Match video and commentary from the Michigan State IDPA Match

I traveled to Brooklyn, MI this past weekend to particiapte in my first sanctioned / State level match (truth be told, I was already in the area for work, but that was just a lucky coincidence).  It was the Michigan State match held at the Brooklyn Sportsmans Club.  It was a great facility and a wonderful match.

Going in I wanted to work on accuracy and stage planning.  I had a few shining moments on the accuracy side, but overall (as my points down attests) it was not my most accurate performance.  Of course more than 25% of my points down came from one stage (as well as almost half of my PE + FTN + Hit Not Threat points)…and that was what I consider a “non-traditional IDPA” memorization style stage.  Not making excuses – I still should have had a plan and made my shots.

I tried something different with the video this time: voice over.  I tried to analyze my own game footage.  It may be mostly valuable to me as a training aid, but I thought I would share it here in case (a) it might help someone else or (b) someone might see something I can do to improve that I missed.  Comments in both directions welcome.

 

Match video from this weekend’s IDPA match

Haven’t been posting a lot here (epic summer in progress…coming to an end shortly).  But I was able to grab some match footage from this weekend’s IDPA match at Lloyd’s WMA in Critteden, KY.  It wasn’t my best match, but I still learned a few things:

  1. Always have a stage plan.  This couldn’t come at a better time since I am competing in the MI state match this coming weekend.  Stage planning will be key. I’ll be spending at least 30 minutes the next few nights going over my stage plans for the 11 stages in the match.
  2. Always make sure you have enough ammo…and go back to your bag when you don’t.  I added at least 5 seconds to my score for an FTN in stage 4 since I ran it only with 10+1 and a reload of 10…and it was an 18 round minimum stage.
  3. I need to work on my accuracy.  Due to a scoring issue, I had to do some manual manipulation of the scoring and forgot to multiple the points down by half (instituting the long rumored 1 second penalty by accident).  In those results I came in 10th.  When I re-calculated with the (currently) correct half second penalty, I moved up to sixth.  The 1 second penaty is coming…I need to get prepared.

Who wants to open a non-school school with me in Northern Kentucky?

About a month ago I attended a presentation by Ken Danford on Liberated Learners / North Star Teens.  Since then, I can’t get an idea out of my head: I’d love to be part of starting one of these in the Northern Kentucky / Greater Cincinnati area.  To be completely transparent, my motivations are three-fold:

  1. I would love for this to be available to my son has he finishes up the next 3-4 years before he takes his next step (college, travel, work or some combination of all three)
  2. I would love to be able to be part of something like this, not only when my son would be taking part, but potentially as a long-term “second act” career / calling.
  3. I would love for this sort of resource to be available to my community to make it easier for parents and teens (more on that later) to make the decision to take responsibility for their own education.

I won’t repeat everything about the Liberated Learners model.  You can read that for yourself on their site.  But I there are a few things I really like about the approach:

  • It’s specifically targeted at teens.  The thinking being that it’s the HS years that can benefit the most from a group setting with more resources available.
  • It’s a pay for what you want model.  You can join at everything from a 1 day a week to a 4 day a week plan (most centers are specifically closed on Wednesday’s to make you do something other that school ;-).
  • It’s learner lead without a lot of central control / structure.  There are all the benefits of the Sudbury model without some of the downsides.

So I’m stoked.  But I also know that there is no way I could get something like this started on my own.  So here’s what I am looking for: six to eight families / parents / learners who are interested enough in opening a Liberated Learners style center in NKY that they will agree to:

  • participate in the “Intro to the Model” Google Hangout that is offered by the Liberated Learners org to give an overview of the model and answer our questions (I will cover the small fee they ask for)
  • meet face to face shortly thereafter to decide if there is enough of a core group that is interested enough to take some next steps (and to decide what those steps should be…visit a center?…build a business case?…etc).

