeled 'understanding how women's minds work', said 'fuck it' and got up and left.

You see, what actually happened is Sunny told me, in passing, that she was thinking about going to see her daughter's new house.

However, by the twisted laws of the female universe, this meant that I'd agreed ahead of time to go with her… because mentioning in passing that you might want to go somewhere obviously means "I want to do this, I want you to come with me and then I want to go do something afterwards…and by acknowledging that I exist you have promised that you will do all this without argument."

I'm going to give you all a huge tip, ladies. I promise it'll make things between you and your man a hundred times smoother:

When you want something or want us to do something…ask us to do it. Don't make some super vague, cryptic hint and expect us to read your fucking minds.

These 'obvious' hints you drop are only obvious to you…and if you don't ask us to do something because you feel you 'shouldn't have to', it's your own goddamn fault when we don't do it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stoopid Cat is Stoopid

Cat + Laser pointer = Laser-guided Kitty Missile.
video

Monday, February 22, 2010

One small step…

So I finally got my new air rifle properly broken in and I've learned how to shoot it well (weirdly, the way you shoot a spring-piston air-rifle is almost the exact opposite way you shoot a regular rifle).

This means that certain hunting and pest control opportunities that up until recently fell into the 'too dangerous' category (dangerous as is dangerous to people and property in the surrounding area) are suddenly on the table again. A .22LR rifle fired upwards can travel for well over a mile and still have enough energy to seriously hurt someone when it comes back down. An 8 grain .177 airgun pellet fired upwards could come down on a sleeping new born baby's soft spot and not even wake it.

Of course, this means the cold war that's been going on between me and the squirrels that infest the woods directly behind my house is about to get a whole lot hotter. I personally plan on making them pay back every cent of the nine hundred dollar's worth of damage they did to my bedroom roof.

But this begs a different question:

Killing them is one thing, but should I eat one?

You see, when I first moved to the Carolinas I was surprised to find out that squirrel meat is something of a delicacy here in the south. Back before supermarket freezers existed, squirrels represented a very available and abundant source of meat. When all you could eat was what you could grow, kill or barter for yourself, the idea of spending a couple of hours the woods with a rifle and handful of .22 shorts and getting enough meat to feed your family for a whole week was obviously very attractive.

Now this is a real dilemma for me, and not for the reasons you're probably thinking of.

Firstly, I don't feel even slightly guilty about popping a squirrel's head. Six years ago, I thought of squirrels as the cute little critters that run around in the park. They all had cutesy names like 'Mr. Nutkin' and probably went on all kinds of amazing adventures with wise cracking hamsters and other assorted Disney cliches.

Today? I fully understand why most southerners call them 'tree rats'. They're absolutely everywhere and generally destroy any area they go into. They're only cute when they're not chewing through your roof shingles and having royal rumble style wrestling matches in your attic at 4am in the morning.

Secondly, I'm not squeamish about skinning, cleaning and preparing them either. I personally think that cleaning and eating something you've killed yourself should be a compulsory experience for everyone at some point in their lives. As I've talked about before, people have this strange mental disconnect where they just don't associate 'meat' with 'animal'. Most people don't stop to consider that their frozen package of 'hamburger' once walked around and said 'moo'

(I also think visiting a battery farm and slaughterhouse should be compulsory as well…it amazes me that people think raising an animal in a tiny concrete cell, force feeding it crappy food laced with growth hormones… before jamming it in a truck with a hundred other animals to take it to get a bolt shot through its head is somehow more humane than giving a wild animal that's lived a perfectly natural life a quick, clean death with a bullet it never saw coming.)

Last but not least, I love trying new things. I'm not going to turn my nose up at squirrel because it's not white-meat chicken.

So what exactly is my problem? Why do I consider it a dilemma as to whether to actually try some squirrel?

Well, eating a squirrel isn't something you can do casually. To the vast majority of my family and friends back in England, eating squirrel would become one of my major defining attributes. It's the kind of thing that would become a story that would always be told whenever my name comes up. Oh, and trying squirrel is one thing…but shooting, skinning, cleaning and cooking it myself takes things up a notch.

Basically, it earns me a redneck, white-trash black-belt. I might as well start wearing a dirty baseball cap with a fish-hook pin, get seriously into a NASCAR, consider John Cena to be a talented actor and actually laugh when Larry the Cable Guy says 'Git 'er Done'.

I'm not sure I can do that. I know for a fact that I'll never be able to idolize someone for their ability to drive in a circle really fast.

