17 December, 2012

Can't We All Just Get Along?

DISCLAIMER: I've stayed out of this discussion, for the most part, on social media. This is my blog, and these are my opinions. I won't be sharing them on social media as I really don't need to hear from ranting extremists on one side or the other.

Friday's event in Newtown, CT are, in a word, stunning. I really didn't have words for what I felt upon learning of this tragedy. Anger. Bewilderment. Compassion. And lots more. But I've had a few days to digest and process this, and other similar public massacres and I've begun to organize my thoughts about how we might take step to prevent this type of event from recurring.

Common Ground?
We've become a nation of extremes. All day long both the far Left and far Right lob bombs at each other through the media. Government is clogged up with stand-offs and stalemates. No one seem willing to listen to the other side, consider their perspectives, make some concessions to get some concessions, or much of anything else, in the name of finding solutions and making progress. "I'm RIGHT and you're WRONG. And, anything you think is WRONG and won't be given serious consideration." Well, we live in an era of complex social, economic, and cultural problems. These problems don't have a single solution -- they're interwoven tangles of multiple issues. But Americans seem hell bent on believing without thinking. This needs to change, and it starts at the top.

OK, so let's say somehow the events of Friday get some folks to wake up and realize that these slaughters are becoming increasingly frequent. What would need to happen, in my opinion to make progress is:

Gun Control
I'm a card-carrying NRA member. I believe in the Second Amendment as a fundamental right of Americans. But the days when we could hide behind the Flag and claim that ALL people should be able to own ALL the guns they want has long since passed. Let's remember, the Founding Fathers shot MUSKETS for God's sake. We really didn't need to worry about anyone going on a shooting spree with a dueling pistol! "Hang on, just stand there for 5 minutes while I pack another charge..." Modern weapons are more accurate, more lethal, and easier for nearly anyone to figure out to to use. So, let's start with some things I think are pretty obvious:

  • Eliminate high-capacity magazines. There are only two reasons you would want a 30-round clip on your Glock. One is to spray the desert with a gazillion rounds like a gun nut. The other is to do harm. Sorry pro-gun folks, we need to give a little here.
  • Strengthen background checks. If you or a member of your household has a history of mental illness, no guns for you. Period. A legally acquired firearm in the hands of an unstable person is every bit as lethal as an illegal one. Yeah, this might slow the process, but what's your hurry? 
  • Increase prosecution of gun-crimes. They do this in Europe and many other places and it WORKS. Use a firearm in the commission of a felony, you get a free life sentence. No discussion. Instant jackpot. When actions have clear and strong consequences, it's a definite deterrent.
  • Consolidate information. Yes, I'm talking about gun owner databases. And yes, I know that causes the NRA to go bat-shit calling it one step closer to the government taking all your guns. So, let's compromise - no Federal Firearms Database, but let each State maintain one. In Michigan, for example I'm pretty sure the database in Washtenaw County (where I live) is quite a bit better than rural Kalkaska County. A consolidate source makes identifying problem individuals far more likely when we do those background checks.
Mental Health
"Guns don't kill people, people do..." If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that after Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, KC, Portland, etc. I would finally be able to dump my day job, buy a ranch in Montana and spend my time hunting, fishing, and more. But I would expand that statement, "Guns don't kill people, angry and unstable people USING guns do." So how about if we took some of the money we seem to want to spend making it easier for illegal immigrants to enjoy the benefits of being an American (why the hell do we teach Spanish in public schools?) and put it into getting help for the troubled, unstable folks who wind up on the business end of the trigger? Seems that if even one life is spared, that was worthwhile. And Tea Bagger's who say, "Not with my money..." can just suck it. The concept of greater good is a simple one. Now, to Obama -- is there a provision for a stronger mental health system in Obamacare? No one I know can even comprehend the 2,000 page document or what it means. If I have to pay for a welfare recipient who's decided public assistance is a career, we should sure as hell be able to find some money the re-engineer our failing mental health system.

