Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Mars

It feels like it’s been months since I last blogged- been taking some time away from my computer to try and get my house organised for Christmas, amongst many other tasks I’ve been putting off- but I couldn’t resist posting a link to this story- mysterious cleaning of one of the Martian rovers! I am of course a massive fan of Ray Bradbury, particularly his Martian Chronicles (although that collection misses my favourite Martian tale, Dark They Were and Golden Eyed, which is a simply wonderful piece of writing) and also the great Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars stories. One of the great disservices science has done me is to prove that there’s no life on Mars- I’m much happier ignoring that body of data and imagining weird and wonderful things on the Red Planet.

Monday, December 13, 2004

1st KB Workout

I had my first Kettlebell workout Saturday and, though it was brief, I think I can definitely see how these things will be of benefit to me. I read over Pavel Tsatsouline’s The Russian Kettlebell Challenge and basically did a set of two of each exercise to get the feel for it and to try out the techniques. There are only a few basic exercises (although you can also incorporate normal lifts into your routine if you like)- swing, clean, snatch, military press and floor press. There’s also a side and bent press but I haven’t been able to master them yet. At this point, I’m happy enough with these. Though the KB itself felt pretty heavy at first, I think that’s a lot to do with the shape- after doing a few practice lifts, it now feels a lot less of a burden.

The key to KB training seems to be high rep lifts. Pavel doesn’t recommend the usual bodybuilding approach of training to failure and I’m happy enough with that while I experiment with this system to see its effects. His aim is not to build muscle but rather strength-endurance (which means it is ideal for those in the military). And believe me, these whole body compound moves will definitely build strength while the moderate weight of the KB enables higher reps. That’s not to say that the KB is easy to lift, it’s not. One other aspect of this sort of training is that it’s supposed to strengthen not just the muscles but the tendons and ligaments. After Saturday’s mini-workout I could definitely feel my wrist and elbows joints- they weren’t sore, but I could tell the joints had been worked. Sunday they felt fine. My forearms were also aching a little because hanging on to the KB as you swing it gives you a tremendous grip workout.

I’m going to try a full workout with the KB later today- you can use two but one is all that is required (and personally I think that using one adds a bit more effort to the moves as you have to work to balance yourself out). It’s a very compact home-gym system. Hopefully I’ll still be fit to type tomorrow and will report back on it. Apart from anything else, working with the KB is fun- a great change from barbells and dumbbells.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Kettlebell

My Kettlebell arrived today. First impressions- damn but it’s heavy. It’s a standard one ‘pood’ KB, which is 16kg/35lbs. That doesn’t sound a lot with a dumbbell but somehow having the weight compressed into the cannonball shape seems to make it heavier. Having handled it, I’d only recommend this weight if you’re in fairly decent shape already- if you’re just starting to exercise, try a half-pood first to get a feel for it. I ordered mine from a UK company called Powerseekers.com and it was not only cheaper than a lot of other sites I visited, but also delivered very promptly. Ordered late Wednesday evening and delivered today. Great service.

My only problem now (apart from hauling this heavy lump of iron about) is that the guide-book I ordered from Amazon still hasn’t arrived. That really irks me because I paid for a next day delivery and I got an ‘item dispatched’ email on Wednesday. And it’s still not here. Once more, the Royal Mail proves its ineptitude.

I’m eager to get going with the KB but I’m going to have to wait now for the manual and have a study at it. I’ll maybe hit the gym and practice some deadlifts instead this weekend.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Heroes

Head’s Bunker has a great little feel good blog today on heroes- go and check it out.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Left Handedness

I’m not sure what to make of this article. On the one hand (pardon the pun) it’s good to hear good things about being a lefty. Usually all I hear is about my lower life expectancy and knackered immune system. However, this ‘new’ research is nothing of the sort- the advantage of the left hander in combat (unarmed or with a sword/knife) has, I thought, long been acknowledged- maybe these guys have never heard of a sport called boxing? In fact, it would seem to be fairly obvious that someone used to fighting against a right-handed opponent might be thrown somewhat when facing someone left-handed. Perhaps it’s just me, but surely a lot of these “scientists” need to sort their lives out and go and do something useful with their university educations and grants. Are they actually getting paid for this sort of thing? Go and read the headlines on FARK for a week or two and you’ll be appalled by what passes for scientific research these days- pointing out the bleeding obvious.

Still, nice to hear something good about being a southpaw.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Kettlebells

I’ve posted a few items on fitness in the past, particularly on the Concept 2 rowing machine and on weight training (my preferred exercise). For the past month or so I have been regularly missing my gym workouts- and it’s starting to show. While I was weight training rowing took a backseat but I’m beginning to get back into the swing of doing a row most days now to make up for it. However, I really miss lifting and because my house is fairly small and contains two children I have no room for a decent weights set up. A bench with a squat rack just won’t fit. So I’ve been looking for an alternative. My office contains a Gold’s Gym Power Tower- a dip, pull up and press up station all-in-one- which is very handy but it’s just not the same; I like to lift things!

I first read about Kettlebells about a year or so ago. Imagine a cannonball with a handle and you’ve got your Kettlebell. The basic weight or ‘pood’ is 16kg/35lbs, but you can step up the weight to bigger KBs as you improve. It’s an old school training regime to be sure, but it seems to be highly effective at building pure strength and burning fat. Unlike normal weight training some of the routines for KBs involve ballistic movements- swinging the ball through parts of the lift. The great part for me is that the only equipment which is required is a KB and yourself. No benches or other equipment to clutter up the house. And it’s quite fitting given the few mentions Spetsnaz have gotten here lately- they apparently used KBs to train with.

There are a lot of claims made about this sort of training which, if only half true, would make it better than anything else going. The main guy who advocates KBs is Pavel Tsatsouline. According to him (and a lot of the reviews around the web) KBs are the single best way to increase strength, burn fat, and increase speed. Now, I’m somewhat sceptical about the extent of some of these claims but as the routines for KBs seem to be based on power lifting it seems to me that, if this is the case, they will do a lot of what they claim. I know that the basic lifts work with a barbell so I’m willing to try the same with a Kettlebell.

At the moment I’m trying to locate a company in the UK which sells KBs (plenty in the US but I dread to think what the shipping would be like) at a reasonable price- the cost varies wildly from place to place. Once I’ve tracked that down, I’ll invest in a KB and report back as progress (hopefully) occurs.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Special Forces Shovel

In my Edged Weapons post a week or so back I mentioned that one of the items I keep around the house is a basic entrenching tool with a single ‘kind-of’ sharp edge on it. Well, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into then check out Cold Steel- a great company- because they actually make a Special Forces Shovel that comes with axe-level sharpened edges which can then be brought up to a razor’s edge if required!

As with all their products it’s incredibly reasonably priced and, if the items of theirs which I own are anything to go by, damned rugged. I may have to upgrade soon.

Spetsnaz troops used the shovel (according to a book by Viktor Suvorov I read many a year ago) as a multi-purpose item. It was a measuring tool, it could cut bread, it could be hurled at an enemy (Spetsnaz apparently practiced this by running along a beam and jumping off as they threw their shovels at a target) and it was a pretty mean CQB item to boot. I’d rather face a guy armed with a bayonet that a sharp shovel. Oh, and you can dig holes with it too!

SCAR Rifle

Thanks to ACE, I’ve now seen the Special Forces new weapon of choice- the FN SCAR. At first sight it’s not the most stunning weapon I’ve ever seen- if fact it looks a little clunky, a bit underwhelming. But that’s not the point is it? It’s functioning that counts and if the internals of this are similar to the AK then reliability shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, part of the reason the AK design is so reliable is that the parts have a bit of play to them, the tolerances are pretty loose. Makes for a great weapon for poorly trained conscripts or terrorists, but what it gains in reliability it loses in accuracy. And for a modern, highly-trained Special Forces operator weapon maintenance will be second nature. I’d guess that in the trade off between reliability and accuracy, most modern soldiers would prefer more accuracy. No point in having a weapon that works all the time regardless of its last clean when you can’t hit a target at 200 yards.

It’ll be interesting to hear some reports on this thing. As ACE notes, FN is dedicating production to SF needs. If this thing is the bee’s knees then surely the Army would want to put it through trials too? Maybe this isn’t as ‘modular’ as they require?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Buffalo Shirt

One item that any Americans reading this might not be familiar with is the Buffalo shirt. While it’s not an issue piece of the British military uniform, it should be because virtually everyone in the Armed Forces has one. Available in various styles now, the standard Special Six shirt is an over-the-head top, lined with fleece and with a shower-proof outer. There are also ventilation zips down each side. This thing is incredibly warm and you could wear it and a T-shirt during a standard British winter and not get cold. If it gets wet, it dries in no time and it weighs very little. It’s light-weight and while the pack size isn’t that small, a few compression straps soon take care of that. It’s a fantastic bit of kit and it’s one that I’m sure almost every British soldier and Marine has.

I’m not sure if there is a similar item used by those in the American military, but the Buffalo has spawned a range of copy-cat products, the best and most popular of which are made by Snugpak. If you’re in the service or just an outdoors sort of person it’s certainly an item to have a look at.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Top 10 ARs Part 1

As you may have realised by now, I like the AR series of rifles. No, they’re not perfect by any stretch, but it is a highly versatile platform and a simple calibre change to the issue weapon would vastly increase their popularity I’m sure. As such, here’s a list of my favourite ARs (from 1-5) - showcasing the variety of weapon to be had from this platform.

