Yesterday evening we finally had a break in the never ending rain (I swear I thought we moved to Tennessee, not Oregon), and we dragged the smoker out of the garage to get some cooking done while we can. It’s going to rain the rest of the week.

Anyhow, I smoked a small ham for sandwich meat, 3 chicken breasts for a dish I’ll be making in the next day or two, a turkey breast for sandwich meat, and a nice piece of corned beef brisket for dinner tonight. ๐Ÿ˜€

Meatzapalooza indeed! ๐Ÿ˜€

A few hours later…

I had to sneak a little piece of the corned beef also after my mom said it would be tough and I should have boiled it.

Being salt cured, it’s a little on the salty side, and while it was a little bit firmer than my usual brisket:

It was still plenty tender, because my family is from Texas, damnit, and tough brisket of any variety is a crime there!

Seriously, ask any Texan and they’ll tell you that you can talk bad about somebody’s mama before you can trash talk their brisket. ๐Ÿ˜€

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Pfizer Planning on COVID Vaccine Price Hike

And I sometimes ask myself why I despise megacorporations….

Yes, you read the headline correctly. Per Business Week, Pfizer execs told investors there was a “significant opportunity” to hike the price of its vaccine.

They also said that it was possible that people would need a third dose to combat emerging variants of the virus, AND that yearly booster shots might also be needed. THAT, I can understand. Such is the nature of rapidly mutating viruses.

However, per the article, once the pandemic downgrades to just an epidemic with smaller hot spots breaking out here and there around the globe, Pfizer thinks that they will have room to boost the price of their vaccine.

Haven’t we seen enough Zaibatsu profiteering in the pharmaceutical industry already? Look at how the price of insulin has skyrocketed as one example:

I respect that businesses exist to make a profit. I’m generally very pro-business Crap like raising the price 700% on insulin that hasn’t changed at all in that time however? NO! Even more so when there were stories and pictures of one of the insulin companies executives proud as hell that he had done it.

Now Pfizer wants to do the same thing with a product they got government (ie taxpayers; the people they’re selling it to) help to create?!?

I’m bringing back my call to have people caned and flogged.

Spring Has Sprung

Well, actually it’s pretty overcast here today and supposed to rain later, but the temperatures are nicer, and the flowers are starting to bloom. I had no idea we even had daffodils in our backyard. I just walked out there a few days ago and there they were:

The Most Important Self-Defense Skill

Time for another promised Martial Arts and Self-Defense post. So what do you all think the most important self-defense skill is? Blocking? Footwork? Getting power behind your strikes? I’d probably get a variety of answers even from fellow martial artists.

I’d argue that the most important Self-Defense skill is “street smarts” or awareness; being able to notice details in your surroundings, and size up people and places as potentially dangerous or not so that you can avoid trouble in the first place.

“Best way avoid punch; no be there” – Mr Miyagi.

Yep, another Miyagi-ism, because it’s very valid.

Women (and some smaller guys) don’t need much convincing on this idea. It’s learned from an early age to be wary of strangers while out walking, jogging, at the mall, etc… A generally smaller size and less muscle mass necessitate developing situational awareness.

Guys, on the other hand, (and again we’re dealing with generalities here), tend to be either more cavalier about their safety, OR think they’ll be seen as weak if they cross the street to avoid potential trouble (as an example).

That’s silly because if nothing else, you have no idea if that person making you uneasy is armed, or has friends lurking nearby that you can’t see. A gun, knife, swung beer bottle, or a few friends jumping in can change the complexion of a fight REALLY fast, no matter how skilled you are.

Your potential opponent(s) being drunk or stoned out of their mind is another potential problem. Such people often shrug off blows that would completely debilitate a normal person. I used an example in a previous post of a fellow Shou Shu student who was mugged and landed several strong hits to the temple and kicks to the groin with heavy boots and the attacker kept coming. They may have needed an emergency room after they sobered up, but they kept fighting.

