October 16, 2017

Time We Have Wasted All Away

Yes, I know those are not the right lyrics to the CSN&Y song, but close enough.

Had some fairly ambitious plans for this past weekend: Wanted to get a scope mounted on the Ruger 10-22 and get it dialed in, wanted to get the apartment cleaned top-down before the cold winter weather rolls in, wanted to get some food cooked up for the coming week, and wanted to brew some beer.

And all those plans went right the hell out the window Saturday morning, when I bent over to put the dogs' morning meal on the floor and wretched my back something fierce.

I've got a bulging disk at the L4-5 area, and it generally speaking causes me a little discomfort, but seldom any real PAIN.  I take a few ibuprofen every couple hours, and I can get along fine.  But every 3 months or so, the disk goes from a gentle "Hi, I'm your intervertebral disk, and I'm somewhat irritated" to "HEY, REMEMBER ME?  I'M STILL HERE!!!"

Saturday quickly became the latter.

So my weekend was spent wasted, sitting on the sofa, popping Advil and the occasional Percocet, moving very slowly and deliberately, and hoping like mad that it would settle down.

It's better today, but still somewhat stiff, and I'll get to the doctor tomorrow if I'm not back to normal.
But with a weekend of 60 degree temps and perfect blue skies, it sure was a bummer to not be able to move.  Dogs would have loved a long walk on Sunday, but that wasn't happening.

Getting old sucks.

October 10, 2017

Blogorado AAR

tl; dr: It was amazing, as always.

I took Friday and Monday as vacation days, and after dropping the dogs off at the kennel, pointed the truck southeast and headed to Sooper Seekrit Location, Colorado, for the Gathering of My Tribe.

Every year over Columbus Day weekend, we have Blogorado.  It's a weekend where I get to catch up with old friends, make new friends, eat gluttonously, and shoot excessively.

A few folks, like Peter from Bayou Renaissance Man, Old NFO, Jennifer from In Jennifer's Head, Tam from The View From The Porch, and others had arrived on Thursday.  I pulled into the Farm Fam homestead around 1:45 or so, and it was like I'd seen all these folks just the day before, instead of a year before.  We ate a wonderful meal of pot roast with potatoes, as well as Jennifer's Lumpia, which is a Filipino egg roll made with pork.  These things are divine, and I had more than I should have, but what's a Blogorado trip if you don't overeat?

Saturday morning saw the gang at the "Obligatory Cow", our code name for the local diner.  These folks always treat us well, blocking off a side room that fits us all, providing a large urn of coffee, and a waitress that works her tail off.  In return, we tip exceedingly well.  Every morning, there's an informal contest to see who can pick up the breakfast tab (Old NFO got it Saturday, buying for everyone), and thus we generally leave what we would have spent on breakfast as a tip (for instance, my meal would have cost ~ $13 with food, coffee, juice, and a tip, so I just dropped $15 on the table.  Others did the same.  The waitress probably made close to as much on Saturday morning as she will the rest of the month.)

After breakfast, we drove to the farm, collected our gear and such, and made for the range.  I'd brought my Glock 19, my Marlin Model 60, my Mossberg 500, my AR-15, and my "work in progress" AR-15 in .300BLK -- AE Pilot Jim offered to assist me with a few items on the build.  After a quick safety briefing that included identifying those with medical knowledge and the location of the assorted first aid kits, we commenced to shooting.

And shoot we did.  The range is circular after a fashion, and there are stands for shotgunning/clay shooting, a pistol range, a 100 yard rimfire range, and an area for LONG rifle shooting (out to 750 yards).

Oh, and a cannon.  Well, technically a half-scale replica of an M1814 Mountain Howitzer.  As Peter writes:

The replica cannon at the range yesterday was half-scale, with a 3" bore instead of the 4.62" of the full-size gun.  Technically, that would make the replica a 3-pounder cannon, instead of the full-size 12-pounder.  It fired hard-frozen bottles of water as improvised ammunition (although one can cast lead balls to fit the bore, if one is so inclined).


