Thursday, December 06, 2007

Being John Cusack

I like John Cusack. Who doesn't?

No no, that's a rhetorical question. You're not meant to answer it. If you don't like John Cusack, I don't even want to talk to you. Just ... go away.

What's to like about John Cusack? Well, just for starter there's his sister ... Joan Cusack. I am in total absolute love with Joan Cusack. Don't bother running to SWMBO with this breaking news. She already knows, and she can live with it.

This fondness for John Cusack (or more accurately, the characters which he so adroitly plays) didn't evolve slowly as I viewed all of his movies as they were produced. Instead, it happened in about two hours as I first watched "Grosse Point Blank" (1997). There he played Martin Q. Blank, an alumni of Grosse Point (Michigan) High School reacting to an invitation to his ten-year high school reunion.

It's not merely incidental that for the entire period since his high school graduation, after which he immediately disappeared, Blank has earned his living as an assassin. That's Professional Killer to the uninitiated. Blank's professional philosophy ("If I have to come see you, chances are you deserve it") has worn thin over the years, which is probably why he has hijacked Psychologist Dr. Oatman (frenetically played by Alan Arkin) into seeing him every Tuesday for one hour ... and Oatman must take Blank's neurotic phone calls because, see ... "You know what I do. If I couldn't trust you, I would have to kill you."


Blank's receptionist/secretary (Joan Cusack: "I ordered a thousand rounds of nine millimeter. What's so fucking hard about that?") is so rabidly over-the-top that you can't help but love her, even as she wanders around the office splashing gasoline from five-gallon containers, because "We've been exposed, we have to close the office."

I can put up with the execrable Minnie Driver as Blank's high-school sweetheart ("You kill people for a living! Don't you get it? You ... can't ... HAVE ... me!") because this is probably her Personal Best performance. Besides, Dan Akroyd plays Blank's nemisis ("What about that job up in Washington? Where you had to kill the dog? A Poodle? Hah ... Poodle Puncher!") and Akroyd is one of the best comics in the business: a veteran of the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players. (Think: Chevy Chase, Gilda, Belushi, etc.)

By the time the movie was over, I was surfing the net for my own personal copy of Grosse Point Blank.


But it got worse. I watched "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" because Cusack was in it. Serves me right. I even BOUGHT the DVD of "Pushing Tin", and put up with the inherent ugliness of both Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett. Heck, even Angelina Jolie (in what turns out to be her first "big" film) paled by comparison to Cusack's performance.


Cusack is often not credited for his contribution to the Nick Cage movie "Con Air" (1997), which came out immediately after "Blank". Surprisingly, this featured both Cusack and John Malkovich who were paired again in 1999 in "Being John Malcovich".

The point of this whole exposition is that today I found a website which purports to list "John Cusack's Most Memorable Performances". You can go there, read what THEY think are significant performances, and vote for your favorite.

You'll be surprised to learn that, of the 11,000+ votes registered to date, 23% agree with me. But nobody, NOBODY, has yet complained that "Con Air" wasn't on the list.

No problem. It was only his SECOND best performance (ignoring the fact that he played against Anette Bening and Anjelica Huston in 1990's depressing "The Grifters")

Other personal John Cusack Favorites:


(Get the Point?)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Omaha Mall Massacre

Once again, a crazed lone gunman slaughters innocents, and once again nobody who is there has the ability to stop him.



9 Dead, Including Gunman, at Omaha Mall
Shooter, 19, Left Behind Suicide Note


Nine people were found dead -- including the gunman -- and five others injured during an afternoon shooting spree inside a busy Omaha shopping mall during the height of the holiday shopping season, police said.
The article included the following comments:
Hawkins opened fire with an automatic rifle and later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was found on the third-floor customer service counter of the Von Maur department store.
"Automatic Rifle"? I doubt it. The Associated Press maintains its standard for accuracy, which is to say none at all. There are no reports that an 'automatic rifle' has been used here. "Semi-Automatic" -- maybe, but we're still waiting for definitive information.

One witness told MSNBC that the shooter shot victims indiscriminately and even shot a teddy bear.

Kevin Kleine, 29, of Omaha, a shopper, was there with her 4-year-old daughter. She said she hid in a dressing room with four other shoppers and an employee, The Associated Press reported.

"My knees rocked. I didn't know what to do, so I just ran with everybody else," Kleine told the AP.

Some witnesses reported seeing a man shot in the head. "I just came back from lunch and was standing around getting ready to go back to work … All of a sudden I heard bang, bang, bang and thought it was someone shooting fireworks," said a witness at the scene.

"I heard some more shots and we all just ran into rooms to hide. We didn't know what was going to happen.. [A co-worker] saw the shooter shoot someone in the head."

Varying reports put the number of shots fired between 10 and 50.

A woman who answered a call by the AP at the Old Navy store said 20 to 30 customers were huddled with employees in a back storeroom.

"All we know was people were running and screaming down the hallway by Von Maur saying there was a shooting, and then they locked us down," said the woman, who said her name was Heidi.

Some of the early reports are dubious, such as citing a (female) identified as "Kevin Kleine". The always biased news-source AP refers to the shooting of "a teddy bear" for color. This may be fact, but it doesn't confirm any implied supposition that the shooter was 'a sniper' who deliberately targeted a toy.

Radio reports more believably describe a shooter who leaned over the third-floor balcony and cut loose with a number of (aimed or un-aimed?) shots in the direction of a Christmas Shopping Season crowd, some of which hit people and some of which hit nothing of particular importance ... details added to lend color to the story.

