Monthly Archives: October 2009
The weather was too nice this morning to not go for a motorcycle ride. A little chilly at daybreak, but no big deal there. Just wear the right gear and off you go.
I took a bunch of back roads to go from Austin to Smithville, Texas. It was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful scenery. I was in no hurry. When I got to Smithville originally I was going to head up FM 2104, cut over US-290 to TX-21 back into Bastrop as I love driving through the Lost Pines area that TX-21 cuts through. As I came upon Buescher State Park I remembered how it connected to Bastrop State Park by way of Park Road 1C. Click for Google Map goodness.
If you are a motorcyclist within riding distance to this road, you need to take it at least once. I have always wanted to take it and today marked my first day to take it.
You will need to pay $2 “drive through” fee to the park, but that’s fine as I am a supporter of our State Parks. The road is about an 11 mile run and is just wonderful. It’s quiet (only encountered a few other cars), the scenery is awesome — I love riding through all those tall pine trees, and areas where the trees are so dense and grow over the road like a canopy. The posted speed limit is 30 MPH but I found myself just staying in second gear and going 15-25 MPH most of the time. Why? Again, no hurry and enjoying the ride.
That said, it really is a road you should take slowly. There are many twists and turns, many blind corners and a few blind hills. Signage is almost non-existent (no signs to say slow down, blind curve ahead, etc.). While the road is technically wide enough for two cars, there are many places where there is no shoulder. Furthermore, build up of leaves and pine needles may have built up on the side of the road effectively narrowing it by 6-12″ on a side, which doesn’t seem like a big deal until you’ve got a truck coming the other direction and they’re not on their side of the road. The road surface isn’t always the best, plus I encountered areas of water, wet leaves, sticks and branches (had to even pull over once to dislodge a small stick that had caught under my bike’s frame). I almost hit a squirrel, but was surprised to encounter no deer (what with the rut starting and all). So while I certainly could see in an ideal world this road being awesome to fly down in a sport bike, I personally wouldn’t recommend it give the nature of the road. But then, I’m more of an old biker than a bold biker (lots of old bikers, lots of bold bikers, but not many old bold bikers).
Besides… the ride is so beautiful, why would you want to go fast and miss all of it? As soon as I came in the back entrance of Bastrop State Park, majestic is the best word to describe it. Big trees, as far as the eye can see. Words cannot do it justice; you just need to experience it yourself.
After coming out in Bastrop, stopped into John’s Guns. They are quite friendly folk so we talked for a while. I picked up a couple .50 cal ammo cans for storage (they’ve got some of the best supply in the area), some .38 Special practice ammo, and headed home.
Life is good.
As you know, I’ve been looking for a cane. My requirements were pretty simple: hardwood, crook neck, simple design, something that could be used for walking but also fighting, that I could take it anywhere (e.g. onto an airplane). It was a bit frustrating that I couldn’t find a cane anywhere in town that fit these needs. This is understandable tho, as most people who need a cane need it for true assistance with walking thus needs can be filled in other ways, such as using aluminum canes or wood with non-crook necks. I admit I was “this close” to ordering something online if this one place didn’t pan out.
But it did.
Someone had suggested I try out a feed store, so I went to a local Tractor Supply Co.. They didn’t have any canes in stock (they said sometimes they get them, but they’re never ordered they just show up every so often). However, the gentlemen there said to try a place called Callahan’s. I stored that in my head.
Daugther and Wife have started taking horse riding lessons, and they need some boots. I asked Tom where in town I could find boots that would suit the need but wouldn’t cost much. Until Daugther stops growing I’m not going to invest tons of money (even cheap Chinese boots are still kinda expensive), and I’ll spend the money on Wife once she knows what she wants. Tom suggested Callahan’s. So OK, now I have a few reasons to go there.
