Saturday, March 31, 2012
HOTR will be posting from Amish Country next week and beyond.
Two people who are not related by blood, but are my family, had a necessary trip to make, but no one to watch their homestead and animals (including a retriever). It looked like they wouldn't be able to go. So I volunteered.
I raised my hand to work on a tedius but necessary project with squirrel central in a virtual capacity for a few days. When that is done, I would use my leave time, since the long flight to see Dad is out for a few a couple more months (knee still not doing long sit times well).
A LEO friend is taking care of my place and Barkley is coming with me. By the time you read this I will be making a stop to play lumberjack this weekend with Midwest Chick and Mr. B. to take care of some downed timber with the Og family (warning, mayhem may ensue). Tonight, dinner with a few of my favorite people, with whatever pies she and I come up with this afternoon.
Repeat after me "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK. . "
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
For you see, the amazing and quite persistent Mrs. Dragon had contacted some folks out in Hollywood, including the prop masters for my favorite TV show NCIS, and they had Dennis design a Flatjack holster for a female character who was complaining that all the holsters made the butt of the gun stick out or dig into her ribs.
Long story short, the FlatJack was a hit, the actress could wear a blazer-type jacket and not print...all was right with the world.
Then came a call from the NCIS prop master last week with a special order request. It was built in one day and shipped the next. A leather goth themed lunch box (I so want one). I think he did an amazing job with it given their brief description of what they wanted. He is not sure if the scene it is in, will air, or be on a cutting room floor but I guarantee I know at least 5 people (Midwest Chick, Mr. B, and me and the Dragons) who will be glued to the set that night like we usually are when NCIS is on.
Since I had a novelist/reader ask a question about small of the back holsters today so I thought this would be a good time to put up a review of my first holster made by Dragon Leatherworks.
There's good holsters and bad holsters out there. Most of us end up with the 'big box 'o holsters' that most shooters acquire over the years. Trying one, then another, searching for the perfect rig. There's soft ones, hard ones, some that only MacGyver could love and some that are to artistic design what plastic forks are to fine dining. Still most of them are durable if not functional.
Designs I'm NOT fond of are are the “small of the back” and ankle holsters. The “small of the back” holster has some problems. The draw is difficult and therefore dicey. There is a danger of sweeping the muzzle of the gun in directions you don’t intend to cover. This is an easy holster to disarm. Someone can come up behind you and grab the pistol, and from where it is on your back, it's going to be hard if you aren't trained in tactical to stop them from taking it. Lastly, should you fall on your back, the small of the back holster is a steel bar across your spine that could accentuate the impact of hitting the ground. If you're small boned to begin with this is NOT a good place to be as the injury could make you an easier target. The leg holster is only really valid as a backup option and it’s not really great as a backup. The ankle holster is great concealment, but unless you are a professional or one of the Amazing Walendas the draw is so problematic that it is almost useless.
There's another one recently out, designed by a woman for women, that carries just under the bustline. No, not the waist, but right underneath the bust. I admire the woman for the idea, but it seemed to me the perfect way to get a accidental fire into the femoral. I can't even see my FEET, how am I supposed to instantly get the gun out from underneath Sigfried and Roy, not to mention the risk of now having a clear field to draw up and away from the holster, let alone doing it in a stealthy manner. A rapist may not be looking at my hand down by my waist or hip but I guarantee he's going to notice my hand going for the twins. (As well, it it just being ripe for those punch lines. . . if the bad girl is wearing one, do you shout out "you're busted" when going in for the arrest). Sorry, but you get the picture. I'm all for free enterprise and the promotion of self defense, but that just seems like a bad idea.
No, I wanted a holster I carry on my hip. One that is well designed, functional, with quality workmanship and that new holster smell. So I got a Dragon Leatherworks holster.
Modeled here last January, is my holster, which D. made for me and asked if I'd post about it only if I liked it. I LOVED it..
Dennis had been working on a new pancake holster for the 1911 in honor of the 100th anniversary of John Moses Browning's most celebrated design, and I was anxious to see where that has taken him. His craftwork is all 100% made in the US, not machine stitched in Albonia and then sent to the U.S. for assembly so someone in marketing can attach a "Made in the USA label" on it. Even better, it's made out of America's greatest renewable resource, leather! (Bacon holsters might be nice, but they wouldn't last as long).
