Sunday, July 24, 2016

Remembering and Forgetting

My brother and I aren't all that far apart in age, enough that the divide that is adulthood came early, but not enough that we didn't spend the early years of our lives joined at the hip. For unlike many of my friends, who merely tolerated their siblings, we were the best of friends, coming into this home from a past shrouded in mystery and perhaps a bit of pain, placed with our parent from an environment that was not near as welcoming.

Our adoptive parents were loving, so much, but they also were very strict and we knew that disobedience would merit punishment. Some forms of it, like a declaration of Liberty, were worth it. Taking the TV apart when we were in grade school (Moms tend to sort of freak out when their children play with giant explosive tubes), sending the "toad-o-gram" to the mean little girl down the block, and switching the dual controls on Mom and Dad's electric blanket (I'm hot!. Dang it! I'm freezing! Why am I hot! Are you hot?)

Yet our parents encouraged us to explore and think for ourselves, opening our minds up to everything they could. TV was a treat, not a babysitter. Money was tight, but there was always a way to bring music and books into our lives, even if well used.  We didn't have expensive vacations but we had historic buildings, and hikes into the mountains, fish leaping up a mighty dam, something always to explore, even as those fish did, always searching, even as they headed instinctively for home.
We had our misadventures, involving tools, potato guns, and the Mattell Thinkmaker, from which I still have a little scar on my thumb flinging a red hot stink bug at Big Bro..
But the limits we stretched were also physical, racing our bikes up and down the block, no helmets or knee pads, as fast as we could make those bikes go. We'd launch as assault up into the foothills of distant tall mountains, breathing harder and harder, gulping air in and pushing it back out, like some tiny steam engine, until there was no breath left, the last bit escaping the lungs as our hearts surged upward, salty liquid bursting out from pores and tear ducts, the sweat of freedom that finally stopped us at the summit as we captured up our breath again.  Then we're ride down, laughing into the wind and never growing cold.

Once back down into the valley, we'd ride on the road that paralleled the log train tracks. We knew the timetable, of exactly when the train would come by, one moment the tracks empty, the next, filled with the rhythmic rumble of sound, of life, that materialized it seemed, out of nothing, with that air of the deliberately accidental that lingered like smoke, long after it disappeared from sight. We'd wait as the engine passed in hissing thunder, sparks flying up like fireflies let loose from the rails, dust coiling behind it like a tornado in trail.
We could not help but sit and watch, compelled to pause, still in that infinite clutch of the temporary confederation of two elements, water and air, the frailest of integers and units of measure combing into a force that can not be bound, not even in death. Such began our love of motion and machines, a bond as strong as our own.

Every place was our playground, and no land was uncharted as we braved slippery rocks, and slippery slopes, the creeks the oceans, and the sky from the limbs of the tree (though we weren't allowed to cross the four lane highway nearby, on threat of eternal grounding). We protected our homes from Indians and pirates, helping our wounded past enemy lines, keeping them alive, at least until Mom had the cookies done, not yet realizing as children that we would not always be able to save them.
There were nights in a sleeping bag under the stars in the backyard, looking for satellites tracking across space (when the dog is named Sputnik you know you live in a world where science is wonder). We'd lay there, imagining the back yard as wilderness, the sound of a vehicle on road behind us, not a car, but the throated grumble of a lumbering forest beast, as we stayed safely in the glow of a blazing fire which was more than Dad's flashlight.

There were lines of gossamer spider web cast out from a cherry rod out into a lake, floating on inner tubes as we drifted into our teens, discussing everything from history to funny cars, to how I hoped we'd never die old and unwanted in the rest home where I volunteered after school. What could be worse than ending our days in a small room, surrendering to that dark tiled vacuum all the burden of love and desire and ego and even independence, laying in bed alone as from the corridors came the constant, rattling saber of fear and distress. No, that would not be for us, rather we would go out in a quick burst of glory, the brief fatal blaze of a fine blade.
Days and months passed. There was the discovery of cars, of speed of the opposite sex, of the lure of hot coffee and the salt of tears.

Then, before you know it, he was gone, off to the Navy, to the adventures we both yearned for. I never wanted to be the one left behind, but I was. As he drove away in the blue panel van in which there echoed the sound of so much laughter as we learned to drive, learned our limits and the speed of which one lost everything, the tears came as only fresh water can flow.

So many years later, but before we are ready, our lives  traveled back to each other, even as we are caught up in the obligations and outcomes that adulthood brings and whether consciously or not, in the words and affairs of a world that's as undeniable as it is inescapable. Childhood adventures seemed small in the light of our adult  lives, yet they are not, for in their remembrance, we established a distance between the boundaries of the outside world and ourselves.  Perhaps for a moment then, we could hold ourselves free of the constraint of time..