Hell, I don't even know what 'yee haw' means.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Not going to end well..

So, a few weeks ago I bought a Crosman Storm XT air rifle.

I can honestly say that I was surprised at just how powerful it was. I was expecting a decent amount of power, but while it's not quite up there with my .22LR, I quickly discovered it that it could easily put a pellet all the way through the Greenville phonebook and a foot thick Drew Foam archery target at 10 yards.

As the packaging says, it is not a toy. It's no .50cal sniper rifle, but it's certainly powerful enough to do some damage. If it can put a pellet through a phonebook and a foot of Drew Foam…it can certainly injure, if not kill someone. From a gun safety standpoint, you might as well be shooting a .22LR

So I was absolutely horrified when I started to read some user reviews and discovered that most of them were written by kids who might as well have been talking about airsoft guns. For example:

"Way to heivy to play army man with the bb alwas fall out of the stock and you can't store bbs its 1 - by one by 1 it also looks like a real gun so don't just think that your gonna run around the neiborhood with this your going to get alot of nasty lookes like I did I'd shoot for not buying this gun and get one of those daisy brand ones. If your just out to kill some roadents like what it's made for BUY IT!! Ive killed two birds"

Is anyone else really disturbed by the fact that this kid is running around his neighborhood with a 1000fps air rifle playing 'army man'…and is also firing BB's from a lead pellet-only barrel and shooting 'birds' (Not sparrows or starlings or anything else classed as vermin, just 'birds')?

Now here's the thing: I know for a fact that Walmart will not sell this rifle to anyone under the age of 16. I'm 29 years old and they asked to see my ID when I bought it.

What does this mean?

It means that some idiot parent bought this for his kid, then just let him loose with it.

The worst part is this parent bought his pre-teen kid a fucking gun without so much as glancing at the box (I know this because the front is plastered with nice big pictures explaining the gun shoots up to 1200 feet per second and is suitable for large pest control and small game hunting)…and this type of parent is exactly the type of person who's going to sue Crosman when their kid shoots his little sister to see what will happen.

Let me run through a scenario:

Let's say I knew absolutely nothing about guns and my ten year old kid pointed at an air-rifle on a shelf and said "Can I have one of those please?"

Now, this is just me, but I'd read the box or maybe ask the shop assistant if the gun was suitable for a ten year old. Then, I'd look at the others on the shelf and tell him that, no, he couldn't have the powerful hunting rifle, but he could have one of the far less powerful BB guns as long as he agreed he could only shoot it under my direct supervision and it would be taken from him the first time I saw him point it at a person or other living thing…but if he showed me he could be responsible with it, I might get him the more powerful gun when he's older and proved he's mature enough.

Now, is that fucking rocket science? Exactly how dumb do you have to be to buy a ten year old a gun without even bothering to check how powerful it is? I mean, you don't have to be too bright to realize that if your kid is young enough to play 'army man', he's probably too young to be given unsupervised access to a small-game hunting rifle.

It just appears to be the same with everything these days. Parent's buy things that are totally inappropriate for their kids, then get sue happy when their kid gets hurt thanks to their shitty parenting.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Being Rant

Sometimes I wish I could find whoever came up with the idea that 'all opinions are equally valid' and punch that guy square in the face.

I mean, sure, it's a nice sentiment in a touchy-feely kind of way, but in the real world it's just not true.

For example, I remember sitting at the computer one day when Oprah came on the TV and she started interviewing someone about Autism, or more precisely the role vaccinations may play in giving kids this disease.

Who was she interviewing? A doctor? A scientist? Someone who's studied Autism or the side effects of particular vaccinations?

Nope. She interviewed Jenny fucking McCarthy.

Exactly what qualifies Jenny McCarthy to go on TV and start talking about how vaccinations cause Autism? Did she have to pass an exam on Pharmacological side-effects in order to get her tits out for Playboy? Or did she learn all about Autism during the filming of 'The Jenny McCarthy Show', her shit sketch-comedy show that got cancelled in the middle of the first season?

Or maybe, just maybe, she's just another Z-list celebrity who's jumped on a cause she knows nothing about because it might get her face on TV again.

Again, why does her opinion matter just because she got her tits out for magazines in the 90's?

It's the same with news shows. I'm all for 'balance' and different points of view in the news… but I don't think 'balance' includes the idiots who claim they saw 'government helicopters' dropping bombs on the levees during hurricane Katrina…you know, those special helicopters that can fly in a category 3 hurricane.

