Sunday, April 20, 2014

Triumph Over Evil

AND in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men. And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid. And going quickly, tell ye his disciples that he is risen: and behold he will go before you into Galilee; there you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you. And they went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, running to tell his disciples. And behold Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet, and adored him. Then Jesus said to them: Fear not. Go, tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, there they shall see me. --Matthew 28:1-10

It's Easter. This is the fulfillment of Our Lord's promise of eternal life. It is the ultimate triumph over evil. We are reminded that our struggles are not for nought, that our final reward is eternal. The evil one refuses to give up. He knows that if we give in to despair we won't experience the promise of the Resurrection. He fears that we might reject his tricks and lies. He hungers for us to join him in his eternal torment. With his continual attacks on our faith, attacks on our freedoms, attacks on the sanctity of life, he continues in a battle that he's already lost.

So on this most glorious of days, we are reminded that we must continue to face oppression and persecution head on. Satan is hard at work in this world. His minions do his bidding willingly, if naively, deceiving with false promises, twisting the truth until evil passes for good. We are led to believe that evil doesn't exist, and that material happiness outweighs the value of human life. Government fiat replaces personal responsibility. We are tempted to live like there's no tomorrow. But today, the empty tomb reminds us otherwise. The promise of Easter gives us the strength to persevere.

Here's wishing you a blessed and joy-filled Easter. May the joy of the Resurrection remain in your life all year long.

Jesus' final resting place, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Photo by C. Turley, 2010

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Introducing a Friend to Practical Pistol

The first match of the year at the Cedar Mountain Youths range was this morning. The group has changed the format somewhat from previous years; the round count is low, there is little movement, and no steel. At first glance, an avid USPSA shooter might think "What's the point?" But giving it more thought, there's an excellent point; it's a good practice match, and also a great way to introduce new shooters to the sport.

To that end, I invited a friend to come out and try his first practical pistol match. Greg has been shooting for a little over a year, with much enjoyment, so I knew he would have a good time. We spent the 30 minute ride to the match going over some rules and procedures. For myself, besides having the pleasure of introducing a friend to the sport, I was looking forward to getting in a little practice. And, of course, just shooting. And what better way to mark Patriot's Day?

The match consisted of 6 stages, all shot Virginia Count, meaning no makeup shots. The first stage was a "Bill Drill" of six shots on the target as fast as you can. The next stage we shot had three staggered targets, each requiring three shots, two to the body and one to the head, with a mandatory reload somewhere during the string. I felt like my first shot was slow, but it was all A's in a nice group.

The next stage had a single target, with three shooting boxes in a straight line perpendicular to the berm. The stage description called for putting two shots on the target from each box, moving toward the target. I ran this one way too fast, and although all the hits were on target, they weren't all A's. We had some time waiting for the other squad to finish so some of us ran the stage again for fun. I did better the second, and realized that I was not slowing my forward momentum enough to get off accurate shots. This is a stage I can easily replicate at my local range to practice that a bit more.

The fourth stage we shot had three shooting boxes and three targets, and a twist. The idea was to put one shot on each target, and repeat from each of the boxes. The targets were widely spaced requiring a wide swing to hit all three. Next up was an unloaded gun start, with the gun and first mag on a table. On the start, pick up and load the gun and put 6 shots on one target, perform a mandatory reload and put 6 shots on the second target. For the final challenge, there were six targets in a wide, staggered array, ranging from 6 feet to 20 yards distant. Putting the required on shot on each target required constantly adjusting speed and focus.

The stages all basic shooting skills to the test, which is the idea behind the match. It's a great place to come out and get some practice with your carry weapon if you so desire, or have a chance to perhaps run a little too fast and test your limits —all without the pressure of a scored match or risking a low score on a classifier. We even had the opportunity to run a couple of the stages more than once. Future matches will provide for an hour or so after finishing for folks to practice even more.

It was a fast match, 48 rounds total. When I got back into my car, the coffee in my thermal mug was still lukewarm and we were on the road home by 11:00PM. This quick match was perfect for a busy Easter weekend. As for Greg, I dare say he had a great time, and he shot well too. I suspect I'll get him to a full USPSA match soon. On the ride home we were discussing other friends we could invite to come out to Cedar Mountain for an introduction to practical shooting.

Cedar Mountain practice matches will be held going forward on the second Saturday of the month, which, conveniently, doesn't conflict with local USPSA matches. I'll use them for practice, or perhaps to run some rounds through my carry gun. I'm also looking forward to bringing out more new shooters and getting them hooked. We'll have our Gabriel Possenti Shooters team before long!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ragland Road Irish Pub

The last stop during my trip to Orlando, was dinner at Ragland Road Irish Pub, located in Downtown Disney. Getting there required a ride on the free shuttle busses run between Disney properties; a ride complete with a vomiting kid who apparently overdid it at the theme park. That obstacle overcome, we arrived at our destination.

Ragland Road is a large place, with both indoor and outdoor seating. We had a table in front of the main stage. The beer menu included the expected Irish ales and a selection of American craft beer. The problem came we tried to read that menu. The area was so dark that we had to dig out our phones to use as flashlights. Now, I have not had a Guinness since our trip to Ireland. The ubiquitous Guinness just tasted so good there, it didn't have the same attraction once home. However, I decided to go with the flow, and selected the Guinness Stout as my beverage that evening.

Beer selection done, I turned my attention to the food menu. Again, out came the iPhone flashlight app. The food selection is quite extensive and my decision was a tough one. I finally decided on the Banger & Booz — Guinness & onion bangers on mash, topped with caramelized onions & beef stew. Due to the lack of lighting at our table, I really never got a good look at my meal, but I can report it was delicious. The sausage and mashed potatoes were served in a dish of hearty beef stew. It reminded me somewhat of the stew I had in Ireland. I also enjoyed some of the tender calamari appetizer shared by the table.

In an interesting twist, one of my dining companions and coworkers is a native Irishman and resident of Dublin. He busied himself with the American craft ales instead of the Irish selections. He enjoyed his Fish & Chips, though admitted he rarely ordered it back home. The musical and dancing entertainment was quite loud, and made conversation difficult, and limited to the person seated next to you. The banter from the Irish band came with such a deep brogue that it elicited one of the funniest comments of the evening when my Irish friend noted, "He's quite hard to understand isn't he?"

I started out with not high hopes regarding Ragland Road. I figured it would be a tourist trap made for Disney. The pub's draw for many is the music and dancing, with the lighting focused on the stage and the music loud. However, the food was well-done and even the Guiness was a treat. I'll go back when I am next in Orlando.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Big River Brewpub

As I strolled the Disney Boardwalk, looking for someplace to have dinner, I happened upon the Big River Grille & Brewing Works. I could see the brewing equipment from the street. Wow, two interesting finds in one evening! A line of people outside were waiting for tables, but I was able to find an empty seat right at the bar.

There was a range of house beers available, and even though I was interested in trying them all, I opted to not go for a flight. After all, the brewery was within walking distance of the hotel and I would be around for a few days. I decided to start with a beer labeled simply "IPA." This beer pours a brownish-orange color with a thin beige head. The aroma is mild, mostly citrus with a hint of grass. The flavor is moderately citrus heavy, seeming more Pale Ale-like than IPA. The finish was clean with little lingering aftertaste and the 6% ABV hardly noticeable. Paired with a large plate of Pepper Jack Chicken Nachos, I had the makings of an enjoyable meal.

With stamina left for just one more beer, I opted for Rocket Red Ale, which seems to be the bar favorite. I was debating between that and the Steamboat Pale Ale, but figured the Pale Ale might not be all that different from the IPA I just had. After all, I could come back another evening, I again told myself. Rocket Red Ale was dark amber in color, with a thin head, although the beer was moderately carbonated. The aroma has malt and toasted bread. The initial flavor is nutty and bitter. Surprisingly bitter. Perhaps due to just finishing the citrusy IPA, that profile stood out. There's also a strong malt base and a slightly metallic flavor. The bready and nutty notes lingered in the finish.

The next day, awareness of the HeartBleed Vulnerability was picking up steam, and we faced a busy day, and late night, focusing on gathering and disseminating that news. Plans were changed and dinner was brought in. Despite Big River being just a short stroll from the hotel, trying the other beers will have to wait for another trip.

Tax Day

Hat tip to MSgt B.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sundays at the Range

Lately, it seems to be how I end my weekend. Not that I'm complaining. The days are getting longer, and there's still time to shoot after most folks have left the range for the day. The last couple of trips out I've been getting used to my new eyeglass prescription. I've used this monocular Rx for a couple of years, buts it has always been more of a compromise than a solution. Until now. While I never would have wished for worsening vision, now that my distance vision has degraded further, the setup seems to actually work better. According to some, this technique works better when there's a greater difference between the two lenses. I don't know if I'll shoot any better in competition, but there is certainly more clarity when wearing the glasses, making for a more pleasurable time.

I was very pleased, and somewhat amazed, at what I was seeing at 25 yards. No more squinting one eye to find the long-distance target. Of course, I have to retrain my reflexes to not squint with the weak eye. To that end, I went through about 100 rounds at 25 yards practicing transitioning between targets. I also spent some time on closer targets to work on quicker sight acquisition. 

I had planned to do some shooting while running between shooting positions. That is until I saw the ditch running across the bay. A few weeks ago a drainage pipe was laid. Apparently it didn't work as planned, and the bay is dug up again. Larger pipe was being delivered while I was there, so I hope this is fixed soon. 

As I finished up, another shooter arrived and we talked while I packed up. He was very pleasant, and it turns out we have some shared interests, beyond shooting. At the end he mentioned he had written a book, so I looked him up on Amazon. Seems to be a very interesting fellow and I look forward to chatting with him again. I think I'll order the book too. I'm purposefully anti-social with strangers at the range, but I'm glad we started a conversation. You just never know who you'll meet. 

Another nice thing about hitting the range late on Sunday, is that I have no place else to go afterwards. I can come home and relax over a strong beer while reminiscing, and writing, about fun times had over the weekend.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Good Beer Sighted in the Hotel Lobby

I had to be in Orlando for a few days on business and I had low expectations for craft beer at the resort hotel. As I headed out for dinner the first evening, I peaked over at the lobby bar and spied some familiar beers on display; Great Divide Colette, Bear Republic Racer 5 and Oskar Blues Old Chub were recognizable even from a distance. I decided to have a seat and a beer before I went in search of food.

One of the beers on display was Pine Belt Pale Ale from Southern Star Brewing of Texas. I don't recall ever having beers from this brewery, so that was to be my choice. Poured from a 16 ounce can, the beer is deep orange in color with a beige head. Even in the low light of the bar I could see it was a very hazy in appearance. (The bartender was nice enough to ask if I wanted a glass.)

The aroma aroma was a mix of fruitiness and citrus hops. The flavor was a decent combination of citrus bitterness and piney resin, and a bit of sweet malt hung in the balance. The flavor profile almost crept into the IPA area. Slightly resinous and sticky in the mouth, Pine Belt Pale Ale leaves a lingering bitterness in the finish. The unfiltered beer had a thick mouthfeel. In fact, I could detect sediment in several sips. That likely came in as I emptied the 16 ounce can into the 12 ounce glass.

I enjoyed the Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale while engaging in an interesting discussion with another patron, inspired by the bar's Macallan Whiskey selection. Though at $90 a shot for the Macallan 25 Year Scotch, I opted for another serving of the beer.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Brewery Moving to Culpeper

A local nanobrewery is moving into downtown Culpeper. According to the Star Exponent,
A brewery is coming soon to Waters Place by the Culpeper Depot. 
Stanardsville native Kenny Thacker, brew master, said Friday he was in the process of moving Beer Hound Brewery from its current location along U.S. 29 in Greene County to downtown Culpeper with an estimated opening in June 
He has been running the nanobrewery — producing no more than three barrels of beer in each batch — for less than two years in a shopping center on the northbound side of U.S. 29 near the Ruckersville Sheetz.
The new Beer Hound Brewery location will have both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as growler fills to go. I'm looking forward to stopping by and trying out their beers. Perhaps, this will be a great place to relax after a morning of shooting at Cedar Mountain.

For more on the Beer Hound move see "Beer Hound Brewery moving to Culpeper."

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Don't Drink From Cans

Heavy Seas is one of my favorite craft breweries. Loose Cannon IPA was one of the first IPAs I drank, and I still enjoy it frequently. However, when I saw the latest Pyrate's Log newsletter from the brewery, I couldn't help but exclaim, "No! Don't do that!"

I was surprised to see the brewery advocating drinking the beer from the can and missing out on the full aroma, the full flavor and even the attractive appearance of the beer. The brewery's own description reads "The carefully cultivated interplay of Simcoe, Palisade, and Centennial creates a most fragrant IPA—its nose bursts with notes of grapefruit, herbs, and pine." You won't get that drinking from the can (or a bottle.)

Given the advances in canning technology, I'm fine with putting craft beer in cans. In fact, I'm starting to prefer it — cans keep the beer fresh longer, there's no chance of light damage, and the package is lighter and more compact than bottles.

But pour the beer into a glass. Please.