The first thing I noticed when I got mine was the smell. I'm a person who is very much in tune with the senses, sight, smell touch, feel. That's probably why my cooking is generally more gourmet than Tatar Tot. Why I love the feel of leather on my skin, and the smell of good quality leather and dye.
The holster was beautiful, polished black, smooth to the touch. The stitching, tight, defined, perfectly even (is luxurious too much of a girly word?). There was no roughness on the outside, no loose stitching. It was pristine. Dragon Leatherworks has come a long way from the Fugly, the dependable but ugly sidekick may a gun has welcomed. The fit of the Talon is sweet, and its beautiful enough to serve as an Open Carry accessory even with my best little black pants.
Holsters should be designed by need first, not looks, finding the solution, then crafting the holster to be as visually appealing as it can while still doing its job. There are a lot of holsters, especially those crafted to draw in the female customer, that are designed to appeal to the designer in you, NOT the shooter. I don't need embroidery, fancy lines or froo froo, I want a holster that allows for comfort in conceal AND quick draw. I want one with good looks AND functionality and the Dragon Leatherworks Talon fits this bill, worn forward of the strong side hip, proper placement on the hip being a secret of an efficient, fast draw .
Out of the box, I noticed that this is not some puny little holster, made out of thin material, machine stitched and easily collapsible. The holster was form fitted to a Colt M 1911 A1 5" semi-auto pistol, but grabbed on tightly to the Kimber 1911 Tactical, the interior being a rough surface that gripped the firearm, but still gave it up when I needed it to (come to Mama), to draw rapidly if need be. It's not likely to be grabbed by someone else easily, or dislodged by accident. Even held upside down, with an unloaded weapon inside and trying for the tactical version of the Dance of the Seven Veils, the Kimber did not want to dislodge on its own. It liked its new home and wasn't going to come out until I wanted it to.
As a female, I like that it holds the weapon outside of my pants. I'm very particular about what gets in my pants, and a clunky, bulky holster riding up and chafing between fair skin and jeans that may already be a wee bit too tight is NOT something I want. I prefer the holster to be outside of the pants, under the belt, a perfect fit of form and design. Yet, like some other models of that type, the Dragon Leatherworks holster is not bulky at all, and on other than the most petite of women, would not be too big to carry a .45.
The rear panel is extended and flat and stays flat, hugging the body comfortably while the front panel gets molded to the gun. The pancake design hugs the curve of the hip while at the same time, the combat cut body shield facilitates grip and draw, quickly, if necessary. The holsters belt loops slots were a perfect fit for the belt loops on female jeans, fitting nicely in between the belt loops on a couple of different style of jeans I tried. The belt used was as much fashion as function, showing that even with a lightweight belt it held up well. I've found, as have other women shooters I queried when talking about this holster, that other manufactures holsters are sometimes too big and we find that our jeans will bunch up badly on the holster side. This didn't happen with the Talon even with a belt that wasn't really heavy. (Just a note: though the Belt slots are standard, optional Yaqui-style belt tunnels are available.)
For myself, I like the under the belt cut, where retention is good with no additional features I do not need that will add bulk. It pulls in tight, so it's very concealable as well under a lightweight jacket or an over shirt or blazer. I could wear it all day and not really think it's there. For all day comfort in the field, I do NOT want the Victoria's Secret Push Up Holster, that rides, chafes and gives me a rash.
Face it, I'm never going to be some tiny, little delicate thing, I'm tall and curvy with a smaller waist than hips. I'm not one of those gals you have to shake the sheets out in the morning to find and I usually carry a very large caliber, even concealed. The Kimber 1911 is not some little girls gun, it's sturdy. But the weight is distributed quite evenly in the Talon, the design naturally fitting where my thumb would rest, making it easy to hold the platform steady while the gun was removed for a quick draw.
I admire any holster that cares more about a commitment to a product that will fit the average adult form than trendy style. Dragon Leatherworks is also now offering the Talon with a Limited Lifetime Warranty. If workmanship of the holster fails during normal use to the original owner, it gets repaired free of charge. If it can't be repaired, it will be replaced with a brand new one. I don't know too many companies that will that any more without you paying an additional fee.
Male or female shooter, a good holster makes the carry much more comfortable and with comfort comes safety. A good holster will allow you to carry a heavier gun with less discomfort and greater concealment.
