WolfesBlogArchives: October 2004

Monday, October 25, 2004

THIRD DISPATCH FROM THE DESERT. It's true what they say about desert nights. It gets dark very quickly, and once dark, it's cold - both phenomena due to the clear, cloudless skies.

Tonight was an exception. We had what old easterners call a mackerel sky - a vast sweep of high, thin, but puffy clouds, looking like a sky full of cosmic fish scales. The whole array turned spectacular orange, then magenta, before finally fading into gray. The clouds were dense enough to hold in the heat but so thin that the waxing moon (already risen before sunset) could still cast shadows on the ground as the cloud-scales drifted past it.

Too warm, I left my little shelter and walked up a knoll in the dark. I took a flashlight, but never needed to turn it on. My shadow, and the shadows of the dogs, stretched out before us. At the top of the knoll, we looked down on the lights of the nearest town (such as it is) miles off in the distance and then looked around at miles and miles of absolutely nothing on every other side. Just bluffs, washes, and hills, shadows against shadows.

I knew there were a few cabins and trailers out there, but they were dark and invisible against the landscape.

I've never been a desert person. I don't like brown, dry places. I need to be surrounded by green. But "surrounded" is the operative term in the places I usually stay. Forests are close and embracing. Even when you know you're all alone, you feel, if anything, that the trees and the animals of the woods are encroaching upon you. Out here, the vastness is as awesome as a moonscape. You really feel the scale of the land. Even when you know there are people nearby, you really see and feel how alone human beings can be.

Posted by Claire @ 01:10 PM CST [Link]

ON A MORE PRACTICAL (SHOOTING) MATTER ... Before waxing all poetic about the desert night, I went out in the desert day with the other denizens of the Hermitage and we did a comparison: my girly gun against what blogispondent Ian calls an Evil Black Rifle (EBR).

My girly gun is a Ruger Mini-14. I've been a fan of Mini-14s ever since reading about them in Mel Tappan's Survival Guns back in the 1970s. But serious gunny friends scoff. Either they don't like .223s at all ("underpowered little mouse gun"), or they point out that the Mini was a fine rifle in its day but it's been eclipsed by more accurate, longer-range .223s.

But I've always liked the Mini-14 because by damn it's a fun little gun. It makes a big noise while only having about as much kick as a powder puff. And it's light weight enough that even a 130-pound weakling (aka me) can hold it steady - something I can't say about larger, heavier weapons. It's also still relatively inexpensive (although, as the scoffers have pointed out, not as relatively inexpensive as it was back when it cost $400 and ARs cost $1,200 or so).

The EBR we compared it to was a Daewoo K2 - a pre-ban semi-auto version of a Korean military rifle - same caliber as the Mini-14, but the sort of military-looking weapon, complete with bayonet, that would put Dianne Feinstein's knickers in a serious knot. The Daewoo also cost about 2-1/2 times what the Mini cost.

While the Mini-14 might have a reasonable outside range of 250 yards, the manual on the Daewoo suggests you start zeroing in at 250 meters. Its range-selector switch goes all the way out to 600 meters - a distance I can barely imagine shooting from. (How do people even see their target at such distances?) The concept of a range-selector switch is lost on my little Mini. And our test didn't include such serious distances, in any case.

Two women and two guys took turns shooting both weapons. Some of the things we noticed (and keep in mind that the whole gang of us are only occasional rifle shooters and, generally, amateurs with firearms):

Posted by Claire @ 01:10 PM CST [Link]

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

SPEAKING OF WORK, as I was in that last BHM column, we were actually doing some work the other day out here at the Desert Hermitage. We were digging a small trench -- just 30 feet long, and a foot wide and deep -- to bury a water line. It took four of us. Not because the ground was too hard or the technical challenges unusual. It took four of us ... just because.

One of the guys would wield a pick and break up a few feet of the surface. One of the women would shovel out the loose dirt. Another guy would step in with the pick. Another woman with a shovel. In the meantime, the idlers had to chat and advise, and occasionally throw a ball to keep the dogs out of the way. Everybody had a role to fill.

There's something very unamerican, or at least un-Protestant-work-ethic, about this method of getting a job done. Tsk, tsk. How inefficient. How lazy. Nobody even worked up a sweat. We actually had fun and didn't drive ourselves too hard.

This reminded me of the way folks handle such routine work in tribal villages. I hardly count myself an anthropological expert, but I actually do have a little experience hanging around one primitive tribe. I fondly remember how it took at least five men to cook a meal (the men did all the cooking because the women were "unclean" -- which sounds insulting, but also sounds like a cagey way for us broads to get you guys to do some of the hard work for us). It took more like 10 or 20 women to do the laundry, gathering at a stream bank, laughing and gossiping their heads off and making bawdy comments about the cute, nearly naked tushes on the passing guys.

It was a nice way to get routine tasks done. Have we European/American types ever had a tradition of such lazy work? Seems even our old-time barn raisings and husking bees involved pretty intense, sometimes competitive, work, along with the socializing.

You can argue that four-person trench digging is or five-man cooking is inefficient and unproductive, but it still strikes me we might get trenches dug and hay hauled more effortlessly if we considered it a form of fun and/or social activity.

Ah, but don't worry. Soon it'll be a moot point, anyhow. Katherine Albrecht writes to note that scientists have now figured out how to genetically engineer monkeys to make them happy to work endlessly at dull, repetitive tasks for no reward. The same engineering is expected to work in humans. "I am happy to be an Epsilon-minus ..."

(You see why I've been enjoying Internet avoidance?)

Posted by Claire @ 02:03 PM CST [Link]

Sunday, October 17, 2004

IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN - Claire has another Hardyville column available at Backwoods Home. It's Part 2 of How to Avoid Work.

Posted by Ian @ 10:30 AM CST [Link]

Friday, October 15, 2004

FIRST DISPATCH FROM THE DESERT. Having written those words, I've sat here for 10 minutes not knowing what to write. I think I'm supposed to say something filled with Wisdom. After all, I've been out here two whole weeks. Surely I must have discovered the Meaning of Life by now. Or had at least a small wrestling match with the Devil. Or at lived through a hair-raising encounter with a rattlesnake and have a renewed Appreciation for Being Alive.

None of the above, I'm afraid. t's actually been a rather busy and unusually sociable time, so far.

Posted by Claire @ 02:52 PM CST [Link]

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

LIKE TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON IN POLITICS, but don't want to spend a lot of time listening to pointless speeches? As a special favor to Wolfesblog readers, we would like to present the Reader's Digest (R) edition of The Republican National Convention. (It's in Quicktime format).

Posted by Debra @ 06:56 PM CST [Link]

Monday, October 11, 2004


Blogispondent Ian here again. One of the nice things about the model 1911 automatic pistol is the wealth of aftermarket parts available. Among these is one particularly practical type of item: a replacement t that allows the weapon to use .22 rimfire ammunition. I've been looking at several such items for a while, and finally bought one. The conversion kits consist of a replacement slide, .22 magazine, and slide stop. They take literally only seconds to swap with the original slide, and you can switch back to the original caliber just as rapidly (the procedure is the same as removing the slide for cleaning). But why would I want to downsize my .45 to a puny .22? A couple reasons.

Posted by Ian @ 02:38 PM CST [Link]

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Blogispondent Ian here. The SKS is a popular rifle for those on a budget, for good reasons. It has its shortcomings, though - like the sights. Those post-and-blade sights just suck. There are Mojo Sights available for them, but it appears that in another month or so there'll be an even better option. A company called Tech-SIGHTS is setting up to sell SKS aperture sights much like those on the AR-15. I've not tried one of their sights out (the web site says they'll be available for delivery on November 15th), but they look like they have a lot of potential. They mount onto the rifle's receiver (not the removeable top cover), so they should have no issues with holding zero. In addition, they're mounted at the rear of the receiver, giving the shooter about 10 extra inches of sight radius. Between that and the aperture design, I bet they'll make it much easier to shoot those SKSs accurately (no, I have no relationship with the company). When I get the chance to try one out, I'll give you an in-depth report, but for now I thought I'd give you all a heads-up on a new goodie.

Posted by Ian @ 06:52 PM CST [Link]

Monday, October 4, 2004


Debra here. Today SpaceShipOne made history (and $10 million!) when they completed a second launch into space less than a week after the original launch, easily winning the Ansari X-Prize.

Well done, guys. Well done.

Posted by Debra @ 11:34 AM CST [Link]

HERE'S SOME FOLKS WHO WANT YOU TO WASTE YOUR VOTE in the presidential election this November.

Debra here. This site points out what most of us already know: a huge majority of people don't vote, and it's not because of apathy. It's because there's no real choice.

From the site:

Neither party has done anything to repair the most damaging policies currently threatening our Republic. Many (if not most) laws have been put in place to favor particular groups at the disadvantage of other groups, or everyone else, or merely to allow the sitting President and Congress to 'manage' the economy in someone's favor (and it's usually their own).

I'm making this appeal to the people who recognize the dynamic as well as the fact that laws built around favoritism are the real problem that needs to be addressed. If you vote for either of the parties that have crafted our 'favors-for-campaign support' system, it means voting for favoritism.

If you want to change that, it's time to vote 'else.'


Imagine the substantial debate over real issues we'd get in the popular media if poll numbers looked more like this:

Thanks, TM

Posted by Debra @ 10:53 AM CST [Link]


Debra here, filling in for Claire. From A.B. comes word of "...a shadowy government agency that doesn't respond to public inquiries about its activities is coordinating a plan to use monitoring devices to catalogue the movements of every American driver."

Those of us who've been following Claire's blog have already known about the black boxes being installed in cars without the owner's knowledge or consent. We also know about the Nu-Metric electronic monitoring devices embedded into roads which are designed to (among other things) read the signature of the transponder that has been mandated by the federal government to be placed on all cars starting in 2003.

So it really comes as no surprise that there is, apparently, a special bureau within the Department of Transportation whose sole purpose is keeping track of all this snoopy stuff. [more]

Posted by Debra @ 10:39 AM CST [Link]

Friday, October 1, 2004

A NEW BACKWOODS HOME COLUMN is available today. Blogispondent Ian here - I think Claire's on the road today, so I figured I'd post the link for y'all. This column is the first of a couple on avoiding work (definitely something up my alley!). Not avoiding doing work, that is - I'm sure Hardyville is no place for the lazy - but avoiding that 9 to 5 job.

Posted by Ian @ 10:05 AM CST [Link]

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