Sitting here two years after he left me, as storms grow outside, I so remember those last days, wondering if the phone would ring, if there would be the strength that night on the other end to pick up that phone and call. If so, we would share in the silence, stories that couldn't be spoken, even to each other, we would share out loud, our past, bikes, trails and trains and the sound a piping hot stink bug makes when it hits your target right between the shoulder blades. Across a thousand miles we would  laugh into the wind where we were not cold.

There was a timetable, but for that night, we would forget it, taking in that moment like a great gulp of air. Although I had other things I needed to do, I would wait there, restrained by little more than an old wooden door and hope. I would sit  quietly, like warm air held in by something as ancient as it is solid, faint light from afar slanted through a crack as thin as a blade. My head would slant  towards the phone as I took a sip of coffee, a solitary lance of heat taken in, there in those moments of remembering and forgetting,

Tonight the phone is silent,  as outside the skies finally release their tears.

 - Brigid

Friday, July 22, 2016

Fighting for Something - Thoughts on Self Defense

I posted a shorter version of this a few years ago.  I thought of it again today, as on the news was a heartbreaking story of a young women in Ohio, abducted off her bicycle in a farming area.  Her boyfriend,who had been her best friend since age 10, had ridden with her part of the way home while on his motorcycle, but in this rural area, where little kids ride their bikes un-escorted, he waved and headed back when she was within sight of her house. She was found dead, allegedly killed by a man with prior prison time for attempting a kidnap a young woman on a bike.  He served only 3 years.

What was so sad as they searched for her was her mother on the news saying "she HAD a self defense class."  It takes SO much than that to keep us safe, so that's why I'm posting this.  It's long but if it saves one young lady, it will be worth it, and the points are applicable to ALL ages and genders. - Brigid
Fighting for something. We fight for status, position. For tenure and safety. Some people take it to the next level with physical fighting skills, not just cerebral ones.

The thought of physical threats is never a pleasant one. Some people would just as soon close the blinds and pretend the danger does not exist. But you only have to look at a few law enforcement blotters and missing persons reports to get you thinking about the dangers that women carry with them, the dangers that men bear just by walking on a predator's turf.  Almost weekly ,it seems, I read of a young woman missing, another one found, but too often not alive.

A former neighbor, a young Pharmacist in her late 20's was a black belt and an instructor at a local studio. When she first moved in, we'd sit out on one of our decks with a cold beer and compare scars, both of us new to the area and not dating anyone.  I taught her how to cook, and she taught me some advanced karate, to enhance my quite amateur skill level and some of the philosophy for that mind set.

I earned the kind of belt that, definitely wasn't black, but it kept my shirt from falling off. Some of my team, and friends, are former special ops. My squirrel partner is also black belt. When I was hanging around one of them one day, off duty,  I asked him to test me on my defensive skills against someone determined to hurt me, to see how badly my skills had degraded with age and a promotion which meant a lot more "desk" than "field". I trust him, we have to in the field, or we can get hurt.  So I figured I might learn something. Size wise, he was a only a couple of inches taller than I and about 200 pounds to my 164 pounds. Not a tremendous size difference, right? Wrong.
We didn't use an actual weapon, this was more for the purpose of timing my response, as to my draw.  If you're going to do something like this with real firearms, you better be training with the pros. in a proper environment.  So, a simulated weapon (Rice Crispy Treat) went into my holster to see how fast I could "draw" if that was more prudent than fight or fighting back. Again, it was NOT an exercise of my gun skills, simply my reaction/defensive skill degradation after too much desk time.

We started up close and a few feet apart, strangers that met on say, a jogging path. In this case I played "blissfully unaware" of his intent and had my hand away from my holster. When he sprung, he was on me before I could even get my hand to my holster. In a nanosecond he had one hand on my chin/mouth area and other grasping my head, and I got a very delicate but firm little twisting movement, and a "surprise, I just rent your vertebrae, you're on the floor dying". It didn't hurt me at all, but I definitely felt the pressure and incredible strength behind those hands and knew that he could have done it, easily.

I've had comments in the past from women that were highly offended that I stated that women are not as strong as men when it comes to men vs. woman in an attack.  Look, it's physics and it's about a lot more than weight difference.  We're just built differently (and in more than the obvious way).  Men, carry more muscle and carry more of it in the upper body.  The result is that if you compare a man and a woman of the same height and weight (such as my husband and I) I couldn't beat him in an arm wrestle if I tried even doing serious cardio and weight training regularly.  He simply has an upper body strength advantage based on physiology. 

