Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Brave New World, Connections, Emergency, Failure, Faith healing, Feedback, Flu, General Musings, Government, Health, Kindle, New Horizons, Plague, Politics, Predictions, Religion, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech, Terrorism, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: Alzheimer's, atherosclerosis, blogging, Brexit, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, election, faith healing, finance, health, heart attack, Her Final Year, jim downey, luck, miracles, myocardial infarction, politics, predictions, religion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, stent, survival, technology, theocracy
2016 was odd. Just plain odd.
On the one hand, I had the same dumpster-fire of a year that everyone had, in terms of notable deaths, bizarre & unexpected election results here and abroad, and surreal news & social trends.
On the other hand, I’m alive. Which is something of a small (technological) miracle.
I now understand better (thanks to more discussion with my doctors, research, and experience) what happened with my heart, and what it really meant. Turns out that I didn’t have any plaque build-up even in the convoluted artery in question, as I initially thought. No, it was just that badly kinked, and probably had been all my life. I had started to notice it just because of normal aging, meaning that the normal parts of my heart were slowly getting weaker.
In the last six months or so I have finally been able to strengthen the 1/3 of my heart which had never had proper blood supply. Meaning that now I am actually in better cardiac health than I have ever been before. I walk three miles most mornings (5-6 days a week, usually), and don’t feel the slightest bit fatigued from it. The other parts of my 58-year-old body may limit me, but my cardiac condition isn’t a problem at all. Part of me wonders what it would have been like to have had this kind of stamina when I was young and athletic. Another part of me realizes that those limitations helped me develop awareness and self-discipline which I may have missed, otherwise.
Related to that, as mentioned in this post, early last year our financial situation stabilized for the good. We still need to be reasonably prudent about how we go through life, but I no longer feel as if I am hanging on by my fingernails sometimes. Without that change, I may not have felt secure enough to have my heart checked out when I did — meaning that I was very much at risk for the slightest little blood clot to trigger a massive heart attack.
Unrelated to any of that, the election lead-up and results also proved to be both a blessing and a curse for me. I was astonished at the results of both the Brexit and US presidential elections (and no, I’m not going to argue the point in comments — so just refrain from making any on this topic), yet it solved a problem for me with writing St Cybi’s Well. See, in the alternate time-line of Communion of Dreams, prior to the onset of the fire-flu, the US had become an authoritarian, semi-theocratic state. But I was having a really hard time explaining how we had gotten to such a point when actually writing SCW; everything I came up with just seemed too outlandish for the willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader.
Well, that’s not a problem any longer. No, I’m not saying that I think that the US is headed for an authoritarian, semi-theocratic state … but because of the rhetoric and rise in power of some groups both in the US and the UK, that is no longer an unimaginable future. As a result, I have been revising the finished chapters of SCW to reflect these new insights, and I think that the book will be *much* stronger for it.
So yeah, I have really mixed feelings about 2016.
Oh well, I suppose that at least I’m around to have them. And that’s a good thing.
*You should watch this sometime. Fun movie.
Filed under: Emergency, Health, Preparedness, SCA, Survival, Violence | Tags: cane, cardiac stent, D.I.Y., defensive, health, Preparedness, SCA, self-defense, survival, violence, walking stick
(So, been a while, eh? Yeah, it has. But no worries, things have been going very well, through a lot of minor and not-so-minor changes. More about all of that will emerge as I get back into regular blogging — you’ll see.)
A few weeks back a friend posted a question to a discussion group along these lines: what was a good, basic self-defense item which you could have under most situations which would be innocuous yet effective?
But after a bit, a general consensus which emerged was that a walking stick or cane would fit the bill. And people posted links to various such items, ranging from the very basic to the traditional to the ultra-modern. There are a HUGE selection of different options out there, if you just do a search for one. Looking through a bunch of different choices, I got to thinking that it should be pretty easy for anyone with minimal woodworking skills to make their own walking stick to their own specs, for a lot less than most of the items was seeing cost.
So I set out to see what it would take. And I set my goals:
- The stick should be made from readily available materials, with minimal tools.
- It should be completely free of all metal, so as not to arouse suspicions when being scanned.
- It should look and function as a real walking aid, not just a disguised cudgel.
- It should nonetheless be an effective defensive tool.
- It should cost $25 or less.
I stopped by a local home improvement store, and found the following:
That’s a 1.125″ rubber foot for about 50 cents, a wooden (oak) decorative cap (finial) that was about $4, and a hickory replacement handle for a sledgehammer or axe for about $14. Here’s another pic:
I chose hickory because it is well known to be a hard, dense wood. Next pic:
I removed the metal screw from the finial, then used a spade bit to expand the hole to about an inch. I used a wood rasp to make the mounting end of the replacement handle likewise about an inch in diameter.
Then I added some wood glue, and tapped the finial onto the replacement handle.
I did the basic shaping of the finial into a knob suitable for my (large) hand.
