Jesu- #231

I have laborede sore and suffered deth,

And now I rest and draw my breth.

But I schall come and call right sone

Hevene and erth and hell to doom;

And thane schall know both devil and man

What I was and what I am.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Assault Camera

The following is a satirical approach to a non-problem.  The application is obvious. Mark A. Davis

For years now celebrities, politicians, and even regular citizens have been tormented by a growing scourge on our land.  The Assault Camera.  As you can see, the Assault Camera is a scary color, black, and has several key features that enable it to shoot farther, faster, and in more adverse conditions than a normal camera.  The focus of this article is to take a look at some of these features that, to be honest, have shaken my soul to its core.


The most distinctive characteristic of the Assault Camera is its huge, phallic lens.  This lens is allows Assault Photographers to take pictures of flabby-thighed celebs and cheating politicians from hundreds of feet away, often times from a public street, where there are no laws regarding Assault Photography, into private property or beaches.  These Assault Photographic Snipers invade the privacy of our nation's most precious resources, celebrities and politicians who do our thinking for us, in an attempt to reveal them as degenerate hedonists.  We are not falling for it, America!!!

Just the mere presence of a huge ZOOM lens leads one to ponder several questions.  Who really needs a ZOOM lens?  Why not just walk up closer?  Clearly the only purpose is to take pictures (which the Assault Photographers Photoshop at their convenience) from great distances.  Also psychological arguments come to mind regarding the ZOOM lens.  What are these Assault Photographers over-compensating for?  Yes, I'll just go out and say it, these HUGE lenses are a key indicator of little or no penis.


Not to be understated in this expose of the Assault Camera is the speed and capacity for shots these devilish devices are capable of.  Some of these cameras can shoot at speeds of up to 10 frames per second!!!  Yes, these are fully automatic shutter buttons we are talking about here.  What if... What if only one picture could be taken with one press of the shutter button?

Unfortunately, having excessively high shutter release speeds is not the only problem we are facing with these devices of evil.  They also feature incredibly advanced auto-focus capabilities that allow all of these shots to be in focus.  Even in poor light.  Thank God that that when JFK was president, these things simply did not exist... The humanity!

Continuing on with this thread of speed is the extreme capacity to intake images.  An Assault Camera's film- or memory clip- is capable of containing thousands of images before filling up. Thousands of high resolution, perfectly focused, extreme range photographs of your philandering congressman or over-weight reality show celebrity. 

Once again this begs the question, "Who needs this capability?"  Who?  I ask you America.
Just a few years ago we were limited to one press/one photograph.  We had cameras who took film cartridges that limited the number of photographs between film changes to 36.  We had cameras that required the user to focus manually, a time consuming process that was easy to get wrong.  It was harder to get a zoom lens whose optical specifications allowed effective telephoto use.

But it doesn't stop there...


We've all dropped our phone or laptop or camera and irreparably broken it.  It usually takes only a short fall, two or three feet, to do the trick. Not so with an Assault Camera.  This writer has witnessed an Assault Camera being dropped from three feet onto an asphalt parking lot with no damage to its function.  In fact there was only a small scratch to its magnesium frame.

These devices are built with space-age metals that allow them to be virtually indestructible.  Professional Assault photographer Karl Grobl details how durable his Assault Camera is here. Pay attention to the photographs on this article.  They specifically show how mobile Assault Photographers can be with their equipment.

Having equipment that works well on a sunny day is one thing, but these Assault Cameras have something your iPhone doesn't: built in water resistance.  Assault Cameras have water sealing on all of their buttons, dials, and slots, which allow the Assault Camera to keep working even in the rain.  

With this built in ruggedness is it any wonder it is the camera of choice for the paparazzi? for seedy journalists looking to catch 1/1000 of a second of a politician's seemingly inappropriate hand placement on his intern's breasts????  These Assault Cameras remove weather, clumsiness, darkness, and distance as our retreats from the prying eyes that want to see what they don't need to see.  And we know what they need to see.  Much better than you.


