Book Review: Zealot

I finished reading Zealot by Reza Aslan last night.  The book claims to be a look at the historical Jesus (as opposed to the theological or christological Jesus) and it does site a few other sources outside the gospels and epistles.  It mostly consists, however, of the author’s projections (or imaginings) of what was likely true based on the general trends and truths of the time that Jesus lived.

I did find the chronology interesting, specifically the sequence in which the gospels were written and what else was going in, specifically the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans after a Jewish rebellion.  I’m don’t hold the view that every word of the bible was divinely inspired, and even if it was the version that I read isn’t in the original Greek or Aramaic, so there was some human interference some where along the way.  So I think an understanding of the political and social forces that may have influenced the writers (and translators) of the bible is useful to make sense of what is there.

I also found the closing chapters that focused on the tension/fight between James and Paul in the decades after Jesus’ crucifixion to be interesting as well.  James seemed to be of the view that to be a good follower of Jesus, you had to be a good Jew AND also follow Jesus’ teachings.  Paul thought that all you have to do is follow Jesus.  Aslan makes the argument that the Pauline views won out in the early second century since they were more palatable to the mostly gentile (and pagan) converts that the church was trying to attract.

Overall, it was a good (not great) and quick (216 pages plus notes) read that gave me a few stubs to do some more reading on.  However, it didn’t really live up to its promise of being a biography of Jesus with most of the narrative projected / imagined instead of being based on the historical record and first hand accounts.

Next up in my stack: heading back to read some more of Godel, Escher and Bach.  Had to put that one down for a while to let my brain relax.  Ready to dive back in now I think.

Sauna reccomendations

I’m in the market for a Sauna and may go all in and get a wood fired barrel sauna.  I’ve researched the options and a steam sauna seems to have many advantages over the dry / infrared models.  And wood fired just seems to make sense to me from an operating cost perspective- and seems more authentic as well. I found these guys in a quick, cursory search of the interwebs.  Any local companies in the Cincinnati / NKY area that specialize in building / installing steam saunas?

Review and reflectionson Partner Tactics by TDI Ohio

I took my own advice and invested in a firearms training class this past weekend, attending the 3 day partner tactics class at Tactical Defense Institute in West Union, Ohio, courtesy of my awesome wife who had dinner waiting for me (dessert too) each night when I got home.  TDI has been on my “wish list” for a while, but all the pieces finally fell in place for me to attend my first class there.  Hopefully it won’t be my last.

I’m going to cover a few things in this post.  First a review of the course itself, then some personal takeaways and to conclude a reflection on the close relation between firearms training and the practice of mindfulness.  If you don’t like guns or transcendental meditation, you can top reading here.

As for the course it was, in a word, fantastic.  The facility is top notch and the instructor to student ratio was the lowest of almost any firearms training school I have been to.  There is a wide range of instructors and instructing styles.  I learned something from each of them, but its definitely possible to find an instructor you like and stick with them.  For my particular class there were no female instructors, but I do know that TDI Ohio has them on staff.  In addition to my first class at TDI, it was the first time I have taken a 3 day course, and the extra day makes a big difference.  In other classes you get a chance to practice a skill once or twice and then its on to the next drill or concept.

In the Partner Tactics class we had the chance to run through the foundation drills that help establish good partner communication habit patterns at he start of each day.  It may seem like a lot of repetition, but I found it extremely valuable.  The rest of each day was spent in various scenarios from a live shoot house, to vehicle training, to force on force (with air soft….obviously ;-)).  To be clear this is NOT really a “shooting” class.  I did go through more than 1,000 rounds of ammo, but there was very little instruction on drawing, getting good grip, sight alignment, squeeze, follow-through, etc.  The instructors assume you know all that, and given the course pre-requisites, its a safe assumption.  This is first and foremost a TACTICS class that focuses on how to work with a partner in a wide array of situations.  After the three days, I am by no means an expert, but the 15 pages of notes and hours of video are a good sign that I know a fair bit more than when I started.  If you have the chance and the interest (and a god partner!) then by all means sign up….but do it early in the year.  We signed up in January and got the last 2 spots for the class this past weekend.

The biggest leanings for me were about how my regular participation in IDPA matches is affecting my performance in tactical training simulations.  On the good side, I was of course very comfortable with the mechanics of getting of a good first and follow-up shots.  Moving while shooting was no big deal.  Multiple targets and site pictures was no issue.  I was really solid on all my reloads (save one which was pretty funny and captured on video).  But it wasn’t all roses.