So today we went and visited Callahan’s General Store. The website will tell you nothing about the place. But folks, this place is awesome. It is a general store, with a little of everything. Western clothing, boots, hats, housewares, lots of cast iron cookware, toys, hardware (i.e. nails, screws), plumbing, feed, vermin traps, horse tack, livestock management needs, Texas-sized belt buckles, housewares, knick-knacks, even chicks and ducklings and sometimes rabbits. It was amazing the breadth of things they offered.
Upon walking in one of the first things I saw? A rack of canes. I dug through it. A lot of neat canes but only a few crook-neck ones. Of the ones in there, this is the one I chose:
The cane is made by Brazos Walking Sticks. Or at least, that was the tag attached to the cane. The thing is, the tag says it is this model, but it certainly isn’t that model. This twisted oak model is close, but it’s certainly not twisted nor finished like that. It’s probably classified as the natural hardwood crook neck cane. Either way, they’ve got a lot of really cool canes.
It feels a little long for me. I’ll work later tonight on sizing it.
It should be suitable for martial arts work. It is a little heavy, so swinging it for strikes is a little much but certainly managable. There’s a point in the crook that feels thinner than the rest. I’m not sure how well it will stand up to abuse as I feel some flex. Sure some flex is expected, but it does make me wonder. Also the opening of the crook is just wide enough to fit around my neck, so it’s a bit narrower than I’d like. Still, this is a good start to things. Plus I like the look. It has a lot of character.
We’ll see how it goes. If it breaks or winds up not being suitable for martial technique, then I’ll probably seek out a purpose-built cane, such as from Cane Masters.
As well, Callahan’s General Store is neat! We did find boots for Wife and Daugther, which aren’t ideal long-term but should suffice for a good long while. Also bought some “cookies” for the horses. Neat store.
What follows is a story of great customer service.
I use a Comp-Tac Minotaur MTAC holster. It’s seen a lot of wear and abuse but still works great. I’ve wanted to get a second holster to have as a backup, plus being leather-backed having a second allows me to rotate. I know you don’t always have to rotate leather goods, but given the sweat and dirt this holster will encounter, it’s nice to be able to swap in another holster while you take the one out for some maintenance. So about a month ago I purchased a second MTAC.
As noted, I didn’t immediately wear the new MTAC but conditioned/protected the leather. Then, the holster sat on the shelf because I had other things to tend to. A couple weeks ago I finally got to trying it, but when I did I noticed the Kydex shell had problems. I emailed Comp-Tac, they issued an RMA, and I sent it back.
So far, this is good customer service. It’s been easy to obtain their products, turnaround is quick, if the customer isn’t satisfied they immediately work to remedy it.
Here’s where it goes from good service to great service.
I knew about when the returned package would arrive (sent parcel post, so no tracking). Soon after it arrived I received an email saying my order was being worked on. Next day I get a phone call from Comp-Tac. They were calling to explain that some of the things I saw as bugs were in fact features! For instance, how the “opened up” the covering of the magazine release was a feature because some people wanted to be able to drop a magazine without unholstering. I don’t see the point. The XD has an ambidextrous magazine release so just reach to the other side. But I did point out a legit flaw in how the front/top edge of the Kydex was curled and thus the front sight was hooking. I explained everything, he agreed with me, but I could tell a little reluctantly. Nevertheless, what came of it was really cool. You see, he certainly listened to all of my concerns and desires and said “we’ll take care of you.”
A few days later (sent USPS Priority Mail) I get my new holster. And yes, it was totally new. I expected just the shell to be returned but I received a new leather backing as well. I examined the shell and noticed they made the shell to address my issues. The top part of the shell, relative to the top of the gun’s slide, was now “taller” and there was no curve at all. It was a straight channel with a good amount of clearance. Furthermore, they cut the slide shell longer (it’s a hair longer than my original MTAC slide shell) so it’s covering the front sight with no chance of snagging. I even tried my stock XD-9 5″ and it had no problem on the draw. The magazine release is fully covered and fits nice out of the box; on my original shell I had to Dremel it slightly so it didn’t cut into my fingers when I gripped the gun. One minor nit is the “retention button” is a raised dot on the Kydex that “locks” over the trigger guard to help with retention… it doesn’t have as much “click” when fully holstered as the original does and I see why. But this is a minor point as it’s not really necessary for an IWB holster. Other shell changes, like that it sits just a hair higher above my belt and has that “lip” on the front edge supposedly to help with reholstering, they don’t seem to cause any practical problems.
All in all, I’m very happy with things.
The holster is currently disassembled, the leather having been conditioned, and in a few days I’ll reassemble and start to wear it to see how it goes.
This ranks as great customer service because they were fully responsive to the customer’s concerns. They made every effort to satisfy the customer, even going so far as to do a little custom work to get it done. I also can bet this had to cost them some money because essentially they made 2 holsters for me. I don’t know how much of the returned holster they can salvage for reuse/resale. But they certainly have a loyal customer in me, willing to tell the tale and spread the word about what a good company they are to do business with.
Comp-Tac. Good products. Great service. Happy, loyal customer.
Just so happens they too are in Texas, and in visiting their blog for the first time their current post is regarding Texas CHL and Caliber Restrictions. Sarah asserts:
However, the State of Texas also interferes with CHL holders when it comes time to select a carry gun. You must, to be legal, carry at least a .32 caliber. Yes. Really.
I am not a lawyer and this is certainly the first time I’ve heard anyone consider this notion. But my reading of the Texas CHL laws, specifically GC §411.188 “Handgun Proficiency Requirement”:
An applicant many not be certified unless the applicant demonstrates, at a minimum, the degree of proficiency that is required to effectively operate a handgun of .32 caliber or above.
So as far as I can tell, the .32 caliber minimum only pertains to the qualification portion of the licensing process. I don’t believe it pertains to actual carrying. My guess is this may be done to avoid people qualifying with a little gun then going out and carrying a big gun they can’t handle… some way to “work the system” and thus partake in potentially dangerous activity. That’s just my guess as to the reasoning behind the restriction. But as far as I can tell, you could qualify with a big gun then carry a little gun.
Nevertheless, it’s still a good point being raised. What if all you can handle is a .22 pistol? Maybe age or a medical condition limits your ability. Why should those people be denied?
I’m going to ask a few people about this. I’ll post responses when/if I get them.
Updated: Asked a few knowledgeable people and confirmed that yes, there is nothing pertaining to caliber when it comes to carrying. Yes there’s the .32 minimum for the proficiency requirement of the licensing process, but that’s all.
Apparently they rewrote things, so it doesn’t come off as an update to the original WordPress app but as a totally separate app. Thus you have to manually go looking for it and manually download it, instead of just triggering an update.
Initial reviews aren’t that good either, with lots of problems out of the box.
I’ll upgrade, eventually. At least wait for 2.0.1 to come out, I guess.
Updated: WP’s official announcement.
Call it a Mook Jong, Muk Jong, Muk Yan Jong, or just a wooden dummy, it’s an essential training tool of various martial arts, especially Wing Chun. I don’t study Wing Chun, but I do study a relative art, Jeet Kune Do. Furthermore, with my Filipino Martial Arts study, such a tool is handy.
You see, much of the empty hand martial arts study I do involves hands: using my hands, defending against my opponent’s hands. I may need to block, grab, strike, counter-attack, trap, move around their hands and body. This sort of work and practice is easy to do when you have a partner, but when I practice I home I don’t have such a luxury. Sure Wife and Kids humor me and are my uke now and again, but on the whole it’s not a tenable solution. I have longed for a way to have arms available when I practice (even back in my Kuk Sool days).
I do have a Century Wavemaster XXL. Great training tool. I wondered what I could do with it to make arms.
I found something called an Attach-mate, which straps onto the Wavemaster and provides the 3 arms of the mook jong. I’ve heard it’s pretty good, but it can break if struck too hard. Plus it’s expensive.
If you want to buy a proper wood mook jong, look at spending $1000 or more, and then you need a way to mount it and have the space for it.