So in this case I was "dead" and hadn't even touched the rice crispy yet. All Righty Now. Let's try something else.

Then we did the "come up from behind" scenario. (No way was this man getting near my nasion or my philtrum). There I am happily walking along that "walking trail" and I got a knee against the back of my knee. I go forward and the simulated Gerber Mark II (a finger) had stabbed into the right side of my neck and then forward (at which point I started laughing as it tickled.). Again. Dead. I still was open mouthed as how quickly he closed the distance.
So much for handling the surprise attack at very close range. We did another one where I might have a chance. I went about my business around the rooms, crispy treat in the holster, covered up with "the house is 65 degrees outer wear" which I might wear running errands or out for a Fall walk.  It was a simple sweater type jacket with long sleeves, but not bulky.  He got past me and about fifteen feet downwind and then made his move. I got the .45 acp rice crispy treat out before he got to me (how do you move that fast?).

Had that "weapon" been in a purse or underneath a large, thick coat I would have been toast again. Going for a firearm in a big bag is not going to be "Bang" it's going to be "let's see, mag. chapstick, OH - SKITTLES!, brush, firearm".  But even a holster isn't going to help if he's right on top of you when the threat is revealed. In the second or two while I fumbled to fire (darn Rice Crispy Safety, they moved it!) he had my arm to my right, and then applied a movement to my arm, surprise, I had a simulated broken elbow and was NOT going to be able to shoot with that arm. It didn't hurt me at all, intent not pressure, but I was glad for a moment that I can eat Rice Crispy Treats left handed. If you MUST go to the weapon, you, it, concealment garment, and holster must all be perfectly aligned.  Practice how and with what you carry, and make sure it is as seamless as it can be.

The good news, you're likely not going to be up against someone that's a former Ranger, trained in those types of maneuvers. Your weapon will have a trigger in the right spot, not blue packaging material. Your attacker may be buff but he is as likely to be as out of shape as the average Joe. But there is also a good chance he recently spent time in prison, where at taxpayer expense he worked out, built more muscle, all while exchanging crime tips with his buddies when he wasn't initiated or defending himself against attacks for his "non buddies".  Add street drugs in the mix, and unarmed you don't have much of a chance.
I learned one thing--my limited martial arts training does me little good if I don't keep up with it. And if I don't stay focused to a threat and where my hand is when that threat is around and what my "outs" are, I'm only going to come out ahead if my attacker is a yard gnome or a rapist wheeling his oxygen canister.

It was an eye opener. Shooting a 1 inch group at a stationary paper target isn't going to help me if I haven't practiced in six months, in varying conditions, using my non dominant hand as well.

Shoot when it's hot, when it's freezing, with gloves and with cold, cold hands. Draw and shoot from the holster (check with your range as to rules on such practice), draw and shoot from low ready.
I remember my first day in sub zero temperatures at the local range when I moved here.  Pretty much no one was there but the officers who were range officers. But Tam showed up, which didn't surprise me, as well as a couple  of others. We shot with bulky gloves.  We shot with bare hands. There, it warmed up to all of 30. We took some pictures, not as "selfies" but to see later-- our stance, our grip, our posture, to be reviewed later, to learn.

But, practice or not, a gun won't help you if you're weighed down by an overly large, bulky coat or too many shopping bags, etc. Having some basic shooting skills for the attacker isn't going to help you if he has training on how to take your gun and you don't. Even if you think you are big and strong, remember, mass is everything. A guy that outweighs you by even just 20 or 30 pounds of muscle (about 10% more than your muscle mass) can easily take you down.
And nothing is going to help you if you let your guard down and don't stay on alert to behavior around you. If there ever is a point I will beat with a stick it's this.  Situational awareness is everything.   You need that, a perimeter and what Gavin de Becker called "the gift of fear".  The perimeter is vital as it may buy you time to deal with the threat, or if you are lucky, avoid the whole situation by "getting out of Dodge NOW". 

Keep those ear buds out of your ears, don't be texting and walking or hunting Pokemon alone, stay sober and alert if you must travel alone, especially after dark. Call a friend, call a taxi, but don't wander the streets at night alone, ladies, not even if it's "just down the block". I don't do it armed, without someone else armed with me,  you shouldn't do it unarmed.
Concealed Carry -  If you choose to carry conceal, make sure you have a functional firearm that you have lots of experience with.  Don't carry grandpa's heirloom weapon.  If it's all you have, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but older pieces require regular care and if it's been sitting in a cabinet or safe for months or years, it's NOT the piece you bet your life on. If you are going to use any piece that's been in the safe a while, take it to a competent gunsmith and have it cleaned and checked if your own skill set is such you haven't learned how to do that yet yourself.

