Jack McElroy Defends the Editorial Hive Mind Collective

Newspapers love to note when bloggers are anonymous. In return, bloggers love to note that newspaper editorials (as opposed to op-eds) are likewise anonymous. Yesterday the Knoxville News-Sentinel editor addressed that topic on his blog.

Jack McElroyEditorials aren’t really anonymous:

Actually, the News Sentinel’s editorials aren’t anonymous. The names of the people responsible for them are published every day at the top of the Editorial Page: Publisher Patrick Birmingham, Editor Jack McElroy and Editorial Page Editor Scott Barker. The three of us meet twice a week as the editorial board of the newspaper and decide on the positions we want to take in editorials.

Collective authorship by the hive mind implies that there’s no individual responsibility. If your names are up there at the top of the editorial page, why not put them on the editorial itself? You might as well put “staff” on the bylines of all your news stories.

The three of us meet twice a week as the editorial board of the newspaper and decide on the positions we want to take in editorials.

Are we supposed to believe that the three members of the hive mind always agree, or that all three opinions have equal weight? Also, when the three of you are writing editorials do you float weightlessly in a Jacuzzi like the precogs in The Minority Report? Because that would be cool.

I’m guessing the politics of the publisher and the editorial page editor aren’t quite the same. Somebody’s gotta be the queen bee, somebody’s gotta be the worker bee, and someone’s gotta be the drone.

Barker does most of the actual writing, but Birmingham and I read the editorials before publication, and make changes.

Yep. It sounds like Barker is the worker bee.

Occasionally we will run an editorial on a strictly national issue. These are almost always drafted by Dale McFeatters, the editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service in Washington.

When that happens does his name go on the editorial, or is it added to the top of the editorial page? How is his authorship noted in the online copy? I don’t know. I’m asking.

More questions:

  • If and when the hive mind disagrees with itself, how does it decide what to say in the editorial? In my imagination I’m guessing either gladiatorial combat or a hot chili-eating contest.
  • Are there other things the editorial hive mind collective does together, such as picking lottery numbers or going to the bathroom? Your readers have a right to know.

I’m having a little fun, Jack, but that’s because I find the notion of collective opinion so ridiculous and artificial. In any group decision, someone has more influence, either due to the strength of their argument, the strength of their personality, or the strength of their strength. In other words, someone is going to be Agatha. All I’m saying is that in that situation you should put Agatha’s name on it.

Signed,
Les Jones (actual name)

Char-Broil Oil-less Turkey Cooker is Great, May or May Not Replace a Deep Fryer

Who's a pretty bird?

I’ve been cooking turkey in a deep fryer for three years. I love the taste, but I don’t like spending 30 dollars for the peanut oil to cook a turkey. Too, I have a six and four year old, so I have to keep them far away from the turkey fryer and its flesh-melting, boiling oil. Oil-less, infrared cookers finally dropped below 100 dollars, so I took the plunge on a Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Cooker.

How it works

There are three ways to transfer heat: convection, conduction, and radiation. Convection involves a transfer medium – like boiling water, hot oil, or the air in an ordinary convection oven – moving heat from a heat source. Conduction has the heat source making direct contact, such as pan-frying or flat-top restaurant grills.

Radiation uses a heat source that emits high temperature, infrared light. There’s no radioactivity involved. Heat radiation is how the Sun heats the Earth. If you used a solar cooker to cook your turkey the result would be the same as with the Big Easy cooker; it would just take longer.

The Big Easy is for outdoor use. It connects to the same refillable propane cylinder as your gas BBQ grill or turkey fryer. The propane burns and heats the space between the outer wall and the inner stainless steel inner wall, which radiates infrared heat.

The boring details

The instructions said to season the interior by coating it with a thin layer of vegetable oil and running the fryer until the oil cooks off and the metal surface changes color. The stainless steel turned a nice bronze color.

Then it was time to add the turkey. I used the same butter and cajun seasoning injection I use for deep fried turkey, then coated the skin with a little vegetable oil to make the skin crispy and brown. The turkey goes into the removable stainless cooking basket with the legs on the bottom and the wings on the top.

After 20 minutes or so I removed the mesh wire top because these guys said so to avoid making the top too brown. I think they’re basically right, though I may go longer next time to get the skin crispier. I used the meat thermometer included in the box to make sure the breast temperature reached the recommended temperature of 165°. Since this was my first time I played it safe and let the temperature go to 170°.