Alexander Arms .50 Beowulf – I wasn’t entirely sure that this would be a very ‘usable’ conversion, but then I was suddenly sold on the whole idea. The reason? .50 Beowulf has the same performance as the phenomenal .45-70, a cartridge that I’m very fond of (particularly in a lever action Marlin, but that’s a whole other post entirely). The Beowulf is an effective hunting cartridge and is recommended for pigs (or horizontal humans as they are sometimes known). It can also take game up to and including buffalo- so there’s plenty of stopping power; this is no poodle-shooter. Available in a 24” barrelled ‘Overwatch’ version or a short 16” Entry version, this is a great weapon for urban situations. The big heavy bullet is not deflected by car windscreens or body panels and it has enough ‘oomph’ to disable targets wearing body armour. Not for general issue but the Beowulf makes for a handy hunting carbine or even for fighting in built up areas. For some great pictures of the gun and the massive cartridge, head along to Gunblast.com and check out Jeff Quinn’s reviews of both weapons.

M16 Viper – It was a toss up between this and the Arms Tech Compact Police Carbine, as an example of how neat the AR can get and still remain functional, albeit in a specialised arena- with a barrel this short there’s going to be a drop in velocity and effective range; these guns are designed for up close and dirty work, ideal for cramped conditions and narrow corridors. Though the 5.56mm might have its shortcomings, I’d still prefer it over a 9mm SMG in most circumstances.

Ares Defense Shrike– This is probably one of the most original adaptations of the AR family I’ve seen- essentially turning an AR into a mini-SAW (7.5lbs compared to the 16.5lbs M249). Offered with a variety of barrel lengths from a formidably short 12.5” to a more manageable 20”, this is an ideal example of the variety that the AR platform can offer, transforming one type of weapon into a very different one. I can see this being effective in the sort of fighting which took place in Fallujah recently- offering troops a highly compact weapon effective in tight spaces with a high rate of fire. In addition, the lighter weight of this over a SAW has got to be appreciated by the grunts lugging it around.

Pistol Calibre Carbine – I was going to pick a .45ACP conversion for this slot, but I decided to lump it, 9mm and .22LR all in together. The .22LR version of the AR offers very cheap shooting and perhaps a companion piece to a .22LR pistol down on the range. Hours of fun, because the AR is a very pleasant weapon to shoot and the .22LR is a fantastic cartridge for plinking and target shooting. The 9mm Carbine is a rather nifty accompaniment to a 9mm sidearm (chop that barrel down to 7.5 “ or 10” and you have a handy PDW-type weapon with none of the logistical problems that come with a fancy new calibre and which is also compatible with the issue M9- and maybe throw in the Russian 9mm 7N31 AP round if it lives up to its billing). For me though, the pistol-calibre conversion which really does it is the one in .45 ACP. A great piece to back up a .45 ACP side-arm and ideal when you might have a limited capacity for carrying ammunition. A pretty handy SHTF weapon and given that it’s an AR you could always switch between uppers- pistol cal when needed and rifle cal the rest of the time. Versatility.

Heckler and Koch Improved M4 – Pretty much the main complaint about the AR-type rifle is the gas system which needlessly fouls the action of the weapon. In a step which should have been taken years ago, HK introduced a gas piston system which reduced fouling. Now, if only this were made standard on all ARs. They also improved the magazine, added a cold forged (longer life) barrel available from 10” up to 20” and created a ‘mid-life’ improvement. While the sexier XM8 seems to be preferred for a new Army weapon, I’d say that the HK M4 would be a better option so long as 5.56mm is going to be the calibre of choice. The HK could be purchased as an upper only with the new gas piston system and any retraining for troops would be minimal. I hear that they also flared the mag-well on their receivers but that seems to be a minor improvement which you could live without- perhaps the HK receivers could have been purchased as and when lowers in use ‘died’ of old age. The XM8’s much vaunted modularity- from sub-compact to LMG- is also available here; the HKM4 can be had with a 10” barrel on an M4 collapsible-stock lower or (I’m sure with little extra work) a heavy 20” barrel with a Beta 100 round magazine on a standard M16 lower. You want modularity- the AR series has it. Of course, this was probably never going to happen with the DoD because it might be cost effective and result in not having a new space-age looking weapon to go with their snazzy new fatigues.

US Military Technology

I’ve heard it said on many occasions that the US military is, scientifically, ten years ahead of the rest of the world. Well, after reading about this, I’m forced to wonder- if this is the kind of thing that isn’t a military secret, just what toys do they have that we don’t know about? This pilot-less spy plane can see steam rising from a cup of coffee. Wow. Now, that’s impressive but not as impressive as the fact that troops in battle can access this data real-time via laptops. Amazing.

What other goodies do they have?

National Treasure trivia

The movie National Treasure hasn’t opened here yet but while I was reading about it I noticed that the name of the female lead character, played Diane Kruger, is Abigail Chase. Abby Chase- as in Danger Girl. Haven’t read it? Go here and buy yourself a copy of this fantastic comic right now. Featuring a group of female super-spies (led by a chap who looks suspiciously like Sean Connery) fighting Nazis, it’s got all the action and pretty girls you’d expect from a James Bond movie, with a great big heap of humour thrown into the mix. It’s a rip-roaring read and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

I checked on IMDB and there’s no mention of the Danger Girl reference but I’m sure it’s not just a coincidence. Abby’s an Indiana Jones-type character and this movie seems to be a bit of a sub-rate Jones adventure. One I’ll have to watch now, just to see if she is anything like Abby.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Keychain Knife

I’m looking to buy myself a very small folding knife which I can attach to my keychain. There have been quite a few times lately when I’ve found myself in need of a small blade and haven’t had one- I don’t carry my Leatherman around very much. I wasn’t quite sure what to go for- I was considering a CRKT KISS but then I discovered this nifty looking item; the Swiss-Tech Utili-Key. This looks like it might do the job nicely; very compact, a part serrated blade, screwdrivers and a bottle opener and most of all, unobtrusive- it doesn’t even look like a knife. It’s also a bargain price, which helps a great deal. The screwdrivers will also be handy- I occasionally have to crack open PC cases when I least expect it, so it’ll be good to be prepared. Finally, being a guy I love gadgets, and this is a cool little gadget.

I’ll have a further look around, see if I can find any suitable alternatives- any suggestions would be very welcome.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

FN SCAR

According to the always interesting Defense Review, the FN SCAR consists of an M4 type lower receiver with an FNC style upper, complete with requisite Picatinny rail. Still no images of the weapon available but hopefully we won’t have long to wait. Basically what we’re looking at in an AR with AK internals.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Bit more on HK's New Handgun

Just when I thought I was done I come across this- a page on the new HK pistol in 4.6mm. Not much more new info on the weapon yet but the prototype pictures are interesting- it looks like has a more “pointable” grip angle than the later model. I’m not entirely sold on the concept of the small, body-armour piercing round (although having said that. I’m not aware of any reports on terminal ballistics). Maybe in Europe this will prove sellable, but I’m afraid when it comes to handguns, I’ve got to side with those across the Pond- the .45ACP is the cartridge of choice. And the fact that certain US units are re-equipping with 1911s speaks volumes. If the 9mm is not enough gun, then I’ve got to question the effectiveness of the 4.6mm.

BTW, Ultimate Combat Pistol? Isn’t that title already taken by John Browning’s venerable 1911?

Silent Ammo

Just a quickie for the time being- Modern Firearms is one of those invaluable sites that I visit fairly infrequently. Just been there and two pages spring out for me. The first concerns silent ammunition developed by the Soviet Union, something which I’d heard of before but never seen. There’s a pretty low quality image of the ammo on World Guns. Basically it works by the ingenious method of using a piston to drive the bullet from the case, rather than the gases. According to the site the ammo (which is obviously also sub-sonic) is totally silent. No need for a cumbersome suppressor tacked onto the end of the barrel.

I’m intrigued to find out more about this- surely if it was that effective then we’d be seeing it used in the West? I’m guessing that it’s incredibly expensive to manufacture but I’d bet there’s market for totally silent ammo amongst Special Forces types. Or even SWAT-type units. How about an MP5 running on this for house clearing/hostage rescue? Anyone heard any more on this type of ammo?

