Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Legacy of the Hand-Written Word

I've started hand-writing letters to my mother.

She's in assisted living, and has good days and bad days. And when I call on the phone, if it's a bad day, I may only get a minute and a half of conversation before the call is over. Yesterday, I called and there was commotion in the hallway so she mostly couldn't hear me. She was frustrated and so was I. 

So I sat down and wrote her a letter instead. I figured she could read it at her leisure, and even read it over and over if she wanted, and it would give her something tangible to remember that I HAD thought of her. A phone call can be forgotten within a few minutes, when one has a bit of creeping dementia. But a letter on the side table remains lying there as a reminder.

It's that tangible quality of an actual paper letter that makes it special, and I think we have lost something important in that, with the advance of the electronic age.  Mom sort of barely learned to use email about a year before dad died. After he died, she gave it up quickly, because the computer pretty much baffled and frustrated her. 

Thus, for the last ten years, we have relied on the telephone. It was at times frustrating that I couldn't just email a photograph or a quick line, saying that I was thinking about her. I was jealous of friends whose mothers not only used Facebook, but who also knew how to text. But Mom is who she is, and I wasn't going to be able to change that. So we muddled through. 

After a while, she stopped initiating calls herself. So the onus was on me and my brothers to do the calling. Now, because she can't always reach the phone, or figure out what button to push to talk, it requires two phone calls - the first to the nursing desk, so that someone can go make sure that she has the phone and can push the button. It gets more and more frustrating.

But a letter can be read over and over. I can write it whenever the mood strikes me, and she can read it whenever the mood strikes HER. I don't have to worry that it's too late, or too early, or it's meal time, or if she's getting rehab when I call. Although I'll still keep "trying" to call.

It's also important to me that I hand write the letter. I have legible handwriting, and I try to write pretty big for her. I think a typed and printed letter is too impersonal - it may as well be from an insurance company as from a loved one.

This was brought home to me this week as I was going through some things of mom's as we moved her belongings out of her apartment. I found some things in my father's handwriting, and though he's been gone for ten years, his handwriting reminded me of the letters I would get from him when I was in college. His handwriting was NOT so legible, but the deciphering was half the fun. The handwriting brought a little of him back to me.

I worry that the next generation will have virtually nothing to remember "us" by, as emails become buried in anonymous servers, email accounts change,  and their very intangible nature renders them virtually nonexistent. In contrast, I still have a handful of letters written to me by my great-grandmother when I was a child. Granted they can't be "forwarded" and "CC'd" into the millions of copies as emails can, but they have their own concrete existence. They don't require electricity or battery power, and a machine to read. They only require eyes and literacy.

Those letters aren't lost to me as hundreds of my father's photographs are. He played around with amateur photography in his short retirement, and he saved most of them to floppies and Zip drives. I "think" I have hard copies of most of the important ones, but the technology has marched on, and it would be a hassle and expense to get anything retrieved now. He also wrote a few essays, and if he had not had the foresight to print out and file paper copies of those essays, they would be lost as well.

Because of this, I've decided that I should print out a copy of each blog post to file for posterity. Not that any of it is great literature, but because it will be something tangible for me to show for my efforts. Maybe the current internet technology will be transferable to the next age, and accessible to my great-grandchildren. But I have my doubts. So I'm going to put at least one copy on paper, and file it away.

One last point about the letter-writing. I encountered something with hand-writing a letter, that I had forgotten about with the ease of editing electronic type. I made mistakes and misspellings, which I had to cross out or write over. I think there's a bit of humanity in that. With paper and pen, we can't erase our mistakes as if they never existed. We either have to live with the blots and imperfection, or start over. And starting over isn't always feasible. That's a bit of a metaphor about life, I think.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Changing the Rules for Tools - from Klecker

I know I usually come back from SHOT Show with a list of guns I want to buy, but this year was different. 

This year I found a NEW favorite thing, and it's NOT a gun! Believe it or not - it's a phone case. But it's not the case itself that makes me so excited. It's what the case holds that makes me happy. This phone case holds .... tools!

This set-up is from Klecker Knives and Tools - Stowaway Tools
I have Katelyn Kinsey and Amanda DeDona from Klecker to thank for this discovery, as I would usually not stop by a knife booth. I just don't "know" knives, and I tend to stick with what I know. But I was introduced to these ladies and their product by Janette Palmer at the Ladies of the Industry Meet and Greet. Networking for the win!

