Friday, December 14, 2007

New Giveaway!

The folks at PickPackGo have started a new give-away promotion!

This month, you can enter to win a Sony portable DVD player!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

It's a nice player, and I know this for a fact, because I won one just like it in a give-away a few months ago! Find them here to enter!

While you are there, have a look around... If you are serious about vacationing (and who isn't?), you might be inspired!

GF

Monday, December 10, 2007

CD Review: Hymns, Carols, & Songs About Snow

Over the next few weeks, I'll be telling you a bit about my favorite Christmas music. Why? Because your Gunfighting pal Loooves Christmas music.

Here's a little story for you... it takes place in a sleepy little town...




Time: The week before Christmas, 1991

Place: 19th & L Streets, NW, Washington, DC

Dramatis Personae: The man later to be known as Gunfighter


It was cold. It was early Friday evening, and it was starting to snow.

I was leaving the Bally’s Health Club (that had several years before, been the “Abbey Road” nightclub) and heading for the Farragut West Metro station. I had had a great workout, and was looking forward to my weekend… holed up in my wee humble bachelor apartment. I had a few extra dollars in my pocket that weren’t dedicated to keeping the place warm or lit, or to keeping me fed, so I decided to stop into the Sam Goody’s music shop to see if there wasn’t something new to listen too.

As I entered, I headed straight for the Christmas music. I really love the Christmas season, and to tell you the truth, I was feeling more than just a little lonely. I was just recently divorced, and my ex-wife was taking our daughter to visit with her family over the holiday, and the woman that I was seeing was out of town for some reason that escapes me now. Hearing cheerful Christmas music that would probably be good for me.

As I browsed, I became aware of this really great instrumental music playing in the background. It was all guitar, and all-Christmas… but the two went together better than I could have imagined. As I browsed some more, I decided that the music that I was listening to was the music that I wanted to buy, so I asked the clerk what we were listening to. He showed me the cd, which is the one that you see here: Hymns, Carols, and Songs About Snow, by Tuck Andress.

“Tuck Andress?” I thought to myself, “I’ve never heard of him”. I bought the cd anyway. Transaction made, I went back out into the snow with a song in my heart, in a much better mood than I had been in.

I remember my metro ride, that evening, with unusual clarity… I felt like I had a secret. A pleasant secret all my own, and it was right there in my gym bag. You should have seen the suburbanite commuters! Scared to death by the large, young, black man who smiled at them when meeting their eyes! Even then I was used to the fact that most white people in the city were terrified of me (or what they think I represent), but it was actually funny to watch them squirm on this particular night.

I exited the Metro at Eastern market, and made my way through the whitening streets of Capitol Hill. Past the Post Office, the bakery, Hine jr. High School, and the Natatorium. I walked past that really great liquor sore whose name escapes me now (Haydens?), and went on to my apartment at 6th & A streets, S.E. Once inside, I took a shower, changed and made myself a wonderful dinner of frozen flounder fillets (I ate a lot of frozen fish, canned tuna and/or Ramen noodles in those days… I was broke… but in GREAT shape). I spent a very pleasant evening, listening to this cd… I think I might have listend to it three times through. It was a great night for me, and for all of it’s mundanity, it is a favorite Christmastime memories.

Even now, in 2007, when I am not so broke, and not in such great shape, and looking middle age square in the eye, I still love this cd. Listening to it reminds me of a pleasant moment during a not-so-pleasant time in my life.

If you like listening to Christmas music, and are not afraid of trying something a little different, try this… you’ll love it.

CD Review - Frosty The Bluesman - Michael Powers

Before I begin to talk about Michael Powers’ great recording, let me tell you all that most of the great discoveries that have been made in Castle Gunfighter, have been made by the Lady of The Manor, and not by my humble self. Mrs Gunfighter has this uncanny ability to see a CD and know if it will be good. This CD is another example of this ability.

Released in 1996, Frosty The Bluesman is destined to be one of the secret greats of Christmas music done in the blues tradition. This isn’t hyperbole… I challenge you to listen to Power’s arrangement of Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer (with the vocals of Priestly Thompson) and then listen to it with the same ears ever again.

Although you may have never heard of Michael Powers (I had never heard of him when Mrs. GF brought this CD home a few years ago), you will immediately recognize the talent of this musician/arranger/producer. None of this music is canned or “phoned in”

In addition to the brilliant arrangement of “Rudolph”, other standouts on this cd are: “God Rest Ye Funky Gentlemen”, “Salsa Claus Is Coming To Town“, “The Christmas Song“, “Frosty The Bluesman”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, and the really great final song; "The New Years Eve Gig (Auld Lang Syne)”

Sure, you have heard all of these songs before… every one of them, but you’ve never heard them like this.

This CD is in our top tier of Christmas music, and is a reliable stand out for listening to over a glass of something good, or with your children when you are playing on the floor.

It’s that good.

GF

Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Review: George Washington - A Military Life

If you are an American, and learned American history the way it was taught to me, you might be inclined to believe that George Washington chopped down some cherry tree, and then told his father "I Cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree." (which was made up by Washington's first biographer, Parson Weems, who lived only two miles from our home)

Depending on when you went to school, you might have been taught that Washington was a great man or a horrible man for having been a slave owner. Again, depending on when or where you went to school, you might believe that George Washington was an incredible blunderer or a strategic and tactical genius, who was as brilliant as Napoleon and George Patton all at once.