Total cooking time for a 15 pound bird was about two and a half hours. That’s about three times longer than required for deep-frying. A deep fryer may make more sense if you’re cooking many birds to feed a lot of people. On the plus side there wasn’t a pot of boiling oil to guard from the kids, so I was free do other things during those two and a half hours without worry, which was pleasant.

How did it taste?

The turkey cooked in an infrared cooker was wonderful. It was moist. It was delicious. It was much better than the second, roasted bird we cooked in the oven. If you’ve only had roast turkey then infrared turkey will be an eye-opener.

Should I sell my deep fryer?

If you’ve ever had deep-fried turkey the question is how does infrared stack up? I didn’t have a deep-fried turkey handy for a side-by-side Pepsi challenge, but I’ve made turkies that way for the last three years.

Honestly? I still think deep-drying is the yummiest way to cook a turkey. The oil-less, infrared cooker is good, but deep fried is still taste king of gobbler mountain. The flavor and moisture really get locked in and the texture of the crispy skin is amazing. I also like the fact that a deep fryer is essentially a big propane burner that’s good for all sorts of outdoor cooking jobs. My emergency winter heating and cooking plan revolves around three propane tanks, a Mr. Heater Heat Buddy for heating, and a deep fryer for boiling and pan frying food. I won’t be selling my deep fryer.

Looking at the whole picture, though, infrared wins if cost of operation, safety, or healthy cooking are important. Too, I can see me using the infrared cooker for steaks, chicken, pork butt, brisket, ribs, you name it. I’m poring over the options for baskets, leg racks, rib hooks, and kabob hangers.

Taste-wise, there is one place where the Big Easy cooker flat-out whips a deep fryer …

Drippings and the gravy from Heaven

The removable drip pan is my favorite feature of the Char-Broil Big Easy. The non-stick drawer under the cooker is about the size of a narrow baking pan. It has a convenient handle and slides out smoothly so nothing spills. Good thing, too, since what’s inside is amazing.

After the first hour and a basting with a stick of butter the drip pan produced a pint of gorgeous, red and gold broth infused with butter, turkey fat, and cajun seasoning. The gravy my wife’s cousin Charla made from those drippings was mouth-watering. It may have been the best turkey gravy I’ve ever had in my 42 years. When the bird was done there was another pint of liquid in the drip pan, so you will never lack for turkey gravy.

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PreviouslyTalk to me about infrared turkey fryers

Playing Around with Gelling a Flash / Concert Photography

Natalie with a blue gelled flash

Moments after this picture was taken Natalie turned into a giant blueberry and was rolled away by Oompa Loompas. Made with a blue gel.

A while back I bought a Lumiquest gel holder and sample gels. Gels are colored plastic that change the color of your flash. Ever been to a rock concert with colored lights? They used gels to add color to white stage lights.

The gel holder attaches with velcro and comes with stick-on velcro strips for your flash. It was right at home on my Nikon SB-800 flash, which sports a rich, creamy coating of velcro. For the cherry SB-400 I decided to keep it velcroless for now and use Scotch tape. That worked, so I pitched a roll of Scotch tape into my camera bag for future use.

The main use of gels for flash photography is to match the flash color temperature to the color temperature of the ambient light. For daylight and incandescent/tungsten bulbs you use color temperature orange (CTO). For fluorescent you use a “window green” that’s the hue of old Coke bottles.

But today I was playing with my kids so we used primary colors. Fun stuff. Six year old Katie took these pictures of me. That girl will be a great photographer one day.

Red Gel over Flash

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Concert Photography

I bought these gels a while ago and hadn’t done much with them. Then the other night my wife took some concert photos at the Sara Jordan tribute. My favorite of that show is this shot of Jimmy Logston.

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Melissa turned off the flash for that shot and captured the stage lighting. The colors of the stage lights make it. So in general, I want to work with available light for concert shots. (And plenty of places don’t allow flash, so you don’t get a choice.)

