Friday, January 11, 2019

A Common Fight for Personal Freedom

I am often struck by the audacious attacks on personal freedom from those who seek to interfere with the pleasures and rights of others. The anti-gun crowd in the United States is vocal, intrusive, violent and sadly, out of touch with reality and rational thought. Our 2nd Amendment fight has many parallels in the cigar world. I read the following recently in "The Ultimate Cigar Book," by Richard Carleton Hacker,
But these growing numbers of smoking enclaves aside, there are also subtle ways to win an anti-cigar war fueled by ignorance and prejudice – the two things that cannot be swayed. Rather than pointlessly argue with militant anti-smokers, we must try to win the nonsmokers over to our side. There are people who are neither anti- nor pro-cigars. They are the middle ground and comprise the largest percentage of the American populace. If we can show them that we are more civilized that the radical anti-cigar thugs, we will have made our point. We must convince them with kindness. And courtesy. It does no good to force ourselves upon others, for we only aggravate the situation.

I get as much pleasure from the shooting sports as I do a good cigar. Although my life would not be under threat if I lost the right to smoke a cigar, replace "cigar" with "gun" and the paragraph still rings true. It's a fight we must take on. I know I have successfully explained gun rights to more people who are "neutral" on guns, than people who are already ignorantly "anti-gun." With the Governor of Virginia actively trying to negate the 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, our rights are again under a direct threat.

As with the gun grabbers, the anti-smokers are unabashed in their intrusiveness. Not too long ago I was sitting in the outdoor cigar lounge area at a local brewery. A group of people moved from where they had been sitting to sit in the smoking area, ostensibly to find seats in the sun. A woman in the group promptly asked me to put out my cigar. My one word answer was a very polite but emphatic, "No."

All of these intrusions have as their basis a claim of "for your own good." Americans once appeared to have learned a lesson during Prohibition. Yet, I don't for a minute think that fight will not be fought again. The nanny state and prohibitionists of any ilk are unrelenting. The next time we lose a freedom, it may not be won back.

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” -- William Pitt the Younger

Friday, January 4, 2019

I've Got Some Reading To Do

Some thoughtful Christmas gift giving by my family added a few interesting books to my library.

The Bourbon Bible, by Eric Zandona, is an interesting read about all things bourbon. The book is divided into three sections, starting with the history and basics of the spirit. The next section goes into detail on 140 bourbons. The last section covers cocktails made with bourbon. I've read the first section and have been randomly reading the descriptions of the individual bourbons. I think this will be a well-used reference.

The Ultimate Cigar Book is an exceptionally fascinating book. The author, Richard Carleton Hacker, has a witty and engaging style. His detailed telling of the history or cigars, and the companies and people involved is entertaining as well as informative. He shares his knowledge in a way to help the new or experienced smoker get the most from enjoying cigars and the cigar lifestyle. I have just about completed one reading of the book, and will no doubt read it again.

Interestingly, The Connoisseur's Guide the Worldwide Spirits is by the same author. I have not yet started this book. Gauging by my enjoyment of the cigar book, the spirits book will be a fascinating read as well.

The Beer Option is a book by Dr. Jared Staudt, a Benedictine oblate. Subtitled "Brewing a Catholic Culture Yesterday & Today", the book examines the history and culture of beer and it's relation with Catholicism and the spiritual life. I've not yet started reading this one, but look forward to it. It's a subject I've touched on frequently, and even had a short article related to the subject published in print.

There will be more to come on these books as I consume them.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Starr Hill Snow Blind

Another beer from the Starr Hill Winter Tour variety pack, Snow Blind Doppelbock is one my favorite winter seasonal beers.

The beer is a deep brown color with a thin beige head. Sunlight peaking through give the beverage a reddish tint. A rich caramel aroma with a hint of dark fruit greats the nose. The flavor is a bend of toasted malt, caramel and a touch of sweetness. A moderate 7.7% ABV makes the flavorful beer easily drinkable.

The Winter Tour variety pack also includes Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream Stout, 2 Tone Vanilla Porter, and Northern Lights IPA. It's rare that I find a variety pack that doesn't include air least one "stepchild" beer. This Starr Hill sampler contains all winners in my book, and this 12-pack won't linger long in the fridge.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

And That's a Wrap

2018 is over, and we're looking forward to a fresh start in 2019. As is my custom, here's a quick look back at the past year. As cliché as the year end review may be, it's still an interesting exercise for me.

The past year was a slower than usual year for adding content to these Musings. As mentioned a few times previously, life just got in the way.

Despite life's distractions, there were 57 days in 2018 in which I got in some shooting activities, either matches or pratice. I participated in six state or regional level events; the Chesapeake Cup, Virginia Indoor RegionalAAF&G Lt Col Matt Mathys Memorial IDPA MatchMaryland State IDPA ChampionshipVirginia State IDPA Match, and the Potomac Grail. I was also very fortunate to travel with three friends to participate in the IDPA National Championship held in Talladega, Alabama. In addition, I also managed to get to 16 local IDPA matches. There was also a two day competition focused training class which was a lot of fun. The matches, combined with range trips to practice culminated in about 8500 rounds fired in the year.

I wasn't too remiss in exploring the craft beer world this year. While I wasn't as diligent at keeping records as in the past, a quick review of the year's checkins on Untappd shows about 123 unique beers tasted in the course of 2018. In the slow sipping category, some 23 different whiskeys, mostly bourbons, made the list as well. In a newer addition to my pleasure time, this fall I started tracking the cigars I enjoyed (often with the aforementioned beverages.) There were 42 different cigars tried in the second half of the year. That number is not extraordinary, but they certainly contributed much needed relaxation in a busy and hectic year.

Dealing with some family members' health struggles, combined with a new role at work, had me missing some desired range time, as well as limiting our family adventures and vacation time in the past year. Although we didn't get around to an actual family vacation last year, Colleen and I did enjoy many weekends away taking in some college football games this past fall. Those trips also provided some extra opportunity to enjoy good drink and food. I am looking forward to reversing the pleasure travel shortfall in 2019.

Looking forward, I'm already registered for two regional IDPA matches in early 2019, and expect to shoot the year's first local match within the first week of the new year. There are some beers currently queued up for review as well. Even more exciting, there have even been preliminary talks of summer vacation plans, a discussion we never quite got around to in 2018.

I am honored that you've continued to read these Musings over the past year. It's been especially exciting to meet so many readers in person, and to share the fun times. I have some ideas for more stories to tell, so stand by. Here's looking to new adventures in 2019!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday Morning Shooting

I made a last minute decision to head down to the indoor range on Saturday morning. That choice was betting on the absence of traffic on the interstate for the drive down, a not too crowded range, and (still) good traffic for the drive home. As luck would have it, all three came to be.

Let's do this.

Starting off at an easy 7 yard distance, I shot slowly, using two hands, as well as strong and weak hand only for 50 rounds. That was all well and good, so a fresh target was hung and placed at 10 yards. This time I fired off longer strings of 3 - 5 shots, one because it's allowed, and two to get a good feel of how the compact gun moves and returns to target. I repeated this drill also at 12 and 15 yards for a total 50 rounds. Despite the attempt at speed, only two of the shots, both fired at 15 yards, were outside the -0 zone.

More like this please.

Since I know I typically start shooting a little more sloppily at the end of the my range time, I made a concerted effort to do slow, steady shots for my last 50 rounds. My group on the 10 yard target was quite nice. At least until my fun side gave in and the last 10 rounds were blasted off in rapid succession. Still, all -0 hits.

All in all it was a super fun way to spend the morning, even if I did spend 4 times as much time driving as I did shooting.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Starr Hill Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream Stout

This is one of the beers in the Starr Hill Winter Tour variety pack that we picked up on a whim last week. Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream Stout is a beer that I thought I had enjoyed previously, but checking my UnTappd list, it appears this is a new beer to me. I was not to be disappointed.

The beer pours a deep, dark brown color with a beige head. The aroma brings faint notes of coffee and sweet caramel malt. The flavor profile leans more towards chocolate, mild roasted malt, and a touch of sweetness. There's a hint of coffee detected but it is mild. The finish leaves a bit of sweet creaminess on the palate.

I decided to enjoy the beer with a CAO Brazilia Gol! cigar for an afternoon treat. The medium bodied cigar presents flavors of cocoa and espresso. The rich thick smoke had a creamy texture and smooth finish. Like the beer, this cigar was also one I had not tried previously. I paired them in a whim and was very pleased with the resulting flavor combination.

I enjoyed the Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream Stout very much. Often I find mild stouts to be too cloyingly sweet. Starr Hill crafted a tasty balance in the flavor profile. This is one I'd have again. And fortunately there are a couple more in the fridge.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Cavalier IDPA Holiday Match

It's been a couple months since I was able to get to an IDPA match, and I had expected that match to be my last of the year. However, with a fortunate combination of a clear schedule and good weather, I was very excited to be able to attend the December IDPA match the Saturday before Christmas at Cavalier.

For this match I decided to shoot my SIG P320 Compact in the CCP division. I'd recently upgraded the sights on the gun, but had yet to shoot it competitively since the sight switch.

The five stages of the match followed a holiday theme. The first stage our squad shot, called "Who's Naughty & Who's Nice?," had us seated at a table with our unloaded gun and all magazines placed in a box. Nine targets, along with a plethora a non-threats were arrayed out in front of us. Shooting the stage -0 gave me a good start to the match.

"Not Home Alone" was up next. This was a field course where we started holding a wrapped package in our support hand, while our strong had was holding a screw driver that had been stuck in a tire. After engaging an open target we moved through the course to three points of cover engaging multiple targets at each. This was another -0 stage for me.

The next stage saw us hanging Christmas lights in "Get Lit." Here we started with our hand on a stapler high in the center of a wall. It was the shooter's choice to begin with targets on either the right to left side. I started my run moving to the left. After engaging four paper targets around the left end of the wall, I moved to the right side to find a couple of falling steel poppers and two more paper targets. It was fun stage and I felt pretty good about it, until the scoring. I had dropped a shot low into hard cover for a miss, which combined with -3 and -1 targets, left me -9 for the stage.

"Crooked Tree" held an interesting target array. Seven overlapping targets, with lots of hard cover, where arranged in a tree shape. We started at the target array with a Christmas package in hand. Up range were two barrels to either side of a shooting box. All magazines were stage on one of the barrels and our gun was in a box on the other. At the start we retreated up range, retrieved our gear, and engaged the targets.

While there was partial open body area on some of the targets, most shooters opted to shoot all head shots. I did make all 14 head shots, though three hits were in the -1 area of the head, for a -3 stage score.

The last stage was called "Charlie B's Trees." We shot from two sides of a fenced wall. There were four targets visible from one shooting position and two more from the other. Menacingly placed barrels and pine tree branches where located around the targets obscuring any open shots. This was another challenging stage that I felt I had shot well, again until the targets were scored. I managed to shoot not one, not two, but three (!) low or wide shots into non-threats. Not a glorious finish to the match, but fun nonetheless.

Despite the poor shooting on the last stage, I finish 14th of 32 shooters, and 2nd of 4 in CCP. I enjoyed shooting the Compact gun. The 8 round per magazine limit offered a new challenge, a led to at least one miscount in my stage planning.

In a switch from the wet and cold weather we've experienced in the past weeks, the day of the match saw sun and temps in the mid-50º range despite a constant breeze. It was an extremely enjoyable morning of shooting. The stages were creative, challenging, and most importantly, quite fun. The unexpected day of shooting to finish off the year was a most welcome treat.

More pictures of the stages are here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

It's Christmas!

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." --Dr. Seuss

After the shopping, after the wrapping, after the decorating, after the endless barrage of marketing on TV, online, and our inboxes, Christmas is here. The true source of our joy, the Nativity of the Lord, is celebrated beginning today.

Merry Christmas!

Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010

The celebration continues until Epiphany on January 6. Surprisingly few realize that the season of Christmas only begins today, December 25.  It it is disappointing to see the lights and decorations disappear the day after Christmas. Surely Christians believe the birth of Jesus is an event worthy of more than a single day of rejoicing.

However you mark the season, I wish you a very joyous and peaceful holiday season.