The Shemagh

cowboy-bandanaWhen I was growing up it wasn’t uncommon to see ranch hands donning those big, over sized bandannas. They were always loosely wrapped around their necks in a kind of billowy manner. There was a time in my youth that this kind of bandanna was almost ubiquitous to the point that I never put much thought into it.

However, when I got older, I did a stint in the Forest Service which landed me on the front lines of several forest fires. It was there that I quickly adopted what the experienced fire fighters were wearing; an over sized bandanna around the neck. It also became obvious why it was worn loosely. The primary use for it was for a way to protect the back of your neck from the sun. Being bent over for hours under a beating sun digging fire lines exposes your neck, even with your hard hat on. The loose fitting aspect quickly became apparent, too, because you wanted them loose enough that you could pull them up over your face when it got real smokey and/or dusty. In fact it only took one trip to the fire line and I soon adopted wearing two of them; one tied in the back to drape the majority of the fabric to the front, and one tied at the front to leave fabric draping over the back of my neck. The whole set up was an absolute necessity. It kept me breathing, it kept my neck from being fried, it kept me noticeably cooler, and it kept floating fire embers from finding their way under my collar. I remember thinking to myself then that I sure wished that I had adopted this bandanna set up a few years earlier when I was earning summer cash bucking hay for various ranchers around the valley.

Over the years I found myself wearing them as a kind of do-rag on my head. I wasn’t out in the sun as much, but I had long hair (back in my rock and roll band days) and when I did go camping or found myself working outside, it helped in the usual keeping me cool and keeping my hair out of my face. After my rock and roll band days and cutting my hair, I still continued to wear a bandanna on my head occasionally, mostly out of habit. Shortly after, I transitioned to wearing a ball cap most of the time. In many ways it does what the bandanna did with the added bonus of helping to keep the sun out of your eyes, but, of course, without the neck protection.


Here, I’m wearing my awesome Kiev! ball cap at No Business Lookout in Idaho.

Lack of sun protection for the back of the neck is not a big deal when you’re just kicking around. Yeah, one could wear a cowboy type hat, but just kicking around in a cowboy hat isn’t my style. In fact, it shouldn’t be anyone’s style. Really, if you’re kicking around in a cowboy hat you should reevaluate that choice. The only people that should wear cowboy hats are actual cowboys that, you know, ride a horse out in the sun, round up cattle, work the range; that kind of thing. Maybe country and western singers can be given a pass, but even that makes me cringe.

Life has a way of ever progressing, we change, adapt, move on to new eras while leaving another behind. I’ve always been a person with an outdoors bent. I grew up in the mountains of west central Idaho and spent as much time if not more outdoors than indoors. After I moved away from Idaho I lost touch with that outdoors bent for a period of time. Then, after several years, my life veered back to a direction in which I have found myself back in the outdoors mode again. But, now, I live in a part of the country far different than the mountains of the Nez Perce Indians, and the Rivers Snake and Salmon.

Target shooting in Utah's West Desert.

Target shooting in Utah’s West Desert.

Now I call the second driest state in the Union home. Sure, heading east of Salt Lake City takes me to 11,000 plus foot mountains and alpine forests, but heading west you immediately find yourself in a desert environment. It doesn’t take much time at all in the West Desert to realize that a ball cap just doesn’t cut it if you’re doing much walking around. Even a boonie hat doesn’t cut it by itself. A boonie hat alone would cut it for southern Utah, like Moab or places like that, but in the West Desert, it doesn’t because of bugs. The biting gnats out in the West Desert are relentless. We went out a couple of times last summer and the things just ate us alive.  In the photo above we went out with some friends and we quickly learned that wearing shorts and short sleeved shirts just don’t cut it. By the time we left, we had more bites than we could count. I think that I was the only one who didn’t wear shorts; I don’t do shorts. As you can see, my son didn’t do shorts either. But, that being said, all we had was our ball caps. Well, except my wife. She did have a good sun blocking hat, but all of us were nothing more than a feast for the biting gnats; mostly around the hairline and back of the neck.

Bad ass Special Operations dude sporting a shemagh.

Bad ass Special Operations dude sporting a shemagh.

This brings me to the shemagh. The shemagh is an Arab garment that our military men and women quickly adopted when deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for good reason. It’s literally tailor made for a desert climate. When I first saw photos and videos of our soldiers wearing them, I instantly thought of my excursions out into the West Desert and the light went on in my head. It’s light cotton; almost see through, it’s huge–a proper shemagh is at least 42″x42″–it’s like a big, honking bandanna with a lighter fabric. It’s a garment invented by a culture living in the desert for thousands of years so it stands to reason to be hugely practical in a desert environment. Using a shemagh with a cap or a boonie hat would be a huge plus for traipsing around a bug infested desert. Also, I think it’s a good addition to the get home bags I have for me and my wife. Our get home bags are geared towards getting home post major earthquake because the area in which we live WILL suffer a major earthquake. A big-ass piece of cloth to wrap around your face in a post earthquake environment has nothing but upside.

Alek sporting a shemagh and an M-4gery AR-15.

Alek sporting a shemagh and an M-4gery AR-15.

A few days ago I took my 12 year old son out to the West Desert to do some shooting. It’s early enough in the year that the biting gnats are still a couple of months away, but the chilly air was reason enough to pull out the shemagh and wrap around his neck. He likes it so much he asked me to buy him one of his own. I told him that I would on the condition that he only wear it when it’s of practical use. Wearing a shemagh simply to wear one would be much like wearing a cowboy hat when it’s not needed. If he wants to wear his shemagh as a fashion statement, I’ll have to strangle him with it. Okay, I’m joking about the strangling part, but not the stupidity of wearing a shemagh as “fashion.”

Which brings me to another topic part of a conversation related to shemaghs. Apparently, wearing shemaghs is a big deal in the hipster community which is enough to make me shove an ice pick into my retina. Really, what kind of douche baggery would one be guilty of wearing a shemagh around town, to class, or clubbing? It would be of immense proportions.


Colin Farrell being a douche.

This is an example of what I’m talking about. Colin Farrell, you need to be pimp-slapped, dude. Yeah, a shemagh is more or less a glorified scarf and people wear those around all the time, what’s the big deal? Well, I can’t put my thumb on it, but it’s just stupid.

On the flip side of the pretentious idiocy that emanates from someone sporting a shemagh as casual wear are things that I’ve read from some people who regard wearing a shemagh as somehow supporting Islamic terrorists. From what I understand, some colors are significant to certain terrorist orginazations, but keep in mind that it predates Islam by millennia. Also, the British SAS have been using them for years.

I guess the bottom line is that a shemagh is more or less a glorified bandanna with many uses. Fashion is not one of them. You can get them here.

Trunk Gun

Or, keeping a gun in the trunk of your car.

I’ve been reading a lot of information regarding keeping a rifle in one’s vehicle; like, say, in the trunk of your car. Reading various forums it’s apparent that some think it a good idea and others think it a bad or maybe not so good idea. Frankly, a lot of the reasons some people use to demonstrate that it’s a good idea are borderline nonsensical in my opinion. Like the hypothetical situation of an active shooter in a mall, school, or where ever. These people envision themselves running out to their car, grabbing their trunk gun and then engaging the shooter in a firefight to save lives. That concept, for the most part, has “bad idea” written all over it. Sure, there may be exceptions, but for the most part bad idea.

Arguments against having a trunk gun tend to fall into the realm of either security or practical convenience regarding an immediate threat. Some feel that having a rifle in the trunk of your car is not secure because if your car is stolen or broken in to, some bad guy now has a gun. That does have some merit. But then again that can apply to most anyone’s house as well. What’s to keep someone from breaking into your house and running off with your gun stash? Even a safe has it’s limits. I’ve read of people having their gun safe full of guns carried out of the house. I don’t think it happens very often, but it could happen. I suppose it’s a benefits vs. risk thing. Personally I feel that the benefits of having firearms far outweighs the risk of them possibly being stolen. Also, I suppose it may depend on the kind of place in which you live. Personally I don’t think that having a gun in the trunk of your car is all that unsecure depending on where you’re parking your car.

As far as convenience regarding an immediate threat, yeah, if you’re suddenly facing an immediate threat, stopping your car, running around to the trunk, popping the lid, and pulling out the rifle is, well, inconvenient. But that’s really not thinking outside of the box. In fact that’s firmly setting up shop inside of a little box. Legally carrying a handgun on your person is what is meant to deal with an immediate threat. And if a situation is threatening enough to pull your sidearm the chances of you being able to grab the trunk gun are slim. If you’re able to have the luxury of pulling Bess from the trunk, then I question the imminence of the threat. The law probably would as well. Again, we’re not thinking outside of the box.

So, is utilizing a trunk gun a good idea? It depends.

Where do you live? What are circumstances that are likely enough to occur or, if not likely, if they did occur, what are the risks? Do the risks warrant a plan of some kind? For example many families have a plan for if the fire alarm goes off at night. Some have a plan for if someone breaks into the house at night. Our plan is to gather in the master bedroom, arm ourselves, and call 911. No, I’m not going to go hunting for some bad guy or guys in my house. Having a plan is not unreasonable. In fact it’s quite reasonable. Is having homeowners insurance unreasonable? Is wearing your seatbelt unreasonable? Is having a fire extinguisher in the kitchen unreasonable? Do you expect your house to burn down or to crash your car? No, but if it does happen you want to position yourself to be able to address it in the best way possible.

Where I live it is highly unlikely that social unrest is going to engulf the city. Race wars aren’t going to happen here. ISIS terrorists coming across the border are unlikely to pick this area to do what they want to do. It could happen, but honestly it’s way off my radar. Some freak going on a shooting or knifing rampage could happen anywhere, but still not likely.

Where I live there is major fault line. It is one of the largest in the world. I don’t know when it will go off, but I do know that it will. When it does it’s not going to be pretty. This metro area of 1 million plus is going to take a beating. This is where thinking outside of the box comes in. During an average day, my wife and I work within about a 5 mile radius from our house. Our kid attends a school within that same radius. My wife and I have sort of discussed a plan if a major earthquake occurs. The plan entails getting home ASAP to reconnoiter and assess what to do next. The first meeting place would be our son’s school. From there, home. Driving would be optimal, but what if driving is not possible? Then walking it is. That’s where popping the trunk in your car and grabbing a go bag and rifle would be not only convenient but reasonable. If one is going to be walking five miles, picking their way through earthquake rubble, I think being armed with a rifle is a good idea.

So in my world even though I legally carry a handgun with me more often than not, having a trunk gun seems reasonable.

If after you’ve assessed your life you decide that a trunk gun sounds reasonable enough to actually put into practice, make sure that you’ve done a legal assessment as well. Depending on where you live, having a long gun in your car may or may not be legal. For example the state in which I live, even though I have a concealed carry permit, it is illegal to have a loaded long gun in your car. My state considers a gun two actions away from firing to be “unloaded.” That means an AR-15 with an inserted full magazine would be considered unloaded. The two actions required for firing would be 1: charging the weapon, 2: pulling the trigger. Speaking of that, I do think that an M-4 style AR-15 with three or four fully loaded 30 round magazines would make an excellent trunk gun set up.

But that’s another post.

Suspended Animation Closer To Reality

Always the stuff of science fiction, human suspended animation is getting closer to reality.

At a hospital in Pittsburgh, surgeons are now allowed to place patients into a state of suspended animation. If a patient arrives with a traumatic injury, and attempts to restart their heart have failed — if they’re on the doorstep of death — they will have their blood replaced with a cold saline solution, which stops almost all cellular activity. At this point, the patient is clinically dead — but if the doctors can fix the injury within a few hours, they can be returned to life from suspended animation by replacing the saline with blood.

I’m currently working on a short story that uses this as a plot device; gee how many stories have? A ton. However, I do think it’s cool that the fiction aspect of this science fiction plot device is becoming less fictiony.

Post Americana A Short Story

prelim2With the world in a chaotic downward spiral and the United States of America convulsing with civil war and societal breakdown, someone has released an awful plague upon the earth and a global nuclear conflagration seems inevitable. The government created The Program, a top secret plan to place a handful of elite men and women in hibernation throughout the country to ride out the end of the world in a last ditch effort to rebuild humanity.

“You’ll be in hibernation for a few years. Worst case scenario, a decade at most,” the Director had said. But when Brace wakes up 150 years later it’s apparent that humanity must have taken one huge dump. Life begins in Post Americana.

Well, that’s the blurb anyway. It will be available on Amazon shortly.

I mean, c’mon, everyone loves a good post apocalyptic story no matter how done to death they may be.

I Want My Multiverse

And I want my multiverse now.

Given that war is the archetypal splitting point for alternative history, perhaps the threat of fascism accounts for the rise in popularity of parallel-world stories in the 1940s, sometimes as wish-fulfilling escapism, as in the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), or else as warnings of alternatives that could so easily happen. In Borges’s short story ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ (1940), for example, an invented world causes reality itself to cave in. A year later, Borges again worked the theme of branching realities, in a wartime spy story called ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’. When the American physicist Seth Lloyd met Borges at a Cambridge reception in 1983, he asked him if he was aware that this story eerily prefigured Hugh Everett’s concept of many worlds. Borges had never heard of it, but said that it didn’t surprise him that physics sometimes followed literature. After all, physicists are readers, too (of literature, and of history).

Yes, this is an essay on the theoretical concept of multiple universes existing at once, but the one line that seemed to really stick out to me considering my current state of mind is:

Benjamin says that to understand fascism we need to appreciate how in an oppressive regime every day is presented as a new emergency.

As is often the case, some of the most interesting parts of an essay like this are the comments. The very first comment I read was in reference to how the above Benjamin quote made the commenter “shiver.”

Cool, at least I’m not alone.

Ukraine Counter Revolution Arrives From Russia

And that is pretty much how Putin has intended it to happen. This letter from Donetsk accurately paints a picture of Russians being bussed in by the thousands to create a “counter revolution.”

What’s happening in Kharkiv and Donetsk now reflects someone’s strong intention to provoke and impose an illusion of a local civil conflict. The pro-Ukrainian side in Donetsk is very strong and entirely aware of the future they would lose if they join Russia. The pro-Russian side is mostly represented by aggressive thugs, “tourists” from Russia and older people who watch Russian television and do not use the Internet. Their time for dealing with the natural confusion of the moment is now being brutally stolen by this violent distraction.

Yes, the Ukraine counter revolution arrives from Russia.

This is occurring by Putin’s design. Part of his design, too, is counting on weak projection from the West, which seems to be panning out. The amount of propaganda that reasonable people identify as absolutely absurd is astounding. From the beginning, Putin brayed about how the West was fomenting, planning, and financing the uprising against the Yanukovych regime. Then, when Yanukovych was sent packing, Putin sends in thousands of troops into Crimea and thousands of Russian citizens into cities to trump up a “counter revolution.” Yet a staggering number of useful idiots don’t seem to be able to grasp the cynical irony.

Never underestimate the power of human absurdity. Anyone who actually believes and propagates the notion that the Ukrainian revolution is a Western financed usurpation by neo Nazis is, to put it as nicely as possible, a dangerous, blithering idiot. The revolution in Ukraine is as complex as any revolution in history, but at its most basic it can be described as people uprising against a government that was completely unaccountable to the people; a government that was corrupt from top to bottom, and a government by oligarchs for oligarchs in which people were nothing more than a resource to be used to further the desires of a blatant kleptocracy. Of course it was all backed and supported by Putin’s Russia.

Early on, before Yanukovych was sent running, I always felt that if he was deposed, Russia would at the least come into Crimea. I stated as much the day after he was sent running. It was obvious that Putin would make a move on Crimea. What else would you expect a former KGB official who once stated that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy in the twentieth century to do.

Every action will have a reaction. Inaction is an action which will have a reaction. You can’t just skate because you don’t get involved. Whether you like it or not, the world just doesn’t work that way.

I don’t know how this will ultimately turn out. There are so many possibilities that it is impossible to make a prediction with any seriousness. But I will state what I believe is a real possibility. When the “referendum” is carried out next week, Crimea will vote to join Russia. The actual referendum is nothing more than a formality; a dotting of an i and a crossing of a t. Putin will assure victory. That much is a certainty. It’s what happens after that one can make reasonable assumptions of possible outcomes.

When Crimea joins Russia, that could very possibly be the tipping point. There are substantial numbers of people in Crimea who absolutely do not want to be part of Russia. They will come out, Russian troops and/or Russian “supporters” will crack down. Blood will be shed. This could very well cause Ukraine’s military to at last commit itself. From this point all bets are off. Russian “tourists” in other parts of Ukrain; Odessa, Donetsk, and Kharkiv will come out in support of fellow Russians. One can easily see Putin using this as an excuse for a full scale incursion into Ukraine. Why wouldn’t he? He has not received any real threats to cause him to not consider it when weighed against his wish to reconstruct a simile of the USSR. Kind of what I’ve heard others jokingly refer to as a NewSSR. A full scale incursion into a country of 45 million people is no small matter. Ukraine will fight. Russia would probably win. A lot of people would die. Many, many people would die. All of this at the doorstep of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania; all of whom could not just sit by and not react to some degree. To what degree and exactly how, I would not venture to guess. But I do know that there is a possibility of a conflagration that history will look back on and say, “All of this could’ve been avoided had the world just stepped up and put a firm, united foot down when there was just a few thousand troops in Crimea.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

A Carl Hiaasen Family

For this week, anyway.

I’ve read two books by Carl Hiaasen and have thoroughly enjoyed them. This week I got the bug to escape to South Florida again and picked up Hiaasen’s Skin Tight.

After dispatching a pistol-packing intruder from his home with the help of a stuffed Marlin head, Mick Stranahan can’t deny that someone is out to get him. His now-deceased intruder carries no I.D., and as a former Florida state investigator, Stranahan knows there are plenty of potential culprits. His long list of enemies includes an off point hit man, a personal injury lawyer of billboard fame, a notoriously irritating TV journalist, and a fumbling plastic surgeon.

Now, if he wants to keep fishing into his golden years, Stranahan has no choice but to come out of retirement to close this one last case…

I was telling my wife about how much I like his books and she was intrigued, so I rummaged through my book shelf and handed her Skinny Dip.

Chaz Perrone might be the only marine scientist in the world who doesn’t know which way the Gulf Stream runs. He might also be the only one who went into biology just to make a killing, and now he’s found a way–doctoring water samples so that a ruthless agribusiness tycoon can continue illegally dumping fertilizer into the endangered Everglades. When Chaz suspects that his wife, Joey, has figured out his scam, he pushes her overboard from a cruise liner into the night-dark Atlantic. Unfortunately for Chaz, his wife doesn’t die in the fall.

Clinging blindly to a bale of Jamaican pot, Joey Perrone is plucked from the ocean by former cop and current loner Mick Stranahan. Instead of rushing to the police and reporting her husband’s crime, Joey decides to stay dead and (with Mick’s help) screw with Chaz until he screws himself.