Legalities: The Other Consideration

Awareness of your local laws and how they view self-defense is another serious consideration. It’s part of the reason I left California. They treat somebody who defends themself as just as guilty, if not more, than the actual attacker. There’s some obvious exceptions; if you’re a woman who defends herself against a man, you’re not likely to face any blowback from the police unless he’s got the crap kicked out of him and there’s not a mark on you. Even in that case, there’s still every likelihood you’ll get sued by your attacker.

Tennessee, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. As long as the officer can be reasonably sure you didn’t instigate the fight and you used reasonable force acting in self-defense, you’re golden.

Laws vary widely across the country and even across some states. If in doubt, talk to the local police or an attorney to know how far you can go.

Let’s take half a step back and revisit the term “reasonable force”. Generally speaking, this means you respond with the same level of force that’s used against you. If somebody just slaps you, it’s not reasonable to break half their bones. On the other hand, if somebody attacks you with a knife or gun, that’s considered life threatening and countering with lethal force would be seen as reasonable in most locations.

There’s an annoying double standard that comes into play here however; the more training you have, the more it’ll be expected that you can handle a situation with minimal damage to your opponent. Law Enforcement faces the same problem, with people somehow believing that their training allows them to handle any situation without having to hurt anyone unless they really want to. Rather than get sidetracked on that topic, or chatting about if comic books and Kung-Fu movies are responsible for such expectations, I’ll simply say be aware that they exist.

Why The Training is Still Worth It:

I’m sure a few of you are wondering about that after reading the above.

The training is worth it for two main reasons. First is that ANY knowledge of how to defend yourself is better than none at all. If push comes to shove and you have no choice, every bit of training increases your odds. The more the better. That’s not even getting into the secondary physical and mental health benefits of training.

Second is that self-defense training can help you carry yourself with confidence when you walk down the street. Criminals and thugs target people that look weak and scared; poor posture, avoiding eye contact, looking around nervously, etc… Those all mark you as a target just as much as wearing expensive jewelry would.

For the record, I’m NOT advising strutting down the street trying to look tough and intimidating. That just tells others you’re looking for trouble. It’ll find you also.

What I’ve adopted is a posture, body language and facial expressions that project a quiet, comfortable confidence. When you can get that vibe down; where you don’t look like either a victim or a troublemaker, you generally won’t be bothered.

Political Correctness Has No Place in Self-Defense

One other note here: I’ve seen the SJW crowd try to guilt people for crossing the street or otherwise avoiding people that make them feel uncomfortable. Charges of racism in particular get tossed around if a minority is involved. My advice? SCREW THEM.

They’re not going to rush to your defense if you’re attacked. Nowadays, society being what it is, they’re more likely to egg on the attackers while recording the attack for YouTube.

Trust your observational skills and intuition. If you’re getting a predatory look and threatening body language, it’s reasonable to avoid that person. Body language, facial expressions, eyes and just general vibe are what I pay attention to. Even how somebody dresses isn’t always an indicator. Even in the poorest neighborhoods, most folks are decent and only want to be seen as fellow human beings. It’s their demeanor, not their race or social status that should determine your reaction for good or bad.

A Final Note:

Proper training is very important in my opinion. It gives you potentially life saving skills along with the self-confidence and discipline to not use those skills unless absolutely necessary.

I trained for 17 years total, the majority of that time with styles that were NOT sport focused. Kenpo was called “Scientific Street Fighting” by Ed Parker. It teaches joint destruction and other harsh tactics, BUT also to avoid a fight whenever possible and do only enough damage to stop the threat (while still training for worst case scenarios).

Thanks in large part to my training, Ive only been in one “fight” since I started at my first dojo. That without looking or acting like a coward or a bully. All it takes is being in tune with your environment and adopting an appearance of quiet confidence.

BBQ Time: Slow Smoked and Seared NY Steaks

On to more pleasant things from my last post. Recently, we finally got a break in the weather here, and we brought out the smoker and the Weber kettle grill. Our mission: reverse seared New York steaks.

I’d already seasoned one side of the steaks before taking this pic. Salt, Pepper and Garlic; all you need.

