Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Tactical Ninja Takes on the Drive-Through ATM

In retrospect, briefly mentioning going to deposit my final, ginormous severance check was probably not the most tactically sound decision I'd ever made.

Fortunately, I survived my trip to the bank without getting jacked, which would have been especially ludicrous, because, as it turned out, my severance had already been direct-deposited to my account -- what I'd put in the slot was actually the deposit notification (though, in my defense, it looked exactly like a check, had a neat temperature-sensitive watermark on the back and, to my recollection, did not have "NOT A CHECK -- DO NOT DEPOSIT, DUMBASS" printed on it.

Sadly, depositing the not-check was probably still the most productive thing I'd done yesterday.

The Tactical Ninja, Revisited

This brings up a topic I've been meaning to take on for a while: How the tactical ninja protects himself at the drive-thru ATM.

As you might recall, the tactical ninja is all about figuring out how to defend himself, in everything from outlandish fantasy scenarios (Katrina-squared hordes gone wild, illegal alien zoot-suit riots, Invasion U.S.A. 2: al Qaeda Boogaloo, etc.), to more mundane situations like tactical bathroom use and what to do when a black person looks at you.

It's when an otherwise rational, personally responsible, self-defense-aware person goes off the rails and starts taking "Be polite, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet" waaaay too seriously.

Enter the Drive-Through ATM

People are generally (and rightfully) pretty wary at ATMs, even without pages-long warning notices).

At the drive-through ATM (or any drive-through), you're already behind the wheel of a weapon, but you're probably hemmed in by curbs and cars. And even though you're mostly enclosed, window glass isn't much of a barrier to the hypothetical gun-wielding attacker.

So what does the tactical ninja counsel at the drive-through? Be continually and fully aware of your surroundings (which is good advice in any circumstance), and leave the car in gear (drive) with your foot on the brake.

The scenario they're picturing? That scene from Ronin, where two bad guys are doing a deal inside a Jeep Cherokee, and the passenger pulls a gun on the driver (Gregor) to rip him off. The driver is able to turn the tables by stepping on the gas and making the car lurch forward, which he can do because he left it in gear (although he didn't -- it's actually a movie goof).

Since the tactical ninja empathizes with the former-KGB assassin with the lightning reflexes and tricked-out Glock, he leaves the car in drive, instead of putting it in park.

Herein lies the judgment -- which is more likely?
  • An ATM carjacking, where you'll be severely disadvantaged by not having the car in drive, or
  • An accident, where your foot slips off the gas and the car moves forward (which can also have fatal consequences, as demonstrated at this apartment complex card reader and car wash keypad.)
(Incidentally, both of those fatal accidents happened to women, who, like us short guys, sometimes have to unbuckle and open the car door, or otherwise stretch and lean way over to reach. Something for short tactical ninjas to consider.)

This is the problem I have with the tactical ninja mindset overall: It overemphasizes the more fantastical, scarier, sensationalized crime scenarios over more mundane, much more common risks (falls, accidents, heart attacks, etc.).

People as a whole are not good judges of risk, and the tactical ninjas tend to focus on violent crime -- especially crime scenarios where violent self-defense is the only viable solution (can't get away, can't acquiesce, must fight back).

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Girls With Guns in Churches

The tactical ninjas and pro-gunners* are going to be all over this (as will the anti-gunners), and details are still emerging, but here's what USA Today is reporting about the Colorado Springs church shooting (Sunday's second Colorado shooting):
"...pastor Brady Boyd of the New Life Church said the security guard who shot the gunman was purposely stationed in the lobby of the church after hearing about the earlier shooting.

When the shots were fired "she rushed toward the attacker and took him down in the hallway," he said.

The attacker never got more than 50 feet inside the building.

"She probably saved over 100 lives," Boyd said.

He described her as a highly trained volunteer member of the church with a law enforcement background whose role was to provide security. He said she was not wearing a uniform and is licensed to carry a gun."
CNN's report adds more details, saying that the shooter is known, did both incidents, and had a prior relationship with the first church (which is no doubt be a disappointment to all the red-blooded, footstomping, Bible-banging tactical ninjas and keyboard commandos who saw "churches" and "skullcap" and were praying for this to be Islamic terrorism, instead of yet another maladjusted loner with a rifle.)