I listened to the Lars Larson radio commentary on my drive home from work. This locally hosted (Oregon), nationally hosted conservative radio talk show emphasized an important point:

What if there was no cultural onus on Concealed Handgun Carry across the nation, and what if there were CHL licensees present at the upper-class Von Maur Department store today. Would they have been able and willing to engage this Urban Terrorist? Even a single shot fired at him would have distracted him, at least; at best, it would have hit him and rendered him unable to continue his predation upon Christmas-shopping innocents.

To paraphrase Larson:

You know, because I have discussed this on the show before, that I have a Concealed Handgun license and I carry a handgun. People ask me: why do you want to carry a handgun in a church, in a school, in a shopping mall? It's because this is exactly the kind of places where this kind of thing may happen. A crazy with a gun may show up anywhere, and places where guns are forbidden are the best place, in their mind, to carry out this kind of attack.
[ED: Because I was unable to take notes, and because a transcript of the show is not immediately available, I can't quote from the radio show. If/when precise quotes are available I will use them.]

I think Larson is on to something here.

Although Nebraska has enacted (March 30, 2006) Concealed Carry laws thanks to Sen. Jeanne Combs of Milligan, this law (as is true in any state) doesn't necessarily permit Concealed Carry in EVERY public (or private) place in Nebraska.

It may be significant that "... Nebraska’s bill is different ... [because it may] allow cities to ban concealed weapons. Lincoln Mayor Coleen Seng and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey wrote letters to the Legislature ... expressing opposition to the bill." [ED: Emphasis added]

Whatever laws and local restrictions may apply, it seems clear that either nobody at the
Von Maur department store HAD a gun to engage the shooter, or else those who did were too intimidated to do so, or they weren't in a position to use their personal defense weapon.

The result, and the consequences were, that (cited to date) 9 people were killed, 5 people were wounded, and the slaughter continued until the shooter voluntarily discontinued the killing by the simple expedient by turning his gun on himself.

There is confusion over what kind of gun he had. At this point we just don't know, due to the unreliable and incomplete reports from the Main Stream Media. If it was a handgun the MSM would certainly have said so. The reports to date refer to the gun only as an "automatic rifle", which is non-specific and questionable, but definitely rules out usage of a handgun.

[Note: later reports describe the weapon as "an SKS semiautomatic Russian military rifle". This may be no more accurate, but it is certainly more specific.]

Another report, from MSNBC, suggests a motive for the murders. It's mundane, mercurial and probably mendacious (given that it is both early-times and MSNBC), but it may provide some motive:
OMAHA, Neb. - Robert Hawkins had been kicked out of his family’s house, had broken up with his girlfriend and was recently fired from his job at McDonald's, where he had been accused of stealing $17.

Hawkins called Debora Maruca-Kovac, the woman whose home he was living in, about 1 p.m. on Wednesday "very upset," telling her that he had left a note for her in his bedroom, she said.

She tried to get him to explain, but he hung up after telling her "I love you, and I’m sorry for any pain I’ve caused you," she told a local television station.

Maruca-Kovac found what the 20-year-old had left in the home: A suicide note, in which he said he was "going out in style," and that he'd never been anything in his life but after Wednesday he would be famous.

This describes another loser in life's crap-shoot, perhaps a self-made loser who habitually broke the rules of society in his egocentricity. When his self-image was so damaged by the consequences of his own actions, he took his final revenge on the society which rejected him in a final Berserker act of defiance.

Or, he was truly a victim of circumstance, a loner without the skills to succeed alone, a pawn of fate. When we try to understand the actions of the individual, we find ourself in a confusing maze of possibilities. We will never know, really, what drove this young man to a final act of desperation.

But we do know that this is not the first time this bit of street theater has played in a public market ... or school, or office building ... and it will certainly not be the last.

There is a facet of society which seeks to contain these random acts of violence by controlling the tools of violence. The Gun Control Lobby is tireless in its efforts, randomly successful in its intermediate goals, and completely ineffectual in the final analysis.

Gun control will not stop a despairing madman from vicious attack, especially the madman with the declared purpose of "going out in style". We should make an effort to forget the names of these pitiful beleaguered creatures if only to deny themselves the name the try so hard to make known.

Forgetting their names would be a far easier task than finding a true solution to this cancer in the breast of civilization, this madness of market mayhem. And again, we may never know how to foresee, or to forestall it.

The best we can hope is to minimize the damage.

The news reports describe herd-animal responses to a predator. "The sound of gunfire sent people fleeing in all directions while others hid in clothes racks and dressing rooms." " I didn't know what to do, so I just ran with everybody else ...".

It sounds like the scene from the movie "Jurassic Park" depicting a herd of herbivores running from a marauding T-Rex. We are uncomfortable in that image, but those who yesterday found themselves in the unwanted role of victims had few choices in the Fight or Flight scenario, and it's probable that their instinctive panic saved some lives, if in the most ignominious manner our nature provides.

Some people advocate turning ourselves into an Armed Society. There are some advantages to that. Science Fiction master Robert Heinlein postulates that "An Armed Society is a Polite Society". And there are others, perhaps a majority, to are even less comfortable with that image.

As long as we are unwilling to tolerate random massacre, we will search for the best alternatives. In doing so, we will doubtless sink to a compromise which offers little of either security or comfort, but one which requires the least personal effort. We will let someone else take the blame for the atrocities of the past, and we will allow them to push us still further into the herd mentality by attacking our few personal options. When we impose the responsibility for our safety on our lawmakers, they will respond by imposing their laws on us. Laws are not typically designed to enhance our freedoms; they restrict our freedoms.

Within days, not hours the Nebraska legislature will take action to curb their recently enacted "Right to Carry" act. If not the state legislature, at least the city of Omaha will propose draconian actions which, had they already been in place, would not have had much chance of preventing the massacre.