It would appear the sociable, popular, content people don't grab and AR-15 and spray a crowd. Many of these high-visibility shootings are clearly a cry for attention, rather than a well-engineered plot to exterminate the human race. Need evidence? Most of these guys shoot themselves last. Why? Because it will get them boatloads of media attention. Now they'll finally BE somebody, in some warped and twisted way. This is where we can help. Turn off the news. Stop buying The Enquirer. Don't watch anything with a Kardashian. Instead, get outside and hunt, fish, cycle, ski, play golf, backpack, or SOMETHING. We all spend too much time glued to a screen of some type. And yes, I realize I'm writing this on a computer. But we all sit on our collective asses too much, subtly giving up our brains to the media.

Here's a little secret for our legislators - they people who elect you mostly loathe you and what you stand for.  The Republican party (or Democratic party) didn't elect you. WE DID. And, at least in theory, you represent us. So, let's drop all the rhetoric and Party Line. Roll up your sleeves, consider what would make REAL change happen and work with others to make that change happen.

We've become a society without much respect - for each other, for the environment, for the value of life, and so much more. We don't want to work hard, don't expect consequences from our actions, and are utterly unaccountable. It's every man (or woman) for himself. That needs to change. And I don't mean respect by offering entitlements to folks who've discovered that can be a career path. I mean we all need to start giving a shit about the other guy. Help them, but at the same time, give them some expectations. Spend less time thinking about your new big-screen TV and more volunteering to get city kids from broken homes out into the field to learn a love for the outdoors and respect for wildlife. 

Guns kill people. Sometimes innocent ones, sometimes those who would do harm. I can't help but think that a well-trained armed civilian in the third row at that Aurora, CO theater could have changed the events of the day. When the shooter's AR jammed, a well-placed 9mm round between the eyes would have ended the carnage instantly. Removing concealed carry rights is like pursuing a related issue, not the root cause. And it eliminates the potential for an intervention that could have saved lives.  

A complex set of circumstances got us here. And the fix will be equally complex. We're all complicit here in some way. We can all do SOMETHING. So, do it today before this happens again. Again, this is simply my thinking. Others may feel differently, but they can get their own damn blog... 

12 December, 2012

It's A Sickness - Part Deux

Yeah, you knew how yesterday would play out. I bought it.

I am now the proud owner of a Scott G2 905/4 fly rod. Funny thing is that it's the antithesis of my fishing style. I've gravitated toward faster rods to make up for casting deficiencies. But, I think this stick will help me in improving my casting stroke. If you cast this one wrong, you end up with a puddle of line 5' from you.

Scott fly rods, abel spey reel, fly fishing
Burled maple meets finely-machined aluminum
The Abel Classic reel looks like it was tailor-made for this rod. The classic black, non-ported reel looks right at home atop a burled maple reel seat, some fantastic cork, and a sleek unsanded blank.

This will be such a sweet stick for an evening on the Escanaba, the South Branch of the AuSable, the flywaters of the Pere Marquette, the upper Manistee, or any of my other Michigan trout favorites. Heck, it might even get me to make another trip to Haymeadow Creek with Dad...

I'm lining it up with Scientific Anglers GPX Mastery series line (the extra half weight tends to help my casting stroke). I tried SA's Trout Stalker and while it definitely lends a nice stealthy presentation, I've had really solid results with the GPX on my Scott A4 906/4.

This should be the perfect rig for all but the largest dry flies, as well as some small ant or beetle patterns. Nymphs, hopper-droppers, and big terrestrials will be left to the A4 906/4.

Did I need this rig? No, but this, as my buddy Schultzy commented, is a lifetime set-up. As classic as it is high-performance. I'm pretty damn happy.


11 December, 2012

It's a Sickness

I am a Gear Whore. It seems once I start into something, there's always more gear I seem to need. Well, OK, not "need" make that "want". I've said a couple of times that I didn't need any more fly rods. Then I fell in love with the Scott A4 series, so my A2 6-weight and my A3 7-weight needed to be upgraded. Later, I decided that having both an indicator and a swing set-up for steelhead was a good idea. So now I have a Scott L2h with an Abel Spey reel.