Not much of a secret that I prefer Ribeye steaks. Better marbling means they’re typically more moist and tender than other steak cuts. We couldn’t find any decent quality Ribeyes though

Side Note: My Meat Buying Guide can be seen here

After rubbing some salt, pepper and garlic into both sides, they were ready to go on the smoker for a reverse sear. That’s when you slow cook the meat first, and then add a sear to it at the end. The most common reason to do so is that you’re using a smoker. A standard sear will seal the meat and keep smoke from getting in. Slow cooking (like on a smoker) will use a low enough heat that you won’t lose any juice anyway.

As the video shows, a hot cast iron pan is a great way to reverse sear meat, but I typically use the Weber charcoal grill to try and add a little extra flavor to the steak along with those traditional grill rack marks. A pan is great for a full sear though.

Note the deep red color from the previous time spent in the smoker. These were just dropped on the grill.

MY usual technique (as mentioned in a few older posts) is to pull the meat when it reaches an internal temperature of 100 F, and then finish it on the grill to a perfect medium rare 135 F temperature. That last 35 degrees is a fairly ideal point for getting as much smoke in AND having enough time to put a real sear on the meat. That is IF the charcoal grill is fully hot before throwing the steaks on.

I kind of goofed that last part this time BUT still turned out some fine looking steaks that tasted even better:

And here’s a peak inside:

You can sort of see the deeper red smoke ‘ring’ on the top and bottom of the steak.

Perfect medium rare pink all the way through. And they went nice with some fresh bread and veggies on the side. Unfortunately I was too busy eating to get pictures. ๐Ÿ˜€

One last tip here: Using briquette charcoal can be fairly wasteful for just searing meat. We’re literally talking a few minutes on each side. After that, you have to cover the grill and let it burn itself out.

There IS an alternative though. One of the key benefits of ‘lump’ type charcoal is that you can smother it with an completely unvented lid and reignite it later.

Another Lesson in Why I Hate the Media

Some of my longer term readers may remember my posts almost a year ago where I supplied stories from multiple news services about how the Wuhan Institute of Virology was reported to be an unsafe wreck, and almost certainly responsible for the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. The main post with those links was about media bias in general, but here are the links to the actual Wuhan stories:

My point in the earlier post was that the media in general was more interested in discrediting the Trump Administration than reporting the truth. Wuhan was called a hoax, the lab was (not) imaginary, and we were told it was all racism and xenophobia.

Well, guess what? NOW, we have the media reporting the news of the 2018 reported unsafe conditions at the Wuhan labs as if it’s a brand new story. EVERYBODY on the Right and Left is jumping on it. Even Fox, who banged the drum pretty hard on the story while trying to defend Trump, is treating it like something new:

BTW, when every outlet from MSNBC to Fox is pushing the exact same angle, watch out! It means the entrenched swamp on both sides is all working together with the same goal. Conflict is coming.

This is NOT about Trump. The leadership (at the very least) of both sides should have known via national security briefings. Instead of doing anything before we had a global pandemic, they first chose to ignore it and then play political gamesmanship after all hell broke loose.

Was the media asking tough questions and getting to the bottom of anything? NO!

All the media did was help the bureaucracy point fingers at the other side and treat the public as idiots to be demagogued and lead around by the nose like idiots.

We the people need to start demanding better of our media; less bias and commentary, more hard facts and objective reporting. The media as it stands now is a biased, conflict driven joke. I pick usually on the “mainstream” media (as if Fox isn’t mainstream with it’s massive viewer base), but this time I’ll use an example from Fox.

THAT a headline to a story at their website.

Pig In A Blanket… REALLY. Is THAT “fair and balanced”? It’s nothing resembling proper journalism. It’s sensationalist, inflammatory red meat for the base, WWE level “color commentary“, and if Cuomo wasn’t such a creep, it’d be outright libel.