"When seconds count, the police are just minutes away." Laws won't stop this, police can't stop this. The only thing which DID stop the killing in Omaha was another killing ... the killer killed himself.

Would it have made a difference if an armed citizen had counter-attacked?

(*Click on image for full-size version*)
It made a huge difference in the market mayhem in Utah last February, when an off-duty policeman used his concealed carry weapon and engaged the shooter ... in a posted "Gun Free Zone". When the herd was in full flight, hiding behind glass display counters and weeping in fear, one brave man with a gun stopped the predation. Yes, he turned it from a 'slaughter' to a 'gun battle'. A single snub-nose .38 protected a hundred people long enough for armed police units to arrive ... those forces for justice (who "protect and serve") who were just minutes away.

Obviously, an Armed Society is not an acceptable solution. But a society which recognizes the value of personal defense, and which will not deprive the individual of the tools which are needed in the most vulnerable public areas, may find a way to curb the excesses of the losers and maniacs for which we have found no other defense.

The Gun Control Lobby will not readily accede to this solution. They will cry out against 'gun-battles in the mall', but the people in Omaha Von Maur department store would have been glad to have found themselves in the middle of a 'gun-battle' instead of the killing field which was their reality. At the least, even with the possibility of stopping a random bullet, nobody would have been deliberately targeting them.

UPDATE: Thursday, December 6, 2007

John Lott on Malls as "Gun-Free Zones".

Here's Lott's summation:

Despite the lack of news coverage, people are beginning to notice what research has shown for years: Multiple-victim public shootings keep occurring in places where guns already are banned. Forty states have broad right-to-carry laws, but even within these states it is the "gun-free zones," not other public places, where the attacks happen.

People know the list: Virginia Tech saw 32 murdered earlier this year; the Columbine High School shooting left 13 murdered in 1999; Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, had 23 who were fatally shot by a deranged man in 1991; and a McDonald's in Southern California had 21 people shot dead by an unemployed security guard in 1984.

All these attacks — indeed, all attacks involving more than a small number of people being killed — happened in gun-free zones.

In recent years, similar attacks have occurred across the world, including in Australia, France, Germany and Britain. Do all these countries lack enough gun-control laws? Hardly. The reverse is more accurate.

The law-abiding, not criminals, are obeying the rules. Disarming the victims simply means that the killers have less to fear. As Wednesday's attack demonstrated yet again, police are important, but they almost always arrive at the crime scene after the crime has occurred.

The longer it takes for someone to arrive on the scene with a gun, the more people who will be harmed by such an attack.

Most people understand that guns deter criminals. If a killer were stalking your family, would you feel safer putting a sign out front announcing, "This Home Is a Gun-Free Zone"? But that is what the Westroads Mall did.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Reputation - ARPC and Mac

The reputation of the Albany Rifle and Pistol Club (ARPC) has been proliferating throughout the Western Stages, and I can't tell you how delighted I am to report that within the past two weeks I have learned of two out-of-state shooters who are considering a move to the mid-Willamette valley for the primary purpose of joining ARPC.


One is a Practical Pistol shooter from California: time frame is about two years from now.

The other is a physician from Idaho, both a Practical Pistol shooter and a Long Range Rifle Shooter (I'm talking about a guy who brings a .50 BMG to Joe Huffman's Boomer Shoot).

These are people who love shooting, and who are seeking proximity to a top-of-the-line Shooting Club.

The Albany Rifle and Pistol Club seems to meet their criteria, and I can only say that this speaks well for both ARPC and their judgment.

I have spoken frequently and volubly about the quality of facilities, training opportunities, and the wide range of competitive venues at ARPC.


ARPC wasn't always this forward thinking.

About ten years ago, I was living in Portland (80 miles from the Albany club). I would attend an ARPC IPSC match maybe every other month. It wasn't that the drive was so long or so difficult ... after all, it's a straight shot on the I-5 Freeway, and another 7 miles on a well-maintained secondary road.

The problem was that ARPC was experiencing a crisis of leadership, especially in the Practical Pistol Discipline Department.

First, unless you went there in the summer, the six ARPC North Range bays were a literal quagmire.

The bays were not surfaced ... no cover at all to the clay dirt .. and the North Range is immediately adjacent to the north face of Saddle Butte, which is a 200' high saddle butte. The rains would wash the dirt from the hillside onto the bays, and there was nowhere for the water to go when the slurry met the hard-packed access road. It pooled where the road ended, with the inevitable result that the bays were water saturated six months out of the year.

I've known times when it was so mucky that your boots would sink four inches into the mud. Do you realize how difficult it is to move fast (while holding a pistol with the safety off) when your boots are picking up pounds of mud with every step?

Then there were the leadership problems. A couple of well-intentioned guys worked hard to keep the IPSC program going, but they were not organizers. They tried to do everything themselves, and they couldn't attract volunteers to help with such problems as providing stage designs, and showing up early enough on Match Day to actually set up the stages.

Add to that, the only shelter was a 10-year-old shed on skids, which leaked and had no heaters to take the winter chill off the rain-soaked competitors after a match. Few competitors stuck around for an Awards Ceremony, because the just wanted to get into their cars and leave, with the fond hope of drying out during the drive home.

Finally, competitors were often so cold and shivery and disgruntled that they were reluctant to even help tear the stages down and put the props back in the (inadequate) storage shed.

There came a day when the Match Director made an announcement during the pre-walkthrough Shooters' Meeting:

He said "If you don't stay after the match and help with tear-down, all of your stage scores will be zeroed and a zero score will be sent to USPSA for your classifier. I'll be watching you!"

