Saturday, December 26, 2015

Guns: Gun World of South Florida review

There are plenty of indoor shooting ranges in my neck of the woods, but only a select few have earned the coveted Shangrila Towers Seal of Approval™ - i.e., places where I feel comfortable enough to test the guns I review on this blog. Gun World of South Florida is one of those ranges:

Gun World is the brainchild of the late Randy Waltuch (whom I never got the chance to meet). It embodies all the characteristics a person would want in a gun store and shooting range - safety, cleanliness, and courtesy, but without costing an arm and a leg to shoot. The place is divided into two main areas: a well-appointed gun store (above), and two air-conditioned, air-filtered shooting ranges (ten 25 yard lanes and five 50' lanes). There are also classroom areas for CCW instruction, and a very nice lounge next to the range with a TV, couches, and vending machines.

There is a giant wall of holsters, mag pouches, and other accessories for most popular handguns:

The ranges themselves are well lit and spacious. Each lane/bench is four feet wide, with plenty of room for your guns, range bag, ammo, etc. All ranges are rated for up to .50 BMG. Gun World doesn't meter you by the hour, and they offer prepaid shooting cards that allow you to buy range sessions in advance for a discount. Unlike most ranges, there are dozens of handguns available for rent (though you do have to shoot only ammo you buy at their store through the rentals, which is a common policy).

In the buffer room between the range and the rest of the store, there's a faucet and soap to help you clean up after a shooting session. There are astonishingly few ranges set up like this, even though everyone knows it's mandatory to wash up after you shoot.

All in all, I think Gun World of South Florida is one of the best indoor ranges in the area, and certainly the best range in Broward County.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Books: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

In Mark Haddon's 2003 mystery novel, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," a teen named Christopher investigates the seemingly-random murder of his neighbor's dog. The rub is that Christopher has an unspecified autism spectrum disorder: he is unable to lie, gets fixated on trivial matters for hours, and cannot easily read other people. But Christopher has a gifted mathematical mind and unyielding persistence. Can he figure out what happened to the dog? And what darker truths will he uncover in the process?

I have fond memories of reading "Flowers for Algernon" back in middle school, and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" evoked most of the same feelings. Like Daniel Keyes's classic, the book's journal entries are fun to read because they're from a narrator whose mind works just a bit differently. An ordinary detective might not go into the homunculus fallacy or the Monty Hall problem while talking about a case, but Christopher does. All in all, Haddon has done a great job of portraying a living, breathing character who happens to be autistic

Like all mysteries, the story loses some steam when the twist is revealed, and the denouement is a little pat for my taste. Still, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is a fine choice for your holiday reading.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Music: Sounds of the Season

There's a lot of Christmas jazz out there, but the musicianship can be hit and miss - pick the wrong CD, and suddenly your holiday gathering sounds like the inside of a dentist's office. If you'd like to avoid this sort of faux pas, I recommend "Sounds of the Season", an album of tunes written and performed by students from the University of Miami.

UM's Frost School of Music hosts one of the nation's top jazz programs, and this album was shepherded along by some noteworthy faculty, including Grammy-nominated jazz writing professor Gary M. Lindsay.  At heart, though, the tracks were arranged, performed, and produced by students working their tails off.  All the hard work paid off - the arrangements and performances here are uniformly excellent.

My favorite song is, conveniently enough, Rafael Picolotto de Lima's version of "My Favorite Things," featuring vocals and piano by Ariel Pocock:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

TV: Jessica Jones

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is often criticized for lacking strong female characters. Some of that is unfair (most of these superheroes hail from the early '60s), some of that is not (Black Widow inexplicably kidnapped as a damsel-in-distress in "Age of Ultron").

Marvel has (sorta) listened to the criticism in their latest webseries, "Jessica Jones":

Jones is a former superhero-turned-private investigator in post-"Avengers" Hell's Kitchen. Her days are usually spent snapping photos of cheating spouses and tracking down deadbeats, and her nights are drowned in alcohol. But when a missing person case reveals a shadowy villain from her past, she'll have to find the hero inside to save her friends from a fate worse than death.

I loved Marvel's "Daredevil," and I liked Brian Michael Bendis's "Alias," so I had high hopes that "Jessica Jones" would be more of the same - gritty action, fun characters, and a breezy story. Unfortunately, the show only gets one out of those right: Krysten Ritter is very solid and appropriately cynical in the title role, and her costars all do a great job with the material.

That material is a mess, though. The narrative orbits around Jones and a single antagonist for the entire 13 episode series, which doesn't leave much room for anyone else to breathe. And when those characters do get screentime, it's often shoddily plotted - people will often do something very silly, only to be bailed out by an unfair deus ex machina. If you're a superhero or Marvel fan, you'll like at least some of "Jessica Jones," but I can't recommend it to a wider audience.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Hype Awakens

I'm a pretty big "Star Wars" fan, and I know that Disney has to recoup its $4 billion investment, but even I thought this marketing tie-in was a bit of a stretch:


Just because one corporation owns both Lucasfilm and ESPN doesn't mean you should put a half-hour infomercial for the new "Star Wars" movie on a sports network - kendo is a pretty slim link to a sci-fi movie. It's like having the History Channel run a special on how the dogfights above the Death Star were inspired by WWII footage.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Miscellany: Today's EDC

Firearm: G26 Gen 4 in INCOG holster (with Federal HST +P 147 gr. law enforcement 9mm loads)
Spare Magazine: Factory ten-rounder and GLOCK +2 baseplate (in Comp-Tac Single Mag Pouch)
Knife: Spyerdco Endura Wave
Keychains: Victorinox Rambler and Maratac AAA flashlight
Wallet: Big Skinny multi-pocket bifold (I don't believe they even make this model anymore)
Flashlight: Streamlight ProTac AA
Phones: Samsung SGH-A687 (this five-year old non-smartphone is sturdy, cheap, and still the quickest way to actually dial a number) and iPhone 5s (not pictured)