Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Eyes

After a meeting with my optometrist, and some trial and error with sample lenses, I am happy to report a solution to my vision issue previously lamented here. The fix is a lens that corrects for close up focusing on my dominant eye, while retaining my usual distance correction on the other eye. Coincidently, this is similar to the solution shared by blogger Fill Yer Hands in a comment on my previous post, which he described here. With the two different lenses I can see distant objects and still focus on the front sight. The front sight once again appears crisp and sharp. The difference between the left and right lenses is small enough not to give me much trouble with normal walking about, and I no longer have to raise the glasses when looking at something close up.

Getting the right adjustment figured out was an interesting process. In order to try out the options offered I spent some time outside the doctor's office, dry firing my pistol towards the brick wall, focusing on signs posted at varying distances. Fortunately no SWAT teams showed up! Both the optometrist and the optician were quite helpful and willing to listen to my needs and spend time discussing solutions. Once we had a decision, the lens was made while I waited and I was on my way. The optometrist also happens to be an old friend who's just getting into pistol shooting so I need to get him out to the range soon. 

In the past I've considered doing away with inserts and getting single lens prescription shooting glasses. The double lens system of the ESS ICE glasses with the Rx insert creates some distortion, and sweat sometimes, to great annoyance, collects between the two. But now I'm seeing an advantage to this set up. As my eyesight changes, and I have been assured it will, I can get a new lens made for about $30, rather than buying all new prescription shooting glasses.

I've not yet been able to do any live fire with the new prescription, but have been doing a lot of dry fire. Finding the sights is much easier now, even in low light. I'm very much looking forward to trying out my "new eyes" in a match soon. However, now that I can see the front sight clearly, I'm going to have to find a new excuse for those misses!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Run. Hide. Fight.

More pablum courtesy of your tax dollars. "Run. Fight. Hide." is a DHS funded public (dis)service video on how to survive an active shooter situation. Watch. Discussion below.

The narrator begins by telling us "the authorities are working hard protecting you." Then they illustrate with an unarmed "security" guard. No gun, no baton, no pepper spray, not even a radio. He doesn't even notice the shooter dressed distinctly differently from the rest of the people. Sadly, this simulation is representative of the "security theatre" that is presented as "homeland security" today. 

Ironically, the building used in the video is marked as a "gun free zone." At least DHS admits that such places are not made any safer for having hung that sign on the door. (I suspect somebody at HQ is not happy with that slip.)

The admonitions to "run away" and "hide" are all that the government has left as an option for so many people in so many situations. But what happens when running away isn't possible? "Hide" is often another word for "wait to be killed." These directions are combined with the old saw to "call 911." That call won't help you at this critical moment. 911 is a reporting service, not a defensive tool. Typically the killing is over by the time the first responders arrive.

The irony peaks with the command to "fight." The shooter has a shotgun. The victims have armed themselves with a chair, a fire extinguisher, and a belt. A belt, really? The direction for this part of the video is to "improvise weapons." The victims would be better served with real weapons, designed for the purpose. As is the case in nearly all mass shootings, the victims were disarmed at the door. All in all, this third bit of advice in the trilogy is presented rather half-heartedly.

I see this video as a "feel good" piece created to assure a complacent society, rather than to empower people to be prepared to defend themselves in a serious life threatening situation. I found the statement that "occasionally life feels more like an action movie than reality" to be indicative of the denial practiced by so many people. The possibility of mass shooting, especially in a "gun free zone," is indeed rare, but still very, very real. And if it does happen, you will most likely be on your own. Only in the movies do the good guys arrive in time to help.

I admit the video may serve to make some people think about knowing where the exits are and the need to escape, but in my opinion it's really more about pushing the dangerous mindset that says waiting for the authorities is the way to save your life. The video is a subtle indoctrination from the government that we should sit idly by and wait for "the state" to arrive and protect us, like good subjects.

If anything the video should make you think. You have to ask yourself, are you prepared to protect yourself if you were to find yourself in a life threatening situation? Are you willing to wait around and hope someone else comes to help you instead?

H/T for video link to Proud Hillbilly.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Better Beer Head?

We know that the carbonation in beer is a vector to release the flavor. That's why I typically employ a hard pour to create tall head when I'm enjoying a good beer. Some specialized glasses, like the ones from Sam Adams or Chimay even have "nucleation sites" in their bases to help release more carbonation.

According to this site, the Japanese like a large head on their beer. And some entrepreneurs have taken the creation of beer head to a new level.
Yes, though in other less enlightened countries, foam at the top of the beer is typically seen as a ploy by mean bartenders ripping off unwitting patrons, in Japan, a frothy head is absolutely expected as a vital part of a beer's refreshing taste! And you'll be surprised, that first sip through the froth really does quench your thirst more, especially on a hot summer day.
Watch the video.

Friday, July 27, 2012

It's Beer:30

Happy Friday!

H/T Beer Connoisseur Magazine on FaceBook.

Blue Mountain's Big Beers

Greg Kitsock posted a very interesting conversation with Taylor Smack, the owner / brewer at Blue Mountain Brewery in the Washington Post Food section last week.

In the article, Smack talks about the brewery's unique, among U.S. breweries, parti-gyle brewing system and the interesting "corked and caged" beers being produced in their new production brewery in Colleen, Virginia. We also get a hint of a third Blue Mountain brewing facility coming by 2015.

See "Even in the heat, a complex brew has fans" for the complete article.

H/T to Thomas Cizauskas on Twitter for the link.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Indoor Pistol Match

At the last Fredericksburg USPSA match, one of the guys on my squad told me there were now "IDPA" matches being held at the local indoor range. The matches are held evenings on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays at The Range, and this week I was able to participate.

The matches at the range are run as IDPA matches, but don't have the concealment garment requirement, as it can get quite warm in the building. The match consisted of 4 stages, requiring 48 rounds minimum. On the first stage we started with hands on the side wall. At the start, four targets are shot with one round each, while moving to cover, then again with two rounds each from behind cover. I finished that stage 4 points down. The second stage had just two targets, one of which was hanging from the range's target track. On the start that target started moving downrange. The gun was loaded with 6 rounds at the start, and all 6 were shot, while advancing, on the rapidly retreat target. After a reload the second target required exactly six shots as well, while retreating. The shooter had to be sure to count those shots and fire only 6 or incur a penalty. I was very happy with my shooting on that fun stage, with just 3 points down.

The last two stages I didn't fare as well on, but I was still pleased. Stage 3 was a 'stand and shoot' stage with two targets which had been cut up to make four reduced size targets. I had a miss on one target that I didn't catch, as I saw a "hit" that turned out to actually light coming through a previously pasted hit. Live and learn, and 9 points down. The last stage had the shooter seated in a chair, holding a "fishing pole," with the loaded gun in a box at their feet. To the shooters right were four targets; two low horizontal targets and two upright. Shooting was done while seated. The goal was to hit the "wild dogs" first with three shots each, followed by three hits on each of the bad guys. I went too fast on this one and had a few misses putting me 13 points down.

I finished 5th out of the 17 shooters, so even with the misses on stage 4 I was quite happy with my finish. I came away with some ideas on things to work on, but most importantly, had a good time as well. I thought it was interesting that the two courses requiring shooting on the move were my best. My thought is I tend to go too fast on the "easy" standing stages. The Range is just a short drive from my home, making the event a convenient and fun mid-week diversion. The stages, and the people, are a lot of fun. I've now added the match info to my calendar and I'm looking forward to going back soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

And Another! Ajax Aleworks

Yep, it's another new Virginia brewery! It's hard to keep up, but I'm certainly not complaining. Richmond BizSense brings the news of new brewery planned in the Richmond area.
Another pair of backyard brewers want to make a splash in Richmond’s craft beer market. 
Coleman Stump and Josh Bennett are in the process of launching Ajax Aleworks, a craft microbrewery that will make 15 to 20 brews on a rotating, seasonal basis.

The two are in talks to lease a 1,300-square-foot space in Manchester, about five blocks from the Legend Brewery at the corner of 2nd and Decatur streets. Ajax plans to set up a four-barrel brewing system, enough to make eight kegs at a time.
Stump and Bennett say they have optimistic plans to launch by the end of the year. Ajax Aleworks will make its beer available only on draft, both to local bars and onsite at the brewery.

For  a long time it seemed as if I was regularly reporting on new breweries launching in southwest Virginia. The only discouraging part of that is finding time to visit those distant locations is hard to do. Recently it seems that the Richmond area is getting the attention of brewers looking to start on their dreams. The proximity of Richmond to my home is especially encouraging for planning visits.

Other new Richmond breweries previously covered here include Lickinghole Creek, Center of the Universe, Midnight and Hardywood Park. It's all just one more reason the Travel Channel named Virginia a top beer destination.

See "A brewery that could excite even Eeyore" for more information on Ajax Aleworks including the unique story behind the name and logo.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jack Daniel's - Classy Move

We've already heard about the good works done by Jack Daniel's in supporting our troops. Now the Tennessee distiller is showing it's a good citizen once more. When the folks at Jack Daniel's heard that the cover of Patrick Wensink's Broken Piano for President was infringing on the distillery's trademark they sent a unique, and polite, cease and desist letter.

Text excerpted from letter posted here.

Not only did the the folks at Jack Daniel's not threaten to sue, they actually offered to help pay the costs involved in changing the cover. That's a very classy move.

See the author's response here.

But seriously, did Wensink's publisher really think such a blatant rip-off would go unnoticed?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Misdirected Blame

Some people choose to blame criminal activity on inanimate objects:

(Source CBS)

Instead of placing the blame where it rightly falls, on the human criminal:

(Source AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti)

Which one scares you more?

"Once again, we see that “gun free zones” are hunting preserves for psychopaths who prey on humans." --Massad Ayoob

Beer & Food Tasting, Round 2

Click menu to embiggen
We hosted round two of our 2012 Beer & Food tasting extravaganza this weekend. Based on feedback from the first round, and availability of some menu items, we made just a few adjustments to the menu we presented in May. Colleen spent the days leading up to the event, planning and preparing the foods that were to be served with each course. Without a doubt, her cuisine is as big of a draw as the beer. Our son worked hard serving and clearing throughout the afternoon. For this gathering it was an all male guest list, and they each came with a big thirst and appetite. After a brief introduction to beer and food pairing, tasting procedures, glassware, and a prayer, we got down to the eating and drinking. I purposefully chose beers that are available year round, and brewed domestically. (Although one of the selected breweries is owned by a foreign company.) 

The first two pairings, Starr Hill Jomo Lager with Artichoke Dip and Tortilla Chips, and Victory Prima Pils with Cheddar Bacon Bites were meant to be "appetizers." These beers are craft versions of beer styles that many folks are familiar with. Next up was the Port City Optimal Wit and a Peaches and Cream French Toast Casserole. This combo made quite an impression and Colleen promised to share the recipe with the men's wives. Next up was an old favorite of mine, and one that I've not enjoyed in a while, Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA. I have to admit that when I was shopping for a hoppy beer to serve with the spicy Buffalo Chicken Sliders, I selected the beer for me. As expected, the beer was a hit with the other men as well.

Halfway through the list of beers now, we took a short breather to chat about other things. This gave Colleen a chance to catch up in the kitchen as well. We had a very enjoyable non-beer conversation about travel, guns, and society, before diving back in.

The next selection of Oskar Blues Old Chub with Spicy Beef and Provolone Semolina Panini was another hit that was followed by requests for the recipe. The slow cooked beef was a variation of this recipe, prepared with a Brown Ale. The Scottish Ale was an unfamiliar style to some of the participants, but one they'll seek out again. Next we changed gears a bit and served Ommegang Hennepin Saison with Olivada and Mozzarella on French Bread Crostini. One of my favorite pairings, the rich olive and garlic flavors of the olivada go exceedingly well with the spices of the Saison.

Finally we moved on to the "dessert" segment of the feast. Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout paired with a bowl of rich vanilla ice cream and a few chunks of Sea Salt Soirée Dark Chocolate. The rich roasted espresso flavor of the stout served to accentuate the flavors of the ice cream and chocolate. Lastly we brought out Brooklyn Local 2 with Stilton Blue Cheese, Sugared Walnuts, and Red Pear wedges. The mixed plated offered both matched (sweet fruit and walnuts) and contrasting (cheese) flavors. This course served as a light and refreshing ending to the meal.

After about a four hour exploration of beer, we finished over coffee and more conversation. It's always a lot of work to prepare for such and event, and there's no little bit of stress from wanting to entertain well and provide a tasty and enjoyable representation of craft beer. But once it's over, it all seems worth it. It's extremely fun and folks always enjoy themselves. I consider the afternoon a success if our guests leave with a new appreciation of beer and food. And since this done as a benefit for our son's school, it's even better. 

The aftermath

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Virginia Named A Top Beer Destination

Confirming what the followers of these Musings already knew, wise people that you are, the Travel Channel has listed Virginia as one of the top 7 beer destinations in North America.
Virginia's Lagers and Ales 
The entire state of Virginia is so obsessed with its beer culture, it is officially naming the month of August "Virginia Craft Brew Month." Virginia has more than 40 breweries, a 25% increase in the past 2 years alone. Head to Roseland, VA, to the popular Devils Backbone Brewing Company, home to the annual Virginia Craft Beer Fest, and Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA, the state's first countryside brewery, hop farm and tasting room. Central Virginia’s oldest and largest microbrewery, Legend Brewery, provides true premium beers to many local restaurants and is one of the few craft breweries in the entire region to produce both lagers and ales. While you're in town, check out the Richmond, VA, skyline from the brewery’s outdoor deck, one of the best places for the view!
Congratulations to Virginia's craft breweries. See "Top 7 Beer Destinations" for the complete list.

More information on Virginia Craft Beer Month here.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shooting With These Old Eyes

My main reason for writing these Musings is for my own catharsis. So be forewarned, this post will be random personal rambling and groaning about old eyes, and their effect on my shooting. For quite a few years I've been wearing glasses to correct near-sightedness, or myopia. Most folks, as they get older, trend to being affected by farsightedness, or hyperopia. (Yep, Google-foo comes in handy to find those fancy terms.) My optometrist keeps telling me I'm "lucky." In my case, my vision is sharp within arms-length, and degrades beyond that. This means I remove my glasses to do things such as eating and reading, and gazing into my lovely wife's eyes.

I've been noticing recently that my view of the sights on my pistol is not quite in focus when I'm wearing the prescription inserts for my shooting glasses, while the targets in the distance remain quite clear. The effect is exacerbated in low light. This isn't that much of an issue for close targets as precision aiming isn't so critical. But when I start shooting at targets 15, 20 or 25 yards away, the blurry edges of the sights can lead to a drop in accuracy when shooting at small targets. If I take the glasses off, the sights are sharp but of course everything in the distance is out of focus. What is interesting, and frustrating, is that the crossover point, where everything is in focus with my glasses on is a mere 4 inches beyond where the gun is held. I need longer arms, or perhaps I just need to wait until my vision degrades just a bit more!

It's accepted that "proper" aiming calls for focus to be on the sights, and the target beyond will be out of focus. So, I've considered simply forgoing the corrective lenses when I shoot. However I find it mildly disconcerting, and somewhat uncomfortable, to walk around with distant objects a bit out of focus, even if it's not all the severe. My reading tells me that does seem to be an option that many folks in the same situation choose.

It's a given that I need to get a slightly different prescription for the shooting lenses. Meanwhile I think I'll do some experimenting. On the next trip to the range I'll try going "correctionless" to see how it affects my comfort level walking around. I've also read on The Doodie Project forum a suggestion of correcting for distance only on the non-dominant eye. The poster says the brain will balance the two inputs. That's interesting but I can't test it without breaking my prescription inserts. I wonder if I have an old pair of glasses around that I could try it out with...

Anyone have the same problem? What's your solution?

Update, July 31: Problem solved.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Whining of Thugs

The signs of a generation raised with a "you owe me" attitude are all around us. Heck, we even elected a president someone to live in the White House, based on promises that everyone is "owed" a share of what others have earned. This past week there was a widely reported robbery attempt at an internet cafe in Florida. A couple of hopey-changey thugs had their plans thwarted by an alert law-abiding citizen. The comments and excuses made by the thugs afterwards are quite revealing.
“I feel horrible. It doesn't feel good. It makes you think about life's decisions, and how you should live your life,” [Thug #1] Henderson said.
Here it comes, it was just a bad decision. Nothing more.
Henderson, who talked about the pain he feels in his buttock and hip, said the plan was to “barge in, get the money and leave.” He said “he never expected anyone to be armed.”
That's the money quote right there, and the problem with this country today. The predators never expect their victims to be armed. If more law-abiding people stepped up and took responsibility for their own safety, rather than relying on the nanny state to take care of them like helpless children, the crooks would expect folks to fight back, and they'd think twice about their actions.
“The gun was broken and rusty and wasn't loaded. Nobody was going to get hurt,” he said, standing with crutches.
However, Henderson obviously wanted his victims to think it was loaded, or he wouldn't have brought it along. Frankly, he's lucky to be standing at all, crutches or not. The writer of this article is just trying to elicit sympathy for this choirboy with that observation.
Henderson theorizes the reason why he was caught off guard is because, when [Thug #2] Dawkins entered the business, he busted a computer monitor with the baseball bat and “glass got into his face.” 
“He couldn't warn me,” Henderson said.
Aww, they're both just the victims of broken glass.
“I turned around to run and my leg gave out. That was when I got shot. I hit the ground, and he was still shooting. I thought I was going to die,” Henderson said.
Hey, jackass, everybody in that store thought they were going to die. The blame for both their fears, and your own, rests solely on you.
Henderson said that, “by the grace of God,” his “leg came back.”
Oh, that's rich choirboy. Suddenly you're finding God.
Henderson said he and Dawkins drove to a house to see a woman he said “is like a second mother” to him.
Apparently neither his "second mother" nor his real mother bothered to instill in him the morals of a civilized society.
“I couldn't breathe. I had lost so much blood. I don't know what she did, but she revived me,” he said, likening the experience to coming back from the dead.
Yea, it was a religious experience. You've made that claim already.
[Thug #2] Dawkins told the detective he was confronted by two people at the ball field and forced to assist in the robbery.
The gun wasn't loaded. So how was he forced? Again, we're supposed to believe the thug is the victim.
Though Henderson said he doesn't blame Williams for shooting, he takes exception with Williams shooting at him while he was down. 
“I was down, and I'm not going to continue to shoot you,” he said.
I guess this is part of the "fairness" issue we keep hearing about. I've got news for you, more and more civilized people are going to take exception to thugs like the two of you preying on innocent people. It's your own entitlement mentality and lack of morals that leads you to expect your victims to sheepishly comply.

I wonder, how long before we hear another idiotic "If I had a son..." comment from the Thug-In-Chief?

Some Sam Adams Beers

The Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, also puts out a plethora of other beers. I've always considered Boston Lager to be a "safe" beer. It's the one I'll order when the rest of the menu is filled with the usual factory beers. You know the place, where you ask "What beers do you have?" and the waitress replies "Everything." That's typically a sign they serve Bud/Miller/Coors, and Boston Lager. I do happen to look forward the Sam Adams Octoberfest, especially on draft, each fall. But otherwise, I tend to overlook beers from this diverse brewery. (One beer rating web site lists 84 different beers from the brewery.)

Recently we were gathering at a friend's place and I was perusing the wide selection in that home's beer fridge. I noticed a number of different beers from Boston Beer, among other assorted and interesting beers. One of the beers I selected during the course of the evening was Samuel Adams East-West Kölsch. I was unfamiliar with this particular beer, and admittedly, Kölsch is not a style I've drank much, in general. So it seemed like a good one to try. Simply put, it was darn good!

East-West Kölsch pours pale yellow with a thin white head. The aroma is bready with a hint of citrus. The flavor is quite refreshing, with a slightly sweet start and a crisp malt and floral citrus finish. A bit of dry bitterness remains behind. I very much enjoyed this beer, and at just 5% ABV, it would be easy to enjoy several, even during the heat of a summer afternoon. Definitely a beer I'll add to the summer options.

Another Sam Adams beer that made an appearance during the evening was Belgian Session. I only had a taste of this one. While I didn't find it especially memorable, it was tasty. A somewhat typical "Belgian beer," the aroma and flavor were sweet with the expected Belgian-style yeast and spices. At just 4.25% ABV, it is surely sessionable. As we wound down our evening, and were discussing the next monthly gathering, to be held at our home, one participant made it a point to let me know for planning purposes that he'd been drinking the Belgian Session all evening.

Both of these beers are part of the Sam Adams Summer Styles pack. The contents of this variety pack appear to vary by region. Unfortunately the brewery tends to include things like Cherry Wheat and Sam Adams Light in their variety packs so I tend to stay away from them. Remember the Cranberry Lambic saga? (I still have that bottle.)

A fun evening with friends, with the bonus of trying some new good beers — it doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Virginia Brewery Planting Hops

Another upcoming addition to the roster of Virginia breweries is "digging in" in a big way.
The latest entrant into Richmond’s growing craft beer scene hopes its name is one people will remember. 
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, a fledgling farm brewery about seven miles west of the Goochland County Courthouse, hopes to open early next year. 
Founder Sean-Thomas Pumphrey is working to get the brewery up and running on his family’s 221-acre farm. After he gets through the county zoning process and all the other state and federal hoops and red tape, he plans to build a 4,100-square-foot building and model the brewery after a Virginia-style horse farm.

Pumphrey is busy planting a hops field at his farm. Eventually he'll have an acre of hops planted, which he'll be able to use in his beers in about three years.

Photo from brewery Facebook page

You can view more pictures of the hops field at the brewery's Facebook page.
See "Brewery hopes to fill a hole in the market" for more information.

H/T to @VA_Beergeek.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fun With Logos

Photo by Colleen
Before attending the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks, Washington Friday evening, we had an enjoyable dinner at Molly Malone's across the street from the Barracks. Colleen ordered one of her favorite beers, Allagash White, served in a lovely Allagash glass. A friend ordered a Magner's Cider, served in a Magner's branded glass. I opted for a Victory Hop Devil, served in a Yuengling glass. Hey! Don't I get a cool glass with the Victory logo? Just kidding, I can't imagine trying to keep the proper logos pint glass available for every draft beer, but my dining partners took pride in their "special glasses." We had a laugh over our son's order of water being served in a Coors Blue Moon logo glass.

I accompanied my beer with the pub's Spicy Shrimp Mac & Cheese, made with Tiger Shrimp, chili peppers, cheddar, jack, & parmesan cheese. It was an tasty twist on the classic dish. The mac & cheese has a pretty good "kick" to it, but nothing that couldn't be cured by another round of Hop Devil, this time served in a Blue Moon glass. (Okay, that's just wrong.)

After dinner we relaxed over coffee before heading over to the Barracks and enjoying a very impressive display of Marine Corps music and precision drills. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Weekly Range Trip Report

We're quite fortunate to be able to get in regular trips to the range. (Which reminds me, I need to order more ammo.) Some visits are longer than others, but any time to get in some shooting is good. This week we managed to squeeze in a quick late afternoon trip. After shooting recently in near, or over, 100° temperatures, some time shooting in mere 88° weather with slightly overcast skies was truly a blessing. Surprisingly, we had the whole park to ourselves, which was most unexpected given the pleasant weather.

One this trip we worked a bunch on weak hand and strong hand only shooting. We also shot from the kneeling position. It's quite amazing how much dropping to a knee as you draw can affect your aim. I'll have to work on that some more.

On this trip I also took the time to shoot some ammo we had received for review from the folks at AmmoForSale.com. That review is posted over at the Gabriel Possenti Shooters site if you're interested.

As is so often is the case, the range ground was covered with brass that previous shooters had neglected to pick up. The club is quite clear on the rules for picking up brass, and it's sad that there are so many shooters who think they are above policing their brass. This trip we also found some less common calibers; a bunch of .40 S&W and probably a hundred .380 ACP casings. Interestingly the .380 was mostly found back between the 15-20 yard lines; not quite the expected range for practice with a pocket pistol. Although it will mean a couple extra steps in the sorting process, we'll use it as well for funding future ammo purchases.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crispin Honey Crisp Cider

We've been enjoying more cider recently here at the Musings, my fondness for big beers and tongue-biting IPAs notwithstanding. We're not tied to one drink preference; a fine beverage is a fine beverage. One cider I've been bringing home frequently is Crispin Honey Crisp Artisanal Reserve. This week we had a late evening after a swim meet and decided a cider would be the perfect drink with which to wind down.

Honey Crisp Cider pours a cloudy straw yellow color with a very thin head. The cloudiness is due to the copious fine apple wine sediment at the bottom of the bottle. A good swirl of the bottle is required at the end of the pour to make sure everyone gets their share. The cidery recommends serving the cider over ice. I've never done that and find it's plenty chilled straight from the fridge. The aroma is earthy and apple-like. Sticking my nose in the glass I could imagine a fall barn full of old wooden crates filled with fresh picked apples. The flavor is very crisp with tart apples, a bit of pear, and a hint of bready yeast. The mouthfeel is creamy, and the finish brings out some honey sweetness that lingers to balance the apple tartness.

This cider from Crispen Cidery is refreshing and moderately full-bodied. It's not light or watery — this is cider, not apple juice. And it's becoming a staple in my beer fridge.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Game On!

"And to anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better -- no place better. Because ultimately, these are not just political issues -- they are moral issues." -- First Lady Michelle Obama, June 28, 2012

I agree! Bring it on!

Monday, July 9, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons...

... make beer.

That certainly could be the motto of Port City Brewing. When last week's derecho knocked out their power, the Alexandria brewery had 13,000 gallons of beer fermenting, and no way to keep it cool. The company acquired a generator and saved the beer, but it turned out that one batch fermented a little warmer than planned.
[Brewery founder Bill Butcher] says one batch of lager beer - roughly 120 kegs worth - fermented differently than the brewers originally intended. 
"It turns out that there's actually a style of beer called 'California common beer' or 'steam beer' that is intentionally fermented this way, and so our lager beer will end up being a California common beer," Butcher says. "We're going to call it 'Derecho Common.'" 
The beer will be available on draft only in the brewery's tasting room and in restaurants and bars around the D.C. area that were affected by the storm. 
"From what we can tell, the beer is developing nicely, the flavors are going to be great, and we'll get it out in early August," Butcher says.

California Common, or Steam Beer, is created by fermenting lager yeasts at warmer temperatures. The most commonly known beer in this style is Anchor Steam from the Anchor Brewing Company. The term "Steam Beer" is copyrighted by the California brewery so other beers in this style are referred to as  "California Common."

See "Local beermaker brews derecho-inspired beverage" for more on Port City's handling of the storm.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Belgian Congo Pale Ale

Earlier this year, the expanded production capabilities of Devils Backbone Brewing meant the brewery's beers were showing up in Fredericksburg area pubs. Recently, the bottled beers have been on store shelves too, and this week I brought home a six-pack of the Belgian Congo Pale Ale.

This "Belgian Inspired Pale Ale" pours a golden color with a frothy white, and long lasting head. The aroma is a mixture of earthy yeast, lemon citrus, with a hint of sweetness. The flavor is a blend of grassy and citrus hops. There's a touch of Belgian yeast that adds a hint of candy sweetness. The finish is dry with a mild and short-lived bitterness. The moderate carbonation leaves the palate dry and clean.

This is a remarkably light and refreshing beer, which is somewhat deceptive given the 6.8% ABV. Devils Backbone Belgian Congo Pale Ale is one of those beers that goes down smoothly and way too quickly. I enjoyed the "twist" on the pale ale style. I really do have to get down to Devils Backbone and have this one, and the brewery's other beers, at the source. Meanwhile, we've got the rest of this six-pack to enjoy...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Your Retail Boycott Is Misdirected

Hardly a day goes buy that I don't get a email from someone, usually a fellow Catholic, urging me to boycott some retailer or another. These "feel good" messages typically point out a corporate policy and inform me that I should be outraged and refuse to do business with the company. There is often the implied message that I am going against my faith by not complying. In truth, most of the time the corporate policy in question is one I disagree with, but that doesn't convince me to boycott the business. In fact, I often find the plea to be somewhat hypocritical.

First, let me explain why I generally don't go along with these boycotts, and why that decision is not contrary to my faith. Typically, the offending business is a large corporation that has made some contribution to a cause that I do in fact find immoral. Does that make me culpable if I patronize their local store? No, not if my intent is to buy a product, and not to support the cause. My intent determines my guilt in supporting or cooperating with evil. For instance, one of the latest pleas is to boycott Starbucks because the company supports gay "marriage." When I buy a coffee from the local shop, am I doing so because I support redefining a Sacrament of the Church? No, I'm buying the coffee because I want a consistently made, somewhat decedent and over-priced cup of coffee. My support, if you want to call it that, of the local retailer and their employees in no way indicates support for what I consider an immoral lifestyle. Is Starbucks in business for the purpose of supporting gay marriage? No, Starbuck is the business of selling me a consistently made, somewhat decedent and over-priced cup of coffee. My action is too far removed from the corporate policies to make me culpable. I am not cooperating in the actions of the corporation.

It is also interesting that local Starbucks employees are active in helping the homeless and those in need. My patronage of the local store would have a greater affect on these local folks, than the corporate board room. Ironically, it wasn't too long ago that the tables were turned and folks were urging a boycott of Starbucks because they do support traditional American, and Constitutional values.

The Target chain is another target (sorry) of a boycott call. Apparently the chain sells a "gay pride" t-shirt. Don't like the "gay pride" shirt? Don't buy it. Shopping at Target doesn't make me a supporter of "gay marriage." If I purchased the offending items, that would be a different story.

Ironically again, Target faced a boycott a couple years ago because they gave money to an "anti-gay" political candidate.

I don't give money to organizations such as Planned Parenthood. I don't vote for politicians who support positions I find offensive or immoral. Those would be direct actions that would make me guilty of cooperating with evil. As opposed to the Starbucks example, Planned Parenthood's main function, the reason for its existence, is immoral. To give support to them would be to directly support their mission.

I mentioned the hypocrisy of the boycott calls, emailed to me using a computer that is either running the Windows operating system, or the system from Apple. The Gates Foundation is one of the largest global supporters of abortion and sterilization world wide. And Apple Computer uses its corporate wealth to support redefining marriage. So maybe the senders of these emails aren't really all that sold on using the boycott as a tool after all. I'll make a deal with you. You stop using products from these companies, and I'll reconsider where I buy my morning coffee.

Another Hot Weekend

It's Virginia. Stay cool. Have a beer.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shooting Relaxed Is Shooting Well

Earlier this week we made a late afternoon trip to the range and it turned out to be an exceptionally rewarding bit of shooting. It's a bit cliché to say perhaps, but some days things "just come together." We set up the Pincus-designed target that is shown here, with the center body and head areas, two lower squares, and the six small colored dots.

Almost all of our shooting this day was done while moving forward and backward from the target. Since I was shooting with two 1911 fans, I left 10 rounds out of my mags so we'd all have the same number of shots as we moved together. :-)  We started at about the 10 yard line and shot at a steady pace as we advanced, and then retreated still shooting. Reloading was generally done when you changed directions, although depending on your shot pace, reloading might happen anywhere. We started out alternating between the body and head areas. The two different sized areas required adjustments to the pace as we transitioned between aim points. We then moved to alternating between the two lower 8" squares, when the pace was steady and a bit faster. The fun, and exciting part came as we moved to shooting the 3" color circles, either keeping all shots on one circle, or alternating between two different ones.

This is where I realized that things seemed to be just coming together. We all have good days, and bad days, at the range. This day was exceptional. I concentrated on my body movement, I saw the sights, I made the shots. Despite shooting on the move and at a pretty good pace, getting 8 shots off in each direction, I was hitting my point of aim whether large or small. Sure there were a few flyers, but after 150 rounds, I had a pretty impressive looking target. I finished my practice session by moving up to the about 6 foot line and doing a variation of the Bill Drill, firing off 8 shots as fast as I could, all hitting within the 3" circle as intended.

So what's the lesson here? It is certainly not that I am any sort of expert, or even consistent, shooter. Several times during the exercises I lamented, "I wish I could shoot like this in a match!" And that is where the lesson comes in. It really is all about relaxing and letting the muscle memory and mechanics of shooting take over. It's not a lesson I didn't already know, but one I was reminded of in a striking manner. I was very conscience of not being self-conscience, and of feeling no pressure. I was shooting with my wife and a good friend, both of whom have seen me shoot both well and not so well. It was a relaxing time, we were just there to have fun. It's that total relaxation I need to take with me a match. Granted, the nature of competition adds pressure, and that's why we do it. But I must work on transferring some of that to my shooting in competition. Go there and "just shoot." After all, the point of the competitions is to have fun too.

Any time at the range is a good time, and when I shoot well it's even better. And when I can shoot well and come away with something to put to use later, it's exceptional.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ...

And so it began, that July 4, 1776. Sadly today, so many people have forgotten these truths. Sadder still, the institutions charged with protecting these rights, namely the president and the congress, have forgotten that our basic human rights are "endowed by [our] Creator." These rights are not granted by the government, they are only to be acknowledged by the government. Today, the Obama administration seeks to make itself the grantor and arbiter of basic human rights. However, we should be reminded that what the government does not grant, it cannot take away, except by force and coercion. Is this the country envisioned in the Declaration of Independence?

Sadly, too many people are willing to be sheep and blindly accept this intrusion from the government. Once people begin relying on a government to grant them their rights, they are no longer free people. When our elected officials seek to impose their will on the citizenry, claiming it's for the citizens' benefit, they are no better than any of the other tyrants throughout history. How many millions of people have been killed over the years in the name of the "greater good"?

As we celebrate our Nation's founding, let us look beyond the burgers on the grill, beyond the cold beer, beyond the swimming pools, beyond the parades, beyond the fireworks. Let us ask ourselves if we are willing to allow government bureaucrats to name themselves as the arbiters of our God-given rights. Are we willing to become subjects of tyranny?

If you're a reader of these Musings, I'm guessing your answer to those questions is a resounding "NO!" We must not let the usurping of our rights continue. To do so devalues the dignity of human life, it debases our standing as free men. So stand tall, and let the celebrations of Independence Day serve to increase your resolve to maintain your liberty.

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." --Abraham Lincoln

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Hot USPSA Match

The monthly Fredericksburg USPSA match took place this past weekend. The timing also coincided with record high temperatures, which brought the ferocious storms we saw Friday night. I started my weekend activity, ignoring the downed tree in my front yard, by helping to set up the match on Saturday morning. After a few hours our too small crew was on the verge of wilting. Personally, I forgot to bring a snack and had only water with me. We managed to get 8 stages set up in about 5 hours.

Sunday morning I returned for the match, again ignoring the downed tree in my front yard. As always, the Fredericksburg match is an all day event. Check-in was at 8:00AM, shooting started around 9:00AM, and we finished up just after 4:00PM. And it was a hot one! The temperature reached 99° on Sunday. This time I brought along copious amounts of water and "electrolyte replacement sports drink." I managed to stay hydrated and shot the match without suffering any serious heat-related issues. The crowd was smaller than usual, just 88 shooters in all. I suspect many folks chose not to shoot in the heat, or were still affected by the widespread power outages.

One thing that struck me about the stages from this match is that most of them offered numerous options for how one could shoot them. That's a testament to the Match Directors and the quality of their stage designs. One of my favorite stages was labeled "Curtain Call." Despite helping to set up, I didn't know all the final details of the courses of fire. For example, as part of this stage, we had set up two walls with ports that had targets behind them. Before the match started those ports were covered by window blinds. The shooter had to lift the blind to see the targets. Some shooters opted to throw the blinds over the top of the wall and then regrip the pistol with both hands to shoot. Others, myself included, opted to lift the blind with one hand then shoot the three targets behind each port strong hand only. It seems to have been a successful plan for me, as I had my highest finish on this stage; 14th out of 40.

Another fun stage was named "Port Holes." Almost all of the targets were engaged through openings in the walls. Some targets could only be seen when you were right up on the port, others could optionally be engaged from further away. The order, and from where, the targets were engaged gave the shooter many options and I saw a lot of different approaches to this stage.

One of the more "evil" stages, aptly named "Narrow Margin," included an array of steel poppers that had "no shoot" targets placed behind them. If you missed the steel, not only did you have to take another shot to knock over the steel, you also earned a penalty for hitting the no shoot.

As is typical, I finished in the middle of the pack; 21st out of 40 shooters in my division. I was pretty happy with that finish. I did shoot too many "Mikes" during the match, proving to myself once again, you need to get the points, it's not all about speed. Earlier in the week I was debating whether or not I even wanted to shoot the match due to the impending high temperatures. I am glad I did, despite the heat, as it was a lot of fun. Folks generally stayed in a good mood and accepted the extreme conditions as another part of the game.

After the match, we had a friend visiting for dinner. But before dinner, yep, you guessed it, we headed over the local range for some more shooting. This time there was no timer or running involved! Afterwards, a late dinner of baby back ribs from the grill capped off the evening. Needless to say I was pretty exhausted by the end of the day. Between the match construction project Saturday and lots of running and shooting on Sunday, I was tired, and more than a little achy! It was truly a full, and fun-filled weekend.