Monday, June 29, 2009


When you purchase an extended warranty on an appliance for way too many dollars, you don't get a choice as to who will do the warranty work. When my expensive stove/oven went Tango Uniform two weeks after the manufacturers warranty expired, I called the store and got set up for repair/replacement by the extended warranty people. After waiting 5 days for a technician and asking a friend to sit at the house all day waiting for him, as I'm out of town, he arrives. Yay! Reinforcements! It's just the electronic timer, an easy fix, he says. I'm told on a Tuesday after he makes a call "we have the part in stock! I'll be here Thursday to install it". Thursday, waited all day. No show. No call. When I called Friday after waiting some more, I was told the part "was ordered and would be in Saturday". Saturday- nothing. Monday I called again. They said the part that was in stock, which they ordered, wasn't ordered, but it was ordered now and it would be in Tuesday. Want to make a bet I don't see it this week as "it's a holiday!"and I live out in the boonies?

So I polished a broadsword or two and made something tasty without the appliance - Chinese Sesame Chicken. With extra red pepper. I think I need to read up before I call the appliance warranty people again. Apparently, they've read Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" and are following this advice.

"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him."
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War
But despite their efforts, they haven't won the war. I'm eating quite well with alternative cooking means.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pressing On.

Baa Baa black sheep
Have you any wool?
Yes Sir! Yes Sir!
Three bags full.

Yesterday was a start of 3 days off. I was in the city briefly and stopped by to visit a friend. As she and I talked about the reloading process the question came up. Do I reload so I can shoot, or do I shoot so I can do more reloading? The work area is all set up, a screened door to the back yard keeps a nice breeze flowing through, but a fan was a necessity, it's been pretty hot lately. I got a new Lee O Frame press this week and got it mounted to my little bench. I've got some RCBS dies. . . . plus a Hornady scale, a Lee powder measure and the Lyman reloading manual. Let's try it out and make a practice bullet with the brand new press. Ta Da! THE BARNEY BULLET! In any case, it's going to be a fun summer, as long as the primer supply holds out. I got lucky and found a small supply of $32 for a thousand at a tiny "ma and pa" gun store. I've got dies for .45, .380 and .223, probably all I will need for now. I've got a big box of round-nose lead bullets and Hornady XTP Copper Jacketed. Finished product notwithstanding, there's something almost Zen-like about reloading, when you get going at a good pace, a rhythm and grace that with practice becomes a ballet of powder, press and hands. If you've never reloaded, remember, the first step is always the hardest. Trying something new. Embracing something long forgotten that at one time you loved. Embracing something you've never done but wanted to. Tiny leaps upward propelled by longing and only held back by the gravity of timidity.

It's not much different than taking that first solo in an airplane. . You have been given the tools, you have the capabilities. But it's the fear of the what you don't know that holds you back, while upward something enticing but new beckons. You've learned through your lessons, that the sky is sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious. Flying can be just efficient transportation or something almost spiritual in it's quiet, divine in it's vastness. And frankly, you're just a little afraid of it at this point.

But you couldn't resist the siren call and now it's time for your first solo. So you gingerly taxi away from your instructor, who is probably as nervous as you are, and you turn your eyes upward, and drink the air and breath the light and and make that first leap. And the beauty and the vastness of possibility hits you and the exhilaration of all that awaits takes your breath away. And life is suddenly fuller because you can do something you never ever thought you could do. Anything new can be daunting. Reloading was for me at first. Now I stand in the shop in my garage/shop area, a vast cavern of a space with hot and cold water and lights and tools. The fan is blowing my hair and I concentrate, yet my mind is completely open to thought. The soft hush of my movement, the sounds of the press, stabilize into a gentle inaudible song with just the occasional background chorus of the the world far away, and I am lulled into a quietness of efficiency.

Some would say it's a dull way to spend an evening. I find it a totally relaxing way to spend some time. I'm not out in my little plane, but I'm just as relaxed. It's not that much different from that first solo in that little open cockpit plane. I have goggles over my eyes and my hands move in rhythmic efficiency while somewhere the person who taught me grins, knowing the craft continues.

It's a nice, cost effective way to wind down after a long day. As the light starts to dim, I simply bask in the brisk pace of creating something, clouds outside disbanding with the disinterest of late day and the view out my little shop door looking out to the trail of someones little airplane up above. A first flight for someone perhaps? The plane moves onward through the evening, vanishing upward like the smoke from an expended cartridge.


Urban Trend has some nifty things on their website, including egg molds AND a personal branding iron. I had one of those for Brigid's Home on the Range Cowgirl Shoot Em Up Ranch and Labrador Farm. But none of the cattle survived the branding.

But I was tempted to get some of their nifty egg molds to make fried eggs that looked like guns.

But some mornings I have trouble making eggs that look like EGGS.

I'm not one to waste anything, so if I put them on top of Brigid's Black Beans and Rice, with cilantro and colby/jack cheese, none of the ranch hands will complain. Your choice folks, this or a pop tart.

click on photo to enlarge.
I thought so.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Steak Out

A very long day. There are no words in me tonight. But there is room for grilled steak. :-)

No marinade, no special handling. Just the best quality locally grown range beef, grilled outside on a small, old-fashioned grill, with just a bit of salt.

Sometimes you don't want a meal that needs special handling, side dishes or a teleprompter, you just want honest substance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Home, and Getting the Homestead in Order

Pretty Maids all in a Row
Oh, oh oh, oh......

The Eagles - from the album "When Hell Freezes Over"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Range Housing

While I cleaned up the porch and yard last weekend after a week away I took notice of a number of things. One, the huge thistle that sprung up in a flowerbed where I had a bird feeder (not a good idea). I missed it when I cleared out its brothers, and ignored for a few weeks it grew. And grew. So now it is so big that my shooty friend, scientist RobD, who climbs large pointy mountains like K2 without fear, took one look at its spines and offered to bring over the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, some WD40 and a BIC lighter to help slay it.

I also noticed the number of birdhouses that seem to have sprung up around the range. As well as the number of birds.. There's this number - purchased pre-made, then hand stenciled, to be occupied by a couple of sparrows.

Then there is the Habitat for Humanity birdhouse which was made by hand. Not luxurious perhaps, but out closer to the woods, providing a well built, albeit plain, home for someone that needs it.

But no matter what you provide, there are those that just loiter. Just hanging around the front porch to see who might give them a handout, or a vacant pond of water.

Of course, there are the squatters. There in my Southern Living planter on the front porch. (she hatched two eggs a few weeks ago). It's bird central around here now.

But like my friends, those freshly hatched or battle scarred, residing in new houses or just scraping by where it's warm, I look at what is central to them. Not the outward feathers, squawks or trappings, but what it is that drives them home, what it is that makes them unique, there beneath the sharp beak and defensive colorings. What makes them part of my daily life.
Birds fill my horizon, and surround my home Most of the birds I can recognize, sparrows, my favorite the Cardinal and the occasional dove. Birds vary in more ways than species and color. Study them long enough, and you'll see the different ways in which they eat, and what they won't eat. Look where they sleep, is it high up in a tree, or snuggled down in low covering, with the small tender plants pulled in around them like a blanket. You can study them by when they eat the most, a hearty breakfast or a quick bit of avian fast food and a late day buffet in a field. So many ways, the shape and size of the nest, if there is one, their connection to the nearest body of water, or a broad patch of open sky, if there is one, and to what degree that nearness is necessary for survival. To some the nearness is more important than we realize. Yet in all their differences they all fly on the same winds, that takes them to their desires. As do we all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Advice from the Road

If you're having one of THOSE weeks, I suggest you go look for that 8 x 8 pan now.

It's been a hectic week. I'm covering for someone in an advanced position for a few months, I guess we can call it a "temporary Grissom" position. Less field work, less travel, definitely less people going "hey, didn't I see you on TV last night?" which is a nice break, but a lot more stress at least for the next couple of months.

Add to that a few mornings of barfing dog (it appears the new brand of dog biscuit given before bed did not agree with him), all over light beige carpet (completely ignoring all the hardwood and tile floors of course). He's fine now, but I'll have to change his name to Barfley.

Some last minute travel this week, another flight to catch tonight, and time is short. However I can offer you this advice. If you are ever out and about and see this brand of chocolate chips., from the oldest family owned chocolate company in the U.S. . . . . BUY THEM. Make these - Brownies Fast and Easy. If you have one of those little disposable foil pans, a tiny stove and a tiny oven in your tiny hotel kitchen you can make these brownies in a little more than half an hour. They're harder to find, but Guittard also makes an extra dark chocolate chip that's great in cookies.

As the incomparable Jay G would say. That is all.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Make that choice

Experts agree the single most important factor in surviving a criminal attack is to have an overall safety strategy before you need it, that is why I strongly support the Second Amendment and the right for law abiding citizens to own guns for sport and self defense, with their choice of gun type.