In the first photos of just the gun and holster, the leather was still a little stiff and the gun didn't seat all the way in. That is not unusual for a brand new holster made of thick, quality materials. But you may wish to make sure you get a "break in" time before wearing it for self defense. Just as I wouldn't try to run from a pack of zombies wearing brand new leather boots, I'm going to wear a holster a little time before taking it out in the field, giving the leather time to release its newness and embrace its new friend.
After I'd had time to wear it a while, it really started to fit like a glove. With just a few hours to break it in from the "new holster stiffness", the trigger fit into the holster as it was designed, and with more wearings, over time, would be even better.. The price, less than $100, half the cost of some other accessories we carry.
A good holster is a blend of quality materials and commitment to quality, designed by a mind that knows form and purpose is more important than flash, something that will hold up in thick or thin. Like those we choose to keep company with, strong, yet flexible, designed of stern stuff, giving and dependable.
The perfect partnership of design and function. Now, I just need a niftier lunchbox.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I made this for my team at work. I put it in a big glass jars and passed them around with the morning coffee. The third fellow who took a piece out of the jar poked his head out in the hallway as I was leaving and said, quite loudly, "Will you Marry Me??"
That would be a "no" but you can have more toffee.
It takes some patience and the hints will really help it turn out, but it's worth the trouble for special friends.
Dark Chocolate Toffee
2 cups butter (use the best quality butter you can buy, it's a key ingredient)
2 cups white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
drop of Penzey's Mexican Vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. With distinct smoke, wine and fruit flavors, this is not your childhood chocolate chip. Low sugar allowed the chocolate flavor to really shine and the shape makes for easy melting.)
1 cup finely chopped almonds and pecans, mixed
Instructions: (Basic instructions in BOLD, helpful hints in regular type).
Before you do anything, test your candy thermometer. It should be 212 degrees F. in boiling water with the thermometer about 1/2 inch off the bottom of the pan (don't let it touch). If off by much, get a new thermometer and make the recipe another day
Allow to come to a steady but not rolling boil, and cook until the mixture becomes a dark amber color, and the temperature has reached 285 degrees F, (137 degrees C), stirring occasionally (it should not burn on medium). This takes about 20 minutes.
You are aiming for a final temperature of 285 to 295. The higher the temp the more brittle the toffee will be. 285 is the "soft crack" stage where the toffee may be somewhat soft and pliable after cooling. If it seems to be rising faster than that, turn the heat down a tiny bit. If slower, do NOT increase the temperature, just cook it longer. If you cook it too fast and too hot it will separate.
At 285 put a drop of toffee in a cup of ice water, it should be brittle. If not, cook to 295 for brittle, melt in your mouth toffee. I cooked it 5 minutes past 285 degrees and it was perfect. Remember to look for the dark amber color in addition to the cooking temperature.
When the toffee is done, pour into the prepared pan. If the top appears a little oily, blot with a clean paper towel, that will help the chocolate adhere. Sprinkle the chocolate over the top, and let it set to soften for a couple minutes, then spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle the almond/pecan mixture over the chocolate, pressing in slightly (put your hand in a baggie to keep the mess down).
Place the toffee in the refrigerator to chill until set. Break into pieces, and store in an airtight container. In an airtight container it will freeze nicely for up to a year. During the winter, store a container of this in your chilly shop. It makes a wonderfully brittle treat with a cup of hot coffee after a trip to the range with your revolver and some .357 rounds.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
First, a stop at bd's Mongolian Grill, for the all you can conquer buffet. The place was busy, as always, and we were really happy to see a new mural on the wall. Can't go wrong with Marauding Hordes and a good train.
There's a big buffet of meats and seafood, pasta and vegetables (plus a salad bar). You load all your selections in a big bowl (there's a pile of rib-eye, there under the vegetables in mine) with an egg to be scrambled into it, stir fry style, with sauce and spices. I chose General Khan which is similar to General Tso to which I added fresh cayenne and red pepper.
Then you get to watch them cook it up, entertainment in its own right.
With it you get hot tortillas (to make a wrap) and/or white or brown rice. When your plate is done, they bring you a new bowl. If you go home hungry it's your own fault.
After lunch, a stop at Penzey's. The cocoa is going to be a homemade German Chocolate cake, the other things were picked up for blog friends who had expressed an interest in trying them. I was looking for some Thai seasoning, not sure what peppers are used for the heat. I'm one of those that asks for "Thai Hot". I think Roberta just orders with "Try and Kill Me". We love our spicy food. I didn't see anything and the clerk was busy so Tam was talking into the magic elf phone trying to look it up.
". . used on Thai food?".
"Not "HOUSTON Thai Food", you idiot!"
Supplies in hand we were off voices raised - "TO THE MOUNTAIN OF GEESE!"
You thought I was kidding. There he was in the parking lot, peeved he had to get out of our way so I could park the bat truck.
Someone looking for a green wookie suit?
Russian ammo in a sardine can.
I got some ammo and my cohorts made several purchases. We did look at firearms, but in the pistol department I didn't see anything that made me want to spend that much money today. But I'm always pleased by how quickly I get service at the Indy Gandor Mountain gun counter, within a minute, a clerk behind the gun counter always asking " Can I help you?". Trust me, as a female who regularly looks at, and occasionally purchases, firearms, you don't always get that at a gun store. That's the reason I bought my hunting rifles here.
Loading up the car, I placed my one bag, of .45 acp in the back. It was fairly heavy. Then Roberta's bags, one of gear, the other containing a small box or two, lightweight, and rattling like small arms. .
B: ".22 ?"
They were Good and Plenty's.
The G and P box cracked open, were were off for a drive to World Market. As we headed up north we spotted a increasing number of businesses gone bust in this affluent part of town, wondering now many of the many, many McMansions around here were underwater. Still, there were a few new places open. Cafe du "what??" and of course, some old ones including our destination, the always fun, World Market. As we drive we're discussing everything from food to geology
B. - "Is it Stalactite or Stalagmite?"
Roberta: "Watch out for the Transvestites. One of those could come crashing down."
Tam - chuckle
Roberta: "Seriously, there's some neighborhoods you want to avoid."
Tam and I: major giggling
Roberta - "don't laugh, some of them are heavy!"
While we were there we picked up a number of wondrous items, teas and some teacups, a couple cool things for a friends birthday next week, some kitchen and cooking gadgets, English biscuits and even a little plastic sandwich container that would be perfect for Colt bits. Not to mention. . .
Bacon Hot Sauce sauce with a fire breathing pig? I so have to buy this.
I can use this new brew to put out the fire.
Soon it was time to head home. It felt good to get out again, even if we missed coffee at Café du Merde.
Cheers! - Brigid
I guess there's times you're driving down the freeway, stomach empty and rumbling and you think. "Dang, I wish I could have a giant prepackaged lukewarm dill pickle right about now."
If you're traveling, travel safe, the weather is pretty ugly tonight up north of the Ohio River Valley. If you're home asleep, consider yourself fortunate to be in safe and warm.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The first day of Spring and it was 82. The sun dips towards the water, its glow, burnished breath upon my skin. The sky so clear, the soft trailing puffs of clouds, spun air gathered around the tops of the trees like cotton candy. I love that time of day, somewhere between the first cool breeze that blows against the back of my neck like a lover's kiss, and the first stinging bite of the mosquitoes, marking their territory in blood, driving me in. Outside my home, Cicadas will soon strike up the band, off in the distance, the sound of the first Spring lawnmower, heard without interest but with the comfort of familiarity. I'm safe in where it's cool, the air conditioning on, the house safe and quiet. Too quiet.
I hope the mild winter and the hot Spring isn't a portent of another scorching summer, of the bat phone going off, requiring a day or two outside in it, hot brutal work, everything you touch, burning.
I was based someplace once extremely hot and arid. I remember a little "science experiment". I wrapped a roast beef in foil, leaving it in a vehicle with the windows rolled up at the beginning of a training flight in July and carefully unwrapped it at the end of the afternoon to find it perfectly cooked. We shredded it and served it with buns and cold beer, toasting another successful mission and "Jeep as convective oven". Who knew?
But heat can not only burn away what is unnecessary, it can also destroy that which is fragile.
Dad doesn't have central air conditioning. It's not that he couldn't afford it, he just refuses, saying he lived in the house 53 years without it and doesn't need it now. Though he did put in a window unit in his bedroom, thermal windows and insulated drapes, which work on those occasional really hot days.
As kids, when it did get hot, Mom would close up the drapes, turn on a fan, and try not to use the oven. Dinner was usually grilled, or a plate of cold meats and cheese, lefse, and a glass of wine or beer for the adults, kool-aid for the kids. Sometimes we'd leave the house and head to Dairy Queen. It was, other than the inevitable and forgettable McDonald's, the only "fast food" in town.
