Monday, August 31, 2015

"Empty Nest” Weekend

Technically, we’re not empty nesters, we're just adjusting to our son being away at college. However, I was curious what the first weekend would bring us. It was pretty much the same as any other weekend. The weekend's highlights...

  1. Coffee and read the paper
  2. Breakfast
  3. Coffee
  4. Coffee
  5. Mow the lawn
  6. Exercise
  7. Lunch
  8. Clean guns
  9. Movie date with Colleen! (Okay, that’s different — first one in 19 years)
  10. Dinner
  11. Netflix and Hopsecutioner IPA
  1. Coffee
  2. Breakfast
  3. Coffee
  4. Mass
  5. Coffee (I’m sensing a pattern.)
  6. Dry fire practice
  7. Phone call with son!
  8. Mid-afternoon brunch and award winning Rocko’s Milk Stout at Spencer Devon Brewery (More to come on that.)
  9. Another Netflix movie
In other words, just old married folk.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday, August 28, 2015

St. Augustine, Patron Saint of Brewers

August 28 is the Feast Day of St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the patron Saints of Brewers. Now considered a Doctor of the Church, Augustine led a life of debauchery until, through the ardent prayers of his mother, St. Monica, he converted to Christianity. He died in 430 A.D.
St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break. 
This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible ashamed of himself. "What are we doing?" he cried to his friend Alipius. "Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!"
Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, "How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?" Just then he heard a child singing, "Take up and read!" Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life. 
He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. 
 Today we'll raise a toast in honor St. Augustine and persistent, loving mothers too!

Catholic Online has more on St. Augustine's life, teachings and great influence on the Church.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gun Shot at 73,000 fps

Just because it's cool...

... and pretty amazing. This does remind me of the time I was shooting facing the sun and was distracted by all the smoke and unburnt powder sparkling in the sun.

You have to love Adam's reaction too.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Another Beer Ordering Adventure

The availability of "good beer" is so ubiquitous these days, that when the options aren't there, it's somewhat shocking. This weekend we were out of town for the college drop-off and looking for dinner. There weren't a lot of non-fast food options in the town where we stayed, so we decided on a national "Neighborhood Grill and Bar" chain restaurant. When I asked about the beer selection, I was handed this...

Noticing my grimace, the waitress added that if I was looking for "those imported beers like Yuengling," they also had a "shandy beer" and Sam Adams Summer Ale. After driving for most of the day, I really wanted a beer, so I opted for Boston Lager. After she left, I saw on the food menu an announcement for Sam Adams Octoberfest. Now that would be worth ordering; it's my favorite Sam Adams variety. I called the waitress back and inquired, but she wasn't sure if they had it yet.

In the end, it turned out the Octoberfest had replaced the Summer Ale the night before. I got my beer, even if it was a little early in the season, and all was mostly right with the world.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A New Chapter

This weekend we moved our son into his college dorm and thus begins a new chapter in our lives. It's a time of immense pride for Colleen and I, but also somewhat bittersweet. For 18+ years we did our best to help him grow into a man, and now he begins a new time of growth and independence.

For me, it's scary and exciting at the same time. I am proud of the man he's become and am confident he will do well in college, and will go on to make great contributions to our word. I also know there are trials that lie in front of him, and I pray he will continue to show the steadfastness and determination he has exhibited thus far in his life.

As I think about the future days in this house, it'll be quieter, and our schedules less full, and I'll miss being able to ask about his day, or hear stories of his adventures. I already am keeping a list of things I want to say or ask the next time we talk.

But, rather than feel sad or worried, I feel excited for the future — his future. He had an amazing high school experience, marked with academic achievement and unselfish service to others. I am confident he will continue to excel and contribute to the world around him. It's that knowledge that will sustain us through the days and weeks ahead.

Congratulations son, go get 'em!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Defensive, Not Defenseless, Christians

Two stories came across the news feeds in recent weeks related to the fallout from increasingly frequent attacks on churches by violent thugs in this country.

"Preachers arming themselves following church massacre" reports on a training class for religious leaders. Clergy from various denomination are taking steps to better defend themselves and their congregations. The ministers received instruction not only shooting, but also about the legal concerns, planning and situational awareness.

Photo: WWLTV

In the second story, "Church opens gun range ministry ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’," tells about a church that is helping the members of its congregation to prepare. The Rocky Mount United Methodist Church in Alabama has set up a shooting range behind the church and formed a gun club which holds training classes.

I found these stories notable as they indicate an increased awareness, and acceptance, that attacks targeting Christians are happening. Just putting a "church" sign on a building doesn't ward off those with evil intent. While any states have laws forbidding church goers from having a means of self defense, some people are realizing the naiveté of those "gun free zones."

"Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility."
--Catechism of the Catholic Church #2265

Thursday, August 20, 2015


I’ve debated about making this post for sometime. It’s a subject I’ve been excited about for several months, but also a bit more personal than the topics I usually write about. So here’s your warning, the old, (less) fat guy is going to talk about his weight and exercise routines.

It’s no secret that enjoying good beer, and the food that goes with it, is one of the simple pleasures in my life. Colleen is an amazing cook, and our family likes to experiment and experience new flavors. I’ve always tried to be cognizant of what, and how much I eat. However, I also lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk for most of my waking hours. As a result of the food and activity levels, I found my waistline slowly creeping up, or out, and my stamina decreasing. 

Something had to be done. Last April, as we left for our Florida vacation, I recall a conversation with Colleen in which I stated I was going to do something when we got back. (I certainly wasn’t going to start a diet during vacation!) At the time I didn’t know what or how, but exercise and weight loss was in my future. Coincidently, or by divine providence, while we were on vacation I received an email from a good friend telling me about a new iPhone fitness app he had developed, Lightning Fitness.

Lightning Fitness is based on a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routine. Before I started the program, I did some research into HIIT and thought it would work in my life. In this iPhone app, you select a "workout pack" and a time period, and the app randomly generates a program for the day. The exercise routines are 12, 15 or 18 minutes long, and you do each individual activity for 30 seconds with a 15 second rest in between, during which there is a video demonstration of the next activity. Believe me that 30 seconds can seem longer than you think. And sometimes I wonder where the 15 seconds of rest went! There are add-on modules available for more variety in the daily routines. It seemed perfect for the busy, and lazy, person.

The exercises were surprisingly tough at first. "Why am I doing Burpees right after Mountain Climber?" But it got a little easier, and after just a week or so, I could see and feel a difference. I was less achy and stiff in the morning, I felt more flexible, and I was losing weight. Interestingly, after a couple months I noticed a difference at the shooting matches. I really felt like I was controlling the gun better. I was able to get in and out of positions more quickly and with less effort. I didn’t wear down as quickly. 

It’s obvious that the better shape you are in, the better you can do physical activities. I truly believe the regular exercise has had beneficial effects on my shooting hobby, and has helped provide a balance to my love of food and good beer. What was surprising was the relative speed at which the improvements came. I found myself regretting days I had to, or chose to, skip working out. I really enjoyed the added activity. Recently I’ve added a couple of the optional workout modules to Lightning Fit for additional benefits and variety. 

I was a distance runner in college, and even though it’s been decades, I still long for the enjoyment I got from running. I’ve actually tried to get back into running numerous times over the years, and have always given up due to pain or being too out of shape to enjoy it. I decided to try again and was shocked how easily (the slow and steady) running came. The months of HIIT had built up my leg and back muscles, and endurance, to the point I could actually feel good about the runs. I’m still slowly building my endurance, and I keep the running part down to a couple times a week; I have the same old weak knee joints I’ve had for years and don’t want to risk injury.

The initial weight loss progress I experienced slowed down after a couple months. In fact, I gained a few pounds back, likely from muscle mass, even as my waistline slimmed. My weight is still trending down, and I've had to switch to a new belt as my old one was too big. I didn’t realize how much so until I was at an IDPA match recently and had run out of holes in the belt, had to keep hitching my holster up before I shot!

I firmly believe I am healthier and in better shape than I have been for decades. I’m not getting any younger, but people often think I’m younger than I am, so the vanity motivation is there to maintain that illusion. Currently I’m doing the HIIT routines several times a week, along with a couple days devoted to running. I still have my weight loss goals to meet, but I can enjoy beer and good food with less guilt and fewer side affects. 

If you don’t have a regular exercise program, I encourage you to get one. If you have an iPhone, I'd suggest Lightning Fitness as a good option. Whether you want to be ready for when the SHTF, or the next shooting match, or enjoy an extra beer, it’ll certainly pay off in the end.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Rivanna IDPA Match

After last Wednesday's Black Creek match, I was looking forward to the Rivanna IDPA match Saturday; I needed to confirm to myself I still remembered where the front sight was located. I awoke to a beautiful, cool morning — 58 degrees! Eventually the temperatures during the match rose to around 80°, but that's still remarkably pleasant for this time of the year.

The match director had set up four quick stages he termed "efficiency exercises." All the stages were shot from a single shooting position, but still challenged us in unique and fun ways. The first stage I shot had six targets, set up as two groups of three, set out near, but not at, 180 degrees apart. The shooter stood in the middle, body squared to the berm in the center. You first engaged the inside, closest target in one group, than swung to the opposite group to shoot the inside target. Then it was back to the middle target in the opposite side, then back to the middle on the opposite side, and so on... Getting your eyes on the next target before the gun was the trick to keep from over swinging. I ended up just two points down on the stage. Okay, I feel better already!

The next stage required three magazines, downloaded to 6 rounds each, and the unloaded gun set on a table. While standing behind the table, you loaded the gun, engaged the three targets, reloaded from slide lock, shot the targets again, then repeated with the third mag. The center target had 5 tight center hits and a lone disappointing flier down in the kidney area, contributing to a total of 8 down on the stage. I was aware of that low shot when I felt the trigger jerk while I was shooting, but it was a limited stage with no make up shots. Also at one point during the stage a piece of hot brass bounced off the timer held by the SO and came to rest on the back of my neck — grin and bear it, and keep shooting.

The third stage I shot was one that generated a lot of conversation on how best to attack it. You were seated at a table, with the unloaded gun and mags on the table. There were 5 stationary paper targets, and two falling steel poppers that activated two disappearing targets, which popped up momentarily from behind barrels. The timing of the up and down targets was such that some shooters opted shoot another of the static paper targets after the steel, then return to engage the up-down target. I opted to shoot the steel then wait for the mover, which actually seemed quite slow while I was shooting. I was more interested in accuracy then speed. I got the hits on both movers, and ended 4 down for the stage. (I also witnessed a very skilled shooter engage two of the static targets before returning to the mover!)

The final course of fire was a variation of the barricade stage of the IDPA classifier. The targets were set a bit closer, but were spaced further apart, which meant much harder leans around the barricade to hit the inside targets. After a reload with retention, hitting that far right target from the left side of the barricade was quite a stretch.

The quick stages, and a small squad meant a fast match. I was on the way home by 11:30AM. The match was a lot of fun and I was very pleased with how I shot. There's always room for improvement, but in the end I had few complaints. It was all in all a very enjoyable morning on the range.

The rest of my Saturday was spent pool side enjoying the company of my wife, grilling burgers for dinner, and of course the reward of a good beer.

Reward at the end of the day

Friday, August 14, 2015

Martyrs of Otranto

Reposted from August 14, 2013 and 2014.

Today, August 14, is the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Otranto. These 800 faithful Christian Martyrs suffered and died under muslim brutality in the Italian city of Otranto in 1480. The brave men refused to renounced their faith, despite the threat of certain death for not giving in to the invaders. Pope Francis canonized the men in May of this year [2013].

See the previous post, "Martyrs of Otranto" for more information on these remarkable men.

Relics of the Otranto Martyrs
Let us pray that we all may be as strong and as faithful in the face of persecution.

Update 2014: History does indeed repeat. Today we are seeing muslim barbarians once again slaying hundreds of Catholics and others in their quest to expand satan's rule. And just like in 1480, the mohammedans are capturing women and children as sex slaves. The tenents of islam remain consistent over the centuries.

Update 2015: The genocide continues unabated.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mid-Week IDPA at Black Creek

It's been a month since I was able to enjoy a mid-week diversion of IDPA at Black Creek, so I was excited that my schedule allowed me to shoot this week's match. I didn't get away from work as quickly as I had hoped, but still arrived at the range in time to join the last squad of the day.

The first stage started out with the shooter facing up range, in front of a wall of barrels. At the signal we turned and engaged two targets on each side of the barrier. Each target required two hits to the body and one to the head. A missed head shot contributed to a total of 9 points down. 

On the second stage we started seated in chair, with a barrel stack as cover to shoot around. There were four targets requiring 3 hits each, and all shooting was done from a kneeling position. Dropping to a knee behind the barrel I engaged the two right targets, then shifted to the left to finish off. Some folks managed to shoot all the targets from the same side. Again, some sloppy shooting added to my time.

For the last string of fire we started standing, facing the targets. Six paper targets set in a wide array were first engaged in tactical sequence, followed by six falling steel targets. After the performance on first two stages I made extra effort to concentrate on the front sight to try to finish strong. As I made my reload, my gun jammed with a double feed and failed to go into battery. I ended up having to pull the magazine out and inserting another. I lost a good 6 or 7 seconds easily. After finishing the final paper target, I quickly ran the steel. If not for the malfunction, it would have been an excellent run. 

Despite the poor shooting, it was still fun. Some days it just doesn't come together. At least the good hits and fast steel on the last stage had me leaving the range on a high note. In the end, it was time on the range, and that beats not being on the range any day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Corcoran Brewing Company

This weekend we visited a friend in Purcellville, VA and our plans for the day included our first visit to Corcoran Brewing Company. The brewery shares a building a medical care center, and I found the juxtaposition of the brewery and urgent care signs to be humorous. There are times I do think craft beer counts as urgent care!

As we walked into the brewery and I spied the line of tap handles, I thought “We don’t have enough time!” I prefer full servings of beer over tasting flights when trying out new beers, but as I perused the beer list it was obvious the tasting plan for the day would make use of the flight. I selected five beers to try in 3 ounce samples, while Colleen and our friend opted for full pints. That made 7 beers I’d get to taste.

My flight consisted of Corky’s Irish Red Ale, Catoctin Ale, Hallowed Be Thy Ale, P’ville Pale Ale, and Once You Go Black.

The Corky’s Irish Red Ale was available served on nitro, or standard CO2. I opted for the nitro pour. In retrospect, I think I would have preferred the standard serving. The ale was very mildly flavored; it was my impression that the nitro softened the flavor too much. Next up was the Catoctin Ale, which is an English Pale Ale. This too was a lightly flavored, thin bodied ale, that was not too distinct from my first beer.

The flight experience improved with the next beer, Hallowed Be Thy Ale. This is an English Old Ale, that has been aged in oak barrels. Dark fruit, caramel, honey, and bready malts combined with a hint of bitter citrus in the finish. P’ville Pale Ale was a mild pale ale with pine and grassy notes.

The final beer in the flight, Once You Go Black, is a Black IPA. The aroma of dark roasted coffee and bittersweet chocolate was a bold switch from the previous beers. Sipping the beer, I got a quick hit of citrus hops, before the rich, toasted malt and coffee flavors took over. The finish was bitter but clean and short lived. This was undoubtedly my favorite of the group.

Colleen opted for 4 Saisons, a Saison-style ale, aged in bourbon barrels, and made in collaboration with, I believe, Belly Love Brewing. The beer had a tropical fruit “juiciness” to it and was quite refreshing. In fact I stole several sips from Colleen’s glass. Our friend chose Dutchman’s Creek Hefeweizen. I was struck by the strong aroma of bananas, butter and clove when I took a sniff of the glass. Flavor-wise, the beer is a classic Hefeweizen.

We had a very pleasant time sitting on the outdoor patio and tasting the beers at Corcoran. Some of the beers were a bit lower profile than I prefer, though perhaps the small samples prevented me from getting the full flavor experience. Hallowed Be Thy Ale, Once You Go Black, and 4 Saisons were my favorites of the group. If time had allowed, I could have enjoyed full servings of any of them. The brewery also produces several IPAs that I'd like to try on another visit. But we had our sights, and tastebuds, set on dinner at Fireworks Pizza in Leesburg, where we enjoyed some delicious pizza and more good beer.

Doctor! Doctor!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Cedar Mountain Pistol Practice

The past couple weeks my plans for shooting have gotten waylaid by last minute work obligations, so I was happy that I was finally able to get in some practice at Saturday's practice match at the Cedar Mountain Youths Range. Last month's Cedar Mountain event was cancelled due to extremely heavy rain, which was disappointing as I had a couple new shooters lined up to go. Unfortunately those folks were unable to attend this month. However, some of the folks I introduced to practical pistol shooting previously at this match were able to return this month.

Six stages were set up for the match, all based on USPSA classifier stages, although they don't count for USPSA classification. I would have enjoyed some scenario stages to practice on, but these still provided good practice for a wide range of shooting skills. There was no movement required in any of the stages, but we shot around barricades, through small openings, at near and far targets, as well as head shot only and other reduced area targets. There were even stages with falling steel, which everyone enjoys shooting.

There were about 15 of us enjoying the match. The weather was very pleasant, actually quite exceptional for an August day in Virginia, with temps in the upper 70's and a slight breeze. After the match, there was the chance to shoot any of the stages over just for practice for anyone who desired more trigger time. It was a fun morning of shooting and camaraderie. I was so enjoying the time on the range that I neglected to even take any photos of the stages.

It's gratifying when I'm able to get new folks hooked on the fun of practical pistol shooting. It's also somewhat selfish as I also gain companions for the car ride to and from the events. I don't mind supplying the ammo for the first match, or even cleaning a loaner gun afterwards. The folks that returned today I think we can put in the "hooked" column, and I look forward to bringing more new folks out in the future.

Friday, August 7, 2015

An Evening of Oak at Spencer Devon

We made a visit downtown for dinner at Spencer Devon this week. I had previously seen a post on their Facebook page that they were debuting oak barrel aged versions of two of their beers. Naturally I felt a duty to readers of these Musings to check them out and report back.

In a twist from what is commonly done, Spencer Devon aged these two beers in virgin oak barrels. The barrels came from Fredericksburg’s Bowman Distillery, but had not yet held whiskey. The flavors imparted by the barrels would be from the oak and the char in the barrel, not from any remnant bourbon.

The first beer tried was Oak-aged Olde Towne Old Ale. The base beer was one we never had a chance to try. It was available only for a short time when Spencer Devon first opened, so I was very much looking forward trying it. The beer pours a deep, copper color with a thin beige head. Surprisingly the dark fruit aroma also has strong bourbon notes. Likewise, the bourbon-like aspect is present in the flavor. In fact, the beer could be described as “boozy.” However, it’s not a burn or unpleasant booze flavor though. The Old Ale also has rich dark fruit flavors, and a pleasant malt finish. At a moderate 7.8% ABV, it’s a bit of a sipper, but it’s smooth and flavorful enough that just sipping is a challenge.

The second beer we tried was the Oak-aged version of Spencer Devon’s 3-4-5 Pilsner. Admittedly, I was not initially interested in trying this one. The 3-4-5 Pilsner is an excellent beer that I’ve enjoyed in the past, and I wasn’t sure what the oak-barrel would add. When it came time to order a second beer to enjoy with my dinner, I was about to settle on my usual Fall Line APA. Then owner Shawn offered a taste of the aged Pilsner. I immediately change my mind and ordered that one.

Oak-aged 3-4-5 Pilsner has a sweet, bready and oak aroma. It’s slightly reminiscent of a cider. The flavor has the combined bitterness and mild sweetness of the base beer. The oak barrel treatment adds a chardonney-like note to the flavor profile. The finish is dry and very clean. No ABV was listed for the beer, but the base 3-4-5 Pilsner checks in at a mild 4%, so I’d expect this to be the same. The Pilsner turned out to be an excellent pairing with my breaded pork tenderloin sandwich topped with lemon caper mayo and house cured pickles.

Spencer Devon has more barrel-aged beers coming in the near future. They also plan to reuse these barrels to age some sour beers. I’m looking forward to seeing, and tasting, those too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Hypocrisy Much?

Two panels pretty much sum it up. The first is the elitist seeking control over those they consider less worthy, the other seeks to kill the less desirable before they are even born. Little difference in the end.