Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Drink and Live Longer

Not only does an alcoholic drink or or two add enjoyment to your life, a new study suggests it will also add years to your life.
But a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren't entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does tend to increase one's risk of dying, even when you exclude former problem drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers' mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers. 
Moderate drinking, which is defined as one to three drinks per day, is associated with the lowest mortality rates in alcohol studies. Moderate alcohol use (especially when the beverage of choice is red wine) is thought to improve heart health, circulation and sociability, which can be important because people who are isolated don't have as many family members and friends who can notice and help treat health problems.

The report acknowledges that there may other factors involved, such as previous health issues of non-drinkers, socioeconomic class, and physical activity. However, over a twenty year period, even accounting for those variables, the report states, "mortality rates were highest for those who were not current drinkers, regardless of whether they used to be alcoholics, second highest for heavy drinkers and lowest for moderate drinkers."

Or maybe happy people simply live longer.

See "Why Do Heavy Drinkers Outlive Nondrinkers?" for the complete story.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Thirty Years!

September 15, 1984. That's the day, thirty short years ago, that Colleen and I made our promise before God that we would spend the rest of our lives together. And it's been a wonderful and amazing thirty years. We've had our share of both joy and sadness. We've gone through times of plenty, as well as the inevitable lean periods. But whether we are experiencing immense happiness, or unimaginable sorrow, we have had each other to lean on.

I cannot imagine my life without this beautiful lady. No matter what trials life may bring, I am thankful she is by my side. When life brings joy, I am thankful that she is there to share it. I thank God every night for her presence in my life. I give thanks again every morning that He put us together, and gave us the son we have raised.

In trying to write this post, through multiple drafts, I came to realize that there is little I can say that doesn't sound cliché. It also made me think about how true and lasting love, and (real) marriage itself, has become cliché and even passé in our culture. Thats too bad. To my shame I am often better at describing a beer than expressing my undying love for my wife. I am, nonetheless, forever blessed by the commitment we began those thirty years ago.

The photos may fade, but love grows stronger with time. Happy Anniversary Colleen. I love you and look forward to the next thirty years.

 But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife. And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. --Mark 10:6-9

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Season's First Oktoberfest Bier

Even though they've been on the shelves for more than a few weeks, I had not yet opened any of the usual "fall seasonal" beers, the Harvest Ales, the Pumpkin Ales, and the Oktoberfest Bier. Colleen and I headed down to Deutschland Downtown Saturday evening to enjoy dinner in the Biergarten and to start the Oktoberfest tasting season. The restaurant's Facebook page noted they had "a few Oktoberfest biers that just arrived from Germany" and I was looking forward to enjoying a few Märzens with my dinner. Unfortunately, the European kegs need a special adaptor to hook up to the restaurant's tap system. That problem will be fixed soon I'm told. The only Oktoberfest beer on hand was the classic Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen. So that's what we ordered, it's not like that's a bad option anyway.

Yes, we poured them into glasses.

We were told the Biergarten had not yet been dried out from the afternoon's rain so we opted for a table indoors. Colleen ordered her favorite, Schnitzel, with Sauerkraut, substituting a dumpling with gravy for the Spätzle — just to try something different. I opted for Weisswurst with Sauerkraut and German Potato Salad. Both dishes were, as always, very enjoyable. We lingered over another round of Paulaners while we debated our dessert choices.

The dessert selections for the evening included Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake) and Bavarian Chocolate Puffs. We opted to order one of each. The Bavarian Puffs were served with whipped cream on the side and were enjoyable. The Black Forest Cake was a surprisingly delicious treat. I often find this sort of dessert to be a tad too rich for my tastes. However, I was continually reaching across the table to snare another fork full off of Colleen's plate. The moist cake with cherry topping and fresh whipped cream made a fine finish to the meal. Perhaps we'll need to order two next time.

We enjoyed our time dining inside but we both agreed that we prefer the open Biergarten over the small dining room. We're looking forward to getting back soon, and often, before the weather turns for the worse.

I see that the post about our previous visit is listed just a few stories down. I expect the frequent report trend just might continue for a while, as there are wursts and German beers, and desserts, yet to be enjoyed in the Biergarten at Deutschland Downtown. And I'm looking forward to seeing what other German beers will make an appearance!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five O'Clock Friday: Beer For Cold Nights

As the weather turns cooler, it's time to recall the sage advice of Cliff Clavin.

Have a wonderful weekend. And stay warm.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Prayers For Our Nation

Today is a fitting day to reflect on the precipice at which we find ourselves. More so than in all of the last 13 years, our Nation sits vulnerable, with a failed leader and a citizenry afraid to confront the evil in front of us. Our enemy's tactic of crying "islamophobia" scares the meek into accepting and excusing barbarism. Too many Americans, even fellow Christians, are willing to coexist with evil. We see the result of a cooperation with evil in the genocide of Christians taking place in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Yet, the ignorant continue to make excuses and look for good where there can be none. We have seen "lone wolf" jihad in our own country for decades, without alarm. How many warnings will be ignored, how much more sway will evil be given, before there is no escape?

On this somber anniversary of Satan's attack on our country, let us pray that this encroaching evil is vanquished from our land, and that we may someday live in safety and peace.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.

If we shall not live in peace, I pray we don't die "cowering in place". I make a plea to all my fellow Christians, and to my fellow Catholics in particular. Do not become complacent. "Turning the other cheek" does not mean acquiescence, it does not mean surrender. We must stand up to the silent surrender in the courts, and by those in political office. Political correctness is weakness, and weakness loses to oppression every time. The enemy is here, hiding in plain site. Innocent people are being martyred by muslims in America today. The coming battle will be both spiritual and corporal. Heed the words of Theodore Roosevelt who noted at the turn of the 20th century, "Christianity was saved in Europe solely because the peoples of Europe fought." Sadly, it may now be too late for a Christian Europe. If we too fail to stand strong now, in the words of Archbishop Amel Nona, we in the West "will become the victims of the enemy [we] have welcomed."

[Portions of this rant were originally published on Gabriel Possenti Shooters.]

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September USPA at Fredericksburg

On Saturday morning I volunteered to help set up the USPSA match held by the Fredericksburg Practical Shooters. They're trying something new at the club this year. The set up crew can optionally shoot the match Saturday afternoon, which is an enticing offer. There's the downside of having labored all morning before shooting, but it also leaves Sunday open for other activities. Besides preferring to devote Sunday to family matters, I prefer a day to recover from shooting before returning to work on Monday. Although when I saw the weekend weather prediction on Friday I was questioning my decision. There was a predicted 14 degree cooling on Sunday, which I think in actuality ended up closer to a 20 degree differential.

The setup crew got started at 7:00AM loading target stands and poppers onto the trailer. We benefited from the reuse of walls and fault lines left in place from last weekend's Area 8 Championship match. Six stages and a Classifier were in place by about 10:30AM. We took a break to relax and get geared up while the match directors did the final target placement and review. By the time we fired the first shot a little after 11:00AM we were already feeling the effect of the heat.

I did get videos of most of my stages, which are linked in the following descriptions, for those interested. As fair warning I recently discovered that YouTube had chosen "Comedy" as the default category for my shooting videos. (That's just mean.) Stage 1, "Gravity" was a quick course with targets engaged from both ends of a wall. Shots from either end required a significant lean but were not too difficult. I didn't get into the position I wanted at the end, and needed to adjust my footing several times.

The next stage, "The Hollow" was an interesting course with the free-fire zone being a cross-shaped area. One had to be extremely cognizant of muzzle direction with retreating, and unfortunately there were a couple DQ's due to breaking the 180. There was a swinging target whose activation popper I hit early in the run, figuring the swinger would have slowed by the time I engaged the target. In fact, it had completely stopped when I got to the right wing of the course, which was good for a couple of A hits, but caused me momentary confusion wondering "Where's the swinger?"

Stage 3, "The Outsider" was a "running" stage, set up in the large bay at the range. There were long sprints between shooting positions, but also a fun "shoot on the move" finish on the last leg. Stage 4 was the Classifier 13-07, "Double Deal." The shooter starts seated, holding a pair of "playing cards," with the loaded gun on the table. Quick and close range shots were required.

Stage 5, "Pet," featured the "tank" mockup from the Area 8 match. The shooter stands inside the three walls, with the empty gun and all reloads coming from a shelf. All the targets are engaged from small side ports or through the small "gun barrels" coming from the front. All the views are extremely restricted. Adding to the challenge, when I leaned forward to see through the shooting ports, my sweat, which was flowing freely by this point, ran directly into my eyes, which burned and made seeing clearly quite difficult and caused a lot of blinking on my part. Still, a fun and out-of-the-ordinary stage.

"Walk the Line" was the stage that the setup crew was talking about with some angst all morning. The shooter's weak hand was tethered to a cable that was strung behind the shooting area, forcing the entire stage to be shot strong hand only. The paper and falling popper targets were not all that close either. In order to reload, you had to step backwards out of the shooting area to gain enough slack to use your support hand to do the reload. Since my reloads were not planned but done when I hit slide lock, this added confusion causing a bit of backtracking. Despite the unusual challenge, I was actually looking forward to this stage. I surprised myself on this one, hitting the steel on the first or second shot, and earning just two misses, one of which was on the swinging target.

The final and seventh stage, "Judith", was another table start, with an unloaded gun. The 15 targets were easily grouped into 3 groups of 10 shots, which meant slide lock reloads for Production shooters, though all done on the move. At the end of my run, the timer read 3.8 seconds, which was obviously an error, so I earned a range equipment malfunction reshoot. On the second run, I made a last minute change to my plan, which in theory, would have avoided the slide lock reloads. Unfortunately, an extra shot threw out that new plan, which wasn't well-embedded in my head. I had a noticeably slower start getting up and around the table as well. Looking at the posted scores, I apparently had a no-shoot hit I didn't know about. In any event, I got to shoot that much more, and that's not a bad thing.

Despite the oppressive heat this was an excellent match. I felt really good about most of the stages. Apparently many other shooters did so too, as my overall finish was lower than I expected. Match Directors Alan and Clay made good use of the Area 8 props left on the ground to create a challenging and fun match. I am sure even those who shot the championship found new challenges and excitement too. My friend Greg successfully shot his first USPSA match and I think he's hooked.

It was indeed a long day. We spent over 9 hours on the range, in the sun, and I was quite exhausted when I got home. After a shower and a beer, I found myself taking a rare, but welcome nap. Though I was a bit envious of those shooting in the substantially cooler weather on Sunday, I was also quite thankful for that day of rest before returning to work on Monday.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fredericksburg's Biergarten

Having seen on Facebook that the long-awaited Biergarten was open at Deutschland Downtown, Colleen and I headed down for an early dinner Friday evening. When we parked and walked the half-block to the restaurant, we were reminded that Summer had finally arrived in Virginia and were unsure how enjoyable it would be eating outside. We entered the garden behind the restaurant, and found it to be well-shaded and protected from the heat by the surrounding buildings. It was surprisingly pleasant.

The beer selection had increased slightly from our last visit. Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock was an added draft. There was also a small selection of bottled Bavarian beers. I chose the Doppelbock and Colleen opted for König Ludwig Weissbier. We sipped our beers, and enjoyed a wurst sampler appetizer plate while perusing the menu.

I eventually settled on the evening special of Sauerbraten served with Spätzle and German Potato salad. Colleen chose her favorite, Wiener Schnitzel, served with Sauerkraut and Spätzle. The few kinks in service we saw during our previous visit were gone, and the service was attentive and prompt. Even the serving proportions seemed balanced now. The Sauerbraten was very tasty, with a nice vinegar twang to it. While it would be hard for anyone to beat my memories of "Nana's" German Potato salad, the Deutschland Downtown version is well done.

For dessert, I opted for a bottle of Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, while Colleen splurged on German Chocolate Pecan Cheesecake. I did assist her in conquering that delicious treat.

We had a very enjoyable evening in the Biergarten at Deutschland Downtown. The food is excellent, the service was cheerful and efficient. Of course, the beer selection is appropriate. The proprietors seem to be making an effort to "keep it real." The beers are German, with Yuengling Lager being the one concession. The food menu is for the most part traditional fare; the kids menu has a "chicken fingers" selection, but that's about the extent of the "Americanized" menu. It's good to see, and the growing crowd as we finished our meal was a good sign. We certainly look forward to going back.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Victory to Open Virginia Brewpub

This is exciting news...
Victory Brewing today [September 3, 2014] announced plans to expand its presence in the mid-atlantic region as the company looks to open a new brewpub in Leesburg, Va. It’s the company’s fourth such establishment, but the first outside of its home state of Pennsylvania. 
Located inside a 110,560 sq. ft. mixed-used development belonging to the private equity real estate firm L4 Capital Partners, the brewpub, which will span three floors, is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2016.
According the Brewbound report, the 13,500 sq. ft. brewpub will have seating for 300. They will serve the brewery’s established beers as well as site-specific recipes. While the planned opening isn't until the second quarter of 2016, this will be a welcome addition to the Virginia craft beer scene.

Meanwhile, we're still awaiting a decision on a possible Richmond home for Stone Brewing.

See "Victory to Open Brewpub in Virginia" for more details.