Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Low Testosterone... It's not a joke, it's not hard to fix, and if you don't, it might kill you.

Since yet another friend has had this become a major health issue recently... And unfortunately, so many men still don't have good information about low testosterone, what causes it, and the impact it has...

Just a little primer for those who aren't familiar... It's a bit long, but it's the minimum to explain the problem... And it's important for all mens health.

After ages 18-24, 27, and particularly after age 35, and 45, there are substantial changes in average natural testosterone production levels, with lower shorter peaks in T levels, and longer lower troughs.

There are also changes in the bodies efficiency and effectiveness at taking up and using T in the bloodstream.

At the same time, the body tends to naturally convert more T into undesirable amounts of estrogens and other anti-androgens; as well as producing changing levels of Leutenizing Hormone, Human Growth Hormone, Follicular Simtulating Hormone, DHEA, and other hormones and , which impact general mental wellbeing, energy, focus, motivation and drive, muscle mass and tone, fat creation and retention...

...basically everything about your body, and a hell of a lot about your personality.

The higher your bodyfat is above around 14% (possibly as broad a neutral range as 12%-18%, but it appears that for most, the negative effects begin worsening at around 14%) the more testosterone production and uptake are suppressed, the less effective the body is at using the T it uptakes, and the more T is aromatized into estrogens and other anti-androgens (as well as all the other "good" hormones being reduced, and the "bad" hormones being increased).

Other illnesses such as diabetes and other insulin related issues can dramatically worsen this. As can thyroid issues, pituitary issues, excess cortisol, and other adrenal issues... Pretty much every endocrine disorder.

Also, if you have naturally higher levels of estrogens, for example if you are gynocomastic naturally (as a significant portion of men are, including me), this worsens DRAMATICALLY.

One issue that most don't understand, is that even a small thyroid deficiency... "Within normal range", but on the low end of the range, can HUGELY impact testosterone (and all of the rest of the endocrine system, your health, your energy drive and focus, and your wellbeing... "sub-clinical thyroid deficiency, should be eliminated from doctors vocabularies, because there is no such thing).

Also, what doctors regard as "low normal" levels of Testosterone, are essentially the same as 75 year old men. They are paranoid of the DEA penalizing them for over prescribing Testosterone, and are very reluctant to supplement someone unless they are persistently under 300ng/dl peak, and under 100ng/dl trough.

Testosterone levels this low, subject men to substantial negative health consequences, including dramatic muscle loss, fat gain, cardiac health problems, mental focus and acuity problems, depression (often severe), anxiety, personality changes, sexual dysfunction, sleep pattern disruption, developing or worsening other endocrine linked health problems such as diabetes, and substantially increased risks and severity of several forms of cancer.

These include a 50% or greater increase in the chance of developing aggressive prostate cancer, and several times the chance of developing male breast cancer. In general, low testosterone correlates with at least a 50% increase in risk of a lifespan reduced by at least 10%.

However, that isn't the whole story, by a long shot. One need not be nearly so severely deficient in testosterone to suffer significant negative health impact.

Testosterone levels under 700ng/dl peak, and under 300ng/dl trough, are not considered "low testosterone" by most doctors. In fact, they are considered "normal to high normal" for men over the age of 35.

However, at any age, testosterone levels persistently below 700/300, are low enough to make men depressed and anxious, lethargic and sluggish, lose muscle mass and tone, gain more fat, retain water, gain weight, have significant negative health impacts and complicate and worsen other health issues (as above), and generally feel like crap. This is aside from the common issues of loss of sex drive and desire, and intermittent or persistent sexual dysfunction.

You'll note, these effects are also those that suppress testosterone even further, driving it ever lower, in a vicious spiral.

By the time many doctors are willing to supplement, they have to work 3 or 4 times as hard, to get even above 300/100, never mind 700/300... And then, most are not willing to supplement enough, for most men to stay consistently above 300/100.

You have to insist on enough testosterone, frequently enough, to get your peaks above 700, and lasting at least a few days, and your troughs above 300, and lasting no more than a few days. You can force the issue with testing if necessary.

For most people, after the initial 3 months of supplementation (which may be at a higher level more frequently) that means injecting at least every 3 weeks, and may mean injecting every two weeks, every week, or even more often (though more than once a week after the initial period is rare).

It is also important to note, that once one has actually reached such a low level of testosterone that one is experiencing significant symptoms, or when one has bodyfat above 18% to 20% or so (and particularly above 24% to 28%); transdermal patches and gels are substantially less effective (in fact, they are essentially ineffective unless you have almost no testosterone at all) at raising available testosterone in the blood stream.

Even worse, they generally result in greater aromatization of testosterone into estrogens... Which actually suppress the action of testosterone even further.

If this is happening, raising your dosage actually makes the aromatization worse, but may show "sufficient testosterone in the bloodstream", on tests.

So you're counteracting the "sufficient" testosterone you have, and in fact making your symptoms of low testosterone and excess estrogens MUCH worse (especially the depression, muscle loss, fat gain, water retention, gynocomastia, sexual dysfunction, and increased cancer risks).

And yet, these treatments are also several times the cost of injectable T.

Unless you're skinny, with low bodyfat, and you aren't really very low on testosterone, you really need deep intramuscular injection.

Even with IM injection, many men on supplementary testosterone need aromatase inhibitors, to prevent the same issues with excess conversion to estrogens.

This is particularly true if you inject more than 1ml at 100mg/ml every 3 weeks, and almost without question if you have high bodyfat, gynocomastia, high estrogens in general, high cortisol, diabetes, or inject more than 2ml every two weeks.

Unfortunately, as with prescribing enough testosterone in the first place, many doctors are reluctant to prescribe aromatase inhibitors... Again, because they are worried about the DEA penalizing them, for prescribing "performance enhancing substances".

As far as the DEA is concerned, every man wanting to have their heatlh, sex life, drive, motivation, energy, and focus back to near what used to be... Is just another steroid abuser.

You have to advocate for your own health here. If your doctor isn't willing to do what is necessary, find a sports medicine specialist, or a mens endocrine health, or mens sexual health specialist, and they will.

You might not think it's worth the time, or the cost, or the pain of injections, or that it won't have a significant impact anyway... and it's just because you're getting older, or getting fat or... whatever justification you may have...

You're wrong.

I guarantee you, keeping your testosterone above 700/300, is worth every bit of trouble it takes to do so... and a lot more besides

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The even BIGGER Minimum Wage Lie

The narrative that the left is attempting to promote, is that the minimum wage, should be a lower middle class living wage.

They have further determined this "living wage" to be about $15 an hour.

Thats about $30,000 a year based on the standard 2000 hour work year (thats 5 full time work days a week, minus 10 unpaid days for national holidays. Most minimum wage workers do not receive paid holidays or paid vacation).

It's also a $15,500 a year RAISE for those workers, more than doubling their pay (currently $14,500 by the 2,000 hour standard).

...If you think someone picking up  litter in parks, or working a cash register at McDonalds, on their very first day of their very first job, is worth paying $30,000 a year...

There is something wrong with you.

...Or your just don't understand how money, or wages work (which, frankly, is often the case).

Normal wages are not just arbitrarily "set" by some big daddy in the sky, or by evil greedy CEOs looking to "exploit the workers". They are based on the value a worker can provide to an organization, and the cost to the employer of replacing that worker.

Normal wages are not arbitrary, they are not fixed, and they are VOLUNTARY. If you dont want to take what an employer offers, then you can find a different job that you want more and are willing to take less money for, or you can find a job that pays more.

If you can't find a job that pays more, then your skills and experience are not worth more, or you are not selling yourself properly. Otherwise, you WOULD be able to find a job that pays more.

On the other hand, if an employer doesn't pay enough for a job, that people are willing to take what they are offering workers to do that job; that employer won't be able to fill that job. They will have to either make the job more attractive to workers, or increase the pay (or both).

It's basic market economics... Of course, the left don't believe in markets...

Here's the thing...

Really, I think this whole $15 an hour idea stems from the concept many seem to have internalized (whether or not they've put it into words, or consciously thought about it):

Having a "good" middle class life shouldn't be hard.

People shouldn't really have to do things like sell themselves well, or find a better job every year or two, or work harder, or deal with politics, or work overtime, or work more than one job; to make enough money for a "good life".

They see how competitive and harsh the world is, and the job market is, and they think it's bad and scary and stressful, and not everyone can compete. Even if they have the skills and experience some people are bad at interviewing or resume writing, and some people are too stressed by it, and some people are discriminated against, and theres just no demand for the skills and experience many people have, and its all changing all ttthe time...

...and dammit everyone deserves a "good life".

They think everyone who is not disabled, should be able to find a "good" job, that gives them a "good life", regardless of their skills and experience.

In fact, many of them even say you have a RIGHT to a good job, that pays enough to have a "good life".

They don't think you should HAVE to compete, or struggle, or be stressed, to have a "good life".

They just want people to be able to get a default job, for default pay, and have that be "enough", without worrying about negotiating, or getting raises, or competing for better jobs or more money, or losing their job and not being able to find one that pays as much.