I remember those trips, sitting in the car, also with no air conditioning, trying to eat the cone before the ice cream melted and ran down my shirt. Our dog even got her own, which my Mom would patiently hold while our wiener dog lapped at it, crunching the cone like it was the world's best bone. Days of heat and glory. For a moment it wasn't hot, there was just the clear cold of the ice cream, eaten in hurried silence with the people we loved, cool salvation taken from summer's scorn.
Summers were anticipated joy. For when the snows had melted, spring had sprung and the land was warmed by the sun of summers sustenance, we'd gather at an irrigation ditch at my Uncle's ranch, hear the water rushing down the sluice way, from the sound of it, as if a whole ocean had come apart, roaring through the culvert, taking whole cows and houses with it. But in reality, though strong, it not enough to drown in unless you were some sissy city kid. We'd wait until the flow increased, then jump in with an inner tube, rushing down, rushing on, the water releasing something in us that adulthood hadn't dampened yet.
We'd be out after breakfast and play all day, with kids gathered up from around the area, a posse of potential. We'd drink from the hose if we got thirsty and ripped more than one pair of knees out of a pair of jeans, which our mothers would patch, not replace. We exposed our bellies to the sun, offered up skinned elbows to the skies, gaining confidence in our movements, in ourselves, breathing deeply, nourishing ourselves on the scent of grass. Summer days flowed endlessly, we were immortal, the clouds rushing by so fast we could not keep up even on a bicycle. Glorious days. Only the sound of the dinner bell would bring us in, dirty and hungry and aching to be outside again.
We didn't have a mall, we hung around the water, near bridges that could be jumped off of, near streams in which you could paddle around like a pre-school kiddie pool. The older kids, the braver ones, would jump off the rocks or grab an inner tube and then propel down through some rushing water to a pool further down. I hesitated to take that first leap into the abyss until some older kid double dog dared me and I raised an invisible middle finger to gravity and went over the edge.
At home, there was a sprinkler or even a Slip N Slide, where with a deep springing run you could lunch onto a wet plastic superhighway off into the grass. Geronimo!. . . Wheee!.. . argghhh. . . DOG POOOOOP!
It leaves me to wonder. When the days of summer come to pass, do we ever really grow up? I guess it's how you look at life, as an imagined feast, like a holy wafer placed on the tongue or just something for the body to consume before it dies and turns to earth.
Soon it will be summer again. I have air conditioning now in my homes and in my truck. Yet I still spend many a day out in the open air, sun beating down as we catalog each and every burning piece of earth in which someone lost that fight with going quietly into the night.
There's no escaping that kind of heat. The sun rests atop an inverted tureen of hollow, muted air. Even our words to one another as we worked, faded slowly and knowingly until they were lost in the murmur of shimmering heat within which even the flags that marked our work, gave in to windless defeat. We moved slowly, casting shadows on scorched earth that we had not yet quit, cataloging the frayed dimensions of a moment in time that lay so solemnly upon the shifting earth.
Finishing up, even getting shed of our gear, there wasn't enough water to cool us down. We dove into sweating bottles of water in a cooler, gulped down, the liquid without taste or even cold until we finished it, the drops on our lips already dancing like water on a skillet as we headed back to our vehicles.
We could hear the roar of it before we even saw it. It was not a warning of approach but a sound of playful challenge, an indictment against the hard shame of earth that held it back, the vast weight of years of fluid need rushing as fast as it could into an unknown future, searching for that inviolable pool in which it would finally find home.
After our work for the week was completed and we had a day off, we came back. There are canoes for rent. We are still hot. We can almost taste water that will actually refresh. It's not a river for beginners. Before us the thick current challenges us in a undertone of superiority, the silver surface dimpling into foaming ropes that splash up against a rock, then disappear in silence. Bubbles dance around the rocks, as if something large were alive down there, something that woke in our presence and will only sleep again after it's done battle with us.
We look at it, we look at 40+ year old knees and arms and we grin at each like children. There's been a few thundershowers; just enough to raise up the water level above the level of our spirits. We grab our craft and go in, the water yanking at the edge of that last bit of fear and hesitation, pulling us down, water fast and huge and furious. Once we picked up the paddle, there was no going back, we had to be there, to see if to the end or die trying, water in a place that's inside of us, water in a place that's somehow holy.