Also, think about HOW you carry, because carrying improperly is as risky to your person as any threat out there. For concealed carry, there are a variety of holsters. I have a Dragon Leatherworks holster for my primary weekend carry piece and Dennis's holster fits that firearm well and distributes the weight evenly.  But holsters notwithstanding, there are three basic ways to carry this firearm (a 1911) concealed.

Door #1 - The hammer is down and the chamber is empty.  This means you have to manually cycle the slide before you fire it.  Then, to return the firearm to its previous carry position you have to drop the magazine, empty the chamber, drop the hammer, and reload and reinsert the magazine, all without doing something stupid that's going to put a hole in anyone, including you.  You might as well carry a two and a half  pound hammer as a self defense tool.  It's likely quicker.  Carrying for quick self defense with an empty chamber poses more of a hazard to you than the criminal who is coming right at you.
Door #2 - The chamber is loaded with a round but you must you cock the hammer with your thumb prior to firing.  If you've fired a single action revolver with a large hammer whose purpose IS be cocked by your thumb, you're familiar with the concept and it doesn't feel odd.  Still, this requires that you pull the trigger carefully and lower the hammer over a loaded chamber prior to re-holstering the firearm.  Not only is that an extra step between the bad guy and the defense of your life, but this condition can be quite unsafe in that you have a hammer down on a chambered round which can lead to an unexpected discharge if the firearm is dropped or struck on the rear of the slide hammer.

Door #3 - The one that makes the Eek - Point at Firearm! People™, old ladies and small yappy dogs shudder in their shadow and that, my friends, is cocked and locked.  This means the hammer is cocked, the chamber is loaded with a live round and the thumb safely is ON.  This means that the weapon is ready to fire NOW. All you have to do is click the safety down, pull the trigger while maintaining your grip and click it back up after the threat has the prerequisite hole in it. That's something that Barkley could even manage had he opposable thumbs.

But remember, when  the gun is cocked and locked, the sear is blocked from releasing the hammer. Further, unless a firing grip is on the pistol, the thumb safety swept off, and the trigger is pulled, the gun will not go off.  In my opinion, for a trained responsible firearms handler, that's safer than the carry condition of some firearms.
Again, it's a personal choice,  and it is MY personal choice but I prefer Door #3.  Instant readiness.  If that door opens and a bad guy rushes in, intent on harming or killing, you can react in an instant.  That is why I carry a .45 for self defense in this manner.  Not to be considered cool in the tactical sense, nor to balance my somewhat forward center of gravity, but to get the firearm in action when my life may depend on it, NOW, with the fewest opportunities for mistakes.

Some armchair gun enthusiasts like to say that you shouldn't carry a 1911 cocked and locked "because it requires more training than other guns".  I humbly disagree, at least for this particular model.
I'm no expert.  The gun manufacturer's don't pay me or give me freebies to write reviews and I doubt any of them will read them. I'm a better shot than much of the population, I'm a worse shot than a lot of my readership, I'm sure.  I've demonstrated proficiency in the basics.  I keep practicing the basics.  As such, I can say that I found the operation of this particular 1911 cocked and locked IS instinctual and functional. And I SO did NOT miss that very long and dreaded trigger pull on some double action autos that is like waiting at the doctors for that "you'll just feel a little pinch".

Again, my opinion, for me and my firearm and some info to discuss with your , shooting partner or instructor.  And as I tell anyone that reads here, for a new firearm, simply because it's been a long time since you went shooting, OR you are new to shooting in the first place, get an experienced NRA instructor like my friends on and off the net-- Lynne F. Keads and Bill at Eastern Iowa Firearms Training  and get some "dual" on it as  we pilots would say. My long time friend Dann at God Gals Guns and Grub, with his wife, an avid shooter herself, have a business in Central Ohio offering on site firearms training specifically targeted to the beginner, and especially women (their college bound daughter is a Champion 4-H shooter).
I learned a lot of things with this, the most important being that although I risk having someone take it from me, I risk far more by not carrying a weapon . For I'm too aware of the world that is out there in the shadows.  Perhaps it's because of my education, both in and out of the classroom. But the world is NOT a safe place, and it won't be by ignoring it. Being in a small town may reduce the odds but it doesn't protect you.

You may go the rest of your life and not meet up with evil, someone bent on hurting you or killing you. If you don't, what have you lost by this mindset?  Nothing. Not your innocent belief in all that is good. I lost that in 2011, a few weeks after I took a solemn oath, upon my flag, my God and my Country.
But if you do meet up with evil, and you are not prepared, you will have lost something. For, if you live, you will be looking back, to that parking lot at the bank or library or grocery, back to the untainted time and smell and taste of when you HAD that choice, of where you walked and what people you let into your space, when the denial process won out over the actuality of human nature. Back before you were a victim. And you will ask yourself, over and over again, in long, lonely silences at night, when you've lost a part of yourself you will never get back. WHY didn't I see the signs? Why didn't I take action before it was too late?

I was a volunteer at a family violence center for a few years. It's not necessarily a pleasant task at times, but one that needs to be done, by those that care or who have seen it firsthand. That type of violence doesn't just happen to the poor, the uneducated the needy. We see women of all walks of life in there that just share one thing in common, that they have been scared for so long that they just get used to being that way. Sometimes you'd just find them in their room in the warm and cozy shelter home, in the dark. You can feel people in a dark room. You don't need to see them. Sometimes they're just asleep, catching up on that precious commodity, sleep where you know someone who cares is watching over your safety.
They don't sleep well, for years, violence going to bed with them each night, often drunk, normally angry. They'd lay there in the bed, trying not to move, trying to make themselves smaller and smaller so not to be noticed. Trying not to breathe for when they breathed they could hear them, hear that dark mass of anger sizing them up for what is only one persons idea of fun or a fight. They could feel the blood in their veins, the little involuntary twitch at the corner of their eye as they're shut tighter and tighter as if by doing so you will not see what you know is coming. It takes a long time to sleep well after that.

So, there in the safety of the shelter, if their bedroom door was not blocked you'd just knock and say a soft hello and tell them you'd wait outside. They'd sit there in the dark of their ruined life, sometimes with a chair propped up against the door, afraid that even in this refuge they would be found. But soon they would come out, into the light, amazed that with tools and training, they could learn to live a life of comparative inviolation.
Violence can wear the hand of a family member, but we deal with that, with what we can. But it also shops with us, drives with us, peering at us from a van in the shopping center parking lot, or from over their shoulder as they bend to tie their shoe as you jog on past, down that blind canyon of trees from which you will not return.

A few years ago, there was a talented young woman who was kidnapped by someone she struck up a conversation with her in a national forest, a kindly looking old guy who then went on to terrorize her and kill her. She was thirty years younger than he and very strong. She was a Black Belt. It was a sobering revelation.

Martial Arts is a wonderful tool, but it's naïve to think that is a representation of street self defense, in that you obviously aren't going to execute pre-planned patterns of memorized movements against an attacker. And if you learn it you must keep up the practice and skills. It's not just a force. It's a tool, a habit pattern of strength. It's a pattern of practice. It is a mind set. The teachers will teach more then the moves. They teach you mental discipline. Some of the instruction to me at first seemed silly, balancing something on my outstretched hands, etc., but that was to teach me humility, not so that I would consider myself a lesser form, but so myself, or the other male students, would not feel the need to "prove" ourselves. Just because you can kick some one's butt doesn't mean you're better OR bulletproof. I've spent many a afternoon compiling what remained of those that thought they were bullet proof.
You need to be proficient and you need to anticipate. Anticipate the unexpected. I also personally think you need to have a plan "b" when just blocks or jabs are not going to deter what's staring you in the face. Having the physical skills to evade may provide the time to present the weapon that you might not have otherwise.  That may involve less than lethal tools such as pepper spray, but if you have pepper spray in our pocket and your firearm is buried in your purse - Use it as a delay tactic.

I am glad I took the martial arts training I did. But what I got out of it was the knowledge that it was not to turn me into Chuck Norris (I'm more like Chuck E. Cheese) but rather, designed specifically to get rapid, combat-useful responses built into my reflexes. The constant motions and endless repetition of the same movements become incorporated into my muscle memory, there waiting to be used instantly in a reaction, completely or nearly completely without specific conscious direction. THAT is an invaluable tool whether you carry a concealed weapon or not.

But for someone my size and gender, that may not be enough to help me if I have an arm full of groceries, my gun is buried somewhere in my purse, and a guy is walking towards me with a weapon I may or may not be aware of. Just something to think about.

Your choices for protection are yours. I won't preach to you further on why you should carry; I will only tell you why I do. My family is all, male and female alike, law enforcement, defense or military. Strong people made of strong stuff. Some of that rubbed off. But I will tell you that there is no mind set, no background that will protect you if you do not look, be aware of your surroundings, and practice.
Here are some basics:

Listen: dump that MP3 player or phone. The only "app" you should be using wen you are walking alone is the "I'm aware of my surroundings" app.  Not only will it help alert you to Mr. Mugger it will alert you to Mr. Oncoming Bus.