Focusing on trying to “win” in IDPA has made me weaker than I would like in manipulation of cover.  Being on the clock drives me to be a little loose with my pie slicing and I never do drop outs in a match – there just isn’t enough time. I follow all the rules so as not to get a cover procedural, but its still not quite the same as when someone else is shooting back (again – with air soft).  I also realized that I hadn’t spent much time at all shooting weak handed, but supported.  Every time weak hand is prescribed in an IDPA stage, its always “weak hand only”.  Since I am MD for my local match I think I cam going to add a weak hand supported stage to the next match.  And in matches where I am not in charge of the stages, I am going to make sure to shoot weak hand supported every time I am going to the left around cover.  Another issue that cropped up that I have to pin on my match mentality is not staying on targets to assess after I shot them.  In IDPA I am on to the next target (again to save time) so as soon as my rounds are down range and I “feel” like I had good hits ( = good sight picture + good trigger press) I a on to the next target in the sequence.  This showed itself every time I engaged a target and was quick (way too quick) to come back to a retention position and scan.  All of these are solvable issues but will take some rethinking about how I approach a match and what training I do outside of IDPA matches.  I still think IDPA is the best deal in training out there, but you have to come with a plan that is more than just winning the match if you want to get maximum training benefit out of it.

Last, it occurred to me on the (long) drive home last night (it was 2 hours from my house each way) that one reason I might have enjoyed the class so much is that the drills and scenarios force you into a state of mindfulness / present moment awareness.  When you are with your partner and you are trying to clear and then enter a room, one in front, one behind with potential threats just a dop out away, you forget all about past and future and live in the present moment fully.  You have to bring everything you have into that moment or something isn’t going to go well.  No it’s not transcendental meditation, but the feeling was very much the same: all of your senses lined up and main lining straight into your cortex which is running at full capacity to make sure you don’t miss something and can stay balanced on that razors edge of fast reaction without over reaction.  On second thought its just like meditation…with the added adrenaline rush of 180 grains of lead flying down range at 1,000 feet per second.

Gone fishing….

I’ll be offline the next 3 days. Taking today off work to attend day one of a three day team tactics class at Tactical Defense Institute. I’ve really tried to follow the guideline of taking a class after each new fire arm acquisition to make sure its not just a pile of gear = that the operator is competent. But I still have lots of classes to catch up on :-)

If you want a digest of what I’m going to learn, sign up for my next CCDW class on June 13th. Otherwise, expect a full report early next week.

Magic Productivity Secret: Say “No” more

No is one of the most under rated words in the English language.  No is a recognition that we have finite time to get things done and clearly identifies the things we choose to not do.  No is seen by most as a negative, but when used as an affirmation of the things you choose to say yes to, it’s actually a positive.  The most important decision we make every moment is what we say yes and no to.  What we decide to pay attention to and what we decide to ignore.  What we decide to add to our stack and what we decide to let slide off.  What we decide to not decide about at all and let a decision happen by default.

As I have focused on becoming more mindful / present moment aware, I have become more aware of how easy it is to say yes (mentally or out loud) / how hard it is to say no and how easy it is to underestimate how much work something will be /overestimate the time I will have to complete a project with a quality outcome.  As a result I do find myself saying no much more often.  Rather than getting less done, however, my productivity has actually increased.  I am able to bring more energy, focus and depth to the few things I decide to say yes to.  As an added bonus I waste a lot less time switching from one project to another in a vane attempt to keep all the balls in the air.

I recognize this approach may not be for everyone.  The reason its hard to say no is the underlying fear that you may say no to the wrong project – the project that could make a real difference. It seems easier to say yes to everything and “keep your options open” rather than commit and complete something.  But its only in the completion, the getting done of things, that you get anything out of your projects anyway and so far saying no is the only path that I have found that lets me get there.

Supporting the #Kentucky10

Just heard about this yesterday and made a donation to the cause this morning. Intervention is called for when children are in danger, but I don’t see any of that in this case. Children are not the property of the state. 

This Kentucky family of 12 people, 6 dogs, 2 farm cats and a few random farm animals was just torn apart. Their crime: Living a simple, back to basics life. Any effort to show solidarity with the #Kentucky10 should be peaceful and respectful. We are all acting on behalf of the children now and our actions and attitudes should reflect the purity, love, and hope of the 10 children still in state custody.


Interesting Kickstarter for an Electric Bike





I’ve been mildly interested in electric assist bikes for a while.  Even out in the sticks (where I live) they seem to make a lot of sense, especially if you can really get a 40 mile range out of one.

A new electric bike — the Koben, from Karmic Bikes — promises to fix what ails the electric bicycle industry. We spoke to its designer to find out what those problems are, and how he thinks he’s solved them.

Source: What’s Wrong With Electric Bicycles

Our deepest fear quote

I read this in the close of the book I finished last night. Powerful ideas here:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson

One thing I love about working from home

UPDATE: Well these are the ones that got away.  I went out after work and they had decided they didn’t like the home I had planned for them.  If you see any of them in the picture in the area clumped up in a tree or under your wheel well, give me a call 😉


I can use my lunch break however I want. Today for instance I did this: