Saturday, December 23, 2017

Happy birthday to me!

In less than a week, I'll be exactly 20,000 days old. A nice round number, isn't it? My friends and family will congratulate me on my yearly birthday in March, but I consider this "decimal birthday" much more interesting. 

I detest social conventions that make people feel obligated to celebrate, go somewhere or do something prescribed on some arbitrary date, be it a public/religious holiday or their own birthday. I may have fun on that day (just like any other day), but it will depend only on my mood and/or circumstances - not on the number in the calendar. I'm usually inclined to do the opposite of what most other people are doing, not just because I don't want to go with the flow but because it's often more fun.

- Working and/or staying home on public holidays. The holiday atmosphere is there, but the crowds are not, which makes local outings more pleasurable. Work often pays more and is shorter or less demanding, plus the commute is a breeze. 

- Travelling out of season. We used to take vacations a week or two before Christmas. Again, everything is ready for the holidays, but there are no crowds or lineups.

- Partying on a school day. Who says only weekends are for enjoying good company, a nice motorcycle ride or target practice? I don't have to stay up until 2AM to enjoy any of that.

Did I mention I hate crowds? They look like sheep and make me feel like a mindless drone following some meaningless trend. The only purpose of crowded spaces is to show me where (or when) not to go.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

My 2017 in review

2017 was a very dynamic year for me. Here are the highlights:
  • I took the Canadian Firearms Safety Course, passed all the tests (4), background checks and received my Restricted Possession and Acquisition License.
  • I served on a jury for a murder trial that lasted over two months. Sent one young man to jail for life, acquited the other. Gained a few new friends and a healthy respect for the Canadian justice system.
  • Got laid off soon after coming back to work. I was seriously relieved, plus got a whole summer to enjoy and figure out what to do next. I made the most of it.  
  • A couple of weeks in Venice with my sister-in-law and her family with a hop to Belgrade for my mother's 80th birthday. Always fun.

  • A week-long solo motorcycle trip to Gaspe and the northern shore of St. Lawrence River. 6,000km of great riding, beautiful scenery, good people and excellent food. There is a lot more left to explore in Quebec - I'll be back.

  • Purchased my first firearm, a Henry US Survival Rifle. Fun to shoot, light and easy to transport, cheap on ammo. Shot over 10,000 rounds through it so far.
  • A few motorcycle day rides to my favorite destinations in Pennsylvania. Explored public shooting ranges while enjoying great roads and scenery. 900-1,000km a day.
  • At least a dozen day trips to Crown land locations in Ontario in search of good spots for informal target practice. Found a few very nice areas to ride to, enjoy nature and plink - a win-win-win :).
  • Joined the Burlington Rifle and Revolver Club after taking the course, passing the test and fulfilling other membership requirements in record time. 24/7 access to the heated indoor shooting range will make long winter nights a little more bearable :). 
  • Started working on contract for the Ontario Ministry of Attorney General. Jury experience will come in handy, but there is a lot more left to learn. Different from almost anything I did before and much less stressful than my last job.
  • Bought my first handgun, a SIG Sauer 1911 22. Somewhat more interesting and definitely more challenging than the rifle at the indoor shooting range :). Also, fun to tinker with and practice DIY gunsmithing. Colt 1911 platform is like Honda Civic of handguns - it's as ubiquitous and infinitely customizable. It's also an amazing piece of firearms history - it was designed by John Moses Browning in 1906 and was the official US Army sidearm for 75 years (1911-1986).

What's next? I planted a few seeds for 2018, stay tuned to see what will grow out of them.

Happy holidays and all the best in 2018 to my faithful readers (all three of you :) ).

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Human right over property right

From the law and order department:

Italy’s top court rules that stealing food is not a crime if you’re poor and hungry a civilized country, not even the worst of men should starve.

You can say that again. For our sake as a civilized society, even the worst of criminals should not be deprived of food, shelter and clothing. Homeless and hungry are the shame of us all.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

F'in Amazon!

Identical system costs $599 US on, CA$3,091 on That "free" USB drive that will cost you about CA$30 per Gigabyte.

Caveat emptor!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Jury duty

Serving on a jury is the most important duty a citizen can be called for. Short of going to war, no other civic obligation has a deeper and more lasting impact on our fellow citizens and society as a whole. Yet, it's a task none of us is prepared for and many try to avoid.

This spring I had an honor and a privilege to serve with eleven other people and ultimately decide the faith of two young men charged with first degree murder. The trial lasted two months, we heard over a hundred witnesses and deliberated for four days until we reached the verdict. There is no way I can describe this experience in a blog post, so I'm not going to try. The fact is that even if I wrote a book only my fellow jurors would fully understand it, let alone relate. Most of these awesome people I remained in contact with. We come from all generations and all walks of life, but share a unique bond that was forged during this trial. Together, we made one of the most serious decisions of our lives. It wasn't an easy task and it took a heavy toll on many of us. It probably cost me my job, but I have no regrets whatsoever. It was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.

For those that use various tactics to avoid jury duty, I say: go ahead and good luck. I wouldn't trust people like you with such a serious task anyway.

Of course, you want to know what the verdict was. One man was acquitted, the other found guilty of first degree murder. One went home to his family, the other to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years. None of it changed the fact that four children are growing up without their mother.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Crown land. What's that and what is it good for?

About 89% of Canada's land area (8,886,356 km²) is Crown land. It belongs to Her Majesty the Queen. It would be called "public land" if we were not a monarchy.

So, what is it good for? You can't own it, but you can rent plots on it for various purposes, such as building a cottage, mineral or oil exploration. All that rental income is collected by the local government in the name of the owner - the Crown or the public.

What about the parts that are not rented? Well, some are Provincial Parks, Conservation Areas, Canadian Forces bases, etc. The rest, which are basically enormous expanses of mostly inaccessible wilderness outside major metropolitan areas, is free for everyone to use under the same conditions.

Check the Crown land Use Policy Atlas here:

Pretty much all yellow areas on that map are general purpose Crown land, free for use by citizens of Ontario. What for? You can consult the interactive map above to retrieve use policies for any specific location. I will simplify that a bit, but first an important disclaimer: don't take my word for it - consult the Policy Atlas above, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district office and/or Conservation Officers in the area before you do anything on Crown Land..

On general use Crown land in Ontario you can:
  • hike
  • bike
  • Ride an ATV, snowmobile or dirt bike
  • boat
  • canoe
  • cross-country ski
  • water ski
  • swim
  • bird watch
  • horse-back ride
  • hunt and fish
  • camp for free for up to 21 days
  • build a camp fire
And pretty much anything else as long as you don't permanently alter the environment, it's not specifically prohibited in the particular area and you obey rules that already govern the same activity elsewhere, such is the case with hunting and fishing. You are asked to act responsibly to help protect the natural environment and understand the risks associated with your activity:
  • pick up and pack out litter, respect Ontario’s Crown land
  • never leave a campfire unattended and make sure campfires are completely extinguished
  • avoid sensitive features such as wetlands, streams and wildlife habitat
  • respect other users of Crown land
  • stay on existing trails
  • do not harm, kill, take or collect plants, trees, habitat or other wildlife protected under provincial law
So, what do I do on Crown land, you ask? Target practice! You can bring any non-restricted firearm (providing you have a valid possession and acquisition  license, of course) and shoot until you run out of ammo. What's a non-restricted firearm? It's practically any long barrel weapon, from military rifles to pump action shotguns. Restricted firearms (handguns) are relegated to registered shooting ranges only and cannot be used for hunting or target practice on Crown land.

I've been researching Crown land locations that are accessible but not frequently visited and have found a few nice spots for an impromptu shooting range. It's not as easy as you may think because all standard precautions apply, including making sure no one can get hurt if I miss my target (good backdrop) and there are no houses/cottages/camps in the vicinity. That often requires quite a bit of hiking through some rough terrain, but the nature is pristine and I enjoy it. Once I find a suitable area, I set up my targets and the fun begins. My little rifle holds only 8 rounds per magazine so about half the time is spent reloading, but i use it to walk around and find another spot to shoot from (usually progressively further from the target) or re-position the targets I've knocked down. I like steel targets because they are reactive (visibly and audibly react when hit) and can take a lot of beating. I also like to shoot subsonic ammunition because it's much quieter (can be fired outdoors without hearing protection) and doesn't damage the target as much. It's also slower in flight, so there's a perceptible delay between the muzzle explosion and the sound of the bullet hitting the target, allowing me to hear both events separately. For some reason, I find hearing the "ding" half a second or so after the "bang" very satisfying :).

