Shoot/don't shoot. That is the question we explored in this class, during our first simulated training exercise. Last week we got to handle a disassembled Glock and some different caliber bullets while discussing firearms safety. This week was a real hands-on experience, as we went through a training exercise that is used in the actual Police Academy.
We began with one-on-one classroom instruction with the Range Master. Using a laser training pistol, each student got a crash course in proper handling technique for a handgun. Next, we went individually into a dark room for a simulated police call. A filmed scenario played out on a giant screen on the wall in front of us, and we had to decide whether or not to pull the trigger. After the scenario was complete, it was played back (including a record of shots fired, if any) and our actions were evaluated.
I performed well on the my first solo situation: walking into a bar that was being held up, I coached the man into setting down his gun. Didn't have to fire. Disaster averted successfully. Then we replayed the scenario, but this time he turned the gun on me. I fired and scored a lethal hit with my first shot. Later, I did a partner scenario with a classmate. The setup here was that we were responding to an active shooter in a school. When the gunman walked around a corner, my partner took him out; I just fired without aiming and managed to squeeze off over a dozen shots, none of which hit. It was intense. The exercise was a small glimpse into the world that cops inhabit every day.
Bunny X Productions sells these beautiful hand-made octopuses on Etsy. They're crafted from polymer clay, and available in many gorgeous colors. Each one looks more amazing than the last, and they must be wonderfully jiggly when handled in real life, what with eight metal ring joints holding the legs to the body. This glow-in-the-dark "SWAKtopus" was a special order.
found via BoingBoing
My wife gave me the TomTom ONE Portable GPS Vehicle Navigator for Christmas this year. It is the perfect gift because I am always getting lost on the road. I configured it right away (with "Tim," the British male voice, because he sounds a bit like The Current DJ Mark Wheat) and we left the house to run some errands.
My TomTom had an opportunity to prove its worth on that very first trip. The roads were icy and slick. A recent two-car crash was blocking our freeway entrance ramp. The TomTom immediately charted a new route, and Tim's soothing voice guided me through Minneapolis' East Bank neighbourhood and back to the road. It was a GPS miracle!
Kevin Kelly has a fantastic write-up about a "counterfeit painting city" in China. Artists in Da Fen paint original reproductions of famous works. "Re-painting masters," Mr. Kelly notes, "is a venerable activity [...] What's new here is the scale of this re-work, which brings down its cost similar to machine reproduction."
If you could walk into an art store and purchase a re-painting for the same price as a print, which would you rather have? The machine-printed copy may be more technically accurate compared to the original, but a hand-painted image is infinitely nearer in spirit. Given a choice between the two, I would prefer to own an actual oil painting, even with some imperfections.
There is an energy imbued in objects that are created by human beings. I would go as far as to say that the Chinese reproductions are "art" more than a poster of the same painting is "art." Are they on the same level as the original work? Of course not. But I would value a human original, even if it's a "copy," more highly than a mechanical copy. Now where can I get my hands on one of these?
If the Charger, Camaro, and Challenger are the main contenders in the new "muscle car wars," then I'd declare this one the winner. I'm enamored with the sleek styling on Dodge's concept 2008 Challenger. You might say that it moves the muscles of my heart.
There's actual information about this car at Jalopnik and Allpar.com.
All of a sudden, I have developed a weird desire to learn the gentlemanly arts. Before this year, I didn't have the slightest interest in Windsor knot-tying or pocket squares. Now I feel like the height of sophistication would be to come home from work, put a jazz LP on the hi-fi, change in to my smoking jacket, and mix myself a cocktail at the wet bar.
In that vein, I introduce the new allure of vintage masculinity. John Koontz wrote a compelling guest post on Zen Habits, in which he advocates reclaiming the ritual of shaving with a double-edge razor. He provides a list of 5 purported benefits; the most compelling of which, to me, is that "it's fun!" There's also a brief beginner's guide to wet shaving.
Almost as compelling as the tradition itself are the classic accoutrements of shaving. (Did you know that the bristles of a quality shaving brush are made of badger hair?) I am tempted to try it. Consider me intrigued.
When I learned that I would be taking a two-day business trip in the midst of novel-writing season, I was concerned that the distraction would adversely affect my word count. In fact, it did quite the opposite. This was due to a combination of two factors: long, uninterrupted time in the air, and inspiration from being in a strange environment.
I don't have to explain the benefits of working on the plane. With nothing to distract me and a three hour flight stretching out ahead, I just turned on my laptop and plugged away. I typed over 5,000 words on both flights combined. That's 10% of my novel right there!
Then, the atmosphere in Las Vegas was tremendously helpful for stirring up my imagination. Everything on the strip was bright and sharp and designed to get a reaction. Plus it was a great place for watching and meeting interesting people. On the taxi ride to the airport, I told my driver I was from the Twin Cities, and he told me that he served with the founder of Groth Music. There are stories everywhere.
I gave up on FitDay for tracking my daily nutritional intake. The interface is decent, but there were some glaring problems that quickly discouraged me from using it. For one, their food database was woefully inadequate. I could have forgiven this, except that it also automatically logs you out after an hour or so, so you have to log back in multiple times over the course of a day. I would have forgiven this in 1997, but not in 2007.
Next I explored Calorie Count, which is owned by About.com. Enough said? My least favorite feature was the weird lack of Google-standard automatic "and" queries, so that adding terms will expand your search results, instead of refining them. For now I've switched to The Daily Plate, a very Web 2.0 application with a massive user-submitted database and lots of fancy features.
As a dietary footnote, I tried taking fish oil supplements today. It's great to get those Omega fats, but there is a ghastly side effect. Every time I burp, it tastes like I'm vomiting salmon.
Introduction to firearms! Now we're talking. This was the most interesting week to date for me, and possibly the most boring for Jenna. The Range Master showed us examples of guns and ammunition, and spoke about training, safety, and tactics. We learned:
- the service weapons that St. Paul officers carry
- (including the .40 caliber Glock pistol, above)
- St. Paul cops must qualify at least once per year on all authorized weapons
- that the majority of people shot by handguns do not die
If you know that you're going to a gun fight, you bring a rife or a shotgun. A long gun bullet is smaller but faster. Liquid does not compress, so a high velocity bullet will create a shock wave as it explodes outward dramatically. Higher speed means more tissue affected and a wider range of damage, whereas a handgun bullet will only make a hole as large as the caliber of the bullet.
While I was in Las Vegas, I stayed at the Tropicana. It's a little worn down and frayed around the edges, and totally underwhelming from outside compared to the other casinos on the Strip. But when I first walked inside, it was an impressive experience for my first Vegas casino. I didn't do much on that first night except for dinner at the Eiffel Tower, but on day two I walked across the street to the MGM Grand. That place totally blew my mind.
I didn't intend to drop any money in the machines until I saw this post on Kotaku the week before my trip. After that, it was my mission to find the Pong slots. I spotted them while walking through the MGM Grand, sat down, and promptly lost one dollar. It wasn't very fun. I think I was doing it wrong.
On my way back to my room I decided to try again with the Alien machine. Right off the bat, I won 50 cents on a 10 cent bet. I considered cashing in my considerable winnings and celebrating with a drink. Instead, I kept going in an attempt to recoup my full dollar of losses from before, and ended up losing it all.
I was not able to attend this class because of my business trip to Vegas. I was very sad to miss a speech by Chief Harrington on Community Oriented Policing, and most of all, the SWAT section. Fortunately I am still allowed to graduate even if I miss a class or two. Stay tuned for posts on subsequent classes.
On my first night in town, I made a reservation for dinner at the Eiffel Tower restaurant at Paris Las Vegas. This was a mistake. I was over-hungry after my flight, so I got a headache and felt sick. I only finished part of my five-course meal and sipped at my half-bottle of wine. On the bright side, at least I got to eat at a swanky restaurant with a great view of the fountain show at the Bellagio.
There was a doorman at the bottom of the elevator before you could go up to the restaurant; another man greets you at the top. They are clearly placed as roadblocks to keep out undesirables, but after confirming that you have a reservation, they are extremely polite. "Enjoy your evening with us," they said. After I got past the hostess ("we have a very nice table for you"), waiter, sommelier, and the guy in the bathroom who handed me a towel, I was thoroughly confused about who I was supposed to tip. I was throwing money all over the place. I spent almost $80 on dinner for one, and that was getting out cheap.
I had never done the ultra-fancy dining experience before, so it was interesting, but I also felt uncomfortable and out of place. Despite the impeccable service, tasty food, and nice atmosphere, I felt physically relieved to get out of there. The next morning, I broke my fast at the Tropicana Garden Lounge. Now this place was more my style. Kitschy decor, cheap food, smelled like syrup... and there was only one person to tip. I was at home.
There were only two sections in this week's class; I'll take them one at a time. I could not find an appropriately weighty Flickr photo for the topics of domestic abuse and officer training, so instead I hope you will enjoy this googly-eyed bird baby.
Criminal Procedure & Domestic Violence Investigations
- Domestics are like homicides: police may press charges even if you don't want them to
- St. Paul Police responds to 40 domestic calls per day
- 2-5 are felony level crimes
- 80% of strangulation victims show no external physical markings
I thought the most interesting thing about this subject was that St. Paul Police hire new cops based on character evaluation, as opposed to skills or experience. Assistant Chief Bostrom explained that they can train people to be competent, but character cannot be taught. He also had a great quote:
"We don't give rides to jail. You have to earn them."
I'm on the challenge-a-month bandwagon. I ramped up my blog writing in October, and wrote my fourth novel in November. Why not tackle an ambitious challenge for the first month of the new year?
Lifting weights and gaining muscle are habits I have wanted to cultivate for a long time. They are also goals on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. I was inspired by the Zen Habits post, From Skinny to Muscular in 7 Steps. Not that I mind being thin--I've made my peace with that--but it would be nice to pack some muscle on top of all that skinny. Here's how I plan to tackle it:
- Gain weight with a diet plan
- Turn it into muscle with an exercise plan
- I have the POWER!
*I would settle for being a Master of the Universe
I was so focused on my novelling in November that I never recapped my successful completion of October's goal. It appears that I did, in fact, write one post per day throughout the month (and then some). It was fun!
While I was writing, a lot of folks were reading the blog too. One of my October posts caught the eye of a radio producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Company. At his request, I called him up and recorded my story about getting stuck in the Pirates ride at Disney World when I was a kid. I will post more on this later, when/if it's aired.
Blogging was sparse in November except for my photo-posts. But I didn't spend every waking hour writing a novel, and my life went on in the meantime, so I have some saved-up material for posts. I'll try to catch up in the coming days.
While I was driving to work in the pre-dawn darkness of Minnesota winter, a ray of green light caught my eye. I had to exceed the speed limit just a tad to see what it was, but my disregard for traffic laws was handsomely rewarded when I beheld the 2007 Dodge Charger Daytona R/T.
I liked the "Sublime Metallic Clear Coat" color, the stripes, and the low-profile spoiler on the back. But then I passed him and sadly discovered that there's something about the front end that makes it all fall apart. I couldn't put my finger on it at first. It's too high and too round. In a word, I guess, it's just too darn modern to truly recapture that classic muscle car feeling for me.
I heard a stupid commercial on the radio this morning. How stupid? So stupid that I turned off my radio to do math. The premise of the ad is that a guy quits his new job after he has been there for five seconds, but he wants to get paid for his time to go buy a burger. His boss tells him that, in the five seconds he has worked there, he has earned "about two bucks."
I'm no math whiz, but two dollars in five seconds sounded like a pretty decent pay rate, so I decided to do some calculations. This fictional job would pay $24 per minute, or $1440 an hour. But wait! Our protagonist is planning to take his phenomenal five-second salary and spend it all on a delicious, juicy hamburger. Which must mean that the $2 he has earned are his net wages after taxes. His hypothetical gross five-second income must therefore be higher than $2, but how much higher?
Let's assume that he is in the lowest possible bracket and he doesn't owe anything in federal or state income tax. Social Security, Medicare and unemployment still get deducted, for a total of 8.85%. That's not a massive chunk for most of us, but it bumps this guy's hourly pay up to around $1580 pre-tax. Which means that if he had kept the job instead of quitting after five seconds, he would have pulled in a gross annual income of $3,286,400. With that kind of cash, he could buy an awful lot of burgers... or a franchise.