The second page that caught my eye was this one on the Russian PP-2000 (the page concerning the ammo it fires can be found here- again, I’d be interested to hear more about the armour piercing claims of this 9mm). The PP-2000 is another of the PDW-type weapons which seem to be gaining in popularity, at least amongst weapons manufacturers. This is one of the most compact guns I’ve seen and the special +P+ armour piercing ammo sounds interesting. More info please! Love to read a review of this thing, see what the accuracy/controllability is like. Seems to be some interesting firearms activity in the East at the moment.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Edged Weapons

Because I live in the freedom hating UK I am unable to own a firearm for home defence- in fact, if I even used a feather I’d probably be charged with upsetting an intruder’s feelings and sent to prison. Even at that though, I’m not entirely unarmed as there are a number of bladed weapons scattered throughout my house. While I’d be loathe to get involved in a knife fight, I’ve got my Other Half and two little girls to think of. Anyway, here’s what I’ve got:

Cold Steel Rifleman’s hawk – I’d been planning on buying a Vietnam hawk, or even the lighter Trail hawk, but I got a really good price on this- too good to pass. It’s a fairly hefty chunk of metal with an axe head and a hammer face. With virtually no effort the axe blade has been sharpened to an almost razor edge, but the sheer weight of the head will ensure damage to whatever is being struck. I keep this by the bed and though it has also seen use in the garden chopping at tree branches, it’s my first line of defence should anyone try coming up the stairs. The lack of manoeuvrability caused by the weight shouldn’t be a problem in that position. If you’re thinking of getting a fighting hawk, I’d recommend either the very pricey American Tomahawk Company’s Next Gen Ranger, or the very affordable Cold Steel’s Vietnam hawk- if it’s going to be used in combat, the hawk needs to be light so that you can change the direction of a swing quickly.

Cold Steel Two Handed Machete – This is a dirt cheap, hugely massive blade which weighs next to nothing and costs pennies. I used is briefly during the summer to chop down some overgrown tree branches and, boy, can this thing cut! If you don’t want something so huge Cold Steel have a great range of the most affordable machetes (really, for the product their prices are superb). Part of the sales blurb for the Two Handed is that it can easily cut off arms and legs- I can well believe it. As a weapon this would be pretty formidable. And pretty scary to face. Cool. Speaking of machetes, I’ve just noticed their new Latin machetes. Mmm, have to look into acquiring one of them.

Cold Steel (can you see a trend developing?) Mini-Bushman- This is a really neat concept, an extensive of the Rambo inspired craze for hollow handled knives. I’m not a fan of those types of blade, but the Bushman is a different breed altogether. Made of a single piece of metal with a “rolled” hollow grip, it’s the sort of knife that sits really well in the hand. The handle is open-ended so that it can be made into a spear very easily and the hollow space can also be stuffed with some tiny survival kit items. This is a great survival weapon and the blade can be brought up to a razor’s edge in no time. It also feels a lot sturdier than the usual Rambo knives. Top notch!

Leatherman Wave– Though it’s not a weapon, the knife blade on this most useful tool is wickedly sharp and is easy to maintain. I bought myself this as a treat a year or so ago and it’s proved its utility on many occasions. I’m not the sort of guy to keep a toolbox around and this thing is invaluable around the house. This- or something like it, since the company came out in favour of John Kerry (SOG make some pretty good multi-tools, or Gerber)- is an essential bit of kit, unless you have frequent access to a cumbersome box of tools.

Finally, just inside my front door, should someone be foolish enough to attempt to force their way in while I’m there, is an entrenching tool. It’s a fairly basic wooden handle, folding type, with a choice of either a shovel or pick head. A crack to the head with it should deter most people, and if that doesn’t work, one edge has been sharpened. This is not good quality steel so it’s not a razor edge or anything, but it’s keen enough. Spetsnaz, eat yer heart out.

Airborne Combat Engineer

Wow. Got a mention on the awesome Airborne Combat Engineer’s site! If you haven’t been there yet, go now. Excellent coverage of Iraq and lots of good weapons stuff. If you’re interested in the SOCOM SCAR project, this is the place to keep an eye on- I’ll bet ACE will be the first site to have picks on FN’s winning weapon.

Thanks for the mention, ACE!

Monday, November 22, 2004

SOCOM Rifle

US Special Forces are looking for a new weapon- the contract has already gone to FN. It’s to be a modular weapon built as a Light and Heavy version, the former being in 5.56mm, the latter in 7.62mm NATO. Part of the modularity of the design will be to allow calibre changes, initially in the 7.62mm NATO to 7.62mm Russian. No word on a calibre change from 5.56mm- and the Light version is the one which will be bought in the largest numbers.

The FN built weapon seems to be an updated version of their FNC rifle, specs of which can be found here and here. Essentially the FNC is a seventies-era weapon which borrows heavily from the classic Kalashnikov design. So far, I’ve been unable to find any details on the weapon itself but no doubt Airborne Combat Engineer will be the place to look out for this. Robinson Armament does have their own SCAR rifle, produced to compete for this contract, and for a look at what the FN was up against you can go here. The description of the weapon is basically “reliable as an AK, feel of an M4”. It’ll be interesting to see what the specs of the FN are.

Got to wonder why they don’t just pick up an AK, slap some Picatinny rails onto it, and go with that? The basic Kalashnikov design is already produced in 5.45mm, 5.56mm, 7.62mm Russian and 7.62mm NATO. Maybe that’s just too low-tech, cost-saving an approach? I know that with the many complaints about the 5.56mm’s lethality, there are calls for a return to 7.62 NATO, but personally I think that 7.62 Russian is plenty bullet for the task in hand. The vast majority of combat takes place at ranges of 200 yards and closer and I don’t see how stepping back past one of the greatest advances in small arms (the 7.62mmX39 cartridge and the Kalashnikov design) is going to be a big improvement. Of course, this is a weapon for Special Operations and so they will have a better ability to fine tune their mission specific equipment, but even at that I’ve got to say that the ‘baby’ 7.62 is my preferred calibre.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Evil Dead to be remade

So, Sam Raimi is going to produce and Bruce Campbell star in a remake of Evil Dead. The words ‘pointless’ and ‘redundant’ spring to mind. Why another remake (Evil Dead 2 was essentially a remake of the first film) instead of a new movie? And, what’s with the ‘true’ story tag in the article? Huh?

Monday, November 15, 2004

"Sub-compact" M16

I came across this site today when I was browsing- what you might call a “sub-compact” M16 variant, called the Viper. While it’s a very specialised tool, I understand that a lot of operators working in close protection prefer to carry an AR with a barrel in the region of 10”. Definitely one for close up work, and the type of weapon that has to be much preferred over the new breed of PDW (Personal Defence Weapons). There’s certainly a niche for the HK MP7A1 and the FN P-90, but I for one would be much happier carrying a tiny AR in 5.56mm than one of these PDWs. They might offer an advantage over pistol calibre weapons but the full-power (and I use the term loosely) 5.56mm has got to provide more peace of mind. Not to mention the logistical advantage of not having to transport other types of ammunition.

One of the advantages of the XM8 system is its modularity- it can be adapted from a compact carbine right up to a sharp-shooter/automatic rifle- but the M16 can function like this too, simply by swapping out the upper. And as my Dad pointed out- who the heck is going to transport all these extra parts? It might be possible to carry out mission specific modifications at the squad level, but support for all this extra kit has to come from somewhere.

While the Viper is certainly small (a 7.5inch barrel), there are a couple of other options available, most notable the Bushmaster Carbon 15 Pistol, which is a mere half inch longer than the P-90- bang a fore-grip onto the front Picatinny rail and you’re good to go. Alternatively there’s the minute Olympic Arms OA-98 pistol, which has the added advantage of having no buffer tube sticking out the back- mate that with the Bushmaster with its rails and slap on a folding stock- preferable to a PDW? Ideal for CQB work clearing buildings? I think so.

Of course, while the discussion rages about a new weapon system, alternative calibres and so on, the fact remains that the weapon picked will invariably be a compromise- because an Army’s assault rifle has to fulfil more than one role. I know a lot of people would prefer to see a return to the days of the M14, but while that’s fine for the wide open spaces of Afghanistan, it’s in no way ideal for the type of fighting the Marines have been carrying out so well in Fallujah (once again the US military has defied expectations- first it was Afghanistan, then the rapid defeat of Iraq and now taking a city within a week- simply amazing). An assault rifle has to be capable of performing all over the world- deserts, jungle, cities. I’m sure that for each environment there’s a particular weapon which would do an excellent job- but which would be a bad choice in one of the other environments.

For what it’s worth, I like the M16 family. The US Army doesn’t really need a new weapon, it just needs to tinker with the one it’s got- I wonder how many people would change their attitude to the M4, for example, if it was issued in 6.8mm and had HK’s gas piston system?

New HK Pistol

Just when I thought I was up to date along comes a new HK product, a pistol companion piece to the MP7A1 PDW in 4.6mmx30- the P46.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Confusion

Blogger’s done it again, posting an item I wrote a few days ago after a follow item I wrote yesterday. Good Girl Art should have been up before Bawidamann. Oh well. Go have a look at the links I posted. Be prepared with the Adam Hughes site though, he can get a bit saucy. If you’re afraid of seeing drawings of girls with big boobs, don’t go there.

Good Girl Art

As a devout geek I’m a big fan of comic book art. Today I found this site which has some fantastic good girl art (with a military theme for all you guys who like ‘40s looking women toting hardware). The art is a nice mix of a modern graphic style with a WW2 feel.

If this takes your fancy then also check out the amazing Adam Hughes. Personally I prefer his sketchwork.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Spierig Brothers

Just a little bit of movie news today. According to Ain’t It Cool, the Spierig brothers- makers of low budget but highly enjoyable Undead (they did the FX on their laptop apparently- but it looks great) are about to make a vampire movie called Daybreakers. I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ll cope in Hollywood with a big(ger) budget. Undead was a fun movie, AIC paints Daybreakers as a more serious yarn which bodes well.

XM8 Problems?

This looks like it might be bad news for the HK XM8 rifle (or it could be some arcane government way of doing business). I’ve heard the problem of the melting hand guard a while back- and when it was reported it didn’t seem to pose too much of a problem. Word was that HK would be able to solve that before full production went ahead. The mechanical failure is another matter altogether.

As for the USMC, they don’t seem to want to make the same mistake they did with the M16 in adopting a new weapon too early, when there might still be problems which need to be ironed out. As I’ve always said, it doesn’t pay to be an early adopter. They also, apparently, have issues with retaining the 5.56mm round- possibly heralding a move up to 6.8mm, the 6.5 Grendel or even a 6mm/223 (.223 brass necked up to take a 6mm round). I’m assuming that this is the same as the cartridge discussed here for those of you interested in the reloading data.

From what I’ve heard of it, the XM8 looks to be one of the best choices to go with- what else is there? 5.56mm doesn’t look like the way forward and any of the replacement cartridges listed above which have better lethality would be a better option, but as the rifle is being testing in 5.56mm format, it looks like the poodle-shooter will be around for some time to come.

Bawidamann

A couple of days ago I posted a link to Andrew Bawidamann’s site- his 40s looking pin-up girls. Well, his site doesn’t allow you to save images (the cunning swine) but if you’re looking to pretty up your PC with a space-girl or a hot chick with a Garand, have a look here for a gallery of images.

You’re welcome.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Top 10 Zombie movies

I quite enjoyed coming up with yesterday’s list, even though it took all of five minutes and I decided that I’d post a few more ‘top tens’. My novel has taken a back seat for the time being to a bunch of scripts/stories about zombies- my favourite movie ‘monster’- and they’re pretty fun to write. And so, again in no particular order, here are 10 of my favourite zombie movies at the moment (ask me in a week and you’ll probably get a different answer). Your own recommendations are also very welcome.

Versus - A Japanese action-fest with lots of gun action and pistol toting zombies- which sounds awful but is in fact incredibly well done. Watch and be amazed. Even if you don’t like zombie movies this is an action film well worth seeing. Awesome.

Night of the Living Dead - The original and still the best of the ‘modern’ zombie movies. A classic.

Dawn of the Dead remake - I really enjoyed this- the fact that it’s not a commentary on consumerism doesn’t matter a damn to me- I want my zombie movies to be about zombies.

Zombie Nosh - Low budget with not the greatest actors in the world, this is nevertheless a very effective zombie flick. Top marks.

Junk – Another Japanese zombie movie which I really enjoyed though reviews seem to be mixed. Guns and zombies- what’s not to like?

I Walked With A Zombie – One of the old school zombie films and though zombies play a pretty much peripheral role, it’s a fabulous film just for the visuals and the haunting mood it creates.

Resident Evil – Wasn’t sure if I should include this one of not, but I decided that I would (obviously) because I not only enjoy it but because it seems to have marked the beginning of a whole slew of zombie flicks. Huzzah!

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue – Though the dubbed soundtrack takes a little getting used to, this film is another zombie classic, and it deserves much more attention than it gets. A nicely paced small-scale story.

Zombie Flesh Eaters – I had to mention one of the Fulci films and this is my favourite- the gore scenes are particularly well done and there are a few moments that will stick with anyone who sees it.

The Crazies – There are some zombie films that don’t actually have zombies in them (28 Days Later being the prime example- and a sequel is on the way- and Mutant being another that I enjoyed more than I should have) and of the bunch, The Crazies is my absolute favourite. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s possibly my favourite George Romero film (NOTLD just pips the post I think) and while it doesn’t involve zombies per se, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that it does include the walking dead.

Honourable Mentions – Undead, an Australian film with some great effects, a good script (“I'll f**kin' finish you off faster than a f**kin' birthday cake at a fat chick's f**kin' birthday party!”), and an intriguing plot. I hope to see more movies from the brother who made this.

Second mention goes to another Japanese film, Stacy. This is a weird one, a very weird one- teenage girls becoming zombies is the basic plotline but that doesn’t even begin to explain it. I’m not sure about this one at all, but it’s worth seeing just for the wacky strangeness of it all. I have one other Japanese zombie film in my collection (which I’ve yet to see)- Battlefield Baseball- no rules baseball (think Ultimate Fighting then add weapons) against a team of zombies. If anyone knows of any others, do let me know. Update: SHAUN OF THE DEAD! How could I have forgotten to include this one? Beats me. Anyway, add it to the list. A great, funny, horrific, gory movie. Ten out of ten.

Top 10 Monster Movies

1. King Kong

2. Them! (awesome movie)

3. Aliens

4. Predator

5. The Blob

6. It Came From Beneath The Sea

7. Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

8. Creature From The Black Lagoon

9. The Thing (from another world)

10. Dog Soldiers

All off the top of my head and in no particular order. Just because.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Catch Up

Blogger is delaying my email posts now! Grrr.

Anyway, I cannot begin to say how pleased and relieved that George W. has been re-elected president. Hopefully, with such a massive majority he can now get on with the next four years without the ridiculous claims from the DNC et al that he “stole” the election. BTW, kudos to Kerry for his concession speech- he could have been a massive ass and delayed the results for days to come- such a shame he didn’t run his whole campaign with this shred of decency- just imagine how it might have gone if he’d forgone the far leftist rantings and conspiracy theories for truth and details of what his actual plans would have been. I wonder if having suffered such a resounding defeat that the Democrats will realise that the American people don’t want MoveOn and Michael Moore-on to dictate the tone of the campaign- in four years time will their candidate (Clinton?) run on absurdities or on policy?

With the election finally over, I wonder too if anyone wants to continue pressing Kerry to release his military records in light of a possible less than honourable discharge? He’s still a senator after all.

Now that Bush has secured his second term (and the Republicans have absolutely thrashed the Democrats) I wonder if we can expect a stepping up of the campaign in Iraq? I’m assuming that with the elections due in January, Fallujah and other terrorist hotspots will be targeted- and hopefully the military will be permitted to finish the job. Offering concessions to Sadr was a big mistake- surely the same thing can’t be allowed to happen again. I heard somewhere (must remember to bookmark links!) that Allawi had requested that some of the foreign terrorists the Americans are holding in Iraq be handed over to Iraqi custody- with the aim of showing them on TV so that the Iraqi people see for themselves that these are not insurgents or freedom fighters, they are foreign terrorists with no interest in what’s best for the Iraqi people.

I’ve just heard that three British troops have been killed in Iraq. Given the media frenzy over the Ken Bigley kidnapping (and the anti-war message they included) I’m sure that the Black Watch will come under a lot of pressure in Iraq- Blair’s already under a lot of pressure over the war and with an election of his own to fight soon I’m hoping that he has the resolve to stay the course. Australia and America have just re-elected war leaders, I don’t see why Britain should be any different (especially given the poor state of our Conservative Party- let’s face it, Blair doesn’t have a lot of competition- and the Tories were mostly pro-war too).

Friday, November 05, 2004

Maps

I’ve just found this site which has a fantastic collection of maps available for free- world, countries, even maps of individual US states. A great resource worth having a long look at!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Prediction

I’m waiting on the edge of my seat for the results of the US election to come in. My prediction- Bush will take around 280 electoral colleges to win.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Countdown

One day to the election and the media here in the UK is calling the race a virtual tie- too close to call. I reckon Bush will win the day- despite what Michael Moore and the Daily Mail (an absolutely staggering article painting Christians as intolerant bigots and swing state voters as too monumentally stupid to be allowed to vote- it was in the print Mail on Sunday yesterday but I can’t find an online copy) would have us believe, I don’t think Americans are stupid. I also think that enough will realise that whatever Bush’s faults may be, he’s the country’s best hope for victory in the war on Islamic terrorism. When he is re-elected, it’ll be a relief- and a pleasure to see Kerry fade into the background again.

Of course, when it’s all over I’ll have to find something to read to replace Kerry Haters, Crush Kerry and the Kerry Spot every day.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Diesel Prices

I keep reading- with not a little amazement- about how Americans are shocked and appalled by petrol prices rising past the $2 mark. People, thank your lucky stars you don’t live in the UK. At the moment, depending on what filling station you buy at the price is roughly 86.9p per litre. I’ll say that once more- 86.9p per litre for diesel. That’s $1.59 for a litre of fuel. That works out to a fraction over $6 for a gallon.