No commitment beyond a few hours of time.  Before posting this I reached out directly to a few people I though would be interested and already have a small group, but I am looking for a few more.  So, take a look at the Liberated Learners site (specifically the page I linked to above), do some basic research, share with any of your friends that might be interested and then look in your heart and let me know if this calls to you as strongly as it does to me.

 

 

Free Will Revisited

I wrote about my thoughts on Sam Harris’ book Free Will in a post as few months back.  It troubled me at the time that his basic argument seemed to be that since we can’t know all option and control all inputs / our reactions them that it means we can’t control anything.

In the most recent episode of his podcast, Dr. Harris got to sit down with another famed atheist philosopher, Daniel Dennett, who, as best as I can tell, agrees with me.  Validation!

As I listened, I can’t help but think that what Dennett seems to grasp (although never naming it this) is the concept expressed in the realm of mathematics by Goedel’s paradox: any formal system can be either complete or consistent.  If this idea also applies to non-mathematical formal systems, like free will, Harris seems to want it to be both, while Dennett seems to grasp that there is a pratical approach to free will: we have control over some things and should do our best with those rather than chase after all the things we can’t.  Dennett seems quite stoic on this point actually.

I’m just an amateur at all of this (philoshophy and mathematics), so I admit there may be a lot disucssed that is sailing stright over my head and I may also be making some extremely tenuous connections.  However, it’s discussions like this that make me love the podcasting medium all the more.

Will we learn this time?

School may be out for summer in many parts of the country, but there are stil plenty of lessons to be learned from this year’s political morass.  We’ve learned that the two party system is not actually a feature of our government.  We’ve learned that the two parties are actually private entities and can do whatever they want.  We’ve learned that we actually do get the government we deserve.  And most recently we’ve learned that the rule of law is a myth.

This has to be music to the ears of John Hasnas?  Hasnas published a paper more than 20 years ago making this claim.  But based on the comments I’ve seen on yesterday’s news, I wonder if anyone but me ever read it. So many people shocked, shocked I say, that the FBI chose not to indict, usually with some comment about the “rule of law”.

What shocks me is that anyone is shocked.  More than 20 years have passed since Hasnas wrote his paper.  While I know it may seem a bit long in the age of memes, he lays out a pretty elegant case supporting his basic argument (emphasis added):

I would argue that this ability to maintain the belief that the law is a body of consistent, politically neutral rules that can be objectively applied by judges in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary goes a long way toward explaining the citizens’ acquiescence in the steady erosion of their fundamental freedoms. To show that this is, in fact, the case, I would like to direct your attention to the fiction which resides at the heart of this incongruity and allows the public to engage in the requisite doublethink without cognitive discomfort: the myth of the rule of law.

You may be saying to yourself, “Wait, if there is no rule of law, then we’ll just revert to the rule of man, which was so terrible / arbitrary that we invented the rule of law to get away from it to have something more fair and consistent.” Hasnas argues that in fact we deceived ourselves when we created the idea of the rule of law, since who creates and inteprets that laws?  Man.  Confucios said:

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.

By investing the concept of the rule of law, we’ve lost sight of what is really going on.  The decision to not indict is a wake up call.  Everyone is so bothered by it since it is htting on the dissonance between what we beleive to be true and what we actually see demonstrated in our reality.  It’s not all doom though – Hasnas does offer a solution.  But you’ll have to read the paper to find out what it is.

What we can learn about freedom from a 19th century Russian author. 

UPDATE: for those of you that clicked on the link and thought “TL;DR” (does anyone actually think in acronyms?), there is a dramatic reading that you can listen to.

I spent the morning coffee time re-reading the “Grand Inquisitor” chapter in The Brothers Karamazov”. While many see it as a screed against the Catholic Church by their opposition (that is the Eastern Orthodox Church), I think it’s far more interesting when viewed through the lens of how some who seek to rule value / view human freedom. Many have said that Dostoyevsky predicted what would become of his own country in the century following the publication of his book, but those that seek power seem to have universal qualities that make much of what he wrote very real to the west as well.