Thing is, sometimes it would be really nice to have some extra light at concerts. I think I can turn down the flash power and gel the flash with colors to add some light without blowing away the ambient stage lighting. For instance, in this picture of Natalie in the hallway she’s red because of the nearby gelled flash, but the living room in the distance is lit by sunlight coming through the windows:

Natalit lit by a red gelled flash

I’m also thinking about using a snoot or grid to put the light on just one person, which should localize the color change even more.

Misc. Notes

  • The solid black shirt I was wearing in those pics was a lucky accident that worked out great. Some other shots where I’m wearing a striped shirt didn’t look as good.
  • We played with blue gels, too, and discovered they’re not very flattering for people photography. Red tends to conceal problems that blue highlights.
  • If your flash has a manual firing button or modeling mode adding a colored gel turns it into a toy raygun. PEW PEW!
  • LATER: I experimented with the red gel photos. They’re soft here. They look better with more contrast/shadows.

For More Info

Strobist

Digital Photography School

Knoxville’s 1797 Ramsey House

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We were bored Saturday, so the wee wifey and I took the kids to a couple of historical sites around Knoxville. One that neither of us had ever visited was Ramsey House Plantation, off of Strawberry Plains Pike.

The house was designed by Thomas Hope for Francis Alexander Ramsey. Ramsey and his sons became important figures in Knoxville government and commerce. Son J.G.M. Ramsey was an important early Tennessee historian and author of The Annals of Tennessee. Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey: Autobiography and Letters, is available as a free download from the University of Tennessee.

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The Civil War ruined the family’s finances. A feud with the Brownlow family, who had sided with the Union, forced many of the Ramseys to flee to South Carolina. During the Union occupation of Knoxville Union forces destroyed J.G.M. Ramsey’s 4,000 volume library at his Mecklenburg mansion as well as his second volume of The Annals of Tennessee.

The Ramseys had no choice but to sell the house. It changed owners a number of times and fell into disrepair. The Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities bought the house in 1952 and restored it. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

To see the home’s interior take the $7 tour, which is well worth it. Flash photography isn’t allowed inside, so bring a fast lens. The 15 minute video before the tour is wonderful for anyone with an interest in Knoxville history.

I’m always curious about the bric-a-brac of daily life in historical homes, and Ramsey House doesn’t disappoint if you start asking questions. A small cabinet in front of the dining room fireplace was a dish warmer, used to warm dishes before meals and to keep plates of food warm. A large brown square was compressed tea, which was how tea was commonly sold. A sign-like device near the study fireplace was used to keep heat off from the fire off the face, for anyone with sensitive skin or with war injuries covered by beeswax makeup.

While we were there we saw some professional photographers taking pictures outside. The building, landscaping, and open fields make for a very good location for portrait and family photography. The non-profit that maintains the home also host weddings. For more information, visit the Wikipedia link above or the house’s Web site.

Ramsey House, rear

Mystery Goat

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Happy 4th Birthday, Natalie

Natalie at Gulf World, Panama City Beach

Natalie, here are a few things about you at this age for you to remember.

Some of the Cutest Things You Say

“Come sit next by me.”

“Mommy, I tired. Let’s go back to the hope and tell.”

“I never had one. Can I have it? Pleee-ease? It’s my favorite.”

“Daddy, I maded you a Valentime.”

Natalie at Panama City Beach

You love animals, especially our cat Felix. You carry him around and cover him up with blankets like a baby. You’ve even gotten Milo the cat used to being carried around, which I never thought would happen. All of our pets are growing to love you more and more.

You’re a very healthy eater. You’ll eat sliced tomatoes and pickles and olives and lots of things most kids your age won’t eat.

You can count to 100 with a little help. You like counting to eight instead of 10. When we play Hide and Seek you always want to count to eight.

You’re going to be a very good athlete when you grow up. You and Katie have taken swimming lessons and ballet lessons. Last weekend you two were in a recital at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium.

Katie and Natalie at St. Andrews Beach

Your Favorite Games

Except for Eye Spy, we invented all of them, so I’ll tell you how we play them so you can remember.