Luckily- or not (I’d much rather be in a big Ford F-350)- I drive a small car which runs pretty efficiently despite being nearly ten years old. Because of it’s age I’m also able to run the car on bio-diesel (something modern diesels, like the one my Dad drives, cannot do). This is pretty neat because I can get it for 71.9p per litre- quite a nice saving. That works out at about $4.96 a gallon. So, I’m buying the cheapest fuel available over here and it’s still over twice what most Americans are paying. Needless to say, the vast majority of the price is tax for our socialist government. Even when they promise not to raise taxes, they can always raise duty on fuel. B*****ds.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Book review: Spiral by Andy Remic

I’ve been trying to read as much as possible lately- time permitting- and I’m not doing a very good job of it. I’ve got a little stack of paperbacks on my desk awaiting my attention (mostly fiction but there’s also a Stephen Ambrose book in there I’m really looking forward to) and it’s hard making progress. One book I’ve been slogging through is Spiral by Andy Remic. I bought it because it was billed as a graphically violent thriller about a super-secret organisation which was the world’s last hope against terrorists, etc. It’s set in the near future and that was my first problem with the book. While I’d been expecting something more along the lines of Ton Clancy’s Rainbow Six, I instead was plunged into a world decimated by an engineered plague and ripped apart by terrorism. Now, that’s not the fault of the book, more one of expectation, but it did throw me for a bit. My second problem with is that the action is simply not that convincingly done. For one the author equips this world with antiquated weapons- Sterling SMGs, even an MP40- which just doesn’t sit right with me. If it’s set in the near future, why the hell are they using weapons that aren’t exactly commonplace right now? Maybe that’s a pedantic gripe but I expect a whole heap of realism in my techno-thrillers these days. Not so long ago I read a few of Chris Ryan’s books (and I’m a fan of Andy McNabb’s books too- of the pair he’s the better writer) and after them, this just comes off as amateurish. And there’s my third problem, the writing style felt clunky to me, not at all polished. It’s rare that I don’t finish a book I’ve started but after wading halfway through this I just couldn’t take it any more. It was an effort to read and while the idea for the plot was pretty good, the execution just wasn’t up to it.

All in all not a book that I’d recommend, but if he writes another I’d be prepared to check it out to see if his technical knowledge and style have improved any. For now though, steer clear.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Kerry owes Bush an apology

Will Kerry apologise now that it’s been revealed the explosives were already gone when American troops arrived?

Somehow, I don’t think so.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Resident Evil Apocalypse

I saw Resident Evil: Apocalypse a couple of nights ago and I’m still trying to decide whether or not I like it. First off, it’s not a great movie. It’s not even a great zombie movie. The script is flawed and the action scenes are abominable. Really badly directed. But despite that there’s something likeable about it. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for the video game it’s based on, and another for zombie flicks, but I can’t not like this film. I watched the first movie on DVD after seeing this and I discovered that I like it better than this sequel. Maybe it’s because you can actually get to see the zombies. Something that doesn’t happen in Apocalypse- there, all the action scenes are a blur. There’s even a confrontation with Nemesis (who was very well done I thought- though not as menacing by far as he is in the game) which was so badly done that I don’t think I saw a single part of the fight, just a lot of swirling camera action. Not good. I’m also not too keen on the direction the script took towards the end of the movie- not at all to my taste. Even so, while I was watching I enjoyed it well enough and I’ll most likely add it to my DVD collection when it’s released. It’s not good but not bad either, if that makes any sense.

One thing I will say is that, if anyone is planning a third instalment of the series- play the games. A lot. Then play ‘em some more. The films are supposed to be like the games. The Resident Evil series are great, tension filled, scary games. Make a movie like the game and you’ll be onto a winner. The other option is to base the movie on the books written by S.D. Perry. I’m currently on the third in the series (which is basically the Resident Evil 2 game) and they’re enjoyable romps. Good clean zombie and monster killing fun. If you like the games or the movies, these books are definitely worth checking out.

If you’re into it, there’s a double DVD being released on 28th December of movie one and two. No sign yet of a single Apocalypse release.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Blogs worth reading

I’ve been meaning to update my links lately but every time that I log on to Blogger to do it, I get no joy: Page cannot be displayed. ARGH! It’s pretty infuriating and it happens to me so much that I’ve just about given up using Blogger- I just email my posts it. It keeps my blood pressure down to acceptable levels. Anyway, thanks to John’s Conservative Thoughts I paid a visit to these two sites and I’d like to recommend them both- Blogger permitting they’ll be on my links list shortly.

The first is Head’s Bunker Blog. While he’s been covering some politics lately this guy has a definite liking of firearms. Today he’s got a post about the Beretta Neos .22LR semi-auto. Hopefully there’ll be a write up soon on how it performs. While my personal preference for a .22 pistol will undoubtedly always be the Ruger, this Beretta is a nice looking gun. There’s also a pretty cool gallery of guns. Worth having a browse round. I’ve just had a quick look and there are some nice images of a Yugoslav K98 Mauser.

The second is a joy for a Brit like me to read- Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog. Basically tracks accounts in the press of civilians using guns to defend themselves (but I’ll bet you guessed that from the name of the blog.) Wow. So that’s what it’s like to live in a truly free society. Any Americans reading this- remember, almost every single one of these shootings, if it happened in the UK, would end with the civilian defending him or herself from being prosecuted. Keep fighting for your Second Amendment rights.

So, head along to these two sites and have a read- then add them to your Bookmarks.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Writing stuff

Now that my Other Half has finished her course for this year, it’s my turn to get some peace and quiet and to get back to writing. Last winter I got the bulk of a novel written (there’s only a couple thousand words still to do) and now that I have the time I’m hoping to edit it (which involves re-writing huge chunks) and finally finish it. It’s a tale very much in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs and I’m fairly proud of it. It’s not only the longest thing I’ve written but it’s also the most consistent. My biggest problem as a writer is simply losing interest in a project once I’ve got the plot all figured out and letting the quality of the writing slip badly in an effort to get it out of the way. Not so with this novel, it’s kept me interested all the way through. Re-writing it is going to be a bitch though- some sections need work and it’ll be hard for me not to come up with some new idea while I’m doing that and then veer off on a tangent- making everything which follows obsolete.

In order to get the thing written in the first place I made myself write a minimum of a thousand words a day. Not an awful lot, but an easy enough target to keep to on busy days too. I think that was one of the main things that kept me going and kept me at it. I even kept a log to track what I’d done. I used to only write when I felt like it but with the daily target I found myself in a writing mood all the time- it made it so much easier to blast through the novel and the low target number meant that I almost always was able to beat my goal (and for such a tiny bit of a morale boost, it certainly did work). If anyone asked me for a writing tip, that’d be it- write every day.

I’m hoping that I can get the novel out of the way and then move swiftly onto a series of other stories which I’ve been kicking around these past few months. Lately I’ve been watching some old Hammer horror movies and I’ve also just read the graphic novels 30 Days of Night (too short but, wow, what a story) and The Walking Dead (hey, I told you- I’m a sucker for zombies) and there are a few horror stories I’m looking forward to doing myself. In particular I have a few zombie tales lined up which should be fun to do.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Weight Training Tips

I’m coming down with a dose of the flu at the moment and I feel pretty wretched- what’s worse is that I’m missing workouts. Argh! And things were going so well. Hopefully, this won’t last long and come Monday I’ll be able to start lifting again.

One of the body parts I have a real hard time with in my hamstrings- no matter how well the rest of me is doing I find it really hard to increase the weight I can lift with ‘em. I tried doing a lot of leg curls to no avail. I think stiff legged deadlifts are more effective but that puts a bit of a strain on the lower back which is a big no-no for me. I’ve since been recommended a new exercise, called the glute-ham lift. Basically, it goes like this- kneel down on a mat and have your training partner get a hold of your ankles. Next, keeping your body stiff, lower yourself towards the floor, hands in a press up pose (you’re legs might give out and you’ll need to have your hands ready to stop your face connecting with the floor). I’ve told that at first (and possibly for a while after) you won’t be able to lower yourself all the way to the floor in a controlled manner- once you’re down, give yourself a bit of a push up and come back up. Ouch. Sounds hard, but I’m going to try a few next leg day in the gym and see how it goes.

Another area I don’t like to train is biceps. I just don’t like it- triceps I love. Really love, in fact it’s one of my favourite bodyparts to train and that’s probably why I do quite well with them. Biceps are another matter and recently I decided that enough was enough- time to make them suffer! I’ve tried a variety of combinations over the years but the single most effective bicep exercise, for me anyway, is the preacher curl (I use a cable machine at the moment but when I plateau I’ll switch to a free bar). The great thing about it is that you can’t cheat, you can’t swing the weight. You just have to lift. When I started with this I found I had to drop about ten pounds over the standing curl I was used to, but my biceps have definitely shown improvement. Once again, proper form triumphs.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Debates

No posting for a couple of days- my Other Half has been busy cramming for an exam today (good luck honey!) and Daughter No. 2 has been poorly. Nothing worse than a sick baby.

Last night, purely by chance, I caught the final debate. For some reason I was convinced it was tonight. Good thing I was up late (it began at 2 a.m. here). I thought Bush was good- though he didn’t rebut Kerry enough for my taste. Perhaps it was because it was towards the end of the debate but I thought that Bush should have hammered Kerry over the Assault Weapon Ban question. Correct me if I’m remembering this wrong, but Kerry told a little story about being out hunting with a Sheriff who told him about a drugs bust on a house in which (gasp!) there was an AK-47 present. From what I took of this tale, it happened during the AWB- therefore proving that it didn’t work (and BTW, you could still buy an AK-type weapon during the ban- just one without a flash suppressor- what a totally pathetic piece of legislation). As they say, when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. The other thing about this is that Kerry criticised Bush for not stopping the Sunset. Now, isn’t Kerry a Senator- isn’t it his job to try and pass legislation? Shouldn’t he maybe do what he’s getting paid for (and why hasn’t he quit as Senator- he sure as hell isn’t doing the work he’s supposed to)? If he feels this strongly about it, why the hell didn’t he try to pass it? I wish Bush had got at him about this.

This is the first time I’ve watched the debates so perhaps I’m getting it wrong, but isn’t the Moderator supposed to do a little more than just ask questions? Shouldn’t he also attempt to get the candidates to answer the questions? Kerry’s performance was so appalling because he couldn’t answer a question. Within moments of opening his mouth he’d have gone off the point and begun to criticise Bush, without actually telling the electorate what he himself would do. Guess that’s all the proof you need to see that he doesn’t have any plan. And mentioning Dick Cheney’s daughter? Talk about bad taste. The sooner Bush wins the better.

My Other Half was particularly impressed by Bush’s references to his wife- his story about meeting her and love at first sight- and also by his passion for freedom, for the elections in Afghanistan. I honestly can’t see how anyone could say Kerry won this one.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Weekend Recharge

Yet again I’ve had a busy few days and haven’t had the time to blog. My sister-in-law is in hospital at the moment about to have a baby and it seems to have somehow thrown my routine out of whack- and all we’ve done is baby-sit her boy for a night. One of these days I’ll get organised. Maybe.

Good news is that British Telecom has finally upgraded my local telephone exchange so that it’s now broadband enabled. Now all I have to do is select a reliable ISP. My dial up connection (as well as being horribly slow) has been really bad lately. Sometimes it takes six or more attempts to connect. The only problem with broadband is that I’m going to have to buy myself a bigger hard drive to replace my 40Gb. I’ve seen a few 120Gb drives going for fairly respectable prices so that may fit the bill nicely. I had a hard drive die on me a while back and I lost a hell of a lot of stuff. I back up now and then, but I know that there are folders here and there that haven’t been copied onto disc yet. Going to have to streamline my system first, bin all the rubbish, and then fit the new hard drive and do a fresh Windows install. Try and keep the junk to a minimum.

People gripe about Microsoft all the time but since XP came out I’ve been a happy bunny- as far as I’m concerned it’s as stable as can be. Load up Mozilla to avoid all those nasty Explorer bugs and you’ve good a nice reliable system. It’ll be interesting to see what the next version of Windows is like- I’ll not be putting it on my PC for a while after it’s released. Early adopters never fair well.

I had another good day in the gym today- increases on all my exercises. I’m beginning to adapt pretty well to this too- I’m not feeling quite so knackered by the end of each session. Not that it’s getting any easier, but that’s the joy of weight training; every session is a challenge to be overcome.

Finally, this week coming I’m hoping to organise a few jaunts to the cinema- high on my list of must see movies is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy it despite the presence of Jude Law. Second is Resident Evil: Apocalypse. I have low expectations of this but it’s got zombies in it and so I’m compelled to go see it. Finally, there’s Man on Fire with Denzel Washington. I haven’t formed an opinion on this one, one way or the other, but it’ll always nice to see an action movie on the big screen. Also, it’s one my Dad might be interested in seeing so I’m going to try and talk him into going too. Reviews to follow…

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Hitting the weights

I’m into week three of my weight training regime and it’s going pretty well. This Monday I was able to add another 20kg to my leg press and today I increased my bench and shoulder press by 5kg each. It’s taking its toll on me of course- even though I had a good fitness base from the rowing, there’s nothing quite like weight training to really put your body under intense pressure (if you’re doing it right). Each workout (I’m training three days a week- legs and biceps, chest and shoulders, back and triceps) is just under an hour long but by the time I’m finished I’m totally wiped out. I’m taking Maximuscle’s Viper drink while I train to keep my energy up but even with that I’m struggling come the last exercise. I’d forgotten what hard work lifting weights is.

On the plus side, my Other Half tells me I look more muscular and less fat. I’m feeling stronger and I’m lifting more now than I was when I last trained. Pretty good for only three weeks into the cycle. I reckon it’ll be another month or so before my body is acclimatised to this regime- at the moment I’m a mass of sore and stiff muscles. It’ll take some more time until I get used to the punishment.

The great thing about weight training is that I’m losing fat, eating more (four meals a day with one or two Maximuscle Promax shakes for good measure to keep the protein up) and not having to worry about portion sizes or the like. The only concession I’m making at the moment is restricting my intake of Pepsi (or other fizzy drinks) to one a day. This is my main vice- I don’t tend to eat crisps or chocolate- and I’ll sometimes find myself sinking a tin without thinking. Easier than dieting though. This is the best way to lose fat- eat more and train hard.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

More on Kerry and the debate

So it looks like Kerry brought a pen into the debate with him- so I take back what I said about him needing a cheat sheet. The actual cheating part still stands- and it seems like such a petty thing to do. It's as if he's a stroppy teenager trying to prove he's tough by breaking the rules. But of course, he breaks a really tiny rule, just so he can get away with it and not be in too much trouble.

As for Kerry's "global test" (the only surprising thing about that comment is that he admitted it)- he's looking for legitimacy “not just in the globe, but elsewhere”. Wow. What a surprise the media isn’t over this the way they are whenever Bush mis-speaks. Honestly, I’m not surprised by this one either; I always thought he was a space cadet.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Did Kerry cheat?

I sat up until 4:00 a.m. a few nights ago watching the Bush-Kerry debate. Having followed Kerry’s progress from the primaries I had to admit that he performed better than I expected. Not to say that he was good- just better than I thought he would be. His garbled message still makes no sense in a post-9/11 world. This is not the time or place for a shameless opportunist like Kerry who has no moral backbone.

As for his plans? Well, France and Germany have already announced that they won’t be sending any more troops, Iran doesn’t want his nuclear material (gee, thanks for that plan, John), and China says that the entire international community knows that bilateral talks are not the way to go in N. Korea. So, let me see- what does that leave exactly? His secret plan to bring the troops out of Iraq in six months while concurrently sending up to 40,000 more. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not just a backbone that Kerry’s missing, but a brain too?

One thing that has emerged from the debates (apart from the near hysterical media coverage claiming Kerry won- yeah, he can talk well for ninety minutes and keeps his self-contradictions down to a few, but it doesn’t exactly make up for a 20 year span of…nothing in the Senate) is the claim that Kerry might have cheated by bringing something into the debate with him- perhaps a cheat sheet? While this has been ridiculed by the left as inconsequential (gee, get over it, it’s only a bit of paper) and dismissed by Kerry’s team (“this is just another Republican distraction- step away from our candidate, do not pay attention to our candidate or anything he says; he’s running against Bush don’t you know”) the simple fact of the matter is that if Kerry did indeed bring something in with him it’s cheating. Is this what you want from the POTUS? People constantly claim that Bush “misled” them, that he lied, that he can’t be trusted- well, if Kerry can’t be trusted to abide by rules that he and his team agreed to, how the heck can he be trusted if he makes it into the Oval Office? If he’ll cheat over something as minor as a debate with Bush, then how do you know he isn’t cheating about a whole lot more- Christmas in Cambodia, his medals, throwing his medals away, his medal citations, the meeting to discuss the assassination of a Senator {well, okay, he owned up to this one- after lying about it}, his Chinese Communist assault rifle- need I go on? In fact, on whole, Kerry is the one who had displayed a complete inability to be truthful over the course of this campaign- not George Bush. How do you know he won’t “cheat” a hell of a lot more if he gets into the most powerful office in the world?

The second thing about this possible cheating episode is this- if Kerry needs a cheat sheet to debate with Bush (and as much as I admire the guy I’m the first to admit that he’s not the best debater or public speaker in the world) then how’s he going to cope when he comes up against an antagonistic foreign leader? If he doesn’t know the facts on foreign policy (and I’ll bet there are hundreds of bloggers who can rhyme this stuff straight off the top of their heads, no preparation required)- on his own foreign policy for that matter- then is this really the guy who should be running the world’s most powerful nation? If he doesn’t have the nerve to face down Bush in a simple debate, then how’s he going to perform when the chips are down and something real is at stake- say the safety of America?

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Punisher

I got out to the flicks again tonight, this time to see The Punisher. I’m not a big fan of the comic book but a friend has been excited about the movie and it made me keen to see it on the big screen.

It’s a good movie- good, but not great. Thomas Jane was very good as Frank Castle (although he looks eerily like a clone of Christopher Lambert) and I enjoyed the movie (mission accomplished, say I) but I was left feeling like it could have been better. It feels like a proper traditional action movie, with good old fashioned effects, but it lacked a certain style. There was nothing special to lift it up onto the “next level”. Even a bit of creative cinematography would have been enough to do it but the filming and direction felt a little pedestrian to me- not bad, but not special either. Which is a shame because it was fantastic source material to be working from.

According to the trivia page on IMDB, the movie’s action scenes had to be scaled back or even cut to stay on budget, and knowing that, you can tell that it’s not all it should have been. It’s a shame- personally I would have preferred a little more violence, with a grander shoot-out at the climax. I’m not asking for A Better Tomorrow 2 or anything, but a little bit more flash would have really topped the film off. Nothing fancy, just a bigger shoot-out. It’s a bit like Hellboy- good but should have been better. But go see it anyway. The scenes with the pro from Memphis and the Russian are worth the price of admission/rental.