Klecker makes a wide variety of mini tools to fit into a folding keybar case, or on a carabiner. I've had pocket multitools before - but it's the phone option which makes this all so revolutionary for me. 

I haven't carried a purse for years. I have a little zipper wallet which goes in my front pocket, and my phone is in a case on my belt. Keys are on a carabiner on a belt loop and tucked into a pocket. I'm pretty low maintenance, so that's why this particular product is so exciting for me.

These tools (up to four at a time) take up no more room than my traditional phone case already does, and my phone never leaves my body while I am awake, so I am more prepared for emergencies now - without any extra hassle. 

Now, when I talk about "emergencies", I'm not talking about a knife fight, (although a penknife IS one of the options). 

I'm talking about a combination screwdriver, wrench, pry tool,and bottle opener - called the Griffin Stowaway Tool - for when your picnic (or hotel room) includes loose screws and beer bottles.

I'm talking about mini-pliers - for when you just can't pull that durn thing out of there with your finger tips.

I'm talking about about scissors - for when that neck tag in your new shirt is driving you absolutely batty at the office.

And the piece de resistance - real tweezers! I'm telling you - Leatherman tweezers are wholly inadequate for use by a middle-age female. I've tried them - they stink. But THESE ---- THESE are real, beveled, functional tweezers!  

I don't know about you, but I hate finding that stray chin hair in the car visor mirror that was invisible in the bathroom. Same thing with the gray eyebrow hairs that only seem to show up in broad daylight, and not while I'm at the vanity. That makes these tweezers my new best friend - I'm not kidding. And they are always on my hip - not buried somewhere in a 20 pound purse! Of course the gentlemen could use them for splinters and such, but I know what MY priorities are :-)

You aren't limited to the tool options I chose, either. There are fifteen different choices to accommodate your particular needs - including key blanks.

For instance, I really didn't think I needed a knife if I had scissors. So without the small folding blade, my phone breezed through TSA at the airport in Vegas without a second look. 

I'm one of those people who forget to take a penknife off of a keychain in a travel bag , and bye bye- there it goes. With this, you can still have other tools without a knife, instead of it being a mandatory package deal, and then you don't have to worry about forgetting that you have a blade, and getting in trouble. For me, that was fantastic!!

The phone case comes with a plastic backer to stick on your phone to protect it from getting scratched when you insert the tools. There are several colors to choose from, and there are several colors of tool caps to choose from as well. I went with contrasting colors just to keep life interesting. The case is currently only available for the iPhone 6, 6s, and 7 (not plus), but I imagine that they will probably expand those options if there is enough demand.

I've been using this set-up for about two weeks now and I LOVE it. I may even branch out into the key bar to simplify my keychain too. Klecker gets my vote for most awesome new product of SHOT 2017!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lessons on the 2A at SHOT

I have to share an interesting experience I had while at SHOT Show last week. 

It was on Friday, so the Inauguration festivities were streaming on a big screen in the press room. There were round tables set up throughout the room all week, so you usually got the benefit of sharing a table with some other people, and I've been able to meet some interesting members of the outdoor media that way.

While watching the newsfeed, a friend and I were having a discussion about the new president and our feelings and expectations for what might happen next. After my friend left, another fellow at the table asked if he might ask me some questions. Turns out he was from Australia (SHOT brings people from all over the globe), and he was curious about some of what my friend and I had spoken about.

Since I mentioned how hostile Hillary had been to the 2A, one the things he was curious about was what my feelings were on the 2nd Amendment and what the Founders had intended. He asked whether I really thought that it was meant to be a defense against a tyrannical government. And I think my response surprised him. I explained the that 2A was "absolutely" a check on out-of-control government, and that in essence, the 2A is the "Escape Clause" of the Constitution. 

Nobody likes to think much about that now, but the Founders had just been through a bloody revolution in order to secure their citizen freedoms from a too powerful government. Although nobody WANTED to go through it again, they were determined that they would if they had to. Retaining the means for defending themselves from a government run amok - revolution- in the hands of The People, was EXACTLY what the Founders meant with the 2A. This form of government was a grand experiment at the time, and some people even wanted to make George Washington "king" - because they had no experience outside of a monarchy. The Founders were deathly afraid of powerful central government, and wanted The People to retain the power to say "NOPE", if things got out of hand.

Obviously, nobody today wants to have to invoke the "Escape Clause" or pull the "Kill Switch" as it were - because it would mean complete disaster. But that option exists for a reason, and that reason is one of the bedrock foundations of the country - the right of free men and women to decide how they are governed.

I also explained that this is exactly why the supposed arguments about "muskets" vs  modern rifles is completely invalid. The Founders wanted The People to have the same "arms" ( i.e. Hand carried weapons) as any standing army (which the Founders also opposed).

I also explained that people in Australia probably don't understand this, because they had a peaceful separation from the mother country, and still honor the queen. We had years of bloody war instead. So, our perspectives are completely different. I told him that I am actually a direct descendant of people who have been in the country since the French and Indian War, and I also have several ancestors who fought in the Revolution. Those people understood very well the need for personal arms, the reality of bloody conflict, and the importance of keeping a reign on government. 

The fellow also asked if it is possible to "change" the Constitution. I replied "yes", but that it is a big deal and an arduous process - this was also an intentional design by the Founders. But I went on to point out that this didn't stop people like Hillary from trying to use the "reasonable restrictions" idea to slowly drip, drip drip our rights away.

I'm glad I've read some history, and it was a privilege to share it with someone who has no experience of that in his own country. I also explained that I have some friends who have emigrated from behind the (former) Iron curtain, who are some of the staunchest defenders of the 2A I have ever met - because they've come from where there WERE no such freedoms.

The fellow then explained to me, that in Australia there is no constitutional guarantee for the freedom of the people to bear arms, and all it took was a single mass shooting for most of their firearm freedoms to disappear. He said that in Australia you can't even keep a baseball bat by your door for the purposes of self-defense without fear of prosecution for harming a criminal who breaks into your home. It sounds as if criminals have more rights than homeowners do there, which is obviously complete craziness from "our" point of view.

This exchange was a rare and interesting privilege for me  - to be able to see the whole thing through someone else's eyes, who hasn't had the benefit of the Founders' foresight. I am glad for the experience, and it makes me even more "Proud to be an American".

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Range Day 2017

Apologies for not being as on-the-ball as I have other years. Normally, I'd have had two blog posts up by now. For some reason this year has me more tired and brain dead than other years. I have been posting a few short updates and photos on the Facebook page, so if you don't already follow that, you can do so here.

Or, the pen name page

Range Day was an adventure as always. 

Among the firearms I got to shoot were:

Hudson H9

Colt Cobra Revolver

Honor Defense subcompact

Kimber revolver additions

M&P 2.0

Several Glocks

Springfield Armory - everything they brought, from the Saint to the XD's

Stoeger MK3

Shooting other people's guns with other people's ammo is always exhilarating :-)

I "could" have shot many more than that, but not everything always interests me, and I've had to learn to pick and choose with my time. My favorite of the day was the new iteration of the Colt Cobra revolver. (Pics)

I personally liked this revolver much better than the Kimbers that have come out in the last year. Both are 6-shot short-barreled revolvers, but the Colt's trigger felt much better, it had a better natural aim for me, (I believe that Colt has worked a bit on grip angle), and the price point was a couple hundred dollars less expensive. It is currently only available in .38. I'm assuming the .357 model will be in the pipe. I usually come out of SHOT every year with at least one gun on my shopping list, and the Colt Cobra has won that contest for me. It should be in stores by summer.

One of the other memorable guns I shot was the Hudson H9. This is a new company, working on an all-new design. The H9 is a bit of a mash-up between a 1911, and a double-stack polymer gun. The frame and grip angle are basically 1911, but they have moved the recoil spring much lower in order to bring the grip more in line with the barrel. This is the reason that the outline looks like it has a built in laser or something. ( it doesn't). ( pic)

For me personally, the H9 was just "okay", and rather "Meh". Yeah, it was interesting and new, but 1911's tend to not point naturally for me, and this one was no exception. I had to look around to find the front sight. Having done that though, the trigger had a nice feel, and the gun was accurate. I think the H9 might bring to solid 1911 fans, the option for double-stack striker fire in a package they are familiar with, but it's not something that I personally plan to plunk down money for.

I also had the opportunity to shoot the M&P 2.0 pistol from Smith & Wesson. I have shot my existing M&P9 in matches for several years, so I am familiar with the existing design. They ARE keeping this design, by the way. The 2.0 is just a new addition to the line. The main things with the 2.0 are that the grip is much more textured than the previous design, it comes with four (instead of three) back straps, and the trigger is much better out of the box. You might not need to replace this one, as most people do with the stock triggers on the existing model.

Now, on to the rest of the week...

Lots more photos and comments posted on the Facebook page, listed at the top of this post.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Instructor Training Part 3 - The Finale

Say hello to a newly minted NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor!

