Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Gendaito and Otanto

So it's been a while since I bought anything firearm related, but I recently had the opportunity to acquire something new and different.  My iaido classmate Ron had been toying with the idea of selling his nihonto recently and I may or may not have egged him on into selling them to me.

Although I love all my firearms and see myself using them for a very long time, I've amassed a very large collection, including many I seldom use.  I've imagined one day passing them down to my kid one day, but I've often wondered if he will even take on an interest in firearms, and also if some, if not all of my collection will be obsolete by the time he's old enough to get into the hobby,  

We've all heard people talk about "Grandpa's old hunting rifle", or "dad's old shotgun".  One day it could be "dad's old chassis rifle with that old S&B".  Although I'm not in a hurry to thin the heard with my firearms, I've been thinking about their current value, having all that money tied up in my beloved firearms, versus having something of long term value and inherit ability.

My parents came to Canada with little of their heritage other than their family history passed to me by word of mouth.  They kept very few photos, let alone family heirlooms to pass down to future generations.  I wanted something to pass down to my kid and if he had any interest, maybe he would pass it down to his kids.  Part of the reason I got the Colt Canada SA20 was because I wanted my boy to have a replica of my army rifle, and maybe he'll pass it down to his kid and tell him/her that this was the same rifle grandpa used when he was in the army.  I figured that because I had nothing of my cultural heritage to pass down, it may as well be this rifle.  

Recently though, I have been considering the other side of his heritage as he is half Japanese.  Like a typical stupid gaijin, I asked my wife early on in our relationship if her family were descendants of samurai.   To the best of my knowledge, her family has very few heirlooms or family keepsakes older than from Showa-era.  

I've been fascinated with Japanese swords for a long time, and though far from being an expert, I have a rudimentary understanding of the differences between a wall-hanger and Nihonto.  I once had a gunto, (see ) but I sold it 20 years ago and used the money as a downpayment for a car.  About 11 year ago, I began studying iaido, the way of drawing the Japanese sword and my interest in Japanese swords was rekindled.  I started with a bokuto, then got a few cheaper, made-in-China shinken, then my iaito, and then a few years ago, I picked up a Tozando shinken, which was claimed to be made by a Japanese smith, or at least under Japanese supervision outside of Japan.  Though it's likely my Tozando katana has a decent, I still wanted something made in Japan, in the traditional method, by a Japanese smith.

As you can tell, this isn't entirely about having something to pass down to my kid, I have a keen interest in it also.  That being said, someone from the Vancouver Japanese Sword Appreciate Club once told me that none of us actually own a Japanese sword.  We are the keepers for our lifetime, then we pass them on to the next generation.  

According to my sensei, Horinori Inoue, the gendaito pictured here was likely crafted around 50 years ago, it is, on a balance of probabilities authentic and made in Japan by a Japanese smith in the traditional way.  In effect, it is likely made with folded steel and water tempered, and it was made from tamehagane or oroshigane.

There are no tang stamps (Showa, Naval, Mukden, or Seki etc to indicate a gunto blade) and my sensei tell me that he does not recognize the name of the smith.  A lot of fakes will engrave the names of a famous smiths to boost their perceived value, but a possible indicator of authenticity would be a smith that may not necessarily be famous.  My sword is not certified by NBTHK or NTHK, but I am satisfied that it is a gendaito, and I hope that my kid will appreciate such finely crafted swords as I do.  I haven't decided if I will have it fitted with furniture, but it is something I may consider doing because it is the same dimensions as my practice sword (iaito) coming in at about 2.45 shaku.

The second blade that I acquired from Ron was this otanto.  Again, the blade came in shirasaya as my gendaito did.  Actually, I was hoping to buy only this otanto because he didn't mention that he was thinking about selling his long sword as well.  

According to my sensei, this blade is likely about 200 years old or so.  The smith's name is known to my sensei, but apparently not famous.  Again, there are no certificates from NBTHK or NTHK, but I trust Ron, as well as the opinion of my sensei

The tip has a slight chip in it, but it's not catastrophic and can be polished out.

The two toshin on their own.

My iaito, though made in Japan, it does not have an edge and is composed of a aluminum-zinc alloy.  It simulates the look, dimensions and feel of a real sword, but made strictly for practing iaido.  Many sword vendors will advertise their Musashi koshirae swords, however after a little research, I have found little evidence of any complete swords with furniture that were owned my Miyamoto Musashi.

The namako designed tsuba accredited to Musashi.

The last sword I have for this post is my Tozando branded shinken. I purchased this years ago from another classmate.  Apparently, these were made in Germany, fittings from Japan,  The previous owner had an Edo-period tsuba fitted to it, however it seems a bit smallish and may have been meant for a wakizashi rather than katana.

Hopefully my modest sword collection will stay this way, contrary to my firearms library.  I eventually want to get something older, with certification from NBTHK or NTHK, but I will have to study Japanese swords a lot more to make an educated purchase.  The reason I got the gendaito and the otanto was because they were from a friend at a fantastic price, and it was under the guidance of my sensei.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The worst job I've ever had.

I'm not really sure why I'm ranting about this now, in this blog of all places, but I figured I may as well post it here since the original thread on got archived.  Anyway, it's not exactly the thing you want to put in your resume or cover letter, but it got a few comments over on ARF and I was glad that I was able to bring a few smiles to them after reading my story.  The thread was titled What's the worst job you've ever had, and here is my story:

I used to worked at a call center for major Canadian airline, specifically their loyalty program. It was the worst job I've ever had, bar none. I remember there were times when I was at my desk in that God forsaken place, I often wondered if perhaps my colleagues and I were actually dead, and that we were in hell. Because of our proximity to YVR, the theory that a plane had crashed and killed us all wouldn't be a huge stretch of the imagination, and we were living out eternity in that hell hole.

We were tethered to our computer for the entire shift, hundreds of us at any given time. Every second not on a call was accounted for, every time you got up to the washroom, someone was aware of it, you're breaks were counted to the second.

There was a console with about half a dozen supervisors in it monitoring the staff's activities. We called it the watch tower. If you didn't take a call within a few minutes, your name would be highlighted on one of their screens. If it continued, you would see one of the supervisors stand up, and if you still didn't take a call, you would see one of the supervisors detach and make their way to your station. If your stats were no good, you were offered more training, passive aggressive conditioning to get you to take more calls. You're sitting in the chair opposite of your dirt bag of a supervisor (think Office Space) every month, reviewing your performance, smiling the whole time while giving you suggestions on how to do better.

We were abused by clients, and we were abused by our supervisors. The clients would be yelling and screaming because they couldn't use their points to book a flight, and our supervisors were always pushing us to make bookings when there was hardly any inventory to book. I would say that in any given 8 hr shift, I would take 75-100 calls, and had a booking success rate of about 15-20%. The rest of the calls were $hit and I guarantee you the client would be channeling all of their hatred toward you because they weren’t able to use their points to book a flight one year in advance.  The company was telling customers that they could use their points for all these wonderful destinations, but in reality, we had less than 10% of the flight to give away to folks with points.

We had a "quiet room" in the building. It was a room within a room, and inside that room was a taste of heaven. It was pitch black inside, and the only noise you could detect was the faint hum of the ventilation system. There were two or three couches inside (I've only seen the room lit a handful of times, so I don't clearly recall) where staff would take turns and rest. To get to this room, you would go through the locker room, open one door, enter a chamber, close the door behind you, and open the door to the quiet room. Once inside, you literally could not see anything.  There was no ambient light whatsoever, and it was the same as if you closed as if your eyes. You just had to feel your way to one of the couches and hope no one was occupying it. The darkness was like pure joy, as if happiness was something tangible that you could wrap yourself with. When I lay on that couch, curled up in the fetal position, I couldn't get over how happy I was. I felt myself smile in the darkness.

However, breaks in the quiet room could be demoralizing as well as we all knew that happiness would eventually end and we would have to go back to our phones and computers. My body clock was so conditioned that I was able to close my eyes, lose consciousness (at least I felt I did), only to wake up like a bolt after exactly 12 minutes. It left just enough time to get up, get back to my desk and log in again.  The instant I sat back down and my desk, I was already looking forward my next break and race back to the quiet room and begin the cycle again.

In my 7 years in that hellhole, I saw at least one or two people die per year for some sort of illness. I saw people rapidly age in that call center, with my own friends and family commenting on how haggard I looked after only a few short years of working there. I still have nightmares about the place.

A few years after I left, I got a job where I had access to certain information regarding social services and medical leave. I was shocked to see that at least once a week one of my old colleagues would come in to apply for medical benefits, more specifically for stress leave. When I worked there, I knew that people occasionally took stress leave from that place, but not to that magnitude.  Every week, I'd see someone new come in, and they looked as though they had just escaped from Auschwitz.

I still bump into some of my old colleagues from time to time, and the first thing they notice or comment on is how happy I seem to be now. The first thing I notice is the hopelessness in their eyes, their souls have long since left their bodies, and they have the appearance of a person who already has one foot in the grave.

This job, like a scar on my soul, is a constant reminder that things could always be worse. I've excelled at every job I've had since then, I get paid a lot more, and even joined the military as a reservist on top of my day job. I think the only reason I enjoyed my basic training (and every job I’ve ever had since the airline, come to think of it) while everyone else was miserable was because I'd experienced firsthand what hell was actually like.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Glock 17 G4 in Stealth Grey thanks to Rampart Corp's Glock IOP

Well, I finally scratched that itch I've had to get a Glock,  It's been maybe 5 years since I tried a Glock for the first time, my pal Jay's 17 in OD green.  It was one of the reasons I got into firearms in the first place and my original plan was to buy one as soon as I got my PAL.  Over the years, that plan fell by the wayside and I kept on putting it off and putting it off until now.  

There have been a few other companies offering the IOP (Individual Officer Program), but right now the program is being offered through Rampart Corporation and they put out a deal that I couldn't resist.  I spoke to my pal that works at the local gun shop and it turns out that the IOP is below dealer cost.  

To be honest, I don’t know a thing about Glocks.  I didn’t do any research before buying this one and besides my buddy’s G17, I’ve never really played around with them.  All I knew about it was from its reputation, that it was ugly but one of the most reliable handguns you could ask for.  So bear with this unboxing because I've probably shot a glock less than 5 times in my life and you really are reading this from a Glock noob's point of view.

The 17 came with three 10 round Glock mags, the cable lock that nobody has any use for, a cleaning brush, a magazine loader, the manual and a few stickers and a pen from Rampart to notate the Glock IOP program.

I think this stealth grey is a new color for 2016/2017?  It does look pretty good and doesn't really stand out as flashy or anything.  

The accessory rail is a simple design with a single notch in it for your pic-rail weapon light mount.  The one thing I've read about that does sort of stick out in my mind is the gap between the frame and the slide.  A lot of new Glock owners will be alarmed by this as the frame of some examples will appear upward sweeping towards the muzzle end and will often be mistaken for a warped frame.  I've seen on the local forums that this topic periodically pops up from time to time.  In this example, and the example I saw at Reliable Gun, the frame appeared straight, however I was told that there is still no guarantee that they are all straight.  That being said, my pals that own Glocks tell me that the appearance of the warped frame has no bearing on the gun's performance, and the frame does not interfere with the slide at all. and more importantly does not affect accuracy or function in any way.

When I grip the pistol, the first thing I notice is how well it forms to my hand.  I'm able to establish a fairly firm grip, my fingers don't slip down and I'm able to ride my hand pretty high on the tail.  I think this is because of a combination of the finger groves in the grip, the factory stippling and the overall shape of the grip.  As pretty as some of my other handguns are, I don't feel the same positive grip as I can with the Glock.  Once I latch on to it, the gun feels like an extension of my hand.  

There's also a slight notch where the trigger guard meets the grip and it's probably designed to capture your middle finger, allowing you to ride higher with the grip.  I've seen many people file or dremel their own notches into pistols that don't come with it.  Nice touch.

I opted for the most basic model with fixed sights.  You can order Glocks with adjustable sights for an extra $50 or so, and nightsights for an extra $100 or so.  In a defensive situation, I suppose night sights would be handy, but I've got three other pistols that already have night sights, and I've never shot in the dark at the range.  In the worst case scenario where the world goes to hell and civilization is over-run with zombies, well, I have a few other guns to choose from.

A lot of my pistols have the front slide serrations and I like them because I'm use to them.  It gives me something to grab on to when I want to to a brass check, but that being said, I'm not going to wither up and die if my gun doesn't have them.  Some people are thankful that some guns don't have them because apparently they tend to tear up holsters.   The nose of the pistol appears to be beveled just enough not to catch on any material when holstering, so I think this was definitely considered during the design.  

Size and weight wise, I'd say it closely compares to my Walther PPQ (there are probably better comparisons, but this is the closest I own).  The threaded barrel on my PPQ makes it just a touch longer than the G17, but overall, they're pretty close in size.  The Glock feels slightly top heavy compared to my PPQ, but I won't know if this is a good or bad thing until I shoot it, and I have to confess, I don't shoot my Walther as much as I'd like to.  

Now, I don't recall how my pal's G17 shoots, or how his trigger feels, but after dry firing my new G17 a few times, I've come to the conclusion it's not going to be one of my favorite triggers.  It felt gritty and spongy compared to the Walther, and certainly did not break like a glass rode.  But as I understand it, the Glock was designed to be abused and to be able to function under the worst conditions.  At 5-25m, I would imagine that as long as it goes bang when you want it to, it's all good.

For the few things I don't like about the Glock, there are about a million aftermarket solutions that support it.  There are probably just as many aftermarket companies catering to Glock owners as there are 1911 owners, so if there's something that's really irking me about it, I can probably have it sorted out.  That being said though, I'll probably shoot it as is, and probably not mess with it too much, if at all.  

I have other pistols that I've tinkered with, but I have a feeling this one I will leave as it was designed.  It has a reputation for being a tool, a blunt instrument that's not the prettiest, not necessarily the most accurate or precise and fun to shoot, but it is supposed to be reliable that you could depend your life on it.  

Magpul SGA handguard, now with M-Lok!