The fear of my youth is gone, and those around me know that double dog daring me still works. Our work for the week is done, it was time to break free of it, the heat and the solidity of it weighing down even our sleep if we let it. As I stepped into the canoe I held my breath and in the silence that followed, so did the water, tremendous and patient and waiting for me to make up my mind. And we hit the water with solemn abandon, simply in recognition of the life left in us, the air rushing from my lungs, supple muscles gathered into the forward motion of arms, and head and heart.
Perhaps it's the heat outside that makes us bold, perhaps it's the heat within us. It's always the first jump into the unknown that is the hardest, that hesitant leap upward propelled by desire and only held back by the gravity of restraint. Once you are past that feeling of helpless weightlessness as you stop off into space, it gets easier. For life awaits. It comes to you in the heat of the day, secret and swift, wearing air and water and blood and need that flows away like a garment revealing all that you knew. If you close your eyes to it you will see, drifting until the water grows tepid and the sound of future Cicadas is all that remains.
Hot or not, I'm going to head out to the wild soon. Where my life waits for me. For though we've all been burned in the past, there remains those who will never live so long that we don't believe that what is in our ardent wanting is out of range of our ardent hope. We just had to open the door, dive into the water, no worries, no shame, no forgiveness necessary, and seize what we know we needed.
For it awaits. Awaits in the heated movement that is not the wind, Awaits in a rush of roaring water; in a patient pool in the evening, where the hurts of the past are left lying upon a drifting and imponderable shore, washed clean in the heat of a yellow afternoon.
Monday, March 19, 2012
It was perfect weather for a day outside, or time with friends. Broad Ripple was humming with activity. With the outdoor seating at the Brew Pub full not long after a couple of us arrived and our usual family area seating spot hosting a kids birthday party, the waitstaff took us to the ("are you all over 21?". . . uh, that would be a yes) pub area. It was darker, but very cool and comfortable with lots of seating.
Our beautiful and charming hostess Roberta X.was not feeling well so we missed her (get well soon Bobbie!) However Midwest Chick and Mr. B. ,who weren't able to join us, sent down a classic sci fi book for me to deliver to her, one involving ham radios and cool spaceship technology. Thanks you two, I'm sure she'll enjoy it.
Tam, our blogmeet co-hostess arrived and took her place at the head of the table, passing out copies of the latest Concealed Carry magazine (yay!!) with our favorite back page authoress in fine form in each issue.
From 12 o'clock - Tam being the one with the green St. Paddy's Day "Moustache on a stick!" (impress your friends, scare small animals, soak up beer!) that I found in my travels.
(You can click on the photo to enlarge.)
Moving clockwise, Tam, my empty seat, Nathan, The Jack , Kerry (official Lurker #1), Old Grouch, Engineering Johnson.
Arriving a few minutes later (still playing with brand new camera, our blog photographer got a really lousy photo of the full table), were Mad Saint Jack, and official Lurker No. 2, retired military aviator and shooter of all trades, Don.
There was cheese dip with fresh bread and giant pretzels, fish and chips and chicken planks the size of well, actual planks. Of course, being gun and knife show weekend, there were conversations on that. I didn't go, still enroute from the wedding in yesterday's post, but Mad St. Jack had some finds in personal protection and Tam scored with a purchase we'll let her tell you about. Mad St. Jack gave a few of us a copy of "God, the Gunman and Me" by Jeanne Assam, a true life American hero (a full book report will be coming up later this month). Conversations were varied as always, adventure -"340,000 volts under the Sea!", why XD's aren't taking over the gun range, Glock grips, food, physics (please read Newton's laws of motion before trying to straddle a beam, just a word of advice), engineering marvels and stupid human tricks.
Too soon it was time to head home as a couple of the folks had long drives ahead.
Till next time!
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
What is it about old places filled with the past that fascinate so?
The landscape of the desert. The feel of machinery against our shoulder. The smell of oil and might on the breeze. I had a chance to re-visit a resting place of old aircraft.
In the desert just outside of the city of Tucson is a a place where old airplanes go to die. Davis Monthan Air Base and it's resting grounds. My job had me down in the Southwest for a day or two not long back and there was a place I just had to visit again. The"Boneyard" in the desert has been a fascination, a place where titans of the air rest before going on their way to the aviation afterlife.