Tyler Hamilton

As you may have heard, cyclist Tyler Hamilton has tested positive for having a blood transfusion to boost his red blood cell count. EPO, the drug previously used by cyclists before a test was established, has now given way to transfusions- despite the health risks involved. Hamilton is protesting his innocence (I’ve never once heard of an athlete caught with a positive drugs test who actually held his hands up and said, “Yeah, it’s a fair cop- I was cheating.”) and disputing the new test but according to this New Scientist article the test seems to be pretty accurate.

I was really disappointed when I heard about Hamilton’s positive test because he’s shown that he was a good strong rider when he was with UPS and Lance Armstrong, and I had hopes that he’d be a Tour contender himself someday. If he is positive- and it looks pretty sure that he is- all I can say is that it’s a shame that he won’t be stripped of his Athens medal too (he tested positive on his first test but the second test from Athens couldn’t be completed because it had been incorrectly stored).

Van Helsing

I just watched this movie on DVD and it was a huge disappointment. This is not a good film. The effects are almost totally unrealistic looking CGI (please, give me a man in a Wolf Man costume next time, not some crappy computer effect), the script was juvenile, the dialogue stilted and that's just for starters.

I love the original Universal pictures that this movie took its inspiration from (Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man are beloved classics), but the makers seem to have no love or understanding of the genre. The actor playing Dracula was awful, really bad, looking more like an old queen than the epitome of evil. This was a really dreadful bit of miscasting. The Wolf Man was a sorry excuse for a special effect- looking much less convincing than the original from the thirties. Have these people never seen American Werewolf in London- don't they know how it's supposed to be done? The Brides of Dracula spent most of the film as flying harpies that couldn't compete with a Ray Harryhausen effort and were neither seductive nor sexy. Frankenstein's monster was just pathetic. Jeez, if they could rig up Boris Karloff to be the Monster back in the '30s, why on earth did we end up with this sorry being? Herman Munster was scarier- and, again, more convincing.

As for the two leads of the film- Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale; Hugh seems to have had his personality wiped for this feature (he was so good as Wolverine, but he just didn't do anything for this role, though that could be entirely the fault of the awful script and poor direction) while Kate looked as bad as I've ever seen her look. She was supposed to be a gypsy princess but dressed like an extra from Pirates of the Caribbean and her make-up seemed to have been applied in such a way as to make her look older and less attractive than she actually is.

As I've been writing I've been trying to think of some redeeming quality to this film, but none spring to mind. At a few points it mimicked Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula (which is what it should have been called, because it most certainly wasn't Bram Stoker's vision), but that only served to show how bad this is. Coppola's film was by no means perfect but it got so much right- the Brides, the outstanding Gary Oldman as Dracula, the great sets- that it can be forgiven for Anthony Hopkins crappy overacting. No, nothing about Van Helsing strikes me as being good, or for that matter, even average. I didn't like the opening sequence with Jekyll and Hyde- it just made me think of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (a decidedly mundane film, but an awesome graphic novel) and came a poor second to it too. I didn't even like Van Helsing's full auto crossbow. Come on guys, if you're going to give him a Q sidekick, at least come up with some cool gadgets.

Sorry, but this film disappointed me on so many levels that I can't give it any recommendation. The only plus point I can conceive is that it might make me jot down a few thoughts of my own- on what the script should have been like.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Oompa Loompa-gate

This was just too funny to pass up- Kerry’s sudden and miraculous “real” tan turns him into an Oompa Loompa.

Blogs for Bush also quotes Kerry advisers as stating that the tan came from Kerry playing football -he’s a great sportsman you know *chuckle*.

If they can’t even tell the truth about a little fake tan, can you imagine what sort of presidency he would have?

The world makes a little less sense

This is the kind of dumbass, crazy thing I’d expect from Europe. Oakland cops are being prevented from setting up roadblocks to stop DUI because, and I’m not making this up, it upsets illegal immigrants. No, seriously. They’ve been stopped because they were catching people who have broken the law.

One of the ‘solutions’ to this problem is for the police to notify the Latino community when they will be setting up the checkpoints- thus warning illegal aliens but also anyone planning on having a drink before going for a drive. WTF?!?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

"Allies" say 'no' to Iraq

Le Fraud must have been wishing that no one from France or Germany (who somehow seem to make up America’s allies- as a citizen of the UK this alone would be enough to make me detest Kerry) would comment on his plans to include them in the “quagmire” which is Iraq. Unfortunately for him, someone has spoken up- with French and German officials pointing out that they will not increase military assistance to Iraq, even if Kerry is elected. Now, to a regular rational person, this is not a surprise or a shock- we’ve known it all along. Hell, even Kerry knew it- which is why his plan was a secret, because it’s a crock. His only stance on Iraq now (and surely he’s running out of time to change tack again) is withdrawal and defeat, surrender to the Islamo-fascist murderers. I’m sure that’ll go over well with the electorate.

Maybe Kerry should have done the decent thing and, once the war began, supported the troops and the plan. He could still have fought Bush without having to hope for, and then plan, the military defeat of the United States. The War on Terror is not going to be over in four years time- are the next batch of Democrat hopefuls going to realise that they can campaign against a Republican on domestic issues, while agreeing on remaining steadfast in the face of global terrorism? I wonder what Kerry’s poll numbers would be like now if he had voted for the money for the war, if all through the campaign he had signalled his clear intention to continue the war that Bush has been fighting since September 11? Better than they are now, that’s for sure. The appeasement monkeys of the left might shout pretty loud, but they’re a small minority of the Democratic faithful. I’m sure that an awful lot more want America to be victorious, want America to remain strong and safe. Right?

Bush and Vietnam

It now looks like Bush volunteered to join a fighter squadron heading out to Vietnam during his time in the National Guard, but he was turned down because he didn’t have the necessary flight time. I’m not expecting this to get much coverage in the MSM because it not only ruins the “Fortunate Son” image the Dems are trying to paint of Bush, but Col. Ellison also states that Bush served all the time he was required to.

Has CBS (and the rest of the loony left for that matter) apologised to the President yet?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Kerry's Gun

I blogged a few days ago about John Kerry’s Communist Chinese assault rifle- well, I’m not the only one whose interest was piqued and Michelle Malkin has a follow up story on the subject here. It seems that John Kerry not only says things that he doesn’t mean because of his speech writers, but he also says things which aren’t true, because his staff fill in his questionnaires for him- complete with Vietnam references;

"My favorite gun is the M-16 that saved my life and that of my crew in Vietnam," said Mr. Kerry, a veteran, according to the October issue. "I don't own one of those now, but one of my reminders of my service is a Communist Chinese assault rifle."

This sounds so screwy to me that I’m having trouble believing that Kerry isn’t campaigning for the Very Silly Party and not the Democrats (or maybe they’re one and the same?). Are we to believe that the Kerry campaign staffers just make this sh*t up?

It seems more likely to me that Kerry tried to get in another ‘I was in Vietnam’ moment, with his trademark “exaggeration” and he got caught out on the lie. Maybe he got the assault rifle in Cambodia? Maybe he got it when he was given his CIA hat? Now his campaign is claiming that he doesn’t own an assault rifle, just a shotgun and a bolt action rifle which has never been fired (is that statement for the anti-gun types?).

Wow. Did Kerry do a lot of drugs when he got back from Nam? Because it certainly looks like he’s detached from reality right now.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Concept 2 does it again

I hit the gym yesterday for my second weights session, this time targeting my biceps and legs. The two muscle groups that I hate training are the so-called vanity muscles- the chest and biceps. I was therefore not particularly surprised to find that my biceps are a little weaker than they were a year and a half ago when I last did weights regularly- though I was surprised that I had the strength in them that I do. It was only by a margin of around ten pounds less that I was lifting and part of the reason I didn’t do so well is that my triceps are still aching from my first workout. All in all, pretty good.

When I moved onto my legs however I was really shocked by how tough the leg extension exercise was. Wow, but my quads were burning when I was done. My main exercise is the leg press (because of my damaged back I can’t squat anymore) and I was pleased to find that I could press 120kg (plus whatever the footplate weighs- I think it’s another 20kg). I was tempted to go higher but I didn’t want to do too much first time out.

Rowing is obviously a fantastic exercise- in a matter of weeks doing it I’ve regained virtually all the strength I had before a long lay off due to my back injury; and I was unable to exercise for about a year. I’ve written before on how effective the Concept 2 rower is but it’s really gone up in my estimation after these gym sessions. This is one seriously good bit of kit.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Snippets

Two stories today that I felt I had to comment on- I’m steering clear of Kerry and co. and their absolutely staggering insults to Prime Minister Allawi because it just doesn’t seem possible that anyone could be so stupid (but the Kerry seems to be plumbing new depths as each week of the campaign goes past).

First up, a little bit of movie news- plans are afoot for Terminator 4 with the possibility of a small appearance by the Governator. I hope that they can pull this off because I’ve a soft spot for this franchise and it’ll be interesting to see how they cope without Arnie. Maybe Vin Diesel could be brought in to play a Terminator?