They even give those '9/11 Truth' morons air time. The ones who claim that the planes couldn't possibly have brought down the towers because jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel. Of course, Jet fuel wasn't the only thing burning…and you don't have to actually melt steel to make it soft enough to bend. If a blacksmith can bend a steel bar with a hammer and a propane forge…exactly how long is a girder going to last at 1500 degrees when it's holding up a fucking skyscraper?

But the absolute worst is the celebrities like Jenny McCarthy. Those vapid idiots who think that their ability to play pretend in front of a camera somehow makes their opinions matter. Those retarded actors who are so smug when they babble on about their Toyota Prius and so judgemental when they talk about starving kids in Africa…completely missing the irony that their last shitty movie cost a few hundred million to make and its 'carbon footprint' may have been just slightly higher than me driving a regular gasoline-powered car.

Here's the deal, your opinion matters only when you actually know what the fuck you're talking about.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It wasn’t licked on by kittens.

My wife makes me laugh.

Yesterday, she finally went to get her memorial tattoo (pic on her blog). It turned out really nice and I was actually surprised at how good the tattooist was. Most tattoo places I've been to before offer one of two things, a cookie-cutter design off the wall, or a custom design that takes multiple visits and costs an absolute fuck ton.

At this place (Monster Ink in Greenville), Sunny went in with a design she found online and told them that was the basic concept, but she wanted a few things changed. They drew up the new design in about fifteen minutes and it was almost exactly what I had in my head when Sunny and I discussed the changes she wanted the day before.

I watched Sunny getting the tattoo and I can honestly say was really proud of her. I got a tattoo myself when I was 18, and I can tell you, they're not the most comfortable things in the world to have done. Knowing my missus very well, I knew that if she actually made it into the tattoo parlor and then actually made it into the chair, she wouldn't chicken out or ask to stop halfway through. However, she went one step further and throughout the whole thing she didn't make a noise, ask for a break or make any fuss whatsoever. I could tell by her face she was obviously in pain, but I've seen and heard her make way more fuss over a stubbed toe or a cut finger.

So, on the way home I asked her what her next one would be (it's my honest belief that tattoos are addictive) and totally seriously, without a hint of pretence she turned to me and said:

"I'm not getting another one. That was the worst pain I've ever experienced in my life."

So, I laughed, then explained that in a few days, when the pain was just a memory and the healing itchiness had gone away, she'd look at it in the mirror and decide she wanted another one.

This was when she turned to me and said… and I quote:

"I'm not getting another one. It hurt worse than childbirth."

If that tattoo hurt worse than childbirth, when she was in labor, she must have been sitting up in bed, reading a magazine and asking the midwife if she could hurry things up a little because she was due back in work after lunch.

Fast forward to today, and this morning the first thing I heard was the sound of Sunny talking on the phone, filtering into the bedroom. The first words I heard were:

"…it was like he was just raking my back with a soldering iron, I nearly fainted it was so bad!"

It appears that every time she tells the story, it gets a little more exaggerated.

My bet is that in a couple of weeks she'll be telling everyone how five people had to hold her down while the tattooist did the outline with a nail tied to the tip of a bull-whip… and did the coloring with a full-sized blunt pitchfork.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Crosman Storm XT Issues Resolved

I was originally going to just post a review of the Crosman Storm XT, but after actually getting my hands on one, I discovered that most of the negative user reviews I read prior to buying were down to user error or inexperience, so I thought I'd address these problems for anyone else thinking of buying one, before writing an in depth review.

I have to start by answering and obvious question: Why an air-rifle? I live in a country where actual firearms are legal and I own a .22 rifle, a 12 gauge shotgun and have access to my wife's 9mm handgun.

There are two main reasons for me. The first is that I love target shooting and while I can shoot legally and safely on the property, I'm not comfortable shooting for any length of time because of the noise it causes. People don't mind so much when you go outside and fire a few shots to sight in a new scope…but for some reason they don't like listening to constant gunfire for hours at a time.

Secondly, out here in the country, pest control is an absolute necessity, not a luxury. If the idea of shooting squirrels and field-rats offends you…let me just say it offended me right before a family of squirrels moved into my bedroom roof and caused hundreds of dollars worth of damage. An air-rifle is the perfect pest control weapon in that it's quiet, cheap to use and not as dangerous to use close to property. (Don't get me wrong, a 1000fps air rifle is more than capable of doing some damage, just not quite as much as a 12 gauge).

So let me address some of the other user reviews I've read.

A minority of people have called his gun trash. They've said it's inaccurate, the scope won't hold a zero, it's too loud etc, etc. I personally believe 99 out of a hundred of these reviews are all down to user error an/or ignorance. People pull a brand-new rifle out of the box, slap the scope on top and then complain that it's not dropping the rounds right in the crosshairs or that the scope is 'impossible to zero'.

Firstly, mounting a scope on any rifle is something that has to be done methodically, carefully and correctly…something that's often neglected. Unfortunately, the Storm XT doesn't come with any documentation for mounting the scope, so the inexperienced user can be forgiven for getting it wrong.

Ok, the first thing I want to talk about is mounting the scope, because a lot of people have complained about 'scope creep' (the scope moving with recoil and losing its zero), which is almost impossible if the scope is installed properly. Unfortunately, there is no provided documentation for installing the rings and scope, so you can be forgiven for doing it wrong.

If you look at the rings that come with your rifle, one will have four allen-screws while the other only has two. If you look at the bottom half of the four-screw ring, you'll notice the top of an allen-screw on the surface that the scope sits on. If you use the smaller of the two provided allen wrenches and give this a few clockwise turns, you'll see a screw come out the bottom of the ring… and this lines up with a hole on the top of the rifle's receiver.

So, turn this screw until it's just protruding, and line it up with the hole in the top of the receiver and screw it into place, then tighten the clamp on the side. Also, don't let the oversize clamp screw fool you, this isn't meant to be tightened to just finger-tight…use a large flat headed screwdriver or a coin to really tighten it…just don't go too far and strip the screw.

The real 'trick' to mounting a screw properly is to mount the bottom halves of the rings onto the rifle, lay the scope on top, level it and then add the top halves of the rings. Never attach the rings to the scope first and then try to mount it on your rifle. By mounting the rings to the rifle first, you're ensuring the rings are perfectly lined up and parallel to each other. Also, tighten the allen-screws in the same way you'd tighten the bolts on a car wheel. Don't tighten the first as tight as it will go and then go on to the next one, instead, get all the screws finger tight, then tighten on a little more and move to the next…repeating until all screws are nice and tight.

Once you're done, you'll have a securely mounted scope that won't move with firing and will hold its zero.

The second point I'd like to address is that the Storm XT is a spring-piston rifle that has to be 'broken in' before you can expect anything approaching pin point accuracy. Right out of the box you'll be lucky to get a three or four inch group at twenty yards. Until the spring and piston is broken in, you won't get consistent velocities, which means inconsistent shooting all round. My advice is to buy a few tins of cheap pellets and put a couple hundred rounds through your gun at some close range targets using the open sights before you even attempt to zero the scope.

The other point is that a spring piston rifle recoils differently to multi-pump, C02 or pre-charged air rifles, meaning zeroing a scope should be done from a stable position using a soft rest like a sandbag or rolled up sweater. Using something hard like a fence post as a rest will result in your gun jumping off target and will severely increase your group size.

The other thing I should point out is the 'dieseling' phenomenon. A few people complained about how loud the Storm XT is, some even going so far as to claim it was louder than a .22 Long Rifle bullet. In one case, one reviewer only shot his gun two or three times before returning it to the store. This extra noise is down to dieseling, a temporary phenomenon that soon goes away…and a problem that also causes poor accuracy.

When a spring piston rifle is fired, a heavy spring pushes a piston forward, compressing the air in the compression chamber which fires the pellet from the barrel. This sudden compression causes a lot of heat and if there is oil-vapor present in the compression chamber or barrel, this vapor can ignite, causing the loud bang…and in the case of the storm XT, this can send the pellet above the speed of sound, resulting in a sonic boom (the same sharp crack you hear when a 22LR bullet breaks the sound barrier).

This tends to happen because brand new guns tend to be over-lubricated to prevent rusting in case they sit on store shelves for months. Once you've fired a few shots and the excess lubricant is burned off, you end up with a rifle that fires with a slight 'pop' as long as you use normal lead pellets (some of the new 'Premium Ballistic Alloy' pellets are super-light, meaning they will break the sound barrier when fired from the Storm XT)


 

Finally, people also don't understand that you need to experiment to discover which type and brand of ammo works best with your particular gun. You can take two identical rifles straight off the production line and one might shoot quarter-inch groups with a particular brand of ammo while the other shoots five inch groups with exactly the same ammo. For example, my 'real' .22 rifle (a Remington 597) absolutely hates CCI mini-mags (a somewhat 'premium' .22 ammo), but will put lead through the same hole at 75 yards with cheap Federal 'bulk pack' ammo.

Anyway, in closing, people are firing a non-broken in rifle off an unsuitable rest using a poorly fitted scope while the rifle is still dieseling with ammo it doesn't like and are wondering why they aren't putting pellets through the same hole at 50 yards.

A little education can go a long way and I hope this post helps all new spring-piston rifle owners, as well as people on the fence as to whether they buy a Storm XT or not.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Strange Mental Disconnect

Every so often I dip my toe into the waters of hunting/pest control controversy and feel the need to defend myself.

You see, before I moved to the USA, I would have called myself an anti-hunter, and it's only after being around people who like to hunt and actually listening to them that I really understood what it actually means to be a hunter. My own point of view almost completely changed and I realized that 'hunting' isn't black and white, that there's a whole spectrum, some of which I find acceptable, some of which I don't.

For example, before moving to the USA I would have been absolutely appalled at the idea of shooting a squirrel. I mean, squirrels are cute, harmless animals that bring a smile to my face when I see them running around in the park. Why would anyone want to shoot one?

Well, firstly, I grew up in a relatively built up area and seeing a squirrel was a huge rarity. However, right now, in the woods behind my house, there are bloody hundreds of them…and after a whole family of them chewed through my roof and moved in right above my bedroom… causing hundreds of dollars of worth of damage…I realized they weren't exactly harmless either.

This, of course, begs the question as to why I have to shoot them rather than use a nice, humane, 'live-catch' trap. People tend to mention live traps as the 'obvious' alternative…but never quite think it all the way through.

Well, the first problem is expense and time. You can only catch one squirrel at a time per trap, and one live-catch trap is around forty dollars...so do I spend five or six hundred dollars putting traps everywhere, or just put out one or two…meaning that once I manage catch a couple of squirrels, the rest learn to avoid the traps all together?

Secondly, and this is the part people tend not to think about…what exactly do you do with a squirrel once you've caught it? If I let it go on the property, it's just going to go straight back to causing damage, and releasing an animal on someone else's property is actually illegal.

Basically, it's impossible to catch all the pests, trying to do so is extremely expensive (and futile) and all I can do with the ones I catch is take them to the other end of the property and hope they leave instead of heading back to their nice warm nest in the insulation above my bedroom.

Or… I could spend less than 10 dollars on some ammo and shoot the ones that cause the damage.

I just find it really strange that people have this weird mental disconnect when it comes to animals, especially when it comes to pests:

For example, no-one would think twice if I mentioned I'd bought some mouse or rat traps…because everyone knows mice and rats are vermin…but somehow, this way of thinking doesn't apply to other animals, even when the animals in question are much bigger pests and cause much more damage.

Basically, why is it okay for me to put a rat trap in the garage, but not okay for me to shoot the groundhog that spent a few months under the house chewing on the floor joists, or the squirrels above my bedroom chewing holes through my roof?

I'll tell you why: Because the rats tend to be the bad guys in Disney Films while the squirrels tend to be the heroes…and who doesn't love Punxsutawney Phil? It's the same type of thinking that causes idiots to climb into the lion or gorilla enclosures at the zoo.

When you live in a town and the only time you see a squirrel is when one runs up the trunk of a tree in the park, you can be forgiven for thinking they're cute and harmless. When you live in the country and you see first hand why so many people call them 'tree rats', you quickly change your mind.

This mental disconnect is even more pronounced when we're talking about actual hunting.

For example, the average person thinks it's totally wrong of me to shoot a rabbit or deer to eat it… but they also think it's perfectly fine to farm turkeys that never see the sky in their entire lives, have been selectively bred to the point they're so fat they can't walk under their own power and are force-fed growth hormones until the day they're hung by their feet from a hook that moves them through spinning knives that slit their throats while they're still alive.

Well, to be completely fair, they don't think it's okay to do that with the turkeys, because they don't think about the turkeys at all…it's that mental disconnect again where people have a really hard time associating the vacuum packaged meat in the freezer at their supermarket with the animal that used to walk around saying 'gobble gobble' (or 'moo', 'cluck', or 'oink' for that matter).

I mean, what exactly is hunting if it's not the ultimate in free-range farming?

Now I'll admit that there are some types of hunting that I just don't agree with. The way I see it, if you're pointing a weapon at a living thing, you should have a damn good reason to kill it…and 'because it's fun' or 'because its head would look awesome on my wall' are not what I consider to be good reasons. My own personal philosophy is that I'll only shoot a living thing if it's vermin, causing damage or I'm going to eat it.