Sure, if people want to compete for better jobs, or want to make more they can... but they feel that every job, no matter how unskilled, or how little value it provides to their employer, should pay enough to have a "good life", just for showing up and doing the work assigned, and that people shouldn't have to worry and compete, just to have a good life.

That everyone should be able to make enough money to live where they want, at least with a spouse or a roommate.

That everyone should be able to make enough money to raise kids, or to travel, or to live in new York York or LA, or to go to college...

So we can all be equal and free of "wage slavery", and pursue our real passion in the arts or something, I guess?

Same reason most of these same people think that college should be "free", and school loan debt should be forgiven... or just erased. Same reason most of these same people think health care should be "free" (or paid 100% by employers and the government, which to them, is the same thing).

They want people to be able to have a good life, and not worry about having their life screwed up, by losing their job, or getting sick, or not being able to find a new job.

They want people's lives to not be subject to the whims of the marketplace, or of economics.

How... Utopian.

This in fact, was the original promise of socialism, communism, marxism, maoism... and every other utopian ideology. That somehow, through proper application of government, we can be free of struggle and strife, and free of the need to toil, and free to pursue our dreams without worrying about those things.

Of course, this completely ignores basic economics... There is no such thing as "free", and unfortunately, no matter what laws the government passes, you just cannot ignore basic economics. Because on this planet, we live in a scarcity based economy (no matter what economic system "runs" it), and economics runs EVERYTHING.

In ignoring basic economics, It also completely ignores the fact that jobs don't exist to provide a living for workers.

Though actually, if you ask most leftists, that is actually what they believe jobs are for... or at least what they should be for.

Ask a union organizer why the factory exists, and he'll tell you it's to provide good high paying jobs for his union members first... and whether the employer makes any money or not isn't his problem. They're all greedy exploiters anyway.

But that's not how the world works.

Businesses dont exist to give people jobs. Jobs exist, for the purpose of doing the useful and productive work of an employer, in order to make money for that employer... Hopefully at a profit, or those jobs won't exist for very long.

No, the minimum wage is NOT a living wage, because it is not intended to be, nor should it.

It is meant to be the absolute minimum an unskilled and inexperienced worker will make, while they are learning skills and gaining experience, that will make them more valuable to employers.

... Which is exactly what almost all minimum wage workers do. Excluding tipped employees, over 80% of minimum wage workers earn at least 10% more than minimum wage within 2 years, and at least 30% more within 5 years.

Only 4.5% of the overall work force, and only 1.8% of the full time workforce between the age of 18 and 65, earn minimum wage. It is not, never was, and never should be a living wage.

Also, the common narrative that the minimum wage hasn't kept pace with inflation is a lie.

Not just a misinterpretation or shading the truth, it's a flat out propagandist lie.

They lie, by choosing the starting point of their timeline at the highest relative value the minimum wage has ever been, 1968... Which, incidentally, was immediately followed by the highest annual peacetime inflation the U.S. has ever seen, for over 15 years.

The minimum wage has kept exact pace with inflation for the last 30 years (since 1985, to the penny), and has more than kept pace, since it's inception in 1938. It was only from 1969 to 1984, when inflation in the U.S. went as high as double digit numbers annually, that it did not.

In fact, it's not only more than kept pace with inflation since it's inception, and has a much higher relative purchasing power... It has actually almost  DOUBLED relative to inflation, since its inception in1938.

The 1968 number was unusually and artificially high. How high? It was a near doubling from just a few years before, at $1.60 an hour (a 20% increase from 1966, which was itself a 40% increase from 1962, and overall it was a 100% increase over 1956... Even though the U.S. had less than 3% annual inflation in those years. The 1956 minimum wage in 1968 dollars was $1.02. In 2015 dollars, it's $6.96... a bit less than minimum wage today).

But even in 1968, the "$15 living wage" people's baseline year, the minimum wage was STILL not intended to be a living wage. $1.60 an hour in 1968, meant about $3,200 a 2000 hour work year, or about $10.88 and $22,000 a year in 2015 dollars.

That year, the median wage for ALL workers was $6,580 or $3.30 an hour, a bit over DOUBLE the minimum wage. The household income was appx. $7,800. However, the median wage for full time employed males, was actually $7,600 (because women were a small percentage of the full time work force, made far less then men, and rarely worked if their husbands worked a good full time job).

In 2015 dollars, that would be about $45,000 a year for all full time workers, $51,000 for full time employed men,  and the household income would be about $53,000.

Which by the way, is not very different from what they actually are now. $44,000 for all full time workers, $48,000 for full time men, and household income is about $54,000

Remember, these are medians, not averages. Also note, all were above 1968 levels before October of 2008, but the recession has taken about $2k-4k out of personal income and $4-6k out of household income ("official estimates" are as low as $1k personal and $2k household, but no-one actually believes that. Also, they don't account for inflation... official estimate, or actual... Adjusting for inflation using official numbers... which are well known to be very low... Some estimate as much as $6 personal and $9k household accounting for wage freezes, reduced profit sharing and bonuses, and lack of job growth and promotions; as middle income males were hit worst by unemployment and wage cuts, and have recovered least).

So, by that logic, with the artificially high minimum wage of 1968 being approximately half the prevailing median full time wage; to "keep up" with 1968, the 2015 minimum wage should be...

... Wait for it...

$11 an hour.

So, to match what the highest minimum wage in all of American history, the glory day, their chosen baseline, wouldn't be $15, it would be $11.

Of course, as As I have now explained several times, the 1968 wage was a sudden and artificially high raise, double the 1956 wage, and in constant dollar terms, four times the minimum wage at its inception in 1938.

To keep up with 1938, would be? About $4.20

To keep up with 1956, the year before the minimum wage started jumping every couple years much faster than inflation? About $6.95

At $7.25, we're at about the same in constant dollars, as 1962.

..... So the inflation argument is a flat lie, and the $15 argument is not based in economic reality.

But, just to put the nail in that coffin for good... Just in case somehow the $15 minimum wage sounds like anything close to a reasonable or good idea...

Let's do some comparative analysis:

U.S. military E1 (private/airman basic/seaman recruit) makes about $18,500 a year, or about $9.30 an hour base pay (based on the same 2000 work year... This of course is far less than a duty year even in peacetime, which is about 2700 hours, working out to $6.88 an hour).

Once that soldier, marine, airman, or seaman, are trained and ready to perform the basic duties of their basic occupational field ( E2, at 6 months or so), they get a raise to about $20,800, or about $10.40 on 2000 hours, or $7.70 on 2700 hours.

When they reach fully trained and qualified in the basics of their specialty ( E3, usually around 12 to 18 months or so), they get another raise, to about $24,400, or about $12.25 an hour (or $9 an hour).

Once they are fully trained in the details of their specialty, and have a couple years of experience in their field (E4, usually 24  months or so), and are directing the efforts of 2 to 5 other junior enlisted, they get a raise up to about $25,500, or about $12.75 an hour ( or about $9.45 an hour).

After 3 to 5 years, an E5 (sergeant/staff sergeant/petty officer 2nd class) whose job is to be a well trained and expert specialist in an particular area, and/or to supervise and direct the efforts of 5 to 10 other enlisted personnel...

...and here's the kicker...

... makes a base pay of $30,800, or a bit over $15 an hour on the 2000 hour scale, or about $11.47 an hour on a peacetime 2700 hour duty year.

Oh and by the way, its likely that sergeants immediate "supervisor", in HR terms, would be a 2nd lieutenant. A position that requires a bachelor's degree, and only pays $35,000 a year (with MUCH higher expenses than enlisted men, and they don't get a raise for 18-24 months)

So... According to this theory, minimum wage...

...for a 15 year old high school kid working at the mall food court lets say..

...Should be... about the same as base pay for a serious, skilled professional, with five years experience in their field, and at least two years experience supervising as many as 10 subordinates... With the added bonus of being taken away from their families for months at a time and BEING SHOT AT.

If you can't see just how ridiculous that notion is...

But hell... let's take the comparisons further...

The average starting base pay for cops in the U.S. (and most departments require degrees and certifications now) is?

$26,600 a year, or about $13.30 an hour (before overtime and detail of course)

How about teachers?

$36,000 national average (though they vary significantly by state, from $27k to $51k) or $18 an hour based on the 2000 hour year (which is how teachers are paid, even though they work very different hours... Usually about 1600 a year, including after school and work at home time).

Thats with a degree, and a teaching cert (which in some states can take two more years and thousands more dollars over and above the degree). Before they get certified, they average $24,000


$34,000 with a degree, but no experience, masters or CPA, $48,000 with a CPA but minimal experience.

Auto Mechanics?

$27,000 with no certifications, but at least 2 years experience and their own tools. $31,000 with a certification, tools, and experience.

Computer systems and networks operator or technician?

$29,000 with a degree and at least two years of work experience, preferably in tech support. $22-24k with no degree, a few of the right certs, a demonstrated skill and aptitude, and SOME experience.

How about carpenters?

Apprentices start at between $10 and $15 (with tools), journeymen start at $15 to $22 depending on specialty (framing, finish, roofer, cabinet maker etc..), region, seasonal demand, and unions.


Plumbers helpers and apprentices start at from $11 to $14 an hour. Journeymen $18 to $28.


Apprentices start between $9 and $15. Journeymen, from $16 to $24.

...Hmmm... Thats... Umm...

So... yeah... Apparently a grocery stocker, on his first day at work... should make more to start than a cop, a teacher, a mechanic, a computer and network tech, a carpenter, a plumber, and an electrician?

Yeah... NO.

But wait they say... "Now that the minimum wage is $15, then everyone else will have to get paid more proportionally, and everyone will be better off".

Umm... first, thats not how that works. Ever heard of an "inflationary spiral"? Probably not, since if they had, they wouldn't be suggesting the $15 minimum anyway... So look it up.

Second... hey... wait... that means this isn't actually about the minimum wage at all, and its not abput "helping the poor" now is it?

If it were actually about helping the poor, then they'd be pushing for $11 or $12. First, they would be MUCH more likely to get $11 or $12 than $15.

$11 would be roughly half the median full time wage, at $22,000. This is roughly equivalent to the 1968 level (whereas, today's minimum wage is roughly equivalent to 1962).

Critically, $12 an hour would give a single minimum wage income earning family, with two adults and two kids a $24,000 income, enough to lift them out of poverty, while allowing a parent to care for the children. It would bring a dual income family $48k, which is close to the national median household income (which would be $13.50 an hour with two full time wage earners by the way).

... and of course, we don't even need to get into the fact that outside of wealthy urban areas, minimum wage employment would fall to somewhere around zero, if even an $11 national minimum passed...

No... It's not really about helping the poor.

As it happens... A huge number of union contracts, are index linked to the minimum wage, or to the mean or median wages (which would also be increased).  When them minimum wage goes up, so so do their union contract wages.

So are large numbers of government programs, and statistics... Including many poverty and welfare statistics.

And of course, if non-union labor is forced by law to be as expensive as union labor (and by the by, unions are usually exempt from wage regulations), then there's going to be less competition, less price pressure, and more jobs for union members.

So, all if a sudden it's not a "reasonable living wage" for less than 2 million people... It's a big raise for 15 million union workers, and and big budget increase for a whole bunch of government programs (whose administrators and staff are likely union members themselves. 50% of union workers are government workers)... and... what? They think that's actually going to happen?

Really? They think that's actually going to happen?

Or maybe they're hoping that by asking for $15, they can split they're difference, and get $11?

And hey... it's still a huge increase on their contracts right?

And they think that's going to happen?

Where's the money going to come from?

Hell, the money doesn't exist even to give just the less than 2% who actually make minimum wage, a raise to $11 (about 8 billion a year, mostly born by small businesses who already have an 80% failure rate, without increasing their labor costs by 50%). Never mind giving that same raise to 15 million more... Or... any raise to any more.

What are they going to do, mandate it by law, and just print some more money?

I direct you to the "inflationary spiral" concept I noted above.

The entire concept of $15 is a patently ridiculous and disingenuous scam.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Big Secret They Don't Want You To Know

Would you like some secret dangerous truth that they don't want you to know?

There are no big conspiracies. There can't be, because none of the people and organizations that would need to be so in order for them to work, are smart enough or competent enough, and they can't keep secrets.

It looks like there are, because everyone with any power is doing their damndest to keep it, and get more... and that's what it looks like when everyone "in charge" or "running things" does that.

They all act in their own interest, and that aligns with everyone else doing the same thing, making it look like there is some grand master control... when really it's an illusory house of cards, ready to collapse any second.

They aren't actually running things to their advantage...they're trying, but actually they aren't running things at all. The scarier fact, is that NO one is running things, because no-one can... But they keep trying and just making things worse.

The system isn't rigged for them and against you... It's just so horrible, inefficient, ineffective, and destructive, that it seems that way. Not that they wouldn't rig it if they could, but they can't control it enough to rig it.

The smart, the rich, and the connected don't get special treatment by the rigged system.... They just don't even try to work within the system when they need to get things done. They don't wait for approval, they don't ask for permission, and they don't let anyone stop them.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Misunderstanding Law, Government, and Society

Most people... At least most people in modern western democracies... Seem to have a fundamental and unconscious assumption about the nature of law and government, that goes something like this:
Law and government, are or should be, the expression of the will of the majority, for the purpose of making collective decisions, taking collective actions, fixing problems and righting wrongs.
If I gave that definition to most people as what government "should" be, or even what it is, I'd guess they would agree.

 But that's not what law and government are at all. In fact, that notion of the nature of law and government, is not only wrong, it is extremely harmful.

What are law and government?

Government, is the instrument of collective delegation of the legitimate initiation and use of force against others. 
Law, is the body of rules by which that force is administered and applied. 
The only legitimate purpose for which, is to secure and protect the rights of individuals governed by them.
So, what's the other thing, and why is this a problem?

 The other definition, is more properly that of society (as distinct from culture).

Government is NOT Society, and Society, is NOT Government

This conflation of government, and society, is a very serious social and political problem because those who hold it... and I firmly believe it's a large majority... believe that law and government, should be used for "doing what's good, and stopping what's bad".

They naturally wish to see government do what they think is right, or best, and stop that which they think is wrong, harmful, or wasteful... And not just in areas where force should be applied.

They conflate "legal" with "good" and "illegal" with "bad", and try to make laws against things which they think are bad, or mandating things which they think are good.

 They often even conflate "legal" or "attempting to make legal" with "approving and supporting", and "dissapproving and opposing" with "illegal" or "attempting to make illegal".

This is incredibly harmful

We have allowed... even encouraged people... to deeply hold the fundamental notion, that they get to vote on other peoples opinions, choices, and behavior; and if their "side" wins the vote, that it is legitimate to make those things legal or illegal.

 It also means that these people automatically and reflexively try to solve personal, moral, social, or societal problems, with government and law, when it is entirely inappropriate, even harmful, to attempt to do so.

Most of those problems cannot be solved by the use of force;, or at best can only be solved inefficiently, ineffectively, and while violating the rights of others.

 In encouraging this misapprehension, we have in fact made the personal, the political, and the political, the personal.

How do we stop the harm?

We must correct this critical error in peoples fundamental apprehension of law and government. 

People need to understand, at the most fundamental level, that government is force, and that law is how that force is directed and administered. No more, no less.

If we don't correct this misapprehension, then we will continue to simply seesaw back and forth between majoritarian tyrannies, as social changes dictate.

Rights will continue to be violated and abrogated as the opinions of society fluctuate.

The favored, will continue to be privileged over the disfavored at the expense of the disfavored's rights, until the pendulum swings again and the roles are reversed.

Yes, I realize, that is largely how it has always been... But never has law and government had such a depth and breath, had so great a reach into our personal lives, as it does today, and this unfortunately shows no sign of receding.

The absurdity of this reach... and overreach... is finally becoming apparent to many people, on all ideological "sides"; be it the "war on drugs", the "war on terror", privacy and surveillance, or gay marriage and wedding cakes.

So, we have to take action, now 

Use this growing awareness of the overreach, to help people understand.

We have to show people these aren't just outlying excesses. That they result from the way we think of, look at, and attempt to use, government.

We have to get people to understand, that if they can say "there ought to be a law", and then get a law made banning something that they don't like; then their worst enemy, can get a law made banning something they love.

We have to return to the notion that fundamental rights matter, and that the only legitimate purpose of law, and government, is to protect those fundamental rights.

Everything else?

That's up to individuals, and to society as a whole, NOT GOVERNMENT.

Voluntary collective action. If it's really what people want, then they'll work for it, without the threat of force. If it's not really what they want, then we shouldn't be forcing people to do it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Patrick Day

I have repeated my basic statements on this day for the last few years, and since it's still what I want people to know about today, and what I want to say about today. I see no reason to change the practice this year.

I love my country and my country
my states and my counties
of purple mountains and four green fields
of pigskin and patriot games
of Stars and stripes and green and white
of micks and taigs
of my mother and my father
One world, and another

I am a "genuine" Irish American... so much as anyone can be said to be so.

Not some guy who's grandmother on my mothers fathers side stopped in limerick on the way over from France. I’m born to an Irish father and American mother, I'm a dual citizen, and I lived in Ireland for several years.

Today is the feast day of Saint Patrick.

While in theory Ireland’s most important holiday is St. Patricks day, in Ireland, the only people "celebrating" Patrick day (it's usually not called St. Patricks day) with wild partying, are the tourists (well... and the college students, but they'll celebrate the opening of a door with wild partying so...). Everyone else is home relaxing for the day off; or if they're still pious, off in church.

To Americans, it's a drunkards day, but to the Irish... or at least to those who are still religious, or who still give a damn about Ireland, and what it means to be Irish; its significance is something like independence day, memorial day, and thanksgiving combined... though that doesn't exactly capture it.

It's a religious holiday AND a national holiday, and one of the biggest worldwide symbols of Ireland there is... For good or ill.

For several hundred years under the British, it was illegal to celebrate Patrick day, and the conspicuous display of green on this day could see one arrested. It was considered raising rebellion against the crown... something my family has a long history of (really, look it up, fascinating stuff).

The celebration of this day is a very strong reminder to those who care about Ireland, and the Irish, what that means today, and what it has meant for the past 600 years.

Lest anyone think by these statements that I'm a supporter of the IRA, let me just say ohh ah FUCK THE RA. It isn't 1921 anymore, and those bastards have done more damage in the last 40 years than I can describe.

What most don't realize, or even even hear of; is that the IRA (and Sinn Fein the theoretical peaceful political component) are a Marxist organization. Yes they want a united Ireland, but they want it to be a "socialist workers paradise" like Cuba.

Yeah I think you all know how I feel about that.

Of course the other thing most don't know is, that since the late '80s most of the violence has been initiated on the protestant side.

The so called loyalists, and "protective associations" and other pathetic excuses for extortion gangs look at sectarianism as an ideal cover for their real goal: the control of the criminal underground of Northern Ireland.

If you want to know what someones opinion of it is, you don't need ask... just listen to what they call it.

If it's "The Cause", then they'll be singing "Boys of the Old Brigade" tonight. "The Struggle" is for those who march in orange down the Shankill road. The rest of us just call it "the troubles", and wish the lot of them to hell where they belong.

The worst part?

At this point, The Republic doesn't really want the north, and neither do the British. It's a gigantic economic drag (though it shouldn't be and certainly doesn't have to be), with extremely high unemployment, massive dole roles, very little sustainable economic base, and infrastructure costs that can't reasonably be borne... overall just a giant mess economically (part of that due to neglect, or outright hostility on the part of the British government, part of it the fault of the north itself).

If you held a vote in all of Ireland today whether to unify the country, maybe half of the northerners would say yes, and probably three quarters of those in the republic would say HELL NO WE DON'T WANT YA.

Which is a damn shame, because the Irish SHOULD be one nation, and one people. Even the English seem to accept that now; they just can't figure out how to extricate themselves from the situation while still doing right by her majesties subjects in the north counties AND saving face for the last 100 or so, or even the last 217 or so years (some would even say the last 900 or so years) of cockups.

So I think you can see why on this day, I find the singing of "rebel" songs to be a bit angering.

Now in honor of all the phony Irish assholes, and real Irish scumbags singing "The Men Behind the Wire" and "The boys of the old Brigade" in bars all over Ireland, Boston, New York, and Chicago...


The Patriot Game
-- Dominic Behan

Come all you young rebels, and list while I sing,
For the love of one's country is a terrible thing.
It banishes fear with the speed of a flame,
And it makes us all part of the patriot game.

My name is O'Hanlon, and I'm just gone sixteen.
My home is in Monaghan, where I was weaned.,
I learned all my life cruel England to blame,
And so I'm a part of the patriot game.

It's barely two years since I wandered away
With the local battalion of the bold IRA,
I'd read of our heroes, and I wanted the same
To play out my part in the patriot game.

This island of ours has for long been half free.
Six counties are under John Bull's tyranny.
So I gave up my Bible, to drill and to train
To play my own part in the patriot game.

And now as I lie here, my body all holes
I think of those traitors who bargained and sold.
I wish that my rifle had given the same
To those quislings who sold out the patriot game.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Creators Are People Too

For many people who are not serious con-goers, or who don't go to a lot of live music shows, or who don't participate very much in the "author" or "independent/genre flim/tv" or "independent musician" regions of social media; the people who create the art they love, are seemingly remote... set apart from "normal" folks.

Sometimes these folks wonder how it is I have met and/or know so many authors, actors, producers, directors, musicians and other artists and creators that I like; and how I've been lucky enough to have become friends with more than a few.


  1. Find out where they are going to be in public, be it a con, a book signing, a reading, a lecture, a showing, a festival, a small show, a big show you can get a backstage pass for, a public event of some kind...

    It's easy... they'll tell you when these things are happening, and ask you to show up and support their work.
  2. Go there, while being reasonably well groomed and bathed, preferably with a few friends who also like the creator in question (though not a huge gang all at once... that can be overwhelming). Big Plus if you include an item of swag you bought from them in your accouterments. Big minus if you go as them in cosplay, because that's just creepy.

    Bringing me to...
  3. Say hi, and tell them you like the stuff they create.. but don't be creepy. You may love everything they have ever done, it has changed your life, you have defined yourself by it... but don't gush... too much anyway. A little gushing is OK.
  4. Remember, creators are fans too... And if you're a fan of their stuff, there's a good chance they're fans of other stuff you like, and you're fans of other stuff they like.

    Most creators were fans... and very big intense fans at that... long before they were creators themselves, and becoming a creator doesn't stop them being a fan. You may love their stuff... but you may both gush together over your mutual love of someone elses stuff.

    .. actually I can say without doubt, I have spent far more time with my creator friends, obsessing about the stuff that we love that other people have created, than every other subject combined
  5. Say hi on Facebook, or twitter, or their blogs, and add them. Follow their posts, interact with them. JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE.

Because creators are people too... No matter how remote they may seem

Often, they're very lonely people, especially on the road stuck away from their families for weeks or even months at a time. Someone being genuinely nice to them and liking their stuff, and being genuine and human and real, and not just wanting a piece of them... is great.

One step beyond...

Now... here's the advanced level course, for those of you who would like to be IRL friends with your favorite authors, or at least hang out with them:

Creators are often broke (or at least not rich and not on big expense accounts), and often like things such as steak and beverages.

Yes, really, you and everyone you know may love everything they do, but most authors, actors, directors, and other creators in general, don't make very much money most of the time.. and often, most of what they do make goes into trying to make more of the stuff you like.

It may be years in between books, or gigs with decent pay. In between, they're just trying to get by,often while living in the stupidly expensive New York or Los Angeles...

...and no matter what, creators have lots of non creators to pay... Lawyers, agents, accountants. publishers... It's not cheap to be a creator who wants to make a living from their creation

So, when they're out on the road promoting their creations, creators are often trying to maximize enjoyment and fan engagement, while minimizing cost to their personal wallets (most creators are eating on their own "thank god this is tax deductible" dime most of the time. Even if you can get one to do so, every dime another company fronts you for "promotional expenses" is probably 2 dimes taken out of your earnings).

So, if you're cool, and you're not creepy, and after interacting you seem to like them, and they seem to like you... If you get the opportunity, offer them free food and beverages.

This works particularly well if that food is something that your city is particularly good at that they haven't tried, or it's one of their favorites, or if it's beyond their normal budget.

How do you do that?

Again, simple:

"Hey... we really like what you do. We're going to get some of this awesome food. If you've got time and are up for it, we'd love to have you come get some of this awesome food with us. Because we love what you do, we'd be really happy if you'd let us buy you lunch/dinner/breakfast/elevenses"

Yes, really, it's just that simple...

If they have time, and you've been cool and non-creepy, there's a very good chance they'll take it. And if they don't have time, they'll still be happy you offered, because they know it means you like them, and their stuff.

Because the most important thing you have to remember, is that mostly, CREATORS ARE JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE.

...except usually more broke, and with less time, and less room in their heads for stuff other than what they are creating.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stop Calling Government Regulation Net Neutrality

Stop using "net neutrality" to refer to government regulation of the internet.

That's not what net neutrality is, and it's certainly not what the government regulations promulgated by the FCC today are, in this case "Common Carrier Rules".

People who don't know any better are celebrating todays faux "net neutrality" FCC action as a victory for freedom and free speech on the internet, when in fact, it's exactly the opposite.

I've written extensively about net neutrality and this is very much NOT it.

All the FCC has done today, is impose common carrier regulation on every ISP (oh and by the way, lots of other organizations as well who "provide internet access". No-one has any idea how the regulations are going to be finalized, what the language will mean, who will be impacted and how... except everyone knows it's going to cost a lot), instead of just the telephone companies it was already imposed on. Verizon for example, who was already one of the worst violators of net neutrality, even with common carrier regulation already in place for them.

Thus it makes competition and breaking of existing monopolies even harder, while not actually doing a damn thing to secure or improve neutrality... oh and it gives the FCC more control over the internet.

Absolutely none of those are good things.

Common carrier regulation is a big part of what made the current near monopolies on Internet access happy in the first place, because small independent companies couldn't compete with the giant Telcom conglomerates under those regulations. So, they all got swallowed up.

I've been working with telecommunications companies, and common carrier regulations, for more than 20 years. I'm an expert in governance and regulatory compliance, and I can tell you right now, NOBODY understands these regulations, because they are not capable of being understood.

These regulations and the rulings and case law associated with them go back to 1930s... and in some particulars all the way back to the 1870s. And of course, rather than replace them with something clear when they wanted to make new regulations, congress and the FCC just amended and added on and countermanded and...

I've flowcharted them before to try to see what applied how and where and when... the only thing I could come up with was "nobody knows for sure, it all depends what a regulator or judge says at the time".

