Brian's Notes

Thoughts on Stuff and Junk

1st Steps Pistol Class Follow Up

We (my wife Lizz and I) had our “1st steps” pistol training class the other day and let me tell you, it was indeed “1st steps”. Always point the gun in a safe direction, always leave the gun unloaded until you’re ready to use it, and so on. Anyone with a shred of proper gun knowledge knows these things, but I guess you need to start people somewhere. It just made for a boring first hour.

That being said, I’d say it was worth the time and money. $60 per person for 2.5 hours of NRA certified training including 40 rounds of indoor range shooting with a rental gun isn’t bad. Plus it gets you in the door at the range and helps you become comfortable with their layout and rules.

Some of the info I found useful pertained mostly to the mechanics of pistols, revolvers as well as semi-automatics. How to identify the slide lock, magazine release, safety, hammer (or no hammer designs), cocking and de-cocking, properly clearing the gun, etc. All good stuff and all helps in selecting a gun to buy.

Also, I’d say that even someone with a bit of pistol experience that’s thinking of going for a CCW license could get some benefit from the class, even if it’s just some brush up on proper trigger control and stances. Not to mention it wouldn’t hurt to get to know your CCW class instructors ahead of time. I mean, it’s $60 and an evening of your time.

It is a 1st steps class though, so if you’re looking for a CCW prepare to be covering a lot of common knowledge stuff. But, if you’re a total newbie to shooting, pistols or rifles, this is an excellent class to take! I can’t stress or recommend enough that people looking to get into shooting firearms get proper training. Seriously, it’ll make you a better and MUCH SAFER shooter. Do it.

After the classroom time we got into the range to actually put into practice what we had just learned. After putting 8 rounds into the target high left thinking that it was just me getting used to shooting a pistol I decided to just adjust my aim lower and ended up putting the rest of my 40 shots into the 10 circle. Throughout the time I alternated between the stances and techniques to get a feel for what worked better for me and ended up finding the Weaver Position to feel the most stable.

Next steps for me will be getting into the range regularly and narrowing in on my first pistol to buy. One of my goals will be getting a CCW license and then seeing where that takes me. All in all it was a great time and growing experience. Looking forward to more shooting!

1st Steps Pistol Class

1st Steps Pistol Class

Believe it or not but I don’t have much experience shooting pistols. It’s been 38 years and I’ve probably only shot a handful of rounds through one. All would have been .22 caliber.

Well, that time ends tomorrow when I’ll be getting formal pistol handling and shooting instruction. I’m so pumped for it. Next could be a CCW License, but baby steps first. 5121 S. Division Avenue Wyoming, MI 49548 Wish me luck!

On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheep Dogs by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheep Dogs by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

From: On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace

Since starting I’ve become a lot more involved in the military, law enforcement, and tactical community, through that exposure I’ve come to have a better understanding of their terms and philosophies. One such term that caught my curiosity was “sheepdog”. It’s a label applied to themselves as those who are the protectors of the defenseless “sheep” (the general public).

For some time now I’ve raised an eyebrow toward the concept of “sheepdogs” and “sheep” as I always felt it was an exclusionary term only for the fraternity of military and law enforcement people. Since I’m neither, I felt slighted by the term, as if I need the “sheepdog” to protect my “defenseless self”, even when I don’t feel that way at all and many times felt that I was a “sheepdog” myself. A little later I’ll make a lame attempt at showing how I see this in me.

Anyway, that was my perception of “sheepdogs” and “sheep” until I read the book excerpt linked above.

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf.

But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

That passage struck me a bit. Having been in martial arts for roughly 18 years, earning black belt levels in two arts, taking first steps to a CCW I feel I have some capacity for violence but I also care for my fellow citizens. I am not a sheep, and I’m definitely not a wolf, maybe in this view I am a “sheepdog” after all.

Reading further I came across this next excerpt, one that truly hit home:

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed, right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

That sounds a bit like me. Just reading that increases my heart rate. Often times when out at a cafe or restaurant, with a chuckle from my wife, I’ll want to sit in the seat facing the door, just in case. I don’t want it, but I’m ready and willing for when it happens. A warrior is someone who wants to do something about it and will not back down from adversity. I think that sometimes those who do not possess this sheepdog-ness think the sheepdogs are silly or paranoid or reckless.

And that brings me to the example from my past.

Many years ago, back when I was in my early twenties, I was hanging out with a couple friends at a local bar. Now, this isn’t just a small corner bar, it’s a large multi-floor building that has lots of bars, clubs and restaurants all available by open staircases and elevators. On Friday and Saturday nights it was quite the hoppin’ place, probably still is, with lots of people having a good time. But then, sometimes you’d get guys who were a little too drunk and a scuffle would erupt. That’s what happened this particular night.

My buddies and I were standing around talking when suddenly some woman ran out of the elevator yelling “He’s beating my boyfriend! He’s beating my boyfriend! Someone help! Oh my God he’s beating him!” and, as my friends stepped away I instead ran into the elevator without even thinking. When I got in there I found two guys grappling with each other and fighting. Not even realizing they both had a good few inches on me and plenty more muscle I stepped between them and pushed them apart. The guy to my right I pushed up against the wall with a hard thud as the other ran out. I immediately turned to the one I had pinned, pointed at his face, and yelled “Calm down!” It was funny because he quickly raised his hands up and said “Ok ok ok” with this really weird look on his face.

I don’t remember how it all ended but I think I sort of shook my head, as if in disgust, and stormed out of the elevator as the bouncers where rushing in. My buddies were beside themselves, “Why did you do that? You don’t know those guys. You could have been beat up or something!” and I kept saying back to them “Where were you? I figured you were behind me. You didn’t just stand here did you?”

In my eyes, that’s a sheepdog moment. It may not be banding together to overcome terrorists who have control of your plane, or protecting others in a coffee shop when an armed robber crashes into the place. But hey, I don’t live on the set of “24”. But, it’s running into danger rather than running away from it. And, to me, that’s a sheepdog, a warrior, and something I think we can all strive to become.

Survival on the Discovery Channel

I love wilderness survival shows. Always have, and probably always will. It seems I’m not alone considering the slew of TV shows out there about it. Each has their own little spin on the subject. Here are my favorite 4 (ok, 5):


The original, the classic. Even though Les has moved on to “Beyond Survival”, this remains one of my all-time favorite shows. I love it for his no-nonsense, no-thrills, no-frills survival advise. It’s just five days alone in the wild with just his wits and camera equipment but it basically started this whole survival show trend. If you haven’t seen it, find a way (the 3 seasons are available on DVD), it’s good stuff.

Dual Survival

This is a newer show that just wrapped up it’s first season on the Discovery Channel. It follows Cody Lundin and Dave Canterbury as they team up to get through the typical survival situations people find themselves in. Cody is the hippie, minimalist, primitive survival guy and Dave is the Army trained scout, sniper, and hunter type. It’s like the “Odd Couple” of survival. But, despite their differences, they seem to be able to work as a team and get through the situation, which I think is one of the lessons of the show. Plus the banter between them makes for some fun TV. I hope they make a second season.

Man, Woman, Wild

Another show where a lot of the draw is the dialog and interaction of it’s “characters”. Here it’s a husband and wife team going out into the woods to survive typical survival situations (sound familiar?). He’s Mykel Hawke, a retired Army Special Forces Green Beret survival instructor and she’s Ruth England, a British TV personality and field journalist. Basically, it’s Mykel taking his wife out into the woods to teach her survival tactics. She really gives it her all out there and between the two of them they make for great TV fun. He’s quite the character but I think it’s Ruth that makes the show with her flamboyant hatred of snakes and anything creepy-crawly, and her willingness to try his “crazy” ideas (like drinking his urine for hydration). She’s “as tough as woodpecker lips”…

Beyond Survival

I just started watching this and can already tell I’m going to be a fan of the show. Again, it follows Les Stroud, of Survivorman, as he goes to remote locations to “seek out the true masters of survival - the last indigenous tribes of the world”. I just watched the “Sea Gypsies” episode and really enjoyed it, looking forward to more.

And, although not actually “wilderness survival” but survival nonetheless:

Surviving the Cut

This show gives insight into what it takes to get through some of the US military’s toughest schools. They highlight the Rangers, PJs, Marine Recon, SF Divers, Navy EOD, and Marine Snipers. It’s interesting that the US Navy SEALs are missing, but at the same time I find that refreshing since the TV is saturated with shows about SEALs. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but it’s nice to see other branches get the spotlight. Anyway, this is a great series and shows what our war fighters go through in their pursuit of being the best, highly recommend.

Ok, you may be wondering “Where’s Man vs. Wild?!” Well, good question and I have a response: I can’t stand the show. From it’s title (really, man VERSUS wild?) to his sensationalized survival “techniques” that could get people into some serious trouble out in the bush. And then there is the well-documented fake aspect. I had such high hopes for this show when it came out, but those were dashed after watching the first couple episodes, where I saw him jump off a 40 foot cliff into a raging river to get away from a “bear chasing him”. Then choosing to float down said river using his backpack for buoyancy only to see footage of him obviously using a lifejacket under his sweatshirt. It was just such a letdown after being a Survivorman fan. But I knew it was going to be popular because people love exciting TV, and seems I was right.

Well, there you have it, a little roundup on some of my favorite survival shows (and one of my least favorite). I know the trend will die as people’s interest fades and they focus on something else, but in the meantime it’s great for a survival geek like me!


In my quest to find a great Rails development environment I think I might have stumbled upon a winner. The other day I was looking around and I came upon this site talking about NetBeans

Downloaded, installed, configured, haven’t looked back since.

When configured just so it resembles the “king Rails editor” TextMate - sans a nice dark color scheme, but I code with a white background all day at work anyway so that’s not a big deal.

Then today, while reading through my RSS feeds, I come upon this post, and looky there! Mr. DHH is singing it’s praises too.

I’ve used NetBeans off and on for years now (since version 3.something I think) for my Java dabbling and it’s always been fairly solid. Let’s hope it stays that way and keeps the Rails support. Could be a real good thing happening…

Things I Did Today

  1. Touched and messed around with both the iPhone and the new Apple keyboards - time to start saving $440. Both = incredible.
  2. Sat in and watched an Aikido class at the Kyoseikan Dojo then filled out the registration form. Not exactly sure when I’m going to go in for my first class…
  3. Did a road ride today: 15.19 miles in 52:26. AVG speed: 17.3mph MAX speed: 24.2mph
  4. About to go watch No Reservations and finish out the day.

Shift to a Non-rant Post

I have a pet project that I’m working on… it’s interesting, something I could actually use, and I think there may be a place for it out in the wild interwebs.

But, it’s all about motivation. Something I have at the start of a personal project but slowly dies down. Building business web apps all day can do that to a programmer. It kinda drains you of creativity.

Then one day (today) I start looking through some of my old links and I happen upon this guy’s studio site, which in turn leads to his project site.

Nice stuff. And stuff that should look familiar to those that have been in web design for a few years.

It’s all generative work, built by programming code. Ugh. Now that’s cool… far better than some “run-of-the-mill” Web 2.0 app! Something tells me I need to play with this kind of work. I’ve been looking for some use to programming other than database driven web sites/apps.

I have a copy of Flash on this machine - maybe I can make a go of it… maybe, sometime when I’m not tired and have the modivation. :)

White Collar Workers

As a now “white collar” worker (web developer) that used to be a “blue collar” worker (tool & die maker) this really kinda makes me mad.

When I first started working in an “office” back in 2001 I generally felt I worked with a bunch of spoon fed cry babies. Getting to sit down, type on a keyboard and fresh out of college make more than (or as much as) most veteran die makers. Know this: to be a die maker most (I) had to undergo 8,800ish hours of on-the-job training as well as night classes at the local college fulfilling enough credits for an Associates Degree. After (and during) that time, I worked 10 to 12 hour days standing on my feet, being in control or in charge of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery and steel. Tight deadlines? Try working 7 days a week at 70 to 80 hours per week for a month and a half - and then at “crunch time” put in a few 20 hour days.

Time off? Usually, shops will give you one week after your first year, and sometimes won’t extend that time off until after you work a few more. Breaks? When I was working 10 hour days (6am - 4:30pm) we had one 15 minute break at 9:30am and then a 30 minute lunch at noon. That’s 45 minutes for the entire 10 ½ hours you were at work. Quite a bit different from the “white collar” one hour lunch and semi-frequent “smoke/coffee breaks” during an 8 hour day (ok, 9 due to lunch).

No wonder I had a hernia at 22 and fun basically meant going out to the bar and drinking.

There was no time for the occasional chit-chat between coworkers let alone spending hours a week playing games, on the clock. 25% of workers? Meanwhile, manufacturing jobs continually go overseas to save companies money? Crazy.

Now, do I want to go back to that? Hell No! But, come on people, realize the cushy-ness of your jobs and don’t take them for granted or think they’re something special. Or that you’re someone special that deserves special treatment. I’ve never worked in an environment where the workers had so much “fun stuff” to do: foosball tables, video games, TV, coffee bars, etc.

Ok, I got a bit off focus (I’m no writer and I’m passionate about the subject) but basically I’m just tired of hearing “white collar” workers complain about their cushy jobs and feel they need to waste time while the “blue collar” workers out there are seeing their jobs move overseas to save money.

Rant, over.

Excuse Me?

Apparently, kids around the country are being asked to choose a major.

Am I missing something? When I was starting high school I barely knew my strong points, abilities or anything for that matter. All I knew was that I had to study and take my required classes. Oh, and that there were girls n stuff…

Eventually I found myself in the more technical side of things: math, drafting, machine tools, etc. Which led me to a career in (and college relating to) “tool & die”, which in-turn led to Computer-Aided-Drafting (CAD) and engineering, which furthermore led to computers in general, and lastly web software.

Point being, it all changes, I know people with degrees in Mathematics who are photographers, and people with degrees in Fine Art who are “Information Architects”. People change careers like crazy. Asking a high school freshmen/sophomore to choose a path is ridiculous.

Soon we’ll be getting branded and having career chips implanted (that’s a Futurama reference for those in-the-know). No thanks! What kids need are well rounded educations so they can grow and be effective in everything they do. I can’t stand this modern career driven education system. What we need is more Classical Education.