Secondly, if you're going to kill something, you should be doing it humanely as possible. Even when I was tearing my hair out at the damage the squirrels were causing, I let as many go as I shot because I couldn't guarantee clean one-shot kills.

Basically, if a fox is raiding a farm and killing chickens, that farmer is well within his rights to shoot that fox in the head. However, if you want to get on horseback and chase down a fox so you can watch it get torn apart by a pack of dogs for the fun of it…then that's something I find totally unacceptable.

In the end, my point is that if you're a meat eater, you really don't have the right to look down on hunters…and that shooting a raccoon or possum is no different to putting down a rat trap.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Knowledge is never a bad thing.

Yesterday, I was looking for some reviews of an air rifle I want to buy when I discovered a video review on youtube.

Less than five minutes later I was convinced that firearm use and safety classes are something that should be compulsory in schools from a relatively young age.

Firstly, the kid doing the review (who looked like he was in his mid to late teens) was deliberately 'dieseling' his air rifle. In case you don't know what this is, 'dieseling' an air rifle is where you deliberately put oil into the skirt of the pellet so the oil vapor ignites when the gun is fired. This, of course, ramps up the pressure and the speed of the pellet…but it's also incredibly dangerous and can seriously damage the gun. Best case, you wreck your spring and breach seal. Worst case, the gun explodes in your face.

Secondly, he talked about how dieseling throws the accuracy off (which is hardly surprising considering the pellet was breaking the sound barrier) and then said:

"Yeah, it's not as accurate, but if you're shooting at something bigger than a coke can, like a rabbit, you're still going to hit it and it's definitely going to kill it because the pellet's traveling so fast."

This is absolutely untrue. I cannot be too clear on this. This is complete and total bullshit.

If you're shooting at any animal with any weapon, you have to be absolutely certain that you're going to hit it in the head or heart/lung area because that's the only way to guarantee a quick and humane kill. However, this is especially true with an air rifle.

For example, I've shot plenty of groundhogs and squirrels, but I've also let plenty go because I couldn't guarantee a head shot…and that's with a .22LR that delivers approximately 116 ft-lbs of energy to the target. Hitting a groundhog in the gut with a .22LR means that groundhog is going to bleed to death over the course of a few hours, and a leg shot is only going to kill the groundhog a day or so later when the wound gets infected.

Compare this to the kid's air rifle, which only delivers twelve ft-lbs of energy to the target. This is enough for a legal and humane kill on small game like rabbits, but only if you shoot them in the head.

Basically, this kid has watched far too much TV and thinks just putting a hole in something will always kill it…and worse yet he knows almost nothing about his gun and treats it with no respect whatsoever. Even though his gun was 'just' an air rifle, it's a rifle capable of sending a 12 grain projectile down range a around 1000 feet per second…enough to cause some fairly serious damage…and if he's deliberately misusing it by dieseling it and showing absolutely zero respect for what it's capable of…what's going to happen when this kid grows up some more and decides he wants a 12 gauge or a hunting rifle?

If this kid will happily diesel an air rifle, exactly how bothered do you think he'll be when he discovers a 3" shotgun shell will fit into the barrel of a 2"3/4 only shotgun? How likely is he to take his finger off the trigger because the buck's too far away and he can't guarantee a kill shot? How likely is he to maintain it and make sure it's stored properly?

The problem is we treat gun education in exactly the same way we treat sex education. We don't want little Timmy going anywhere near firearms so the last thing we want to do is to teach him how to use one.

The saddest part is that as soon as you think of that logically, we're trying to make our kids safer around firearms by making sure they know absolutely nothing about them or how to handle them safely. It's like protecting kids from car crashes by doing away with drivers ed and learners permits and just letting them get behind the wheel whenever they like.

My advice?

Buy your kid an airsoft pistol when he's old enough to ask for one, and use it to drill into him basic firearms safety and the consequences of playing with guns. Take him to the shooting range and show him what a 30.06 round can do to a watermelon, which is fun and guaranteed to get his attention…but can also give a graphic example of what hat same round can also do to a human head. If you own a firearm, let him know he can see it and handle it whenever he likes as long as it's under your direct supervision.

Basically, a kid who's grown up around firearms and knows how they work and what they're capable of will treat them with the care and respect they deserve. A kid who's taught nothing about firearms and was never allowed near them is the kid who's going to find his dad's pistol and spin it around his finger like a cowboy without checking to see if it's loaded.