The Air Force calls the desert facility "Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center" (AMARC), many visitors refer to it as "the boneyard". We are probably both right. Here the U.S. Air Force mothballs planes until they either need them again or it's time to salvage them for parts. Whenever the U.S. sells surplus planes to foreign governments part of the sales pitch is that there will always have a ready supply of spare parts. Some are turned into pilotless drones and used for missile target practice. Many, too many have all the earmarks of being skeletal.
There are only three ways to view the aircraft at the heart of the Davis-Monthan facility: fly over the place (tough unless you're riding in on an F-15); from a satellite; or by Bus from the PASM. Since I can't afford either an F-15 nor a KH-12 Spy Satellite, I rode with a couple dozen other tourists and took the bus tour.
There's enough information on the place on the web and numerous aviation blog posts, so I won't get too wordy here, but suffice to say there's about every military plane ever made here, including the leviathans of the site; 100 plus B-52s, all that remain of nearly 400, slowly being destroyed as part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties, and the force reduction treaties. These bombers are chopped up using a 130 ton blade, then left for a week or more to allow the Russians to photograph and confirm their destruction. I have watched several airmen view a documentary of those aircraft being dismembered and I know, that had they been alone, they would have been crying, tears for the incredible creativity as well as the terrible destruction that man is capable of.
Just beyond the remaining Buffs, where the bus turned to make its way back to the museum, are two parks of odd looking equipment. The equipment is the tooling and jigs for the B-1 and B-2 bomber production lines. One day those bombers will take up residence under the clear blue Arizona sky, and there might still be B-52s to keep them company.
It's an amazing, still place. The first time I went there, security was much freer and we were able to get up closer and look. Wander among the husks of aircraft. The aircraft, sharp and large against the backdrop of a desert sky, holding so many stories in the empty spaces they form and contain. It's mysterious, exciting, the kind of place where as a kid your dreams went. It's even more mysterious as night falls on the Sonora Desert. There, the aircraft stand like ghostly sentinels upon the hard earth, under unfathomed sky. They loom, over tiny scrabbles of cactus and the small desert creatures. They wait, on hard earth splayed with the tracks of tiny feet, and larger feet, making their own shadows of violent shade until the unrestrained stars come out at night. Their forms, so silent, yet with so much to tell.
My Sensei once said, that "emptiness is form and form is emptiness", a phrase I never really understood until that moment, staring at those cavernous behemoths of the sky. One moment they are simply an empty form, in another memory brings back to life the souls they contained, the might they rendered, the absolute force in which they sliced the sky.
Some of the airmen that flew many of these aircraft have died already, so many aircraft, so many souls on board. As I think about that, their empty bodies float in my mind, light, unfettered by gravity, I became aware of my own heartbeat in the setting sun, the labor of my lungs against my chest. Form is emptiness. Emptiness form, I say as with warm and eager breath I take in the landscape, as my mind grasps just how real, how tangible these husks of aircraft still are, even as some of their crews are but dust.
Overhead, desert thunderstorms loom and erupts, heavy drops of water hitting us as we scurry for the tour bus, threads of moisture hitting the packed earth like gunfire. The sound of thunder echoes across the boneyard, nature's taps playing as the sky weeps for the dead with crystal purity.
These thoughts were broken by the chatter of some of the other tour members. For a moment I wanted to hush them, as this was a solemn place. To tell them to be quiet. . . . . or something. Something about interfering with the shuttered windows of these forms, the dark alleys of an airplane's final resting place and the sky's remembrance of such places, filled with the elemental silence of those who have flown away.
- Love, Brigid
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
"To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”
“Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.”
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
"Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.”
"To see things in the seed, that is genius."
"Music in the soul can be heard by the universe."
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”
"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Monday, March 12, 2012
I spend a fair amount of time outdoors (by choice, not restraining order as Red Green would say). Often I have a choice of where I am. Other times I do not. I've been on the side of a mountain or two, more jungle than I like, thank you, and the"Island of the Giant Spiders in My Hotel Bed". The humidity, bad water, and those bugs the size of Volkswagens are one thing. Throw in some bio hazards and locals from other lands that occassional want to shoot at you and the fun meter drops rapidly.
But that is not the reason I wear really stout, high boots. For it's the small snakes in the grass that will do you the most harm.