While his concern was not entirely unjustified, I was among those who always stayed to help with the tear-down, and I thought "Why is he tarring us all with the same brush? I do my part. Why should I allow myself to be talked down to this way?"

That's when I decided that this was my last match at ARPC, and I kept that resolution for several years.

That poor guy didn't last much longer, because it appears that I was not the only competitor who was offended by the way he chose to demonstrate that he was burned out.

Burn Out!

There was another brave soul who volunteered to MD the matches, but he didn't last too long, either. He tried to do all the work himself, and burned out in less than a year. The other clubs in the Section announced that ARPC had discontinued IPSC competition until a new Club President could be elected who would either personally take over the conduct of the Practical Pistol matches, or could find someone to do the job for him.

There was a breathless moment (lasting about two months) when local Practical Pistol competitors looked around to see who would volunteer to be the next 'fish in a barrel'. And about the time we had all resigned ourselves to the apparent fact that nobody was that masochistic, Mike McCarter stepped into the breach. He took over the Practical Pistol Discipline at ARPC, looked around, and identified the problems ... and found some creating solutions.

How to put a limping club back on it's feet (Shhhh... it's cheating. But it works.)

First, the equipment (including targets, props, etc.) were old and deteriorating, and there was no money to replace them.

The problem was that the various Disciplines turned all match fees over to the club, and then petitioned for operating expenses. Even though the Practical Pistol club provided more income (match fees) than all other Disciplines combined, the Board of Directors did not, at that time, recognize that it was a primary income source. It was difficult to acquire funding to even replace the cardboard targets which were the basis of competition, let alone replace broken steel targets, build new vision barriers and other props.

McCarter's solution was "we pay ourself first". When he ran a match, he deducted the expenses for the match from the income. Then he bought a couple of steel targets, and put a few dollars into a slush fund set aside to build new props. The remaining Match Fees were given to the BOD ... and then he petitioned for expenses to run the next Monthly Match.

Slowly the quality of the equipment (and variety of equipment, such as Disappearing Target Stands and Bobbers) began to improve. As the quality of the materials improved, the stage designs became more varied ... and more interesting.

As the stages became more interesting, more shooters showed up at the next match.

And with each match attracting more competitors the take from the Match Fees became more lucrative. At a club which had formerly been lucky to attract 20 competitors, ARPC was now fielding 40 - 50 - even 60 competitors to each monthly match.

About then, Mac started recruiting 'volunteers' to help with that match. Mac wasn't lazy; he designed most of the stages himself (still does) but he was ... and remains ... the kind of guy who wasn't shy about walking up to a competitor and asking him to help out with the setup of the next match, or whatever he needed help doing.

In fact, while he was Section Coordinator (see below) it took him about 90 seconds to talk me into volunteering to be Section Competition Director. Me, the consummate "I'm just here to pay my match fees and shoot" guy. It was the most difficult year of my life, and I didn't have the energy to try to keep up with Mac for another year.

Given his proven success at attracting financing (in the form of Match Fees), McCarter was soon seen to be a Money Magnet. The second year of his term of Practical Pistol Director, McCarter was elected President of ARPC (a post which he held for more than three years.)

As President, McCarter was able to apply more funding to the money-making sport. Here's a short list of the improvements made during his tenure as ARPC President:
. Level the 6 bays on the North Range
  • Level the 6 bays on the North Range
  • Install drainage on all those bays
  • Cover the surface with a 'visquine' or other moisture-barrier material, and cover that in six inches of gravel
  • Built 3-sided building, with roofs, the width of 'some' bays (eventually, all bays on the North Range had shelters) which were set on concrete pads so competitors weren't required to stand around in ankle-deep mud while waiting to shoot.
  • Get rid of the 'shed on a sled' club house, and replace it with a permanent building on a concrete pad. This building eventually featured electricity, a 'garage' for storage of moisture-sensitive material (such as cardboard targets), and a good, reliable computer.
  • Establish access to an internet-connected GOOD computer, which allows the statistician to confirm USPSA membership and classification during match sign-up.
  • Build another (7th) bay on the North Range, improve the berms, improve drainage on all bays
  • Design and promote and host new non-club matches, including the Annual Single Stack Tournament and, more recently, the Annual Glock Match. Other matches include a couple of "Pistol Caliber Carbine" matches. Catering was supplied at most of these 'special' matches, as well as prize tables.
  • Encourage the participation on the North Range of 'other' disciplines, such as Single Action Society "Cowboy" matches and monthly "Speed Steel" matches (the special targets and props for these disciplines were funded by ARPC ... they repaid the investment in the first year.)
  • Added storage for props in several manners, including (eventually) a couple of 'semi' trailers and purpose-built storage shed within the protective 'bay' building.
After a few years, Mac conceded the ARPC Presidency to new candidates ... who just happen to be Practical Pistol shooters, and often adherents of other shooting sports.

Somewhere in here, he was also elected Columbia Cascade Section (CSS) Section Coordinator, where he served with distinction for several years and brought a couple of Area 1 matches to the CCS area.

This didn't slow down the McCarter range improvements. Here's a short list of other accomplishments since his de-evolution to being 'merely' the Practical (Action) Director:
  • Bid for, and was awarded (as part of his North American Shooting Sports project, along with USPSA RM Tom Chambers) the 2003 Area 1 Championship in Bend; the 2003 Open/Limited Nationals and the 2004 Open/Limited Nationals in Bend.
  • Acceptance of the office of Section Coordinator for the Columbia Cascade Section.
  • Hosting at least two Area 1 USPSA Championships (at Bend, and Sherwood).
  • Hosting the USPSA Multi-Gun Championship in 2006 at ARPC.
  • Hosting the "R&R Racing Area 1 Championship at ARPC.
  • Hosting the 2007 "Shootout at Saddle Butte" match at ARPC.
There are others, including 11 years of a Single-Stack Tournament at ARPC, hosting the Glock challenge at ARPC, etc. I've left out many significant matches during the past 10 years, but you get the picture.