Doing all of this in nature is an added bonus that cannot be overstated. When I'm done I can take a dip in the nearby lake even if I forgot to bring my swimsuit :). About the only downside are biting insects, but i repel them with Permethrin, copious amounts of Deet and nitro-cellulose smoke :).

But, that's just me. The question is, what would you like to do on Crown Land?

Monday, October 23, 2017

My first firearm

So, after I got my firearms license ("RPAL") the question was which firearm to buy?

The use of handguns is much more legally restricted, so I decided to postpone that purchase for when I become a member of a club where I can practice with a handgun. That leaves unrestricted "long guns", i.e rifles and shotguns.

I don't think shotguns are good first firearms unless that's the only type of firearm I'm going to shoot (and it's not :) ). 

I briefly considered an SKS - the same rifle I carried in the Yugoslav Army in the early eighties. It's affordable, reliable, fun to shoot, fires relatively cheap ammo and I know it inside and out. However, only Russian and Chinese versions are currently available in Canada and I wanted the Yugo one (with the grenade launcher). Also, this rifle is quite long, which lead me to a major practical consideration:

At this stage, I need a rifle that would fit in the hard case on my motorcycle. That way I can carry it inconspicuously, safely and legally anywhere I ride, and I want to to ride to target practice and enjoy both of my passions at the same time. So, the length limit is set at about 50cm.

There was also a question of caliber. The bigger the bullet, the more it costs, and I want to be able to afford a lot of practice. Surplus 7.62x39 ammo (the kind SKS and AK47 use) can be found for about 25c a pop if you buy the whole crate of 1,500 rounds. Not too expensive, but still too big and heavy to carry enough of it on a motorcycle, let alone in a backpack (the question where/why would I carry it in a backpack will be answered with a future post).

Also, my 50cm length limit falls well under the minimum length for an unrestricted firearm (I believe it's 66cm, but don't quote me on that). The rifle needs to be classified as unrestricted because of my intended use (again, the answer is in a future post).

That all left me with take-down models - rifles that can be easily disassembled for transport and reassembled at the range. Long story short, the choice quickly narrowed down to two: Ruger 10-22 takedown or Henry U.S. Survival Rifle. Both are .22LR caliber which is cheapest and most abundant ammo on the planet (can be found for  under 10c per bullet). They are both easy to disassemble, but that's where the similarities end. Try to guess which one I've chosen before you read any further :).

Ruger is a better rifle in almost all respects. It's more accurate, it looks and feels like a real rifle and is infinitely customizeable. You can easily turn a plain-vanilla $400 10-22 into a $2,000 gunsmiths showpiece just by adding/replacing its parts. It's a proven design too - tens of millions were sold over half a century. It comes with it's own backpack for transport and storage when disassembled.

AR-7 (Henry) has equally long and even more interesting history - it was designed by Eugene Stoner, the famous father of M16. It had a pretty poor reliability record until Henry Repeating Arms took over the brand, but is now rock solid. It looks and feels like a toy, for better or for worse. There are almost no aftermarket accessories for it, not even higher capacity magazines (it holds 8 rounds per mag). I have to say that it doesn't inspire confidence, Henry's stellar support record notwithstanding. It's considerably cheaper than Ruger, and for a reason. It's also much lighter (only 1.6Kg) and packs in it's own stock, so you can carry it in any bag. It floats on water too, at least for a while.

So, the AR-7 won. I like to think the main reasons are it's practicality/utility and the fact that it will have a purpose even after I move on to something else. The fact is that it won with it's coolness factor and affordability. After all, it's only my first firearm - Ruger will get it's turn eventually.

Fast forward several months and I haven't regretted my choice. I've fired almost 10,000 rounds through my Survival Rifle so far. It works flawlessly with all types of ammunition and it cycles well even with subsonic rounds that many semiautomatic rifles have problems with (very nice, because I love subsonics). The rate of malfunctions (misfire, failure to feed, failure to eject, stovepipe, etc.) is about one per thousand. All of them can be attributed to inconsistent .22LR ammunition and are easily cleared in the field without tools.

The rifle is as accurate as I need it to be, which translates into consistently hitting a cantaloupe at 50m offhand and with mechanical sights. I'm not going to hunt with it, but can if I have to.

A backpack with my rifle, a few hundred rounds, a cleaning kit and a bunch of other things easily fits in the top case on my bike(s) with room to spare. A perfect recipe for a fun day, but more about those later :).