Man, his other traits notwithstanding, biologically considered, is simply the most formidable of all the beasts of prey, and, indeed, the only one that preys systematically on its own species. A thug or a professional criminal has disassociated himself from humanity and views us simply as a hawk views a sparrow. We are prey. A woman, with her smaller size and perceived timidity, is considered easy prey.

Birds can see from the side to help protect themselves, women can not. There must be a way to level the playing field and for me that is carrying concealed. The hawk does not know I have a 38 special in my holster, but he does sense the confidence in my stride, the firmness of my hand. I do not walk timidly, I walk with strength, even if it is of the hollowpoint variety.

I know women who say "I've had a self defense course (non weapon)" or "I know karate". I can tell you this, as someone with some basic training in tactical fighting and martial arts, I'm smart enough to know that in a case of extreme danger involving a person with a weapon, be it flat edged, a garrote or another gun, that's no guarantee I can protect myself. The young woman who was kidnapped from a Eastern National Park last year and later found murdered in the woods? Black Belt. Look, even with my training, most guys could mop the floor with me simply due to the disparity in size and upper body strength strength. Even size and strength may not help you if you are up against someone armed with a knife. But though women are often targets, they are not the only ones. Predators, when wounded, stoned or hungry will try and take anything. In numbers, or singularly, using whatever advantage they have, be it blindsiding or extreme aggression. Though women are considered easier, they are not alone in being prey.

Indiana Jones was no fool. Neither are my friends who carry.

Ladies, operating a gun doesn’t require upper body strength or special fighting agility, and you can learn to safely use one in a relatively short period of time.I recommend getting an instructor if you are brand new to shooting Many ranges have certified instructors available at a very reasonable cost, for one on one or group lessons and that might be more comfortable for you than having a family member or spouse teach you. Though a couple of very competent shooters I know had their husbands teach them and it was what worked best for them both. Your choice here again. Training is key though, and not just learning how to shoot. We fight with our minds first, and you need to be proficient on not just how to fight, but when. When you look for a trainer, find out as much as you can about where he/she got their training and if their area of expertise is compatible with what you want to learn. There are a number of courses and avenues for getting basic firearm safety, the principals of which I can't stress enough.

Frankly, many women have a real aptitude for target shooting, and it's the one physical activity where men and women can be truly equal. Remember, despite my saying above, "armed and safe", a gun is not a charm that will magically keep the criminals away, and you can't bluff your way out of a dangerous situation with a gun you are hesitant to use, either technically or morally. Criminals can sense fear and hesitation like any wild animal can. A gun will only protect you if you are honestly and demonstrably prepared to use it. That requires a mindset of confidence in it, in yourself, and regular practice. .

It's a choice of being proficient or being prey. Easy choice for me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I'll be honest. I've never been a fan of guns made out of polymer. But then I added this little S & W to the stable, and a couple of co-workers started singing the praises of their recent Glock purchases at gun shows.

When I saw my first Glock as a young woman back in the late 80's, the 1911 style .45 auto was THE defensive pistol to have things went south in a hurry. I still feel that way most days. Then some foreigner comes up with a plastic framed pistol, that holds lots of tiny bullets, and it's light and accurate. He's not a shooter, he's an engineer and well. . . .

It's PLASTIC. And frankly folks, it's the "Ugly Betty" of handguns. I love revolvers. I love 1911's. I take great pride in a well cared for Colt Commander. I love a gun with some character. I love old weapons, period. I love tools as well. Roberta X has some wood handled hand drills and other tools that just make me ache to craft something with them when I hold them. I love such things. Especially guns lovingly crafted with steel and rosewood, intricately machined forgings, polished flats and arcs cleanly intersecting, beautiful bluing and straw tempering, it is hard to find anything in a plastic pistol that speaks to me. Give me something made of fired steel and sweat, to be carried through generations, passed on from father to son, older brother to little sister, mother to daughter.
The history of personal weapons is one of honor, family, sacred duty, prestige and adornment. Warriors were buried with their swords, or they were handed down through generations. I have blades forged hundreds of years ago, as sharp as the day they were made. Somehow a personal weapon with the soul of toaster oven seems wrong. Besides, when you draw that 1911 , John Moses Browning is probably looking over your shoulder, smiling.

But a female friend, new to carrying for self defense, bought herself a Glock 27 and asked me to give her some pointers. I really wasn't excited about shooting that when I have bigger toys here, but I agreed. Helping a new concealed shooter or any shooter, of either gender, feel comfortable, offering support and encouragement, and sharing your own very real mistakes, is important.

With something like 1.6 million happy Glock owners, including the LEO community that uses them on duty, the least I could do was quell my reserve and show her some tips on her new purchase. And I analyzed the shooting as if I was in her shoes, new to smaller guns, with limited technical knowledge of the model and fairly modest hand and arm strength. And you know, it really was a good fit for her. Yes it was small, but you know, it shot easily and well. I could see her point about the size being good for for a woman as well as concealed. There are enough ladies (and gentlemen) who worry enough about our pants fitting comfortably without the benefit of another 2 and half pounds of steel inserted along the waistline.
I wanted to completely hate it, but I didn't, not for the purpose in which she was going to use it. Protection. Reliable self defense. The frame and slide were smooth and rounded. It fit well into her hand and it didn't have anything that could really catch on her clothes. For the money, a good balance of weight, concealability and accuracy.

For her, as her first concealed purchase, it was a decent choice. Not a "girl's gun" but simply a reliable defense rig without any surprises. The one drawback I saw for her personally - she has to be aware of "Glock wrist" This is a gun, that if you don't hold it stiffly, it may, on occasion, not cycle completely, causing a stovepipe (failure to completely eject a round - NOT where you want to be in a defense situation. So I had to caution her to not noodle-wrist it as well as keeping the slide lubed properly. (Just a note - in about any gun the culprit in "limp wristing" isn't a weak wrist, it's usually an improper grip on the gun. When people try to accommodate a gun that they can't get a comfortable grip on, they don't get the gun lined up properly with the forearm, preventing them from controlling recoil well and leading to malfunction.)

If she watches her grip and doesn't use crap ammo, she should not have a mis-fire. It didn't seem to like the non-brass, CCI Blazer rounds someone offered her to use, but pretty much ate up everything else of quality. As a concealed pistol for someone with limited weapons knowledge, one that requires little attention and will be there for her if she needs it, this gun will work for her. It may not be pretty but it keeps going "bang". Simple to use and one that won't choke if she doesn't clean and maintain it herself as carefully as serious shooters do.

Still, I won't be a huge fan. I don't like the grip, it just feels "blocky" to me. And yes, there's that plastic issue, even though it's not the whole weapon. Just about every plastic pistol I've worked with is no-deposit/no-return disposable handgun and I still can't wrap my head around the concept. But it seems everyone is jumping on the plastic (excuse me. . polymer) bandwagon. S&W has it's Sigma line, and H&K offers the USP. Walther, and Taurus also has versions. In many ways, like its imitators, the Glock is a disposable gun. Though the slides are CNC milled, most of the internal parts are stamped, or molded. The mechanics of the guns do not lend themselves to hand fitting or tuning. I hate the trigger. This is not a trigger that encourages precision shooting. I prefer a crisp, clean breaking single action trigger pull. I also miss a hammer. In a smaller gun for carry, I prefer something with a DA/SA pistol that can be carried with the hammer down over a loaded chamber when carrying. But that's what I like; buy what works for you. Buy what you feel comfortable in using safely and always. . . practice.

In any event, I was pleased for the progress she'd made and for making the choice to carry, even if I won't be buying one for personal use for carry. For her, for many people, it's the perfect choice. It may, in my opinion, have no character and likely isn't going to have people over oohing and awwing over your purchase like a fine revolver might. But you won't regret the experience. It's like that long time boyfriend in high school. You realized you were never going to love him madly, but he was strong, dependable, and there for your defense from bullies and bad buys.

For me though, I want something made out of real steel with a bigger hole in the barrel. I don't wear tiny little skirts and clingy little tank tops when I'm carrying. When I conceal, it's usually larger, and it usually comes with hollowpoints.

For those other times.

For I'm occasionally in places where I want some heavier fire power. Something that stirs the soul with steel and strength. A firm weight against my leg that's there if I need it.

Because . .

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What a Little Alcohol Can Do. . .

Tough, long day, but I had a kitchen handy and made comfort food when I got off duty. Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Prosciutto. A tomato based sauce with some spice and depth, then blended with cream and served with red pepper flakes and fresh cheese on the side. I first tried Vodka Sauce in a restaurant back in the 80's when the U.S. was really discovering the wonders of food, and anything different was widely exclaimed. Remember the "blackened" trend? Heck, I could do that without even trying in my early cooking days.

But why vodka? It's mostly tasteless, and colorless. Why not wine? Why not leave it out entirely?