Here’s the top of the finial. I inserted a bit of .375″ dowel into the hole with some wood glue, then allowed it to dry. When it was dry, I rasped the whole thing down to a smooth hemisphere about the size of a tennis ball.
That’s the overall stick. It’s about 37.5″. Note that it is no longer quite the same size or shape of an axe handle — I spent an hour or so with the wood rasp, and took it down a fair amount. There it’s smooth, mostly uniform (no longer has as much of a swell in the wood up by the head), and about .25″ narrower and thinner.
This just shows the finished width of the handle — about 1.5″. It’s also just about 1.25″ thick. Both of those dimensions are a little larger than your typical commercially-available cane, but it no longer looks like an axe handle. After I was done with the rasp, I smoothed it out with some 60-grit sandpaper, then some 120-grit, then some 220-grit. I wanted it smooth and ‘finished’, but wasn’t worried about it being super smooth.
I then gave it three coats of urethane stain (dark walnut), sanding lightly between each with 600-grit sandpaper. Then I added the rubber foot and a simple braided leather lanyard.
Another detail of the head.
Holding it with the lanyard around my wrist.
That’s it. Simple, effective cane/walking stick. Nothing metal or high-tech about it to alert someone that it is anything other than a walking stick. Total cost under $20, since I already had some simple tools, sandpaper, and stain on hand. And a total of a couple hours of labor.
Something I want to note: the handpiece/finial is not intended as a striking surface. You don’t need any additional bulk or weight there for this to be a very effective defensive tool. It’s more like the pommel on a sword. In fact, the overall length, heft, and other measurements is very similar to the rattan broadsword used in SCA combat. As such, I know full well just how effective such a tool can be against another opponent in even confined spaces. And now that I’m an old guy with a couple of cardiac stents in place, I need a good walking stick with me no matter where I go …
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Brave New World, Connections, General Musings, Guns, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Science Fiction, tech, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, free, Guns & Money, Her Final Year, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, laser, Lawyers, National Interest, naval, predictions, promotion, railgun, Robert Farley, Science Fiction, technology, warship, writing
The biggest reason to build big ships may be the promise of electricity generation. The most interesting innovations in naval technology involve sensors, unmanned technology, lasers, and railguns, most of which are power intensive. Larger ships can generate more power, increasing not only their lethality (rail guns, sensors) but also their survivability (anti-missile lasers, defensive sensor technologies, close-defense systems).
Unmanned technology. Lasers. Railguns.
Tell me that ain’t living in a science fiction future.
Filed under: 2nd Amendment, Augmented Reality, Ballistics, Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, Fireworks, General Musings, Government, Guns, movies, Nuclear weapons, Predictions, Preparedness, Privacy, Science Fiction, Society, Space, tech, UFO, Violence, Wired, YouTube | Tags: ammunition, augmented reality, ballistics, blogging, Boeing, Cold War, drone, drones, guns, Guns.com, jim downey, laser, movies, North Dakota, predictions, Science Fiction, space, technology, The Thing, USSR, video, Watch the skies, www youtube
That’s from the 1951 classic The Thing from Another World, one of the first (and defining) science fiction movies which set the stage for much of what was to come even to the present day.
It was also very much a product of the early Cold War era, reflecting the fear* of the USSR and atomic weaponry. This is typical — science fiction usually is a reflection of (or commentary on) the technology and social conditions of the era when it was created.
So, what to make of two news items which showed up this week?
Here’s the first:
It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist.
With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.
And here’s the second:
Hang on to your drone. Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage.
The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars—there’s no flying beams of light, no “pew! pew!” sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down.
* * *
Instead of a massive laser mounted on a dedicated truck, the compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and can be set up by a pair of soldiers or technicians in just a few minutes. At the moment, it’s aimed primarily at driving drones away from sensitive areas.
I’m already seeing posts by friends on social media complaining about drones being operated by annoying neighbors, with discussion about what possible solutions there might be to deal with them (both by legal recourse and um, more informal approaches). There have been a number of news items already about people who have shot down drones, and there’s even a company advertising a specific kind of shotgun ammunition for just that.
“Watch the skies!”, indeed.
Filed under: Architecture, Art, Augmented Reality, Connections, General Musings, movies, SCA, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, bookbinding, Chrissie Iles, Communion of Dreams, Double Negative, Doug Pray, Grinnell College, jim downey, John Bowsher, LACMA, Legacy Bookbindery, Levitated Mass, Louis Zirkle, Michael Heizer, Moon, movies, Paint the Moon, SCA, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, Wikipedia, writing
I finally got around to seeing this the other day, and I have been thinking about it ever since:
* * *
I first heard of Michael Heizer in a sculpture class in college, sometime in the late 1970s. Well, that I remember. It’s entirely possible that I had seen some coverage of his work in the press before then. But my professor got me thinking about how sculpture defined space both by physical presence and absence, and I know that it was then that I became aware of Heizer’s work. I didn’t realize it at the time, but his basic concepts would manifest in my life in many ways, showing up in my interests in martial arts, book design, even writing.