  • Eye Spy – You love playing Eye Spy anytime, anywhere,
  • Monster – I’m the monster chasing you and your sister. You want to play Monster every night.
  • Shark Attack – The swimming pool version of Monster. I yell “shark attack” and swim underwater with my hand sticking out of the water like a shark fin. We started playing this on the Panama City trip.
  • Spider – Katie invented this when she was like 3 years old. You and she get under the covers. Mommy and I say “there’s no spider in my bed” and you pretend to be a spider biting us.
  • Sink – Katie invented this, too. I put my legs on the ottoman, cover my legs with a big blanket, and you stand on the blanket until you sink down. Then I cover you up and say “Where’s Natalie? I don’t see her.”
  • Rumfah – I hold you above my shoulders, say “Rumfah!”, push you up into the air, and catch you on the way down. You and Katie also like for me to swing you back and forth by your arms, to carry you upside down through the house, and to throw you on the bed (1-2-3).

Natalie and Katie, St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach

Mom and dad love you, kiddo.

Word of the Day: EVIL Cameras and Four Thirds Cameras

Sony EVIL

Sony NEX-3, an EVIL Design

EVIL – Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens. Also known as a hybrid camera. The EVIL system is a digital camera that’s at a point somewhere between compact point and shoot cameras and full-featured DSLRs. It has interchangeable lenses and uses an LCD for previewing the picture. (LATER: Another name that’s popping up for these systems is MILC: Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras.)

The new Sony NEX-3 has me thinking about EVIL cameras again. And while I’m thinking about it I decided to write about it. In the process I did a little research and learned a bit more.

(That’s one reason I blog, by the way. Writing about something forces me to research it, organize my thoughts, and form an opinion. Then I get feedback from you. It’s a good system.)

A Brief History of pre-EVIL Cameras

Some cameras, such as rangefinders, use two lenses. One lens captures the image while the the photographer looks through a second lens – the viewfinder – to compose the picture. What you see in the viewfinder isn’t what you get – the camera is seeing the shot from a slightly different angle (the parallax problem) and if there are any filters on the lens you can’t see their effect in the viewfinder at all.

Enter the Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. The light from the lens strikes an angled mirror and reflects up into the viewfinder tower. A prism or mirror routes the image back through the viewfinder eyepiece. Your eye sees exactly what the lens is seeing without any delay and without color shifts or fuzziness caused by an LCD screen. When you press the shutter release the mirror flips up and out of the way, the shutter opens, and the light from the lens exposes the images.

Enter EVIL

EVILs eliminate the mirror and viewfinder tower, which makes them thinner and lighter than DSLRs. I suspect most will have fewer features than a DSLR and will be easier to use, making them more appealing to beginning and intermediate users.

In place of the mirror and optical viewfinder tower EVIL cameras use an electronic viewfinder (the EV in EVIL) or rear LCD, like a point and shoot. While it makes for a compact design, it’s bad in almost every other way. LCDs aren’t as sharp or as color accurate  as good quality optics. What’s on the LCDs tends to lag the actual image, which never happens with optics. The LCD also tends to run down the battery.

Likewise, autofocus speed and accuracy suffers. DSLRs use phase detection autofocus, which gives better results than the contrast detection autofocus of most point and shoot and EVIL cameras, particularly under low light. You read nonsense about EVILs replacing DSLRs, but this factor alone will keep DSLRs in play for many people, such as sports photographers.

SLRs have been around for eight decades. There’s no risk in buying a DSLR. There’s a slight risk that the EVIL market will turn out to be a short-lived fad, sort of like the APS intermediate film fiasco. In fact, with the variety of mutually-incompatible EVIL systems out there it’s a sure bet that some of them will fail in the marketplace. Caveat emptor.

Sensors

Comparison of sensor sizes.

Comparison of sensor sizes. 1/1.6" and smaller are point and shoots. APS-C and larger are DSLRs.

Sensors are the digital equivalent of film. They’re silicon chips that convert light into electrical signals that can be formed into an image. Larger sensors tend to have improved image quality and better low-light performance.

(The sensor size has nothing to do with the number of megapixels, by the way. Chip makers keep finding ways to fit more and more megapixels onto the same-sized sensors. Anyway, megapixels are not a measure of image quality.)

EVIL sensors are much larger than point and shoots, but usually not as large as DSLR sensors. (The Sony uses a DSLR-sized APS-C sensor and is an exception.) If you want the best image quality, you’ll still want a DSLR.

Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds (MFT)

Four Thirds is a particular design spec by Kodak and Olympus for reduced-size DSLRs. Other manufacturers can join the consortium; Panasonic and Leica now produce Four Thirds cameras.

Panasonic and Olympus downsized the design further by creating the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system. It uses the same sensor size as Four Thirds, but it’s a pure EVIL design without a mirror or viewfinder tower. Micro Four Thirds uses a smaller lens mount and smaller lenses than Four Thirds, thought it can use Four Thirds lenses via an adapter. And really, Micro Four Thirds sounds so much consumer-friendly than EVIL, dunnit?

Lenses

Like a DSLR, EVIL cameras have lens mounts for interchangeable lenses (the IL in EVIL) rather than a permanently-attached lens. You can buy lenses purpose-built for a particular EVIL format. Those lenses can be much smaller and lighter than traditional DSLR lenses because they’re designed to cover a smaller sensor and they sit closer to that sensor.

You may also be able to use your existing lenses, if they’re compatible with that mount. So for instance that Sony NEX-3 above can use Sony Alpha DSLR lenses using an adapter, but autofocus won’t work, which is a major disappointment for Sony DSLR owners. In many cases you can make all sorts of lenses work with an adapter, but you will have to set focus and/or exposure manually. That robs the lens interchangeability of its charm for all but the lion-hearted. Manual focusing isn’t easy and I’d imagine manual focusing with an LCD would be very unpleasant.

Bear in mind, too, that if you’ve got a tiny little camera and you hang a big honkin’ lens off the front the result is going to be more comical than practical. DSLRs work well with big lenses because you hold them close to your body with the camera next to your face. With an EVIL most people will default to the point and shoot stance, holding the camera out at arms length, a posture which is not conducive to good pictures with a large lens.  Handling is generally not considered a strong point of EVIL cameras and the ergonomics of that Sony in particular look awful.

That In-between Format

Panasonic GF1

Panasonic GF1

At my kids’ soccer games I see more parents using DSLRs than point and shoots. There are certainly plenty of people looking for something better than their point and shoot – a camera that’s more responsive, offers better photo quality, and works better in low light.

EVILs might make more sense for these users than point and shoots or DSLRs, if they can afford them. The Olympus Pen E-PL1 is $550. The Panasonic GF1 is $750. The Sony NEX-3 is in between. Meanwhile an entry-level DSLR from Nikon or Canon can be had for $5-700. (All prices include a zoom lens.) EVIL might indeed repeat APS history: “APS SLR cameras were too expensive for the high end amateur market when they first appeared, and professional photographers stuck with 35 mm cameras, which offered greater image quality and resolution.”

There’s also the oddity that most EVIL systems – including the Sony, Olympus and Panasonic mentioned here – lack built-in flash. You have to buy and carry a separate flash and mount it when needed. All point and shoots and most consumer-oriented DSLRs have built-in flash, so this is just a bizarre omission.

Is EVIL For You?

You’ll have to decide that for yourself, but I’m pretty sure it’s not for me. As a Southern Baptist preacher would say I have rejected EEEEEEEEE-VIL.

I strongly believe that I’ll get more good pictures if I have a camera handy. For that reason my first camera was a pocket-sized point and shoot. When that proved to be unsatisfactory I moved to a superzoom that was still pocketable. Then I moved to a DSLR. At first blush an EVIL seems like a more convenient camera that I’m more likely to take with me, but I don’t think it is.

My attitude towards EVIL cameras is simple. My old Panasonic FZ5 12x superzoom will fit in the pocket of my Columbia pants. An EVIL with my smallest DSLR lens won’t. If I have to carry the camera in a bag or on a neckstrap I might as well carry my DSLR and get even better pictures. Too, now that I’ve laid out the cash for a DSLR and a set of lenses I really can’t afford to drop a couple thou on an EVIL camera and lens system as a second platform, all for a small savings in weight.

Granted, I have a Nikon D40, which is one of the smallest and lightest DSLRs. An EVIL camera may be more attractive if you have a larger DSLR and/or more discretionary income than me to spend on photography, or if you’ve got no investment in a DSLR system.

Believe it or not, what I really want now is a better camera in my cell phone. That way I’ll always have a camera with me for impromptu picture-taking and picture-uploading. I can bring along a DSLR for when I’m planning to take pictures and want the best quality. Meanwhile, I like keeping a camera in the car at all times in case opportunity knocks. I think for me that’s a better go-anywhere approach than a slightly-downsized and heavily-compromised EVIL system.

More information

First Infrared Pictures with the Hoya R-72 IR Filter

Infrared Trees and Sky

Infrared Trees and Sky

Leyland Cypress Trees in Infrared

Infrared Leyland Cypresses

Sun Sky and Clouds in Infrared

Infrared Sun Sky and Clouds

Natalie Same Place Same Time

I dig the outrageous contrast between the black and white ends of the histogram. The IR filter turned this serene city park into something incredibly dramatic. For comparison, here’s a plain Jane non-IR photograph of Natalie, same place same time. You can see from the light on her face that it was a bright, sunny day.

Technical Stuff

I took these on a whim freehand with a Nikon D40 camera, a Nikon 35mm/F1.8 lens, and a Hoya R-72 infrared filter. The D40 is unusual in that it’s sensitive enough to near-infrared light that it’s actually possible to use it to take handheld IR photos. Apparently that would be a pipedream on many other DSLRs.

Infrared pictures are red out of the camera. I converted them to black and white with Google Picasa’s Filtered B&W effect, filtering on green after using the Auto Contrast and Sharpening effects. Filtering on red produces interesting results that are a touch less dramatic, but still interesting and contrasty. Compare the trees above with this version filtered on red.

Since this was a quickie experiment I used automatic mode on the camera. That worked better than expected. The first two photos are at F2.8. The last one pointing into the sun is at F6.4. (WARNING: Don’t look at the sun through an IR filter. It looks black, but it passes near-IR rays that I’ve read can blind you in seconds. I just aimed without looking through the viewfinder.)

For some reason the camera cranked up the ISO to the 600-700 range, rather than using its maximum aperture. I used NeatImage to reduce the ISO noise. Shutter speeds for the first two pictures were a longish 1/30s, which is why the pictures aren’t sharp. For serious IR work I’d use a tripod. The next time I try shooting handheld I’ll use manual exposure and set the aperture to F1.8 with a shutter speed one stop faster.

One thing I quickly learned is that the viewfinder is worthless for IR photography. There’s so little visible light (as opposed to near-IR light) passing through an IR filter that the viewfinder is completely black. I had to aim the camera, take a picture, look at the LCD, and then re-aim and take another picture until I got it right. A camera with LiveView might help with composition. For tripod use it seems that most people compose the picture and then mount the IR filter.

Photos taken at Everett Recreation Center, Maryville TN after Katie’s recital.

PreviouslyInfrared Photography Links

Internet Movie Firearms Database – The Greatest Web Site on the Entire Internet

Kris Kristofferson in Blade

HFS!!!11!!ONE!!! Internet Movie Firearms Database is what Wikipedia would look like if an army of Mad Ogres staged a raid on Wikipedia headquarters in Hong Kong dual-wielding slow-mo style and took over the joint. This is the greatest bet-settler since the Guinness Book of World Records.

Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales

Choose your path:

By gun

Tom Selleck in Quigley Down Under

By actor

Wesley Snipes in Blade

By movie

Nathan Fillion in Firefly

By TV show

By video game

By anime

Previously:

Screw You, Too, 2009

When a year starts with the discovery your mom has Alzheimer’s it is not going to go well. When your wife’s company goes out of business a few weeks later it’s really not going to go well. So I for one won’t miss you a bit, 2009. You don’t like me and I don’t like you, so let’s agree to stay in separate years from now on.

Conversation About New Year’s

MELISSA: Natalie, do you know what tomorrow is?
THREE YEAR OLD NATALIE: Um, Friday.
MELISSA: Yes, but what else? Today’s the last day of the year. So what’s tomorrow?
THREE YEAR OLD NATALIE: New Year.
MELISSA: That’s right. What year will it be?
THREE YEAR OLD NATALIE: 2009
MELISSA: No, this is 2009. What comes after 2009?
THREE YEAR OLD NATALIE: 2008.
MELISSA: No, what comes after 2009?
THREE YEAR OLD NATALIE: Fine! I not going to tell you!

Apparently “I not going to tell you!” is Natalie’s new answer when she’s tired of answering questions.

Pocket Holsters and Gun Pants

SayUncle isn’t crazy about pocket holsters. It’s true that drawing from a pocket isn’t as fast as from a belt, and it’s hard to draw from a seated position, like a car.