There are some people making mook jong’s out of big PVC pipe, which is a lot less expensive than wooden ones but still costly and the space issue remains.
Then there’s stuff like this Hitman. Not sure how durable it is, but it’s pretty cool. And expensive.
But upon seeing The Hillbilly Mook Jong, I got inspired.
I present to you, my DIY mook jong:
As you can see, it’s nothing special. I had a bamboo pole, which I cut in half to make 2 3-foot lengths. I used a little rope to attach the poles to the side of the Wavemaster, and viola. Low-cost mook jong. I was actually looking for wiffle ball bats, but they’re amazingly difficult to find for some reason. I had the bamboo pole so eh, use that. I can’t say this is “no cost” since I did have to buy the Wavemaster and the rope, but certainly this didn’t incur the expense of any of the above mentioned options. If the bamboo breaks, no big deal to replace it. I tried some basic sinawali and gunting drills, some basic trapping and footwork. Worked like a charm. Sure it’s not a proper mook jong, but for my purposes it gives me what I need.
One trouble is the bamboo is hard and only gives so much. The back of my hand was getting sore after a lot of striking (yes, this is a good conditioning opportunity). Solution of course is a bit of padding. Keeping in the spirit of not wanting to spend any money:
I had an almost empty roll of Shop Towels, which fit over the bamboo and provides just enough padding so the back of my hand doesn’t get banged up yet there’s still some felt impact. I did have a new roll of towels that was of course very cushy, but was way too much padding. Plus the weight hung on the bamboo and caused too much shifting.
So yeah, it’s cheap, it’s far from sexy. But it works. It allows me to train. It cost me nothing out of pocket. Easy to use, easy to remove, easy to put back. If it breaks, easy to fix or replace. I can also whack the Wavemaster as I work. I can adjust lengths, heights, positioning. There’s just a lot I can do here.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go practice.
What does it say about my male priorities when I look at the Locked and Loaded Ladies 2010 calendar (SFW so long as SFW means bikini-clad babes with guns), and the first thing I focus on isn’t just the guns but the unsafe gun-handling by the models? Almost all have fingers on the trigger, lots of unsafe muzzle directions too (October is doubly bad).
I’ll tell you what it says.
It says that I like guns, I like safe gun handling, and I think my wife is the hottest woman on the planet.
David Kopel’s latest article is published in the Connecticut Law Review. Electronic version available here. The abstract:
Most states issue permits to carry a concealed handgun for lawful protection to an applicant who is over 21 years of age, and who passes a fingerprint-based background check and a safety class. These permits allow the person to carry a concealed defensive handgun almost everywhere in the state. Should professors, school teachers, or adult college and graduate students who have such permits be allowed to carry firearms on campus?
In the last two years, many state legislatures have debated the topic. School boards, regents, and administrators are likewise faced with decisions about whether to change campus firearms policies.
This Paper is the first to provide a thorough analysis of the empirical evidence and policy arguments regarding licensed campus carry. Whether a reader agrees or disagrees with the Paper’s policy recommendations, the Paper can lay the foundation for a better-informed debate, and a more realistic analysis of the issue.
Seattle Mayor, Greg Nickels, enacted a city-level ban on guns in public places such as public city parks. The problem here is the Mayor is attempting to have city law preempt state law, which it cannot. Even the Washington State Attorney General says this doesn’t hold water.
Ruth Bowman of the Seattle City Attorney’s office, said the city’s policy was put in place to protect “our most vulnerable and defenseless citizens, our children.”
Ah, they played the “won’t someone think of the children” card. So explain to me how putting law-abiding parents at a disadvantage does anything to enable those parents to protect their children. It’s not like criminals are going to obey this city ordinance, and the criminals are the ones you need to protect your children from. Or did you forget what sort of person might carry a concealed handgun? Carrying a gun does not automatically equal bad evil dangerous person. Yes bad people carry guns, but good people do too… precisely because we know there are bad people out there.