I know it’s long, and the language is somewhat difficult…and there are fireworks, BBQ and beer to be consumed. But on this day that’s supposed to be about freedom and independence, at least book mark the link to the text above to read sometime later. If we don’t understand what something is, how can we celebrate it?

Porcfest XIII retrospective

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I wanted to get to posting something sooner, but had to leave for China about 10 hours after I got home last Sunday.  Actually this is earlier than it would have been otherwise courtesy of a seemingly monstrous weather system across the east coast which has delayed the last leg of my flight home for at least 18 hours.  I was lucky enough to get a hotel last night (expense accounts can be useful, especially when hotels are raping you charging surge pricing), but things are still up in the air this morning, so rather than continuing to refresh my Delta app in the hopes that a direct flight will magically appear I’ll collect and share my thoughts on this year’s Free State Project Porcupine Freedom Festival, aka Porcfest.

This year was the 13th running of Porcfest, but only the third that I have attended.  That doesn’t quite make me a veteran, but I’m also not a newbie.  A (be)tweener maybe?  Porcfest has been described a lot of different ways: libertarian burning man, libertarian paradise or a temporary autonomous zone.  All of those are true to the people that wrote them.  To me Porcfest is a chance to see the principles of liberty in action.  To live in a free society, even for a week, to get a feel for what it would be like.  This year, as in the two prior, I come away convinced that it can work, that it won’t be easy, and that most of us live with less freedom each day than we imagine.

The biggest thing I learned last year is that each one is different and this year’s certainly served to reinforce that idea.  The biggest positive change was the large increase in the number of families in attendance.  While the nightly festival wide bonfire is still a bit of a sausage fest, the rest of the campground was a pretty even split between men, women and children. Some I talked to likened it to when Vegas tried to go “kid friendly” (if you’ve been to Vegas lately you know they’ve long since abandoned that idea), but I saw it as a huge positive. This is one of the hopeful signs I am taking away: families are a lot more likely to stay involved over the long haul.  Even more, children raised to both know and love liberty will spread it to their friends and pursue it their whole lives.

Still on the positive side, I was able to live for almost the whole week on bitcoin.  Other than my trip to the Shaw’s in Lancaster to pick up groceries for the week, all the rest of my purchases were done via the stateless currency.  Honestly buying firewood, bullet proof coffee, BBQ, etc. with bitcoin is enough reason to go to Porcfest in and of itself.

So now to some of the negatives.  Another big change this year was a perceptible (by me anyway) drop off in attendance, energy and speakers.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining.  I still had a great time and will be back again next year.  But it seemed obvious to me that there were fewer people there, the overall energy level was down a notch or two from the previous could years (I actually liked it) and the speakers were not nearly as educational or engaging (something that I was not alone in noticing).

I am sure there are a lot of reasons for this, but of course the elephant in the room is the shunning of Ian which resulted in some portion of his supporters boycotting the event.  I fully support both the statements that Ian made which purportedly resulted in the shunning AND the right of the FSP to shun him for those statements.  I still have a huge stack of books to read before I can cite Rothbard chapter and verse, but I have read enough to know that the right of free association is pretty central to a free society.  What we got to see this year is that shunning is hard and it has consequences.

While I am categorizing this is the “con” column, I think long term this rift will be a good thing.  As others have said before, there is more than one path to liberty.  It reminds me a little of my bees when they swarm.  Eventually the hive gets too crowded and so some of the workers decide to make a new queen.  When she hatches the hive swarms  (after she goes around and stings all the other queens still in their cells to death…that part of it doesn’t remind me of anything in this story ;-).  Half of the workers go with the new queen and half stay behind with the old queen.  The new queen / workers have a tough go of it for a while, but if they find a good place to build a new hive (or are captured by a friendly bee keeper like yours truly) then in a year or so both the new and old hives are back up to full strength.  The bee keeper won’t get as much honey as he would have if they hadn’t swarmed that year, but he’ll get twice as much the following year.  So I think with time, the split will give us all more liberty, not less.