It's instructive to look at this shooting because:

* The guards (only one was armed) were posted by the second church specifically and deliberately in response to the earlier church shooting incident. They recognized they were a target (even a likely target), and developed a proactive response (with an evacuation plan and an armed guard), exercised self-defense, and stopped the threat. So kudos to them, even if it is the conservative evangelical megachurch that spawned the meth-sniffing, rentboy-using Ted Haggard.

* Even when the police are caring, competent, and close, they're still a reactive force. In nearly all of the recent mass shooting events, the police response didn't get there until well after the shooter had stopped. (In the Salt Lake City mall shooting, an off-duty cop returned fire until other police arrived.)

* Unless you want to live in a police state where there's a cop in every building and a metal detector on every door, you're either going to have to live with "acceptable losses" until the cops arrive, or do something to address your own safety. It doesn't necessarily have to involve a gun, but like it or not, the only person ultimately responsible for ensuring your personal safety is you, which is always something to keep in mind.

* Whether you feel armed guards in malls, schools, churches, etc. are appropriate or not (despite the blood-soaked coverage, these events are still rare -- I hate to talk like an economist, but there has to be a cold-blooded cost-benefit analysis somewhere), there just aren't many ways to stop an armed shooter. If you don't feel like waiting until he runs out of ammo or commits suicide, there's has to be another guy with a gun somewhere to stop him.

* Strike that -- the security guard who stopped the shooter was a woman -- not a guy with a gun, but a girl with a gun. The USA today article says she has a law enforcement background, though the CNN article says she's not an officer. Presumably she's a CCW -- a regular person licensed to carry a concealed weapon. She evidently used her handgun to take down a guy with a rifle; normally, you would expect the person with the long gun to have the advantage, so good job.

Evidently, she shot him, told him to drop his weapon, and shot him again when he appeared to reach for another weapon. Although she wasn't able to prevent the first people from getting shot, once the threat emerged, it's pretty much the best-case scenario for armed intervention, instead of the bloodlust-infused, redneck Rambo rampage picture with innocent bystanders falling in the crossfire that many anti-gunners always conjure up as the inevitable outcome.

* Pro-gun folks always think the answer is more guns; anti-gun folks always think the answer is fewer guns. I'm somewhere in the mushy middle -- I don't think having more CCW-holders will lead to a utopian polite society, though I also don't think the streets will run red with blood if more non-nutcase, non-felons are licensed to carry concealed handguns.

* I guess there is at least one example now where not banning handguns from church property turned out to be a good idea (with the general idea being, the crazed shooter wouldn't heed a gun proscription, anyway, so you're just disarming honest folk).

Like I said, I don't think the knee jerk reaction should be that more guns are better or fewer guns are better. I do tend toward the idea that since guns are here and in such large numbers, and since I don't want to live in more of a police state than we already do, and since guns are a great equalizer for the small, weak, or traditionally disempowered, that it's better to have more of them in reliable hands than to have them in none.

Like it or not, though there is a social cost to having guns in society, there's also a social benefit. I can't say to what end the scale tips, and every person is going to have his or her own personal calculus for it. But just as pro-gunners incur some social costs (assuming, say, states that don't enforce one-gun per month limits contribute to more straw purchases that lead to more illegal shootings), so do anti-gunners reap some social benefits (because some homes have guns in them, a burglar should be less likely to break into an occupied home since he wouldn't know if the homeowner was armed or not -- though there are plenty of heavy-handed "Gun-Free Home: This Home Is Unarmed" stickers if your conscience tells you not to avail yourself of that benefit.)

*I'm not nearly enough of a high-speed, low-drag wannabe to be a tactical ninja, and I'm just moderately pro-gun, which would makes me a useful idiot/appeaser to the hardcore gun nuts, and a gun-crazed lunatic to the anti-gunners. Who says being in the middle is easy?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Looking at the Zombie Revival: The Perfect Enemy for Our Time

[This is the first of a few entries about the modern zombie.]

Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, by Max Brooks. And a skull
Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. The skull x-ray was salvaged from a book publisher's basement storage room during a work-study job a lifetime ago.
In case you can't tell from the picture, Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z are two of my favorite books right now. I keep re-reading them. I've got zombies on the brain. (Braaaaains.)

And I'm not the only one.