I finished the course work this past weekend, and it was an interesting experience.

The BIT portion (Basic Instructor Training) was on Friday night. This is apparently a standard start to all Instructor Training, no matter what discipline ( pistol, rifle, shotgun, etc). That lasted about 4 hours.

Then, Saturday was the meat of the deal, with group activities, role-playing being a teacher/leader in front of a group, and a ton of information that we would need to be competent instructors. This lasted about another 9 hours or so. We had a good group of six student/candidates, so we had a fun time of it, in addition to learning the essentials. 

My only frustration was that because ( I think) the materials have recently been changed, what was on the power points didn't necessarily match up with the order that things appeared in our hand outs. Being a control freak, this made me crazy at times. From med school and residency, I am programmed to follow along on the power points with my handouts, step-by-step, and make corresponding notes as I go along. This bit of disorganization was frustrating for me. But - improvise, adapt and overcome, as they say.

There was also  a range qualification. I am happy to say that I passed this with flying colors. I used my Gen3 Glock19, because it was my first gun, and I thought it might be good to qualify with it for sentimental reasons. I "may" have even shot the best out of the group, but I'm not positive. I had some worries about my performance going in (pre-match jitters), but those worries dissipated when my first set of five shots produced a single ragged hole in the target! :-) I was very proud of myself, especially considering that  we did our shooting outside, when it was 15 degrees F. Brrrr. 

So, it was an interesting experience despite my inner control freak twitching from time to time, and I now have an NRA diploma in my office right next to the medical diplomas. I hope the wall doesn't burst into flames.

I don't think I'll be offering classes anytime soon yet. But I'd consider assisting someone else here and there 'til I get a better feel for things in the meantime.

My next immediate focus is SHOT Show. I leave on Sunday. 

I'll try to post new updates every day, both here and on the Facebook page.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Instructor Training Part 2 - The Lead-up

I discussed in Part 1 
how after much soul-searching, I signed up for a course to become an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor. Now, I'm going to tell you about what has transpired since signing up. 

When I registered for the course, I had about two weeks' lead time. This was actually one of those "good" for me things. Having a short lead-time forces me to get off my butt and get the prerequisites out of the way, instead of procrastinating. It also gives me very little time to over-think my decision and get cold feet.

The first hurdle was actually registering for the course. Check. The second hurdle was making sure my work schedule was arranged such that I could get to the Friday evening session on time. Check. The third hurdle was registering for and taking the online prerequisite, which was the 7-ish hour NRA Basic Pistol Course, part 1.

Now, remember that on top of shooting local pistol competitions for at least seven years, I've also had my state carry permit for going on eight years now, and taking the actual Basic Pistol Course was a requirement for that at the time. But there was no on-line material at the time I took that course. It was all in-person. This was a whole new ballgame. 

Let me be honest and confess that the online stuff has been a bit of a frustration. I HAVE learned a few things online that I still didn't know - like how to load a single-action revolver (I've never handled one), and what a decocker is for (likewise, never had one). But of necessity, the course is designed at about an eighth-grade comprehension level. The material seems to me to be boring, pedantic, and repetitive. So I have to keep reminding myself that this is written for the general public, who it is assumed knows zero about firearms. I realized that I HAVE to know what this material is like, so that I know what a 65 year old grandma who barely finished eighth grade, and barely understands the internet, and is in my class, needs to know from me. Lesson in humility. Check.

In addition to the online course, I needed to get ready for the in-person course, which involves live-fire. In my control freak-ness, I had to decide which of my handguns I was going to take the class with. (and maybe bring a back-up in case of malfunction?) After some hemming and hawing, I decided on my Gen 3 Glock 19. This was my very first firearm, and the handgun I took to Gunsite. I figured it might be kind of appropriate to use it for instructor training as well. But I haven't shot it in about 2 years. (been working on my miniGlocks and revolver instead) So, that became my New Year's Day range project - Blow the cobwebs off of the Glock 19, and the holiday lethargy out of my brain.

It's a good thing I decided to do a  refresher shoot with this gun, because when I dug it out of the safe, I discovered that though the gun itself had been well cleaned and lubed before storage, 1) I was missing a few magazines and would have to find them, 2) The magazines I did find were still a little rattly with grit from the Gunsite range, and 3) The holster was still scraped up and gritty from Gunsite as well. Guess who had a holiday cleaning project in front of her?