The question that everyone asks at Porcfest is “when can we expect to see you in New Hampshire?”  After all the event seems designed to give people a little taste of what it’s like to live there all year long.  I am still on the fence about getting a place in NH (not necessarily moving full time, but giving my family some options), but I have decided that I won’t sign on with the FSP.  That has nothing to do with the specific issue above, but rather what that issue made clear to me: the FSP is a political organization.  And I’m just not in to politics.  I don’t begrudge those that want to try to achieve liberty through political means.  However, I think there are far less treacherous and far more effective ways for me to achieve liberty in my lifetime.  That may include spending more time in NH, but it won’t involve trying to vote my way to freedom.

Each Porcfest is different.  And I’ll be back next year to see how.

Travel anxiety reduction in the age of the smart phone. 

This post comes to you from seat 30D (yes…a middle aisle seat on a 767) of Delta flight 229 from Paris to Cincinnati. No, I didn’t spring for the crazy expensive expensive international wifi. Nope, they particular plane I am in is broken and awaiting a part so I decided to share some quick learnings from our (hopefully) soon to be completed trip to Russia. 
I had to be in Russia for business and we decided at the start of the year that my family would tag along. None of us had ever been to Russia before so we figured it was an opportunity for a good experience with three company picking up at least part of my expenses. 
My first trip overseas came when I was 12. I traveled to Austria and Switzerland with my family as part of the Cincinnati boy’s choir. A few years later I struck out on my own and visited Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France as part of a 6 week bicycle trip that my high school made every four years. Since then I have been to both Europe and Asia nearly 100 times. All that is to say that I consider myself to be a reasonably experienced traveler. However, until very recently there were still a few things that gave me anxiety during a trip. A few apps, an unused/ carrier unlocked iPhone 5, and a local sim card with a data plan solved all of them for me on our trip to Russia. 
Where to stay? My hostel days are behind me (for now anyway. Do they have old people hostels I can use when I’m retired?). For most tourists this means staying in a hotel. There are two classes in most cities: global chains and local spots. The local spots can be hit and miss and the global chains are usually so comfortably western that you don’t feel like you’ve left the country. The answer: AirBNB. We booked all of our lodging with AirBNB this time and had great experiences. The same rules apply to buying something on Amazon: only go for things with lots of good (and real) reviews and you should be safe. AirBNB is not just an app of course,but their app experience is very well thought out. You can do everything from browse and select a place to stay to get directions to your booking and message with your host. 

How get around? While this is second on the list it is concise tilt the source of the most anxiety, whether traveling for business or pleasure. Cabs are a constant, but the payment methods they accept are not. I can’t tell you how many cabs I’ve gotten into, asked if they take plastic, received an affirmative response, taken a rise then, upon arriving, the credit card machine is mysteriously broke and we’re on the look for an ATM. Even when I do have cash, there is always the small worry that traffic, the rate or the distance will cause the final tally to exceed what I’ve got on hand. The answer: Uber. We used Uber exclusively for all ground transport and every ride was perfect. True, we tried to use it for a 1 mile trip from one attraction to another that we didn’t want to walk in the rain to see that resulted in three consecutive cancels, but all he rides we did go one couldn’t have gone better. The cars were clean. The drivers were nice. They knew where we were going before we go in, avoiding any miscommunications or “extra” sightseeing to fatten the tab. When we arrived we just got out of the car,grabbed our bags and headed off. No worries about broken credit card machines (although I do always try to to remember to tip my Uber drivers – they are providing a great service afterall) and when the bill shows up in the app a few minutes later, it’s nearly always half of what I would expect a can to have cost. Major anxiety killer there. (Small hat tip on this point to Google maps which now let’s you download areas to your phone, so even without local cell service you can use your phone for walking directions. I loaded this with maps of both Moscow and St Petersburg on my kids phones and then saved the location of our apartments. Even without service, they could fire up their phones and always get directions to where we were staying if they got separated for some reason). 

