Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gunny Lamps

I showed the beer fans some interesting lamps made from beer bottles recently. In fairness, here are some lamps of interest the gun fans too. The folks at Loaded Objects Ceramics create lamps and other objects modeled after pistols, rifles, and grenades. Their website shows an interesting array of art. The pieces are unique and attractive.

Loaded Objects is currently selling three styles of lamps at their Etsy page.

FTC Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the company, I'm just reporting.

Date Night

Colleen and I treated ourselves to a "date night" Friday evening. It being a Friday in Lent, our choices were limited to non-meat dishes. That meant we pretty quickly decided on the Fish & Chips at Park Lane Tavern. The lightly battered white fish filets are quite tasty and one of our favorite menu items there. Of course, we needed some good beers to go along with the food. I prefer a smooth, maltier beer to go with the light flavor of the fish, rather than a strong, bitter hoppy beer. Park Lane's menu offers several apropos selections.

Colleen opted for Fuller's Extra Special Bitters. This English Ale is a dark reddish-brown in color with a mildly bitter, nutty flavor. For my selection, I opted for a Belhaven Scottish Ale. This beer is a available in several ABV ranges, Park Lane serves the 3.9% ABV "session beer." The beer comes to the table looking like a light-colored milkshake, with a cascade of nitrogen induced carbonation. The flavor is mild toffee and caramel, with just a hint of bitterness. As expected, the mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, leaving behind a faint sweetness. It was quite enjoyable, even for this fan of big and bold ales.

We finished our meal with a shared dessert of Irish Whiskey Bread Pudding. The Park Lane version of this classic is served with ice cream. It's tasty, but the whiskey part was not quite noticeable. I prefer the version we serve around here. However, we still enjoyed it very much it while we sipped a couple of mugs of coffee and relished a fun evening out.

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Friday!

Have a great weekend!

Demetri Martin on WhoSay

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blue & Gray Groupon Tour Offer

Thursday's DC-area Groupon offer features a "Grape and Grain Tour." The tour features two local stops, the Blue & Gray Brewery and Bowman Distillery.
Grape and Grain tours bestow imbibers with a whirlwind six hours to sip and savor a kaleidoscope of diverse beverages. A chauffeur from Prime Transportation begins the day by whisking patrons to a brewery, distillery, and winery, each of which grants samples of their unique brews and vintages while instilling educational tidbits about their creation. At the Mediterranean-style Potomac Point Winery, patrons explore the wine cave and tour the cellar, dining on a bistro lunch and stopping at the olive oil bar to tend jaws creaky from chewing. At Blue and Gray Brewing Company, samples of seasonal beers emerge straight from the tanks to wash down a complimentary dessert, and the tour of family-owned A. Smith Bowman Distillery—a Fredericksburg mainstay since 1934—imparts tricks of the brewing trade that toe the line between tradition and innovation. Discounts on return visits and gift-shop merchandise urge tours to return, and patrons depart with souvenir glasses from each venue that will always remind them not to drink out of the brewer's tank.
The Groupon price is discounted 1/2 off the "retail" price, but not having done a chauffeured tour myself, I'm in no position to judge. The price does include transportation from the DC area, so it's probably not a great deal for local folks. In any event, it does sound like it would make for a fun day.

See the Groupon offer page for complete details.

Note: I have purchased Groupon tickets for Blue & Gray, as well as other local restaurants, in the past, but I am in no way affiliated with the company, I'm just reporting.

Beer Can Guitar Amp

Personally think a Dale's Pale Ale can would make it sound better.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Corned Beef Recipe

I previously shared the recipe for the Irish Coffee with which we relaxed after dinner on St. Patrick's Day. Before that dessert we enjoyed a traditional Irish American meal of corned beef, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. Because of the long day of festivities planned, a slow cooked meal was called for. Colleen found this recipe, which she prepared with just some minor adaptions. It turned out to be a winner, that we'll be having again. We certainly won't save it only for St. Patrick's Day. You shouldn't either.

1 bottle Guinness Draught
1 head cabbage, chopped
1 (generous) shot of Irish whiskey
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of Tabasco Sauce
12 red potatoes, roughly cut
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
4 cups water
5 pounds of corned beef

Open the Guinness the night before to let it go flat.
Line the bottom of the slow cooker with the potatoes, onion, garlic and carrots.
Add the beer, whiskey, water and spices (including the Tabasco Sauce if you chose to use it)
Place the corned beef on the bed of vegetables.
Add the cabbage.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Set the cooker on high and cook for 8-9 hours until fork tender.

With all the activities during the day, our meal actually spent about 11 hours in the crock pot. The beef came out tender with the classic bright red color. The flavor took on a roasted quality. The potatoes, carrots, and cabbage all took had a smoky spice, while keeping their own unique flavors. Interestingly, the cabbage seems to have absorbed the spicy Tabasco flavor the most. Upon finishing our meal, we all agreed that this had to be the best tasting corned beef "pot meal" we can remember. We're saving this recipe so we have handy it for future meals. Easy preparation and unattended cooking, with good eating waiting at the end of the day. What more does a busy family need?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Nothing To Do Is Not Boredom

As you may have gathered from previous posts, I was required to be in Orlando this past weekend for work. I flew down Friday, had 3 hours worth of meetings on Saturday, and have another two hours to do this morning. Our meetings were at the Orlando World Center Marriott. It's a beautiful property, and the service and attention by the staff was excellent. However, it also proved rather isolating. I had little interest in going to any of the nearby theme parks such as Walt Disney World, SeaWorld or Universal Studios. If my family had been with me, perhaps, but not alone. I arrived wondering just what I'd do in my "off" time. It was settled when I asked at the hotel "entertainment" desk about activities in the area other than those parks, and golf, and was told "That's about it." That actually turned into a blessing in disguise.

I only recently discovered the benefits of Kindle books. I know to many folks electronic books are old news, but I've always preferred the feel of a real book in my hand. However, I've learned recently to appreciate the "always there" aspect of the digital equivalent. I don't own a Kindle, but do have the app on my phone, and have a small library of books I want to read. I've been really enjoying being able to make use of any found time to do some reading. It's actually allowed me to keep up with my Lenten reading promises. This weekend I was treated to more reading, for pleasure, than I have been able to do in a long, long time. I read in my room. I read in the hotel lounges. I read by the pool. I read in the garden under palm trees. The outdoor reading was interspersed with joys of watching the antics of the critters in the trees, and a bit of people watching.

Coming from a guy who works in IT, my late acceptance of this technology may seem odd, but I am glad to have finally come around. And this weekend, it was more than a convenience, it helped to create some very enjoyable breaks over those days.

Even for all the joyful relaxation that was found, even though it's been just three days, the greatest joy will come when I am back home with my family. That's just one plane ride and a long drive in rush hour traffic away...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Intro to IDPA

A while ago I posted this video about USPSA shooting that showed why the sport is so addicting. Since I've recently started shooting IDPA again, I thought I'd share a similar video about IDPA.

They are two different games, with different rules, and different goals. It will be interesting to see if I can keep the two straight and compete regularly in both.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Geographically Challenged

At the hotel bar. Imports?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Airport Lunch

Beautiful Märzen
I had to fly to Orlando for the weekend and I made it through the porn backscatter scanners with just a supplemental chest pat down. I forgot to remove the religious medals from around my neck, which created concern.

I had time to spare before my flight so I stopped for lunch at Gordon-Biersch in the Dulles Airport terminal. A tall glass of their Märzen was just the thing to take the edge off the inconvenience of airports and air travel. I firmly believe that much of the enjoyment of food is visual, and this beer did look good. The beer was a dark amber color with an attractive head. The aroma is caramel and slightly sweet. The Märzen's flavor is bready, slightly sweet, with a caramel finish. It sure went down smoothly and provided a good start to the trip.

Remember that excellent crab cake I wrote about last week? Unfortunately, the Gordon Biersch version stayed true to my experiences with most restaurant crab cake sandwiches. I had to bite into the sandwich to see the crab cake. It was in there, though barely detectable, both in size and flavor. I used my airport issued plastic fork to eat the crab cake off of the copious bread. But, I really was there for the beer anyway. And that was quite enjoyable.

Look carefully. It's there.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Iron Age Parties

As noted previously, my birthday celebration was low-key, even if accentuated by the sounds of sporting gunfire. I didn't even get to my beer. In contrast, low-key apparently wasn't in the cards for Iron Age Europeans. At least that's what archeologists are telling us. These scientists conclude that "heavy drinking was a communal activity spearheaded by the social elites."
It turns out Europe 2,600 years ago was pretty much exactly like one big college frat, with social elites vying for power and influence by throwing the most kickass parties - complete with lots of free beer.
That's one of the findings of a ten-year study of German Iron Age sites led by archaeologist Bettina Arnold of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Though these pre-Roman peoples left no written records behind to tell us their history, everything we excavated shows that these ancient Europeans were all about the drinking. Arnold and her team have found all sorts of drinking vessels in the graves around Iron Age hillforts, suggesting people's favorite mugs were so important in life that they wanted to stay together in death.
See "Iron Age Europe was all about beer drinking and 'competitive feasting'" for more on the findings.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday IDPA Match

I made it down to Black Creek this afternoon for another Wednesday IDPA match. This small match consisted of 48 rounds fired over two multi-string stages. The match announcement noted that, as opposed to last week, there were no strong or weak hand-only strings. I was initially a bit disappointed to hear that, believe it or not, since I've been practicing those skills. But no matter, the match offered up other important skill challenges. The focus this week was on transitions between targets and shooting on the move.

The first stage consisted of three targets downrange, engaged over a series of eight strings. First, from the box engage the target in tactical order with six shots total. The next string is simply 1 head shot in each. Then a string of one body and one head on each. Then repeat all three strings from the box on the other side. I managed to throw a few of the head shots which hurt my score. The final two strings were shot from kneeling behind the barrel, one string from each side.

The next stage was something entirely new to me. The target is on a wheeled platform, attached by a rope to the shooter's belt. At the signal, you must draw and put three shots on target while moving backwards and pulling the target along with you. After everyone in the group had shot, the set up is reversed, with the rope going around a barrel. This time as you step backwards, the target retreats from you, and again three shots on target are required. 

These weekday IDPA matches are a lot of fun, and serve as a great hump day diversion. Even though it's about an hour drive each way, my excuse this week was it's a birthday present to myself. The matches offer a fun way to test your skills, and get in some trigger time. This week I placed 4th out of 11 shooters in my division.

And I even made it home before dark to celebrate my birthday with my family. Colleen prepared a delicious a slow-cooked pork, served with corn bread and a salad. And Boston Cream Pie for dessert! Sadly, I ran out of energy, and room in my belly, before I could get to the beer I had selected. It is a "school night" after all. 

Beer or Ice Cream?

Why choose?

It's my Birthday! I think I'll have both!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

VA Wine TV Visits Corcoran Brewing

In a comment on this post, the folks at Virginia Wine TV let us know they visited Corcoran Brewing in Loudon County. The video features an interview with brewer Kevin Bills, who talks about the brewery's beers and plans.

I really need to get out there and visit these folks. Soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012


... useful when facts and the rule of law fail you.

I suppose if brainwashing fails, he could order the ATF to sell guns to Mexican criminals in order to create false gun crime statistics. That could "brainwash" the naive into hating guns.

Here's a little something for your head...

Musical Tribute to The Science of Beer

In case you're wondering about the effects of this weekend...

Lyrics at the link

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quick, Delicious, Irish Coffee

Here's an easy recipe to make a delicious Irish Coffee. It may be a tad less than traditional, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.

1 shot Irish Whiskey
1 shot Kahlúa
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
Dark Roast Coffee
Whipped Cream

Combine the Whiskey, Kahlúa and Brown Sugar in a mug and stir to dissolve. Next add the coffee. We use a Keurig Coffee system which makes putting together this drink quick and easy. Select a dark roast K-cup and brew at the small setting on the brewer. Top with whipped cream. Be sure to use a large enough mug to allow for copious cream on top. Enjoy.

Stonewall Stout for St. Paddy's Day

As anticipated, yesterday's festivities made for a long, but fun day. After walking with the school group in the parade, it was finally time to enjoy some Blue & Gray Stonewall Stout. Although I lean towards the Falmouth Pale Ale as my "go to" beer at the brewery, each time I have this stout I'm reminded just how good this year-round Blue & Gray staple is.

Stonewall Stout pours as black as the night, with a short-lived beige head. The aroma gives off mild roasted notes. The flavor a mix of dark roasted espresso and bitter chocolate, with some bitter hop notes lingering in the finish. Despite the near 80° temps and bright sun, this dark beer was an enjoyable afternoon treat.

The unseasonably warm weather was an unusual treat in itself. So often the day of this annual celebration turns out to be cold and wet, and not exactly pleasant weather to be celebrating outside. However St. Patrick smiled on us this day, and the weather was great. The Spring-like weather brought out an extra large crowd for the parade, and for the festivities that followed. The large turnout made for some long food and beer lines, but even while waiting everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Once we had our food and beer in hand we settled down to enjoy the company of good friends and the great weather.

Oh, and the Irish Coffee that Colleen made for dessert that evening was the perfect cap to the day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day

It's often said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Fortunately we can make that claim, by portion, all year long. We're doubly blessed since St. Patrick is also our parish patron Saint. Today is going to be a busy day!

Of course, we'll start with Mass, followed by a pancake breakfast social at the church. Copious stacks of pancakes are waiting to be consumed. After that we'll head right over to the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Celebration at the Blue & Gray Brewery. Guess what? More food! They'll be serving the traditional Irish-American dish of corned beef and cabbage. There will also be a parade in which our son's school is participating, as well as Irish music and dancing. Of course, I'm looking forward to a pint or two of the brewery's Stonewall Stout, even more than the food and entertainment.

By the time that celebration is over it will be just late-afternoon. But St. Patrick deserves a full day feast, so we've got another wonderful meal of corned beef, potatoes, cabbage planned for the evening. And some good Irish coffee for dessert.

It promises to be a fun day. The best part is that when the day is done we'll still have half the weekend to go. And that's a good thing, as I think I'll need some time to rest.

I wish you all, Irish today or year-round, a Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope you have a festive day planned as well.

May St. Patrick guard you wherever you go, and guide you in whatever you do – and may his loving protection be a blessing to you always.
-- Traditional Irish Blessing

Friday, March 16, 2012

Today In History

On March 16, 1780 George Washington issued a General Order granting St. Patrick's Day as a holiday for the Continental Army.

George Washington's General Order of March 16, 1780,
granting Saint Patrick's Day as a holiday to the troops

Document from the National Archives.

Now That's A Crab Cake

Colleen and I decided to meet for lunch today and we caught up with the bright orange Beach Fries & Fun Food truck. I had heard rumors about an awesome crab cake sandwich being served up by these folks. This meatless Friday seemed a good time to try them out.

Wow! We were not disappointed. Having grown up near Baltimore, and practically weaned on crab cakes, and steamed crabs, I've had my share of both these regional delicacies. My impression of most restaurant crab cake sandwiches is that once you manage to find the crab cake under the bread, you may be hard pressed to find the crab in the cake. Not so with the sandwich served at the Beach Fries truck. The crab cake hung out on all sides. And a CRAB cake it was. Large lumps of crab were barely held together by minimal filler. In fact, when I finished the sandwich I had a bunch of crab meat left in the tray to pick up and eat with my fingers. The sandwich is served with rémoulade, tomato, lettuce and onion on a roll. This is without a doubt the best crab cake sandwich I've had in recent memory.

Beach Fries also offers chicken breast sandwiches, fried bologna sandwiches, and fresh cut french fries (obviously). They also deep fry interesting foods such as corn on the cob, mac & cheese and double stuffed Oreos. We didn't try any of these items, it is Lent after all.

Want to try the crab cake for yourself? You'll need to check the Beach Fries website or their Facebook page to find out where the truck will be parked. They are out and about for lunch and dinner during the week, and all day on Saturday. Believe me, it will be worth your effort.

Friday in Lent. No meat allowed. But this was hardly a sacrifice. Okay, I'll attend the parish soup supper tonight for my penance.

I'll Get Back To You


Thursday, March 15, 2012

More Bottles From VA Brewers

Many craft breweries start out by distributing their beers in kegs to local restaurants and pubs. As word spreads, folks beyond the local area start clamoring for the beers as well. And that's when bottles, or cans, come in to play. In recent months more Virginia breweries have been expanding their production and shipping out bottles for consumers to take home and enjoy. Not long after expanding their distribution around the state, Devils Backbone began shipping its Eight Point IPA and Vienna Lager to stores.

Less widely known Virginia breweries are getting into the act as well. Norfolk's O'Connor Brewing was featured in a Virginian-Pilot article today.
Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Kevin O'Connor has begun bottling his brew.
Local supermarkets and stores this week started selling beer produced by O'Connor Brewing Co., a 2-year-old Norfolk brewery. Until now, O'Connor beer had been available mostly on tap in restaurants and bars.  
"The six-packs are selling fast," said John Bovie, store director of Farm Fresh at Ghent in Norfolk, which started carrying them Tuesday. 
Other stores that began featuring O'Connor beer Tuesday include Total Wine & More in Norfolk and Grape & Gourmet in Virginia Beach. "I've been hearing people ask about it every day, usually multiple times a day," Kate Bates, assistant manager at Total Wine, said Wednesday.

Congratulations to Kevin and crew. Unfortunately I've not been able to try the O'Connor beers, nor the ones from Beach Brewing, also mentioned in the article. But I will be on the lookout in stores the next time I visit the Tidewater area.

See "Norfolk's O'Connor Brewing introduces bottled beer" for the complete article.

Adding IDPA To The Mix

I decided to hit a local IDPA match on Wednesday. Black Creek IDPA shoots Wednesday afternoons during Daylight Savings Time. The match director promised "something easy" for the first match of the season. Since it's been two years since I shot an IDPA match I figured it was a good time to try it out again.

There are some substantial differences between IDPA and USPSA. IDPA, being scenario oriented, is very specific concerning things like shooting order and reloads. USPSA generally leaves it up to the shooter to engage targets in the most expedient manner. A number of times I reverted to my USPSA experience and reloaded at the wrong time or dropped a non-empty magazine on the ground.

As I mentioned recently, shooting around barricades is a skill I need to practice more, and IDPA matches typically give plenty of opportunity for that. Indeed the first string in this match featured two barricades. In this string the shooter started seated and at the buzzer ran to a barricade and engaged six targets, two hits on each, taking three targets from each side of the barricade. You then progressed to another barricade further downrange and reengaged the same six targets. This time the requirement was one body and one head shot on each.

The second string had the shooter holding a phone handset in his off, or weak hand, and dialing a rotary phone with the shooting hand. For you youngsters, here's what that phone looks like. The gun and spare magazine were each loaded with 6 rounds. Upon the signal, the shooter would turn, engage each target with one shot strong hand only while still holding the phone. At slide lock, you dropped the phone, reloaded and made one shot on each target weak hand only.

The third and last string required all head shots, from about 7 yards. The requirement this time was for one head shot on each target strong hand only, a mandatory reload, followed by one head shot on each target weak hand only.

All three strings in the match used the same six targets that were lined up at the base of the berm. The shooters started from different positions for each string. It was a simple set up but called for a variety of skills. With just 48 shots required, there was opportunity for everyone who wanted to shoot a second time for practice, either with a different gun or the same.

It was a really fun afternoon. I saw plenty of things I could do better and differently, but I came home feeling pleased. I ended up placing 5th out of 15 shooters in my division. I expect I'll try to hit more of these weekday events at Black Creek, but I will have to concentrate on keeping the rule differences straight and not dropping right into USPSA thinking. Two different games, two different sets of rules producing different challenges.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gabriel Possenti Shooters

Here's a new project we're working on with some fellow Catholic shooters. Gabriel Possenti Shooters is a group of local (so far) Catholics who have an interest in shooting, both for self-defense and for sport. The initial plans for the group include the following:
  • To help educate others on a Catholic view of self-defense
  • To build fellowship among faithful Catholic shooting enthusiasts
  • To promote awareness among the faithful of the need to protect one's family
  • To promote responsible recreational shooting among Catholics
  • To use our love of the shooting sports to promote and support charitable works in our community
  • To promote defense of God given rights in a secular society through prayer, education, and action
It is said that there is no better way to grow in one's faith than by surrounding oneself with supportive, like-minded people. What better way to do this than through a shared interest? There are plans to get together for some social shooting in the coming months.

We will also be looking for ways to combine our interests in shooting and our devotion to our faith in order to benefit the community. If you want to keep up with new developments, head over to the blog and check it out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blue & Gray Does Green

Saint Patrick's Day is this coming Saturday, March 17. That means it's time for the 10th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival at Blue & Gray Brewery.

The parade starts at noon, followed by an afternoon of Irish song and dance. The antique historic railroad cars of the National Railway Historical Society you see on the way to the brewery will be open for tours beginning at 10:00am. A "traditional" lunch of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes will be available for purchase, as well as plenty of Blue & Gray beer. The Lee's Retreat Brewpub will be open for lunch for those preferring an inside meal. The brewery's infamous bourbon oak barrel-aged Russian imperial stout, Minor Dementia will also go on sale this day.

This event is free and family friendly. The celebration is also a fund raiser for local volunteer Fire & Rescue units. Fun times, great beer, and a worthy cause!


Details and advance meal ticket information is here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Place In The Choir

Sunday morning fun. The Irish in me canna resist tappin' me feet.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How Early Is Too Early?

That's a rhetorical question of course. "Early" is simply looking at "late" from a different viewpoint.* While most folks don't regularly start their day off with a beer, it's certainly not unheard of. As I frequently tell people, beer is a food, so treat it as such.

A few years ago I shared my thoughts on a Christmas breakfast served with a Hefeweizen. According to this Washington Post article, golfers in Howard County, MD are looking for a fair shake in their breakfast choices.
On the golf course, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all golfers are created with the ability to sometimes hit the ball straight, that they are endowed by the ghosts of Bobby Jones with certain unalienable rights, such as the right to wear really bright shirts, take mulligans not infrequently, and pop beers on the first tee even if the sun isn’t all the way up.
These rights have existed as long as Sunday duffers have been hooking dimpled balls onto nearby roadways — which is a very long time — but in Howard County these rights have not, historically, been fully vested. That’s because the earliest time golfers are permitted to relieve their thirst with a Bud Light or a shot of Jose Cuervo is — gulp — 11 a.m.

A bill under consideration will allow the thirsty golfer to enjoy a beer or other alcoholic beverage starting at 6:30AM. The article doesn't say, but one would assume there would have be a cut-off time in place, else there'd be no need for the "resume" time.

* When we were on pilgrimage in Italy a few years ago, my son was found of saying, "It's not how late you go bed, it's how early you get up that matters."

Friday, March 9, 2012

AK-47 USB Drive

Last month we looked at a razor blade shaped bottle opener. Now here's something that is sure to get the hoplophobes worked up. The folks at have a USB flash drive shaped like a AK-47 "assault rifle!"

Of course, to anyone with a modicum of common sense would realize this is not a weapon. In other words kids, don't take it to school with you.

Round Up Your Friends

According to Ireland’s National Substance Misuse Strategy, drinking in pubs, rather than at home, encourages responsible drinking.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Colors on the Range

We had just finished setting up the targets for some late afternoon shooting, when Colleen observed "Looks like Easter!"

Iced Tea In Your Beer?

The Molson Coors Brewing Company is unveiling an iced tea flavored beer. Apparently market research tells them that people are using ice tea to improve the flavor of Coors Light. Frankly, I don't see the point. As I asked recently, "Why not start with good tasting beer in the first place?"

Perhaps a bit of Budweiser Chelada to go along with it?

H/T to 45er over at Barrel Smoke for bringing this to our attention.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Reflecting On The Match

A reflective post written more for me than thee. Read on if you choose.

The results from last Sunday's USPSA match were posted. I finished about where I expected. There were no surprises, and I find myself mostly pleased with what I see.

That I saw no surprises in the scores is revealing. When I first started this sport, I barely remembered shooting the targets once the stage was over. Heck, I rarely even watched the RO score the stage. Now that I'm more focused, and am building confidence, I have a good feeling of how I did when I finish shooting, and I am no longer embarrassed to hear the hits being called out by the RO.

In Sunday's match I finished 30th out of 56 Production shooters. So, about in the middle of the pack, and that meshes with my current 49.03% "C" classification. My best finish was 26th on Stage 7. I was very happy with that. I was the first shooter on the stage and that lead off position often gets my jitters going. At the time I felt like I shot the course at a good pace, and tried to keep moving (though slowly) and not stop when shooting the close targets along the sides. I had no "D" hits or misses on that stage. I saw my lowest finish on Stage 2, at 37th. I expected that; it was the last stage of the long day, and I also hit a no-shoot.

The one "disappointment" I mention, though mild, is related to Stage 5, the Classifier stage. I knew it at the time when I saw two "D" hits. Once the classification scores are run, that will come in at a lower average than where I currently sit. Still within the "C" but it's one more score making it harder to get the average up. I was thrilled when I made "C" less than a year after starting USPSA, but I've not moved up much since then. I'd love to get my "B" card someday, but I need to do better on these standard tests. (I'm not a test taker, what can I say?)

Both Stage 5 and Stage 2 had me shooting while leaning around a barricade. Even if the lean is not extreme, I am aware that I need to practice that skill more. Those two stages reaffirmed that.

My takeaway from the match is that having confidence and relaxing helps. I walked into the match thinking about the fun of seeing friends I hadn't seen in awhile, and simply looking forward to shooting. I tried to not shoot too fast (not always successful). I also decided to try start shooting on the move when I could. I plan to work on shooting around barricades and also practice getting the gun on target faster when moving into a new position.

As mentioned previously, match day was a long one. The match lasted over 6 hours. By adding my times for all 7 stages I see that I spent a total of 3.32 minutes actually shooting. And to think, my goal is to spend even less time at a match doing that!

That's enough naval gazing for now. I have my list of things to work on. Time for some dry fire practice. See you on the range!

Oops, Procrastination

When I recently brought home the case of Tröegs Nugget Nectar I was pressed for time. I quickly threw a few in the fridge, fully intending to finish the stocking task later.

Over the couple weeks, I've enjoyed the occasional bottle of this fine brew. Yesterday evening, as dinner was being prepared we decided to relax with a good beer. I went downstairs to grab three bottles, one each for Colleen, a dinner guest and myself. Uh oh, there are only two left in the refrigerator! Although there are some beers I prefer at cellar temp, I enjoy many ales slightly chilled from the fridge.

It so happened that we also needed "8 ounces of a red ale" for a recipe. Despite its intense hop level, Tröegs considers Nugget Nectar an "amber ale." Close enough. From the warm bottle, I poured the 1/2 cup needed for cooking, and then poured our three glasses from the remaining 2 and a partial bottles. That chilled the beer just right and we were back on track, all sharing equally in the sacrifice made for recipe. Whew.

Excuse me. I have to go restock the refrigerator to prevent this embarrassing occurrence from repeating.

Plea To Users of

Please, in the name of all that is good, stop using Blogger's new CAPTCHA. Please.

Switch to moderation. Switch to registered users. Delete spam after the fact. Trust the comment spam filters, they're pretty effective. Really.

I'm about to give up even commenting on blogs that use these nearly unreadable blurs. I spend more time refreshing to try to get something I can remotely guess at than I do writing my comments.

Thank you for your attention. We now return to our regular programming.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

WaPo Photo Caption Contest

This should be very interesting.

The Washington Post is holding a photo caption contest. As you can see, it involves beer and President, um, O'bama. Head over the the Washington Post page to see the entries so far, or enter your own.

Photo Credit: Charles Dharapak - AP
H/T to Beer in Baltimore.

Victory For Virginia Brewers

Virginia Brewers, and Virginia craft beer fans, have reason to celebrate. Soon the breweries will be able to sell their product directly to consumers, for enjoyment right at the brewery. Hardywood Brewery has a nice write up on this news.
SB 604, introduced by Senator Jeffrey L. McWaters and Senator William M. Stanley Jr., gives brewery license holders permission to sell their beer for on-premise consumption where it is made. At present, Virginia breweries that do not have a full service restaurant (brewpubs) have been limited to offering free samples, and selling beer to go. The bill was amended once by a House sub-committee to specify that breweries can only sell brands they own (this law is currently in place for Virginia commercial breweries, so I believe the amendment just provided clarity to lawmakers), and ultimately passed the House floor on March 1, 2012 with 99 yeas and 0 nays, and the amended bill passed the Senate floor on March 5, 2012 with 38 yeas and 1 nay. The bill will go into effect on July 1, 2012. Read the full language of the bill here:
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The ability to sell beer for on-premise consumption has worked extremely well as a way to enhance beer culture in other states, like neighboring North Carolina. As evidence, Ashville has been named “Beer City USA” three years straight, and has become a major tourist destination for an ever growing population of craft beer lovers. Further, North Carolina was selected as the location for Sierra Nevada’s east coast satellite brewery, and is a front-runner in New Belgium’s search for an east coast site. With more breweries from the western part of the country looking to expand to the east coast, more favorable beer laws will certainly make Virginia more competitive in attracting $20M - $100M+ expansion projects that will create a great deal of new jobs in a rapidly growing industry.
This brings Virginia breweries closer to parity with Virginia's wineries, which long ago lobbied for this same privilege. Congratulations to the Virginia Craft Brewer’s Guild for their efforts in getting this legislation passed.

See "SB 604 has Passed! What this Means for Virginia Beer" for more information.

Monday, March 5, 2012

2nd Amendment Affirmation

Simply put:
"A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights. The right’s existence is all the reason he needs."
That's U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg slapping down Maryland's "may issue" concealed permit law as being unconstitutional. See the Second Amendment Foundation press release for more on this important case.

In another instance of freedom triumphing, just a few weeks ago the City of Chicago paid nearly $400,000 to the SAF as payment for the cost of fighting city’s illegal handgun ban in the Supreme Court of case McDonald vs. City of Chicago.

While so much attention is being paid these days to manufactured "rights," it's heartening to see our true rights, those that are God-given and affirmed in the Constitution, being defended.

First USPSA Match of 2012

On Sunday it was time for the first USPSA match of 2012, held by Fredericksburg Practical Shooters. I've been looking forward to getting back on the competition horse and seeing what results may have come from my winter range workouts.

The day started out cool and overcast. And, it pretty much stayed that way all day. There were a few moments a brief rain sprinkles, but never enough to even break out the plastic bag to cover my gear. I was glad I had light gloves in my bag to wear when I'm not shooting.

I thought the stages offered a wide variety of challenges to test our skills. There were long shots when watching the front site was critical, and stages where you could go as fast as you felt comfortable. There were open targets, and targets that were almost completely hidden, or crowded by no-shoots. A few pieces of falling steel were thrown in, as well as a moving drop turner. Most of the courses of fire were intermediate in size, consisting of 12-24 shots, so we got to do plenty of reloads, and there was a lot of movement required on the part of the shooter.

While all of the courses of fire were interesting and challenging, there were a couple of points that stood out in my mind at the end of the day. Our squad started on Stage 3, which was a straightforward course with 12 targets to be engaged from 3 different shooting areas. Here it is —the first shots on the first stage at the first match of the year. It was just the stage to get the me warmed up for the rest of the day. Stage 4 looked pretty straightforward, with some strategically hidden placed steel as well. But this stage was deceptive as there seemed to be a fair number of shooters running past targets without engaging, or shooting and missing. There was one upside down target, with it's bottom half (which was at the top) blacked out as a non-target which I managed to fire at and miss with both shots!

Stage 6 was a fun course. There was a mix of paper targets and steel at the start and the finish. In the middle were two ports that gave a view of seven targets down range. The course designer had placed a no-shoot, and the walls, so that you had to use both ports to hit all 7 targets, and you couldn't see them as contiguous groups. Stage 7 had the shooter moving down a center runway, hitting targets on either side. This was a good opportunity to try shooting on the move if you were so inclined. At the end of the course was a drop-turner activate by a falling steel popper. Once the popper was hit, the drop-turner would briefly face the shooter as it lowered, and then disappear. I managed to get three shots off, and on the target, earning an A and C hit. This target make me think, if I can hit it so quickly, why does it take me so long to aim at the non-moving targets? But then again, I don't get to shoot these disappearing targets often enough to know repeatable that is. :-)

In all there were 7 stages to be shot, including a classifier. The Fredericksburg matches are always well-attended and make for a long day. This match was no exception, with about 120 shooters spread over 6 squads. I arrived at the range at 8:00AM, and the match kicked off at 9:00AM. My squad finished shooting at 3:30PM. The chair I carry around essentially serves as a table for my range bag, as there's little time for sitting since we stay busy pasting targets between shooters. By the time I arrived home I was hungry, tired, and my legs were a bit achy, but I was happy to have played that day! Despite a few misses I was pleased with my performance overall. Did the Winter range time pay off? If not in obvious ways, I did find myself going into each stage with a little more confidence, and not excessive jitters. There are always improvements to be made and things to do better, but really the key point is to have good, safe fun. And that I did!

Fredericksburg has two new Match Directors this year, and it seemed to be an unanimous opinion that they did a superb job putting together a fun match. This was a great match to kick off the season. I came home tired and looking forward to a well-earned cold beer. I can say I'm already looking forward to next month's match!

A shooter steps off on Stage 7

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Geologist In Me

My undergraduate degree is in Geology. An old college friend sent me this recently.

Even though I never worked as a geologist after college, it would appear I did keep the beverage interest.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More Updates

I guess this qualified as a "lazy Saturday." After a busy week at work, I enjoyed just relaxing today and reading what other bloggers are writing. I considered trying to go to the range today, but decided against it since I'll get to shoot tomorrow at the first local USPSA match of the year.

Here are a couple links I've been visiting recently, and that have been added to the blog links pages. I really am thankful for my RSS reader; there's no way I could keep up with all the blogs I check otherwise.


Google Map of Virginia IDPA, USPSA and 3gun venues
This is a handy collection of ranges that hold action shooting matches. i.e. IDPA/IDPA like, USPSA, Steel, 3gun, ICORE.

Gabriel Possenti Shooters
And finally a new project I'm involved in. Still in it's infancy, a local group of Catholic shooting enthusiasts is organizing to raise awareness of self defense rights and the shooting sports among the Catholic faithful. Keep reading over there to hear more as the project progresses.

Can Art

We've seen chandeliers and clocks made from leftover beer bottles. Here's an artist who creates very nice model cars from beer and soda cans. The level of detail is amazing.

The Guinness car took 16 Guinness cans.

This Rheineck Roadster uses 28 cans and took 43 hours to build.

Visit Sandy's CanCars for more pictures and the stories behind the models.

H/T to Jay G.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Round Up!

I laugh every time I watch it.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Virginia Weather

Folks around hear often lament, "If you don't like the weather in Virginia, wait 5 minutes. It'll change." Unfortunately the inevitable change applies to favorable weather too.

I had just returned to work after a nice lunch with my wife, and was enjoying the nice weather. My car thermometer read 75°. Then I saw this on my desktop widget when I got back to the office.

SOS Mobile iPhone App

For the past week or so I've been looking through the iTunes App Store, searching for an emergency notification app. My goal for such an app would be to instantly alert predetermined persons that I am in an emergency situation. Obviously, calling 911 is the best and first course of action in an emergency. However, 911 may be of limited use from a cell phone.

In general I was disappointed in most of the apps I looked at, and even bought. I looked at a number of these tools before finding one that seems to meet my functional requirements, is easy to use, and highly configurable. I chose SOS Mobile by Sylvain Deguire. This app costs 99¢ in the iTunes store.

The initial set up requires you to set up an account on the application server. After entering your contact information, you will receive a confirmation email to validate your account. After validation, you then configure the many options. I entered three contacts to receive both email and SMS alerts. I set a 5 second delay before starting, and have the alert repeat every 5 minutes until cancelled. There are a number of other options that you may set depending upon your intended use of the app. There is also an option to send tracking alerts at a selected intervals.

Once the application is set up, it is easy to use. To activate the emergency alert you simply launch the app and hit the SOS button. Your contacts will receive an SMS with your personalized message, along with a Google Maps link to your location. The emails sent out contain links to a location map and a link to a web page with the personal information you choose to supply in the setup. When the emergency is over, you cancel the alert from within the application.

The validation process did not work for me the first time so I initially struggled with the set up. I contacted the developer and received a response almost immediately. Upon reinstalling and trying again the process worked. When one of my contacts installed the app, he also had an issue with the validation process and had to repeat the install. The developer theorized, based on an invalid URL error, that Apple was serving up an old version intermittently, and he contacted Apple about the issue. I've since installed the app on two more iPhones with no issues whatsoever. The developer was very quick to respond to my emails until the issue was resolved.

Once aspect of this app, and others that I tried, of which the user should be aware, is the possible privacy issue. To provide the desired functionality the emergency alert goes out through the provider's server. The SOS Mobile developer places a privacy statement within the app to make sure the user is aware of this. He notes that the contact information will not be used for marketing. I previously used another alert app and that developer actually spammed my emergency contacts to promote his other products. Given the responsive service I've received from the SOS Mobile developer I am confident he won't commit such an abuse.

I hope I never need to activate this application, beyond these tests that I did. However, I am comforted to know that with SOS Mobile I can easily get a distress call out to trusted friends and family, with the information they need to respond, or to contact others who can.