I spent much of the day on the shotgun range, as my fall hunting this year will be primarily duck and pheasant due to some work scheduling issues that have me unable to hunt elk.  As skilled with a camera as she is with a pistol, Tam got this really neat shot of me shooting a 20G Remington 1100.  Note the spent shell in the air, just after I fired the shot:



We had some new folks this year, Julie and and a few others who made the trip from Australia.  Hey, Blogorado is now an international attraction!  They enjoyed shooting guns they can't get or own in Australia, and were delightful folks to be around.

Saturday dinner was steaks on the grill.  Big steaks.  HUGE steaks.  I was unable to finish all of mine, as were others.  I put a few of the ones that didn't get finished into a ziplock and froze them, as my dogs will enjoy the bones greatly.

Sunday was more range time, after yet another hearty breakfast, and Farm Dad made me an offer I couldn't refuse.  Having seen me shoot that 20G 1100 and hearing me speak of how much I liked it, he offered a trade: My 3rd Gen Glock 19 for his Remington 1100 (in 12G).  He can't use it for hunting any more, and wanted it to go to a good home, someone who would use it for its intended purpose.  I was flabbergasted at the kindness, but that's just the sort of folk that you will find at Blogorado.  At any rate, I've now got an 1100 added to the collection.  I'm going to take it to my gunsmith for a thorough cleaning and inspection, but I ran a hundred and twenty five shells through it Sunday, and it shoots just fine, save for the loose nut behind the trigger.


Sunday evening was the final dinner, a fine beef stew, and after a final breakfast Monday morning, we shook hands (well, actually pretty much everybody just hugged instead) and dispersed to the four winds, with hearts at peace, souls refreshed, and smiling faces.

These are my people.  This is my Tribe.

I'll see ya next year, gang.  Until then, fair winds.


October 2, 2017

Vegas

A short reminder that in the first 48-72 hours after a horrific act of violence like this mass murder in Las Vegas, you should treat everything you read or see or hear as suspect information until proven otherwise.


Please don't spread rumors and gossip and speculation.  Be patient, wait for the investigation to bring the facts to light.

And pray for the victims and families of the victims, if that's your thing.

Just horrible.

September 30, 2017

KTKC Final Beg

Today is the last day of the 2017 Kilted to Kick Cancer fundraising challenge.

If you haven't yet, and are of the means to do so, I humbly beg you to go to the KTKC Donation web page and give what you can.  Please be sure to pick Team JBro at the checkout, and help me make a good showing.  Competition ends at midnight tonight (Central Time), so get busy!

As it stands now, I'm just over $1,000 dollars.  The final 48 hours are done "in the dark" so I won't know my final total for a few weeks.

To those who have donated, I am appreciative beyond words.  You have my sincere thanks.

Most importantly, if you are or know a man over the age of 40, be sure to discuss prostate cancer risk factors and talk to your doctor to get checked!


September 27, 2017

You Kneel, I'll Stand

There's been a massive amount of words written and spoken about the past weekend when many NFL players and teams opted out of standing for the National Anthem.

Here's the deal: Men and women have fought and died for you to continue to express your views and speak your mind on most any given topic.

If you kneel during the National Anthem, you're expressing your opinion, and that's what they fought for.  In a way, you are honoring their sacrifice by exercising your rights.

The rights they died to protect.

This is the United States of America.  We do not force people to stand at attention and salute our leaders, our flag, or our symbols.  Doing so would violate the very thing those symbols, that flag, represent.  This is not North Korea, where you can be executed for not showing proper deference and respect to Dear Leader Kim.

We. Don't. Do. That.

Ever.

So you go ahead and kneel.  You have your concerns, you want to see change in society, you want conditions to improve for some segments of our demographics.  I get that.  I applaud you for wanting to improve things.

Because I want to improve things to.  I want young men and women of color, minorities, children who grew up in poverty and distress, people of all walks of life to have opportunities to learn, grow, thrive, and shake off those shackles of a life of poverty and crime.

You and I want the same thing.

Got that?  We want the SAME THING.

The difference, I suppose, is how we go about implementing that change.  How to make it happen?  What's the root cause, and how best to address that?

