New Theme

After a while with the old theme, I figured it was time for a change.
Things appear to be working well with the new theme. If you have any issues, please let me know.

On Piracy

While piracy on the high seas has been an issue for years, the recent hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, a US-flagged ship, and its subsequent retaking by the crew and US Navy brought the issue a bit closer to home for Americans.
My understanding, such as it is, is that due to the variety of laws regarding weapons at all the various ports that these cargo ships stop at, it’s cheaper and easier for the company to simply not include any weapons in the ship’s equipment, and thus avoid any hassles with customs.
Personally, I don’t foresee (nor do I desire) merchant ships mounting fixed naval weapons to fend off pirates. That blurs the line between a “merchant ship” and a “warship,” and I can see that causing some issues in regards to international commerce. That said, I see no reason why some additional measures can’t be taken:

  • Have sealed, for-emergency-use-only arms lockers on the merchant ships. Shotguns seem to be pretty well-accepted the world over, even in countries like the UK. Have them setup in much the same way one has the “in case of emergency break glass” locker for firefighting equipment on land. The seals would make it much easier for customs officials to inspect and verify that the arms are not being used for nefarious purposes, and the size of the shotguns means that it would be more difficult to smuggle such arms into a country (is that really a concern?). Put such lockers in key areas, like the bridge, crew quarters, and the engine room. There’s really no excuse for crew needing to defend themselves with firehoses because they are unarmed.
  • Train the crews in self-defense. I don’t expect them to be Navy SEALs, I just expect them to know how to handle themselves in an emergency.
  • Have passive defense around the ship. Many homes have fences topped with broken glass, for example. Could a similar means of defense be implemented on a ship? Obviously, there are numerous legitimate reasons for needing to interact with the edge of the ship (throwing lines and whatnot), so a permanent installation might be unreasonable. Surely there could be various things done that would make boarding a ship much more difficult.
  • When traveling through pirate-infested waters, ensure that all exterior doors and hatches are locked. Even with RPGs, it’d be slow and time-consuming for pirates to blast their way through the heavy doors found on a ship.
  • Arrange for convoys to escort ships through heavily-pirated waters. Unlike WWII, large convoys wouldn’t be needed — one or two small warships could escort a fairly large number of cargo ships with only a few minute response time, rather than being hundreds of miles away. A helicopter or two might help as well.
  • Show the pirates we mean business. So far, the default course of action has been to pay the bounty. Such actions have only made the pirates bolder, as they think they can get big money from a relatively simple job. Whether it’s from crews being able to effectively defend themselves to warships escorting merchant vessels, showing the pirates that everyone opposes pirates and won’t let them easily take ships will (hopefully) go a long way to deterring pirate attacks.

That said, I offer a hearty “well done” to the US Navy and the captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama. Well done, indeed.


I checked my email the other day and noted a donation to the New Shooter Ammo Fund from Carl (last name omitted for privacy).
Thanks Carl, I really appreciate it. While my schedule is hellishly busy right now, I’ll see about taking some new shooters to the range in the next month or two.

On Actually Doing Things

It’s April, which means it’s tax time. While I completed my taxes last month, this reminds me of when I was doing taxes last year: I had a week off, so I figured I’d get my taxes done early, and my sister asked if I wouldn’t mind doing hers, as she was particularly busy. Of course, I said yes.
While going through her paperwork, I noticed that she had made a charitable donation to the “Genocide Intervention Network” — some sort of “Save Darfur”-type group. Everyone is interested in stopping violence and genocide, right? Sounds like a good organization.
At the time, I did some digging, and it turns out that all the organization does is collect money which it uses to “educate people about genocide” and “lobby Congress to do something about genocide” (I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it). Nothing about actually protecting innocents from violence, nothing about providing aid to those in refugee camps, etc. Just money for lobbying.
While I suppose there’s some benefit to that, I can’t really see it. I’d much rather give my money to an organization that actually does things, such as the Red Cross:

So far this year, the ICRC has delivered food aid to an average of 177,000 people per month, delivered more than 19,000 Red Cross messages between those separated by the conflict, and reunited 36 families.
The Federation [of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies] continues to manage two refugee camps in Eastern Chad for 45,000 people, with a focus on health services, provision of food and essential household items, and water and sanitation programs.

The fact that the Red Cross also helps a huge amount of people through their blood banks, services to members of the military and their families, POWs, disaster relief, first aid/CPR training, and various international programs is also nice.
While the Red Cross, like any organization, may have made mistakes or received well-deserved criticism over the years, they do good work and help lots of people. Certainly more so than some lobbying group.

Patents on the AR-15/M16, AK, and other common guns?

I’m curious if the AR-15/M16 in its basic form (say with a normal rail-with-detachable-carry-handle-upper) is covered by any active US patents, copyrights, license agreements, royalties, or other restrictions that would prevent an entity from freely copying, modifying, manufacturing, or distributing clones?
Obviously there’s a lot of AR manufacturers out there, but I’m curious if they have to license the design and pay some sort of royalty to a company that owns the rights to the design or if it’s freely available without any such restrictions.
If not available freely, what about the use of AR/M16-compatible components? For example, the Kel-Tec SU-16 series of rifles takes M16-type STANAG magazines. Does one need to license the design for the magazines?
Actual citable references would be much appreciated.
How about the AK and other common rifles? What about common handguns?
I recently had an interesting idea involving something along these lines and would like to get more information.


Myself and two friends went out to a local cheap chinese buffet (( We’re cheap college students. What can I say? )) this evening and for some reason the conversation turned to vacation cruises.
I mentioned that I’ve been on a cruise before, and you tend to get a few older, retired people, a few younger couples with kids, and a whole lot of grotesquely fat people (( The food is unlimited and included with the flat-rate cost of the cruise in most cases. )).
At the very moment that I said “grotesquely fat people”, a leviathan of a woman carrying two heaping plates of food happened to walk by. It turns out she was sitting at the table directly behind me.
Of course, I wasn’t referring to this particular woman, nor meant any offense to fat people ((I could stand to lose a few pounds myself.)). I was simply stating an observation about cruises, but I can see how a small snippet of said conversation would be easily misinterpreted as being offense. Hooray.

Rocket Fail

According to the BBC, the recent rocket launched by the North Koreans failed to achive orbit. The BBC quotes the US military thusly:

In a statement on its website, the US Northern Command said North Korea launched a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile at 0230 GMT.
“Stage one of the missile fell into the Sea of Japan/East Sea. The remaining stages along with the payload itself landed in the Pacific Ocean.
“No object entered orbit and no debris fell on Japan.”

Heavens Above, a orbital object tracking database, confirms the failure.
Perhaps someone should inform the North Koreans?
Rocket science is some pretty demanding stuff. New rockets require a lot of careful design and testing, and failures are commonplace. That’s why you actually do the testing prior to launching valuable payloads. Even so, failures still occur, which is why launch insurance is a good idea.
It seems incredibly unlikely that the North Koreans would be able to independently develop a rocket and successfully put a satellite into orbit on their very first attempt. Not even the US or the former Soviet Union were able to do that without extensive testing, large numbers of rocket scientists, a lot of ICBMs, and huge amounts of funding.
Of course, the Korean state-run media would never admit such a failure. That’s one of the things I love about living in a free country: our failures, in addition to our successes, are widely reported and known (who doesn’t know about the Challenger or Columbia accidents?). We never claim to be perfect, and such failures are experiences that we learn from.
Maybe the North Koreans should prioritize their people’s basic needs (food, water, etc.) rather than wasting resources on space and nuclear programs, not to mention their massive military? It seems like they’ve got their priorities all wrong.

Internal Conflict

It must be that time of year: three police have been shot in Pittsburgh by a gunman. I offer my sincerest condolences to the friends and family of the fallen officers.
As expected, the Brady Campaign is dancing in the blood of the slain police officers with yet another press release.
According to the Bradys, the police were murdered by a…

“…man shooting ?hundreds of shots? who apparently believed the gun lobby propaganda that an ?Obama gun ban? would lead to his ?rights being infringed upon.'”

They go on to say,

“It is time for the gun lobby to stop stoking fear among gun owners with false claims about the government [proposing some sort of gun ban].”

Further down on the page, they close with,

At the very least, require Brady background checks for all gun sales; restrict military-style assault weapons to the military and law enforcement and help law enforcement crack down on corrupt gun sellers.

I’m sorry, I don’t see how they can say that the “gun lobby” is making “false claims” about proposed gun bans when they then go on to advocate such bans in the form of “restrict[ing] military-style assault weapons.” Wouldn’t such a restriction be, by definition, a ban? I’m not sure how the Bradys can hold such conflicting viewpoints.
Thanks to Sebastian, it looks like the alleged (( Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, of course.)) killer, Richard Poplawski, was a prohibited person due to having been dishonorably discharged from the marines:

Perkovic [a friend of the alleged killer-AZR] also said that Richard Poplawski had received a dishonorable discharge from the Marines and that he has a history of domestic disputes.

If this is the case, Poplawski would have been legally prohibited from possessing firearms. The “history of domestic disputes” might also have been sufficient to make him a prohibited person. Since the killer seems to have had no problems with violating existing laws (( Such as those against murder, in addition to less serious crimes like possession of firearms by a prohibited person, discharge of firearms within city limits, etc. )), I’m not sure what the Bradys hope to accomplish with the addition of more laws.
Update: Turns out it wasn’t a dishonorable discharge. My mistake.