Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Family That Shoots Together...

Saving my views on self-defense and preparedness for later, this post is about spending time outdoors with family. While I visit the range fairly often, I truly enjoy the times when it's a family outing. Recently I had a fun visit to the range accompanied by my wife and son, along with a good family friend.

We headed to the range after work and set up three target stands with paper targets, along with two 10" round steel target. Soon after we got set up it started raining lightly. We continued shooting, after all, "It's not always going to be a sunny day." The range we were using this day has berms at 25 and 50 yards. We had set up our targets at the 50 yard berm, as the 25 yard berm is too narrow for all five of the target stands. We had been standing up near the berm doing some warm up drills and general plinking. Given the injury mentioned earlier, this was time for simple standing and shooting, no shooting on the move. After a short while we headed back to the covered bench up range to reload magazines. About that time the rain changed to a heavy downpour. (Although Hurricane Irene was due to arrive the next day, this rain was unrelated.)

Due to the location of our targets in relation to the front berm, only one target was visible from back at the bench. Not wanting to submit the gear, or ourselves, to the torrential rain, I came up with the idea to shoot that 10" round target from underneath cover - that's 50 yards. Not exactly our everyday pistol drill, but it gave us something to do while we waited for the rain to pass. I'm happy to say that everyone managed to hit the target from that distance. Finally the rain stopped and we headed back down range to shoot at more practical and realistic distances.

We spent the next hour or more shooting one-on-one challenges. Two people would go to the line, after a random start beep from the timer, the first person to draw and hit the steel would win. The winner would stay up until he or she was beat. We mixed it up by sometimes requiring two hits on steel to win. Everyone had wins and losses. No score was kept. I was surprised how quickly the time passed, and how much ammo we went through. It was really good fun and we had some good laughs. And I was also impressed how good, and fast, a shooter our son has become.

Now there's a certain segment of our society that would wring their hands and cry out in anguish that we considered an afternoon shooting guns to be a good family activity. (If any of that segment is reading this now, I hope you'll work through those irrational fears and open your minds.) What's not to like? We're outdoors, we're teaching/learning responsibility, and we're exercising basic Constitutional, and human rights. And, most importantly, we're spending time together as a family. That certainly passes muster in my book.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The World's Best Selling Beer

Craft beer fans know they are in the minority when it comes to beer preferences. But, the gap is so much greater than we can imagine. When it comes to popular factory beers, we often think of the likes of Miller Light, Coors, Budweiser, and Mich Ultra. But none of those hold the lead in sales worlwide. According to The Telegraph, that "honor" goes to a little-known (at least in the U.S.) beer from China.
For the past three years, the world's top-selling beer is a pale, Budweiser-like brew that barely anyone in the West has ever heard of, let alone tasted. It is Snow Beer.

The Chinese drank 16.5bn pints of Snow last year, making it easily China's favourite and roughly twice as popular as Bud Light, the global beer from which it snatched the number one spot back in 2008.
This interesting article says that Snow Beer is described by SABMiller, who owns the brands, as "bright, almost transparent in nature, with a tight pure white foam." Also quoted is a review describing the flavor as "bland and watery." Certainly not enticing to this craft beer fan. But it's a good reminder that most of the world doesn't share our passion for full-flavored beers.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Internal Derangement & Degeneration

Subtitle: Growing old isn't for sissies.

Last weekend I participated in the monthly USPSA match held by North Mountain Practical Shooters. I was looking forward to the match as I haven't been able to shoot in a match since the July 3 Fredericksburg event. This match would also be the last chance to practice before the USPSA Area 8 Sectional next month.

The afternoon started out with some light rain, but later the sun came out making for a warm, humid day. Personally, I would have been happy with the cloud cover and light rain! I started out a little slow, racking up some no-shoots and misses early on. I eventually got into my groove and was happy with how I was shooting. The highlight of the day was a good run on the classifier stage. After some disappointing classifiers the past couple of matches, I was pleased to shoot well on this one. I finished 8th out of 22 Production shooters on that stage, and I think my score will boost my classification average slightly. I ended finishing three stages in the top 10, but that's not what I remember most from this match.

On the last stage of the match, after engaging the first couple of targets, I was leaning way out to see around the wall when my left knee suddenly gave out, and down I went. I managed to get back up, but was feeling a lot of pain and my knee felt like it might give out again. I waved to the R.O. and "surrendered." What a way to end the match.

I was looking forward to shooting that particular stage and had asked a squad mate to record me, so I did get a video of the incident. Trying to see a good side to this non-finish, I was pleased to see that I maintained a safe posture at all times. My finger came off the trigger and the muzzle remained pointed downrange. It is very satisfying to see something we practice kick in subconsciously.

I can't say enough about my squad mates that afternoon. Everyone was very helpful in getting me to my chair, providing an ice pack, helping me stow my gear safely, and even bringing my car down from the parking area. Walking was quite difficult and all the assistance got me on the road back home.

Almost a week later, I'm still feeling some pain, and the knee is unstable. The primary diagnosis was labeled "internal derangement." Initial results from x-rays and an MRI show no obvious tears to ligaments or cartilage, which is a good thing. I'm told there is some "degeneration." I will be seeing an Orthopedist soon, and am hoping for some good news on treatment.

Oh yea, that Area 8 match coming up next week? I'm still hopeful that I can participate, but am taking one day at a time. I certainly don't want a repeat of the fall or the pain of last week.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Devils Backbone To Be Distributed in Richmond

Well, it's not Fredericksburg, but getting closer. is reporting the Devils Backbone Brewery beers will soon be distributed in Richmond, VA.
Beer from the Devil's Backbone Brewing Company, one of Virginia's most well-known and respected breweries, will soon be available in Richmond. Starting in January, Virginia craft beer lovers can buy Devil's Backbone beer here—as well as at their brewpub in Roseland, where it's currently available.
I'm sure the beers will show up throughout the Old Dominion eventually. The Roseland-based brewery is building a production brewery in Rockbridge County to support wider distribution.

The article goes on the explain how Virginia craft beers are expanding their reach in Richmond. That's more great news for the excellent beers being produced in Virginia. To quote Jacob Brunow, craft and import manager for Brown Distributing, "These beers are delicious, and they sell themselves once you try them." I agree completely.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pub Food Is Good Food

But we knew that already, right? A writer for the local Free Lance-Star recently published his "bucket list" of 20 places one must eat in the Fredericksburg area. I wasn't surprised at all to see both of Fredericksburg's brew pubs making the cut.

At number 14, is the Cheddar-JalepeƱo Burger from Lee's Retreat at the Blue & Gray Brewery. I've written about this scrumptious burger previously. The burgers at Lee's Retreat are all delicious, but this one may be my favorite.

Also making the list, at number 17, are the Sweet Potato Fries with Sour Cream Dip at The Pub, home of Battlefield Brewing Company. The Pub is also serves a very respectable burger, which I've frequently enjoyed, but I have to admit, I've never had their Sweet Potato Fries. That's something I'll need to rectify sooner rather than later.

Few things make for a more enjoyable dining out experience than fresh brewed beer and good pub grub. It's not unexpected that two local brew pubs made this list.

See "Writer creates 'bucket list' of area's tempting tastes" for the complete list of must-try foods around Fredericksburg. And then get tasting!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

When the Beer Planets Align

Some days it seems that everything just falls together. A recent string of events had me wondering if perhaps I should by a lottery ticket. First, a couple of background bits to set things up. Recently I lamented about the recent absence of Clipper City and other beers in the Fredericksburg area. Also, last week I picked up the latest issue of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. In it I read how Bear Republic Racer 5 was a "delicious profitable mistake" created when the brewers added too many hops to a batch of their house IPA. This invoked memories of enjoying this big IPA on draft many times in the past. Now, on with this tale...

Recently while shopping at our local chain grocery store, I remarked to Colleen that I was going to check the beer aisle to see if anything inspired me, though I wasn't optimistic. As I rounded the corner and passed a rack of singles available for mix-and-match purchase, I spied several bottles of Clipper City Loose Cannon and Small Craft Warning. I laughed and thought, "Wow, those must be left over." Then I turned and spied an entirely new section of craft beers on the shelves. There, at the bottom were full six-packs of Clipper City beers. "Look at that!", I said to Colleen, who was by now also perusing this new display. I then spied some bombers of Racer 5 on the shelf. I remarked that I liked that beer a lot, but had only ever had it on draft.  I wished aloud that it was available in six-packs, rather than the 22 ounce bottles. Then, looking further down the shelf, that wish came true. There is was in that more consumable package as well.

How quickly a routine trip to the grocery store turned into a near stream-of-thought experience. A newly stocked beer section, an old favorite beer making a return, and a new bottle selection added to the home fridge. Life is good.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Health Benefits of Beer

Another reason to drink good beer.

Watch after the 15 second ad.

Hopping Mad - Critter vs. Plant

While ordering plants this Spring to fill pots and planters on our deck, Colleen thought it would be nice to add a hop plant. We don't home brew, and don't expect to harvest the cones, but the vine would be an interesting addition to the foliage outside.

The plant was potted up, and a small trellis added. The vine adapted quickly and has been putting out new growth. Today, when we came home from Mass, the disorder pictured here greeted us. This is actually the second time in a few weeks that some creature, we're assuming a squirrel, has dug into this pot. Not a single other flower pot on the deck is touched. The same potting soil is used in all the pots. Neither the plant nor the roots appear to be eaten. There's certainly something about this plant that sends the critter into a digging frenzy.

Frustrating? Yea.

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Belgium Arrives August 22

I'm posting the press release in its entirety. This is something we've been anticipating for quite some time. I got to try out New Belgium Ranger IPA during our recent trip to the Outer Banks. I look forward to fixing my oversight of not bringing some back home.

New Belgium Brewing Expands into Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. on August 22

Ft. Collins, CO (August 8, 2011) – In just two weeks, New Belgium Brewing will enter Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., expanding the nation’s third-largest brewery’s distribution into 28 states and the District of Columbia.  The expansion will bring New Belgium’s portfolio further north along the eastern seaboard with the initial launch of 22-oz. bottles of Fat Tire, Ranger IPA and fall seasonal, Hoptober Ale.  Trippel and Lips of Faith beers will also be available in select markets with draft and 12-oz. packages to follow.  These new territories will officially open on August 22.

“We couldn’t be more excited about these new territories,” said Bryan Simpson Media Relations Director for New Belgium Brewing.  “Many New Belgium co-workers are from the East Coast, including our CEO and founder Kim Jordan who grew up in Maryland, so for many of us this expansion takes us back to our roots.”

Seventeen distributors will help broaden New Belgium’s reach, which now includes plans to distribute in Montgomery County, MD.  At first distribution plans did not include Montgomery County because of logistical challenges. However New Belgium recently reached a deal that allows for distribution of draft and 22-oz. bottles in Montgomery County as well.

New Belgium, which is built around core values of producing world-class beer, environmental stewardship and having fun, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.  In 2010 the brewery produced a little more than 660,000 barrels of beer, which is up about 12 percent from 2009.

To learn more about New Belgium Brewing go to  To find a location near you to buy New Belgium beer check out our libation location tool at
About New Belgium Brewing Company
New Belgium Brewing Company, makers of Fat Tire Amber Ale and a host of Belgian-inspired beers, began operations in a tiny Fort Collins basement in 1991. Today, the third largest craft brewer in the U.S., New Belgium produces seven year-round beers; Fat Tire Amber Ale, Ranger IPA, Sunshine Wheat, Blue Paddle Pilsner, 1554 Black Ale, Abbey, Mothership Wit and Trippel, as well as a host of seasonal releases.  In addition to producing world-class beers, New Belgium takes pride in being a responsible corporate role model with progressive programs such as employee ownership, open book management and a commitment to environmental stewardship.  For more information, visit

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday evening...

... in a dog's world. And out cold.

I want what he's having.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Going for the can: Modus Hoperandi

More and more craft brewers are opting to package their beers in cans. Thankfully, the stigma associated with canned beers is being dismissed as educated drinkers come to understand the benefits. Cans are lighter and easier to carry, and they don't break if you drop them. Canned beers are not susceptible to light damage or leaky caps. Modern materials protect the contents from absorbing any flavor influences from the metal container. In practical and flavor terms, cans are simply better than bottles. As with bottles, the beer should be poured into a glass for proper enjoyment. You still need to let the beer "out" to release the aromas and flavors.

I recently picked up Modus Hoperandi from Ska Brewing, which was packaged in cans. The beer pours a bright, clear orange with a thick off-white head. The head lingers and leaves behind lots of lacing. The aroma is resinous pine, also with citrus and sweet malt hints. The flavor is pleasing with citrus rind bitterness. Some malt sweetness come out in the finish. There is a long lingering, but enjoyable, bitterness that stays behind in the finish. Mouthfeel is mildly carbonated and sticky.

Ska Modus Hoperandi is an enjoyable, flavorful beer. The can packaging is a practical and efficient method of protecting that flavor.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Molly Malone's, Washington DC

Before attending the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington, we were in search of dinner and drinks. We knew that the area around the Barracks was home to many restaurants, and we strolled several blocks looking for a place that would entice us in. We came upon Molly Malone's and quick perusal of the posted menu lured us in. Although it was barely evening the restaurant was filled with patrons. We were directed upstairs, to the part of the restaurant called Chesty’s 2nd Floor Saloon, where we quickly found a table.

The beverage menu consisted of a surprisingly extensive mix of craft beers. There were several double IPAs and other "big" beers that were tempting me. However, I knew I'd be spending the next couple of hours sitting in the sun, so I opted for something more moderate. I selected Lagunitas Dogtown Pale Ale. This ale poured a light amber color with a thin head. The aroma was slightly fruity with a bit of citrus hops. The flavor was much more bitter than I expected. The description that came immediately to mind was "grapefruit rind." Not unpleasant, but more of what I'd expect from an IPA. The finish was dry with lingering bitterness.

The food menu consists of a variety of "bar fare." For my meal, I ordered the Bacon Burger with fries. The Angus burger was thick and juicy, and topped with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato & smoked bacon. The other members of our party all selected the Chicken Tenders. The tenders are made from sliced chicken breast with a crispy coating. During our meal we saw many orders of the pub's buffalo wings going by our table. They looked quite appetizing and we all vowed that we needed to make a return visit to try them out. And of course, Molly Malone's craft beer menu certainly warrants further exploration.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Verizon Service Fail

Writing these Musings is often cathartic for me, so perhaps putting these complaints "to paper" will be beneficial.

The company I work for is moving into a larger office space. Facilitating that move fell to me. Through the six months of effort, from looking at nearly every commercial office space in Fredericksburg, to negotiating a lease, to buying new furniture, to moving, to dealing with utilities, nothing has been more frustrating that dealing with the cancellation of old phone numbers with Verizon Business.

Wednesday: I call Verizon to cancel our old phone service. No problem I'm told. The helpful rep confirms that Verizon will provide a referral service for 90 days to announce our new number to callers. I am assured the change will be in effect by the close of business today.

Thursday: The old numbers are still ringing through to our old PBX system. I cannot have that system taken off line until the referral message is in place. The Verizon rep says she has to cancel the first request and create a new one. That done, she says the change will happen by the close of business today.

Friday: The old phone number is disconnected. Unfortunately callers are not given the new number. Verizon simply plays that annoying squealing sound effect, says the number has been disconnected and no that further information is available. I place yet another call to Verizon. This rep tells me the changes aren't scheduled to take effect until today, despite what I was told yesterday. I explain that this is not good for business as Verizon has already disconnected the old number. Callers need to know the new number. She is unmoved and refuses to look into the issue or provide any further service. I am told must wait until the close of business today.

As expected the referral message still does not appear by the close of business. Unfortunately, this is Friday. Verizon does not provide customer service on weekends, so I must wait until Monday to call them again.

Monday: I call Verizon, again. After explaining the situation, today's rep says she is going to transfer me to another office. I sit through more annoying "heavier than expected call volume" recordings. Go figure. Now I have to explain the problem AGAIN. The second rep tells me that it appears the referral message did not get activated. Well, no shoot Sherlock, that's what I just explained to you. She says she will create yet another service request. You guessed it, she says the referral message will be in place by the close of business today.

Finally, by the close of business Monday, the referral message is actually in place. There's the old joke that the phone company doesn't care about customer service. There's truth in that only that Verizon acts like they are the only game in town. Fortunately they are not. A communications company that can't communicate with itself doesn't inspire confidence. A business service provider that leaves a business hanging for six days doesn't warrant my business. After my experiences with Verizon Business, I am looking to move my Verizon residential service to another provider as well.

Evening Parade, Marine Barracks Washington

We took a trip to DC this weekend to see the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington. The Barracks, also known as "8th and I", was established in 1801. It is called the "oldest Post of the Corps." The Evening Parade consists of appearances by the U.S. Marine Band, the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, along with Alpha and Bravo Companies, which make up the ceremonial infantry units of Marine Barracks Washington. Alpha Company includes the Silent Drill Platoon.

The Evening Parade is held every Friday during the summer. And although free, the tickets are hard to come by, as they are reserved almost as soon as they become available. Thanks to the persistent efforts of a friend we were privileged to attend last Friday's event. After driving to Northern VA to meet up with the ticket bearer we took a long subway ride into the city. After dinner at a local restaurant and pub, we made our way over to the Marine Barracks. The streets around the Barracks were filled with uniformed Marines and members of other branches of the Armed Forces. We even saw uniformed personnel from other countries. Also attending were many veterans groups and other heroes sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project. The current Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, was introduced as a guest of honor.

It wasn't long after we were seated that we noticed the U.S. flag flying over the Barracks was different. This flag consists of 15 stars and 15 stripes. (Video.) This is the flag of our Country as it appeared from 1795-1818. Also known as the "Star Spangled Banner Flag", the Marines are permitted to fly this version of the flag on the Fridays of the Evening Parade. The only other location allowed to fly this flag is Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

The Marines are justifiably proud of the historical significance of both the location and the mission of Marine Barracks Washington. The Evening Parade is an impressive display of precision and pageantry. I encourage anyone who is able to make the effort experience this historic, and patriotic event.