The Assault Camera is only a tool for those phallically challenged, degenerates who "spray and pray"  camera shots indiscriminately at the helpless, the innocent, the babes.  The babes.  We have tried "Photography-free Zones" and what did that do?  It only made the Assault Photographers uses more powerful lenses.  We've moved our questionable activities to the shelter of night.  It only made the Assault Camera makers modify their wares to see in the dark.  We've had enough!  These evil machines are tearing apart our society.  Even the extreme cost to buy an Assault Camera and its accessories offers no prohibition from people being able to get these things in their hands.  They are too accessible.  There is no tracking system to monitor who has one of these things.  People are making money from the unregulated use of these devices.  The time has come to DEMAND A PLAN!!! If we can only save one celebrity's reputation!  Just one!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Professional Development That Matters

Good grief it has been a while since I've touched this blog!  It has been a rough year, and I've not felt much like writing.  I do hope that the rough is going away and along with it whatever it was that has kept me from writing.  The following is a very abbreviated article on what I feel would go a long way in actually making our schools safer.  Enjoy!

In Arkansas, teachers are required to attend and satisfactorily complete 60 hours of professional development every year. One might assume, and one might be correct to think that more than a few of those 60 hours are spent intellectually detached from the subject at hand (thank God for smartphones). Each year I have struggled with the question, “What offerings can I actually benefit from this summer?” It was the summer of 2012 that I actually took some PD that was meaningful: a trip to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in sunny San Diego.

This experience began with a colleague asking me if I wanted to go to San Diego and shoot an M4 for PD this summer. I thought he was joking at first. But after that conversation and an email with the registration forms attached I started to get excited about some PD that would be useful. At least to a gun lover like me.

“It's Always Sunny in San Diego”

After a warm welcome and a fun meet-a-marine dinner on the night of our arrival, we teachers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas were enthusiastically encouraged to leave a bus to stand on the yellow footprints so many young men (all males at MCRD- females go to Parris Island, NC) who have earned the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor have stood. A short while later we were given a card that said we had survived the first two minutes of a Marine recruit's visit to MCRD. A feeling of insignificance overwhelmed me. That, and a deep respect for those men whose spit and words were flying at me moments before.

The week turned out to be an education in the Corps of today-- the recruits they are looking for, the benefits they offer to all recruits, dispelling false myths of what it means to be a Marine, and a fairly transparent and vast look at the tools they use around the office.

“Range Day”

It began to occur to me on the day of our trip to the range that the profession of education was not inhabited by educators. We have become something else-- CYA specialists, propagandists-- anything but teachers. The real teachers were the Drill Instructors who took a group of fat, old, and in some cases unbelievably obtuse “teachers” who had never held a firearm in their lives to the range and taught them the rules of the range, how to operate the M4, and finally how to shoot the thing and hit what you are shooting. It was by far the coolest day of PD ever. By the way, I think there was an underlying theme coming from those DIs that while they can make a Marine out of what we are sending them, we aren't exactly excelling at our job...

My friend and I were able to post pie plate sized groups shooting from a prone position from 200 yards with our scoped M4s. Then we found out that at 200 yards the Marines only stand or kneel to qualify, and the optics are relatively new in their acceptance for qualifying. After our session a female Marine who, as I recall was three sheets to the wind at the hotel bar the night before, shot a fist sized group of ten rounds from the same distance.... Did I mention that every Marine is a Marksman first?

“Something Like Scales Fell Off”

That PD is history for me. But the lesson gained from that one range day was more than just “tips for better shooting.” What I realized was that every teacher needs this day of PD. Heck, we need a week of this PD every year. Every teacher. Every administrator.

The Marine's Educators Workshop was a plush (at times!) all expenses paid vacation where we got to play soldier (at times!) and become a first level recruit filter for them. Their goal is to have a few teachers in every high school who can be a positive link between them and potential recruits. What our schools need, and I cannot emphasize this too much, is firearms training and close quarters combat training for every teacher. Full stop. When we wait for the “good guys” people die. When we confront fast moving lead with flesh, the lead wins. Every time. How high is the body count going get before we do something that might actually make a difference?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Break for Thanksgiving

I write this poem for a friend a few years ago.