* * *
His ideas are incredibly simple, when you pare it all down to just its physical nature, it’s really quite simple, and you see it again and again in his work. To achieve that degree of simplicity is like, almost the hardest thing in the world to do.
* * *
Not being there when your opponent strikes.
Drawing the eye to the empty space.
Allowing the reader to fill in the suggested, but missing, description.
Each of these engages and enlightens in ways that no amount of force, or color, or detail ever could.
* * *
Micheal Heizer makes you aware of space and your relationship to space and how you move through space,the role of the sky, the role of the land, beyond what you’re looking at. You have to rethink the nature of who you are physically in relation to what you are walking around inside and observing from a distance and up close.
* * *
We’re not always aware of what we do while we’re doing it, or why. Sometimes, the trajectory of a life is determined by little things, subtle things. Even things which are mssing.
* * *
I finally got around to seeing this the other day, and I have been thinking about it ever since:
Shortly after I had conceived of the idea behind Paint the Moon, I knew that it wasn’t actually feasible. But the idea delighted me. And after some thought, I realized why: it was taking the principles of Michael Heizer’s art — of paring down art to the very simplest, physical elements of experience — and going one step further. Remove the physical object altogether, and replace it with pure experience, pure concept. Hence my description of the project as a “collective lyric fantasy”.
You can’t see the artifact of that project at a museum. There is no massive boulder to walk under, or a negative space in the desert to encounter.
But there is the Moon overhead, and the memory of a moment in time.
Filed under: Book Conservation, Science Fiction, Survival, tech, Violence, Wales, Wired | Tags: A-10, Battle of Khafji, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Desert Storm, Dinas Maelor, jim downey, Jordan Golson, Legacy Bookbindery, military fiction, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, technology, Warthog, Wired, writing
I don’t write military fiction. Not my thing.
But for St Cybi’s Well, the main character has a relevant military background, as an A-10 (Warthog) pilot. Here’s a bit from Chapter Seven: Dinas Maelor when he and another character are reminiscing about their service in Desert Storm:
The two men sat for a moment, considering one another. After a while, Jones spoke. “I’m not surprised you don’t remember me clearly. You and I just shook hands in passing at that meeting. And while I was pretty worn out by several days of babysitting a royal in the middle of an ongoing battle, you’d just barely gotten out of your A-10 in time to clean up and make the audience. How many sorties did you fly in those three days?”
“A lot.” Darnell took another sip. “And then a lot more a month later.”
“A whole lot. And always in the thick of it. Two of your Hogs were so badly shot up they were scrapped. And that’s saying something, as tough as those things are.”
“Yeah, it’s a hell of an airframe.” Darnell smiled. “So, you checked up on me?”
“When this assignment came in, I recognized your name, so yeah, I went back through your record. Impressive.” Jones returned the smile. “Almost as impressive on paper as what I saw you do to that line of T-55s and BMPs. You crippled just the right vehicles to pin them in place so you could then coolly destroy them. Most other pilots would have tried to take out the line in the first pass, giving too much time for some to scatter. Not you. You nailed the head and tail, then came back for the rest. That was smart, and daring.”
I was reminded of that by this passage in an article on Wired:
Close air support is a vital job that, when properly executed, can mean the difference between life and death for soldiers. It’s highly dangerous, because it requires flying at altitudes low enough to discern friend from foe, leaving the plane particularly vulnerable to ground-based anti-aircraft fire.
But the Warthog was specifically designed for close air support: the cockpit sits in a 1,200 pound titanium tub, specifically designed to withstand fire from anti-aircraft shells at close range. Every system is double or triple redundant, and it can take a ridiculous amount of abuse. It can continue flying if it’s lost an entire engine, part of its tail, or even half a wing.
It’s been a very busy week for me with book conservation work. But I delivered that this afternoon, so can relax and appreciate the next couple of days for what they are. More on that later.
Filed under: NPR, Terrorism, Violence | Tags: blogging, Emanuel AME church, Ethel Lance, feedback, forgiveness, jim downey, terrorism, This I Believe, violence, writing
… I have tried my very best to forget him. It was that, or succumb to the hatred that threatened to define my life.
For a while I tried forgiveness, since that is supposed to be liberating. When I say “for a while,” I mean for years. But I failed. There are some things that cannot be forgiven, at least for me.
Others are, perhaps, better than I:
During an emotional courtroom scene, family members of some of the victims gave statements, many saying they forgave the shooter and calling on him to repent his sins.
“I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you,” a daughter of Ethel Lance, 70, one of the nine people killed at Emanuel AME church on Wednesday night said. “You took something very precious away from me.
“You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But I forgive you. I forgive you,” she said.
That is a power which baffles me, bewilders me, but also leaves me in quiet awe. Good for them.