Second, is this nonsense. Even though he’s never failed a drugs test and has legitimately won the Tour de France a record six times, a company charged with paying Lance Armstrong a $5 million bonus is refusing to cough up- because of a book which claims he’s taken drugs. At the time of the Tour I can recall hearing about this book and its claims- none of which have been proven. In the Tour the yellow jersey wearer, the top three finishers and also some random cyclists are drug tested every day as far as I know. So Lance was drug tested quite a lot this Tour and never once failed a test. That this company is refusing to pay out now is ridiculous and an insult to a great sporting hero. I hope Lance sues the hell out of them for this.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Snubbie 45 and some others

This month's Combat Handguns (November) has a neat article on Smith and Wesson's 325PD, a snub-nosed .45ACP revolver. At first I wasn't sure about this little bulldog gun with its two-tone finish, lovely cocobolo grips and hi-viz foresight (they might work but they just look weird); it just didn't look right. By the time I'd finished reading the article however I was sold. It might look a bit odd but it's a nice little .45- a four-pound single action pull, machined for a lanyard attachment (hey, maybe that just appeals to me, but it's a nice touch), Airlite weight (Scandium and Titanium- hence the dual finish) and, most importantly, big bore performance in a concealable package.

The 1911 .45 has got to be one of the best pistols for defensive shooting available and this 325PD would make a nice partner to the semi-auto. Taurus make a nice 2 inch barrelled .45ACP revolver but it's a five shot model, as opposed to Smith's six shooter. I'm becoming more and more of a fan of Taurus the more I hear about them and this .45 looks to be a pretty neat package too. If a five-shot .45 tickles your fancy then why not check out some other Taurus options- in the venerable .45 Long Colt of course! They have four compact options- the Tracker Model 455, the Total Titanium 450, the Model 450 and the Ultra-Lite 450. All very nice guns. .45 ACP is probably the optimum self-defence round but I've got a real soft spot for the Long Colt and these modern snubbies are a great platform for it.

Speaking of the 45 Long Colt (once I'm started etc.) how's this for a lovely piece of hardware? I've got to admit that I've never been a fan of the legendary Colt .45, much preferring Ruger's single actions with their modern sights, but as I get older I seem to be becoming more of a conservative and traditionalist- this colour case blued Ruger Bisley Vaquero is just a lovely gun (even better when you see the actual 4 and five eighths barrel) and it's enough to make me look again at the Colt design. This is very nice indeed.

Now, how about a .45 Long Colt Redhawk with this low glare stainless finish?

Getting back in the swing of things

Hard to believe that I haven’t blogged since Tuesday! Been out and about a fair bit this week. Thanks to my sister-in-law my Other Half and I not only got out to the cinema Wednesday but also for dinner. The meal was delicious and the movie- Dodgeball- was hilarious. I was mighty pleased by this film, much funnier than I had expected it to be. A fair bit of physical humour was involved which brought me to mind of about the only Adam Sandler movie I like (Happy Gilmore), but also some great lines. The only flaw with the film was Ben Stiller’s dialogue- his idiot gym owner just wasn’t that funny- okay, the opening ad scene was great and he had a few moments throughout the film, but it was more miss than hit. Rip Torn’s character was great and there were a whole bunch of cameos. All in all, one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long, long time.

I also managed to get permission to sneak out of the house Tuesday to hook up with a mate of mine to go see Collateral. A nice thriller, with two solid performances from Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. Cruise was superb as the amoral hitman and the movie was beautifully filmed. It’s no Heat, and I found a couple of the plot turns fairly unconvincing but aside from that it was very enjoyable. The ending felt like a bit of a let-down to me but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the film. Along with the cinematography Cruise was the best thing about this- and I’m no big Cruise fan. The action sequences were very well done and had a certain authentic feel to them- no big flashy pyrotechnics just some rapid fire shooting. Nice.

I’m being spoiled by all these good movies recently- and Sky Captain has yet to open here!

Yesterday I hit the gym for the first time in about a year and a half and went straight into my standard back and triceps routine. I took a bottle of Viper along with me but even so I was flagging by the end of the workout. The surprising thing though is that my strength is still pretty much where it was way back then (or for a few exercises, better!). Obviously the rowing I’ve been doing has been more beneficial than I thought. I do a Wide Grip Pulldown and V-grip Pulldown on the cable machine and on both I was able to equal the weight I used to handle, while on the seated row I was able to exceed my previous by an extra 10 pounds and a couple extra reps. My triceps were also stronger on the Lying French Press (AKA the skullcrusher) but come my final exercise (cable triceps pushdown) my tiredness was beginning to tell and I just about managed to equal my previous weight limit. All in all a very satisfying workout. Today my triceps and lats are a little sore (I was expecting much worse) but my lower (bad) back is killing me. I had planned to take my Other Half and kids a quick run into town to do a little shopping but I’m not sure I’m fit even to drive at the moment, let alone walk around the shops. But, hell, it was worth it to lift heavy bits of metal again!

BTW, Shaun of the Dead is opening in the States this week. I’m not sure how the humour will translate across the Pond, but I thought it was hilarious- it’s also a very good zombie movie with some terrific scenes and even “proper” acting in some serious moments from the lead, Simon Pegg. I saw the DVD of this not so long ago and it’s jolly good fun. If you see it and like it then make sure to check out Simon Pegg’s TV show, Spaced. A fantastic sit-com chock full of movie references.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Kerry's Assault Rifle

Kerry seems to stuck in Vietnam- he won’t let the subject drop when it comes to his campaign and now he’s saying that he still owns a Chinese Communist assault rifle- all the while supporting the Assault Weapon Ban for lesser mortals than himself.

Either he’s lying about owning this weapon or he has one (perhaps illegally). What are the chances the MSM will cover this one?

I won’t hold my breath.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Couple more movie reviews

Thanks to my sister-in-law offering to baby-sit I now have the opportunity to get out to the cinema fairly regularly. Tuesday night my Other Half and I went to see Hellboy. Now, while I’m aware of the comic book the movie’s based on I’ve never actually sat down to read it and so I went into the film with virtually no expectations. I can honestly say it’s a good movie- I want to say that it’s great, but something’s missing. What it is I can’t quite say but it doesn’t quite make it into 5 star territory- 4 stars definitely but it just falls short. Which is a real shame because it’s a fabulous idea- during World War 2 Nazis summon a demon but are foiled and the demon is raised by the US, working for an ultra secret branch of the FBI fighting supernatural threats (and any film/book about evil Nazis and the supernatural already has me interested).

Ron Perlman is superbly cast as Hellboy and I can’t fault him at all. There’s also a nice vein of humour running through the film and the supporting actors all do their jobs well. To cap all that Hellboy even packs an oversized (big big-bore) revolver called the Samaritan. A big red guy with filed down horns, a stone hand and a gigantic gun- surely a recipe for success? But even the Chthonic chaos gods can’t quite lift the film into the realms of greatness and I left the film feeling a little let down. That’s not to say that it’s not an enjoyable romp, because it is and I will go see to see the sequel when it’s released, but I was expecting more from director Guillermo del Toro. Let’s hope it’s all sorted come 2006 when Hellboy 2 hits the big screen.

Another film I watched recently is the Korean action flick Volcano High- wowzers! This film is awesome. Based around a high school it features all sorts of amazing fight sequences between it’s super-chi-powered students and teachers and out-Matrixes The Matrix. There are some great fight scenes in this movie and some great special effects. This is one for any fan of fight films- don’t be put off by its Korean roots. If you like over-the-top action mixed in with a little goofiness then this is the film for you. I was mighty impressed by this one, it’s a delight to watch.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

.50 Cal 1911

The 1911 pistol and the .45ACP round it is chambered for have proven themselves time after time to be highly effective “problem solvers”, but there are always people looking to improve on this classic design and cartridge. One recent development is for a 1911 pistol chambered for a new round- the .50 GI. That’s right folks, a .50 cal 1911 is available! Now, there might not be an overwhelming requirement for such a round (and I’m sure Jeff Cooper will comment on this development as being totally unneeded) but for fans of big-bore handguns (of which I most certainly number myself) this is good news.

The latest edition of Guns and Ammo (October) has a small review of Guncrafter’s .50 GI pistol. Even next to a .45ACP round, the .50 GI looks surprisingly chunky and the gun can put out a 300-grain bullet at a fairly sedate 700fps- but at half an inch across that’s going to make a big hole. It can also purportedly be loaded up to put that same 300-grain projectile out at up to 900fps, but I’m sure controllability will suffer greatly with such a hot load.

The gun itself seems to be built to tight tolerances with a match grade barrel and match tuned four pound trigger pull- but in the G&A review they were not overly impressed by the groups they fired, blaming the ammo- although the author admitted this was a common problem in early production runs. A standard .45 cannot be customised to fire .50 GI due to the size of the new round but a .50 GI can be adapted to handle .45ACP. At nearly $3000 it’s not cheap but the development of a new round is always good news I feel- it may turn out that it doesn’t work as advertised but I’m sure that before long someone will take note of it and then try to improve on it. Maybe this could start a trend in big-bore 1911s?

Rathergate

The Rathergate scandal over the forged documents about Bush’s National Guard duty continues- with the documents debunked as forgeries and with CBS still denying any wrongdoing or fault. How they expect to get away with it is beyond me. Do they think that the topic will just be dropped if they stonewall for long enough? What we have here is a major media outlet producing a story based on falsified documents to discredit a serving president during a time of war. Surely CBS can’t get away with it? Not only should Rather be fired immediately but legal charges must be pressed. What is this- libel? Treason?

To keep up to date with what’s happening check out NRO’s Kerry Spot page for all the latest news on this important story.