Look. Look up, look at people. REALLY look at people. Sit or stand up straight and look them in the eye. Criminals are predators and they will normally exhibit predatory behavior in preparing to attack. They will look at their intended victim far more and for longer periods of time than social norms. They will move when the prey moves. They will stop and look around for witnesses. They may make more than one pass by you, be it walking or jogging to see how you react or get a layout of how they will strike. They will move with you, around you.  Remember that perimeter.

When I've counseled women who have lived with violence, without exception, they saw the behavior early on. Control. Restricting their movements, reading their mail or monitoring their phone calls. Possession Anger. They know now how to see those signs and run. Do you know the signs out in public that you are being targeted by a stranger?

Stay with people. Under no circumstances let yourself be taken somewhere, for where you are going has a name. It's called the "secondary crime scene", where your worst nightmare will enter your soul. Do NOT get in a vehicle, do NOT walk around the building into the alley, stay where others will see you, if you can't flee to safety, drop to the ground. Let him PICK your dead weight off of the ground, and if he tries, fight like hell. If he says "don't scream or I'll kill you", he's probably going to kill you anyway, don't go out quietly. He doesn't want to get caught. He LIKES this. Run, crawl out a window, go to lights and others. Make noise. If you are in a car and being followed do NOT drive home, drive to your nearest fire station (staffed 24 hours) or police station (though they may not be open 24 in 7 in all jurisdictions) and start honking your horn. DO NOT get out of your vehicle until the threat is removed.
If he's a viable threat, and safe removal of yourself from the scene is not an option, put a hole in him, and cease firing immediately when the threat is removed.  Self defense is your right, don't be afraid to exercise it.

Block. Barriers are good. doors, windows, STAY IN YOUR CAR. Put the muzzle of a .45 between you and his hands. The more likely he is to be discovered or injured the less likely he will be to continue. . 
Train: Whatever you are comfortable with to protect yourself be it physical conditioning and maneuvers or the use of a firearm by the law abiding, practice, learn, watch those with experience, learn from professionals. It isn't about you on film with your latest gear or some great tactical geat on. It's about staying alive. What you are looking for is "Practiced Proficiency” where the draw and point of the weapon to kill becomes second nature.

Use your strongest weapons against their weakest targets. Practice this regularly. If you are female and are going to learn martial arts, don't take 4 lessons in "rape prevention" and call it a day. There are many forms. Don't go to the first place that has a fancy store front and sign up. Talk to a master, talk to others who study that discipline. If you are going to get training to use a gun, get proper training, full spectrum training to include retention techniques. As competent retention techniques wander into the realm of unarmed hand to hand, you will find any martial arts muscle memory skills may assist you. (but only if you practice!)
Carefully at your thoughts and actions - people who are victims do NOT believe they are. It's what a very astute person I know  referred to as "Pride and Prejudice".

Pride?  That is what you learn to set out of the way so the gut feeling that there is something not quite right with a situation comes through loud and clear. You are NOT invincible.  I don't care if you are the incredible Hulk with a Howitzer - if you have that feeling, change your plans, bug out, and do it decisively and right now.  I have done that at least once and the "threat" turned out to a raccoon the size of a VW Bug lurking in the shadows with the garbage cans.  I'd rather feel foolish than dead.

Prejudice?  I believe in the Biblical concept of  "love one another" but I don't trust anyone until they've proven they are worthy of it and that's done over time.  Set aside your assumption that everyone sharing the planet with you has basic good intentions and can be handled with honor and reason. Sure, the overwhelming majority can, but there are more than a few really bad animals, the problem is, they may look just like everyone else.  Think sharks with nice shoes. 

There will be a lot of discussion on this post, pros and cons. All I know is what I am comfortable with, given my age, training, profession, size and gender, all of which influence my thinking.  I will watch and I will listen, as that alone may save your life, but to me the choice for self defense is obvious. A gun in the hands of a proficient user, hanging on that belt that just keeps my pants up.

 - Brigid

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Snack Attack!

Partner in Grime was on the road the first part of the week, so with taking care of Abby by myself (she gets several walks a day), the yard and trash and such,with work and the commute into the city, it was a bit hectic around here.  I did get the bedroom tidied up from the first laundry explosion, setting down a fresh set of earplugs on the nightstand. It's from all the years in hotels as a pilot - I can't sleep without earplugs even if our neighborhood is quiet as a mouse. BEEP - drier is done!

When I came back, one of them was missing

Uh, huh, I think I found it.

