Mightier than the sword

Have you ever heard of tactical pens?

I mean, were you even aware that tactical pens were a thing?

I only just became aware of it. As I’m becoming more interested in the burgeoning concept of Every Day Carry, which for most of us simply means we carry a wallet, a comb, a handkerchief, a pen, a notebook, and keys (and maybe two or three knives) while for others it means carrying personal defensive items, such as knives, heavy keychains for striking, tactical flashlights to blind or confuse an attacker, expandable batons, and the like.

Because of my interest in knives (mostly for utility use and the occassional curiosity piece), my Internet research has plunged me deep into the abyss that is survivalist paranoia, and that’s where I came upon the phrase “tactical pens,” and of course I was like, “What the fuck is that?”

After all, as a writer, I’m all about pens. The more, the merrier, in fact. One can never have too many pens. All my jacket pockets are full of pens — fountain pens, ball point pens, rollerball pens, pens with smartphone styluses, and even mechanical pencils — and of course notebooks upon which to apply said pens.

I have pens that twist to write, click to write, pull off the cap to write, move a ratchet on the side to write.

I have pens that were gifts, fancy pens, cheap pens, pens imprinted with business logos (given away as free advertising or which I just pocketed because that’s how I am).

But tactical pens? I didn’t even know what that meant.

So I Googled it and I learned that a tactical pen is basically a self-defense weapon. It can trace it’s roots back to the 1960s, when Sōke Takayuki Kubota, a Japanese-American who founded the Gosoku-ryu style of karate, invented the Kubotan, a keychain weapon about the size of a marker pen used to strike vulnerable areas of an attacker (for example, bony, fleshy and sensitive parts such as knuckles, forearms, the bridge of the nose, shins, temple, ribs, groin, neck, eyes, and so on).

The Kubotan is easy to conceal and when properly used, effective in warding off an attack.

The tactical pen, therefore, was influenced by the Kubotan. It is useful as a writing implement, but can be used as a weapon when a dangerous situation arises.

They are made of various materials, from hard durable plastic to metal, such as aluminium. Often the non-writing end comes to a hard point which can also double as a glass breaker if you are trapped in your car.

Let me state that in today’s society, you don’t have to be a paranoid survivalist to understand the need for situational awareness — to always be aware of your surroundings. But that doesn’t mean you have to live every moment in fear (like those gun-toting types), only that you are prepared for any eventuality. Crackpots are everywhere and even a quiet walk in the park can turn into a life-or-death struggle.

Your first response to any attack should be flight. Put as much distance between yourself and the attacker as possible.

Also make a lot of noise to attract anyone’s attention and possibly scare off the attacker.

Fighting shoukd be a last resort, but in the event you do need to fight, having a tactical pen handy could be the difference maker.

Sure, would a gun, knife, mace, or a collapsible baton, or even a sword be a better choice? Of course, except there are many places and situations which preclude carrying any of those items. (Not to mention many people don’t even like those things.)

Therefore, a pen might be all you have on you and, if that’s the case, wouldn’t you want to have a pen that won’t shatter or break when you need it the most?

Think about it. As writers, we always have a pen with us. Always. We jot down ideas, make notes, plot, and so on. Doesn’t it make sense to have a pen that can also kick ass?

Here’s a video demonstrating using a tactical pen:

And here is a woman’s self-defense video using a Kubotan, but a tactical pen will work just as well (I like this one because she beats the crap out of the instructor):

If you’d like more information on purchasing your own tactical pen, follow this link to a Guide to Tactical Pens courtesy of Blade HQ, to help you get started.

I saw that Schrade made a tactical fountain pen and I was all over that until I discovered it is unavailable, out of stock, and possibly never to be seen again. *sad face*

One thing I read is that the ballpoint pen ink cartridge used in the Smith and Wesson ballpoint pens (as well as Schrade) is less than desirable for writing, which sucks because a pen that can’t write is just a stick. AmIrite?

Many users it seems, however, found the ink cartridge for the Fisher Space Pen is a good replacement, which means you’d not only have a kick ass life-saving pen, but in a pinch you can write with it upside down in zero gravity while underwater!