Mac Rocks.

Oh, and he also assumed the duties of USPSA Junior Coordinator for the past couple of years, established a flourishing (and sponsored) Junior Program at ARPC, and ran for USPSA President for 2007.

He lost to Michael V. Not our proudest moment, USPSA, because McCarter is a Man of Vision, someone who knows where we need to go and how to get there.

Recent Accomplishments:

Mac is a professional "nursery man" who ran a business for several years and was president of something called something like the "USA Nurserymen's Association".

Mac has retired from his private business, but still he retains his connection as a consultant. He also has contracted with ARPC as the "Executive Director" at ARPC, spending several days a week working at the ARPC range ... making repairs, making contacts, promoting the club and the sport.

Here are some of the things which Mac has done 'recently' to promote the shooting sports, and to promote the local community in the name of ARPC:

Point: recently, a Cypress Sequoia tree was vandalized in the Mid-Willamette valley. ARPC Executive Director Mike "Mac" McCarter and past president of ARPC John M. are nurserymen. They deal in trees, friend. Mac and John combined resources and, in the name of ARPC, offered (and planted) an adult replacement tree at no cost to the community.


Point: Mac attended a recent black-tie dinner at Portland. Mac was an invited speaker, at an event which included movers-and-shakers including Business Leaders, politicians and local celebrities. For the occasion, Mac found, and wore, a camouflage-patterned tuxedo.

Point: In his capacity as Executive Director, Mac is working with Oregon State University's Engineering department to develop a machine which will 'mine' shooting ranges for the lead resources in the berms and backstops. This will not only address a potential problem with poisonous metallic element buildup and pollution of groundwater, which is a situation of interest the the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) but will also provide lead for recasting into bullets, which may be made available to local ammunition reloaders. The club provides the leadership (Mac), the university provides the technical expertise (this is a multi-year practical training project to the benefit of the Engineering students), and the funding is provided by an Oregon State gun-rights organization.

I regret that this last report is not the result of a formal interview, so my notes are not as precise as they should be. I'm pretty sure that Mac can furnish me with more details later, so I can link to the organization involved in this latest MAC project.
__________________________________________

Here's the important part.

Mac volunteered to take over the highest-potential (but least supported) program in a club with a strong member base, but weak leadership.

In a short time, using good management principles and exerting powerful Leadership skills, he turned the club around from a money-loser to a money-maker, and in the process initiated a program of growth and service to the community which had never been exhibited in that organization.

He accomplished goals which had never been recognized, let alone identified as a target, via a combination of personal vision, hard work, and a recognition that other club members were an untapped resource. He wasn't shy about asking for their assistance, and every person he ever talked to agreed to help ... just because he demonstrated that 'someone' cared enough to ask.

Mac is a visionary and a leader. But there is no magic in what he has accomplished, or in what he may accomplish yet.

Any range, any club, can do as well if some one person is willing to devote his or her energy, enthusiasm and willingness to ask for help in the endeavor to build a club.

It's not that complicated.

But it's not easy.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

USPSA 2008 Rule Book: 1.1.5.4 (last 6 shots)

I received an email from Evil Bill yesterday, in response to my recent series of articles about the CRO (Level II) Seminar I took this weekend.

Good questions deserve more than one opinion, so I've taken the liberty of providing the text of the rule from the 2008 USPSA Rule Book, Bill's question, and my response.

We report, you decide:
______________________________________
Rule 1.1.5.4: Medium or Long courses of fire may stipulate the use of either strong or weak hand, provided that only one hand, either strong or weak, is specified for no more than the last six (6) shots required."

______________________________________

Hi Jerry, The more I think about 1.1.5.4 the more confused I'm getting. Since you are going to be in the class tomorrow, perhaps you can get an answer.

You set up a course of fire. Freestyle, shoot-em-as-ya-see-em. Multiple shooting solutions. (It doesn't matter HOW you wanted it to be shot--someone will figure out at least one other way).

You specify as per 1.1.5.4 that the last 6 shots must be weak hand per 1.1.5.4.

SO---lets say the last 6 shots are 3 paper targets only visible through a port.
Or maybe the last 6 are a plate rack---doesn't matter. Shooter engages the final array weak hand. Fires 6 shots weakhand. Can't hit S$%( weakhand, has a few misses. Actually needs 10 shots to get the last array. So the 4 extra shots are freestyle again? Shooter already did the maximum required 6 weakhand. And if the extra 4 shots are freestyle, then 4 of the last 6 shots fired don't meet the "last 6 shots weakhand" requirement of the WSB??

What if the shooter does the last 6 weakhand, then sees another target that was missed?

Back to freestyle?

This one is a little confusing.

Bill
______________________________________

Hi Bill!

Good question, and one we asked in class.

The answer is: the last "scorable" hits [ED: are defined as those which must be engaged 'limited hand only', not the last six shots actually fired].

So if "the last six shots" must be taken weak hand, that could be the last 3 Metric Targets (mustn't say "IPSC Targets" ... we're all USPSA, all the time!) or it could be the last six plates on the plate rack.

[if the competitor ...] Can't get hits on all the last six shots? Then miss/FTE penalties apply.

[If you as MD ...] Think this is excessive? Well, maybe.

In fact, the explanation for this rule was a little thin. What we got was essentially "the choice of six shots was to make it revolver friendly". [Or maybe I spaced out during the discussion and missed a more comprehensive explanation from the instructor. If so, I apologize to you and to the instructor.]