Fortunately, the club range was empty at 10:45 AM on New Year's Day, so I grabbed the furthermost bay - the one with the plate rack in it. I set up my pvc pipe target stand and an IDPA target, and started warming up on the -0 zones from about ten yards. Even with fairly rapid fire, I managed to keep all twenty or so shots in the -0 zones. Fair enough - I could still manage the stock Glock sights and my stock-ish weight pink trigger.

But then I decided to push myself, and that's when it got uglier - LOL. I decided to try "Dot Torture" at seven yards. My stock Glock front sight pretty much covered up the dots, so it was wing and a prayer time. Suffice to say that my prayers weren't answered. Deciding that maybe seven yards was a bit ambitious for Dot Torture, I put up a new target and tried it again from five yards. That was a little better, but I still stopped to take a target photo BEFORE trying the strong/weak hand only drills, because I knew it was going to suck - LOL.

   Dot torture --- was.

Finally, I moved on to the plate rack at about 20 yards. I'm used to shooting plates with my M&P9, which has a small front fiber optic. The Big-Arse Glock cantelope-size stock front sight however, made the plates a real challenge. I did not do as well as I usually do with my match gun. BUT, I will say that I was doing a "fair" job by the time my ammo ran out. 

    My first three plate rack shots at 20 yards.

I know what some of my next accessory purchases are going to be - Hi Viz sights for my Glocks. You don't realize how much difference it makes until you shoot something else, and then come back to stock. I know the switch made a huge difference on my revolver. So, add new Hi-Viz sights for all my Glocks to my birthday wishlist.

All told, I ran through 200 rounds on this range trip. But this was bulk random re-man that I bought from I-forget-where back several years ago when ammo all but disappeared. It wasn't very good stuff, and I needed to use it up anyway, so I figure it went to a good cause.

When I got home from the range, I took a nap ( Ahhhh, holidays), and then slogged through the remainder of the online course hours, passed the final exam, and printed my certificate. The only thing left now, is getting ready for the in-person course this weekend.

Not a bad start to a new year.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Instructor Training Part 1 - Pulling the Trigger

I may have discussed here before my general reluctance up to this point in getting myself some higher level responsibility training. I have always been fine with, and indeed actively sought out, more actual SKILLS training with my firearms. But I have thus far actively resisted advice that I should become anything that represents OFFICIALDOM  - such as official Safety Officer training, Instructor training, and the like.

My reasons for this have been mostly selfish. As I have explained to many people, I have enough stress and responsibility in medicine as it is. Additionally, as a single working mother, a business owner, and a physician, I am the one "In Charge" of every other aspect of my life. Shooting has really been the ONLY activity I have, where I have almost zero responsibility beyond basic safety and courtesy. Shooting is the thing in my life where I can "Show up, Have Fun ... and then Leave". 

That's not to say that I've been a complete jerk. I always help run the clipboard at my club, and stay to help tear-down when we're done. I even occasionally show up early to help set up. I just didn't want to HAVE to. Does that make sense?

With all that said, I have watched as women with less experience than I, and what I felt were fewer skills than I, become pistol instructors and teach other women to shoot. I have wondered at the wisdom of teaching others, when you yourself have only been doing such an activity for a year or two. But it was happening nonetheless - with or without me. Then of course my inner critic chided me, stating "If YOU aren't out there, then of course other people will be." 

I blame Imposter Syndrome  and the Dunning-Kruger effect  

Essentially, the more I learned about shooting, the more I realized how much I didn't know. This then caused me to wonder how in the world I could presume to teach or supervise others, when I knew so little myself. Turns out, I know more than I think, and others don't seem to have the same reservations as I do.

I have finally reached a point in my shooting "career" though, where I've decided that even if I don't want to actually "teach" ( I'm not sure I have enough patience or am enough of a "people person"), I should at least GET the instructor training. That way, I know what is expected, what is considered basic essential material for a new shooter, and I'll have at least some level of training -- so that I can "help" if asked questions by new shooters. 

I've always been a "baby steps" kind of gal. I figured that getting the training would just be a baby step, and then I could decide later how far I want to take it. I think it also helped that at my recent Cornered Cat class, Kathy Jackson told me that she thought I was ready for Rangemaster instructor development. That meant a lot. Having an outside observer of her caliber give me that reinforcement helped to shush the inner critic in my head.

So, with all this swirling around in my brain, quite fortuitously, last week a post appeared in my Facebook feed about a new NRA Instructor class being held in early January 2017. And it was local. I asked a few questions ... and then took the plunge.

This is my new journey. I am literally starting out 2017 with a "Bang" :-)
I'll keep you posted.