How cool is that?

Just be careful taking one on a plane. Those anal bastards at TSA consider them weapons! How absurd.

 

I hope you enjoyed this little primer about tactical pens. I’m off to search eBay for a fountain pen.

kubaton strike areas

Don’t forget: These strike points work on Nazis as well

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Writing Wednesday

This weekend that just passed, Decades TV had their weekend binge, where they show an old television show all weekend long. This time around they showed whatever it is — 40 hours? — of Lost in Space, one of the great sci-fi television programs of all time.

OF ALL TIME!

There is no argument about that.

151120-lost-in-space

But seriously, if you grew up in the 60s, the first sci-fi space adventure television program that aired was Lost in Space. I was at the perfect age where I was mesmerized by lasers, force fields, the Jupiter 2, and of course, the greatest robot ever created, the Robot, or B9 as some of us call him.

Jupiter-2 168 10-9-11

And because I had fallen in love with the concept — a family of space pioneers setting off to colonize Alpha Centauri, who were unfortunately sent astray by a saboteur, who they then welcomed into their family with open arms — I was able to simply accept the fanciful silliness .

It’s been many years since I’ve watched it. I caught an episode now and then when MeTV was airing it several years ago, but not since they changed their lineup. When Decades aired it this past weekend, we had our television tuned to it for the duration.

And you know what? I still love that show. Even with all the pseudoscience and over-the-top fantasy elements of pirates, knights in shining armor, hillbillies, and a talking carrot, I still found the show very enjoyable to watch.

In fact, something strange happened while watching it.

I started to get the itch to write about it. I mean, if you’re a fan of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, for example, there are tons of authorized novels out there to satisfy even the most voracious reader.

But Lost in Space? Nothing.

Well, OK, there was one book, published back in 1967 or so, which I read when I was 10.

Novel

But that’s it.

And without even consciously thinking about it, a story, a novel of Lost in Space has begun to formulate in my imagination.

Personally? I’d rather it just go away because what could I do with it? Who would buy a novel about a television show that only aired 83 episodes and went off the air in 1968?

I’d rather write something marketable.

I’d rather start the final polish on my own urban fantasy fairie tale.

Or start working on the sequel to my urban fantasy fairie tale.

Or even finish up my two weird westerns.

Anything!

But so far, all I can think about is Lost in Space, and the story keeps growing and growing and at this rate, it won’t be denied.

Maybe I should write it just to make it go away.

Lost in Space is suited to my writing style, however, because it is as much fantasy as science fiction and it’s science is often somewhat fudged. In that way, Lost in Space is more akin to Star Wars than Star Trek.

Lost in Space can best be described as pulp fiction style space opera. More ray guns and monsters than quarks and string theory.

So in that regard, Lost in Space is almost a perfect venture for me.

Let me mull it over some more.

Stay tuned. Same time! Same channel!

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Boker Magnum Mermaid

I purchased a Boker Magnum Mermaid knife because it looked interesting.

It is made of a beautiful gleaming stainless steel that looks like water, almost. Boker calls the color spectrum.

I made my first ever YouTube video of the unboxing (because isn’t that what people do?) and my first impressions.

If you watch you’ll see exactly why Im a writer and not a public speaker.

I hope you enjoy it.

It isn’t something that I’ll every day carry, although it is very sharp and despite the handle being stainless, it feels secure in my grip.

It is a solid knife with no blade play whatsoever and a very solid lockup from the liner lock.

Although the flipper action isn’t quite what I exoected. The only other flipper I have, a POS Wartech, is spring assisted so when I flip it open, it snaps all the way open first try.

I tried oiling the Mermaid last night to see if that would help, but no. It flips open only until the flipper disappears into the handle and no more. Sure, I can give it a hard wrist snap and sometimes it’ll lock open, but compared to my Schrade, it takes much more effort to open the Mermaid.

Still, it’ll make a unique addition to my collection even if I don’t ever use it.

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Caveat emptor

Earlier this year, I purchased a 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge with around 32,000 miles on it.

I was looking at cars, but thinking like a Mini Cooper or even a Ford Mustang (something to satisfy my inner teen). A Fiat wasn’t even in the running, but my wife spotted a little green metalic one on a lot we were going to walk right past after going to International Mini and being completely ignored. Snooty Bastards. What? We didn’t wear cashmire or designer label clothes?

We walked over to look at it. It was small and cute. I really only need a fuel-efficient car for commuting to work. The salesman came out, showed it to us, and let us take it for a drive. No pressure. The car literally sold itself.

I was very pleased and wrote a good review on their Facebook page (and read a lot of complaints).

Well, I took Gina in for her first oil change (I thought the Fiat had an idiot light like our Chevy that would tell us when to service it, but I guess not). I also had them do a 30k or 40k checkup and asked them to see if they could figure out this weird hesitation the car has on really cold mornings.

I turn the key and nothing happens for two or three seconds — as if the entire electrical system is dead — then it’s like the car goes, “Oh! You wanted me to start?” and then it fires up.

I left it there, went home, and then got a call back. “When was this serviced last?”

I assumed at the dealership before they sold it. Isn’t that what reputable dealers do: a multi-point inspection to make sure the car is roadworthy before they put it out for sale?

“We found a few issues. A bracket [I don’t recall which one he said, see first picture] is just hanging loose. No one attached it back after whatever work was done. Also, the cover to the timing chain is on wrong. It wasn’t bolted on correctly. And lastly, when we took off the bottom engine guard to drain the oil, a heavy piece of angled iron fell out (see second picture). Did you ever hear any rattling?”

No. I never heard any rattling.

“We ran the diagnostics but haven’t figured out the starting issue. We’ll keep looking, but your PCV valve is bad. We ordered a new one and it’ll get here tomorrow.”

Here is that unattached bracket:

And here is that chunk of metal:

So my $20 oil change turned into a $500 nightmare.

I’m angry and completely disenchanted with mankind (as if TheRump’s election hadn’t already put me over that edge).

How the flock can a dealership, even one that isn’t actually a dealership (they don’t service cars or back what they sell with maintenance plans, there primary business is business leasing of vehicles and selling those leased vehicles after they are turned in, as well as an occasional trade-in). I knew from the start that once I drove it off the lot I was on my own. (But I figured, what kind of problems could I have with a 4-year-old car that averaged only 7,500 miles per year? Especially since we were unloading a car that when we bought it was 6 years old and had averaged 16,000+ miles per year.)

I at least expected the car to be in running shape! That they’d at least do a thorough once over to make sure everything was mechanically sound, at the very least give it an oil change.

But it doesn’t appear they even did that much. Or if they did, the mechanic then put the iron piece back in the engine guard when he was done!

The mind boggles! And I’m composing a very strongly worded letter of disappointment, with the pictures my mechanic texted me, along with the invoice to fix those issues, to the owner of the business.

I’m debating if I should attach the letter to the iron piece and throw it through their window.

I got Gina back and she seems to drive much better. It might be my imagination, or it could be that she desperately needed an oil change. Or the new PCV valve makes that much of a difference. (They did change spark plugs and air filters, as well.)

Maybe those incorrectly attached brace and cover were important. Or possibly that iron piece was weighing her down.

As a sidenote: My Fiat 500’s rear headrests were missing when I purchased it. I was looking to buy some to replacements. When my wife was looking to replace her car, we stopped at a Fiat dealership to test drive a Fiat 500X.

I asked the salesman about buying replacement headrests for my car.

“What happened to yours?”

It didn’t have any when I bought it.

He looked aghast. “Those are considered safety equipment. They aren’t just headrests, but are head restraints. You can’t legally sell a car in Wisconsin without head restraints. I’d go back and tell them that.”

Well, I emailed them instead. I said since they are required safety equipment that they should provide them for me. The salesman emailed me back. He’d check with the previous owner and he’d email me back. Basically, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” And I kept meaning to follow up, but haven’t yet. I’ll add that issue to my letter of complaint.

What ever happened to good, reliable customer service?