Me, I think maybe we promote better education in STEM fields, get better businesses started up in low-income neighborhoods, get the community more involved in policing itself and rooting out the scum.  The drug dealers, the pimps, those who promote and inflict violence... call 'em out and get 'em out.

Doing that will require better police work.  And make no mistake, the police need to be better at their work.  There's no denying we have some police who shouldn't be in the job, and there are people wearing the badge that are good at heart, but have become jaded and soured.  Others simply need better training.  All of this requires money.  Know any millionaires who'd be willing to help?

What I DON'T think is going to make a damn bit of difference is kneeling during the National Anthem before a sporting event.  That turns people off.  And no, that's not because they're racist or uncaring.  It's a divisive issue, and pushes a wedge between "you" and "them", and haven't we really had enough of that?

But it's your right to do so.  As it is my right to stand during the National Anthem, as I do every time I hear it -- yes, even if I'm watching a game at a local pub, I still stand and remove my cap when they play the song of our nation.

And when the game is done, and the next day dawns, I'll continue to work hard at my job, help those in need in my local community, and maybe make a difference to the kid that I mentor once or twice a week.

Go ahead and kneel.  I don't mind.  I respect your right to do so.

I'll stand.  Because it's MY right to do so.

September 25, 2017

Fall Has, uh, Fallen Randomness

Thursday, we had a bright sunny sky, nary a cloud seen, and a (record) high temp of 92 degrees.

This entire weekend was cloudy, gray, drizzly, and it rained a fair bit.  Oh, and it almost broke 60 degrees on Sunday.  Plus there's snow up in the high country, down to about 9,000 feet.

Welcome to fall in the Rockies.

I spent much of the weekend being domesticated: Cleaned the apartment top to bottom (it needed it), cleaned the interior of the Taco, and made a big ol' pot of chili (with beans, because).

Getting kinda tired of everything politics.  President Trump created quite the stir with his comments about the NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem.  Naturally, it got out of hand, and I'm done with it all.  Players have the right to protest if they wish.  NFL team owners, if they wish, can fire their employees.  The fans can refuse to watch if they wish.  I can think this is all a bunch of bovine excrement if I wish.

Both of the dogs are blowing their coat in preparation for winter.  This means I get large clumps of fur that just appear out of nowhere.  Ran the vacuum on Sunday before noon.  Emptied it five times, finally finished.  About 2pm I went to the brewery for a pint, and came back to find four -- FOUR! -- large clumps of fur.  I'm talking "Man, I could make three or four fly fishing flies from this" sized clumps.  If I lost that much hair in a day, I'd look like Telly Savalas.

One of the other senior system engineers at work is moving back to his home state of Wisconsin.  He'll remain employed and work remotely, with the occasional trip back here, but it looks like my plate just got a lot busier.

It was one year ago today that I left Indiana (again) and returned to Colorado.

Now that I've got things pretty stabilized at home and work and such, I will be reworking my household budget to find space to save more money.  I know where to make the cuts (beer expense alone is far beyond where it should be), just have to do it.

This Saturday is the end of the 2017 Kilted to Kick Cancer fundraiser.  It's been a lean year, but I still managed to raise a couple hundred bucks, most of that coming from our Pint Night at Maxline Brewing company.  Every bit helps, so feel free to head over to the website and hit the Donate button.  Be sure to select a fundraising team at checkout (I'd appreciate if you donated to Team JBro, but pick whomever you want) and give as you can.

And next week on Friday, I'll be taking the dogs to the kennel and myself to Blogorado for the second year in a row.  This gathering of the tribe is always a good time, and it recharges the batteries of my soul like nothing else.


September 14, 2017

Cast Iron

My sister happened across an old cast iron skillet at a garage sale a few weeks ago.  This is an old Griswold pan, not one that you can pick up from Lodge on Amazon.

And it was in really bad shape.  Lots of crusted on gunk, no "seasoning" at all, not safe to use as a cooking instrument.

She called and asked for some input on how to get it back to its former glory.

First thing you need to do before you ever think about reseasoning the skillet is to start with a clean slate.  Given that it is unworkable at the moment, throw out any ideas you have about how to treat cast iron.  We've all been told "Never use soap" or "Only wipe with a soft cloth".

Bollocks.

Start with the hottest water you can stand, some heavy duty soap, and a steel scrubber (like a Brillo pad).  Scrub, rinse, scrub, rinse, scrub, rinse.  Get as much material off the iron as you can.  You may want to let the skillet soak in a sink of hot soapy water for a few hours, then scrub more.

Once you've gotten as much off by hand as you can, dry well and head for the back yard.  Spray all of the surfaces of the skillet with heavy duty oven cleaner (wear protective gloves!)  and make sure you get a good heavy coat of the oven cleaner on the skillet.  Put it into a plastic trash bag, then put it into a SECOND trash bag -- the 13 gallon size kitchen trash bags work fine -- and tie it closed.  Put the bagged skillet in a spot that will get as much sun as possible, and leave it alone.

The next day -- yes, leave it sit for 24 hours -- open the bags, remove the skillet, and wash it again with hot soapy water.  Inspect for any residual material on the cooking surface, but there shouldn't be any.

At this point, you should have bare cast iron and nothing else.  Every bit of material should be gone.

Get your oven going, about 375 Fahrenheit.  You can also use your outdoor grill, if you prefer.  Get yourself a pound of unsalted lard melted down (don't use cooking oil  like vegetable, canola, EVOO, etc.)  and wipe the cooking surface with the lard.  Go ahead, use a good amount, it won't hurt.  Put the skillet in the oven or on the grill, let it get good and hot.  Wipe the lard around some more, and let it sit in/on the heat for about an hour.

More lard.

Another hour.

Repeat a couple times.  I find that it generally takes about 3 or four applications to get a good season on the skillet.

After 3 hours or so of heat and lard, turn the heat off, but leave the skillet where it is.  Let it cool down slowly.  Once cool, give it a quick wipe with a clean, dry paper towel to remove any residual lard, and you're good to start cooking with your newly seasoned cast iron skillet.

September 8, 2017

Leadership

Real leadership includes praising in public and criticizing in private.

There are many people who don't understand this concept.

Time to start looking for new opportunities.

September 1, 2017

Kilted to Kick Cancer, 2017

The 2017 Kilted to Kick Cancer fundraising competition is underway!

Y'all should know the drill by now: Head over to the donation page at the KTKC website, select the amount you wish to chip in, and select Team JBro at checkout.

As mentioned, if you wish to donate to one of the following Hurricane Harvey charities:

Houston Food Bank
Food Bank of Corpus Christi
Center for Disaster Philanthropy Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund
J.J. Watt’s Fundraiser for Hurricane Harvey Relief  

You can still help me reach my goal of $2000.  Donate to one of those four, and then forward your donation receipt to kelly@kiltedtokickcancer.org. In the subject line, put, “Credit to Fundraising Team JBro.”

In addition, I realize that I've been a hypocrite for a while now.  All the years I've been asking for donations to help beat prostate and testicular cancer, I've been doing it while partaking of the one bad habit that contributes to lung cancer.

Last night, I finished my last cigarette, and as of right now, I've been smoke-free for about 10 hours.  I plan to remain that way, and instead of spending $5.60 every day on a pack of cigarettes, I'll be putting that money into an envelope and at the end of the month I'll put that $168 towards KTKC.

Put up or shut up, right?

So let's do this, folks... Let's raise some money for KTKC or Hurricane Harvey relief, and let's show the rest of the country what it means to give to others.

Cheers, and don't forget to Get Kilted and Get Checked!

August 31, 2017

You Sure About That?

Chloe Bennet, who is an actress and plays one of the lead characters on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (an enjoyable show, one I have watched personally), says this about why she changed her last name:

"It means I had to pay my rent, and Hollywood is racist and wouldn’t cast me with a last name that made them uncomfortable,"

Her surname by birth is Wang.

Apparently she didn't think she'd get a job with a Chinese surname.

I'm just going to point out that one of the other main characters, who has appeared in every single episode just like Ms. Bennet, is the actress who plays Agent May.

Ming-Na Wen.

That is all.