August 30, 2004

Full Auto

Sunday Jim invited me to All Gun Day at the Central Jersey Rifle and Pistol Club. I fired a bunch of different handguns and rifles Alas, didn't get a chance to shoot any revolvers, but I'm not keen on them anyway. I also didn't get to shoot any shotguns, which I really like to shoot.

Full Auto
The highlight of the day was actually our first stop - the authorized fully automatic rifle dealer. This was not some kook, he mostly dealt with police departments and not civilians. It was very obvious that he loved his job. He also had two people helping him out at all times, they knew without being told exactly what to do every time someone stepped up to the line.

They had just about everything on display: Grease Guns and Tommy Guns, Mach 10s, UZIs, M-16s, and all the way up to the most advanced H&K assault rifle. That was how many firearms he could display on one table, and he had 4 or 5 set up, but I'm unable to remember what everything was. The line was long, even at the beginning of the day, and just got longer as the day wore on. But we had plenty of time to watch the people ahead of us fire their guns. I have to admit, there's something strange seeing kids fire guns, but they all came away with big smiles.

When my turn came I chose the H&K G36, one of the most advanced rifles he had. Two rounds, I kicked up some dirt. Two more rounds, I saw the target go down and some more dirt. Then I squeezed off 5-6 rounds all at, I don't know what to call that but it felt great! Then the last couple of rounds and I was done.

Up until the moment I first pulled that trigger, I was thinking 'I really don't want to shoot anything today, I'd just like to sit back and watch.' Immediately after that, and for the rest of the day, I was thinking 'Wow, what are we going to shoot next?!?'

I shot something called a 5.7, which Jim tells me was for police use only until recently - it was okay, the heft and kick reminded me of a 9mm.

I tried a few Glocks, including the .40 - it was okay, but not as cool as the .45.

I tried three different .45 1911s: Glock, Colt, Smith & Wesson
- Glock didn't jump as much as the other two, but always seemed to be pointing in some weird direction once it had settled back down (ie. not at the target).
- S&W was okay, it performed better than the Glock, but I was otherwise unimpressed.
- Colt .45 really impressed me. Yes, it kicks a great deal, but the weapon seems balanced so that it settles right back on the target. Unlike the other .45s, I was able to fire this one quite rapidly while maintaining decent accuracy. And unlike the other handguns I fired, this one felt like I was firing a gun, not something that shoots paintballs or airsoft pellets.

We returned to the handgun stand several times that afternoon. It was especially fun during the last hour, there was a short line and we were just cycling through over and over again. I got to fire both the Glock and Colt .45s repeatedly (it helped that all the girls, but one damn accurate teenager, were opting for 9mm). This just confirmed that I'm a Colt .45 man!

I've had plenty of practice shooting Jim's .22 and his custom metallic silhouette rifle, so I wanted to try something different. Several stands were set up with M-1s, so I opted for that just for nostalgia. I was given three rounds (thankfully I didn't have to load these - the instructor had a thumb that had obviously been snagged by the bolt a couple of times.) I shot at a target 200 meters away, 2 shots missed just to the left (in about the same spot), the third I adjusted for wind and hit dead on. I was impressed by the accuracy of this old rifle, now I can see why some people still prefer it.

Black Powder
I got to shoot two of these, a smooth bore rifle (circa 1840s), and a rifled bore Springfield (circa 1860s). These things are loud and give you quite a shove, but again I was impressed by the accuracy. I hit both targets at 100 yards, shooting off hand (ie. standing up).

There was also 'Cowboy Action' on display, which I observed briefly. Basically it's a bunch of guys kinda dressed up like the old west, though somehow they inexplicably remind me of warped versions of Devereux's cavalry uniform...but nowhere near as cool. Just something about the cheesy outfits and the cheesy targets they were shooting at didn't appeal to me.

August 28, 2004


The asian martial arts film Hero, starring Jet Lee and being released in the states with the help of Quentin Tarantino, is out in theatres this weekend. This is definitely a film worth watching.

The story itself is very clever, told in Rashamon style: This version, another version, then finally what really happened.

But what's really impressive is the way this movie was filmed. It has the look of a grand epic, ala Cecil B. Demille, or like some of our modern epics (Gladiator comes to mind).

Each section of the film is like watching a moving piece of art. Each piece has a dominant color, depending on who's telling that part of the story.

There's also some impressive wire work in this film...Dad, this means people flying around, so you may not like it.

Bottom line, this movie is as good or maybe even better than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But being the sort of cult cinema it is, this may not be in theatres long, so go see it!

August 23, 2004


Okay, first of all this review is over a week late. I saw this movie opening weekend while up in NH visiting Jennifer & Bob, this was after dropping my son off. Pete was supposed to set up a new date because I couldn't make opening night, but he's gone and dropped off the face of the earth again.

Anyway, let me say that this movie is really cool! I for one went in expecting this to totally suck, but came out pleasantly surprised...and relieved.

Now let's face it, the premise is just totally dumb. Especially one flash back where they explain how the pyramid got there - apparently Predators gave humans culture and advanced stoneworking technology, ala Chariots of the Gods, in exchanged for fueling the Predator's hunts.

But with that aside, it actually follows the graphic novel somewhat. The badass girl in this one proves herself to a Predator. Seeing that kept in the film was a nice touch, that's part of what made the graphic novel so cool.

Like last years Freddy VS Jason, this film will please both Predator and Alien fans. All the Predator's gizmos are there, including an updated version of the flying disk. And the movie is peppered with references to earlier movies: In one scene they've even got Mr. Wayland (who's middle name is Bishop - played by the same actor) is sitting at a desk finishing some report and idly plays mumbly-peg with his pen. It's nice touches like this that make this film DVD worthy.

August 19, 2004

Lead Tech

I've been working at this job for over 4 1/2 years, in that time I've only received two raises and never been promoted. Matter of fact, I've watched two individuals that I trained promote ahead of me.

An opportunity opened up for me while I was on vacation, when our new Lead Technician put in his two weeks notice. This is the third person hired from the outside to fill this role, all of whom left the company within 6 months of assuming full responsibility.

The problem, in a nutshell, is our boss. He's the worst micromanager I've ever encountered, and is impossible to please. He never forgets a mistake made by an underling and brings them up frequently as examples. He wants us to make him look good (granted, what manager doesn't), but we get no reward or support in return. Matter of fact, he treats us like we're completely untrustworthy.

Let me point out that over 3 years ago I'd previously accepted this position. For a solid year and a half I was in the office every day doing most of this workload, for no increase in pay...matter of fact, two days after accepting it the job was split between myself and another individual; that person (who did not want the full responsibility, and left a month after it was finally given to him) got the title and management portion, while I kept the work portion (coordination, delegation and tracking of daily work, dealing with external venders, reports, database cleanup, and frequent data mining).

So when I got back from vacation, I had an chance to apply for the position. None of my coworkers applied for it, though one did suggest a salary and was told his figure was too high. So I submitted my resume and cover letter, outlining three conditions:

Salary of $##,###
Immediate promotion
Written offer letter

I should note, the last item is based on my own experience as well as that of others. This place is famous for promising the world, but once you're hired on and actually get your offer letter the dollar amount is way less than what was promised. This has forced some to look for another job immediately, most notably one guy who moved up from Atlanta.

Anyway, today was supposed to be the big interview, but first my manager wanted to have a private pre-interview. During this discussion he outlined the position in painfully negative detail, I think he was intentionally trying to make it as overwhelming as possible. He also brought up two of my mistakes, one from 6 months ago, as well as highlighting my weaknesses as opposed to going over my resume (we never discussed that, by the way).

In the end I turned it down, but not because it seemed like an incredible amount of work and responsibility (it is), or the fact that he's just impossible to deal with on a daily basis. Not even pride, stupidity or simple self-preservation drove my decision. My refusal was based on his actual counter-offer:

Pay = $??,??? - He would not tell me what the position payed, just that it was "on a scale based on performance". To me this sounds like the pay raise is not immediate, or you get a little at first and maybe some more down the road. Anyhow, it was nowhere near the figure I'd suggested, he did manage to convey that.

90 day evaluation period - Despite the fact that I've worked here for years and already performed >75% of the tasks for more than a year, there's a probationary period of 90 days. In that time, he evaluates my total job performance every week. Knowing what a ball buster he is, this can't be good.

Position may not be permanent - At any point during the 90 day period, I could be removed from that position by my manager. At that point I would also lose the raise and promotion, returning to my current salary!

No Written Offer Letter - He instead present me with an "example of the type of offer letter" I'd see, basically a form letter with no dollar amounts filled in.

August 11, 2004

Doom 3

First off, let it be said that while I was a huge fan of the first Doom games, I fully expected Doom 3 to suck balls. Especially after seeing the screen shots, and how sites like Penny Arcade ridiculed the shit out of them.

But like everyone else who's a first-person-shooter fan, I read glowing reviews one after the other...not a bad review to be found. So after a week I finally gave in and purchased a copy.

Am I glad I did! This is one of the most immersive FPS experiences I've ever played. It ranks right up there with Half-Life and Halo...definitely tops in the pure horror genre. If you play this game you will either scream, crap yourself, or most likely suffer both indignities simultaneously.

Many reviews say the game is too dark, and it is. But I'm used to cranking the gamma up on most shooters, way way up for anything made by ID. And let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, this game is tough! I played for a good fifteen minutes then got my ass handed to me and had to start the level completely over. I'd forgotten my old Doom habit of saving after every terrifying encounter...and yes, they are all terrifying (reference my comment above about screaming while messing your pants).

My only real beef is that the areas are very cramped, there's almost no room to dodge fireballs, bullets, or the clumsy mitts of some zombie. I'm hoping that in later missions the rooms and corridors open up some or we even get some outdoor action, like in the old games.

One very interesting feature is that the computer panels you can select have some interactivity. Matter of fact, your guy has a PDA that gets email and can store voice and video data. You can even play back an audio recording and lower your PDA to continue playing while listening to the playback. However that is entirely too spooky and not recommended for persons with existing heart conditions.

August 03, 2004

The Village

Over the weekend I saw M. Night's The Village with my friends Jennifer & Bob. It was pretty good - not a classic like Sixth Sense but certainly better than Signs and maybe even Unbreakable.

I'm not going to break out the spoilers. Let's just say that this is an M. Night film, which is to say it's like an episode of the Twilight Zone - not everything is what it seems. The twist in this film is definitely more satisfying than the one in Signs.

I will say that this film is creepy, perhaps his creepiest work, having at times an almost nightmarish feel.