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Just another random Friday

Friday Haiku

Christmas is coming

The children are excited

Adults, not so much

New ADHD-fueled interest

And just like that, I have a new interest. I should have seen it coming when I blogged about the knife I found from my father-in-law (I reworded that sentence to avoid making father-in-law possessive because I’m not sure if it is father’s-in-law or father-in-law’s).

My new sudden interest is, of course, knives. Since that blog, I’ve purchased a new folder by Schrade. It caught my eye because it’s aesthetically completely different from my 40-year-old Buck 503 knife.

I also purchased a knife sharpening system from Lansky because, well, I’ve never ever been able to figure out how to sharpen knives.

Sure, I’ve tried. I’ve had people explain it (but have never had anyone teach me), I’ve read books, and I’ve watched videos. Yet for whatever reason, the concept escapes me in actual practice.

I just can’t maintain a consistent angle as I drag the knife across a sharpening stone and more often than not the edge ends up as dull as when I started. I suspect I’m just not coordinated enough or don’t have the attention span to maintain a concise angle through the entire process.

Because of this ineptitude, I’ve resorted to those drag through sharpeners. Sure, you get a sharp edge, but those things also are very aggressive in removing metal. After years of use your nicely shaped knife blade has been reduced to nothing for than a icepick thick filet knife.

So after watching several YouTube videos of people getting their knives so sharp they can shave with them (one showed the guy splitting hairs! I’ve always wanted to split hairs), I decided I needed a sharpening system that held the knife and stone at the precise angle throughout the entire process.

Thus, the Lansky sharpening system. It’s inexpensive, especially when compared to those $300+ systems out there. I chose the Natural Arkansas hones because, well, I don’t know. Maybe natural and Arkansas triggered a more pleasurable response than their other offerings.

Maybe I’ll make a video sometime of shaving or splitting hairs.

Balisong

No, not the Bali Hai song, I’m talking about those flipper type knives known as butterfly knives that originated in the Philippines.

While in the Navy, an old salt was talking about those knives. He was telling me a story about why they were called butterfly knives. He said, when sailors were stationed in the Philippines, they’d often have Filipino girl friends. Jealous girl friends, who, if they thought you were cheating on them *snigit!* they’d suddenly flip open one of these knives and ask, not so gently, “You butterfly?” The appropriate response to which, if you wanted to remain intact and unpunctured, would be a wholehearted, “No! Me no butterfly!”

Anyway, that’s what I was told. It could have been just another sea tale for all I know.

Anyway, the reason I brought up the topic of balisongs or butterfly knives is because my ADHD has made them the next must have it now thing. So I’m reading up on them and watching YouTube videos. They’re like very sharp, very dangerous fidget spinners, so of course, I want one.

Although, I wonder how well I could flip considering my general lack of coordination. I haven’t even been able to finger roll a pen very fast (think of the Top Gun classroom scene where Val Kilmer’s character, Iceman, spins his pen), so I doubt if I can achieve moves like the following:

Maybe I should start with an unsharpened trainer first, since we never seem to have an adequate supply of bandaids in our house. I swear someone is eating them.

Flynn folds

If you’re a #Resistor there has been some good news today.

Mike Flynn has plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI, re: the Russian Probe.

Amy Siskind tweeted: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on Friday that President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea is a sign that the House Judiciary Committee has enough evidence to probe the president for obstruction of justice.

Good times.

Not welcome here

The Orange Turd is such a bumbling jackass, who is not only straining all our relationships with our allies, but now he’s not even welcone to visit our staunchest ally, the United Kingdom.

Anyone who had the erroneous belief President Obama somehow made America a joke needs to open their eyes to what the Orange Turd is doing. No one is laughing at is, they’re embarrassed by us and don’t even want us to visit them any more.

The manchild is a witless buffoon who needs to be removed from office ASAP.

He’s campaigning for a child molester for Cripe’s sake!

Impeachment isn’t enough for him, we need to invoke the 2tth Amendment and get rid of him completely.

End note

Today’s the first day of December as many of us rush headlong into Christmas and debt. Try not to think about that and just have a great weekend.

I leave you with this:

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Shadows of downtown

I walked through the downtown Boston Store yesterday, to get some gift ideas, and I was shocked to realize they had cut it in half.

The street level store area used to extend from Wisconsin Avenue all the way back to Michigan Avenue and the second floor extended for the same length.

But now they’ve walled up the store halfway. I believe I read the other part will be office space and condos or something.

It makes me sad because the downtown Boston Store is all that remains of downtown’s glory days as the city’s primary shopping area and the place to go.

The Boston Store, as well as the former Gimbel’s, were the Taj Mahal’s of department stores and coexisted along side J.C. Penny, T.A. Chapman’s, and others throughout the 20th century.

Sure, all those stores had other locations at Capital Court mall, Mayfair mall, and other malls, but the downtown stores were special. They were a delight to visit. Mall stores were small in comparison, maybe two floors and at best 260,000 square feet for the Capital Court Gimbel’s.

But downtown? The Gimbel’s and the Boston Store occupied an entire city block and were 7 or 8 stories of shopping adventure.

Shopping at these stores was an event. You didn’t just run in, grab something, and run out. No. You spent the day there. Gimbel’s had a Tasty Town grill type restaurant, as well as a delicatessen, a bakery, candy shoppe, flowers and so on. And that was just the street level.

Each floor was like visiting a completely different store. The second floor had rainwear, coats, custom wigs, lingerie, and robes. The third level had men’s clothing, men’s hats, kid’s clothing, sporting goods, and toys.

The fourth floor had housewares, appliances, oriental rugs, small electrics. The fifth floor had furniture, bedding, televisions, stereos. The sixth had lamps, mirrors, china, glassware, a gift shop, import bazaar. The 7th floor was offices, but the eighth floor had a Forum Restaurant for fine dining.

And the Boston Store was very similar. Seven floors of anything and everything you could possibly need. These were the Amazon.com of their day. Whatever you could possibly need, or imagine, could be found at these downtown department stores.

But the short-sighted removal of the trollies, the growing number of malls and white flight to the suburbs slowly killed the glamour and adventure of going downtown and visiting the department stores.

Now, the downtown Boston Store, once a glorious seven story monument to shopping adventure, has been reduced to just a shadow of it’s former magnificence, an oddity in a world where people shop online or drive to a strip mall

If you never visited one of these shopping megaliths, it’s probably hard to imagine the hustle and bustle as crowds of people moved excitedly within to the roar of conversation. The elevators were always full as they moved up and down, floor to floor, while the elevator operator chimed, “Fourth Floor. Lamps. Paintings. Mirrors. Occasional furniture.”

Sadly, the only way for someone today to get a small idea of what downtown department stores were like is by watching old Christmas movies, like “Miracle on 34th Street” or “Holiday Affair.” Unfortunately, they’re in black and white, so they give no sense of how colorful and well-lit these stores were.

The buildings still stand, but they’re mere shadows harkening back to a past when downtown was the place to see and be seen.

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Typical Random Friday Stuff

A Friday Haiku

I ran this morning

First morning run since July

Damned dog wanted out

(Damned is just one syllable, right?)

Don’t let failure define you

Face it, we all have setbacks. Just when we think we have this fitness thing figured out — we understand to lose weight we must expend more calories than we take in, we’ve made our exercise routine a daily habit, we’re reaching our goals — something happens and we find ourselves finding reasons why we can’t exercise today and a day becomes a week and that ice cream looks damned tasty and suddenly we’re 7 pounds heavier. (Wasn’t that sentence cringe-worthy?)

Well, my friends, there is no point in beating yourself up over it. Acknowledge it happened and get back on that horse that threw you and pick up where you left off.

(Speaking of horses, I’ve only actually ever been on a real horse once or twice in my life, not including pony rides as a kid. Do they even still have pony rides and are today’s kids as excited as our generation was to ride one or are they too busy SnapChatting?)

Anyway, I fell off that horse, um, the metaphorical one, not a real one, and my running schedule had become erratic of late.

Once it was an every day morning ritual in June, but as the days grew shorter and the mornings became darker, I stopped the morning runs and told myself I’d run after work. That worked for a short time, but other areas of life started intruding and my runs became less frequent and the pounds I was so proud of losing found their way back.

Now I could just mope around and eat another pound and a half bag of Mrs. Fisher’s potato chips (did you hear they will have to reformulate the recipe because of the ban on partially hydrogenated oils? Nooooooo!) or I could get back on that horse (the metaphorical one, of course. After all, it’s been 40 years since I rode that real one and it’s probably long dead by now) and pick up where I left off.

Thus, I ran this morning. As the Friday haiku says, first morning run since July. Granted, I didn’t get up on my own. I had sone unwanted help from a little dog who needed to go outside, yet despite that I still did it. I could have just as easily let him out and returned to bed, but instead I carried my gear down, changed, and jumped on the treadmill.

It’s a start. And that’s all we can do — start and hope it becomes a habit again.

Accept each setback as just another challenge to be overcome. Failure is a bully and it feeds on your disappointment. Don’t let failure win; kick it’s ass and then laugh in its face.

Congratulations

I forgot to congratulate my niece, who ran her first half-marathon, the Minnesota Monster Dash Half Marathon on October 28th. I didn’t even know she was a runner!

Way to go, Erin!

Weigh-In Friday

My results here are all screwed up. I haven’t officially recorded my weight since it started rising. And I was so proud I had finally dropped below 200.

As I hinted at above, I had gained a bit, but this week I lost. I’m down 4 pounds from the peak weight a few weeks ago.

I’ll start posting real numbers once I drop below 200 again. Until then, let’s just pretend this never happened. OK?

Cold weather detailing

Now that the temperatures are dropping, I haven’t been detailing my cars every day or so like I was in the summer.

Each morning, or evening, I took some detail spray and a microfiber cloth to each car until it was clean and shiney, free of all the everyday dust and gunk that accumulates on them as they sit outside all day exposed to the elements.

My wife’s Jetta always came home with these long, thin brown nodules (around 1-1/2 centimeters in length and about 1 or 2 millimeters wide) that I’d have to loosen gently with my thumb nail before the detail spray could clean the area. She said they were from the trees around her parking lot and can’t be avoided. (Maybe in the dark of night some time I’ll go cut them all down.)

At least the cold weather has eliminated the problem of tree sap, but it brings another: How to keep the paint shining when it’s too cold to use detail spray? Or even handwash?

This is my first winter since I’ve become detailing knowledgable and I seriously don’t know.

I did put in some Klasse High Gloss Sealant Glaze to help protect the finish, but that doesn’t solve the desire to have the cars shine.

Do I bite the bullet and run the cars through a machine wash once a week? Or do I live with road salt and slush spray until it becomes warm enough to handwash again?

We ran the Jetta through a car wash last week. I didn’t realize until we were in line with no turning back that it used brushes. Oy. I still cringe thinking about it and the paint swirls it might have introduced.

How do you keep your cars shining in winter?

That’s all folks!

And that wraps up another Friday blog. For the sake of my own blood pressure, I avoided politics. Not that there isn’t anything to say, I mean, that ignorant orange turd provides plenty of fodder for commentary; as well as the House GOP passing a tax bill that lines the pockets of giant corporations and millionaires, including the orange turd himself, at the expense of the poor and middle class; not to mention that Alabama voters are going to show the entire world just how fucked up their priorities are by voting in a child molester just because they don’t want a liberal; and of course, after years of warning the public about how bad the XL Pipeline would be, fighting to prevent it from being built, the damned thing proved us right by causing a 210,000 gallon spill in South Dakota!

But all that shit would require dozens of column inches to properly castigate and instead I think I’d rather wish everyone a pleasant weekend.

We’re expecting some snow, but with luck, not enough to prevent me from putting up my outside Christmas decorations.

And so, I’ll leave you with a song to get the weekend started. Not a Christmas song, Hell no, it’s too freaking early for that. Just a fun, enjoy the weekend kind of song.

Stay warm. Eat right. Exercise. And don’t forget to punch a Nazi.

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