Still think this was excessive? Well, maybe.

[If you as MD] (d)on't use this on any stages, you avoid the entire controversy.

But if you DO use it, and controversy is the result ... it's your choice whether you choose to use this [article] as an 'authoritative source'. At the present time, though, I'm afraid this is going to be as 'authoritative' as you can get, since the answer comes from a certified RM and NROI Instructor (Carl Schmidt) during the conduct of an NROI Level II Seminar. [As far as I know, no clarifications are yet available from John Amidon, USPSA V.P. and NROI Director.]

My concern is [also] how you define "the last six shots"[, but perhaps in a different sense ... 'you' as the competitor]. If you have [this is] a truly freestyle COF, not everyone may choose the same target array to finish the stage. My thoughts are that this is entirely in keeping with the 'freestyle' definition in the 2008 USPSA Rule Book. You're the competitor, you get to choose which are the "last six shots".

You're responsible for your own actions ... which is another facet of the new USPSA rule book which is intended to allow the competitor to choose the best way to shoot a COF. So I'm thinking that the "last six shots" are whatever targets chosen at the end of the COF, as long as no shots are fired at other targets.

What are the penalties involved if shots are fired AFTER the 'weak hand' or 'strong hand' targets? Good question. I'm open for discussion here.

(Note [to Evil Bill]: assuming your permission, I expect to post [have posted] this on the Cogito Ergo Geek blog and [will] reference it for further discussion to the Unofficial IPSC List.)

USPSA CRO Seminar - Day 2

The second day of the CRO seminar sponsored by ARPC started at 8:30 am and was completed by 11:30am. The three hours were as intensive as any 3 hours in the first day, and introduced some things which were familiar from my 1997 CRO seminar experience, and some new things as well.

I'll be going into more detail about the individual subjects than I did yesterday, because the subject matter is closer to the syllabus used in my original 1997 Level II seminar and as such it seemed more familiar. That class used a "work book" printed "7/15/92 7:43", and the "Director NROI" was identified as "Andy Hollar, V.P." This work book was 57 pages long; the current work book is 67 pages long and omits such sections as "welcome to the students" and "basic rules of safety".

The course material this year was designed to reflect criteria established by the 2004 USPSA Rule Book, but (again) actually uses criteria established by the (not yet 'current') 2008 USPSA Rule Book.

Comparing my experience this year with that 10 years ago provided me some perspective, and also allowed me to identify some points which I didn't find as significant then as I do now.

...

Yesterday we had been given a half-hour to rough-design stages using the 2008 rules as basic design criteria, a sample of which were then subject to analysis and discussion by the group.

Today, we were given completed design stages which had been submitted to USPSA for approval under the 2004 rule book, and we were asked to analyze and discuss them as well.

We were told by Mr. Schmidt that "some of the rules that are commonly violated in courses of fire presented for Sanction are: 1.1.5, 1.2.1 and 10.2.8". (This is, of course right out of the syllabus.) This may be taken as a guide to future course designs.

After discussing the Course Design Critique, we found that the examples included a plethora of problems, including failure to provide the minimum basic information required to set up the stage and/or minimum basic information in the Written Stage Briefing (WSB).

Arbitrations:
"Arbitrations are due to poor course design or management."
Then Mr. Schmidt announced that we would discuss Arbitrations ... and good-naturedly mentioned that he had read my blog from the previous evening and hoped that this met with my approval. Yes, it did, thank you sir.

One thing we discovered in reading Arbitration documentation is that it is important for the competitor who requested arbitration to include the actions which he would wish the Arbitration committed to take. These might include, in the case of a Match DQ: "I request reinstatement under rule 10.5.3.1 ... I request a reshoot because ...".

Since the competitor's Request for Arbitration is the document which initiates the Arbitration process, it's essential for the RO/CRO who has imposed the penalty to clearly cite all rules which apply to the original action, and to describe all circumstances which lead to imposition of the penalty.

For example, a competitor took a fall and when he stood up he didn't have his pistol in his hand. The CRO DQ'd him.

Here's the Competitor's explanation:
I slipped on the catalog coming out of the outhouse and fell. My gun and I were on the ground. I let go when I tried to get up, I couldn't. My fingers were still on the4 gun when the RO's helped me up. I cleared the gun. I maintained control of the gun until that point. The gun was not dropped. The muzzle was down range and the safety was on.
The RO's statement included (this is a summary):
The RO controlling the competitor saw the competitor fall, then saw the gun beyond his reach on the ground, muzzle pointing downrange. The RO checked to be sure the competitor was OK, preceded to have the competitor gather himself up, and asked him to unload and show clear. The RO then disqualified the competitor for unsafe gun handling, dropped firearm.
In the class evaluation, the Competitor's request was upheld.

What was not presented was a statement (missing from the summarized RO statement) that the RO picked up the handgun, and the safety was off. This information wasn't available to the Arbitration Committee, but it made all the difference in the results of the Arbitration.

...

The last part of the day's lesson was assignment of a Stage Design project for certification.

In 1997, we were required to submit one stage design (by mail) to the instructor, who would return his evaluation. A stage for a Level I match was acceptable. Generally speaking, anything which seemed 'close' was accepted (although the acceptance may ... as was the case in my submitted stage design ... be accompanied by some pithy criticism).

In 2007 we are required to submit TWO stage designs:

1) National Classification Stage: A course of fire requiring between 6 and 18 rounds.
The maximum range is 25 yards. no more than 4 Pepper poppers may be used, and barricades and props should be ones that are readily available to clubs (or ones that may be easily built). The course of fire must meet the criteria for a short, medium or long course. Scoring method may be Comstock, Virginia Count, or Fixed Time.