Yup, looks like someone snagged it and spit it out
It wasn't a Cheeto!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Herdsman Chili - Dinner with some Kick

Chili tends to be a dish most people make in winter - but I like to make a pot in the summer on the weekend.  It's a way to crock pot cook so I don't have to heat the oven and leftovers are great on a baked potato or a piece of cornbread with a big salad or in a Tupperware with a corn muffin and some fruit for dessert for a tote-able lunch to work during the following week.

This is made with bison for a low fat punch of protein. If you don't do garlic and onion you will find the other spices still make a wonderfully fragrant pot of chili (and trust me on the hot sauce recommendation, you won't be disappointed).
Range Herdsman Chili

2 pounds ground bison
1 sweet onion chopped
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1 bell pepper finely chipped
1 cup carrots julienned then chopped  (I use my "zoodle" tool from Amazon)
1/2 - 1 cup cup celery (whatever you have on hand, or substitue corn)
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and chopped
can of tomato sauce
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (I LOVE Muir Glenn fire-roasted organic)
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon molasses
1 can black beans drained
1 can kidney beans drained
2 Tablespoons Penzey's Chili 9000 (or your favorite chii powder)
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 Tablespoon basil
1 Tablespoon Cumin
A couple of dashes of  Scoville Brothers hot sauce (from Indiana, best hot sauces I've ever had)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (use a pinch if you want it milder)

Saute onion and garlicwith bison in pan over medium heat. When meat is no longer pink, add to slower cooker with remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook on low 8 hours.

Top with your choice of  tortilla strips, sour cream and cheese (just a little bit) and cilantro and or/onion

Note:  I've also made this and used just black beans, replacing the celery with chopped sweet potato. and substituted a shot of tequila for the honey and molasses - YUMMY!

Monday, July 18, 2016

That Show Should Be a Crime

Mom!  Mom!  Animal Planet is on!

I watch very little TV, some Discovery Channel,  Mythbusters, Top Gear, Firefly, Castle, Dr. Who, Corner Gas, all on tape as I don't have a TV or cable (getting cheap tapes and watching on the big computer monitor is a lot cheaper than a flat screen and cable).  Mostly I'll join Abby the lab on the couch and watch an action movie with my husband and have fun making fun of some of the technology-

Because I'm the second generation in a law enforcement field, the weapons in the shows ARE fair game and my husband just sits there quietly and chuckles as I pick apart the errors.

Picture the scene, a Sniper setting up on a hill to take out his target.

"The Gun is totally disassembled?"

"The scope is completely off of it, WT. . . ."

"No Free Floating Barrel?"

9 MM. " 9 MM?????"

Then, later on, towards the end.

"Why do all the bad guy guards have short barrelled AR15's? They're going to make so much noise that every cop in the county will be here to arrest all the now deaf people".

"Oh come on! M203 doesn't work that way!!"
There's probably a reason guys, including my husband, never took me to the theater while dating . I almost got thrown out at the last one when a gal friend took me to Twilight and every time the bad CGI werewolves in wolf form talked like humans I'd exclaim like the dog in the Bush Bean commercial  "Roll that Beautiful Bean Footage!

But with the Ph.D., I also have to make fun of the science in the shows.  So once in a while I just can't resist and  I will watch some CSI type shows on tape when my husband is on the road.

It's more entertaining than most of the TV shows out there now, so removed from actual reality that they hardly bear watching. The original CSI Vegas though I actually liked, shelving most of the science and just watching the interactions between the characters which were well acted and crafted. But the spin offs were sometimes painful to watch..

Opening Scene -Young party girl in the New York subway has her face suddenly start to melt while vomiting blood.

In the distant city, Mac the steely eyed investigator, to his date: "sorry" (damn, my beeper went off at the opera. . . AGAIN).

Here comes the CSI Team, back from their night on the town, arriving in terribly expensive fashion wear, from their homes or dates, with all the traffic, in minutes.

Mac (entering the scene with no gloves, no mask, no eye protection, as he bends closely over someone that looks like a sleeping supermodel, except with lots of blood splashed on her and the melted face.

"Detective Angel, What have we got ?"

Detective Angel, (Victoria's Secret Model in tight pants and a skin tight low cut sparkly t-shirt under her suit jacket) "Looks like a Chemical or a Biological ! ! "

Female CSI assigned to the scene: "Oh Happy Birthday Mac!" (giggle, giggle, blush stare at ground, forget to work the scene)

Mac smiles and pokes closely at the body again, steely eyes glinting since he's not wearing any eye protection.

Mac: looking closely:" hmmm. . . doesn't look like small pox or anthrax"

(Time to look a little closer and poke in the blood spatter to make sure it's not something you can GET from exposure to blood spatter)
From XKCD - click to enlarge

Dr. H.: "No pruritic macular or papular rash" (Good thing, as that might be Ebola or Cutaneous Anthrax, which means you're standing in the minefield.)