"Aubade of Autumn”

by Mark A. Davis

The vigorous, crisp, softness of the harvest,

A bounty bought to the table ripe-ready.

Rocks were fought,

Equipment rose up in protest,

Ox and horse struck against the hand of the master,

And the dry heat of deep summer

Plotted to ruin, rot, raze, the tender branches,

The tender buds, the tender fruit.

Inferno and gust, drought and machine,

Earth and kine in concord

Fought the course of the master

(The master whose plan said the seed will grow,

The vine will produce its fruit)

And so it is at the rich table rounded

With stews and fragrant vegetables,

Their aroma thick in the air,

A lullaby to the senses,

We gather among friends

With friends and embrace with

A word of Thanks.

Friday, July 15, 2011

1st Thing, Poet, Have a Plan

A few weeks ago, while chasing down my highly irregular garbage man, I spotted a t-shirt on a neighborhood walker that caught my attention. It read, "A goal without a plan is only a dream." I let that thought sink in throughout that day and visualized its application in several areas. Specifically it brought to mind what happened in Joplin. What would we do if a natural disaster of that scale happened here? Would we be helpless, waiting on someone to rescue us? What if that someone was in need as much as we are? I had intended to write a blog entry on that angle, but I'm afraid that is putting the cart before the horse. Let us look at the plan itself first.

A plan is a great thing that is often greatly maligned. Some folks are intimidated by a plan. They think that a plan is nothing more than an overly complex way to do something. Other folks believe that plans get in the way of living "in the moment" They like the uncomplicated, easy-going lifestyle that allows for spur of the moment decision making. G.K. Chesterton once wrote that poets never go mad, but mathematicians do. He isn't saying that poets never go mad because they never plan and mathematicians do go mad because they are calculating their lives away, but rather that poets note the logical progression of things and duplicate that in their art and lives. They see the plan before them. They study it. They synthesize it. They produce based on the model they studied.

My kids came up to me early this spring with the desire to have a tree house. We've got a great backyard for it with several large trees and a gently sloping terrain. The mental wheels began turning. A tree house with a zip-line entry and fireman's pole exit. I didn't go out haphazardly and nail a bunch of lumber to the tree and tell the kids, "Here ya go!" That would be a plan for disaster. First, I studied the trees in my backyard and selected the best one for the job. Unfortunately, the tree I selected decided otherwise and died this spring. Not all is lost, though. For standing close beside it was a tree now know as Plan Bee. Plan Ay is scheduled to become fire wood, and Plan Bee has been trimmed for its new tree house.

So what does my plan look like? I designed the tree house on a paper plate. I'm no artist, but I did manage a rough sketch of the tree and what I wanted the tree house to look like. I also estimated how much lumber, bolts, and other such supplies I will need to complete the project. Right there in #2 pencil on a 5 cent plate is a plan for my kids' tree house. I've heard of folks drawing up house plans on a napkin so I'm sure that my paper plate will stand up to scrutiny at the liars' table.

In my garage I have a factory service manual for a 1992 Range Rover. Thankfully, the Range Rover is gone, but I did keep the manual as a reminder to carefully consider any vehicle before laying down the cash for it! Back to the manual. If you were to look through that manual, some 1000 pages, mind you, you could see a plan for that vehicle. Every major part of the car is exploded to reveal the little parts that make it up. The book tells you how to remove, repair, and re-install each of these parts in detail. This is a big, complex plan. But, when you get in tune (forgive the pun) with the manual, you can locate the part you are having trouble with and get it repaired by following the manufacture's plan.

Plans can range from the super simple to the overwhelmingly complex, but they both accomplish the same thing: they get you to your goal. When you think about it, taking the trash to the curb is a goal. In order for the trash to get from your garage to your curb requires a plan. Someone has to go to the garage, open the garage door, drag the barrels to the street, return to the house, and shut the garage door for this to happen. This is a task so simple that we don't write out the instructions. We simply decide to do the task and perform a series of steps to that end. This task went from dreamland to reality by following a series of logical steps in a pattern, or a plan.

If plans work so well for simple tasks, why do so many people have trouble applying them in other areas of their lives? People find themselves in all manner of trouble without the slightest clue as to how they got there or how to get out. As I said earlier, having no plan is a plan for disaster. With the trouble that God promised us we would have just by nature of being human, I don't need to compound matters further by inviting tragedy into my life as a result of poor or no planning. You wouldn't take off on a three day hike without a first-aid kit or a map of the area, so why do people journey through life without a plan to deal with emergencies or something more than a general idea of where they are heading?

There is no getting around this. You will have something happen to you (or someone you love) that you won't see coming. What do you do? The problem doesn't matter. Your response to it does. Can you get to money fast? Do you know where your important paper work is? Can you get to a place of safety? Do you have a place of safety? A good generic term for what I'm referring to here is insurance. Whether it is traditional life insurance policy, or getting your family to a place of safety, the problem is the same and it can be asked the same way- Do you have insurance?

When we were kids, my brother and I would make fun of the victims of smaller tragedies- especially those of the more ignorant variety whose domicile was a trailer park. Whether it was a tornado, fire, or ice-storm their inevitable response to the reporter's questions ran along this theme, "We couldn't believe it happened to us" and "I just don't know where to go for help." Not to excuse the fact that my brother and I were being quite tacky in our reaction to these people's problems, the fact remains that (1) anticipation of trouble seldom enters some people's minds, and (2) without a plan for trouble, its arrival is a debilitating event. People are stunned, unable to collect their thoughts, and handicapped by confusion. They are vulnerable. Very vulnerable.

Lesson number 1: have insurance in the form of life of one sort (a piece of paper that says your death gives money to your family), life of another sort (a skill set and equipment that helps keep you and your family alive in the event dog turds hit the fan), trouble of one sort (cash at hand to deal with storm damage, A/C, car, or plumbing failures), and trouble of another sort (you or someone in your household gets sick, you have a car crash, or house fire).

This type of planning comes first for a reason. A catastrophic event that might be assuaged could turn into something that totally upsets the way the things I address below turn out.

Where are you going? I mean, where do you envision yourself in 50 years? 30 years? 10 years? As my neighbor's t-shirt said, "A goal without a plan is only a dream." Am I dreaming that I'll be the president and CEO of my own business with a life membership to the country club and a vacation home in Aspen? The question this scenario begs is, "How are you going to get there?" If I'm too busy playing golf at Cedars and spending the capital that needs to be used starting my business now, I'll never be skiing with the rich and famous on Colorado's most exclusive slopes.

The best way to think about this aspect of planning is to start at the ultimate goal and work your way back. To get to Z, I'll need to stop by Y, but not before I go to X..... You get the picture. Call it reverse engineering or long range goal setting, it all works the same way. You set a goal and work toward it. You monitor and adjust along the way. You don't make compromises on principles, and you don't let the unexpected catch you unawares.

An example of planning for the long term might be something like an international vacation. Few people have the luxury of being able to travel across the globe on a whim. We have to plan and think forward for a long period of time to make this happen. What is it going to cost? How much do I want to be able to spend while I'm there? How do I get a passport? Does my health insurance cover me overseas? How long can I stay? How long am I going to save for this trip? I'm sure this is just the tip of the ice burg as far as those questions are concerned but the point is made. This trip is going to require a lot of planning in order for it to come to pass.

When a person has made the decision to pursue that goal, a road map of sorts needs to made with the end destination being the fruition of the trip. The first stop on that journey might be to the Post Office and an application for a Passport. Next, you might set up a savings account with an automatic deposit from your paycheck. Towards the end of that map you might have steps like making arrangements for your plants and pets to be watered. At each step along the way you get closer to the goal and can check the small steps you take along the way off of the road map.

This same method can be applied to any goal I can think of. Lesson number 2 is exam yourself. Answer the following question in regard to these areas: Family, Health, Passions, Education, Career, Travel- What do I want in the area of _____ XX years from now? Exam each of these areas in your life and decide what needs to be done so that you can achieve that goal. Break the journey down to small steps and begin checking those steps off in a steady and orderly fashion. Don't cheat! Especially on those goals you set for your leisure. If you need to save money for it, save the money! A vacation or third car that you have to borrow money to go on or get is an exercise in foolishness. You'll resent ever committing to either down the road when the memories of the trip dull or the car needs work. As my friend Lawrence says, "There is no such thing as buyer's remorse when you pay in cash." When you borrow, the same cannot be said.

Also it is must be stated that a good way to burn out on using planning is to begin too much too fast. I listed six areas where a person could use planning in the long run and many more catagories useful for preparing for emergencies under the term insurance. Taking it all on right away is comparable to jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim. Even among your goals you should proceed in an orderly fashion. Beginning with that deep down desire to pick up your new Corvette in Bowling Green, Kentucky and ending with finally getting that life insurance policy is down right goofy. Take care of your insurance type stuff first, and begin planning for the long term stuff as they appear in terms of priority. My Passion for a new Corvette is overshadowed by the need for a Healthy body.

Like the Chesire Cat said to Alice, "If you don't know where you are going, it really doesn't matter which way you go."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Awakening

No, this entry is not critique of Kate Chopin's famous work of the same name, yet the plot line does have some similarities. One big exception is that at the end of this story I don't stroll out into the Gulf and drown myself to punctuate my frustrations against a patriarchal society.

What I'm speaking about here is an awakening of affections- those things that I have loved in the past and put away for one reason of another. Now there are things for us all that we leave behind, and it should be that way. I loved Lincoln Logs and Play-Do as a child, but they have little appeal to me today. There are other things that we do that give us deep satisfaction that we need to hold on to. They give us an outlet for stress, produce higher levels of pleasure, or just give us time to reflect on things. Our high speed, low drag society has taught us to go faster, and stay at it longer with the end result being whole generations of men and women burnt out, stressed out, and deeply dissatisfied with their lives. This should not be.

For instance, one of my favorite playtime activities as a child was to go out into the woods and walk around by myself. I would think about things, create stories, act them out, and sometimes, just climb up on a tree and sit there for hours. It should come as no surprise that I still love to go out into the woods alone and walk around or sit for hours. I don't create narratives and act them out anymore (perhaps to my own demise), but I do find, and probably for the same reasons now as it was then, that it provides for me deep satisfaction and a level of pleasure that all the Cappacino-Chunky Chocolate frozen yogurt in the world could not gain for me.

This last year has been one that has allowed me to notice those things that provide deep satisfaction to me. It is a constant battle to fight against a worldly system that would have me working sun-up till sun-down and hours into the night, eating terrible food, and missing out on any occasion to renew my mind. All of these things are contrary to scripture. Yes, man was cursed to work by the sweat of his brow, but our society doubles that curse with the poison of greed. And what is the world's fuel for all this work? In the South ( it's no accident that the Bible Belt and the Diabetes Belt wrap around the same folks!) we have the convenience of fried foods and buffet restaurants. I, ashamedly, have spent an inordinate amount of time at those fronts-for-the-Mexican-drug-cartels that permeate the landscape of NWA, eating refried beans (mashed beans with pig fat added), queso and chips (fat/corn/fat combo), and other "Mexican" delicacies. It has taken it's toll upon my body and given the drug cartels a way to launder the money from the other scourge that they are responsible for (Full disclosure- I have no evidence of this. It is only a theory, but with the ATF sending guns to Mexico, I don't think it is too far of a stretch.) So we are working too much and eating too much what else could go wrong? Oh, we fill up what remains of our time with stuff (George Carlin had a good skit on "Stuff"). I find my time wasted with poor planning, pleasing other people, and other people wasting my time. Some of the time, I can't do anything about other people wasting my time. I am learning, though.

Getting it Back

A couple of years ago I bought my wife a new stereo for her birthday. It had an iPod dock. You know what comes next. One orange iPod Nano with a lot of empty space on it arrived at our doorstep not too long after this. I had always liked music, but its expense, changing formats, combined with the demands of family life left me pushing music to the fringes of my life. I spent a few nights transferring what was left of my CD collection to the iPod and began to enjoy good vibrations in the house and even out and about again.

About the same time that this was happening my hippie friend Steve and I ventured down to Mulberry Mountain to catch the Harvest Fest. It had been years since I had gone to a concert so I was really excited about it and was not disappointed. There is just something about live music. You'll never, if the band is worth a hoot, hear "That Song" that way again.

In the succeeding time I have found new favorites and, with the lovely 20/20 vision that hindsight offers, missed quite a bit of good stuff too. The White Stripes, my favorite band, played out their entire career before my re-awakening to music. They played their last concert in 2009 while not announcing their break-up until February of this year. The Black Keys played the 2010 Harvest Fest, months before I even knew who they were. Oh well...

The point is I've got a decent library of music on my computer and iPod and I'm enjoying listening to great music during those moments that I can steal away.

As I alluded earlier, my body is not in its best condition. On the positive side the fact that at one time I was athletic has left me with a body that doesn't look too bad. I am not egregiously obese, maybe 15-20 pounds overweight. Looks can be deceiving, though. I had lost the stamina that I once had. My strength was diminishing and my pants getting tighter. The facade was about to fall. With this in mind I joined Cardio Studio about three weeks ago. What a difference three weeks makes. I'm running at least 1.5 miles and giving my body an orderly workout five times a week. The stamina is returning along with the strength and my pants are fitting better. And I feel better. I feel more like I did 10, 15 years ago.

Music is a done deal. Physical conditioning, a work in progress and progressing well. What is left? I want a Jeep. It has been 15 years since I've had a removable top Jeep. I've had a couple of Suzuki Samurais since then, but as they are a bit under-powered for daily driving activities, they could never fill that void. Why a Jeep? It is one way I can get out into the woods and tour the back country in a relaxing, reassuring manner. For this desire to come to pass I am waiting for God to move while trying to follow his instructions on handling money. When things look impossible or just really stinking hard, I've learned not to give up hope. So here's to an '03-04 Jeep Wrangler, lifted a little, slightly taller tires, traction aiding devices, and a tank full of petrol!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Things That (don't) Work: Sigg Steelworks Bottles

I love the canteen. A durable, re-useable, highly portable water container. It shouldn't be all that hard to get it right. Apparently it might be harder than I thought. Last August I got a H2Go canteen while in Colorado at the Wild at Heart Boot Camp. The only thing that irritated my about that bottle was that it only had 24oz of capacity. I found myself draining the bottle before my need for water was quenched. I wanted a quart/liter sized bottle and after accidentally destroying the H2Go canteen, I began a search for a replacement that would fit my needs. Unfortunately, I didn't search long enough.

What I found was a very visually appealing canteen. The bottle got my attention based on its description and its name, Sigg's Steelworks. It sounded like something a guy named Sven hammered out of hot iron. The canteen has a thick ring at the top where the threads are and seemed to be build from robust steel. The twist cap had easy to grip surfaces and a think aluminum ring that would be easy to attach to a carabiner or lanyard. The canteen looked tough. Very tough. Maybe I would get years of rough service use out of it. Maybe I would have discovered a truly great water bottle that my friends would be envious of. Maybe.

Disappointment began upon arrival. It looked like it had been hit lightly with a ball-peen hammer about a dozen times. Hmm. An eyebrow raised. But I was still excited and promptly washed it out and filled it up for first drink. I took off the twist cap only to discover that the cap had very fine threads on it. I began to sink into buyer's remorse. These fine threads require careful attention not to cross-thread upon closing the canteen. The prospect of having a rough use and durable water bottle was beginning to fizzle out. This canteen was more at home at the mall than a trail.

I imagined myself mowing grass on a scorching summer day. I've stopped for a quick swig and hastily re-stopped the bottle, cross-threading it along the way. The bottle tips over as I resume edging my driveway and its contents, the life sustaining water, the restorative nectar for physically depleted lifeforms all over the earth, drips slowly, but constantly out of the bottle. I return later, parched, to find an empty bottle lying next to a rather smug looking dandelion. Is it possible for a weed to laugh at you?

This was three months ago. Have I destroyed the bottle in that time? Not entirely. I have, with considerable respect for the fine thread of the cap, made a religion of re-stopping the bottle (No, no, no, my son. You must do it this way. Focus. Breathe deeply. Relax. Slow down. Gently twist the cap. It must feel smooth. If it fights you, you are out of sync with nature.) . After sacrificing a spotless black kitty-cat and following the above procedure to the "t", I've managed to keep the bottle alive for the time being. It does look a little worse for the wear, though.

It has been dropped a few times. The first major drop left a big ding on the bottom edge of the bottle. It looked like a reinforced area, but, rest assured, it's not. The second drop occurred at my daughter's tee-ball game a few nights ago. It must have landed on the (wait for it........) twist cap. I quickly picked up the bottle to get out of some other folk's way only to discover later that the "thick aluminum ring" had parted company with the bottle. Whatever their differences were, I was indignant about their separation and sought reunification post haste. After searching for about ten minutes, I found the aluminum part in the dust, but the carabiner that was attached to the ring was by then in the possession of some tee-baller or an older sibling. I wish they had taken my bottle instead. That carabiner was a good one...

After thinking about this bottle for a while now, I've concluded that it must have been originally designed to carry something besides water. It looks more like an MSR or Optimus white gas bottle than a water bottle. I'm not so sure that it wouldn't work better as a fuel bottle anyway. If I find out later that the threads are the same for an MSR bottle, I'm going to be ticked!

Verdict: Run far, far away from Sigg's Steelworks canteen. They do make other bottles, however. Hopefully they have nothing in common with this particular bottle. If I gave "stars" for my reviews, this product would get 1 out of 5. It does look cool, and it holds a lot of water, but it has none of the toughness that its name implies. I'll sell you mine really cheap...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stihl Stuff

When it comes to outdoor power equipment for those O so manly tasks of weed trimming, blowing leaves and grass clippings off the driveway, and felling mighty trees, it is not uncommon to see the name Stihl and its ubiquitous orange encased trimmers, blowers, and saws performing the task. The Stihl folks have been in the business of vegitation anihilation for a long time and have managed to saturate the globe with their presence. In my region when one sees a lawn care truck en route to a job there is about a 75% chance that it will be carrying Stihl products. But why?

I would have to speculate that the reason is they work. Not much else to say. I guess I could speculate as to why 25% of the lawn care professionals around here use Echo, Shindiawa, or some other brand, but why waste that time?

I'd rather write about why Stihl convinced me to buy in and why I keep buying in. When I began looking for a new weed-wacker four years ago to replace the Weed-Eater that I thrashed while cutting weeds I had borrowed my wife's uncle's Stihl. It was the FS72 model, about 5-7 years old, and a curved shaft homeowner unit too boot. It also did the bulk of the work on the 1/2 acre brushy hillside job that managed to kill my Weed-Eater (after only one day!) To say that I was impressed would be an understatement.

I couldn't keep Uncle Doc's trimmer forever, so I saved my mowing money and began the search for my own trimmer. I looked in the local mower shops and checked out the brands they carried. What I discovered was that some manufacturers made only trimmers and blowers and they tended to be stupidly expensive. Some manufactures made complete lines of products, but their "tech data" was a bit hard to locate (i.e. they either didn't state how much power the device made or didn't tell you at all). Since Stihl made a full range of products in each catagory I began to lean in that direction. As I did more research on the topic I discovered that when you buy a Stihl product, it comes fully assembled and ready to go. They even fill out the warranty card and send it in for you. Not to mention that my dealer has been selling Stihl as long as I can remember and is an authorized service center. I was sold on Stihl.

So when I had saved up my money and selected the model I wanted I went down to Yeager's True Value to talk to Lance. Thirty minutes later I was the proud owner of an (now discontinued) FS80R. It is important to note here that Stihl and other manufacturers are working to comply with emission regulation that has crept into the small motor world. They are making very small 4-cycle or hybrid motors that do not have the characteristics of a good old 2-stroke. My FS80R is a true 2-stroke. Currently Stihl makes a few models that are 2-stroke and several models in what they call 4Mix. Talk to your dealer to get a feel for what you would be most comfortable with.

The FS80R is a straight shaft trimmer with a 1.27 hp motor. Most trimmers in this price range of less than $300(when I researched them) were hovering around 1hp or not listing the power figure at all which is code for "we cannot tell you how little power it makes because you would buy something else if we did." The el-cheapo factor for this particular trimmer is that it has a cable driveshaft (like all curved shaft trimmers) instead of a solid steel shaft. This means that the trimmer cannot safely use a brush cutter blade. After seeing what its little brother did to that gnarly hillside with regular line, I had no problem conceding this point. It would be appropriate to mention here that the powerful motor this thing possesses is reason enough to don plenty of protective gear. I never operate this trimmer without safety glasses and hearing protection. And sometimes that is not enough. I would rather have a full face mask- rocks and trigs flung from the head of this trimmer hurt when they hit you at the speed of sound! It goes without saying that denim pants and boots are a good idea too.

I've used this trimmer for three full seasons now and we are working on a fourth. I've never had to pull more than three times to start it (even in the dead of winter on stale gas). I've lubed the cutting head and used real gas at the proper mixture. It cuts as good now as it did on day one. End of story, part I.

At the beginning of last season my hand-me-down Weed-Eater blower gave up the ghost. What to do, oh, what to do. Well to be perfectly honest, I did shop around, but not for too long. I wanted a blower that had vacuum ability as well. Stihl had two and I selected the more expensive one. It was more expensive because of a rubber mounted engine for less vibration and it had a more powerful motor than the other model. Once again this machine is easy to start, does what it's supposed to do, and is easy to maintain. End of story, part II.

One of the things I like most about our new house was the Man-cave located downstairs complete with a fire place. You can see where this is going. MUST HAVE CHAINSAW!!! Chainsaws are just cool. I guess one could postulate that the chainsaw is the modern equivalent of an axe or a sword. Whatever the theory is, or the technology level is, a man (or woman, I suppose) needs something to cut dead branches from trees or cut them down when they get in the way or die. And unless you just like paying someone to cut your firewood for you, it just makes sense to do it yourself with your own saw.

This being the case, I made my pilgrimage to Yeager's to check over their selection of saws. The conclusion I came to was that I needed two saws. I had one saw's worth of money so a tough decision was made. I went with the traditional MS250 with an 18 inch bar. It has a 45.4 cc, 3 horsepower motor and slices through blackjack oak like a knife through butter. My debate was between a lighter arborist's saw designed for limbing trees and a traditional saw. This type of saw is much lighter (while still powerful) and has a different handle arrangement than a traditional saw. I'll get that one down the road. I'm strong enough still to use the MS250 overhead so I think I can wait. End of story, part III.

The result is that I've got three pieces of equipment from the same manufacturer, one gas can, and a dealer that knows me by name and has yet to service any of the equipment he has sold me. I've got what I paid for and, anymore, that is saying something.

Is Stihl expensive? Yes, initially, it is. To compare Stihl with a brand like Echo, which is found in stores like Home Depot, but is also sold in professional mower shops, one finds that they have similar models and are priced similarly. By buying a machine in a Home Depot, or Lowes you give up getting a factory trained salesperson and the ability to get the machine serviced where you bought it. If it is not worth the stores time to make that investment to insure that I'm not getting a lemon and that it was properly assembled, I'm not willing to spend my money on that tool with them. Color me Stihl orange.