Where to eat? What to see? I limo these two together since they are both forms of the question “how should I allocate my relatively limited vacation time to get the most out of it?”. Where to get good food, which for me means a ocombinationof value and local flavor and what things to go see (recognising that no one can see it all) are persistant questions, especially when I am visiting someplace for the first time. The answer: TripAdvisor. Of all the apps on this list I’ve been using this site and app the longest. At first for restaurant recommendations (even when traveling domestically) but more and more I’ve been using the “Things to do” section. We used it in Moscow to make the final decision on what to see in the last few hours before we left and actually booked our guided tours of The Hermitage and Peterhof Summer Palace directly through the app. The key feature is the reviews. You can see what everyone else thinks both quantitatively and qualitatively. Add in the bonus of being able to download cities (so you don’t need a data connection) and “find things near me now” and you have no more excuses to eat at McDonalds or go to the local mall. 

What’s that say? I, along with most Americans (or at least most with a passport) am ashamed to admit that really only know one language (and my friends in the UK woul argue that point). I have picked up taxi/bar/restaurant German after nearly a decade of trips there. I know less French and Italian. And I knew no Russian until I got there. (First phrase I learned: thank you). Compounding the issue is the Cyrillic alphabet (my days in there fraternity actually helped a bit here). The answer: Google translate. Many are familiar with what web site version of this or the chrome prompt that comes up when you visit a site that isn’t in your preferred language. For traveling though, the app is the bomb for one simple reason: it can access the camera on your phone and translate in screen whatever is looking at. Point it at the menu and you’ll never order deep fried monkey testicles again (unless of course that is what you wanted). No more walking in the out door or into the opposite gender bathroom (at least in places where there are gender based bathrooms…not so common in Europe and yet they also seem to have a lack of cross gender restroom predation…but I digress). It is the most mind blowing of all the apps here. I suggest you get it now, find something in a foreign language and try it in camera mode right now. I’ll wait. I do think it also offers an offline mode too although I didn’t test this). 

We have another trip coming up in a month+, this time to Ireland We’re renting a car and I’m told most of them speak English so no need for Uber or Google translate. But we will be using TripAdvisor, Google maps and all our overnights have been booked through Airbnb. Any other must have travel apps? Leave a comment. 
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Update : the short delay turned into a long one. Still here 6 hours later. Looking for parts. 

Slow is fast, except when it isn’t

I shot an IDPA classifier this past weekend. It was a bit of a cluster.  I’ve been pretty busy so I had little time to prepare, much less practice, which resulted in me having to shoot my Glock 35 rather than the HK VP9 which I’ve been using as my match gun for the last year or so since all I had sorted, cleaned and ready to load was 40s&w brass and components.  Lack of prep time included the day of the classifier, since I had to drive back from Columbus the morning of the match and head straight to the range.

Since I wasn’t prepped mentally and didn’t have my preferred setup, I decide to shoot it as an experiment: what would happen if I forced myself to go really slow.  Could I improve my points down enough to make up for the extra time on the clock.

Here are the results from the classifier I show last Nov, the first I did with my HK VP9:

 

2016-05-25 10_18_43-Event Details - NKSSA IDPA Local Classifier Match - IDPA

And here are the results from this past weekend’s match with the Glock 35:

2016-05-25 11_23_38-Event Details - NKSSA Annual Classifier - IDPA

I was 14 fewer points down (=7.5 seconds under current scoring) and added 7.72 seconds of clock time by trying to go slower for essentially a wash in total score.  I was shooting 40, so this is somewhat of an accomplishment (to tie my previous score shooting 9mm), but still not what I was hoping for.  June is going to be crazy, but I need to carve out some time for some practice if this is going to get better.