Monday, March 18, 2019

Shooting With My Son and a New Gun

Our son was home last week for his Spring Break. His extended visits home are always fun, especially since we usually hit the range together a time or two. This visit was made more exciting since only a few hours before he arrived I had finally picked up that SIG P365 I've been eyeing. And, now that the DST time switch has occurred, the range is actually open late afternoon and early evening, allowing more time to shoot.

I brought along my SIG P320 Compact, the new P365, and he had his P226. Copious amounts of ammo and targets completed were brought along. Upon arriving we noticed the bay had a new layer of gravel. We've endured a few years of bare dirt (mud) so that was a nice surprise.

I started out shooting a couple of mags through the P365 from 7 yards. After that we did all our shooting from the 10 yard line. I was generally pleased with how I shot the little gun. It's pretty easy to control, despite the small size and a bit of kick. The aggressive stippling on the grip helps, but also leads to sore hands after a while. I used both 115 and 124 grain ball ammo, as well as some Speer Gold Dot Self Defense rounds. There were no issues with any of it. I'll try to get several hundred more rounds through the gun before t-shirt season when it will be added to my carry rotation.

We alternated between all three guns. I soon realized that I should bring out the SA/DA gun a little more often. 

Due to range restrictions, we did spend more time standing idle than actually shooting. The latest rules at the club forbid more than one person firing at a time, even though everyone stands on the same line. If you find yourself pulling the trigger at the same time as another person, all shooters must sort out a plan to avoid that offense. More than one person shooting is seemingly too difficult for the range officers to distinguish from a single shooter doing "rapid fire." Strings of fire are limited to two trigger pulls. This leads to a lot of "You shoot two rounds, then I'll shoot two, then you..." Shooters are also forbidden from even loading up magazines when another is shooting, using up even more precious time. On the bright side it allowed more conversation during the breaks together to load magazines.

Despite the restrictive rules, the outing was a lot of fun, and provided enjoyable father-son time. It was good to continue working out the "bugs" from my down time. Given his busy work load in school, my son had not been shooting in several months and appreciated the tune up time as well.

It's good to have a target repair minion.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Happy St. Patrick's Day


It's that time of the year when a Saint revered by many, especially in the Irish-Catholic community, has his good name and works twisted into an excuse to drink to excess and abuse the color green. As a Catholic of Irish decent, and a lover of naturally-colored beer, it pains me to see what this day has become.

It strikes me as odd that this day, meant to honor a great man and Saint, has evolved the way it has. Whether you accept the traditions associated with his life or not, there can be no denying the good he did. (As much as some of these stories cannot be proven, they cannot be disproven either.) Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery in Ireland, he grew to love the Irish people. Late in his life, he was around 60 at the time, Saint Patrick returned to the Emerald Isle to teach and convert the people he had grown to love so much. Certainly that is worthy of our respect.

Odd is it may seem, we actually have to remind people, and pubs, that St. Patrick was a man, not a woman. His name is Patrick, which comes from the Irish, Pádraig. Shorten his name to Paddy if you must. However, we do not celebrate "St. Patty's Day." Patty is a shortened version of Patricia, a girl's name. Feast-related debauchery is one thing, but transgendering our Saint is unacceptable.
So, celebrate the memory of St. Patrick. Enjoy a drink or two and some good food. There's nothing wrong with bringing a little revelry into the world, we certainly need it. I like a good party as much as the next guy. (And I certainly appreciate a good Irish drinking joke.) Drink your green beer if you must. Dress up in silly clothes. Dye your water fountain green. But please, remember the reason for this feast. Take a moment to honor the man and all the good he did. In our house we'll raise a toast, and a prayer, to St. Patrick in honor of his deeds and his country.

All the children of Ireland cry out to thee:
Come, O Holy Patrick, and save us!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

St. Patrick's Day Lesson

No matter how you celebrate tomorrow, please remember. . .

Note to marketing folks, St. Patrick was a man, not a leprechaun.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Regina Cigars - Supporting Good Works

Just because I'm on a short break from cigars, doesn't mean I can't make preparations for my future enjoyment. Recently, Colleen told me about a company called Regina Cigars that she had come across online. Run by faithful Christians, the company is using the sales of its cigars to support good works. From their website...
Our goal is to bring you finely crafted cigars that are lovingly hand rolled using exquisite blends from around the world. Part of our mission is also to help raise awareness and financial support for persecuted & displaced Christians, particularly those suffering hardship as a result of the recent conflicts in the Middle East. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Regina Cigars will go to "Aid to the Church in Need" which seeks to supply emotional, material & spiritual support to hurting Christians around the world.

Obviously, I was intrigued. And when your wife suggests you buy cigars, it's best to jump right on it. The company lists about 20 different cigars of Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican origins. All of the cigars feature exquisite religious artwork on the bands. I made a trial purchase of a sampler consisting of five Honduran blends. These particular cigars were blended by Christian Eiroa, founder of CLE Cigars and former owner of the Camacho Cigars company.

The cigars are resting in my humidor now. I am looking forward to lighting them up soon. Already though, I'm tempted to acquire the rest of the line to support the charitable works, and to collect the bands!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Five O'Clock Friday: DST

Daylight Savings Time starts on Sunday. I look forward to enjoying the added time in the evenings.

Mornings are long enough. Why don't we just agree to keep the clock set on DST next fall?

Have a great, even if shortened, weekend.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Returning to Normalcy: IDPA Match

My long-awaited return to shooting an IDPA match arrived last weekend when I was able to shoot the monthly match at Sanner's Lake. I had been almost two months since my heart attack and I was nervously awaiting the event. I was worried I'd be delayed even longer when I went back in the hospital last weekend to have another stent put in. But upon my discharge the cardiologist stated, "Do your normal activities as much as you can." Okay. Game on!

I have been walking regularly, but I was still under restrictions on lifting. I was confident from a health perspective, but was still feeling some angst and nervousness. It was a cold Saturday morning when I met my two travel companions and we headed to the range in Maryland. I wasn't sure if I was shaking more from the cold or from the nerves

This month, the organizers did something a little different. Instead of the typical 6 stages in 6 bays, the match consisted of 12 short stages requiring 5-12 rounds each, and shot at distances of 3-10 yards. Two stages were set in each bay. At least I wouldn't have to worry about a lot of running.

As I approached my first stage, my heart was racing and I was feeling atypically tense. The stage was simple; gun and reloads on the table, all loaded with 6 rounds. The requirement was two shots on each of three targets, reload, then two shots on each of the targets support hand only. I was reminded of my early days of shooting — flinging bullets downrange with abandon. Sights? What sights? I actually did better with my support hand as I was forced to slow down a bit.

That first stage over, I went back to my chair to think happy thoughts and force myself to relax. The rest of the match went better, though my two month break certainly showed both in shooting and stamina.

The stage with the most movement had us running downrange to engage targets as they appeared behind barrels, finishing with three low targets behind a wall of barrels. This was the fourth stage we shot and I was at last feeling a bit more relaxed.

Another stage required three hits on a close target before moving along a wall to shoot a steel popper and a target that intermittently appeared from behind a non-threat. Instead of the the falling steel activating the mover, shooter stepped on a pad, either on the way to the popper or by taking a step back to activate. Most folks opted to shoot the popper first, then reach back with a leg to activate the quickly appearing and disappearing target. I enjoyed the stage quite a bit despite putting a very nice 2-shot group on the non-threat in my rush to hit the disappearing target. That 10 second penalty did me no favors in the standings.

We started another fun stage by holding down a swinging non-threat that would move in front of three targets placed at increasing distances down range. Releasing the fast moving swinger, you stepped back and put four shots on each target. This turned out to be my best stage of the match.

Four of the stages in the match were set up as the four strings of the IDPA 5x5 Classifier. I was happy to see that included as I can check the box on having current classifications in all the divisions I might shoot in the next year.

I generally prefer longer stages with more movement, to the shorter, standards types stages. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the match very much. The format worked for this point in my return to normalcy. My friends were most generous in pulling the gear wagon and filling in for my pasting duties. I was able to sit when not shooting. They also offered support in a way only good friends can; including remarks about toe tags and splitting up my gear in the event of an incident. And really, I wouldn't want it any other way.  :-)

It was a small step, but one in the right direction. After a heart attack and two hospital stays, and only one limited range trip this year, I really can't complain. There's still some healing and recovery on the road ahead but I'm very excited to be on the way back to the usual fun activities. It's a few weeks until the next match, so I have time to brush up with dry fire and maybe even a range trip or two.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

St. Gabriel Possenti: Patron Saint of Handgunners

Today, February 27, is the Feast Day of St. Gabriel Possenti.

Legend holds that Gabriel Possenti was a Catholic seminarian in Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy. In 1860 he is said to have used his skills with the pistol to drive off a band of marauding soldiers who were terrorizing the town. Possenti faced the troublemakers after grabbing revolvers from two soldiers. As they laughed at the young student, he took aim and accurately shot a lizard that was running across the road. Impressed, the soldiers left the town, escorted by the seminarian, who had become the hero of the town.

Like many Saints, there's an unclear line between the facts of the Saint's life and the "tradition" associated with him. However, this story about Gabriel Possenti has led to him being promoted as the Patron Saint of Handgunners. The St. Gabriel Possenti Society was created for the purpose of promoting the Saint's cause. The society also promotes the study of the historical, philosophical and theological bases for the doctrine of self-defense.

A few years ago, our parish was presented with a relic of St. Gabriel Possenti, under the title St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. It was an exciting moment when I saw the blurb announcing the displayed relic in our weekly bulletin. Since then, I've enjoyed sharing the story of Gabriel Possenti with many parishioners. I dare say most of our Catholic friends who also enjoy shooting are now familiar with the Saint and his story.

In another interesting "coincidence," my Virginia Concealed Handgun permit was originally issued on February 27, the Feast Day of the Patron Saint of Handgunners!

St. Gabriel Possenti ora pro nobis!

Today would be a great day to hit the range. If that's not possible, buying some ammo would be a fine recognition of the Saint.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Five O'Clock Friday: Kalsarikännit

Yep, it's a word. Kalsarikännit is Finnish for the joy of drinking at home, alone, in your underwear , with no intention of going out.

It seems the Finns may have perfected the art of relaxation. Rest assured I will not be musing on any experiences I may or may not have enjoying Kalsarikännit.

Image from ThisisFINLAND.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

I Did a Little Shooting!

The combination of an encouraging report from my cardiologist and some unseasonably warm February weather made for the perfect time to head over to the range Friday afternoon. This was the first time I've shot in 2019, and despite some apprehension, I was excited to be on the range.

I took the SIG P320 Compact, and only 100 rounds of ammunition. I knew I'd be tempted to overdue it, so I set that limit before I left the house. I set up one of the colors and shapes targets, and hung some clays from the rope. All shooting was done between 7 and 10 yards.

I wasn't overly pleased with my accuracy at the start. The groups were loose, although I did manage hit the clays fairly consistently out to 10 yards. By the end of the two boxes of ammo, I was feeling better, but still need some honing of my very stale skills.

As I was setting up, interesting conversations started up with others at the range. When I arrived, a shooter was picking up brass after shooting his new SIG P365. As we chatted, one of the guys who had been fishing came over to his truck that was parked near the bay. He then showed us the SIG P229 he was carrying. It turns out also that he used to shoot IDPA and 3-gun, and had been considering coming down to the IDPA matches at Cavalier. I let him know I shoot those matches frequently and encouraged him to do just that.

Overall it was a very enjoyable outing. I got a little shooting in, and had fun chats with other SIG Sauer enthusiasts. It was a break I absolutely needed.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Drinks, Cigars, Recovery

As I work through my recovery, the enjoyment of alcohol and cigars figures frequently in my conversations with health care professionals.

The earliest discussions took place in the ICU. For three days I was asked by numerous people if I was smoker. I replied I enjoyed the occasional cigar. Most of the time the person said nothing. Maybe they were simply relieved I didn't use cigarettes.

Just once the reply was "you can't do that." One nurse replied, "If you're like my husband, you won't give that up." While being interviewed by a doctor, he replied with a smile, "Not in here, right?"

Most of the comments about alcohol revolve around warnings about "more than one or two drinks a day." Despite an oft misunderstood reputation, that's closer to my total in a week. Picking up prescriptions, a pharmacist remarked, "I'm supposed to warn you about alcohol, but let's be realistic..." I have treated myself to a beer on occasion since the heart attack. As an aside, I now (mostly) limit myself to one cup of coffee a day. That's a major change for me.

I'm resting at home now. I open my humidor and rearrange cigars occasionally, taking in their aroma. I won't be smoking for a while, probably closer to the end of my cardio rehab sessions. It's too cold outside to enjoy a smoke on the deck anyway. I've also started questioning the wisdom of sitting in a smokey lounge with the associated second hand smoke.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying telling the rehab nurses one of my goals is to get back to "shooting, bourbon and cigars." They simply roll their eyes. We did go to the liquor store recently to pick up some "future" libations. I am still looking for that "special" celebratory cigar for when the day comes...

"Not in here?" That still cracks me up.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Saint José Sánchez del Río

Today, February 10, is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint José Sánchez del Río. On this date in 1928, this 14 year old boy was killed by Mexican troops for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith during the Cristero War. The story of this period of Catholic persecution led by Mexican President Calles was told in the movie "For Greater Glory." The young martyr was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005, and later canonized by Pope Francis on October 16, 2016.

The Saint's story is one with which few American Catholics are familiar. That is a tragedy in its own right. Though they might not know the Saint's story, many Americans are no doubt familiar with his face. The picture, shown below, of the young boy with Cristeros fighters is one that is often seen hanging in Mexican restaurants, among other old photos. Probably not too many diners know that a Saint and fighter for religious freedom is looking down at them while they eat.

After José was captured by government forces fighting the Cristero, he was forced to witness the torture and execution of fellow Catholic countrymen, yet he never wavered in his faithful resolve. He was himself was tortured and urged to shout "Death to Christ the King" with the promise his suffering would be over. On the day of his torturous execution, the soldiers cut the soles of his feet and he was made to walk barefooted to the grave they had dug for him. He was repeatedly stabbed with bayonets as he made his way to the place of his martyrdom.

Even after he had been shot he continued to cry out "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long live Christ the King!") The commander of the soldiers was so furious that he was able to resist the government barbarism, he finally shot the boy in the head. As he died he is said to have drawn a cross on the ground with his own blood as a final act of defiance.

During the Cristeros War many Catholics were killed by the Mexican government for their faith. This tragic part of recent history is pointedly ignored by the history books in both the United States and Mexico. It is a story that needs to be told and learned by all free people.

Saint José Sánchez del Río is truly a Saint for our times. His faithfulness in the face of torture and death should be a model for all of us. I pray we can be as strong when our own persecution comes.

Saint José Sánchez del Río, Pray For Us!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Five O'Clock Friday: Beware the Vodka

Don't try this at home. Or anywhere else.

Have a responsible winter weekend.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Surviving the Worst Day

During my hospital stay, I was reading Cigar Lounge Wisdom: Ruminations Inspired in a Cigar Bar, by Frank Borelli. The Kindle book's description says, " anthology of essays written based on discussions held in a cigar bar." While the cigar lounge connection is somewhat nebulous, it is an interesting read, and parts were quite inspiring given my situation.

One line in the book jumped out as especially apropos...

It's a quote I've reminded myself of frequently in the past weeks.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Dry Fire Time

I started my cardio rehab this past week. It's the first step of many towards getting my life back and being able to resume normal activities. I was actually a little anxious about starting the exercise program, especially after signing the papers acknowledging the risk, yet being assured by the staff that they had people there trained to help if there was a problem!  :-)

Even though I'm not yet ready for the range, I thought, "If I can walk on a treadmill, I can at least dry fire!" I have gotten to enjoy neither dry or live fire this year, so I was very overdue for trigger time. While some of my friends where shooting an IDPA match on Saturday morning, I spent time pulling the trigger on an empty gun.

My dry fire routine is pretty simple, so no modifications were needed in the typical 15 minute routine. Five minutes of "surprise" tigger presses with the timer, including SHO shooting, started the session. The next five minutes were devoted to drawing from the holster and getting the gun on target quickly. Finally, I continued the draw practice with the addition of movement to get to the target.

My plan is to compete with the Compact SIG P320 in 2019. Unfortunately I've missed more matches than I've shot so far this year, and I only got to the range with the gun a few times at the end of 2018. Hopefully a trip to the range for some live fire is not long off.

On the bright side, I was much warmer than my friends who shot outside today.

Friday, February 1, 2019

St. Brigid of Ireland

Today is the Feast Day of St. Brigid of Ireland, one of our family's favorite Saints. In a quote
traditionally attributed to St. Brigid, she prays...
"I'd Like A Great Lake Of Beer For The King Of Kings. I Would Like To Be Watching Heaven's Family Drinking It Through All Eternity."
Our family has long had an affection for this great Saint. It was during our trip to Ireland a few years ago that I came to realize just how popular she is in that country, second only to St. Patrick it seems. Her legendary association with miracles involving beer often overshadows her deeds of charity and compassion.

Beyond her prayer for a "great lake of beer" this revered Saint has other interesting connections with beer. According to tradition, Brigid was working in a leper colony when they ran out of beer. Since beer was an important source of safe liquid refreshment and nourishment, this was indeed a serious issue. Brigid is said to have changed her bath water into beer to nourish the lepers and visiting clerics. In another miracle attributed to St. Brigid, she provided beer to 18 churches for an entire Easter season, all from a single barrel of beer in her convent.
St. Brigid Statue, Knock Shrine, County Mayo, Ireland

St. Brigid, ora pro nobis! And cheers!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Game Night Snacks

I was stuck in the ICU for the College Football playoff game this year. Being restricted to a "cardiac diet," I was limited in my game-time snack options. However, I planned ahead and stashed some "sides" from previous meals. Fortunately I was allowed potato chips with my lunch. (Interestingly, I was not allowed to order them with dinner.)

Besides the chip rule, there were a few other things I quickly learned in order to manipulate more satisfactory meals. I was allowed only decaffeinated coffee, but could have all the caffeinated tea, hot or cold, I desired. So it was iced tea for every meal. Surprisingly those teas came with copious packs of sugar, which I didn't use. However, I did desire pepper for my food. I found our early that pepper was a separate menu item — if you didn't specifically order it, you didn't get it.

I realized the other day, the last red meat I've eaten was with the hamburger meals I was served, twice, in the hospital. I'm overdue for some quality cow.

I could have used binoculars to get a better view of that game...

Thursday, January 24, 2019

When Life Changes

It's taken a while but I am finally ready to share the life-changing experience I had earlier this month. On Friday evening, January 4, I was woken from sleep by intensely sharp pain in my chest. My immediate thought was, "This isn't right." I dialed 911 and within a few minutes, though it seemed an eternity, EMS arrived and I was loaded into the ambulance.

I recall telling the EMT that the pain had slightly decreased. The next thing I knew I was waking up, confused and agitated. In an instant I remembered where I was, and had the thought, "Wow, I actually fell asleep." Then one of the faces leaning over me said, "You're okay. Your heart stopped, but we got it going again." (In retrospect, the part after "but" was obvious, although I am still glad he specified.)

The cardiologist met us at the hospital and I was taken right into the cath lab to have a stent inserted in my occluded left anterior descending artery — the "widow maker." The next 24 hours were spent juggling pharmaceuticals to get my heart rhythm normalized. I was then cleared to move to "step down" care. Unfortunately, there were zero available beds in the hospital. So I spent the next two days stuck in ICU. That experience could be fodder for future musings. Suffice it to say, the ICU is not designed for patients who are conscious. (I've recently learned there is such a thing as ICU psychosis.)

The last couple weeks have been a roller coaster of physical and emotional trials. Writing an entry for this blog is somewhat cathartic. Medicines are still being adjusted and I'll soon start physical therapy to get my strength back. There is still more time to pass before I return to my previous work and play routines. Obviously, I am looking forward to getting back to the range, to enjoying good drink and good cigars. It goes against my nature to be idle, but I am working hard to be patient and allow my body, and mind, recover.

Looking back, I realize just how very fortunate I was. The ambulance had not even left my driveway when I went into cardiac arrest. I am thankful the emergency personnel arrived as quickly as they did. As I have been reminded numerous times since, the outcome might have been quite different otherwise.

I feel extremely thankful and blessed to be here now. It obviously wasn't time for me to go. It wasn't time for my wife to lose her husband. It wasn't time for my son to lose his father. Nonetheless, it was a poignant reminder that we do not know when our time in this life will be up, and must always prepare well. There is no room for, "I'll get to that later." I am very thankful for the ongoing support of my family and friends throughout this ordeal. I've also realized that some things that were important to me before seem less so now.

So there you have it. Posting will be sparse for a while. I have accepted that this will be a long-term process, not a quick turnaround.

I survived the "Widow Maker." I have that going for me.

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!