Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cheater rifle


The old Stevens model 56 squirrel rifle that I won a turkey (the smallest whole frozen turkey that I’d ever seen!) with last year is the one I popped the golf ball with at 50 yards during yesterday's range session. Not that hitting a 1.25” target at 150 feet is that impressive of a shot (especially from prone), but the part that made me feel good about it was the fact that I had utter confidence that I could do it, even with the wind. Why? Well, it’s certainly not because of the trigger, that’s for sure. But while a good trigger sure makes it easier to shoot well, I find that great sights make it even easier. Dig the wonderful old diopter sights on this rifle:

Note the front sight, with its aperture post. The correct sight picture is to place the target inside the aperture.



Now check out the diopter style rear sight.

See that itty-bitty hole in the middle? That’s the small aperture. The other two holes are the next two sized aperture. The dimple to the right of the small aperture settles into dimples in the disc as the aperture plate is slid up or down to the desired setting. This rear sight is about 30 inches behind the front sight, for serious sight radius.

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Range report.


Upon getting off of work at 0700 on Friday, I found it to be a pleasant 55 degrees outside, with blue skies and a glow to the east that foretold warmer weather soon. Well, not really. Should’ve checked the weather.

Having parked in the lee of my work building, I was completely oblivious to the 25mph wind blowing over the top of the building. As I put on a vest over my short-sleeved shirt and loaded up plenty of guns into my friend Robert’s truck, I looked forward to a nice day of shooting, never knowing that a cold front would actually drop the temperature over the next couple of hours, and that the wind that I couldn’t yet feel would increase as a cloud cover would settle in.

By the time we had finished our incredible Taco Lady tacos (my personal new favorites are the Carnitas en Salsa and the Carne Guisada ), our mutual friend Greg finally arrived. He mentioned something about the wind. I gave it little mind other than to wonder if it would interfere with my 100 yard sight-in process.

At the range, the coastal and prairie grass were bent to the ground. Trees were pushed to the southeast, flexing back upright, and shoved out of shape again. Leaves blew along the ground. Weeds blew along the ground. Frickin’ rocks blew along. Birds flew with with a 20 degree yaw dialed in. The wind (later verified on NOAA weather) gusted to 38 mph from our right quarter (from about 4:00 o'clock)while facing downrange.

Nothing much worked well. The sole magazine that I had brought for the Inglis was giving problems, which interfered with the heretofore excellent functioning of that fine pistol. My friends, who are but occasional shooters, were probably affected by the weather—they were not shooting up to their satisfaction. My buddy Robert’s interesting fold-down backup sight for his Bushmaster AR was not sighted in correctly for 100 yards, and we decided that this was a poor day to properly sight it in. The few rounds of .257 Roberts that I had brought were seemingly going to go to waste in the wind. I was thus surprised when I managed an inch and a half three shot group around the bullseye, having held but half an inch or so to the right. Those 120g Sierra GameKings really do hold up a bit better to the wind.

We put up a golf ball on top of a realtor sign. (“A realtor sign?” you ask. Yup. See, back when, we used to sink posts and wire up sheets of plywood for target backing at our friend’s range. But as friends (and friends of friends) used the range, they would be blown off with shotguns, and people failed to remove their paper from the target backing. Finally, our friend just buried them with the backhoe. We got the message, and didn’t put any new ones up. But targets have to be attached to something, so on the way out there, we often stop and pull the illegally-placed realtor signs from the highway right-of-way. I figure that I’m doing the realtors and their agents a favor—those steel-framed signs with the steel or plastic faces each weigh about 4-7 pounds apiece before they are driven into the dirt. The Texas Health & Safety Code says that it’s a Class B misdemeanor to dump items of more than 5 pounds of stuff in a non-approved disposal site. If the aggregate of the items in question is more than 1000 pounds, then we’ve gotten into State Jail Felony penalty range. It’s not uncommon to see the guys putting out the signs with huge trailers outfitted with racks to hold a couple of hundred signs, which would be right at the SJF level. Even if they got off lucky and only got a ticket for each sign, that’s a $200 to $500 fine for each. Ouch. So I figure that I’m just doing my part in cleaning up the roadside.)

We put the ball between the steel crossbar backing and the corrugated plastic facing of the sign, so that about ½ of the ball was visible over the top of the sign. As we began to walk away from the targets to 100 yards, my friend Robert suddenly turned and began to shoulder his AR at the ball… from 10 yards away! “Good lord! That’s a pistol distance!” I shouted, and drew forth my Super Blackhawk to launch a Georgia Arms 300g .44 magnum round at it quickly, one-handed. As you might expect, this made a lot of noise, caused my 4 3/8” barrel to flip high, but didn’t scratch the orb. Damn, but that GA stuff is hot. Damn, but those Blackhawk trigger guards are small! After another miss, I took a Weaver stance and more carefully aimed, hitting the sign, grazing the ball, and firmly striking the steel crossbar to the sign. The crossbar, which was supported only in the middle, bent back with the force of the bullet, and then flexed back toward us, sling-shotting the ball at my friend Blakeley had a speed faster than I could ever throw it. It grazed his neck as he ducked. Such times are good times to have holsters; it keeps you from dropping your firearm as you laugh uncontrollably.

After putting the ball atop another sign in a similar manner, we retired to 100 yards, where I found that a single shot toward the ball’s 3 o’clock edge resulted in a nice hit just below the center of the ball as I looked at it. The steel crossbar didn’t jump much as the 120g .257 bullet passed through it at about 2500 fps (after a 100 yard journey); it simply yielded a nice milksplash crater through it. Again replacing the ball, I took the old Savage out to 50 yards, and popped it handily with the first shot from prone. The ball went away, and we couldn’t find it anymore.

Funny how an old Titlest golf ball found at the range can improve one’s mood so profoundly. I left in high spirits, warming my hands over the heater vents. My friends want to go again, and I want to take them.

And I’ll bring a whole sack of old golf balls.

B.P.S.S.

”What an ungrateful, sexist bpss you are! No More Key Lime Cheese Pie for YOU! I don't rate an invite to shoot?”

So said my [evil] step mother Holly in the comments of my last post. A friend of hers inquired about the BPSS moniker. This was the first time that I had seen it, but I knew immediately what it represented. Holly has in the past referred to me as a SNSS: Snot-Nosed Step Son. I put up with it because… you know—family.

On Wednesday of this week, she showed me her new acquisition: a T-Mobile camera phone. Considering that she had been using a standard old non-folding basic-with-service-activation phone, this was a mighty leap in her level of electronics sophistication.

I say this, by the by, while remaining the last person in Texas without a cell phone. Other than an early ‘90s vintage dinosaur with a dead battery and no service that I keep stowed in my glove box with a car charger cord for emergencies (911 can be reached by any cell phone even though it does not have activated service. I mostly use it for calling in drunk drivers), I don’t own, nor have I ever owned, a cell phone. But this doesn’t mean that I’m a complete Luddite—I know how to use technology, but at this point in my life don’t need the extra bills or complications. Soon, but not just yet.

At any rate, as I ooh’d and ah’d over her new phone, I asked her if she’d taken any pictures with it yet. She answered that she had not, as she hadn’t yet read the directions, and went on to find the directions book for me to look at. The natural masculinity in me of course found this quite distasteful, and I restrained myself from flinging the instruction booklet across the room. It only went beyond the far end of the couch. Directions! Bah. I found the appropriate icon on the phone for the camera, took a couple of pictures, and sent them to her email. I then went to take a nap before class. That night, I returned from a good class, and asked to borrow the phone to call my wife (long distance, but free on her plan). In the spare bedroom, after telephoning my wife, I found that Holly had deleted the self-portrait of me that I had installed to her phone’s desktop and screen saver. Well, we can’t have that, now! So I installed a picture of myself with my left index finger buried to the second knuckle up my left nostril. I then returned the phone to my stepmother with my thanks. I’m ashamed to say that I had no patience, and after she tucked it away without comment, I found it necessary to compliment her on her phone’s customization. As I walked away to pour myself a cold beverage, I heard her satisfying exclamation.

BPSS, of course, stands for Booger-Pickin’ Step Son. Johnny Fever would be proud.

By the way, she’s since found herself motivated to learn all manner of stuff about her phone, now. Heh. Glad to be of service, ma’am.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Burning powder

In the morning, I’m taking a friend out to do some shooting.

He’s never shot at a private range before. The range that Dad and I have been shooting on for 20 years is not open to the public. It’s in a cow pasture, actually. While it’s short on benches, shade, and target backing, it’s long on privacy and safety and the opportunity to shoot when and how I want. I’m the rangemaster when I shoot, and I like it that way. Lowers the stress significantly.

I’m checking in the sight-in on some guns for a turkey shoot on Monday. I’m going to be honest with you: I’m going to cheat a bit. The turkey shoot has 4 components:
Pistol: (5 shots at 25 yards offhand),
Iron-sighted Rifle: (5 shots any position at 50 yards,
Scoped Rifle: (1 shot at one hundred yards from the bench), and
Shotgun: (1 shot at 20 yards with 00 Buck).

Entry fee is $2 per category, or 3 categories for $5, proceeds going toward stuff for the new county Sheriff’s Academy.

The shotgun category doesn’t interest me—it’s basically just a door prize, to me. Scores are found by shots closest to the X, or most shots closest to the X.

Last year I won a turkey in the iron-sighted rifle portion, by using an old Savage .22 with a bad trigger but a wonderful diopter rear peep sight set about 30” behind the front sight, and I shot from prone. I almost took the pistol portion with my old duty gun, the Kimber Stainless Classic 1911. I threw one a little.

So this year, I think I’ll take out that same cheater .22 rifle, and we’ll see how I’m shooting with the old Kimber again. Also for this range trip, I’m taking Dad’s old Canadian Inglis Browning High-Power (P35), and his Browning High Power .40. My friend wants a BHP, but has never shot one before, so I figure we’ll give him a taste of it. Who knows—maybe I’ll even shoot the Inglis in the pistol competition.

Bass Fission

Back when...

If you look to the bottom right of Manet's lovely 1882 impressionist masterpiece A Bar at the Folies-Bergère you see a bottle that modern beer drinkers will be familiar with. As I browsed about for my weekend tipple last week, I was vacillating between giving the Dogfish Brewery 90 Minute IPA a try (I had been well impressed with the 60 Minute version the week before, having followed Tamara's suggestion. Mmmmm.... Bitters.) and just going back to an old reliable-Spaten Optimator. Finally, my desire for malt coupled with a nice October cold front compelled me to grab the familiar old dopplebock. As I began to wander toward the register, however, the 24 oz. bottle of Bass in the singles case caught my eye, and I thought back to the fine art that Manet had wrought in the penultimate year of his life, 124 years ago. In a fit of responding to style over substance, I bought a bottle of the Bass, as well. Now Bass has always been to me a great complement to fish, or half of the ingredients to a good Black and Tan, but I had no fish at home, and no stout to float over it. Clearly I should just have put it up until later. So what did I do?

Bass for all ages
Duh. I drank it, and took a picture of the bottle next to the picture on my computer monitor. What would YOU do?

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Love is where you find it...


I’m a slob. I’m not proud of the fact, but there it is. I have attempted to deal with it. I keep my body clean, and my clothes (especially my work clothes) generally respectable. But I fall short when it comes to keeping my area neat and tidy. I fear that I’ll pass this on to my kids, so I roar at them to keep their rooms clean. This morning, as a matter of fact, was a bustle of remedying our shortcomings.

Last week, my wife Chris was out of town for 8 days at a sculpture symposium. During that time, my mother stepped up to watch my daughters when I could not. I had forbidden my mother from doing any household cleanup, feeling highly grateful that she was giving up most of her week to ride herd on an eight year-old and a highly energetic 4 year-old. She even went to the extent of even getting them ready for school, taking them to school, and often putting them down to bed while I went to work at night and grad school in the evenings. One night, I made pasta and marinara sauce. Some, er, splatter-age did occur.

When Chris returned, I had gotten some laundry done quickly, but little else. I then pitched into the next week of school, work, and checking into my injured father in the hospital. I didn’t clean up my mess much, and, to be honest, wasn’t home much. When I got home yesterday afternoon (Friday) to enjoy my weekend off, I realized that I hadn’t set foot in my house since Tuesday evening before work. I went into the kitchen and set down on the island the sack with the six-pack of this weekend’s foray into British beers: Old Speckled Hen. I hurried to get some marinade on the steaks that I was taking to my pal Scott’s.

Then I saw it. In an old cast iron skillet on the stovetop was the inevitable remnant of the bacon that I suppose I’d failed to clean up after frying. About 1/8th inch of tallow remained congealed in the bottom, into which my 8 year-old daughter had inscribed a message for her absent daddy: “I Love You Daddy. Love, Allie.” Strange how that stopped me dead, and my heart melted for a bit while I cleared the lump. What a bizarre medium to send this little declaration of affection. So, feeling a little silly, I grabbed my camera, and transmogrified lipids into zeros and ones. Then I went on to a nice dinner with family and friends.

Looking at the photo this morning, I saw how horrid my stovetop looked. No amount of photo editing can redact the obvious splatters that I left on the stove. The very subject of the photo is evidence of my sad failure to do what needed doing. Before I’d even saved the photo to my hard drive, I cleaned up the stovetop with harsh chemicals and strong strokes of brush and paper towels. It gleams as it should, now, and the old skillet is now a sure, deep, jet black as it rests in the drawer under the oven.

Chris had a tough week of getting back into the swing of work and having her husband gone for most of it. I know that she loves me a lot and resents me but little. But I have no doubt that she took one look at that stove and that skillet, smirked, and said to herself, “I’ll just let my husband handle that himself. I’m sure he’d want to clean up his own messes.” And she'd be right.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bre'fast

I'm about to sit down to biscuits and gravy and sausage with LawDog and my Evil Step Mother, referenced two entries back. The air outside is crisp at 41 degrees-- the lowest temperature in the last 7 months. I'm off for two days, and will actually get to spend it with my family. Tonight I'm having my best friend (of... well, I guess this makes about 24 years, now) come over with his wife for steaks with my wife and me.

Food and friends. Conversation and family. They mean a lot to me, and add up to a fine day. I hope your weekend is as good as mine is shaping up to be. And mine's getting better and better.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

From the Department of Redundancy Department:

I'm sitting in a computer lab on campus, writing a blog entry on procrastination.
The impetus of this writing is, in fact, procrastination. I'm putting off for a minute or two longer the writing of a 2-page opinion paper that I'm to submit in Criminal Justice Policy tonight. Said paper, being turned in to a graduate level (I'm working toward my Master's) class is expected to cite scholarly sources, and to be written fairly well. Oh, and it would be nice if I could get a few hours of sleep today, as I work tonight, same as last night.

This tautology is the culmination of years of training, I assure you. (There's a reason that it took me 13 years to get my undergrad degree!)

Okay. Here we go. "The Failure Of Parole In the Role Of Successfully Reintegrating Inmates To Lawfully Abide In Society." Yawn. I think I'll lean heavily on Braithewaite.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Some introductions are in order.

The LawDog Files is a nicely-turned bit of prose cranked out by a close personal friend and colleague of mine in the world of Texas criminal justice. LawDog has ridden with me on more than one occasion on patrol, and I imagine that I'll keep him company on a run or two in return, if schedules allow. We shoot, and talk, and generally establish that many of the world's problems can be addressed satisfactorily over a cup of strong tea. I never can remember if he likes milk in his cup before or after the tea is poured.


Holly is my stepmother, married to the aforementioned cantankerous old fart that is my father. She typically signs her missives to me with ESM, for Evil Step Mother. For some reason, she thinks that I will answer to SNSS (Snot-Nosed Step Son). Holly's strong-willed, and educated, and decent. She rears good kids, and treats my father well. And what, really, could you want beyond that?

Tamara is an enigma. 6 feet of former model, she has a scary mind for military history and guns, with a little sportbike thrown in for good measure. Notice that I didn't qualify what kind of guns. Tamara lately likes S&W revolvers (especially N Frames) and 1911s the mostest, but she's been a moderator on GlockTalk, and has not real prejudice against any guns that reliably go bang. I have hunted for deer with Tamara, emptied bottles of decent beer with Tamara, and talked about gear with Tamara. And I'll have to say-- I'm a better man for it. (We're gonna do it again, if the group can get schedules to mesh again.)

I'd like to post my brother's blog, but I'll leave to him to out his ownself if he likes. The boy can surely write, and he cracks me up with regularity.

Others, like Oleg Volk, and Kathy Jackson, you can also find in my links. I'll put more in as I think of them.

The people that you find in my Links are, you see, my friends and influences. They're not just folks that I put up in hopes of getting a reciprical link. If I'm linking them, it's because they represent to me a quality that I don't believe you'll find anywhere else.

Our time is limited, so I won't steer you wrong. Too many people waste our time as it is.

Where credit is due.

He’s proud, and he’s cantankerous, and he’s bright, and he’s set and his ways, and he’s educated in the estoterica of vintage 20th century guns, Texas history, and law enforcement methods and lore learned from about 4 decades as a cop. He’s my father, and my best friend. He’s laid up in a hospital with a broken hip, fighting pain, nicotine addiction, and restlessness, to heal enough to regain some modicum of self-sufficiency as soon as possible. Remember my old man in your thoughts today, and if you know Johnny personally, drop him a line or two; he’d appreciate it. Thanks.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Who, Me?


Well, it's a 6'5", 250+ lb, mid-thirties guy with a wife, kids, mortgage, some state licenses, certifications, and a degree.

The beginning.

I get a sixpack of a better than average ale from the local Kwikee Mart. The dark-skinned, dark-eyed cashier behind the counter smiles and rings up my purchase. Overpriced? Sure. But I'm appreciative of the convenience, and know that the selection is probably a chore to keep stocked. Today it's McEwan's Scotch Ale, but in the past it has been the full range of German dopplebocks, Irish stouts, American pale ales, etc. Strong fair for those who like to taste their malts-- not just catch a buzz. The fellow is Nepalese, and I really don't know how they feel, as a rule, about strong drink. In this case, however, it's clearly not an issue-- this guy's family makes many transactions involving large 40 oz. bottles full of malt liquor, and 24-pack cases full of cheap, tasteless beer. It's just business. But you wonder. In that part of the world, lots of people are Hindi, but lots too are Muslim. But isn't that area right about where Taoism kicks in, too? Hell, there's a fair number of Buddhists up there, too. Come to think of it, there's more than a few Christians running around... Shoot-- it's best not to cubby-hole people. But you wonder.

As he sacks up my sixpack and I hand him back his copy of the credit card carbon, I say "Namaste," and start to walk away.

"Excuse me? What did you say?" he asks.

"Namaste. I'm sorry. Did I mispronounce it? Isn't that the 'goodbye' and 'hello' term in Nepalese? 'Peace be with you,' or some such?" I'm feeling foolish, now, bag in hand, half turned to make my escape.

"No-- you said it right. But it means 'I bow to you.' How did you know that I'm Nepalese?" he inquires with a half grin.

"I'm not really sure." I reply, and bolt.

Now, "I bow to you" is a mighty nice thing to say, but it's just a little too formal for me to consider saying to a stranger at the market. "May peace be with you," however, is a pleasant greeting that we might all wish upon newly well-met strangers. I felt like I'd made a silly error.

But why? In my wide and thinly spread studies, I've picked up that "Namaste" is a very common salutation among folks on the SubContinent. Clearly many of them have no such compunctions. Seems to me that there's a gesture that goes along with the greeting, too. Hands together in front of the chest. All very formal.

But it doesn't translate here in north Texas, at the edge of a working class community in an urban area. I feel kind of dumb.

For the most part, when people ask me "How you doin'?" I answer them with "Better and better." It's true, of course. If my day's gone crappy, then at least I'm halfway though it, now. If I've stepped two steps into a four-step mud puddle-- I'm halfway out. Not a bad way to look on things, I don't guess. It's my own stab at optimism. Oh, I know that I'm expected to just answer "Fine," and move on, but at least I'm not punishing them with an actual account of how I'm doing. "Better and better" will suffice, and perhaps perk up their day.

"Peace be with you" is an old phase that any number of pastors that I've seen have cast upon the waters during their benedictions. I rather like it. Even when the sermon may well have reeked of fire and brimstone (not likely in any sermon I'll have sat through), the final message is one of admonishment to find peace. It's pleasant, and has also been kind of an unofficial motto. It's why I had kind of liked the meaning that I had ascribed to "namaste." Now I find that I was a little off. I don't know where I picked it up-- I've known but very few red-dot Indians, and none closely.

I don't know that I've got a lot of peace; my mind is pretty regularly stirring. But it's a nice thing to wish for, and I wish it to those I meet. That said, perhaps rendering a little more common courtesy to the person on the street is in order as well. So, in closing, I say to you, gentle reader: NAMASTE.

And you can take that however you want. :)

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