No matter what you learned, it is likely that whatever you learned was a bunch of crap.

For centuries, different people, for different reasons, have portrayed Washington as an unstained demigod, while others have reported him to be either a dummy or a nefarious character who is just shy of Satan. It's a real shame, because the real Washington, the man, is a very interesting character WITHOUT all of the embellishment.

In his book, General George Washington - A Military Life, author Edward Lengel strips away the history as reported by people with agendas. He brings the facts of Washington's life, as they pertain to his military experiences.

Here, we see Washington as a teenager, who longs for a life in the uniformed service of the British Crown. He first tries to emulate his older half-brother, who secures him a place as a Midshipman on a British man of war. He was thwarted in this by his very formidable mother, but his dream of serving the crown in uniform went un-extinguished.

After the Death of his half-brother and his wife, nine years later, Washington inherited Mount Vernon, which became his home for the rest of his life, and embarked on the rest of his military career.

At the age of 21, Washington was appointed adjutant, with the rank of Major, in the Virginia militia, and only a few years later, was appointed to the Colonelcy of the 1st Virginia regiment, as they were raised for service against the French, who were encroaching upon British claims to the Ohio Valley in the area that later became Pittsburgh.

We see Washington at his very best and at his worst throughout the French & Indian wars, and the long period between those years and the period immediately preceding the American Revolution. We see the Washington as the only American born militia officer with enough military experience and combat experience, selected by the Continental Congress to lead the as yet unformed American army against the experienced troops of the British Army.

(Washington, seen here as Colonel of the Virginia militia, circa 1772)

During the book, Lengel isn't afraid to discuss Washington's successes nor is he afraid to skewer sacred cows when he talks about Washington's failings as a General.

After reading this very frank, but very fair assessment of Washington's military career, one can only come to the conclusion that General George Washington, taken warts and all, was indeed the person that James Thomas Flexner deemed as "The Indispensable Man"

Washington was neither genius, nor blunderer. He was a man, a soldier, and a politician. He was a good field commander, a real fighter, and brave in the face of the enemy. He never lost his nerve on the battlefield.

The history of the military art screams that Washington's strategy in general was, unbeknownst to him, absolutely correct in that he didn't often try to do things that were beoynd his resources against a better trained, better armed, and better provisioned army.

He might not have been 12 feet tall, but he was the man of the moment, and was equal to the challencge.

Kudos to Lengel for a great book on such an important figure in our history.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book Review: Protect and Defend

Have any of you ever read a Vince Flynn novel? If you haven't, you might want to give it a go.

Flynn writes what I like to think of as "romance-novels-for-men"... books with spies, guns, military hardware, and a main character that so many of us wish we could be. In Flynn's seven novels to date, he has had the coolest main character that you can imagine: Mitch Rapp, a dedicated and almighty lethal counter-terrorist operative of the Central Intelligence agency.

Mitch Rapp is a bad dude. (he's even badder than me!). He is a killer, but not just a brute. Mitch Rapp can speak Arabic, Farsi, and some other languages. He is deadly with a machinegu, a sniper rifle, a pistol, knife, or just about anything else, including a soup spoon.

In Flynn's newest novel, Protect and Defend, Iran's secret nuclear facility is destroyed by an undercover Mossad agent and as the flurry of events afterward increase, the Director of the CIa and the Chief of Iranian intelligence decide to meet for some back-channel discussions, in Mosul, Iraq.

Immediately after their meeting, CIA Director (and mentor/friend of Mitch Rapp) Irene Kennedy is kidnapped by an elusive Hezbollah operative. Mitch Rapp swings into action, killing damned-near EVERYbody that gets in his way.

This book is a slam-bang action story in which there is one bombing, one ambush/gun battle in the streets of Mosul, several summary executions, hand to hand combat to the death, a daring rescue, a domestic assassination, interrogations, torture, the beginning of a new romance, and a military stand-off that leads the United States and Iran to the brink of open warfare.

If you like this sort of stuff, read this.

If you are unfamiliar with the genre, read it anyway.

This isn't intellectual stuff, but, by God, it sure is fun!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Product Review: Sequoia Vehicle Survival Kit

Most of you know that I make my living teaching officers and agents about street-level combat survival... Today, I want to talk about survival of a different sort.

Today, I want to talk about survival on the road, trail, or highway.

While it is bad enough to broken down on the side of the road, compound that problem with having your children with you, and being in inclement weather, or all of those things combined and being in a rural area that isn't well-travelled. As anyone who has ever had their car break down knows, these things always happen at the time when we are most ill-prepared to handle it. There is almost always something that we need that we don't have... and it is usually a simple thing.

What would you do if your car went off the road in the snow, and it wasn't likely that anyone was coming to help anytime soon? An ugly position to be in, isn't it.

Well, this product, the Sequoia Vehicle Survival kit, may not have all of the answers, but will certainly help.

Let's start at the beginning: The kit isn't huge, measuring only 15" x 7.5" x 10", and weighing only eight pounds. You might, seeing this, think that there couldn't possibly be a lot to the kit, being so small... but you'd be wrong. Read on!

This kit contains some amazing stuff, that I would have been glad to have around, not only when I was a Boy Scout, but also when I was in the Marines!

First things first... It comes with a roll of toilet paper. Oh yeah, laugh!.... but have you ever been stuck without a roll? bad times, kids, I'm telling you.

The kit also contains emergency food rations that are designed to last two people a full day... which is good, but sort of inaccurate. In a survival situation food for two people can be enough for four people to get by on for four days.

There is a large First aid kit, small water packs (dehydration is an ugly thing), rain ponchos (2), chemical hand warmers, 12 hour light sticks (2), waterproof matches, cleansing wipes, emergency blankets (2), even a deck of playing cards (distraction from boredom is important while waiting for rescue). The kit also contains a notepad and a pen.

Now, lest you think that this kit is all about being comfy while you wait for help... it isn't. There are items in this kit that will help you to help yourself out of a bad situation. Items such as: A 75 foot, braided rope; leather work gloves; a Gerber Multi-Function tool; duct tape, and get this!; a flashlight that contains a radio and a cell phone charger! The radio, flashlight and charger all operate from a hand-cranked generator, so you don't have to worry about running out of juice.

In summation, I would be glad to have this kit in both of our cars (and my test kit is already in the car the Mrs GF drives most of the time), and I can't think of anything that the people at Sequoia might have left out, with the exception of a large shovel.

This kit is the bomb, I'm telling you!

This product review was sponsored by the Parent Bloggers Network, and the Sequoia Survival Company... give them a look, there are kits for your home as well!

Be smart, be safe!

GF

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Book Review: The Teen Whisperer

This review will be right to the point, friends.

Right to the point because that is the style in which The Teen Whisperer was written.

Mike Linderman has written a book that you should read if you are the parent of a teenager, or have children that will be entering their teens.

There are times when I get sentimental about things, as you know, but not about this subject. I have an eighteen year old daughter, and I thank God for the fact that she seems to be quite healthy and isn't acting out at all. I have an almost-nine-year-old daughter who is also quite healthy and doesn't seem to be exhibiting any unusual behaviors. I'm glad about this book, anyway.

The author discusses the reasons why children, particularly teenagers, act out, and talks about ways of dealing with those issues. I think that he hits the nail on the head, but the most important part of this book is the discussion of communicating with your teen child. I'm a man, and try as I might, communication isn't always easy for me (shocking, right?), well, the author helps with this, which is important, because as the song said: "communication is the problem to the answer"

Linderman writes in a direct manner, without a lot of sugar-coating, and without a lot of clinical psychobabble that leaves you with a headache like the one I had after drinking some questionable booze in Okinawa when I was in the Marines many years ago.

Simply put, this book is something that you should read before your children become teenagers! Read it, and perhaps you can mitigate problems on the rise instead of dealing with full-blown issues later on.

Read it.

Trust me.

This review was brought to you by The Parent Blogger Network

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Book Review: Kids Are Americans Too!

When the nice folks at The Parent Blogger Network asked me to review the new book, titled "Kids Are Americans Too", by Bill O'Reilly and Charles Flowers, I thought that perhaps they had fallen down and hit their heads on something really hard. I mean, come on... anyone who reads my blog has to know that I'm not fan of O'Reilly, although I give him made props for diggin' the Isely Brothers. I asked if they we sure, because I would gladly read his book and then give my usual no-soft-soap analysis... I'd be fair, I promised... but not necessarily nice.

They agreed.

I read the book.

Here we go.

This book was published by the fine folks at HarperCollins, the same folks that published the book that I reviewed last week, and retails for $24.95

Let me start by saying that there is no real evil in this book, so, if your teenager reads it, he or she would not likely harmed by it. There is no hateful or vulgar language in this book (although the word "slut" does appear once, but appropriately in context). So if you, like me, think that Bill O'Reilly is, at worst, evil, or at best a smarmy shill of a right-wing pundit, you can at least be assured that he isn't going to be brainwashing your kids with this book.

Let's get down (with our bad selves) to it, shall we?

The aim of this book is to have a dialogue on rights... the rights of teenagers.

So far, so good.

The target audience is supposed to be teenagers but, it seems to me that it was written for 6th grade students. Worse, there is nothing in that book that most kids wouldn't get from American History and/or Civics (American Government) classes at school. While I realize that not everyone gets the same education in this country, I think that for the most part, basic structure government is set up is covered... starting in elementary school.

Moving on.

I found this book to be trite. O'Reilly & Flowers sound very even, and sometimes sensible throughout the book, even though they don't miss two opportunities to Rag on 50 Cent or Ludacris, or to label the American Civil Liberties Union as "extremists"

I have to tell you that I think that anyone who spends $24.95 on a hardback book with 129 pages of poor writing, pictures and lots of visually irritating clutter, is out of their minds. I wouldn't buy this book for anyone, not even some of my right-wing, crackpot, co-workers.

A complete waste of time and money.

This review was sponsored by your friends and mine at the Parent Blogger Network and by HarperCollins Publishing.