2) National Championship stage: A course of fire requiring between 18 and 32 rounds. The maximum range is 40 yards. Any special equipment or props must be designed and sketched out so that ordinary range crews can build them. Scoring method must be Comstock.

For each stage include score sheets, an overhead or "birds-eye view" scale drawing, a stage information form, a written stage briefing clearly stating the stage procedure and a stage work-order that lists the supplies and equipment needed for 100 shooters.
If I was impressed by these requirements, I was very impressed by the review process.

Both stage designs must be submitted for review (to the instructor), and approved, for certification to be granted.

Mr. Schmidt noted that (to date) he has not yet accepted both stages on the first review.

This is not the standard to which we were held in my 1997 class ... far from it. It's much, much more difficult, and much more likely to provide a true learning experience.

We were given a CD which included some software which we could use to create these documents. We were also advised to use MS-EZSCORE to create the required score sheets, as the provided software failed to include the Signature Lines and Time-of-Day block. Further, other computer software resources were identified if we would rather not use any of these tools.

But for the scale drawings (usually on the 'overhead' view), we were advised to use graph paper, and either snail-mail them to the instructor or scan them for email submittal.

Since I was essentially auditing the course ... I already have my CRO certification, albeit under much less rigorous standards ... I discussed my own expectations with Mr. Schmidt. Since he was likely to spend more time evaluating stage designs from this group than he did teaching the class (including travel time from and back to California from Oregon) I was reluctant to add to his burden. Or mine. We agreed that I would complete the course by submitting my two stage designs, and send them to him for critique. He would evaluate them, and send his evaluation to me for my benefit. Whether I learn from this abbreviated process is up to me, and I'll impose no more upon his time.

I admit, I'm a little relieved at not having to go through the entire process. If I haven't make myself clear, this is NOT an easy course of instruction, and the Final Exam is at least as challenging as anything I experienced in six years of college.

...

This is a seminar which I recommend most highly to anyone who has one year experience as a Range Officer. We do need to learn the new rules, and the course certainly met my hopes and expectations to meet that goal. More important, it should provide USPSA with my other hope ... Level II Range Officers who know how to design stages who are competent to meet the new, much higher standards for Stage Design.

USPSA has taken the bold and unique step forward by establishing itself as a region which has the resources and determination to a degree of independence from the International Confederation. We have asserted ourselves, and now we must meet what we perceive as a level of competence equivalent to the International standards.

This won't happen automatically. It will require a huge volunteer effort to follow up on our claims of capability. USPSA is obviously willing to provide the individual competitor, the individual clubs with the tools to meet this test of competency. The gauntlet has been cast, and it remains for the USPSA membership to take steps (make personal sacrifices) to prove that we are as good as we claim to be.

Again, if you are a Range Officer with at least one year of experience, I suggest that you seek out CRO Seminars in your area. Sign up for them, show up, do the work, pay back the sport with your unique contribution.

If you are a member of a USPSA club, contact USPSA and do whatever is necessary to host a Level II seminar. Attendees at this seminar paid only $35 each for the instruction, and nobody went away feeling cheated. *(Rather, we all went home feeling just a little bit stunned ... but full of enthusiasm.)*

_______________________________

In all good conscience, I can't close this without one more anecdote.

Mr. Schmidt, in his closing comments, mentioned that there was "one rule which I still argue with, and I can see a Blog Article coming out of this". Who could ignore such a challenge?

Rule 5.2.4: During the course of fire, unless stipulated otherwise in the stage procedure. spare ammunition, magazines and speed loading devices shall be carried in retention devices attached to the competitor's belt and specifically designed for that purpose. A competitor may also carry additional magazines or speed loading devices in his pockets and retrieve and use them without penalty once having dropped or exhausted his primary magazines. [ED: emphasis added.]
Point: no penalty is defined.

So what is the purpose and/or of this rule?

(This is left for the edification of the student.)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What the RO seminar is like ...

As could be predictably expected, our first day of Chief Range Officer (USPSA Level II) training was both more and less than expected.

Let's deal with the "Less" part first, just to get it out of the way.

"Less" is because of my own personal expectations. I really wanted someone to go through the 2008 USPSA rule book and compare & contrast the rules with the previous (2004) USPSA rule book. While NROI Instructer Carl Schmidt spent a significant portion of his time pointing out the new rules (as they came up in conversation, so to speak) that was his primary purpose for the seminar.

"Less" is also because, as you may recall from my comments yesterday, the original CRO course was primarily invested in Stage Design and Match Administration. I'm probably not so much surprised as disappointed (and, I admit, irrationally) that Mr. Schmidt did not discard the lesson plan in favor of teaching all his students about the new rules.

In fact, he mentioned at the morning break that he had read yesterday's post, and informed me quite firmly that yes, we were going to spend a lot of time on Stage Design.

And he was right, but we did kind of sidle up to it ... sidewise, like.

____________________________

To present a 'coda' between "Less than expected" and "More than expected", it's significant to note that this is the first time Mr. Schmidt had used his Power Point presentation, which moved from the old (2004) USPSA Rule Book [including all the bridges between USPSA and IPSC] to the new (2008) USPSA Rule book [which deliberately includes zero references to IPSC.]

The thing is, the presentation, and the three tests in the CRO handbook, were based on the 2004 rule book which is in effect until January 1, 2008. Only THEN will these new rules be in effect.

What does that mean to those of us taking the class today and tomorrow?

The answers are wrong.

First, the presentation refers to IPSC rather than USPSA. That's a major BOO!

Second, the course book provides the questions and the presentation guide which is made available to the instructor provides the answers, but those answers are most often applicable to the 2004 rules version.

Here's where we began to really learn about the 2008 rules.

We had 3 tests today: the "Basic Test", the "General Test" and the "Rules of Course Design Test". In every test, we took the same questions as the 'last' class, but our answer source (the last two were open-book tests) was the 2008 version (the Blue Book); the previous class Mr. Schmidt had taught using this material was using the 2004 version (the Green Book).

As it turned out, many of the questions were confusing because they were designed to test the student's knowledge of rules which had been obsoleted. We (the class) would give our answers, we would discuss the reasons why our answers varied from the Course Guide, and Mr. Schmidt would dutifully note the parts of the questions which were causing confusion.

This is A Good Thing for the student, because it effectively provided a comparison between the two rule versions ... which was what I had hoped for.

It also rates as A Good Thing because hopefully, the next seminar Mr. Schmidt leads will be guided by an updated Course Guide; one which is based on the new rules.

It's not exactly as if the December 1, 2007, Seminar Attendees are throwing themselves on their rhetorical swords for the future benefit of their brethern, but this class is definately, absolutely providing feedback which will be used by USPSA to improve and update the course syllabis.

That makes me feel just hush-puppy warm, y'know?

At the end of the class today, I had hoped to discuss Arbitatration. Instead, we talked more about Stage Design, quick-coded some stages for discussion, and were treated to The Mystery Stage!

The Mystery Stage was included in the 2007 Area 1 tournament, and bears discussion.

Mr. Schmidt presented it as a lesson, providing the original stage diagram for our evaluation. We couldn't figure out what was wrong with it although Mr. Schmidt affirmed that the Area Director corrected the stage before the Area 1 Tournament actually began.

The key was in the stage procedures, which essentially stated:
At the start signal, draw and engage all targets through Barrel "A".

Here's where the Learning comes in, and I caution you all to pay close attention to the next half-dozen sentences:
  1. The new USPSA rule book states in the GENERAL PRINCIPLES: (1.1.5) - USPSA matches are freestyle. Competitors must be permitted to solve the challenge presented in a freestyle manner, and to shoot targets on an "as and when visible" basis. Courses of fire must not require mandatory reloads nor dictate a shooting position, location or stance, except as specified below. ( not included; see your current rule book)
  2. The stage design presented "... essentially stated:
    At the start signal, draw and engage all targets through Barrel "A"."
  3. That statement contradicts the 'Freestyle' stated above.
  4. The difference is, USPSA takes the Principles seriously. No stage which ignores this principle is USPSA legal.
  5. There are some exceptions for Level I matches, but they are carefully defined in much less 'broad terms' than previous Rule Book versions have used ... to the confusion of the readers.
  6. The thrust of the "Stage Design" training made available through this seminar seems to be to emphasize the importance of adhering to the General Principles, now as traditionally found in Rule 1.1 of the USPSA rule book.
This is Major Culture Shock to this Geekish competitor, and when sufficient time has passed (and a sufficient number of objections to stage designs have been registered) I suspect that the Culture Shock will be transferred to other members of at least the Columbia Cascade Section.

UPDATE: 02-DEC-2007
Uh ... no, I hadn't noticed that I spelled 'seminar' incorrectly when I posted this. Yes, I realize that "siminar" is only similar. I have corrected the spelling in the title, but unfortunately the title is used to form the unique URL for this article. That means "siminar" stays part of the URL, and my bad typing will haunt me forever.

Just as do my run-on sentences, pedantic sentence structure, excessive use of parenthetical comments, semi-colons and ellipses, and annoyingly arrogant assumptions that I am always right (nothing can be done about the last; I am ... always right.)

USPSA CRO Seminar - Day 1

Lucy, we have a whole lot of 'splaining to do here.

USPSA competitors have been so controlled by IPSC politics for so long, we've almost been brainwashed. It will probably take a while for us to rise up and sing Hallelujah! to the New Rules demanding "Shoot 'em as you See 'em" stage designs. And it will certainly take even longer for stage designers to become accustomed to providing FREESTYLE stages for us to shoot.

In case you have been reading this article half asleep, please allow me to make this point a bit more emphatically:

Rule 1.1.5: Freestyle -- USPSA matches are freestyle. Competitors must be permitted to solve the challenge presented in a freestyle manner, and to shoot targets on an "as and when visible" basis. Courses of fire must not require mandatory reloads nor dictate a shooting position, location or stance, except as specified below. However, conditions may be created, and barriers or other physical limitations may be constructed, to compell a competitor into shooting positions, locations or stances.

1.1.5.1: Level I matches may use shooting boxes and specify where or when specific targtets may be engaged, and may specify mandatory reloads in short and medium courses only (not in a long course).
The changes are marked in red.

Other changes from the 2004 rule book:
1.1.5.2 - verbiage beginning with the word "however" has been deleted.
1.1.5.4 - entire paragraph deleted.
1.1.5.5 - entire paragraph deleted.

The editing differences are significant, but the real difference is this; this rule-set is no longer included to pay lip service to the concept of 'freestyle'. Instead this is USPSA POLICY. Stage designs for Level II and Level III competition will still require USPSA approval, and those will be evaluated to determine their adherence to this policy. Stage designs which do not follow the concept of FREESTYLE will be returned for revision, and will not be approved until the required changes are acceptable.

This is a major, major, major, major change in stage design and it will drive (at least) changes in the expectations of USPSA competitors. With any luck it will filter down to stage designers, who will eventually reject any concept which does not include the words ... or at least the implication ... that the competitor may "Shoot 'em as you see 'em".

Devil take the hindmost.