I remember one work site that was in the Everglades. To this day I remember the sound as we walked down into the sawgrass towards the scene, the slithering rustle of what sounded like hundreds of snakes getting the heck out of Dodge. I about wet myself when I reached into my lunch bag later and touched the rope of black licorice I had forgotten about.
The one I've run into most often is the coral snake of which, world wide, there are over 65 recognized species.They really are not all that large as snakes go, tending to be very secretive fossorial snakes, happy to stay buried in the ground or the leaf litter of a rain forest until ready to meet your foot or your ankle, which they do with fangs that are also considered small, fixed to the front jaw and normally only if they feel you are a real threat.
Due to the time it takes for the venom take effect, coral snakes have a tendency to hold on to a victim when biting, unlike larger and more obvious vipers which have retractable fangs and tend to prefer to strike and let go immediately.
Despite their relatively small size, and a reputation for not being historically aggressive, their venom is a powerful neurotoxin.
In the far corners of the world, death awaits, and it often waits in colorfully deceptive form.
Which is why I was happy to try out a firearm known as the Snake Slayer.
A colleague purchased one to add to his collection and let me go try it out. The Snake Slayer IV. It was small, but heavy with a crossbar safety, as well as being single-action. Assuming you have some basics in firearm handling, the risk of accidental discharge on this is reduced to about nil by the engineers that designed it.
What ammo to take? There's an assortment around here. The Snake Slayer has interchangeable barrels and can take the .410 shotgun shells, but for that day it was going to be chambered for .45 Long Colt. Good thing there's some of that around. The rest of the ammo was going to be left home.
Because of this power and its excellent accuracy the .45 Colt was the most-used cartridge of its time, succeeding the .44 WCF (also known as the .44-40 Winchester). It was said that the cartridge was powerful enough to knock a man to the ground in a single shot and net lore has it that the US Army apparently asked Colt to go back to the drawing board and produce a less-powerful version of the cartridge for Army use as there were complaints from professional soldiers about it's "hard hitting" even firing it out of 7-1/2" barrels from a full-sized Colt Single Action Army revolver.
But even with today's less powerful modern factory loads, this little Snake Slayer had almost no barrel at all (3 1/2 inches) and none of the mass of the Colt to absorb the recoil. Weak wrists need not apply. Bang OW! Bang OW!
There was a young man next to me at the range who was giving the gun and me, the eye. I'm not surprised he looked over, the noise got his attention. He had some .45 acp for something in his bag and was shooting a Glock 9 mm. He looked at the Bond and said "oh it's so tiny!? (snort). "Does that hurt your widdle hand" (snort).
Rather than get defensive for his attitude, I batted my big green eyes, smiled sweetly and said "do you want to try it?" giving it to him, safety on, and a couple rounds chambered.
He was so eager to show me how the big boys shoot he didn't notice how big the bore of the barrels were.Bang OW! Son of a Bitch!! Bang OW!
Once the little bit of smoke cleared, he grinned at me and said "Awesome! ! Where'd you get that?"
I know. I'm bad.
I checked for accuracy. Nothing close to a bullseye but I didn't expect that with a derringer. I do not know if this unique to just this model but the trigger actually pulls back and down. When I pulled it straight back the trigger pull was a lot more, around 10 pounds I'd guess. But if I pulled down and back in the same motion the trigger pull dropped to what felt like less than half that. With the short barrel, that helped from keeping the barrel from being pulled down and lowering the shot. Good to know. In any case, the accuracy was decent. In up front self defense, it would definitely hurt someone. Just the psychological effect of the noise and the smoke would be such that if you discharged it on some dark street, any felon in the area would be half way to the nearest bus station before you fired again. That's if he wasn't your target and was still walking after the wound cavity a short distance .45 LC is going to give out of that barrel.
It's not a gun for the very first time shooter or the weak of hand. Let's face it, this baby lets you know you've fired it. But you are using it for up close self defense, not an afternoon of plinking. It was pretty heavy for its small size, bulky but not too much, and they have some good holsters available for it on their website. It is built by Bond Arms, a well known, dependable and trusted American company, something I like to see. The quality and care that goes into the manufacture of this firearm definitely shows. In all, I was really glad I got a chance to try it out. It was a nifty little gun, discrete with attitude, likely able to take care of any "beasts in the night" you might meet quick, close up and personal.
(1) John Taffin (July 2001). "The Custom Loading .45 Colt". Guns Magazine.