This wasn't a blow for freedom and free speech... This was a giveaway to big corporate donors in the telecommunications industry.

The big telcos have been trying to get their primary competition, non-telco ISPs, burdened with the same regulatory load they labor under, for DECADES. Now, in one stroke, the FCC at the personal direction of the president, has given it to them.

Oh and guess what else common carrier regulation includes... SURVEILLANCE. All common carriers are required to provide the government and law enforcement "reasonable access" for surveillance, as well as to give up records, usage details, and other subscriber and user data, WITHOUT A WARRANT.

What does "reasonable access" mean? Whatever the government says it means... and if you think I'm exaggerating, I'm not. I've dealt with the FBI on this issue, and that's a direct quote.

Yes, this is not only a massive corporate crony handout, it's also a huge gimme to the FBI and the NSA, who have wanted all ISPs stuck under common carrier for years as well.

Stop calling government regulation of the internet "net neutrality". Letting the liars control the language helps them lie to you.

Net neutrality is not government regulation, and these regulations are certainly not net neutrality, nor anything like it. Don't be taken in by fraud, cronyism, and statism, masquerading as freedom.

Six men, three songs, a lifetime of music

I don't know about anyone else, but I can tell you the exact moment I decided I had to learn to play guitar: July 3rd 1985, at about 3:45 in the afternoon.

It was a particular song, played in a particular way, in a particular context. I'd heard the song many times before, but this was different. This was... powerful.

It hit me in the gut, grabbed me by the balls, and said "YOU WILL DO THIS".

Unfortunately, my mother didnt think I was old enough for my own guitar yet (I had been taking vocal, piano, and music theory lessons for several years already by then). She made me wait...

Maybe she was hoping I would change my mind, since my dad played guitar and she had some bad memories and associations there. She aways wanted me to play sax, which I started learning as a kid, but the reeds gave me mouth sores so I had to stop, and I had the same problem when I tried to learn trumpet (in retrospect, we were pretty poor that year, and the next couple years, and you could rent used band instruments for a few dollars a month but not guitars and amplifiers).

So I spent the next four years and five months messing about with other people's acoustic guitars, in my music classes, and family friends and friends, and anything I could get my hands on... before my mother finally bought me my own electric guitar.

Those years of messing with other people acoustics, and never knowing what tuning they'd be in, or whether theyd be in tune, or what the strings would feel like; imprinted on my so much, that every time I pick up a guitar, I automatically finger and play an augmented open G chord.

I play the augmented open G, because it let's you hear the relative tuning and intonation of every string clearly and immediately, and highlights any defects in the guitar and it's setup. It also sounds good arpeggiated, and several songs can be played within the arpeggiation.

Still today, my fingers just automatically reset to that position by default, whenever I'm not specifically playing anything else... and it's almost always the last thing I play before I put the guitar down, just by reflex.

My first guitar was a bright red Epiphone Stratocopy (an sm-3), purchased Christmas of '89 from Daddy's Junky Music, in Boston Massachusetts.

I very much wanted a Strat', very specifically because of two other songs, and two other players... again both of which grabbed me and said "you will will do this".

Those two songs ended up being the first rock songs I ever learned to play... That first song, that grabbed me back in 1985, was quite a lot harder, and took a lot longer to learn... and hell, I still can't play it "right" more than 25 years later... I don't think anybody can play it quite right, except for the true original.

So, I guess I can credit five... well, really six... people (all but one were guitarists), and three songs, with making me absolutely need to play electric guitar.

If you're a guitarist, or a music nerd, I'm sure you know what those three songs are and who three of those guitarists are, without even thinking about it.

The other three people (two guitarists) in question might be a surprise, but the answer is in that date above.

Anybody want to guess who those people are, and what the songs are?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Quality Price Floors, Globalization, and the Harmful Notion of "Just a Red Dot"

I get this question or hear this comment all the time... People think they're going to  "save money on their optics" with "just a red dot".

Unfortunately, that's a very harmful idea.

There is no such thing as "just a red dot" 

Yeah, sure, you absolutely can save money going with a red dot type sight over a scope... A top quality Red Dot is a LOT cheaper than a top quality scope.

And frankly, for most of the rifle shooting that most people do (plinking and casual target shooting, possibly some short range competition shooting; even hunting at 100 yards or less... which in most of the country, is most hunting), a 1x red dot (or holosight or similar), or even a 2x or 4x red dot, would be better for their needs than a traditional scope anyway.

That's another piece for another day... but I really do think that most of the shooting missions, most people are buying most scopes for; would be better served, for less money, with a quality 1x-4x dot sight (either in tube, or with a magnifier).

So how much exactly is "a lot cheaper"?

All these numbers  are current as of February 2015. I may update this later on,"acceptable" and "good" price points have fallen significantly over the last 20ish years, and particularly in the last 5, as higher precision higher quality manufacturing has become more widely available and less expensive).

Red dots are generally somewhat less complex designs than scopes of equivalent quality; requiring less, and less expensive, materials and manufacturing technologies and processes. This generally results in a lower price for a given quality of optic.

You're talking about $150-600 for a decent, tough, reliable, precise, and repeatable Red Dot (Something like Vortex StrikeFire to Aimpoint or Trijicons mid range sights); up to around $1,000-$1400 at the top end (with some outliers up to around $3,000).

With traditional multi-lens reticle in tube optics (scopes), you're looking at around $300-400 for the lower end of decent, tough, reliable, precise, and repeatable; moderate to high magnifications scopes. Possibly a bit cheaper ($200ish) for acceptable lower magnification, less precise, less "tough" applications, and climbing up to around $2500-$3,000 on the high end, with some outliers in the $3500 to $6,000 range (Schmidt & Bender or U.S. Optics for example).

That list of qualifications... decent (meaning reasonable quality design, materials, manufacturing finish etc...), tough, reliable, precise, and repeatable... is rather important. Critical in fact.

Those are the basic properties you need from any sighting device in order for it to be useful, and provide value, no matter what the purpose or mission you're trying to fulfill.

A sighting device that isn't decent, tough, reliable, precise, and repeatable, is actually HARMFUL to whatever you are doing. You're better off without it, than with it, no matter how little it costs, and what capability it seems to provide.

Of course, that's rather a broad price range, but still, with both scopes and red dot sights "you get what you pay for" generally applies (there are some exceptions of course).

While there are times you do pay a premium for "name" or reputation to an extent**, if you need the capabilities the better brands or product lines provide, they really are worth the money.
** Yes...Some manufacturers in particular charge premium prices for midrange product, or too high a premium for high end; thus you can get better optics with other brands for the same money, or as good for less. And of course, the reverse is true. There are some brands well known for giving you much more for your money than other brands at the same price point, or the same capability and quality at a much lower pricepoint.

Which are which? That's another piece for another day.

Hit the floor...

Most importantly regarding price, there are very definite price floors for acceptable quality optical sights.

Most people with even a bit of knowledge and experience, understand this price floor applies to scopes. They don't expect a scope you buy in a blister pack at Wal Mart to be very good, or even "acceptable".

Unfortunately, many people (even many of the same people who seem to understand the concept of a price floor for scopes) don't seem to understand that price floors apply just as much to red dots as to scopes.

No-one with any knowledge or experience in firearms optics, expects a $50 or even $100 scope to be much good... and generally $150-$200 is just into the "acceptable" range (Redfield, low end Vortex, low end Nikon etc....).

So why do they expect any better out of a $50 or $100 red dot? A red dot you can buy in a blister pack, isn't going to be any better than a scope you can buy in a blister pack.

Red dot optics are every bit as much precision optical instruments as scopes are... They're just somewhat simpler designs, using less of the most expensive components and manufacturing processes.

Simpler and less, not "simple" and "inexpensive".

There is just a minimum level of materials and design quality, labor, manufacturing, and quality control, to produce an acceptable optical sight of any type. These don't change, no matter how simple the optic is, how short a range it's intended for, how big a dot or tube etc...

Specifically, there are very definite minimums for quality of adjustment mechanisms, sight barrel/tube/body materials and machining, lenses (even in a 1x optic), lens mounting, adhesives coatings and finishes, skill and precision of assembly, tolerances and clearances, and quality inspection and testing.

These are real minimums, that apply to ANY optic of any type or design.

One flat plate of glass with no magnification, and an adjustment mechanism that's repeatable to under 1 moa (and preferably under 1/4 moa); that will take a slight knock on the sight, being adjusted a few hundred times, and getting lightly rained on, and which will  still stay precise and repeatable for years (a c-more sight isn't much more than that really); is going to cost nearly as much as a 40mm 2-6x zoom that can meet those same criteria and standards.

The expensive part isn't the materials, it's the manufacturing processes, labor, and quality control. That's probably more than 80% of the cost of ANY optic, no matter what its design, or where it's made.

These minimums go up... sometimes WAY up... with more difficult mission requirements, but they never go below that absolute floor. You can't go below those minimums, and still be decent, tough, reliable, precise, and repeatable.

Right now, that floor is pretty clear, and it's around $150-$200 for "acceptable" in a lower magnification scope, or not quite so tough red dot; and $300 to $400 for "good" in a lower to medium magnification scope, or somewhat tougher red dot.

What do you get for your money?

More money tends to add more precision in the optics and adjustment mechanisms, more toughness, and higher quality materials, coatings, and finishes.

Less money on the other hand, generally results in an optic that won't hold zero, won't have consistent and precise adjustments, won't return to zero after adjusting, and won't take any rough handling without breaking... Or even just breaking on its own for no reason.

Really... Just don't do it. It's a waste of money. You'll end up buying and breaking 3 or 4 of the things and hating it the entire time; while spending far more than an acceptable or even a very good optic would have cost in the first place.

So who makes "acceptable" or "good" optics at a low price?

The least expensive optics that I have generally found acceptable or better, are:
  • Nikon: Monarch or higher are good to excellent, limited lifetime warranty
  • Redfield: Great quality, low price high value, some USA made, and a 100% lifetime warranty
  • Burris: Excellent quality, great value, some USA made, and a 100% lifetime warranty
  • Vortex: Diamondback or higher are good to excellent quality, good to great price and always great value, some US made, and all have a 100% lifetime warranty
  • Leupold: Good to excellent quality, good to terrible price leading to anywhere from great to poor value, sometimes erratic but generally excellent customer service, all USA made, and a 100% lifetime warranty (they also own Redfield)
  • Nightforce: Higher priced line ($800 to $3,000), but also among the best quality in the world, and among the lowest price for the quality and capability they offer. As good as optics costing 50% to 200% more. All USA made, with excellent customer service, and a 100% lifetime warranty.
More expensive brands that are also generally very good, include (but are not limited to) Pentax's mid range and higher end models, Aimpoint, Trijicon, Zeiss, Schmidt and Bender, Hensoldt, ELCAN, Leica, Swarovski, and US Optics.
Made in WHERE... Huh?

IN GENERAL... and this is a big generalization with exceptions... Regardless of the brand name an optic is sold under, if that optic is manufactured in the U.S., western Europe, or Japan, it's going to be "good" or better. Frankly, with the cost of manufacturing products in those places, it doesn't make sense not to.

However, even the "premium" brands sometimes have factories in eastern Europe (particularly Poland and the Czech republic), the Philippines, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Sri Lanka, and increasingly mainland China.

These are sometimes owned and operated directly by the companies in question, and sometimes they are very high quality, usually long term, subcontracting deals with excellent third party manufacturers.

So... fortunately for lower prices, higher quality and more competition... but unfortunately for figuring out what to buy (or what not to)... While where it's made, is often a positive indicator of quality, it isn't necessarily an indicator of a lack of quality.

Don't discount something just because it's made in China (or anywhere else). Process, technology, materials, and quality control are all more important than nation of origin. Some excellent optics are coming out of China (and everywhere else), at very attractive prices.

Sadly, brand name isn't always an indicator of quality either, because some major brands with excellent quality product lines, also produce lower priced lower quality product lines (or worse... more on that later).

Some companies may even  subcontract out their lower cost product lines to lower quality OEMs (more on that below). For example, some Nikon ProStaff, and I believe all Vortex Crossfire line optics, are not actually made by Nikon or Vortex (other companies do this as well, I'm just using these two as an example).

As of 2014, I believe those product lines are subcontracted out to a Chinese company, who also make optics for NCstar, Barska, Bushnell, Tasco, and other low end brands (and sometimes including what seem to be the same or similar designs... Or at least visible external design).

The optics manufactured for Nikon and Vortex are definitely manufactured to higher quality standards than those for low end brands, but not to the same standard as Nikon or Vortex's in house manufactured product lines.

What about other brands? 

Here's the thing... You never know. Sometimes you're going to get a great piece for a great price, sometimes not so much.

I have seen some of the Mueller, Millet, Weaver, Leatherwood, Tasco, Bushnell etc... (name brands which are licensed and OEM contracted out to offshore manufacturers) scopes be good or even excellent... and I've seen another scope from the same "brand", at the same price point... even at higher price points, be unacceptable.

In fact I've seen two examples of the same model vary from "pretty good" to "total junk.

And these aren't all low end, low price models. Millet scopes run from $150 to $500. Some Weaver models run as high as $1,500 etc...

In my experience, and those of many I know and trust; some of those $500 to $1500 models have been excellent... Unfortunately, some have been just OK, and some have been entirely unacceptable.

The problem, is that Millet, Mueller etc... aren't actually made by Millet and Mueller. Either they contract production out to offshore factories (usually on a per production run basis, but sometimes on a long term year to year or multi-year basis, which usually results in higher quality), or an offshore manufacture pays the name owners for the right to make scopes with that name.

It can work both ways, sometimes simultaneously, and through multiple levels of naming rights licensing, subcontracting, or both.

Land of confusion

Bushnell is a prime example of the confusion this can create.

First, Bushnell is the parent company of Simmons, Millet, Tasco, Browning and Bausch and Lomb (for rifle scopes and binoculars only).

Their lower end lines generally run from junk, to just barely "acceptable". Their "elite" line theoretically their top of the line best quality optics. However, the elite line consists of 40 someodd models with different features and specifications, and spanning a price range from $200 to $2,000.

The biggest issue is however, that all Bushnell scopes (and any of their other brands) "Elite" or otherwise, are contracted out to different manufacturers on a model to model basis, and sometimes even a production run to production run basis. The same model may be manufactured by three different companies in three different years, in three different countries, and with three different resulting quality levels.

As a result, the "Elite" line end up ranging in quality from "acceptable" (I haven't seen one yet that wasn't at least acceptable), to truly excellent. Bushnell's higher end Elite models are generally made in Japan, by two of the worlds best optics manufacturers, to the highest standards; or in Philippines Sometimes, if one of those manufacturers has excess capacity, they'll also make some of the lower end models, or they'll have extra top quality components, which they'll send out to be put into lower level product lines.

It's the system man...

This system of contract manufacture and licensing, is how the EXACT same design can be sold under a dozen different brand names from NCstar and Barska, to TruGlo, Tasco, and Bushnell, at price points from $29 to $89.

Sometimes... sadly, frequently... those widely divergent price points are for the exact same product, with the same materials and quality control, just a different brand name stamped on them.

Sometimes, for a higher price you actually get the same design, but with better materials and quality control.

Sometimes for a higher price you get the same external design, but with better designed internals, and higher quality of materials and manufacturing.

Worst of all, sometimes the same brand name and model number, sold at the same price, will start off very high quality, and over time, be reduced in quality, without reducing in price.

So, you might get a great example from one of these contracted brands, or you might get junk. You won't know until you actually get it into your hands, and test it (by shooting the square repeatedly to test for return to zero, and ability to maintain zero with recoil for example). If they have a great warranty and return policy... great. If not... Who knows.

Personally, unless I can inspect them beforehand, and test them without penalty, I choose to stick with the major brands who keep manufacture in house, or to top quality subcontractors only.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ten Years... That's Like a Billion Internet Years Right?

Ten years ago today, I wrote this:
Monday, February 14, 2005First Post!!!!! 
Ok folks, people have been telling me to write my own blog for two years now, so finally, here it is. 
Yeah I said I'd get around to it before, but I'm lazy, what can I say. 
The initial content is mostly going to be stuff I've written for other peoples blogs, and fora etc... 
Suggestions, praise, worship, and deification are all welcome.
The five years ago:
Yes, today is my fifth blogiversary. 
It's amazing how much has changed in my life in the last five years. I'm married, with children... wow... damn... 
I mean, at 16, I thought it'd be a miracle if I lived past 30... and if I'd gone on the way I was going, it would've been. 
Now I'm looking hard at "middle age"; having achieved nearly half of everything I've ever really wanted... and another 30 or so years... maybe 40 if I'm lucky... to achieve or acquire the other half before my ability to achieve is significantly diminished. 
Not that I don't have troubles, and trials, and difficulties and issues... perhaps more than my share... but I always have had, and I'm sure always will have them. It's the human condition. 
Moments like this, I just look around me and I can't help but think how lucky I am. How hard I've worked, how much I've sacrificed, how many people I've helped or hurt, or loved, or fought with along the way... but most of all how lucky I've been.
I simply cannot believe where I am, where I might soon be, and just how lucky I am for that.
Thank you all for reading this stuff that spills out of my brain. It humbles me that so many people want to listen. I don't do this for you, I do it for my own sanity; but believe me, I appreciate you.
In those ten years, my words have been read at least 5 million times, by at least hundreds of thousands. 


In those ten years, my life has changed so much. A wife and two daughters. Moving from Arizona to Idaho to New Hampshire to Florida. My son. Honestly, I just can't believe what a long strange trip it's been.

The last four of those years have been... pretty hard honestly. The cancer, the pain, the brain fog, the... everything...

Hell, it's been more than... 18 months I think, since I've been out shooting. But every day I wake up on the right side of the ground, is a good day.