No Conservatives were harmed (intentionally) in the production of this review.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Book Review: Deceptively Delicious

Not everyone who reads this blog is a parent, but I am rather certain that everyone that reads this blog eats food, so don't be fooled by the sub-title of this book.

Jessica Seinfeld says that her new cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, is about secret ways to get your kids to eat good food... by which she means getting enough fruits and vegetables. She had parents with finicky children as her target, but I think that there is a much wider audience for this sort of work.

I like to cook. I really like to cook... mainly because I really like to eat (which is why I'm so bloody fat), and I live in a household where vegetables are always welcome... even by Soccergirl, who loves, loves, loves, peas carrots, green beans, and routinely asks for salad for dinner. Because of this, I was able to take a different approach to this book.

In her book, Jessica Seinfeld tells you how to get vegetables into your kid's food without them even realizing it, by using a puree. It really is a great idea. If your child won't abide a pile of peas on her plate, make a puree, or even make it ahead of time and freeze it, and add a dollop to her mashed potatoes... or soup. The puree will add flavor, cool colors, and better still, will give your child a serving of vegetables without her even knowing.

Pretty cool, huh?

As I said earlier, I had a bit of a different approach because, if it were up to Mrs GF and, we'd probably have much less meat in our home (we rarely eat beef, but eat a lot of chicken and fish), so I don't have to hide either fruit or vegetables in the food, but the upside is using the purees in the book as a flavor additive. This can be done with pureed steamed (or roasted, as appropriate) roasted peppers, onions, squash, beets, green beans, or any fruit or vegetable that you might like to use to flavor a dish.

Seinfeld's book may not be the definitive word in this arena, but the collection of recipes is good, and covers a lot of dishes that parents might serve the little ones. There is a good variety of recipes and a section on directions and cooking fruits and vegetables preparatory to making your puree. The directions for making and storing your puree are easy to follow. The photography is good and not so glossy as to make you feel like you are out of your depth, if you aren't really the most able person in the kitchen arts.

This cookbook should be a welcome addition to anyone's kitchen, even if you don't have kids.

This product review is sponsored by the Parent Blogger Network, and Harper-Collins publishing. It is also brought to you by the number 9, and the letter F

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Book Review: The Religion

A few weeks ago, I finished what is probably the best book that I have read all year... maybe in the last few years. The book was: The Religion, by Tom Willocks.

This book takes place in 1565, when "The Grand Turk" , also known as Suleiman The Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, had decided that to ensure the spread of Islam, the Knights of St. John, also known as The Knights Hospitaller, must be dislodged from the Mediterranean Island of Malta.

As this historically true event played out, the fictitious Captain Mattias Tannhauser, a European-born former Janissary soldier in the army of the Sultan, is convinced to bring a high-born Maltese Contessa, Lady Carla, to the island, despite the siege, to find her 12 year old bastard son... a son sired by one Brother Luvodico, a highly-placed Priest of the Inquisition.

What Tannhauser doesn't realize is that his reputation as a military commander have proceeded him, and he has been duped into going to the island so that he can give good military advice to the Grandmaster of the Knights of St. John, Jean De La Valette to help them withstand the siege.

Predictably, Tannhauser is able to spirit Lady Carla, and her son, Orlandu, off of Malta, but not before falling in love with Carla, and killing Luvodico.

The plot of the book isn't exceptionally intricate, which is appropriate, since this book is and adventure, not a mystery. There are several factors here that make this book and exceptionally good one: The first (for me) is that the subject matter, the religious-military orders of the era, between the 12th and 17th centuries, is an area of particular interest to me. The second is that the author has really done his homework here, in that he not only was able to place this important battle in the right time and place, but he was able to describe that motives and actions of the characters in proper cultural terms. The third important thing for me was the description of 16th century combat and siege warfare. Willocks doesn't gloss over the unholy brutality of personal combat, and the gruesome wounds caused by the weapons of the day.

If you have an interest in history, you will enjoy this book. If you have an interest in grand adventure, you will enjoy this book. If you have an interest in some of the skulduggery of the 16th century Church you'll really like this book.

This book has it all: Violence, history, intrigue, and sex... and it's well-written!

What's not to like?

If you read it, please tell me what you think.

GF

Book Review: The Religion


A few weeks ago, I finished what is probably the best book that I have read all year... maybe in the last few years. The book was: The Religion, by Tom Willocks.

This book takes place in 1565, when "The Grand Turk" , also known as Suleiman The Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, had decided that to ensure the spread of Islam, the Knights of St. John, also known as The Knights Hospitaller, must be dislodged from the Mediterranean Island of Malta.

As this historically true event played out, the fictitious Captain Mattias Tannhauser, a European-born former Janissary soldier in the army of the Sultan, is convinced to bring a high-born Maltese Contessa, Lady Carla, to the island, despite the siege, to find her 12 year old bastard son... a son sired by one Brother Luvodico, a highly-placed Priest of the Inquisition.

What Tannhauser doesn't realize is that his reputation as a military commander has proceeded him, and he has been duped into going to the island so that he can give good military advice to the Grandmaster of the Knights of St. John, Jean De La Valette, to help them withstand the siege.

Predictably, Tannhauser is able to spirit Lady Carla, and her son, Orlandu, off of Malta, but not before falling in love with Carla, and killing Luvodico.

The plot of the book isn't exceptionally intricate, which is appropriate, since this book is an adventure, not a mystery. There are several factors here that make this book an exceptionally good one: The first (for me) is that the subject matter, the religious-military orders of the era, between the 12th and 17th centuries, is an area of particular interest to me. The second is that the author has really done his homework here, in that he not only was able to place this important battle in the right time and place, but he was able to describe that motives and actions of the characters in proper cultural terms. The third important thing for me was the description of 16th century combat and siege warfare. Willocks doesn't gloss over the unholy brutality of personal combat, and the gruesome wounds caused by the weapons of the day.

If you have an interest in history, you will enjoy this book. If you have an interest in grand adventure, you will enjoy this book. If you have an interest in some of the skulduggery of the 16th century Church you'll really like this book.

This book has it all: Violence, history, intrigue, and sex... and it's well-written, to boot!

What's not to like?

If you read it, please tell me what you think.

GF

Friday, October 5, 2007

CD Review: Sara Bareilles - Little Voice

Have any of you ever heard of this young woman?

I confess that I never had until a few weeks ago, when Mrs Gunfighter brought home this CD that she bought on a whim. Go here to listen to the first track on the CD, "Little Voice" it's called "Love Song" and I guarantee that it will capture you immediately.

Sara Barielles (pronounced Ba-rell-is) is from Humboldt County, Californina and attended UCLA. Her music has been compared to that of Fiona Apple, Nora Jones and other female songstresses. Some of hose may be fair comparisons... but that in no way diminishes the talent of this young singer-songwriter.

I could go on and on about Bareilles' raw talent and driving piano-playing, but I don't have to, you can hear it for yourself.

If you are of a mind to trust me, trust me when I tell you that if you buy this cd you will be really glad you did.

GF

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Product Review: OxiClean

When The Parent Blogger Network contacted me to ask if I would like to do a product review for OxiClean, I told them that I already had a history with the product, and that I was a firm believer in using it.

I have been using OxiClean as a stain remover and a laundry detergent booster for quite a few years now, and I swear by it. Used as directed, OxiClean can remove laundry stains that you might never expect to be able to lift. Used as a detergent booster, OxiClean is help to get you clothes cleaner than they would have by using detergent alone.

This stuff works.

As you know, I work with guns and do quite a bit of shooting. One of the things that a shooter spends considerable time doing is cleaning guns (No. I didn't use this stuff to clean any guns!). One of the things that comes with cleaning guns is getting oil-based cleaning chemicals and lubricants on my uniform. Using OxiClean gets right to this stuff every time.

OxiClean also does quite a good job on soccergirl's grass stained soccer uniforms and socks! Hallelujah!

Another benefit of OxiClean is that it is simple to use. Following the easy-to-read guidelines, your laundry will be clean, bright, and stain-free.

This review was brought to you by OxiClean, via the Parent Blogger Network.

Monday, September 10, 2007

DVD Review: Toolbox For New Dads

As all of you know, I am the father of two daughters. You probably also know that I am an advocate of what I call "fully participatory fatherhood". I am always interested in any movement, group, forum, or product that has, as it's main aim, the inclusion of dads in the whole parenting experience.

Today, despite the fact that I am either going into, or recovering from surgery as you read this, I get to review a product with a fierce amount of pleasure.

The picture that you See here is from the cover of a new DVD called Toolbox For New Dads, with bestselling author, Armin Brott.

In the DVD, Brott is shown teaching a class for expectant fathers and giving them incredibly valuable information that practically no men were ever given until perhaps the past ten or so years.

Here, Brott starts the discussion by showing men how to hold & calm a crying baby baby! Think about this... many of you may be saying to yourselves "well, everybody knows how to do that!", but I am here to tell you that is "ain't necessarily so". I had no idea how to hold a sleeping baby, let alone hold & calm a crying baby when my oldest was born. I was a young man that had no baby siblings... no nieces or nephews that I had handled as babies... I had to learn on my own. Now, here is this guy showing men how to do this BEFORE the actually have to do it. Awesome.

I'm loving this, right from the start.

The DVD goes on to discuss and give advice about how to interact with your baby, changing relationships with your partner, helping with breast-feeding (What? you mean we men have a role there, too?), what babies do, intimacy, and S-E-X! Yes, folks, there is sex after baby (or at least, there should be).

This DVD has a wealth of information that I nodded my head about and heartily agreed with. It was full of things that I had to learn on my own, which, with a baby, is something akin to walking through a minefield, hoping that you won't lose your legs in the process. Expectant dads will find this DVD to be an excellent resource.

Gunfighter gives full marks, and a high recommendation.

But wait! We aren't quite finished. The target of this DVD is clearly expectant or brand new fathers, but that doesn't mean that expectant moms shouldn't watch this as well. Expectant or new moms may learn some things about what her man may be feeling before and after the arrival of the baby. Moms may learn to allow dads to be more participatory fathers, which is not only great for the future relationship that dad has with his child, but also great for dad's relationship with mom.

Everybody wins, here, my friends.

Armin Brott has done something special here, and I think it is worthy of a good hard look by new and expectant parents.

GF

Armin Brott can be reached via his website: MrDad.com

This review was brought to you via the Parent Blogger Network.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Product Review: Ryka MC-2 Walking Shoes

First things first, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell all of you that I didn't wear these shoes. No, not because I didn't have time or because I was slacking in my product review work-rate. No, I didn't wear these shoes because I am a man.

These shoes are for the ladies. Especially for the ladies.

I suppose I could try to BS about them, but, really, what would be the point? That's not how I roll.

Having said all of that, I will say that my lovely wife, known in the blogosphere as Mrs Gunfighter (or as she SHOULD be known, Dr. Mrs. Gunfighter) DID wear them. Not only did she wear them during a period of day to day activities, she wore them while were were on vacation... at Disney World. Uh huh!

According to Mrs GF, the most immediately remarkable thing about these shoes is that they were comfortable instantly, they needed no real break-in period.

The shoes never gave her a blister nor did they cause any pain, even after two weeks of walking through the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Disney's MGM Studio, and all of the other places, including SeaWorld, that we went during the trial period.

Another notable thing about these shoes is that they aren't ugly. These shoes look like any other high-end athletic shoe that is made for serious athletes (and walkers ARE serious athletes, OK?). I am sure you all have gone to sporting goods stores and seen what are passed off as "walking" shoes, when in reality the shoes look more like they were made for the nice old folks at the Shady Tree rest home.

All in all, these shoes performed flawlessly over the two-week test period.

Mrs Gunfighter gives full marks!

Ryka products and their descriptions can be found at their website: www.ryka.com

This product Review is brought to you by the Parent Blogging Network.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Product Review: KINeSYS Sunblock

All of you know that your pal Gunfighter loves to talk about products that he likes. Today, I want to mention something new. KINeSYS sunblock.

This stuff is the bomb, folks, and if you'll stop squirming, I'll tell you why.

First things first: If you are asking yourself, probably aloud: "Gee Gunfighter, you're black... why do you care about sunblock?" Well here is your answer: "Because sunburns hurt, and if you spend as much time in the sun as I do, you'd better be using it, too!"

Now, about this KINeSYS stuff. When I received my sample in the mail, I figured that it couldn't be any better than any other sunblock, and to tell you the truth, I don't thin that it protected me any better, but there were some major differences between this stuff and a lot of what is out there on the market. First, I used the bottle's pump action to apply this stuff to myself AND soccergirl. OK, not that uncommon, but I like it. Next, it goes on without being so creamy that I have to spend ten minutes trying to rub it in, so that I won't look like Dennis Haysbert in kabuki makeup.

I applied the KinEsys and once it had dried (in less than a minute) I took soccergirl to our community pool. During the three hours that she spent playing with her friends, I watched and listened to Parliament/Funkadelic on my Ipod, all the while sweating in the northern Virginia sun. Although I took frequent breaks to hydrate so that I wouldn't drop dead, I didn't reapply the sunblock.

As it turns out, I didn't burn and neither did soccergirl, even though she was in and out of the pool throughout the three hours.

This stuff turned out to be pretty good.

I don't know that it is the best sunblock that I ever used, but it sure worked every bit as well as the better stuff that I have used.

GF

This product review was brought to you by the Parent Blogger Network

Book Review: Fathering Your School-Age Child:

In some places they say that the way to measure someones intelligence is to measure it against the degree to which they agree with you. If I were to use that yardstick, I would have to conclude the Armin Brott, the Author of Fathering Your School-Age Child - A Dad's Guide To The Wonder Years, is a friggin' genius!

Armin Brott, A Marine Corps veteran (Woo Hoo!), is a bestselling author and lecturer on the subject of fatherhood. Most of you who read my blog know how serious I am about being a dad... well, Armin Brott is serious about it, too, and has given us dads a very clear and concise primer on some things for us to pay attention to when it comes to our young school-age children.

This book is a guide to what to expect and how to deal with children from ages three to nine years old... what Brott calls "The Wonder Years", and I have to tell you, that right from the beginning of this book, I found myself circling things and highlighting like mad, and saying to my wife: "hey! listen to this!".

Each chapter in the book is broken down like this: What's Going On With Your Child; What's Going On With You; You and Your Child; You and Your Partner. In each of these sections, the author speaks specifically to each point, discussing things that our kids are doing developmentally, our interactions with them, and our interactions with our partners in parenting.

This book has an incredible amount of information that will help a father know what is happening in the development of his child educationally as well as emotionally. Brott teaches us about educational choices, discipline, developing physical, intellectual and emotional traits, activities to do with our kids throughout the age-range covered, the use/abuse of the media, school sports, being an involved parent at school (prepare for rejection, dads!), and so many other things that I can't properly list them.

OK, Men! Listen to your pal, Gunfighter... you know that I would never bullshit you about anything concerning our children, so read this book and pay attention to what it says. It's important to you and your kids. Ladies, you, too, know that good ol' GF would never BS you about the kiddies. If you have young children, give this book to your partner... he'll thank you for it, and you and your children will benefit from it.

If you take anything from this review, take this: This is an excellent resource for any man who is truly interested in doing a real man's job: Being an involved father to his children

GF

Armin Brott has a website at MrDad.com. You can find out all about his books, DVD's, and lectures, there.

This review is brought to you by the Parent Bloggers Network

Book Review: The End of Blackness

In this book, the author, Debra Dickerson tells some home truths... truths that may be hard to hear for some people... some of the tough things that we, as black Americans, should have been saying for many many years.

Ms Dickerson deserves full marks for having the courage to skewer many of the sacred cows that we have been praying to for so many years. Further, she doesn't shrink from taking stab at today's almost-useless civil rights leaders.

It is time, and past time for us to be proud of who we are for what we are and what we have done in this country. Not because white people will acknowledge it... some will, some won't, but so what? The acknowledgement of others shouldn't be the goal of ethnic pride. That said, it should also be said that ethnic pride shouldn't be a bar to the pride that comes from being an American.

It is time, and past time for us to stop seeing ourselves only in comparison to how we are treated by white people... or any other people, including other black people. Black Americans have done remarkable things. We are inseparably woven into the fabric of American history and society.

It is time, and past time for us to stop pretending that we exist outside of American society. We don't. This is our country! We are full citizens, but must begin to act like it. We should walk tall, be proud, look others in the eye with dignity and self-respect.

As Americans, we should be sure of ourselves and of our pivotal role in the building, and the success of this great country. We don't need to wait for the approval of other people to feel good about ourselves. This is childish behavior.

This book could have been written better, Ms. Dickerson's writing is disjointed in some places, but that doesn't detract from the message.

While I don't share every conclusion that the author comes to, she deserves full marks for having the courage to say things that needed to be said in an open forum.

Dickerson is right... the mind truly is the last plantation. The gate is open, and all we need do is walk through it, opt in, and be a participant in creating our own destinies.

GF

Book Review: Bootmaker To The Nation

Four years ago, I read this book on the strong advice of a friend of mine. That friend was a great gentleman and devotee` of early American history named John Grubb. Before his untimely death nearly two years ago, John was a bookseller at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor's center, and could always be relied upon to point me toward the next great book on the period. I am glad I took his advice on this one.

The author of this book, Dr. John Slade, has hit a historical home run with this well-told tale of the birth of our republic.

Told from the viewpoints of Benjamin York, a pressed British seaman that deserts in 1775 Boston, and Genevieve, the Massachusetts farm girl he marries. The story takes us from the beginning of our war of independence at Lexington & Concord, to it's end at the Siege of Yorktown.

Not only does Slade tell the story well, he does something that will truly shock some people: He teaches you every bit as much as he entertains! This is no dry historical tome that will send you off to sleep after the first few pages. No, indeed. When you put this book down, you will have a real feeling and understanding about the American Revolution that so few people ever get.

When you read this book, Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill will become real places and real battles, not just a dry collection of ates and factoids from high school. Not only will you see the battles as real, but the people as well. From the hunger of the foot soldier, to the real moral and tactical dilemmas facing the various commanders.

Slade makes people like George Washington, and Nathaniel Greene real flesh-and-blood men, not the cardboard heroes we often read about. The fact that he makes them human makes them all the more heroic.

Another point in Slade's favor is that he doesn't fail to discuss the southern theater of operations. Many Americans don't realize that the bloodiest fighting of the war took place in the Carolina's, and that the most militarily significant battle of the southern campaign was that of Guilford Courthouse, in North Carolina.

Slade has done nothing short of brilliant work here.

Read this book. You won't be disappointed.

Book Review: GhettoNation

I found this book at the College of William & Mary bookstore (Barnes & Noble), while we were on our Spring Break trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, last month.

I was very excited about it, in fact, I was so excited about it, Mrs. Gunfighter bought it for me as a gift* I couldn't wait to read it, and I started it the next night.

The premise of the book was a discussion and critique on the use of the term "ghetto" in contemporary American parlance, the proliferation of "ghetto culture" which devalues education, is demeaning to women and promulgates the worst of Black American stereotypes as black culture. The author, Cora Daniels also discusses who benefits from "ghetto culture" and whom it destroys.

I enjoyed the book, and although I didn't agree with every conclusion that Ms. Daniels arrived at, we certainly agree about the incredible damage that "ghetto culture" is having in the United States today.

One of the main points that Daniels makes in her book is that, unlike in days past, the word ghetto rarely equates to a geographic location. Today, ghetto is a set of values, a behavior, in short; a mindset.

The following are my opinons:

Once upon a time, ignorant, uncouth behavior was something that we used to see and shake our collective heads about, silently tsk-tsking at people doing stupid and self-destructive things... many people would say or think to themselves: "Well, what do you expect from those people, especially peole who live there?"

Today, that same behavior (obnoxious swearing in public; baggy jeans hanging off of your ass; rude, unwelcome, attention towards women) isn't only tolerated... it's celebrated (in the suburbs no less!). Some of you are no doubt shaking your head and saying: "not by me it isn't!", that's great, but it sure as hell IS celebrated by enough people to make several industries hugely profitable.

Instead of screaming about it, people today shrug their shoulders and say (cue the Paris Hilton voice) "God, that's SO ghetto!"