We seem to be in the middle of a zombie revival (er, make that "zombie renaissance"), with fast zombies, reimagined zombies, zombie thrillers, zombie comedies, zombie walks, zombie colleges, zombie shoppers, zombie video games, zombie flash games, more zombie flash games, zombie underwear, and more.

Part of the reason why I think there's a resurgence in zombie interest is that zombies are the perfect enemy. They're not human (they just used to be human), so it's okay to hate them. They're already dead. They feel no pain. And once they turn, they're really obvious. There's no political correctness; no one's going to accuse anyone of zombie profiling.

(Zombies really stand out in a crowd. Unless it's a crowd of other zombies.)

And zombies want to destroy us -- there's no question about it. They can't be bargained with or negotiated with or even surrendered to. They are merciless and remorseless (and deserving of none in return). They're the enemy of all living things, they're relentless, and they won't stop until they're destroyed.

The solution to the zombie problem is drop dead simple:

You shoot them in the head, or you get eaten.

We are living. They are dead (well, undead). If they get you, you become one of them. "You're either with us or you're against us" doesn't get any clearer than that.

In other words, they're an unambiguous, black-and-white, us-or-them, guilt-free enemy.

And the kicker that makes them the perfect enemy? They stand up, moan, and come straight at you -- walking slowly. They don't take cover, they don't hide behind civilians, they don't plant IEDs, they don't learn from their mistakes (or ours), and they don't melt away into the shadows.

(Well, they're a little like suicide bombers in one respect -- they come at you with no regard for their own safety. But the classic zombies move slowly. They also don't explode.)

They never change tactics. They just come out, line up, and wait for you to shoot them.

It's a refreshing change. The perfect enemy for our time.

BOOM (Guilt-Free) Headshot!

What's more, I also see a lot of survival and gun-types have embraced the zombie preparedness theme pretty enthusiastically. Sure, preparing for the zombie apocalypse is a fun game that prepares you for other disasters, both natural and man-made: Do I have the provisions and equipment to bunker down and shelter in place? If I had to leave quickly, would I have a bug-out bag or go kit ready with the right supplies? Where would I go? How would I get there? Do I know how to read a map, treat injuries, start fires, purify water?

But as a bonus, in the zombie scenarios, you get to discuss -- even fantasize about -- the best ways to shoot lots of other people in the head.

What's the optimal range for zombie engagements? Do you use a scope or open sights? For quiet kills, a suppressed .22 or a crossbow? What's the better zombie-slaying assault rifle, the AR-15 or AK-47? Would buckshot fired from a 12 gauge shotgun be overkill (considering your reduced ammo load)? How much ammo should you carry for each of your weapons? How do you increase the probability of a headshot under extreme stress? What's better for close-in work, an axe, crowbar, or machete?

Because they're not really people, zombies are the perfect stand-in for your boogeymen of choice: Communists, terrorists, LA Riot/post-Katrina rampaging mobs, illegal immigrants, or jack-booted government thugs.

Even the most-hardened, callous keyboard warrior might be a little reluctant to endorse wholesale slaughter of a group of people (at least, in an open forum). But zombies? They ain't human -- fire at will.

[Next: Overanalyzing zombie science.]

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tactical Ninjas, Islamic Terrorists, Zombies and Mall Shootings

I read a bunch of Web forums that focus on tactics, self-defense, military strategy, disaster preparedness/wilderness survival and other various manly he-man pursuits. It's part of my training to become a well-rounded ninja and to better face the impending zombie apocalypse.

Even in the more enlightened of these sites, the politics tend towards staunch, rock-ribbed (though it's probably more like dunlapped) Republicanism. Though the presence of socially-progressive Libertarians, gun-toting liberals and the token Democrat/European is usually tolerated.

However, on some of the other, harder-core tactical forums, if you don't conform to a certain political mentality, you're a lieberal, freedom-hating terrorist sympathizer, and your opinions, and even your membership, are not welcome.

Defining characteristics of these inhabitants include:
  • Thinking that Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh really do make a lot of sense
  • Using terms like homicide bomber, comlib (commie liberal) and Islamofascist in a sincere, non-ironic fashion
  • Having a definition of liberal that comes from a Jack Chick or John Birch Society tract
  • Abilty to read NewsMax and Free Republic without laughing, crying or vomiting
Fetishizing Fear and Gear

It's a world that's incredibly fearful, but it's a kind of fear that thrives under the guise of preparedness.

I'm all for maintaining awareness of your surroundings at all times, knowing how to defend yourself, and being prepared. And I also know that the world is a dangerous place.

However, some of these guys (and they're invariably guys) fetishize this fear by imagining themselves in scenarios that belong in a tactical Penthouse Forum ("I never thought it would happen to me..."), where a father-raping, baby-killing, meth-abusing, home-invading ex-con is hiding in every shadow.

If you don't believe me, you haven't read any discussions about the tactical use of public bathrooms. The extreme practitioners are kind of like me in high school -- avoid at all costs. My teen self parts company, though, when they say if it's an emergency, go with a buddy, use the end stall, and if you have to take a dump, take one leg completely out of your pants so your feet aren't shackled together by your pants. I'm not kidding.

There's also a fetishization of tactical gear, where the pantheon of saints includes Kydex, Cordura nylon, paracord, anodized aluminum, and stainless steel (in your choice of flat black, desert tan, or olive drab). They say they don't do it, since it's about the man and mindset, not the materiel ... but they do it anyway.

And I'm not even getting into the guns...

Like 9/11-Truthers, Only Better-Armed

Now, getting into political discussions with these people is useless. It's like trying to discuss politics with my Dad (sorry, Dad). They see the world not just as black and white (which would be manageable) but as part of an apocalyptic conflict between good and evil that's driven by the fervent belief that their own wacked-out religion is superior to everyone else's (but most especially Islam.)

In this world, moderates, and even advocates of realpolitik, are, at best, useful idiots.

Their hypocrisy is rampant, they consume information only from trusted resources, and they refuse to accept information that runs contrary to their worldview.

So they're like 9/11-truthers, only better-armed.

Holding a special place in their hearts is Islam (and not just radical Islam), which seems to have taken over where Communism left off. Just do a search-and-replace on Communism and Islam, right down to the the "fighting them over there so we're not fighting them over here" rhetoric, the sentiment that the politicians/media are losing the war, and the omnipresent threat of the domino effect.

Plus, throw in the Crusades and a dash of "GLASS PARKING LOT."

I'm no apologist for radical Islam. It can't be ignored that most of the world's active terrorist groups are associated with radical Islam, and no other terrorist ideology has embraced suicide bombing as readily (save for the Tamil Tigers, I guess -- remember folks, just because you're brown, doesn't mean you're Muslim).

"No greater love" is one thing, but as I said to Chuckie a while back, when your religion is being used as a justification for suicide attacks, maybe it's time for a hard reboot for your belief system.

Why is this? The denizens of these boards will say that Islam is inherently prone to this (they would probably just say "evil") and consider the part to be the whole.

These supertroopers forget that Christianity basically had a 1,300-year head start, a schism, a Reformation, a whole bunch of religious wars, and its own history of expansionism and ethnic cleansing, before we finally had a couple of hundred or so years of secularism that's helped to moderate things to the point where religious wackos look like wackos.

Chuck Norris and the WOLVERINES!!!

Anyway, many of these board denizens are insane, but the forums do provide some useful information for gearheads and mall ninjas. I stay out of anything resembling a political discussion, though when they see something like the Salt Lake City mall shooting (which was stopped by an armed, off-duty cop), they have a collective orgasm, since their online existence is validated.

Plus, some see that the mall shooter was originally from Bosnia, and they get all twitchy, looking to blame Islam and jump on the front lines of the impending Muslim invasion, to better set up their Invasion U.S.A. fantasies (which are moderately less implausible, though infinitely less amusing, than their zombie outbreak scenarios).

I've even seen a few folks try to characterize the 2002 Beltway Sniper Shootings as domestic Islamic terrorism ("OMG, his last name was Muhammed!"), when if you actually know anything about the case, it's kind of obvious that it was domestic crazy terrorism (viz. his utopian vision for Crazy Black Boystown in Canada).

(These are the same folks who go nutso if you point out that if you use that same criteria, then Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph are Christian terrorists. Also, suggest that maybe some Iraqis see themselves as the WOLVERINES!! side of Red Dawn and their heads might explode.)

Anyway, I will continue reading the useful sites and keeping my mouth shut (as I said, it's pointless to argue, and I prefer to not get banned because I like having my saved preferences), since it's a window into the mindset of a completely different reality and you can usually find good information on knives, flashlights and deals on ammunition.

Labels: , , , , ,