As Joey haunts and taunts her homicidal husband, as Chaz’s cold-blooded cohorts in pollution grow uneasy about his ineptitude and increasingly erratic behavior, as Mick Stranahan discovers that six failed marriages and years of island solitude haven’t killed the reckless romantic in him, we’re taken on a hilarious, full-throttle, pure Hiaasen ride through the warped politics and mayhem of the human environment, and the human heart.

Part of the allure of reading a Carl Hiaasen book this time of year is, well, this time of year; March. Every winter, no matter how mild, turns into a long winter this time of year. Reading stories that take place in South Florida seem to help one to get over that final hump.

One thing that a lot of people may not know is that Hiaasen not only writes adult themed books, but he also writes juvenile and young adult books. What the hell, I thought, I’ll pick up one of his books for my 11 year old, and went to the library and checked out Flush:

Bestselling novelist Carl Hiaasen is back with another hysterical mystery adventure for young readers, set in the Florida Keys.

You know it’s going to be a rough summer when you spend Father’s Day visiting your dad in the local lockup.

Noah’s dad is sure that the owner of the Coral Queen casino boat is flushing raw sewage into the harbor–which has made taking a dip at the local beach like swimming in a toilet. He can’t prove it though, and so he decides that sinking the boat will make an effective statement. Right. The boat is pumped out and back in business within days and Noah’s dad is stuck in the clink.

Now Noah is determined to succeed where his dad failed. He will prove that the Coral Queen is dumping illegally . . . somehow. His allies may not add up to much–his sister Abbey, an unreformed childhood biter; Lice Peeking, a greedy sot with poor hygiene; Shelly, a bartender and a woman scorned; and a mysterious pirate–but Noah’s got a plan to flush this crook out into the open. A plan that should sink the crooked little casino, once and for all.

The deal when I suggest a book for my son is that he not make a judgement until after he’s read at least 20 pages. He put in his time with 20 and he’s good to go as soon as he finishes the last few pages of what he’s currently reading.

So now, everyone in the Medley household is reading a Carl Hiaasen book.


Writers Shun The New Paradigm At Their Own Peril

The gist of this story is that because of the economic downturn and the internet, writing is becoming a sucky job as far as actually making any money:

The credit crunch and the internet are making writing as a career harder than it has been for a generation.

I think that the main issue here is that the paradigm has changed and that many legacy writers are being left behind if they don’t embrace it. Sure, there are some mega-writer superstars out there, but they are few and far between. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to make a living with it. There are a fair number of indie writers out there that are making a living: JA Konrath, Barry Eisler, and others. Sure, these guys had established names in the legacy publishing world, but so do the authors featured in this story.

Rupert Thomson is the author of nine novels, including The Insult(1996), which David Bowie chose for one of his 100 must-read books of all time, and Death of a Murderer, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year awards in 2007. His most recent novel, Secrecy, was hailed as “chillingly brilliant” (Financial Times) and “bewitching” (Daily Mail). According to the Independent, “No one else writes quite like this in Britain today.” Thomson has also been compared to JG Ballard, Elmore Leonard, Mervyn Peake and even Kafka. In short, he’s an established and successful writer with an impressive body of work to his name.

Yet he’s on the verge of financial ruin because he’s unable to bring in any money from his writing. I wonder how much he pays his agent and what his share of sales are after his publisher doles out the money?

Later on in the article other writers blame internet technology, Amazon, and Google. Well, yeah, all three are the driving factors in the changing paradigm. The biggest problem they pose is if these authors are unwilling or unable to leverage the opportunities that this new paradigm presents. Really, Joe Konrath has written and written and written and WRITTEN about it.

Granted, I’m not “pro”. I’ve not sold scads of books or ever had an agent or a publisher. I get that. I don’t work hard enough at it to deserve it. I think that the numbers of books that I’ve sold are pretty commensurate with the amount of real work I’ve put into it, which is very little. But I think it’s pretty obvious that there is probably more opportunity out there for writers who are willing to embrace the new paradigm than there ever has been before.

Writers shun the new paradigm at their own peril.