Make no mistake my friends, the multicultural society that so many of us have advocated has arrived... and it isn't what you thought it would be. Multiculturalism today, isn't about the blending and uplifting the various cultures that make America. Today, multiculturalism means that white kids buy most of the gangsta rap that is produced. Multiculturalism has come to mean the glorification of ghetto dress and behavior, it is the mainstreaming of destructive pathological behavior.

The clothes, the music, the language of "ghetto" has become welcome in America... and we should all be ashamed. The tabloids celebrate scum, yes... I said scum, like 50 cent, Jay-Z, Eminem, K-Fed, Lil Kim, Busta Rhymes, and any number of the fountains of filth that pollute our homes, and our children's schools. Worse yet, the mainstream media have been so completely cowed that they say nothing about ghetto behavior for fear of being labeled racist.

Multiculturalism today, has given us the phenomenon of the so-called "Wiggers"

In this manner we have indeed become "GhettoNation"

We should be collectively ashamed.

A few months ago, I blogged about the following: Several years ago, famed comedian, actor, and educator, Bill Cosby had the nerve to speak out about the pathology of ghetto culture, and he was reviled by many, from black activists to white liberals, for having the guts to speak the truth. Unfortunately, Cora Daniels, in her otherwise excellent book, agrees with many of those that lashed out at Cosby..., but in the opinion of this humble blogger, Cosby was, and still is, absolutely right.

Peace,

GF

* Your pal, Gunfighter, loves to read. Gifts of books or bookstore giftcards never get wasted on me.

Beer!

This is one of my favorite beers.

It's called Dead Guy Ale, and it is produced by the Rogue brewery, in Oregon.

If you like malty, yeasty beers, this one is for you. It isn't high brow beer, but it's good, tasty, manly beer.

That's right. I said manly. It isn't a beer for anyone who drinks light, or worse "Lite" beer. It isn't for the dilletante. It isn't for ANYone who puts lime in their beer.

Try it, if you aren't one of the people listed above, you'll like it.

Trust me. I know beer.

GF

Under Armour

Are any of you familiar with this company? They sell all sorts of sporting apparel for men, women, and children. In addition, they sell "Tactical" gear, including underwear, and they are quite popular with military and police personnel. Their claim to fame is making lightweight garments that help wick away sweat in order to keep you cool(er) in the summer, and warmer in the winter.

I'm all about good gear, but to tell you the truth, at this stage in my career, I leave it to the younger folks to do the sweltering and the freezing most of the time... the benefits of seniority, I guess.

Anyway, I still get all sorts of catalogues from companies that want us to buy whatever new "must have" item is out this month.

Well, Under Armour is no different, and I recently got their 2007 catalogue. I flipped through it figuring that is just more of the same stuff that I won't be buying, until I go to the women's apparel and saw this:

The Power Thong:

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This is the text that went with the photo:

POWER THONG

"The Under Armour® performance thong, delivered in an athletic cut to prevent riding and chafing. Seamless construction and knit-in labeling ensure an unobtrusive garment that moves with you."

I'm guessing that the term "unobtrusive garment has something to do with visible panty lines.

OK... when the SWAT team is about to move in on a barricaded suspect, who may be armed...

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... does anybody give a crap about a visible panty line?

Tactical uniforms tend to be baggy because you may need to fight or run or do things that tighter clothing might be too restrictive for.

I am trying to think of a delicate way to ask one of the women that I work with if they would wear such a thing on an operation.

CD Review: Kathrine McPhee

Kat McPhee has finally released her first post American Idol CD. The following are my thoughts about it.

Katherine McPhee is a pretty girl with a sweet, strong voice but…

There is already a Christina Aguilera in the world.

There is already a Mariah Carey in the world.

Kat McPhee is neither one of them, and she shouldn't try to be… but she tries on this CD. In fact, she tries too hard!

Bloody awful is what it is. It’s musical torture.

Don’t buy it.

Don’t download it.

Don’t put it on your iPod.

DON’T DON’T DON’T

Product Endorsement: PNY Flash Drive

I truly love the whole idea of being able to drag around multiple gigabytes of information in my pocket... or on a key chain or in "Inside-The-Beltway" fashion, on a lanyard around my neck.

I love the convenience of being able to write at practically any computer that I can find to use, and easily keep blogs posts, memos, lesson plans, my CV (you never know when you may need it), or pictures with you wherever I go.

I have a few flash drives that I use... one primary and two back-ups. They all have essentially the same information on them because I like a certain amount of redundancy... which brings me to my endorsement.

The PNY Flash Drive:

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As you know, I was home with Olivia, yesterday, because of the two or three flakes of snow that fell here in the DC area. I tried to be a smart and resourceful fellow and get at least SOME of the laundry done, thereby reducing the amount left to be done over the weekend. Smart, right? Well, I washed the uniform shirts...

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...that I had worn earlier in the week... assuming that I had already cleaned out my pockets, as I always try to do (my shirts have four large pockets). Well, I did that load of laundry, and then tossed it all in the dryer.

When I unloaded the dryer, my 1GB flash drive fell to the floor at my feet. I wasn't pleased about that at all since there were some things on it that I hadn't backed up yet.

Fearing the worst, I attached the drive to my computer this morning, and would you believe that it was just fine? It was fully operational.

So, if you want sturdy, get yourself one of these drives from PNY.