Friday, November 28, 2014

Are airless tires about to go mainstream?

Back in 2009 I wrote about 'The search for the ultimate military tire', in which I reported on an airless tire being developed by a Wisconsin firm.  Now Michelin's built an entire plant to produce their incarnation of this idea.  The Telegraph reports:

Michelin has opened a new facility in South Carolina, USA, to produce its Tweel airless tyre.

Conceived by Michelin research engineers in the US, the Tweel is a non-pneumatic radial tyre that brings together the tyre and wheel assembly in one solid unit.

(Image courtesy of Michelin)

It comprises a rigid hub connected to a shear beam by flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes, all functioning as a single unit.

(Image courtesy of Michelin)

The Tweel is designed for commercial use, such as landscaping, construction and agriculture.

There's more at the link.  Here's Michelin's publicity video about the new plant.

There are more videos about the Tweel on YouTube.

I'm very glad to see this technology go in production on a large scale at last.  Its initial market will be construction, agricultural and mining machinery, but I hope it moves into mainstream motoring soon.  It'll be great to no longer have to worry about punctures or damaged sidewalls.


Remember to put down the glass

I hope all of you had a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.  Miss D. and I certainly did.

Today is 'Black Friday', and many people will be frantically shopping as if there's no tomorrow.  I hope most of my readers won't be among them.  This is supposed to be a season for thanksgiving, for relaxation with family and friends.  I loathe the way it's become commercialized to the point of being almost unrecognizable - rather like Christmas, unfortunately.  (I dread the thought that the same thing may happen to Easter one day.)

I'm grateful to fellow blogger agg79 for sharing this thought for Thanksgiving.

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience.  As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "Half empty or half full?" question.  Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired:  "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter.  It depends on how long I hold it.  If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem.  If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm.  If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed.  In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water.  Think about them for a while and nothing happens.  Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt.  And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed - incapable of doing anything."

Remember to put down the glass.

That's very good advice.  I'm going to do my best to put down my 'glass' this weekend, and relax.  I hope you'll do the same.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

How to cure a fear of water

The Telegraph reports:

Anna Paterek took her horse, Magic, to a river with the hope of curing his fear of water.

At first she tried to ride him into the river, but Magic was very cautious.

So Anna got off and walked him into the river herself to show it was safe.

What happened next Anna described as "the best thing ever".

There's more at the link.  Here's how it went.

Looks like a splashing good time was had by all!


Thanksgiving 2014

I'm thankful for so many things.

  • The merciful God in whom I believe.
  • My wife, Miss D., without whom my world would be a much darker, lonelier, colder place.
  • My friends, who help keep me sane.
  • All of you, my readers, who come back here so often and encourage me to keep on writing, both here on the blog and in my books.
  • Despite the vicissitudes of our political system, we still have a United States for which to be thankful.  Let's do all we can to make it an even better one during the coming year!

I'll leave the last word this year to the Wizard of Id, one of my daily cartoon reads.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why eyewitness testimony alone is unreliable

It's long been known that so-called 'eyewitness' testimony, unsupported by other evidence, can be dangerously inaccurate.  It can lead to convictions that put people behind bars - or even on Death Row - only to see them exonerated years later through DNA testing or fresh evidence.

The shooting of Michael Brown provides a quintessential case study of the problem.

Some witnesses said Michael Brown had been shot in the back. Another said he was lying face-down when Officer Darren Wilson finished him off. Still others acknowledged changing their stories to fit published details about the autopsy, or admitted that they didn't see the shooting at all.

An Associated Press review of thousands of pages of grand jury documents reveals numerous examples of statements made during the shooting investigation that were inconsistent, fabricated or provably wrong. Prosecutors exposed these inconsistencies before the jurors, which likely influenced their decision not to indict Wilson in Brown's death.

Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, said the grand jury had to weigh testimony that conflicted with physical evidence and conflicting statements by witnesses as it decided whether Wilson should face charges.

"Many witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown made statements inconsistent with other statements they made and also conflicting with the physical evidence. Some were completely refuted by the physical evidence," McCulloch said.

. . .

Another man, describing himself as a friend of Brown's, told a federal investigator that he heard the first gunshot, looked out his window and saw an officer with a gun drawn and Brown "on his knees with his hands in the air." He added: "I seen him shoot him in the head."

But when later pressed by the investigator, the friend said he hadn't seen the actual shooting because he was walking down the stairs at the time, and instead had heard details from someone in the apartment complex.

"What you are saying you saw isn't forensically possible based on the evidence," the investigator told the friend.

There's more at the link, including many more examples of falsified testimony in this case.

This leads me to ask two questions.

  1. Will those who deliberately falsified their testimony, and were caught out, be charged with perjury?
  2. If not, why not?


Entitlement reform: it seems I'm not alone

Back in September I wrote an article titled "Entitlement reform: an attitude problem?"  I went into detail about the wrong attitudes prevalent in the area, and made this suggestion.

Do you want meaningful entitlement?  Here's one way to do it.  I'd dismantle the entire welfare and entitlement system, including unemployment benefits and Social Security, but excluding medical insurance (although that needs reform too).  In its place I'd offer every citizen of the USA (not non-citizens, please note!) a flat sum of money every year.  It would be enough to live at a basic level, without much in the way of luxuries - say, $1,500 to $2,000 per month, or $18,000 to $24,000 per year.  Let's make it tax-free, too.  The total cost would be a lot less than what we, as a nation, currently spend every year on welfare and entitlement programs.  Even better, because everyone would get this, we wouldn't need the plethora of government departments, bureaucrats and administrators that currently manage the existing dysfunctional system.  We could shrink government substantially and save even more money!

By doing that, we'd all start with a level playing field, rich and poor alike.  Those who are prepared to work hard will earn more than that, with which they can live at a higher standard.  Those who aren't prepared to work will at least be able to support themselves at a basic level.  The 'entitlement culture' will be overturned, because success will once again depend on your own efforts.  What's not to like?

There's more at the link.

My suggestion aroused quite a bit of criticism, not least because some respondents calculated that the cost of such largesse would be too high.  Nevertheless, I continue to believe that it might be a better way forward than our current morass of entitlement programs and culture.

It seems some people in Switzerland are feeling the same way.

Switzerland could soon be the world’s first national case study in basic income. Instead of providing a traditional social net—unemployment payments, food stamps, or housing credits—the government would pay every citizen a fixed stipend.

. . .

The proposed plan would guarantee a monthly income of CHF 2,500, or about $2,600 as of November 2014. That means that every family (consisting of two adults) can expect an unconditional yearly income of $62,400 without having to work, with no strings attached. While Switzerland’s cost of living is significantly higher than the US—a Big Mac there costs $6.72—it’s certainly not chump change. It’s reasonable income that could provide, at the minimum, a comfortable bare bones existence.

The benefits are obvious. Such policy would, in one fell swoop, wipe out poverty. By replacing existing government programs, it would reduce government bureaucracy. Lower skilled workers would also have more bargaining power against employers, eliminating the need for a minimum wage. Creative types would then have a platform to focus on the arts, without worrying about the bare necessities. And those fallen on hard times have a constant safety net to find their feet again.

Detractors of the divisive plan also have a point. The effects on potential productivity are nebulous at best. Will people still choose to work if they don’t have to? What if they spend their government checks on sneakers and drugs instead of food and education? Scrappy abusers of the system could take their spoils to spend in foreign countries where their money has more purchasing power, thus providing little to no benefit to Switzerland’s own economy. There’s also worries about the program’s cost and long term sustainability. It helps that Switzerland happens to be one of the richest countries in the world by per capita income.

The problem, as with many issues economic, is that there is no historical precedent for such a plan, especially at this scale, although there have been isolated incidents. In the 1970s, the Canadian town of Dauphin provided 1,000 families in need with a guaranteed income for a short period of time. Not only did the social experiment end poverty, high school completion went up and hospitalizations went down.

. . .

In 1968, American economist Milton Friedman discussed the idea of a negative income tax, where those earning below a certain predetermined threshold would receive supplementary income instead of paying taxes. Friedman suggested his plan could eliminate the 72 percent of the welfare budget spent on administration. But nothing ever came to fruition.

Again, more at the link.

I still maintain that a system of this kind would be far fairer than current entitlement programs, and would put everyone on a common economic foundation.  Those prepared to work hard would make a lot more money, and deserve it.  Those who aren't, wouldn't, and would deserve that too.  Best of all, we'd eliminate almost all of the huge administrative overheads - costs, personnel, bureaucratic inertia, etc. - that plague our present system.

I'd like to see it tried.  I think the results might surprise naysayers.


Feel-good story of the day

It seems a Swedish team competing in an endurance race in Ecuador arrived with four members, and went home with five.

And here's the little rascal at (I think) the airport, preparing to leave Ecuador.

All together, now:  Awwww!


AR-15 follow-up #2

Earlier this month I appealed for help to readers who were more familiar than I with the AR-15 rifle, and followed it up a week later with a report-back.  This post provides more feedback in terms of what I've learned.  In particular, I want to give a shout-out to three companies whose products and/or support have been absolutely outstanding.  They've made my life much easier.  (In case you were wondering, I've not been asked or paid to mention them.  The same goes for products I name:  some were donated by other shooters, and I paid for the rest out of my own pocket.)

My biggest problem in helping those who brought their 'problem child' rifles and carbines to me is that I know firearms in general, but I'm not an AR-15 guru (or, at least, I wasn't one at that time).  I started to educate myself about the platform, whilst at the same time appealing to my readers for information.  Thanks to all of you who contributed to finding solutions.

I'm a former military man, whose life once depended on understanding the weapon(s) issued to him and keeping them functioning under all sorts of interesting (!) circumstances.  I rapidly became frustrated because I wanted to learn the AR-15 in the same depth, but initially found few online resources that experience showed to be authoritative.  Two that became my 'go-to' guides were's series of articles, guides and manuals about the AR-15 (and other rifles), and also its weapon-specific forums covering anything and everything its members want to discuss about the AR-15.  Click over there and look through the list of what's available.  I'm sure you'll find useful information.

I looked through the many, many videos available on YouTube and elsewhere concerning building, modifying and repairing the AR-15.  An awful lot of them can only be described as 'crappy'.  I wasn't impressed.  A number of people suggested I order the American Gunsmithing Institute's DVD titled "AR-15 Rifle Technical Manual and Armorer's Course".  That was good advice.  The video's an overview and component-level breakdown of the weapon, very comforting to someone like me who wants to know how the floggletoggle goes into the thingumajig, or which doohickey to use to thread the taddle through the whatchamacallit without screebling the flibbertigibbet.  Highly recommended to all AR-15 novices who want to learn about their rifles in detail.  (I can see I'm going to have to buy more of the many AGI DVD's about other weapons.  If this one's any indication, they'll be very educational.)

In analyzing the problems my students were having with their AR-15's, I learned a lot about the different components used by various manufacturers and had the chance to compare them.  To say I'm unimpressed by some of the 'cheaper' rifles out there (or, at least, their choice of parts) is an understatement!  I now have a box of components that have been discarded and replaced by something better.  I learned a lot in the process, of course, which was useful reinforcement to the education provided by the AGI DVD mentioned above.  I've also learned (the hard way!) how important it is to have a spare parts kit on hand, as well as the right general gunsmithing tools and AR-15-specific armorer's tools.  They made life an awful lot easier.

Something that stood out was the difference between mil-spec ("military specification") and civilian hardware.  Almost uniformly (you should pardon the expression), the mil-spec stuff was tougher than the civilian (with a couple of notable and honorable exceptions, as you'll see in a moment).  In particular, where I found constrictions or other problems with upper receivers (mentioned in my first feedback report), it became clear that the aluminum used to make the parts concerned was thinner and/or less strong than it should have been.  Investigation led me to two articles concerning the difference between 6061 and 7075 aluminum alloys (click on those links to learn more about them).  Briefly, 7075 has almost twice the tensile strength of 6061, and is used by the makers of a lot of quality AR-15 parts for that reason.  It was also cited as a factor in a Military Times 'torture test' of AR-15 stocks to see which performed best under stress.  I therefore replaced the defective parts with others, made to mil-spec and using 7075 aluminum whenever possible.  I hope they'll hold up better.

Two companies' products stand out from the crowd, as does their customer support.  I value parts that perform as advertised and don't give trouble, and no-nonsense, no-bull advice that doesn't waffle but gets right to the point.  Both companies provide them.

  • Bravo Company has a very high reputation for the quality of their firearms and components, and my experience with them bears it out.  They've sold me top-notch gear, and my e-mails asking questions have been answered promptly and efficiently.  They come highly recommended by the top instructors in the business, many of whom have extensive military experience.  Works for me.  Bravo Company is now #1 on my list of AR-15 parts suppliers.  They're more expensive than some, but you get your money's worth from them.
  • Magpul has an equally stellar reputation for high-quality aftermarket accessories that replace (and sometimes significantly improve upon) original equipment on AR-15 rifles.  (I note that many manufacturers, including Colt, now offer Magpul accessories on upgraded, more expensive 'editions' of their rifles.)  I've tested a lot of aftermarket add-ons from a number of manufacturers in recent weeks, and only Magpul's have worked first time, every time.  All their parts fit and functioned precisely as advertised.  That's worth gold to me, and therefore Magpul is now my #1 supplier for AR-15 aftermarket accessories.

I've also got to give a shout-out to Oleg Volk, who very generously handed me a large crate full of AR-15 stocks, handguards and what have you, and invited me to help myself to whatever I wanted.  He's generous to a fault to his friends (among whom Miss D. and I are honored to count ourselves), and I couldn't have tackled some of the work without him.  Thanks, Oleg!

I'm still learning, and enjoying "mixing-and-matching" parts and accessories across various rifles and carbines as I learn what makes them tick (or not tick, as the case may be).  Slowly but surely I'm standardizing around stuff that works well across all platforms, and discarding bits and pieces that prove less reliable.  It'll take a couple of months yet, but by the end of that time I'll have built and/or rebuilt half a dozen AR-15's, and should know the platform well enough to do the next one in my sleep.

Thanks again to everyone who offered advice.  You've been a big help.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson around the Web

I put up my own reactions to the Ferguson grand jury verdict earlier today.  There have been a few other very worthwhile articles and blog posts that I'd like to share with you.

My buddy Lawdog has some trenchant thoughts on the matter.  A sample:

I think that the other old saying about actions having consequences should be followed closely in Ferguson, Missouri.

If you are a business owner, and a rampaging mob of Social Justice Warriors has looted and burned your place of business -- call your insurance company, take the cheque they're going to write, and use it to get the hell out of Ferguson, Missouri.

Take your vulnerable hide and your tax revenue somewhere that the local community doesn't think that it's perfectly okay for a bunch of thugs to burn you out because they've got a beef with the po-po.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

Another buddy, Larry Correia, responds to the ignorance displayed by many protesters and journalists by looking at the legalities of shooting people.  It's a long, complex article, but that's the nature of the subject, I'm afraid.  A sample:

Violent encounters are complex, and the only thing they have in common is that they all suck. Going into any investigation with preconceived notions is foolish. Making decisions as to right or wrong before you’ve seen any of the evidence is asinine. If you are a nationally elected official, like say for example the President of the United States, who repeatedly feels the need to chime in on local crime issues before you know any facts, you are partly to blame for the resulting unrest, and should probably go have a Beer Summit.

You can’t complain about the bias in our justice system against some groups, and how the state unfairly prosecutes some more than others, and then immediately demand doing away with the burden of proof, so the state can more freely prosecute. Blacks are prosecuted more and sentenced more harshly, so your solution is to remove more of the restraints on the state’s prosecutorial powers, and you think that’ll make things better? You want people to be prosecuted based on feelings rather than evidence, and you think that’ll help? The burden of proof exists as a protection for the people from the state. We have a system for a reason. Angry mob rule based on an emotional fact-free version of events isn’t the answer.

Again, more at the link, and well worth your time.

The (black) National Bar Association has decided to sound off against the grand jury's findings.

The National Bar Association is questioning how the Grand Jury, considering the evidence before them, could reach the conclusion that Darren Wilson should not be indicted and tried for the shooting death of Michael Brown. National Bar Association President Pamela J. Meanes expresses her sincere disappointment with the outcome of the Grand Jury’s decision but has made it abundantly clear that the National Bar Association stands firm and will be calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue federal charges against officer Darren Wilson. “We will not rest until Michael Brown and his family has justice” states Pamela Meanes, President of the National Bar Association.

More at the link (if you want to waste your time on such racially biased claptrap).  I find it supremely and bitterly ironic that an association of lawyers and jurists is objecting to the outcome of this case - an outcome produced by the same legal system within which they work.  I submit that their protests would carry more weight if they all resigned their official positions and refused to operate within that system any longer . . . but then they'd have to actually work for a living, wouldn't they?

I note with gratitude that not everyone 'rolled over and played dead' in the face of screaming protesters.  Faced with the almost complete absence of police protection, some citizens took matters into their own hands.

Along West Florissant just north of 270, in Greystone Plaza, about 20 men with handguns and AR-15 rifles stood around the perimeter of the parking lot, guarding the dozen or so stores.

They estimated that 100 cars had come by throughout the night, seemingly to check the place out, but turned away.

Mike Cross, the owner of St. Louis Ink at the plaza, said: “There's nothing in this strip mall open, so you're going to get scrutinized.”

Well done, those people!  If I lived nearer to Ferguson, I'd have been proud to stand alongside you.

Finally, I note with anger and frustration that the bias of journalists and the mainstream media is as obvious over Ferguson as it was before and during the recent mid-term elections.  The New York Times published the address of Officer Wilson and his wife, and Salon went so far as to publish a picture of the house.  As you can imagine, protesters picked up on that right away and disseminated the information via social media.  I suspect at least some journalists would like nothing better than to photograph, and report on, a screaming mob of protesters attacking Officer Wilson's house and torching it (preferably with him and his wife still inside it).

I have a suggestion.  If Officer Wilson's home is damaged or destroyed by protesters, let's find out the names, addresses and other personal details - in other words, the same information they've reported about Officer Wilson - of every single journalist, editor and manager who collected, authorized the publication of, and helped to disseminate it.  Let's publicize the information we've collected on our blogs, through our organizations, and in any other way that we can.  After all, in the words of the proverb, "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander".  Let those media scum experience for themselves the same fear that they so blithely foist upon others.  I doubt they'll enjoy it, but who cares?  They certainly don't seem to care about those they endanger by their actions!


EDITED TO ADD:  Looks like someone else had the same idea.  Thank you!

Just what the world's been waiting for . . .

I'm afraid this might ruin the old limerick.  The Telegraph reports:

A Frenchman has developed a range of pills aimed at making people’s flatulence smell sweeter - of chocolate or of roses - which he says will make the perfect Christmas present.

The 65-year-old artist and inventor says his pills are aimed at easing indigestion and are made of 100 percent natural ingredients such as fennel, seaweed and blueberries.

The pills are sold on the internet under the Lutin Malin (Crafty Imp) website and have been approved by health authorities, according to Christian Poincheval, who is based in the village of Gesvres in western France.

For this year’s festive season he has added a new product to the range which he has titled “The Father Christmas fart pill that gives your farts the scent of chocolate”.

There's more at the link.

I'm sorry, but I can't stop giggling over this one.  Considering schoolboys' obsession with fart jokes (and yes, there are even Web sites about them!), I can just see some budding juvenile chemist taking this idea and running with it in the school lab, producing his own variation on 'fart pills' that will make the result smellier than ever.  Limburger cheese farts, anyone?  Sulfur dioxideButyl mercaptan (a.k.a. skunk oil)?

Oh - the limerick?  You don't know it?  Believe it or not, it was one of my mother's favorites.  It goes like this:

There was a young man from Australia
Who painted his **** like a dahlia.
The color was fine,
Likewise the design:
The aroma?  No, that was a falia!


The Ferguson verdict

Well, the verdict's out at last.  Officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal charges in connection with the shooting of Michael Brown in August.  I'm not surprised;  for weeks, it's been clear that the balance of evidence was that it was a justifiable homicide.

It's also been clear for weeks - ever since the shooting, in fact - that protesters could not be trusted to demonstrate peacefully their opposition to the racial tensions in Ferguson, MO, and the events that led to Michael Brown's death.  Predictably, many of them were not interested in the facts of the matter, only in their perceptions of and emotions about the incident.  After the announcement of the grand jury's findings, the inevitable happened.

I have no problem accepting that racial tensions run high in the area.  I equally have no problem accepting that law enforcement there has serious problems that are as yet unaddressed.  When you have a community that's more than two-thirds black, but its police force is 94% white, that's prima facie evidence of an imbalance.  When investigations incontrovertibly reveal a long-standing culture of law-enforcement and justice-system discrimination against black people, it's even worse.  I urge you to read the following reports to understand the legitimate and very real anger of black people there.  These reports are fact, not fantasy - they're the reality of life on the ground there.

It's no good trying to write off those reports as liberal or progressive propaganda.  The facts have been checked by many different sources.  The problem is real.  That's why the reaction of the local black community to Michael Brown's death has been so visceral.  It's not primarily about Michael Brown as a person.  His death has become a symbol of what they perceive - and experience every day - as persistent, institutionalized racial bias in local law enforcement and the local justice system.

Unfortunately, the community's anger has been manipulated by those with their own agendas to pursue.  Activists are deliberately trying to inflame community anger to provoke outbursts of rioting, looting and insurrection - with considerable success.  When there's so much tinder lying around, it doesn't take much of a spark to produce a conflagration.  This, in turn, provokes even greater intransigence among local law enforcement, and among the white community.

Even those of us who strive to acknowledge the fairness of black grievances in the area are outraged when protesters set fire to vehicles and buildings, and loot stores.  Those are crimes, not protests.  As far as I'm concerned, anyone perpetrating such acts deserves to be treated like the criminals they are, not handled with kid gloves . . . but if the police do that, they'll be accused of being 'insensitive' or 'bullying' or 'racist', largely due to the perceptions to which their own actions in the past have given rise.  They can't win.  If I lived in Ferguson, and encountered a mob of protesters trying to torch my home or business, and used lethal force to stop them, I'd be just another Officer Wilson in the eyes of the mob.  They wouldn't ask whether or not I was justified in my actions - it would be all about their perceptions, which to them have the force of reality even if they're not factually correct.

Let's be blunt.  I'm not an apologist for Michael Brown.  Before he was shot he'd used marijuana and robbed a convenience store;  and the evidence presented to the grand jury indicated conclusively that he initiated the assault on Officer Wilson that led to the latter shooting him.  I agree with the grand jury's findings:  there's no evidence of wrongdoing in his death.  It's in similar vein to the shooting of Trayvon Martin - who openly boasted of his drug use, illegal possession of weapons, and 'thug' persona on social media - by George Zimmerman in 2012;  the evidence proved that Martin assaulted Zimmerman, who shot him in self-defense.  Two wannabe thugs - Brown and Martin - are dead, and our streets will probably be safer in the future as a result.

Unfortunately, the fates of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin are now going to be inextricably linked and manipulated by the racial grievance industry.  It's already happening.  They're going to exploit their deaths for whatever gain they can wring out of them, and sweep their undoubted criminal proclivities and actions under the rug.  In turn, the 'thin blue line' of law enforcement and the local justice system are going to get their dander up about the 'unfairness' of many of the accusations against them, and resent the hell out of those making them . . . which may well prevent the authorities from recognizing, acknowledging, and dealing with the very real shortcomings they've demonstrated in the past.

There are no winners in this situation;  and, unless calmer heads prevail, there won't be any in future either.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Crimson Trace laser sights

I was asked today why, in previous articles, I've recommended Crimson Trace laser sights for pistols over all other brands.  My correspondent pointed out:

Most other laser sights are half the price of the Crimson Trace equivalent, and work just as well.  Why should I pay double for the CT version?

I admitted that he was quite correct about the pricing:  but cost isn't everything.  I thought some of you might like to hear my explanation.

Let me begin by emphasizing that I don't earn anything for recommending Crimson Trace - no endorsement fees, no free products, nothing like that.  I recommend them because, in my experience, their products perform as advertised, and they have one significant advantage that no other laser sight has.

Most people who've been in a few fights - whether involving fists, knives, guns or whatever - will confirm that things happen fast.  It's seldom like the movies, where there's a build-up of tension, an exchange of words, mood music, lowering light levels, and all the other signs saying that violence is about to erupt.  Look at some video clips of the so-called 'knockout game' circulating on YouTube, or some of the mugging attacks caught on camera.  You'll notice most of the attacks come out of nowhere, with little or no warning.

That's where many (but not all) models of Crimson Trace laser sights have a priceless advantage that others lack.  They work by what CT calls 'instinctive activation':  as your hand grasps the firearm, your finger instinctively and automatically depresses the activation button for the laser, which is positioned on the grip itself.  The button is highlighted by the red arrow in the illustration below.

On some models the button's at the back of the grip, rather than the front:  but wherever it is, you don't need to use another finger or your other hand to activate the laser.  It comes on as you grasp your gun.  I've learned the hard way that when the proverbial brown substance hits the rotary air impeller, simplicity is speed, and speed of reaction is what will most likely save your life.  You almost certainly won't have time (or a safe distance) to activate a laser using both hands.  It'll take too long.

There's also the factor of your position.  If a mugger has just knocked you down, and you're trying to react to save yourself before he stomps you, you won't have time to fiddle with your gun.  You're on the ground, unable to take a firm two-handed firing grip and leisurely align your firearm's sights on your target.  Your support hand will be trying to lever you up off the ground or fend off a blow or kick - you can't spare it to grasp the gun or fiddle with a laser sight.  If you can simply grab your gun and have its laser sight come on instantly, so that whatever your position and wherever the gun may be, you can simply put the dot on your attacker and pull the trigger . . . that may make the difference between you walking away from the attack, or ending up in the hospital - or the morgue.

There are a few other instant-on options.  Viridian, for example, offers waistband holsters with a built-in 'switch' that activate its laser sights the instant the gun is drawn.  That's fine, if you're carrying in a waistband holster.  If (as I often do) you need a type of holster they don't offer, or are carrying a smaller handgun in a pocket holster, that won't work . . . whereas the CT system will.

I'm not trying to say that the products of other laser sight manufacturers are technically inferior.  They're not - they work just fine (mostly) and are often cheaper than Crimson Trace equivalents.  However, they lack the 'instinctive activation' feature that CT patented some years ago.  (Yes, I think CT's prices are unreasonably high:  but they're charging what the market will bear.  Since they're the only company to offer grip-activated lasers, if we want that convenience, we have to pay for it.  That makes life difficult for my disabled and handicapped students, many of whom have enough trouble affording guns and ammo, let alone laser sights . . . but CT isn't a charity, and we can't expect it to operate like one.)

To date I've installed CT grip-activated laser sights on Ruger LCP's and LC9's, various models of Springfield XD's, Glocks and Kahrs, Smith & Wesson and Ruger revolvers, and a few long guns.  I've never had one fail me or a student when it was needed (as long as one's made sure to replace the batteries as and when required), and the instinctive activation feature has proved its worth on more than one 'social use' occasion.  That's why I'll be buying more of them, despite their relatively high price.  In my experience, no other laser sight works as easily and instinctively on a handgun in the heat of the moment.


Medical costs and US government spending

Karl Denninger has produced this video presentation that lays it on the line about how medical costs are crippling the US economy and our government's budget.  He hasn't made up a thing - he uses official US government figures.  You need to watch this, carefully.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Of course, there's the question of how to do it.  Our current crop of politicians won't - they've been bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists.  Just look at the top ten business sectors in terms of how much they spent on lobbying in the 2014 fiscal yearFour out of the top ten are medical groups.  If you think they're throwing away tens of millions of dollars each year out of the goodness of their hearts, you need help.

The only way we're going to change this is to hold our representatives and Senators accountable.  Tell them, bluntly, that we won't support them for re-election unless they do something to fix this;  and then act on that promise when the time comes.  Insist that those who want to replace them should commit to doing something about this problem, and un-elect them in their turn if they fail to keep their promises.

Of course, that would require an informed, involved, active electorate . . . something that's in short supply in this country right now.


I thought this was faked, but it's real

I was astonished to learn an advertisement that I was sure was CGI was, in fact, real.  The Telegraph reports:

The video was created as an advert for EMC technology, who are technology partners for Lotus F1 team.

The Lotus team are now in possession of an impressive new world record as the F1 transporter managed to clear the longest ever truck jump at 83 feet and seven inches.

There's more at the link.

Here's the advertisement.

I'd love to know how they prepared that truck for the attempt - clearly, it must have been stripped of every possible ounce of weight.  Even so, I sure wouldn't have volunteered to drive the car as the truck crossed over my head!