Knowledge is never a bad thing.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Little Guilty…

In my late teens and early twenties, I was seriously into playing the guitar. I've never had a lesson, but chances are if I was at home, I'd have my guitar in my lap. Almost every day I'd meet up with a bunch of friends at someone's house and we'd jam for four or five hours straight…and I absolutely loved every second of it.

Then, somewhere along the line (probably moving and getting married was a huge part of it) playing the guitar kinda fell by the wayside, and over time I chose different things to do with my leisure time. I still play the guitar, but I'll probably only pick it up maybe once a week for half an hour.

Reading fellow blogger Evan08's latest post about playing the guitar actually make me feel a little guilty, because when I read Evan's posts about playing the guitar, it's like I'm reading something I would have written myself ten years ago, posts written by someone who is passionate about what they're doing and enjoying every minute of it…and since I stopped playing every day I've changed from someone who could play the guitar and play it well, to someone who can kinda play the guitar…and that's not a good feeling.

The hard part is I don't know whether I want to start playing seriously again because I actually want to start playing again…or just because it'll mean all that time I spent learning is a waste if I don't.

Friday, February 05, 2010

A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Early yesterday morning it started raining here in upstate South Carolina and it's been raining ever since.

Last night, as I was lying in bed listening to the rain thundering on the roof, I figured that I wouldn't be getting up and going out for my usual two mile walk in the morning.

This morning, I got out of bed and was incredibly happy to see that the rain had all but stopped and there was just a very light drizzle. As a British guy, from a country where it rains all the effing time, I wasn't going to let a bit of drizzle stop me, so I put on my jacket, slipped my ipod into my pocke and headed out.

Unfortunate Event the First: About half a mile into my walk I suddenly realized that I was wearing socks that were far too thin for the boots I was wearing, meaning every time I took a step, the back was rubbing against my heels. Since returning home, I can confirm that my feet are now the proud parents to twin blisters.

Unfortunate Event the Second: In the space of roughly 2.4 seconds the rain changed from a light drizzle to a torrential downpour.

Unfortunate Event the Third: Discovering approximately 6.7 seconds later that my jacket isn't waterproof and the pocket my iPod is currently residing in is rapidly filling with water.

Unfortunate Event the Fourth: Discovering the only way to keep my iPod dry is to unzip my jacket, so I can hold the iPod in my hand underneath so it won't be pressed against wet fabric.

Unfortunate Even the Fifth: Deciding to break into a run and almost instantly going over on my ankle thanks to an unfortunately place piece of rock

Unfortunate Event the Sixth: Arriving back at the house to find the driveway to waterlogged and muddy that Sunny's having real difficulty getting the car up the hill.

Unfortunate Event the Seventh: Helping Sunny get the car out the drive, her blowing me a kiss…and me returning it without realizing that getting the car out has left my right hand covered in mud.

Opinions, please?

Back in the early 90's, after much persuading (and agreeing to get a second phone line installed and to pay for everything myself) I finally convinced my parents to let me get internet service.

Now, while home computers had been around for around 20 years or so, they were still the domain of geeks and hobbyists. You usually had one geek per household who understood the mysteries of the strange beige box, and everyone else barely knew what a computer was or did and couldn't think of a single scenario where they'd ever want to use one.

Then, the internet came along. Of course, what the internet was in 1995 would be barely recognizable by a teenager today. It was basically nothing more than text and pictures. There were a few videos but these tended to make video taken on a cell phone look like iMax footage and it took literally hours to download even a short, five minute film. There where no web apps or facebook or youtube…just lots of text and small, highly compressed images.

Then, an amazing discovery was made: To the delight of teenage boys everywhere (and to the abject horror of their parents) it turned out that there were pictures of naked ladies on the internet.

Of course, this was quickly followed by programs like Net Nanny and other early attempts to give parents some control over what their kids could and couldn't see online.

These programs just didn't work.

Don't get me wrong, they technically worked, but the average parent at the time didn't even know what 'double click' meant. Parents all over the world who had never so much as touched a computer before were expected to get on the computer, log onto the internet, find the correct website, download some software, install it and set it up… despite the fact that they didn't really know what a website was or what 'downloading' meant. Realistically, the only way the average parent could have installed Net Nanny or something similar would have been by asking their kids to install in themselves

You might as well have asked a cat burglar to install an alarm system on your house to keep himself out.