Mac: "So no hemorrhagic fever!" ( Wow Mac, you diagnosed with just that steely glance. You didn't even have to isolate the virus from the patients blood and have acute serum samples inoculated into tissue cultures of mosquito cells or directly into live Toxorhynchites or Aedes mosquitoes or try a Immunodiagnostic method such as detection of anti-dengue IgM and IgG by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and detection of hemagglutination inhibition antibody. Good job Mac, you'll have this solved before the hour is up!)

Pretty girl in a $700 outfit playing with something that I swear is an Etch a Sketch: "It's OK now! This subway tested negative for all hazmat and biologicals!"

Mac: " great!"

Watching any more would have made me laugh so hard I'd spill my beer. Besides they'll have their DNA evidence in oh, like 10 minutes.
Forensic Science Dog will hold the deaded pose until you get the chalk outline drawn.

TV is fantasy, what remains of a life is seldom so pretty. If you don't suit up properly, to protect yourself from elements, the terrain, or a hoard of nasty biologicals, you will likely join them on the next table. But then again the TV scientists never discovered that if you have a linoleum floor, some chalk, and liquid nitrogen you can make little hovercraft. . .

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Seeing Red - For the Sporting Dog Lovers - A Question

Abby Lab's fur glows bright red there when the sun hits it.  She is a Lab mix, not purebred.  Since she was dumped at a high kill shelter with no information other than her birth date, I'm not sure what she is mixed with.  But as she had multiple litters of puppies and was not spayed when dumped (just heartworm positive), I imagine she was bred with a purebred retriever of some sort so the puppies could command a higher price.
She's 72 pounds and her legs, though long, aren't as long as other Labs I have owned.  She has a true retriever stance (and readily points at rabbits and food)  but has hair that is a bit little bit longer than normal, and it's REALLY super soft and shiny.  Her tail is also bushier, though it has the "beaver tail" shape to it typical to the Labs.

Her jaw also has a shape that's not typical lab, being a little fuller in the jowls.

And there's the  bright red undercoat.

What do you think?

Flat Coated Retriever?
Irish Setter?
Angry Bird?


Friday, July 15, 2016

Leveling the Playing Fields

Tonight  was Mexican Train night.  Partner in Grime has been on the road a lot the last month so when he got home a few days ago, it was to a home cooked meal as his traveling food lately has been limited to canned soup, sub sandwiches and a pub in Northern England I refer to as "The Grease and Weasel".

Let's play Mexican Train!

The object of the game is for a player to play all the dominoes from his or her hand onto one or more tracks emanating from a central hub or "station", matching the number on one end of the domino with the number on the last piece played on a track. If you can't play, you draw from the remaining train yard of  domines on each turn, until you can play , making getting rid of all your domines (the goal) a challenge. If you can't play on your "track" (which is private until you can't play on it) you put your train out at the end of it, showing it's no longer a private train and other players can play on your now public track.  When you can play on it, your track and train goes private again. There's a few other rules, but that's the basics of it. Two can play or more.  I have a set that plays four easily with "double twelves" making for a lot of numbers to keep track of in your head.
It's fun as there is always the "chance" element, the luck of the draw, but if you know how many of each dominoe are issued, what's on the board, and based on what they couldn't play on and had to draw, what your opponent does NOT have in their trainyard, you can block many a move. Adding the strategy worthy of a board war game with the element "what the mumble mumble did I just DRAW!" just makes it fun all around.

Usually Partner and I are on level playing fields with games.  Not tonight.

A representation of my first game
 And my second.
Wow, look at the time!  I think I need to go make dinner!

click on food photos to enlarge
 Mexican Train Casserole (otherwise known as Southwest Lasagna Casserole ).

The recipe appears detailed but it's very easy and almost impossible to mess up.  Layered with tortillas instead of lasagna noodles, roasted corn (I got lazy and used Trader Joe's frozen  roasted corn) and lots of pre-shredded cheese and beef in a sauce spiced with homemade enchilada sauce, it's easy. All you have to do really is whip up the sauce, cook the beef and assemble. You can even make it ahead of time, just heat it an extra 10 minutes.
Add some  Stone Ground Corn Muffins  and you'll be all set.

These are moist  inside with the heartiness of the stone ground corn and a decided crunch to the outside that's like the crispy edge of cornbread baked in cast iron (and much cheaper to make than the box kind)

If you haven't played the Mexican Train Dominoes game, give it a try.  If you are looking for something for supper, this is a meal you can't derail.
Plus it's easy to make leaving you time to do something a little more successful than the Mexican train game after supper.