I mostly pocket carry because it fits the way I dress. With any kind of belt carry you have to conceal the gun and holster. I don’t walk around with an untucked shirt, which seems to be the major solution to concealing. I’d feel goofy wearing a vest all the time. It’s too warm in Tennessee to wear a coat most of the year and then once you’re inside you have to remove the coat.

Pocket Carry Gun

For me shoving a gun in a deep pocket with a pocket holster is the only way to fly. The gun I carry most often is a Smith & Wesson AirWeight 642. It’s a small, five-shot .38 Special revolver with a two inch barrel. For pocket carry you want something light that won’t bang against your thigh all day. The 642 has a stainless steel barrel and cylinder but an aluminum frame, which keeps the weight to just 15 ounces. The aluminum and stainless steel construction translate to minimal worries about rust.

My carry load is the Remington version of the FBI load – a 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter hollowpoint (LSWCHP) in .38 Special+P. That load has a long history of both good penetration and good expansion, even out of snubnose thirty-eights. I use Safariland Comp 1 speedloaders to reload the 642.

The one weak point in the 642 and other J-frame Smith and Wessons is the small sights. I make up for that by using Crimson Trace LaserGrips. When you hold the LaserGrips in a normal position your middle finger naturally presses a button which projects a laser dot onto the target. I use the 305 model. If I were buying today I’d get the newer and slightly smaller 405 model.

Pocket Carry Pants

I like Columbia ROC pants for pocket carry. The pockets are deep with wide openings that make it easy to remove the gun. There’s a second pocket on the right side behind the regular pocket where I carry the snubnose .38. Like the main pocket the extra pocket it’s deep and wide. I use the front pocket for carrying a lockblade folding knife that I can open with one hand. Currently that’s a Benchmade Griptilian.

The Columbia pants are business casual and good-looking. My only complaint is that the material wears out faster than I’d like, but they fetch for less than 30 bucks, so I won’t complain too much. I buy mine at Belk’s, Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shop, or the Mast General Store.

Pocket Holsters

I always use a pocket holster. It keeps the gun in the right position, so when I grab the gun I get the grip and not the barrel. The holster also blocks the trigger guard for safety so you don’t get a surprise vasectomy, keeps lint out of the gun, and spreads the gun’s weight across a larger area so the pocket doesn’t wear out.

What I want most is a holster that stays behind in the pocket when I draw instead of coming along for the ride. If it disguises the shape of the gun that’s nice, too, but it’s secondary to actually being able to fire the gun once it comes out of the pocket.

The first pocket holster I tried was an Uncle Mike’s. It was inexpensive, but it wore quickly around the seams. Because it’s small and slick-surfaced it didn’t always stay behind when you pull the gun. It also didn’t do much to disguise the shape of the gun. I don’t recommend it.

The Desantis Nemesis is better made and has more surface friction to hold the holster in place. It’s wider, too, with a hook design below the trigger guard that grabs the inside corner of the pocket to keep it from coming out on the draw. You see a hook on the corner of a lot of pocket holsters and it does seem to help. You’ll also see leather holsters with the rough (suede) side out to grab the pocket lining and that helps, too. The pocket holster for my NAA Black Widow uses both of those tricks, and it’s a surprisingly good holster.

I mostly use the affordable but great Mika holster. It has a rubbery mesh band that grabs the pocket so the holster stays in the pocket and the gun pulls free. The sides bow out, so it’s especially good for pockets with lots of volume.

P.S. Here’s Jay G’s video demonstration of drawing from the pocket using a Smith & Wesson 360 and Desantis Nemesis. He’s fast. If you carry a revolver and want to know which speedloader to use read his post here and watch the videos.

Merry Christmas from Katie and Natalie and Melissa and Me

Natalie with Marigolds

Natalie has the curliest hair you’ve ever seen. Melissa put some straightener in her hair and took this picture. Within a couple of hours of being out in the humidity her hair curled right back up. Natalie’s three and has never had a haircut, so it’s sort of amazing when you see how long her hair really is.

When we wash her hair it looks very dark, darker than Katie’s, even. It’s just the ends that are light and make her look very blonde. Looking at old pictures I was blonde in preschool and only became brown haired later.

Natalie’s First Snow