I know I don't write here very much anymore (an explanation of that here). Most of what I'm writing is on facebook, and please feel free to friend or follow me there. I save the blog for the longer pieces, more personal or more details... But I'm still here. Still writing, still reading, still getting pissed off and writing a few thousand words, for whoever is still reading. 

So... I guess just... Thank you.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Guitar Heresy: PA speakers are Better than Cabs

If you really want to know how your amplifier, your guitar, or your bass sound; don't use a guitar or bass cab. Instead, use a high quality full range PA speaker of appropriate impedance for your amp.

Wait what?

Ayup, really, a high quality full range PA speaker, of the appropriate size, and properly set up; will always be more accurate, and often sound better, than all but the best guitar or bass cabinets; while being lighter, more durable, and MUCH cheaper.

What do you mean by "High Quality and Full Range" ?

By high quality, and full range, I mean a speaker that:

1. Is sturdily constructed, with no rattles, undamped harmonics etc
2. Has proper enclosure volume for its drivers
3. Is properly designed for its drivers
4. Has high sensitivity (minimum of 96db to 101db or so)
5. Has a broad flat frequency response (+/- less than 3db, preferably +/- 1db) in the frequency range of your instrument, and it's harmonic overtones to the 12th multiple of the fundamental.

That frequency range would be 31hz to 524hz (B0 to C5) for a 24 fret 6 string bass, with overtones to 6.3khz; and 82hz to 1.3khz (e2 to e6) for a 24 fret guitar, with overtones to 15.6khz.

The overtones are important, but they damp out very rapidly with each harmonic doubling. The first four multiples above the fundamental are called the "presence", and they can be heard and felt, inside ones head (particularly when amplifying acoustic stringed instruments). Generally because of harmonic attenuation, it's impossible to hear or feel anything above the 8th multiple of any fundamental (and above the fourth it's essentially inaudible) but you want the extra headroom, because even the best speakers attenuate towards the ends of their response curves, and harmonic attenuation mostly damps out the quieter harmonics above the second to fourth multiple already (I'm speaking in terms of multiples of the fundamental, instead of first through 16th harmonic, because I don't want to get into the variability of harmonics with scale, tuning, time and periodicity, resonating chambers, free air space etc...).

Speaking of that, you'll note that the lowest frequency on a five and six string bass is 31hz (it's 41hz on a 4 string). Unfortunately, almost no speakers have decent, clear, uncolored response below 45-50hz, even those in high quality bass cabinets. A good full range PA speaker will generally go down to between 45hz and 55hz, a will a good bass cab (classic Ampeg SVT cabs only go down to 58hz

This is deliberate, because unless you use a giant 15" or 18" subwoofer, (or use special very expensive 10" or 12" drivers) you just can't do 40hz or below and still sound good. Even with the giant subwoofer, the bass can sound muddy and rumbly.

Better PA speakers and bass cabinets still respond at frequencies under 455-55hz, they just roll off more than 3db (better speakers might have something like -3-6db at 5hz under nominal, and -6-10db at 10hz under nominal, with around 1-1.5db/hz attenuation for the next 10hz under nominal). This actually has the effect of making the bass sound "cleaner" and clearer; though at 31hz, it's still more felt than heard.

There are a few bass cabinets that have good response in those sub-bass ranges, like the Markbass standard 4x10 (response down to 35hz), and Ampeg Pro-Neo series (28hz in the 15" and 38hz in the 4x10,), but they're very expensive (they run about $900 to $1500).

Ok... so why is a PA speaker more accurate and "better"?

Frankly, most guitar cabs flat out suck. They're inefficient, heavy, expensive, and don't sound very good.

Generally, only the very best (and often most expensive) guitar caps sound great (or often, even good), and even then only in specific situations, for specific tones, with specific amps (because they have a strongly colored and biased voicing).

Even just a mid quality PA speaker, is generally better at reproducing sound accurately, than a very high quality guitar cab. The frequency response will be flatter and the sound will be clearer, with neutral coloration and voicing.

This is because a guitar cabs are deliberately designed, and their drivers are deliberately biased, to emphasize certain tones and attenuate certain tones (mostly attenuating very high and very low frequencies, with a curved response on the mids and mid-highs).  When the speakers significantly alter the sound coming to them from the amp, this is called strong coloration, or strong voicing.

In general, it's very difficult (and expensive) for an 8", 10", or 12" driver to have desirable tonal characteristics across the full range of guitar frequencies and overtones, and most cabinets don't include high frequency horns (and the ones that do, generally don't voicematch them very well, blend them very well, or use good quality crossover networks, so they often sound harsh, thin, and "squeal" or "crackle").

Again, only the very highest quality (and most expensive) guitar cabs do so well (or at all); whereas even lower end PA speakers are specifically designed to use multiple drivers (a 12" or 15" full range will typically be a 3 way speaker, and may be as much as a dual woofer 5 way) to produce pleasing and even frequency response across the entire range of instrumental and vocal frequencies and their audible and "presence" overtones.

A single high quality high performance driver for a guitar cab, might cost as much as $450, and even midrange drivers can run $90 to $150. You can see how in a cheaper 2x12 cabinet retailing for $300, or combo retailing for $600, they've got to be buying lower end drivers, that just aren't that good.

At last with a combo amp, the manufacturer should have chosen drivers that match well with the amplifier. It's nearly impossible for a strongly voiced cabinet to sound good with a lot of different amplifiers. Manufacturers have to either try to make it as neutral as possible, in which case guitarists don't want it ("it sounds dead" or "it sounds cold"... it doesn't, it sounds neutral you just don't know how to use your gear to get the sound you want instead of having it done for you by the "strongly voiced" drivers), or give it a strong voice that sounds good for the amp they think most customers will want to use with it, for the style of music they think most customers will play with it.

This is one reason why you see many artists in certain styles of music or with certain play styles, all seem to have  a strong preference for the same amps and cabs. It's not just fashion (though in part it is), it's because the manufacturer specifically voices those amps and cabs, to sound good for that style of music and play style.

Ok, forget about "voice" and "color", what about the rest of "better" ?

Decent PA speakers are also generally much more efficient than guitar cabs of equivalent quality, volume, and tone; because all but the very best guitar cabs have quite low sensitivity (some as low as 82db, and 86-92db are not uncommon for cheaper cabs and speakers, as opposed to 96-101db for the best of both PA speakers and cabs).

Higher sensitivity, means that for a given power level output to the speaker, the volume output will be louder. A 3db difference in sensitivity, means DOUBLE or HALF the power is required to produce the same volume.
An aside on speaker sensitivity, volume, and solid state vs tube amps: Sensitivity ratings are given as db of sound energy output 1 watt, at 1 meter away from the speaker. 
We don't hear 3db as a doubling of volume. 3db sounds roughly 10% louder to our ears, but it is a doubling of sound energy, and a doubling of input power. 
It takes a 10db change for our ears to hear a doubling in volume, as well as taking 10 times the power (to double volume at the same frequency, impedance, and sensitivity). 
However, because both our hearing, and the power requirements for sound energy are logarithmic, a 3db more sensitive speaker, will sound about twice as loud, if it's given 5 times the power as the less sensitive speaker, instead of 10 times the power. The difference gets even starker at 6db, or 9db and so on.  
The most efficient speaker cabinet I've ever heard of was 103db. The least, 82db. Cheap combo amps will often have 86db or 89db speakers, while more expensive combos and cabs will generally 96db or 99db sensitivity. Let's see how that works out:  
An 82db speaker will output 82db at 1 watt, 85db at 2 watts, 88db at 4 watts, 91db at 8 watts, 92db at 10 watts, 95db at 10 watts, 98db at 40 watts, 101db at 80 watts, and about 104db at 100 watts. 
An 86db speaker will output 86db at 1 watt, 89db at 2 watts, 92db at 4 watts, 95db at 8 watts, 96db at 10 watts, 99db at 20 watts, 102db at 40 watts, 105db at 80 watts, and about 106db at 100 watts. 
A 96db speaker will output 96db at 1 watt, 99db at 2 watts, 102db at 4 watts, 105db at 8 watts, 106db at 10 watts, 109db at 20 watts, 112db at 40 watts, 115db at 80 watts, and about 116db at 100 watts. 
A 99db speaker will output 99db at 1 watt, 102db at 2 watts, 105db at 4 watts, 108db at 8 watts, 109db at 10 watts, 112db at 20 watts, 115db at 40 watts, 118db at 80 watts, and about 119db at 100 watts.  
A 101db speaker will output 101db at 1 watt, 103db at 2 watts, 106db at 4 watts, 109db at 8 watts, 111db at 10 watts, 114db at 20 watts, 117db at 40 watts, 120db at 80 watts, and about 121db at 100 watts. 
A 103db speaker will output 103db at 1 watt, 106db at 2 watts, 109db at 4 watts, 112db at 8 watts, 113db at 10 watts, 116db at 20 watts, 119db at 40 watts, 122db at 80 watts, and about 123db at 100 watts. 
You'll note the 103db speaker is essentially as loud with one watt, as the 82db speaker is with 100 watts. It's also louder with 40 watts, than the 99db speaker is with 100; or louder at 20 watts, than the 96db speaker is at 100. 
This efficiency factor by the way, combined with much higher gain in the preamp stages (which makes things sound louder at lower overall volume levels); is why cheap "100 watt" solid state amps, sound much quieter than very expensive 15 watt tube amps. The cheap solid state amp might have even cheaper 86db drivers in it. The tube amps have expensive 99db or even 101db sensitivity drivers. 
That tube amp can get about 50% louder with 99db speakers at 15 watts, than the cheap solid state can with 86db speakers at 100 watts. With 101db speakers, it can get about 70% louder, and with 103db speakers it can get almost double the volume. 
Tube amps used expensive high efficiency speakers, because they had to, because otherwise they didn't have enough power to get loud, or they would badly overheat. Solid state amps are much easier and cheaper to crank up the power on, and so they could afford to use cheaper, less efficient drivers. 

Higher sensitivity also means allows a given sound at a given level, to be reproduced using less power, more accurately, with less tonal coloration or distortion (this is called headroom).

PA speakers are also generally much lighter, and often much better built and tougher than guitar cabs, even though they are much cheaper.

For some reason, many guitar cabs are surprisingly fragile. In part because they are meant to be prettier (they're often covered in decorative and relatively expensive this textured vinyl for example, vs throwaway dark grey or black industrial carpetlike material). In part it's because decent guitar drivers are VERY heavy, and can do damage to themselves and the cabs structure, if bumped about too much.

Whereas PA speakers are built to be knocked around. They're lighter, because the drivers they use weigh much less, and aren't as deep, so they can fit in smaller enclosures. These factors allow PA speakers to weigh as little as half the weight of an equivalent guitar cab, while still being built tougher.

These by the way, are several of the reason why I'm using a PA speaker for testing amps and guitars, and I'm not using my Ampeg 2x10 bass cab (I don't have a guitar cab right now). The cab is voiced specifically for bass, and in particular for the Ampeg PF500 and PF800 amplifiers (the other reason is I don't want to blow my good cab, if an amp malfunctions).

Guitars actually sound great played through bass amps and cabs by the way, particularly if you have a full range cab with a high frequency horn and good crossover (my Ampeg 2x10 PF-210he has +/-2b or less from 53hz to 17khz, at 98db, covering the full range of guitar harmonics with plenty of headroom).

Guitarists have been using bass amps for more power and a deeper "growl" tone, since Leo Fender invented the modern electric solidbody bass, and the first dedicated bass amp (in 1951 and 1952 respectively); particularly after they introduced the 50 watt 4x10 model in 1956 (setting the pattern for both bass and guitar speaker cabinets ever since).

In fact, the first "stacks" were Fender Bassman amp heads, with 4x10 bass cabinets; from way back in '60, when the loudest guitar amps you could get were Vox AC30s (30 watt 2x12. Still used by many artists today, including Brian May and the Edge. They mic them up on stage for the PA). Guitarists loved them, and bought every one that Fender could make. Even today, they are among the most prized vintage amps, easily costing $5,000 to $10,000.
In fact, guitarists loved them so much, and they were so rare and expensive, that Jim Marshall modified one to make his famous Marshall JTM45 (the first Marshall amp), deciding to use 4x12 cabinets with celestion speakers... And the Marshall legend was born.
That said, the bass amps and cabs are distinctly biased for bass, and definitely do color the tone.

When I'm testing, repairing, or reconditioning an amp or guitar, I want to hear as close to an accurate, uncolored, unshaped, neutral voiced tone as possible. A decent PA speaker is the best way to do that, without spending a massive amount of money.

I would love to have a top quality 2x10, 2x12, 4x10, or 4x12 guitar cab. Unfortunately, they're VERY expensive ($600 to $2000), as well as heavy and huge. Guitar cabs smaller than 2x10, generally sound like crap, and are still VERY expensive ($200 to $600 for good ones. The cheapest are 1x8", still cost $100 to $400, and they mostly sound like crap until you're past the midpoint of that price range).

Even just a half decent 10" or 12", two or three way, PA speaker ($100 to $300), set up properly, will sound as good or better, than all but the very best guitar cabinets.

Don't think so? I'll prove it.

Guess what... Any live show you've been to bigger than a coffee house or pub (and probably a lot of those gigs too), most of the guitar sound you heard wasn't coming from a Marshall stack. It was probably coming from that Marshalls preamp or DI output (or even directly off the pedalboard into a DI box), on a direct patch to the mixer, and out to the PA system.

The amp may or may not have also had the cabinets miked up and mixed in, but stage miking is difficult and inconsistent, and you need a wide variety of mics and rigs for different situations. It's hard enough with a single smaller amp and cab, never mind a big stack, or multiples. Some artists always mic their cabs, some never do, and some vary depending on the acoustics of the venue.

Either way though, the PA system has to sound pleasing while reproducing those guitar sounds. Which means they CAN reproduce those same sounds, and if they can reproduce those sounds when sent them from the PA amp, they can be made to make them in the first place.
The dirty little secret of rock and roll? 
It's really hard to get good natural sound, filling even a medium sized room, out of just a big amp and cab on stage. Most of the time, most performers (and importantly, most sound engineers), in most venues, don't even try. 
On stage, amp stacks aren't for sound... They're for the show... the spectacle.

In a bigger venue, most of the time the artists don't even use ONE of the stacks for their OWN audio, using floor monitors or in ear monitors (like very high end earbuds, hooked into their wireless system, and letting them hear their tone evenly no matter where they are on the stage, as well as hearing the other band members, and crew communications).
At most, they'll have one stack miked up. 
To get proper sound out of a full stack, you need to use EIGHT mikes (which are damn near impossible to set up, and even harder to mix and EQ properly), and a big acoustic shield to protect the mikes from excess reverb, echo, delay, and phase effects, and from spill sound from the house and the rest of the band; which screws up the visual look they're going for.
Here's another "secret" for you... A lot of the time, if you see an artist with big stacks out there on stage, and they want that "real stack sound"; the stacks you see on stage will actually all be unpowered dummies. Their REAL amp and cab will actually be back stage, behind noise insulation, properly miked up, mixed with the DI and turned way down, using only a few watts of power so as to not overload the mics. 
This is also how Brian May, The Edge, and other guitarists that like to use lower powered classic amps, particularly combo amps like the Vox AC30; get their preferred tone, while filling a huge concert venue with sound.
If the artist wants a heavy feedback sound, they'll use a feedback or screamer effect. Either that, or they'll have a single amp with the gain turned all the way up, and a 2x12 floor monitor, or a single 4x12 cab on a riser to bring it to guitar height, that they'll walk up to for natural feedback. Even then, it will be miked, and mixed in the board, to go out to the in ears and PA. 
Often, their sound guy will be watching for cues, and when they want the feedback, they'll turn that one amps mix up on the PA, and then turn it down afterwards so they don't get unwanted feedback, noise, and distortion. 

Now, that doesn't mean the guitar cab doesn't sound good, and may in fact sound much better than a direct clean and "dry" signal from a preamp or DI box (if it's a good amp and cab, it almost certainly will). The guitar cab will be specifically tuned to accentuate the pleasing sounds and dampen the displeasing sounds, that a guitar and amp can make.

That however, is why most guitar specific DI boxes, modelers and the like, have something called "cab emulation", and many have "amp emulation" of specific amp types (and of course the whole point of modelers is that they do this).

These are circuits (or digital models) that when played through a clean and neutral speaker (or directly into a mixer or recording interface), emulate the way a well known amp and/or cabinet (like a marshall JCM800 through a 4x12, vox AC30, or Fender 2x12 combo... those are the most common emulations by far), will shape the tone of the guitar.

This is also why you have equalizers in any preamp, amp (and most amps with a DI can switch between equalized "wet" sound, and unequalized "dry" sound), modeler, mixer, and PA rig.

But using a PA speaker as a cab, you don't have to worry about that. We're not talking about playing wet or dry through a PA. What we're talking about is playing through your full sound chain, right up to the final drive stage.

In fact... give me $300 to get a half decent 2x12" 3 way PA speaker, and I guarantee I'll blow your $600 2x12" Fender cab, clean off the stage.

I know where I can get a 30hz 101db 2x15 4 way pa speaker for $300 (with eminence drivers even). That's stackable with a 101db 2x12 4 way in the same form factor also for $300.  That's $600, in two cabs that collectively weigh in, and size up, just a bit bigger than Marshall 4x12. But sonically they would just blow the $1200 Marshall away. In fact, I'm certain they'd absolutely kill a full dual 4x12 stack costing $2500. Same amp, just two PA speakers instead of two cabs.

Between your pre-amp and amp (all guitar amps have a pre-amp. It's what makes them guitar amps rather than just power amps), amp and cab modeling or emulation, and proper equalization; you can get a good PA speaker to sound as good or better than an actual guitar cab of the same size, price, and quality (though not necessarily exactly the same as a specific amp and cab); and generally better than all but the very best cabs.