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!