Basically, this was a generation of parents who just didn't know anything about computers. It's not surprising, they hadn't been around them, used them or had any reason to believe they'd ever need to. Computers and the internet were simply toys for geeks… there was as much reason to learn about your kids computer as there was to learn about his chemistry set.

Long story short, most parents barely knew how to turn on a computer…so it's completely understandable that parents would get annoyed and complain when they walked in on their kid looking at porn on 'that internet thing'. It was like buying their kids a textbook and finding a couple of issues of Cum Guzzling Crack Whores hidden inside.

But here's the thing:

It's not 1992 any more. It's 2010. Computers and the internet aren't obscure geek toys any more. They're literally central to our whole existence…and twenty years on idiot parents are still complaining about inappropriate content like the world is deliberately sneaking it past them.

As I mentioned in my previous post, parents have more tools to censor what their kids can and can't see today more than at any other time in history. From ISP's offering filtering software (and complete step by step instructions, with pictures, on how to install and use them) to the V-chip in your TV and parental controls in cable boxes and games consoles.

Let's just say that when I was a teen, there was no way to automatically block a magazine or VHS tape from entering the house, and I could watch anything I liked on TV as long as I had the sound way down. My parents certainly couldn't check my 'browsing history', instantly search my room for anything with the word 'sex' in it…and they absolutely couldn't track my movements by the GPS in my phone.

The biggest problem I have with all this is that parents have had almost twenty years to get used to this stuff, and they're still talking like computers are magical boxes far beyond their comprehension. It's not new, mysterious technology any more. It's something just about everyone uses every day…and they've been doing this for almost twenty years.

Here's my question:

At what point do we turn around to these people and point out that if they don't know how to set a parental lock on a TV after twenty years, they probably shouldn't be parenting in the first place?

In my opinion, in 2010, complaining that your kid is playing a violent game or watching porn on the internet is the rough equivalent of blaming the manufacturer of your liquor cabinet for your kids stealing your booze because this whole 'lock and key' technology is beyond you.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

When does it end?

So today I saw some more of the usual local news channel bullshit about some kids using Xbox Live to swap 'inappropriate pictures'.

Of course, this is all Microsoft's fault, because they don't care about the pedophiles, murderers and other various ne'er-do-wells who use their service… as long as those pedophiles and murderers are willing to pay the subscription fee.

Well, I'd like to point something out here. If your kid has an Xbox, before you decide to go nuts and burn the devil machine before it turns Little Timmy into a homosexual rapist, go turn it on and press the big button in the middle of the controller. This will bring up a menu, scroll right, then scroll down to 'Family Settings'.

In that menu you'll find an absolute fuck ton of options that control what your kid can and can't do on that console.

I mean, seriously.

All the tools are right there laid out in a way that you'd have to be clinically retarded not to understand. It appears that Microsoft, instead of being this evil empire who don't care what kids are exposed to as long as they can keep taking your money, are actually a company that created a console that can be specifically tailored to what you find acceptable.

It takes less than 30 seconds to set up a console to only allow 'family-friendly' content and to restrict what your kids can and can't do on Xbox Live. Hell, you can even set it up to only allow your kid to play for a set amount of time per day. If you can read, and have the use of your thumbs, this is also very, very easy to do.

The part of this that really pisses me off is these self righteous parents who find out that their fifteen year old son has been sending the girl from his math class pictures of his dong, and blame the console.

What these parents are really saying is "I care so little about my child that I'm not willing to spend the fifteen minutes it would take to read a 'quick-start' guide and set up a few parental locks."

Here's the deal: It's 2010 people. The internet, computers and games consoles have been in most homes for at least ten years. All those excuses about 'computer stuff' being too complicated or difficult to understand are starting to sound pretty hollow. Computers and consoles were easy to use 15 years ago, and they've only been getting simpler.

It's not that you're incapable of setting parental controls on an Xbox, it's just that doing so might mean reading a couple of pages of a manual, and you can't be bothered. Even worse, if you actually brave setting up some parental controls, that means you then have to accept responsibility for your own kids.

No. It's far easier to remain willfully ignorant, claim something that's as simple as putting a round peg in a round hole to be beyond you…and when you suddenly realize that your fifteen year old kid who you've barely spoken to for the past six months has some porno pictures on his computer, you can blow your top and blame someone else…hopefully a big corporation with bags of cash who will pay you to go away because it's cheaper than a court case.

Here's the real truth: Parents today have more control over what their kids can and can't see than parents at any other point in history. The fact you're too lazy and ignorant to use the tools you've been provided with are no-one's problem but your own.