But with that, I'm done. No, really.

The best laid plans of mice and men, are soon thwarted though. A deal on an Abel Classic that was too good to turn down fell in my lap. Original plan was to put it on my TFO Deer Creek 6-weight two-hander. But, it's too small for a Skagit line. Then I thought perhaps my 4-weight Scott A3. It's an OK combo, but I'm really pretty well set for reels for that stick.

Hmmmmm ... maybe a really sweet dedicated trout set-up for hoppers and dries. Yeah, that's what I need. My local fly shop has a couple of Scott G2's that they were eager to get rid of. Oooh, yeah, that's a LIFETIME rod. So, I'll be casting one soon.

It never ends.


07 December, 2012

Product Review Abel Spey Reel

I've got most of a Fall season chasing chrome on my Abel Spey reel, so I thought a review was warranted.

This reel was added to my quiver out of a desire to go a little retro with a classic click-and-pawl reel. While I've had some great reels with traditional drag, I just like the direct connection to the fish you're fighting with a clicker. Plus, there's just a look and feel of these old school line winders that's unique and super-cool.

What I like best about the Abel offering is how they've managed to elegantly update the classic reel with modern materials and machining methods. Anywhere you look this thing is built like a tank - from the burly reel foot to the industrial-strength clickers. They've clearly advanced the state of the click-pawl art to the level of Abel's traditional reels. This thing's a brute.

My two-handed swinging rods are a classic Scott ARC1287/3 spey and a Scott L2h 1168/4 switch. Both have a very traditional look that melds very well with the Abel Spey, in particular the unsanded blank of the L2h. Naturally my reel is classsic black and unported. I suppose if I had one of the "spaceship" sticks like a Sage TCX "death star" or  an ECHO TR I might feel the need to explore Abel's myriad of custom colors and finishes. But on my sticks, I think they'd just look completely ridiculous.

Even the mechanics of the drag (such as it may be) system have evolved. The Abel feature two clickers that can be configured for left- or right-hand retrieve, as well as a "maximum drag" setting. Switching is as simple as rotating one or both of the burly clickers. I've been running mine on maximum drag with no complaints.

Abel offers spey reels in three sizes - Spey, Switch, and the new smaller Classic configuration. One of these should easily balance almost any two-handed rod less than 14'. If you're in the market for a well-built, stylish click-pawl spey reel, I strongly recommend giving Abel a look!


03 December, 2012

Control Your Gun?

In the wake of Bob Costas' gun control sermon on NFL Halftime, The gun control frenzy seems set to explode yet again. You can expect both sides to rush to extremes - the NRA that no limits should be placed and the anti-gun crowd that Jovan Belcher's gun somehow caused this situation.

I've owned and shot an awful lot of guns of all sizes, types, and flavors. And I have yet to find one that included the self-firing feature. You have to pull the trigger, or nothing happens. Jovan Belcher pulled the trigger both on his girlfriend, and later himself. Clearly this was a young man with some very serious mental health issues. Other notable shootings from Columbine to VA Tech seem to suggest that guns don't kill people, people struggling with mental health problems do.

So, here's a thought. Maybe we ought to give some consideration to closing these loopholes. Don't allow purchase of ANY (not just handguns, long guns too) firearms by individuals with serious and/or chronic mental health issues. The vehicles to regulate are pretty simple -- background checks could include institutionalization, or possibly even long term medication with anti-depressants above a certain threshold.

While we're at it, I'd suggest a few other improvements that would help prevent these types of situations:

  • Institute Federal Firearms laws that bring state-to-state consistency to the laws for gun ownership; yes the NRA will fire up the "state's rights" argument, but that's just a strategy to confuse the issue.
  • Prohibit individuals with ANY history of debilitating mental illness from owning firearms; period.
  • Step-up penalties for unregistered firearms; though I am NOT advocating for a Federal gun database
If you're a law-abiding gun owner (as most of the folks I know are) a few simple checks and balances in the system won't hinder our freedom. And if they prevent even one tragedy, they're worth it, in my mind.

As with anything else you find in this blog, just my opinion.