Is it REALLY so hard to just report the facts and allegations against him as they stand and give the public credit for the ability to draw it’s own conclusions on IF or how big a scumbag Cuomo is? Both sides do this all the time though, and Fox just spent FOUR YEARS bitching about how the rest of the media did to Trump EXACTLY what they’re doing here. Hypocrisy on all sides.

And the thing that irks me the most about the Wuhan story is that I successfully ignored the news for months only to see that damned story plastered EVERYWHERE.

I really hope people are getting fed enough enough to actually say “ENOUGH”.

Star Wars: How Did Grievous End Up Wheezing In Ep. 3?

One of the most annoying parts of Episode 3 for me (listening to him wheeze), and it was never explained in the movies. That got me to thinking that some folks out there might not know the whole story there…

The answer lays in the the original (2005) Clone Wars mini-series on the Cartoon Network, and how it tied directly to Episode 3.

The 25 episode series covered highlights of the time between Episode 2: Attack of the Clones and Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. During that series, Grievous is shown to be nearly unstoppable as he takes out Jedi in various outposts around the galaxy…

Then came Episode 25.

Episode 25 led right up to the events of Revenge of the Sith. The series literally ended with Palpatine’s staged abduction and the escape to the separatist fleet above Coruscant. Grievous was in command of the “kidnap” team and took out a few Jedi along the way. Then… at the escape shuttle… he met Mace Windu.

BAD things, man… BAD things:

ONE “hit”… Just one. ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜„ ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Which just goes to prove; there’s two people in the universe you don’t screw with: Mace Windu and the Batman.

This from a 1987 issue of Justice League comics. Blue Beetle busting a gut over it totally makes the scene. ๐Ÿ˜€

And THAT is the story of how Grievous joined Weezer and ran from Coruscant like a screaming little school girl.

That story has been “retconned” since then thanks to comic book authors at Disney’s Marvel branch wanting to put their spin on things AND Lucas deciding he could make more money with a second edition of the Clone Wars. Still, nothing else really explains the wheezing and clutching his chest in Revenge of the Sith.

Trivia Bonus:

Diehard fans know this, but Samuel L Jackson’s lightsaber had “BMF” engraved on it.

A little Pulp Fiction added to the Republic. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Spent the Day in the Vault!

The VADER’S VAULT that is!

Yes, that’s right, THE Vader’s Vault; home of some of the best custom made lightsabers on the planet.

So, cool background story… We had to run into Georgia today to take care of some other business. I’d also been gawking longingly at more lightsabers online, and found out that Vader’s Vault “store” (shop really) was only 27 miles away from where we had to go. I talked the spouse into a quick ride with the idea of checking out whatever kind of showroom Vader’s Vault had and asking a few questions.

In short, I wanted to try to get a handle on whether or not Vader’s Vault sabers are actually worth the money. Also get a look at a few sabers as well, I’d hoped. ๐Ÿ˜

What I got was completely unexpected. Instead of a quick look and a few questions answered, we got… the grand tour!

We talked to somebody up front, and they went and got the boss (owner). He came out, gave us a quick run down of the stuff in the showroom and then asked if we’d like a tour.

The showroom included this case full of sabers and saber cases from their history:

That saber up at the top is one of only EIGHT real world copies of the “Twisted Fang” lightsaber available in the Star Wars: The Old Republic game.

A couple of other highlights from the showroom:

Their case of manufactured helmets.

More sabers, emitters and some toys on the bottom shelf. That’s a “mouse” droid in the lower right corner also.

That, unfortunately is all the pictures I got. The rear area of the shop had rooms for wiring work, CNC machining equipment, 3D printers, etc… I didn’t snap any pictures back there though because the owner was lamenting how any time he puts something online, there’s a cheap Chinese knock-off for sale a day or two later. They were also working on one completely new model and some tweaks to existing models (relocated power switches and a few other minor things). I have a sneaking suspicion that we MIGHT see that new model for a May the 4th sale too.

For any readers who may be wondering, I asked about the limited availability of sabers right now. It’s the usual supply chain issues. However, they expect to have a few models back in stock in the next few weeks. I did see them working on a batch of “Revancrist” sabers (Darth Revan’s lightsaber):

Those are one of the few sabers still currently “in stock” also.

