March 27, 2017

A Fine Weekend

Spent the weekend doing fun stuff for me.  As you know, I've been working hard to be frugal, but I decided that every once in a while, I need to do something fun for me.

Saturday, I borrowed my friend's vehicle (a very nice 2011 Toyota Tacoma that I might purchase from him) and ran a few errands that needed done and needed a vehicle to do them.  I took a bag of empty aluminum ans to the recycling center, picked up a bed frame and headboard, and ducked into the local home brewing supply store for a few things.

Then I just went for a drive.  I drove north of the city, amid the foothills and rugged, sparse, ranch country.  My goal was the Cherokee Park Wildlife Area to  scout for deer and elk for this coming fall's hunting season.  I'd misjudged the time and distance, however, so I didn't quite get there.  At least now I have a better idea of how long it would take me to get there for future scouting trips.

Coming back into town, I stopped at Pateros Creek Brewing Company, which is one of the 22 or so craft breweries here in Fort Collins.  They are, unfortunately, going to be closing up shop on April 1st, as the space they occupy has become far too expensive to rent and they have yet to secure alternative space.  I had a pint of the Stimulator Rye Pale Ale, and it was quite pleasant.

I swung back to the apartment, then returned my friend's vehicle to him.  We hung out at his house for a while, watched the first half of the Gonzaga/Xavier men's college basketball game, then I took my leave and walked home.  Took a short nap, then walked over to Otto Pint for a pizza and another beer.

Sunday, I woke at an incredibly late hour for me -- 7:45 am -- and made a monster of a breakfast, including corned beef hash with green chiles, two eggs, and toast with my sister's home made strawberry jam.  Then I commenced to brewing some beer, making an apricot wheat beer.  It has Northern and Mt. Hood hops, and I mashed up a can of apricots and added them to the carbouy with the beer.  I'd have preferred to use fresh apricots, peeled and mushed, but there were none to be found at my local grocery.  I figure I'll give it a week, then rack it over to secondary fermentation and bottle after another week.  Next beer, by request of a friend, is going to be a Marzen (although, technically, it won't be, since I won't be able to brew it until April 1st... Aprilzen?)

After the beer was in fermentation, I slid over to the local sports pub, watched a bit of the Florida/South Carolina basketball game, then returned home.  In order to apply for a hunting tag, in Colorado, if you're born after 1949, you need to take a Hunter Safety Class.  Fortunately you can do most of it on-line, then finish the class with an in-person shortened version (basically, live fire exercises to prove you can hit the broad side of a barn at 25 yards and know how to clear a malfunction in your gun.)  While I understand the need for hunter education, some of the parts of this on-line class are just foolish:

*sigh*

At any rate, I finished the videos, and Wednesday afternoon I'll be taking a half day to go do the live fire part.  The good thing is that this is a one-and-done thing... I'll never need to take the class again.

We also got some rain on Sunday afternoon, and much needed at that.  At the moment, Colorado is drier than a popcorn fart, and the risk of wildfire is quite high.

Wrapped up the weekend with dinner at home Sunday, a nice bottle of my own Java Porter, and some television before turning in to bed a whole hour before I normally do.

T'was a fine weekend indeed.

March 23, 2017

The Death of Civility

I've had it with people.   Civility and politeness in debate and discussion appears, for the most part, to be dead.

I'll admit that I've struggled with this in the past, but I'd like to think that, for the most part, I am able to articulate my differences with people of other political views with civility and reasoned discussion.  I don't have to agree with you to respect you, and I don't have to like you to be polite to you.  It's rare, I hope, that I am impolite.

Sadly, I don't see much of that today from people on the political left.  To be fair, we didn't see much of it from people on the political right between, say, 2008 and 2016, so they don't get a pass... Mind your own house, right?

But this?


Painting President Trump's face on the wall, using a urinal for his mouth?

That's beyond the pale.  That's not civil discourse, that's not reasoned dissent, that's not a political statement.

That's just disgusting.

I can only imagine the outrage we'd hear from the same people who did this if Mrs. Clinton had won and the painting was of her, not him.

I'm done talking to people of a different political mind if this is what they find funny.  Yes, you're entitled to your free expression, and no, I don't want anyone to be penalized legally for this sort of thing.

But I damn sure don't have to show my support for it, and I damn sure don't have to talk to you if this is what you believe.

Disagree, debate, converse, and have conversations.  I encourage the talk, I do.  But have some fucking class and dignity.





March 19, 2017

Wants and Needs

It's now the end of the third week without a car/vehicle, and I can't really say that it's been much of an inconvenience.

So far I have to admit that my needs are being met on foot.

My needs are quite simple: I need to be able to get to work, I need to be able to get food.  That's pretty much it, really.  Most of the rest of things in our lives are "wants", not "needs."

I want to go uptown for a sandwich and a couple beers at Coopersmith's, but I don't NEED to.  

I need to deposit my paycheck at the bank every other Friday, but I don't NEED to go to the bank to do that (my bank's mobile app allows me to take pictures of the check and deposit it that way... I haven't, because I can walk to the bank branch.)

I want to get busy improving my pistol work, but I don't NEED to go to the range to do that... Dry fire practice with the MantisX system I won in the Kilted to Kick Cancer contest will suffice for now.

I want to continue making home brew beer, but I don't NEED to go to the local home brew store to get the supplies, as I can purchase the items on line and have them delivered.

I want to spend more time outdoors, but I don't NEED to drive up into the mountains to make that happen -- There are paths, trails, and parks here in the city.

I want to continue making food at home to save money and have healthier meals, but I don't NEED to drive to the grocery store, as I can walk across the street.  (Yes, it does make for a bit of a challenge, trying to figure out what I can buy and carry home, and rather than make one trip every 10 days or so, I'm going to the grocery every two or three days, since I can't carry as much as I could in the cargo area of the Heep.  But again, that's want vs. need.)

My phone has an app that tracks my walking, if I choose to, and I've logged over 6,000 steps every day -- save one -- since I started tracking on March 1st.  Some days are closer to 12,000 steps.  One day I walked over 4.4 miles, just doing regular stuff (convenience store for a pack of smokes, grocery, went to see a movie, went to a new brewery in the area, etc.)

At any rate, I'm finding that I can make do with less and less and it doesn't bother me a bit at the moment to not have a vehicle.  I'm giving serious thought to holding off as long as I can, perhaps until September or so, in order to have as much cash as possible to put towards a vehicle.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to walk over to the Gilded Goat Berewery, because I want to meet my friend for a beer on the patio.  When it's 73 degrees in Northern Colorado in March, you sit on the patio and drink beer... it's what we do.

March 17, 2017

Lack of Content

Sorry for the dearth of content lately.  Been pretty busy with work, trying to get out of the apartment now that the weather is improving, and generally doing stuff other than blogging.

I'll try to find something worthy of talking about soon.

Meantime, y'all go read the folks in the side bar.


March 9, 2017

Don't Be So Quick to Judge

Over on the book of faces, there's much brouhaha among some of my shooter/gun pals over this photograph:

Now, let's state up front that this isn't what most experienced shooters would consider "Good Form".  

Arms bent too much, grip is all wrong, and so on and so forth.

What I have yet to hear is any reasonable answer to the following question:

"Did he meet the objective of qualifying on the pistol course?"

I don't know what the US Army Pistol Qualifications standards look like.  I guess I could look them up, but I really don't care.  It's probably a minimum number of rounds into a specified target at a measured distance, and a scoring system.  Again, whatever.  

That's not the point.  The point is that for this specific event, the goal is to meet the qualification standard, and what nobody can tell me is if he did or did not.  

Because, and here's the thing: IF he met the qualification standard, then it really shouldn't matter how we view his form.  It doesn't matter if we point and laugh.  He got the job done.  Let's set aside for a minute any debate about if the US Army Pistol Qualification standard is an accurate reflection of marksmanship.  

At that time, in that place, the job was to meet the qualification minimum.  If he did that with this poor form, then who are we to judge?

Not for nothing, but back in the day Arnold Palmer had a pretty funny looking golf swing.  "Poor form", they said.  "Can't play golf like that", they said.

"Watch me," Arnold said.

And how'd that turn out after all? 



March 8, 2017

Diesel Power

I've been without the Heep for a little more than a week now, and am relying on Diesel Power.

I look at my legs and feet and say "Diesel get me where I need to go for now..."

Again, I'm fortunate that I live close to my job (1,367 feet as the crow flies, or 1,775 feet as the man walks, per Google Maps), along with a grocery store and liquor store across the street, a Wal Mart less than a mile away, a couple pubs/restaurants, etc.  Also, being a medium sized city, ride services like Uber and Lyft are available, should I find an overpowering desire to go up town and I don't want to ride my bicycle.

In addition to this, I have a very very dear friend who has left a standing offer of the use of his truck (and if I can get the bank to approve the loan in a few months, I might buy that truck from him... It's a 2011 Tacoma with less than 20,000 miles -- he drives his work vehicle to/from work, and rarely drives his truck) and my cousin has also offered use of her family's second vehicle.

But for all that, I haven't found myself in a spot where I needed a vehicle the past week and a half.  I've been looking for alternative methods to get the things I need that I would normally use my Jeep to get.  For example, I have two dogs, and it's more economical to purchase dog food in 31 pound bags than buying the smaller and man portable 7 pound bags (and yes, before you ask, I *could* carry a 31 pound bag the 3/4 mile from Wal Mart... But I choose not to.)  I searched Amazon a bit and signed up for their subscription service: Every 3 weeks, they will deliver a 31 pound bag to my apartment door.  I don't have to drive the short distance, fuss with traffic or other (read: Annoying) people at the store, and the cost difference is minimal.

Fort Collins is a very bicycle friendly city, with extensive paved bike paths, dedicated bicycle lanes on many of the roads, and a population that recognizes cyclists as equal users of the roads.  Also, despite being nestled up to the foothills, the city itself is actually fairly flat, so I've taken to riding my bicycle for distances beyond a couple miles.  Saturday, I rode 5 miles (well, just shy of 5 miles) round trip to the home brewing supply store for a few items so I can bottle the beer I have brewing.

As a side note, the local constabulary shares in the "cyclists are equal users of the road" mentality, and will enforce traffic laws the same for cyclists as they do motorists... Fail to signal a turn, run a light, don't have proper safety equipment on your bike like a light or reflectors and you face a ticket.  It's quite reasonable, in my opinion, and I approve.

The one down side to all of this is that I'm limited in my ability to get to the range for some recoil therapy.  The indoor range I like is 11.3 miles via roadways from my apartment (one way), and the outdoor range is 29.5 miles one way.  Both of those are beyond bicycle range for me, and at any rate it would be difficult to ride a bike and carry 100 rounds of ammo, my range bag, and the guns.  So for now, I'll have to make do with dry-fire and  

I think I'll be able to survive without a vehicle for a couple months while I save a large chunk of cash to make a substantial down payment.  Given the good salary I'm making, along with very few bills (rent, electricity, internet service, and food is it.... No car insurance bill now, company provides and pays for my cell phone, etc.), I should be able to save quickly.

Oh, and the weather is getting better, which makes walking or cycling an enjoyable experience rather than an ordeal to endure.

February 28, 2017

176,373

That's how many miles I'd put on the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Bought in 2009, with barely 20,000 miles on her, we began travelling.  I was in Colorado at the time, having recently moved from Arizona.  Down in Phoenix, I had a little Dodge sedan, small and 4 cylinders and utterly unimpressive, but affordable on a paramedic salary.  Once I moved to the Denver area, and began to reacquaint myself with the mountains, I soon realized that I needed a better vehicle, one more suited to loading up the back pack, tent, sleeping bag, dog, and cooler of beer.

My new job was a huge raise, and with few changes to my lifestyle, I found myself rather flush with cash, so I plopped a huge chunk down, about half of the purchase price, and financed the rest.  And managed to pay that off in 3 years instead of 5.

In 2009, I drove from Colorado to Indiana for Christmas, and it was on that drive that I truly understood how comfortable the vehicle was to drive when I made the trip back in a single push -- 1180 miles, 17 hours, stopped only for gas and bathroom breaks.  Got out of the Jeep, stretched a bit, wasn't sore at all.

Some years later, I got married and moved back to Indiana to be with my wife and begin our lives together.  My belongings in a uHaul, the Jeep pulled it with barely any effort (granted, most of the trip was downhill), and still had space for the dogs in the cargo area, a Yakima Space Case on the roof rack with the camping gear, and a cooler of sandwiches and beverages in the back seat.  We stopped for the day near Columbia, Missouri, and camped on the banks of the Missouri River.

I used the Jeep to teach my ex-wife's oldest daughter to drive.

We took a vacation to West Virginia for some white water rafting, then to western Pennsylvania for some camping.  Four of us, camping gear, etc.

During a cold week in January, I drove that Jeep up into Michigan, visiting client sites in blowing snow and brutally cold conditions.  Never missed a beat.

When my wife and I split, I lived in the Jeep for three weeks, folding the rear seats down and laying at an angle, I would barely fit.  In the morning, I'd get up and drive a few blocks to the YMCA for a shower, then go to work.  In the evenings, I'd sit on the back bumper, drink a couple beers, watch the sun set, and cry from the pain of the divorce.  But through it all, Jeep was there.

As the prodigal son must, I had to go "home" to Colorado, so once again I saddled up for the move.  I had to replace the front drive shaft, and gave her a radiator flush/fill, transmission flush/fill, and an oil change.  Once again, loading the uHaul trailer, I hit the road, this time stopping just outside Lawrence, Kansas, to camp overnight.  The next evening, I arrived at my new home in Fort Collins.  So many things were up in the air -- where was I going to live? How much could I afford in rent?  Will I like my new job?  -- that I was very worried and stressed for weeks.  All of this was new again, and am I going to make it?  Through it all, I had my Jeep.

The past few months, she started having some issues, and I put some money into her for repairs, but yesterday was the end.  Driving back from Cheyenne after going to fix a client network issue, she blew a cylinder... the rocker arm blew up through the valve cover, and smoke poured freely from under the hood.  Had her towed to a mechanic, who gave me the bad news today: Engine is done, $4500 or so to replace it.  Not worth the expense, so I'll head over to the shop this evening, collect my personal belongings, and say my good bye to the most comfortable, most enjoyable, most wonderful vehicle I've ever known.

10 years.

176,373 miles.

Countless memories.

So long, Heep.  We had us one hell of a good ride.

February 21, 2017

DMV Rant

So took a couple extra hours during lunch today to get over to the DMV and get my Colorado driver's license (really for no other reason that I'd like to be able to buy a pistol, should I find myself flush with extra cash).

First, the BMV in Indiana is FAR more efficient than the one here.  Back in Indiana, I walked in and walked out with a driver's license in less than 15 minutes: "Here's my proof of residency, here's my old CO license, here's my money... Thank you, ma'am, you have a nice day, too."

Here, I took my number, then stood in line.  And stood.  And stood.

And stood.  For 2.5 hours.

After 2.5 hours, my number gets called, and I approach the counter.

Where I get told that my driving privileges in Colorado are suspended.

Because I did not provide proof of renewal of my insurance in September of 2013.

Which, coincidentally, happens to be ONE YEAR after I moved to Indiana.

To make things better, the form on which they printed the steps for appealing this issue has my name listed at the top...

... right above my old address in Arizona, which I left in 2008 to move here.

When I showed the DMV counter agent my Indiana license that has an issued date of 9/8/2012 as proof that I didn't LIVE in Colorado in September 2013, she shrugged her shoulders and pointed to the appeals form.

Absolutely unbelievable.

I'd make note that Colorado has no trouble taking taxes from my paycheck, but damned if they're going to keep their database current and accurate.


February 16, 2017

The Hits Just Keep Coming

Fort Collins is a very bicycle friendly city.  There are bike paths a plenty all across town -- see this map for more (opens as a pdf file) -- and at most any brewery, pub, or eatery you're likely to find significant bike rack space to lock up your ride.  We've got bike racks on the front of the ambulances in town, so if a cyclist gets hurt, the EMS crew can transport the bike as well as the patient, and the city buses have bike racks as well.

When you consider this, add in the growing bulk around my mid-section from too many beers and not enough exercise, and top it off with a splash of generally nice weather, it's perhaps no surprise to learn that I have been looking around for a used, but still serviceable bike to ride here and there.

Locating a decent bike on Craigslist for a decent price, I drove over yesterday evening.  Took the thing around the block, and liked it.  It's tall enough for me (those who have met me know what that means... Those who have not, I'll simply state that I'm just shy of six and a half feet tall), and all the parts are in good shape.  I handed the man the cash, we shook hands, and I loaded the bicycle into the back of the Heep for the drive across town back home.

And that's when the Heep decided that it wasn't going to start.

For a few months now, it's been doing this strange thing where when the engine is warm, the Heep doesn't want to start easily.  It's almost as if the engine is getting flooded with too much fuel, causing it to fail to start.  Typically, I just have to wait a half hour or so for the engine to cool, then it starts up fine.

But not yesterday.  Yesterday the battery went Tango Uniform.

I called a buddy who came and tried to give me a jump start, but to no avail.  He gave me a lift home, and today during lunch I went to the local auto store, bought a battery -- $172 for a vehicle battery?  Kiss my hairy Polish ... -- and I'll have a co-worker give me a ride to the Heep after work to change it out.

On the plus side, now that I have a bike, I won't need the Heep for anything shorter than, say, a 10 mile trip, of which I do very few.  So it's going to sit in the garage for a while, I'm going to start saving some extra cash to get a down payment put together, and this time next year I'll be looking for a new ride.

Son of a....

February 15, 2017

Barbecue and Beans

Being a bachelor and cooking for one has some unique challenges, not the least of which is portion size.  It's actually a challenge to make a varied, balanced meal for one... Yes, it's easy to cook a single chicken breast or pork chop or steak.  But what about the side dishes?  Ever try making au gratin potatoes without having enough to feed four?  What about the vegetable?  A can of green beans is enough for two at the minimum.  Because of this, I find myself cooking in volume, and using small plastic tubs like these to store extras in the freezer:






The other day, due to an aching back and some lousy weather, I found myself spending a weekend indoors.  Having a bone-in pork shoulder roast, I set to making some shredded pork barbecue and baked beans:

The night before, soak a pound of dry pinto beans in plenty of water in your refrigerator.  Also, make up some barbecue rub if you don't have some already:

Barbecue Rub:
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons granulated onion
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar

Mix them all together in an air tight bag, store in the freezer to keep dry.

Generously rub down a medium bone-in pork shoulder roast with the rub, place the roast into your crock pot, add a cup or two of water, and put on low heat.  Come back in 8 hours or so, the pork should be fall apart tender and cooked.  Remove the meat to a pan, let it cool just a bit, then remove the bone and shred well.  Add your favorite barbecue sauce, and enjoy.

In your crock pot, you've still got the juices from the pork shoulder.  Don't throw that out!  It's going to come in useful shortly...

Those pintos you've had soaking overnight?  Drain and rinse well, then add them to the crock pot with the pork shoulder juice.  Add a quantity sufficient of water to cover the beans, and put the heat on low again.  About 8 hours later, the beans should be cooked.  NOW you can strain off that liquid and portion out your beans.  I like to add some shredded pork to each container of beans, but that's just me.

All in all, this netted me five plastic containers each of beans and barbecue pork.  Each container of pork is about 4 or 5 sandwiches, give or take, depending on how much meat I put on each one.  

I kept one container of each in the fridge for dinners/lunches the coming week, and the rest are in the freezer, which means I've got at LEAST 8 meals out of it.

Making America Nekkid Again!

Less than one month in office, and we get this:

Just a year after Playboy made a radical shift away from its mainstay of nude photos, the magazine will reintroduce explicit imagery in an attempt to reclaim “who we are.”

:-)