One question led to a highlight of the tour also. I asked if their special made sabers with crystal chambers were duel worthy. The big guy brought out a Starkiller and explained in detail:

The cliff notes version is that the hilt itself is strong enough for it. The bracing rods on the chamber are full on steel. HOWEVER, their crystals are a piece of clear quartz which could break or break loose in heavy sparring. So, he advised against using such a saber for more than light to moderate horseplay.

Why quartz? Disney has “cool” ๐Ÿ™„ colored epoxy chunks that they sell for ONLY $30, you say? Well Vader’s Vault sabers have the ability to change blade colors, and the Starkiller will actually shine the same color as the blade into the quartz to make it look like that color Kyber Crystal. It will always match the blade no matter the color.

More importantly (lol) for a couple of moments, I got to hold a $2600 Vader’s Vault masterworks Starkiller in my hand. ๐Ÿ˜ Well, minus it’s outer cover anyway.

We briefly talked about the differences in blades also. Plecter Pixel blades are just as combat worthy as the old LED tubes. Both are polycarbonate, and will eventually break at some point while dueling. The Pixel blade gives a much better and even light quality and is capable of producing effects that an LED “flashlight” type design can’t. All this at a higher price point, of course.

Personally, I’d probably save the Plecter Pixel blade for “show” sabers and use an LED one for dueling. We’re talking $30 vs $130 for a replacement when it finally breaks.

Bottom Line:

Are they worth the price and increased wait time?

I went in a little wary. Half of me was looking to rationalize buying elsewhere. They really are absolutely worth it in my opinion though. Here’s why:

Better Grip, Weight and Balance: The balance on every saber I got to handle was extraordinary. My two black series sabers (Dooku and Mace) and my Ultrasabers “Fallen” saber:

are just plain stout. They’re like wrapping your hands around an old “D Cell” battery Maglite police flashlight. The Count Dooku saber is majorly off balance as well. I got to hold a Vader’s Vault copy of that same saber. The hilt is slimmer, more in line with what a real sword might have, the finish was brighter too. The machining was done so well that it was hard to see where the parts of the hilt actually connected together.

Better Sound Quality: I’ve heard people complain about Ultrasabers and Saberforge being bad in poor quality or muffled sound. My Black Series sabers are fair in this regard. Not great, but fair. Every Vader’s Vault saber I heard sounded like I’d just stepped into one of the movies. Crystal clear quality with sound effects for everything from swings, blade clashes and defected blaster bolts (all of which a plexer pixel blade’s light will respond to also).

Massive Customization: Vader’s Vault has features that Ultrasabers and Saberforge don’t even offer; hilt lighting and illuminated power buttons for starters. Some of their options they don’t advertise on their site. I suspect that has to do with variable costs involved. I saw sabers that were mirror polished, powder coated, weathered, acid etching engraved, inlaid with wood, leather wrapped… you name it.

THIS, I found out today, was done in the owner’s garage when it was just him and his wife. Imagine what they can do now!

Good Company Working Environment and Customer Service: Why is that important? Because even if you don’t care about the workers’ conditions, a happy staff is highly motivated to excel at their job. That means you get a defect free product.

Customer service should be self-explanatory in importance. If you have any doubts about Vader’s Vault though… Keep in mind they COULD have just run me off, or spent a couple minutes answering a few questions and then politely said they had to get back to work. Instead we got treated to an almost hour long tour with Q&A, looks at all their work areas, a demonstration of all a plexer pixel blade can do, peeks at several models in various stages of manufacture or remodel, and even a sneak peek at a pre-production prototype of an upcoming release.

How often do you see that nowadays in ANY sort of business?

Bottom line, you’re going to get a better saber made of higher quality materials and machined to tighter tolerances, better electronics, more bells and whistles, made almost any way you want, and better customer service.

What you’ll get elsewhere is poorly fit together sabers that can’t even hold up to a Disney toy: