Thursday, January 31, 2013

Craftmatic Adjustable Beds and Auto Launch Recliners - Dad's House

One thing I made sure Dad had during a recent visit was one of those chairs that lifts him up to the standing position, then, he can lean into it and gently have it sit him back down (and I have to say the DeBeers Diamond  "three months salary" marketing staff have nothing on the folks that sell furniture for older folks).

He loves it, one more thing to help him stay in his home. He recovered from his stroke a few years back better than anyone thought, but he now has a hard time standing and sitting without a little help.  Every morning, he gets up and gets settled in it and reads the daily message from "Our Daily Bread" and then the Bible.  That's something he's done every day since retirement, after his morning work out (Dad was a Golden Glove Boxer and still has a very strict exercise regiment that included swimming and Nautulus at the Y with my Step Mom well into their 80's).  Then it's time to get dressed and get about enjoying the day.

Actually, I checked the chair out when he was sleeping in one day, it's quite comfortable and seems to be built better than some of my expensive yuppie furniture.

But dang, I was hoping for an auto launch feature that would get  me airborne. 

Initiate Launch Sequence!  (that's it??)

I'm on the road, but was able to check on him.  Big Bro is starting round two of chemo next Friday, but he's handling it well and was able to spend the night with Dad the other night at the house.

The family room, where the chair is housed, has barely changed since I was in sixth grade.  The folks built it onto the house over what was most of our huge cement patio.  We took a vote as a family one year when I was in grade school. Vacation to Hawaii with the kids (the parents had already gone on their 25th anniversary alone) or add on a family room?  The kids decided it.  Family room!  We can play!  We can make noise.  We can spill stuff!  We can take the TV set completely apart with tools while they're at the grocery store (oh, dang, busted)

It has the previous living room carpeting down over the original harvest gold linoleum now and the drapes have been updated.  But much is unchanged. The 1970's fixtures for the fluorescent lights that Dad crafted by hand. Still there. That Mexican hat on the Wall?  A VERY embarrassing River dance gone South episode from some tap recital of mine.  The barre built into the wall where I did my ballet warm ups was removed and replaced with paneling.  It was there under the kitchen window that Mom once took out with a golf ball from the back yard when that was the back window to the house. Fore! (hey, I didn't know Mom knew that other word!)

On the walls are funny tin signs and Montana art.  On another wall are numerous awards and mementos from the community and  Uncle Sam, every single member of our family - Mom, Dad, brothers, sister, serving in Defense, Local or Federal Law Enforcement or the Armed Forces, with the Air Force and Navy battling it out for the best space. And the picture of Jesus, which has witnessed slumber parties, ping pong games (we'd set the table up inside in the winter) Loony Tunes, and probably cursing during that  1983 Minnesota-Nebraska college game.

The couch is new, but the quilt is one my Mom crocheted  in the 70's.  There is another one, but it sits in my linen closet, not where Barkley can chew on it, but where I can occasionally hold it, smell the scent of Chanel No. 5 that only exists in my memory.  It's where I can remember her hands working away on it while we kids watched westerns on TV and tried to outshoot Marshall Dillon with our little cap guns under the watchful eye of our Lord.

We've made just a few changes in the house.  The main bathroom, tub and shower were outfitted with handles and bars and a shower chair for ease of bathing.  We couldn't talk him into replacing his king sized water bed and TMI Red Velvet bedspread with a sensible mattress for his back, but if he wakes up at night with dreams of darkest blue and ash, and gets up, we've moved anything he might stumble into and fall.

The small bath by the family room, though, was in dire need of help.  It was always the "utility" bathroom, old faded paint, bare window, no storage at all, and small and hard to get around in as there was nothing for him to hold onto if his balance or strength waned.  But it's the one he uses the most.

Big Bro took care of the construction and I took care of the  paint and the decorating.

Still, with a full time home health aide I can arrange and lawn service Bro takes care of we are happy he can stay in his home. He originally said he wanted to move in with me when my Step Mom was diagnosed with cancer and I bought an old money pit of a big house on some property with a view of a small lake, a single story, no steps, "mother in law set up" outside of town, the original "Range." I hoped he'd be happy there. But she went into remission, with great thanksgiving, but was then diagnosed with Alzhemers.

He cared for her in his home through that, until her death, years more than we expected, but not easy years for him.  But as she was his cross, she was also his salvation and he refused to put her in a nursing home, even when she acted out in anger against her children, not recognizing her own life, but somehow, always recognizing him.

But after she was gone, he changed his mind. His Mom was from Indy, and he enjoyed it here, but he didn't want to leave where he's lived all these years.  He wanted to stay where his memories are, good or bad, in his own church, in that old house.  I  understood. 

This is the home in which his memories reside, in every furnishing that's 30, 40, 60 years old.  There have been other houses, for summer vacations and the old family home in Montana, but this modest little place was always the center of the family.  Outside, is the bed of my Mom's rose garden, replanted with other flowers now, yet still containing for him, those pink and red and coral buds and blossoms, long after they've fallen to dust, no more dead to him than the hands that tended them, the drops of blood they sometimes drew.

In that family room, he sits in his recliner and watches his favorite sports, while around him are the artifacts of loves never lost,  triumphs and defeats, as well as the living laughter of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Not one of them are related to him by blood, but by the strongest bond - family.

My room at home is virtually unchanged and that was not by my request, but his will. Photos of family and family and extended family all around.  The rainbow I painted on my walls in junior high. Dad said I could, but I had to use leftover paint which is why my rainbow is every shade of totally tacky 1970's paint we had.  (yes, we had rooms painted those colors!)

There is no view. There used to be a view of beautiful mountains, but they are hidden from where we sit by tall, big box marts. He refused to sell when they literally bought up several blocks, RE-zoned residential and commercial, so we look out the windows to the vast walls of a commercial business, their parking lot lights illuminating the place like Attica Prison during a break. Curtains keep the light out at night, sort of.  Dad realizes the value of the home just went to zip, but he doesn't care. It's his home,  it's our home.  It's where we lived, and it's where he will pass, hopefully and quietly in his favorite chair, with his family around, his Bible open and a can of cold beer waiting for when the game is called.

He knows his days are short, we all do. But he's very happy, lousy view and all. There's Big Bro and his kids nearby.  I fly out as often as I can, becoming an expert on the cheap air fares (how many stops?)  My step brother drives six hours to take him to lunch and until very recently, out for a game of golf.  He has friends, good ones, but new ones, as all of his original group has passed on. He's active in the church, and he eats very well with a hot meal daily from the sweet lady that is his home health aide and the snacks and small meals I leave for him in little freezer containers between visits and Big Bro's cooking, which is always good.

Around the house are small sayings, quotes that mean things to him, verses from the Bible.  "This is the Day the Lord hath Made, Let us Rejoice and Be Glad in It" is one that always makes me think of him. Each day is a gift from the Lord, he says, and I can't disagree.

Big Bro and I will make sure he's safe and happy, however he wants to live. With Big Bro ill, there's more for me to do, but I don't mind in the slightest, as they would both do the the same, and more, for me. I can't say what the future will bring, but one thing my brother and I are both agreed on. Dad has outlived his wives, and his first born child, we're going to fight to make sure he does not experience any more loss of what he holds dear. (OK Bro, I'll cancel the Acme Rocket Propelled RV6 order - beep beep!)

- Brigid

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Posts From the Road - The Quitter

When you're lost in the Wild,
and you're scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
 And you're sore as a boil,
it's according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: "Fight all you can,"
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it's easy to blow . . .
It's the hell-served-for-breakfast that's hard.
"You're sick of the game!"
Well, now, that's a shame.
You're young and you're brave and you're bright.
 "You've had a raw deal!" I
 know -- but don't squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
 It's the plugging away that will win you the day,
 So don't be a piker, old pard!
 Just draw on your grit;
 it's so easy to quit:
 It's the keeping-your-chin-up that's hard.
 It's easy to cry that you're beaten -- and die;
 It's easy to crawfish and crawl;
 But to fight and to fight when hope's out of sight --
Why, that's the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each grueling bout,
 All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try -- it's dead easy to die,
It's the keeping-on-living that's hard.
 - Robert W.  Service

Monday, January 28, 2013

40 Ounces of History - The Springfield Armory 1911

We were the good guys. We had a plan.  It was a complicated plan, one that needed to be followed exactly.  You know how on CSI type shows they'll be out in the field where they can come up with a way to match DNA with a can of Aquanet and a long tube? (Wait, that's a potato gun.)  Real life is not like that. Coming up with a way to conduct a complicated experiment involving materials technology with what's on hand is usually a bit more detailed. In this case, the plan would come to fruition with the implementation of a design, one that was thought out and laid on paper, to the last microscopic detail. Of course that means someone usually decides to "improve on it".

So in this mission, essentially that happened and the original design was "tweaked",  without consultation, which meant it wouldn't work, at all.  The plan had to be re-written, not only to solve the problem, which was growing uglier as one waited, but  to also the fix the new problem that the freelance "improvement" to the design made.

The Second Design came with it a Mil Spec no one else would recognize.

MIL-TFD-1111

There were a few eyebrows raised. Finally someone had to ask.  "What does that mean?".

"Make It Like the Friggin Design Four Ones." (for once)


A design proven by history.

There are many 1911 style weapons out there, from “plain vanilla” straight 1911s to full adjustable sights, underlug accessory-rail equipped weapons designed for special ops, both military and civilian LEO type.  Many of you have one somewhere in that range, in your home or in your holster and for many a good reason.

This is a firearm  that is essentially unchanged in 100 years.

Some things you just can't improve on. Like a firearm that's proven itself over a century. The gun that sits on my table, that rides on my hip, is, but for the smallest accommodations in a few external parts, a few cosmetic updates (and likely better steel), is the same fundamental firearm John Moses Browning developed and Colt produced a little over 100 years ago. 

The first 1911 was born in the Colt Factory the year Roy Rogers was born.  If you are now saying "who is  Roy Rogers?" please go play a video game and come back later with a note from your Mom. It was the same year that Ginger Rogers was born, when John Rigby designed his .416 caliber rifle on original Mauser action for African big game and the same year the Ottawa Senators won the Stanley Cup. (Go Sens!)

When Gavrilo Pincip shot the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria in 1914 with a  32 caliber FN Model 1910, much of the world realized that war was imminent and firearms would play a part in it. There were numerous firearms manufactured at that time, but it was John Moses Browning's .45 that was provided to the soldiers, with some two and a half million or more of  them manufactured to fight the war. To get that many firearms in service, contracts went out to other manufacturers besides Colt and Springfield Armory to make them, including a couple companies up in our neighbor to the North, Canada.

Twenty-One MILLION people died in that war, soldier and civilian alike. The losses continued through WWII, Korea and onward.   I am sure many lives were defended because of that firearm.  Something else that has not changed over time.

I'd toyed with the idea  of getting one, I already have more than one .45 to shoot, but I've heard so much about the 1911, all positive.  So it was no surprise that when I picked this one up, a Loaded 1911-A1, for the first time, I said.  "Oh, Yes."

"Loaded" 1911 does not mean it has a round in the magazine or chamber.  Consider it loaded, like your sub sandwich  or burger would be.  It has ALL the goodies, full length guide rod, polished feed ramp, enlarged ejection port, extended ambidextrous safety selectors, custom trigger and beavertail grip safety.

Concealed Carry - For carry, there are a variety of holsters.  I'm a big fan of  Dennis at Dragon Leatherworks holsters and his Talon  holster fits this firearm well and distributes the weight evenly.  But holsters notwithstanding, there are three basic ways to carry this firearm concealed.

Door #1 - The hammer is down and the chamber is empty.  This means you have to manually cycle the slide before you fire it.  Then, to return the firearm to its previous carry position you have to drop the magazine, empty the chamber, drop the hammer, and reload and reinsert the magazine, all without doing something stupid that's going to put a hole in anyone, including you.  You might as well carry a two and a half  pound hammer as a self defense tool.  It's likely quicker.  Carrying for quick self defense with an empty chamber poses more of a hazard to you than the criminal who is coming right at you.

Door #2 - The chamber hs loaded with a round but you must you cock the hammer with your thumb prior to firing.  If you've fired a single action revolver with a large hammer whose purpose IS be cocked by your thumb, you're familiar with the concept and it doesn't feel odd.  Still, this requires that you pull the trigger carefully and lower the hammer over a loaded chamber prior to re-holstering the firearm. Again, that's an extra step between the bad guy and the defense of your life. Personal choice here.

Door #3 - The one that makes liberals, old ladies and poodle dogs shudder in their shadow and that, my friends,  is cocked and locked.  This means the hammer is cocked, the chamber is loaded with a live round and the thumb safely is ON.  This means that the weapon is ready to fire NOW. All you have to do is click the safety down, pull the trigger while maintaining your grip and click it back up after the threat has the prerequisite hole in it. That's something that Barkley could even manage had he opposable thumbs.

But remember, when  the gun is cocked and locked, the sear is blocked from releasing the hammer. Further, unless a firing grip is on the pistol, the thumb safety swept off, and the trigger is pulled, the gun will not go off.  In my opinion, that's safer than the carry condition of some firearms.

Again, it's a personal choice, but I prefer Door #3.  Instant readiness.  If that door opens and a bad guy rushes in, intent on harming or killing, you can react in an instant.  That is why I carry a .45 for self defense in this manner.  Not to to be considered cool in the tactical sense, nor to balance my somewhat forward center of gravity, but to get the firearm in action when my life may depend on it, NOW, with the fewest opportunities for mistakes.

Some armchair gun enthusiasts like to say that you shouldn't carry a 1911 cocked and locked "because it requires more training than other guns".  I humbly disagree, at least for this particular model.
I'm no expert.  The gun manufacturer's don't pay me or give me freebies to write reviews and I doubt any of them will read them. I'm a better shot than much of the population, I'm a worse shot than a lot of my readership, I'm sure.  I simply know the basics.  I keep practicing the basics.  As such, I can say that I found the operation of this particular 1911 cocked and locked IS instinctual and functional. And I SO did NOT miss that very long and dreaded trigger pull on some double action autos that is like waiting at the doctors for that "you'll just feel a little pinch".

Again, my opinion, and as I tell anyone that reads here, for any new firearm, find a friend that's actively owned and shot one for years to offer guidance.  Even better, for a new firearm OR new to shooting, get an experienced NRA instructor like my friends Lynne F. Keads and Bill at Eastern Iowa Firearms Training  and get some "dual" on it as  we pilots would say.

Size and Weight - the barrel is 5 inches. That's a nice long sight radius for you to peer down for accuracy. Stainless steel, the height is  5.5 " and the weight 40 ounces (with empty magazine). This is a heavy firearm and for some folks, size and weight tend to go against the grain for the concealed concept, as they want light and small.  There are many folks that can and do carry "duty" size pistols and with the right holster and clothing, they conceal them well.  Weight, for me is not an issue as I'm not going to be carrying it all day long, nor size, as I'm 5 foot 8 in bare feet and curvy.  I also like it for recoil. Go fire a tiny lightweight gun with a largish round and then fire the 1911. You'll notice a huge difference in both recoil and comfort. I'd as soon be tied to chair and forced to watch "The Bachelor" than fire 100 rounds through my Kahr 40. The 1911, I can easily shoot for a morning at the Range and although my grouping gets a little looser as I get tired, it's still quite manageable.

First day with the 1911 target.
Trigger - Not just Roy Rogers trusty stead any more.  The 1911 A-1 trigger is nice.  It seemed like my finger just traveled about one nano-millimeter before it encountered resistance, and then just traveled another short distance until releasing with no discernible over travel.  It breaks as crisp and easy as that piece of Grandma's china after someone had too much eggnog.

With that, let's go to the thumb safety on the 1911.  If you've ever operated the bass-ackwards thumb safeties on some double actions, you will fall in love with the simple up/safe down/fire function of the 1911.

But remember, the primary safety is between your ears. Never rely on a gun’s “safety” to protect you from unsafe gun handling. A safety is only a mechanical device, not a substitute for using some common sense.

Grip - I can't count the number of  people I've talked to that try out a new handgun and immediately compare the grip to that of their 1911.  For that "new" firearm they're trying, it's like being the second wife after the first wife died after winning Miss Universe, curing cancer, and waking you up every morning with. . . bacon.  You will ALWAYS be compared to that first, impossible to replace love.  The 1911 is like that for some people.

The feel of the grip is unique, but not in a "she has a unique personality" way, but comfortable, like something you've felt before.  It just fits like it was built for YOUR hand.  The grips, as well, are beautiful.  Sure you could replace with a set of Crimson Trace laser grips, but would you want to? Springfield Armory, as well, seems to have somehow tweaked the original grip safety (an ornery afterthought designed by a committee who have never handled a weapon while under fire) so it works well even when gripping the firearm riding the thumb safety high, for use at any moment. I'm not sure as to what was done, or if it was just my perception, but it did perform well and it's infinitely better than some modern firearms that are lawyered up with a wealth of safeties that only a six year old could operate under duress. 

Accenting the grip area is a nicely cross set of wood panels that contain the double-diamond pattern, along with the Springfield Armory logo. It's not just nice looking, the texture of the surface provides for a positive hold.
The magazine release button  is easy to push in with either the thumb of the right hand, or the middle finger of the left hand (the "how am I driving" finger).  The magazines slide in well, and drop freely when you push the release button. The magazine is 7 + 1, and the firearm typically comes with two when purchased.

Accuracy - You don't necessarily need the "FBI crouch" of old movies and you most certainly do NOT want the "gangsta style" stance unless you want to make  sure the threat gets a chance to get a round off at you first.  Shooting "from the hip" works if you are being attacked by a hippopotamus on Ambien, but in most cases it's going to result in your getting your ass kicked, probably with your own weapon that is grabbed out of your hand.

Learn to use your sights.  Unsighted fire may work at powder burn range, but sights weren't put on a firearm so you could hit a zombie woodchuck in the eye at 200 yards. Sights were made so you can hit a target that's coming at you when you are not going to get a second shot. Using your sights takes practice and concentration.  I don't have a single handgun with laser anything though I have AR15s equipped with holographic technology and some night toys.  Iron sights are my friend and the ones on the 1911 here were very easy to adapt to, even in quick draw.

Stripping and Cleaning- First, make sure the pistol is clear of any round.  Then check it again.  Once that's done a little allen wrench can help loosen and remove the guide rod.  Outside of that, stripping and cleaning is pretty much standard for any of the 1911's. When the rod is out, the recoil spring plug can be depressed and the barrel bushing can be rotated (wear your safety glasses, even if you have good control of the recoil spring and aim it away from your face.) After removing the recoil spring, simply move the slide back to align the dis-assembly notch on the slide with slide stop. Push and pull the slide stop out of the frame. The slide can now slide off the frame and the bushing  and the barrel and spring guide can be removed from the slide.

Then, clean, lube lightly and reassemble. That's it, SO much easier and so many less pieces than the take down of the Ruger Mark III. (below)

Would I recommend the "Loaded" 1911 A-1?  Absolutely.  It's got a grip you will always feel comfortable with.  It's manufactured with the best in American Made quality, to one of the highest standards there is.  It's not an inexpensive firearm, but it's one you will own for a lifetime, and then likely pass on to your child or a niece, a nephew.  It's one you'll let your best friend shoot. This is a firearm that will retain its history, over time.

Springfield Armory has nailed the exemplary character of a distinguished sidearm and I'm proud to have one in the home and by my side.

 - Brigid

Sunday, January 27, 2013

1911's, Spaceships and Waffles - Just another Sunday

This coming weeks Range Review,  the Springfield Armory 1911, the perfect blaster for targets and spaceships.

Until then, a clip from one of my favorite movies and Sunday Morning's Kitchen Experiment (made without the assistance of a cookbook OR Minions)

 

"It's So Fluffy!" Waffles with Maple Bourbon Cider Syrup

These waffles have a consistency almost like pastry or pancakes, very fluffy, tender and light in crumb with just enough crisp on the top to hold in those delicious pockets of butter and  homemade syrup. If you're used to a Crisp Belgium Style Waffle, give them a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.

The hot syrup can be made with ingredients you likely have on hand - a cup of maple syrup, a cup of cider, a pinch of cayenne and a half a shot of Bourbon (more depending on your relatives).   The directions are in the link above for the waffles.

Serve with butter and add some crisp bacon or sausages and sliced peaches. Drizzle all with a bit of the syrup for a nice "breakfast for supper" Sunday meal.
click to enlarge photos

And the corn version below, replace 1/4 cup of the flour with corn meal and replace the sugar with honey.  The rest of the directions remain unchanged.

Friday, January 25, 2013

On Waiting - A Story of Adoption

I was born to an unwed mother in the generation of Roe vs. Wade.  I missed the actual date by a few years however, or I would not be writing these words.  For I was born to one who, most assuredly, did not want to be pregnant with me. But I was born, on a warm day in August, in Swedish Hospital in Seattle.

I am the product of adoption, as is my child.  There are many such stories, such as the one told today at Preachers and Horse Thieves where their long journey of adoption has finally ended with great celebration. Foster parents, they adopted in their 40's as my Mom and Dad did with my brother and I. There is my friend Auntie J., who, with her devoted husband, are now Mom and Dad to their three nieces.  We could be a blogger, a neighbor a friend.  We could be your mother, or your sister, or your daughter.  We could be you.  This is  our story, this is your stoy.

You're almost Sixteen,  soon to have license to freedom in your pocket, the chrome polished chariot to your future sitting in the driveway in the form of an ancient Volkswagen Beetle. Sixteen, a mile marker for some, for you anyway, old enough to drive, time stolen through pale fences that line the roads as you rush towards your future. 

There's a boy in the Cello section of the orchestra that you  like, but he's always hovering around the delicate, blond flowers of the flute section. You are part of the posse of math and science geeks that occupy the wind and brass section that plays with the orchestra one day a week. But there, you are with friends, armed only with overbites, wit and lung capacity, as you sit outside of the strings and the flutes, moving clumsily around like bespectacled bumblebees among the flowers.

There's a dance coming up, a Sadie Hawkins one, in which the girls ask the boys. Your parents will have to drive you but it's almost like a real date.  With hopeful eyes, you bumble over and ask him to go with you. The blond next to him looks at you with a withering giggle. He says "uh. . I'll call you later" with an expression that is not so much a smile as a dismissal. But you are too young and naive to see anything but the smile.

You rush home, anticipation lingering around you, waiting to be breathed in and let loose in a sudden exhale as you rush to your room to wait. You will sit there in your room in silence for hours as the family eats without you, as dinner dishes are put away, and the room grows cold, your breath vaporizing in the growing dark.

Waiting for that phone to ring.

You're a week shy of being 18, in college, trying to be grown up, when you are still a child. But you are a child who is now carrying a child. The older guy who swept you off your feet  and took what can't be replaced was gone with that call from the doctor. Everyone says it's your body, your choice. You may have been naive, but you are grown up enough to know that your choice was when you gave yourself to someone without adequate birth control. THAT was your choice, not the taking of this innocent life.

You remember the night she was born, ten pounds, six ounces, after 34 hours in labor, her head crowning, her body bursting forth onto the sweat and blood soaked sheet. You remember only getting to hold her once, for just a moment before she is handed over, in your pain, to her adoptive parents, incredulous of her soft hair, perfect fingers, smelling of the womb, of warmth, of love. She looked at you with a peripheral glance, while you uttered the name you would give her and the words you were not able to say again for years, for in fear of their utterance, the object of those words would be lost to you. I love you, don't forget me.

It's an open adoption, you know where she is, and with who, but your word is your honor and you promised not to get close. She has the option to contact you if she wishes when she turns of age, but if she doesn't? That, as they say, is that. You gave your word, you will respect that.

You spend the next 18 years waiting for that phone to ring.

You're in your late 30's, happily playing kerosene warrior, loading up a transport plane, simply getting ready for your duties, the four bars on your shoulders a reminder of your responsibilities. You're waiting for the fuel guy when we get word one of your planes is down, Isn't that the one that Ed was on?

You can't stop what we're doing, but each of you has one ear tuned to the task, men moving and working, shadows on the wall, not of flesh and blood, which is so fragile, but shadows of enduring hope and will, quiet as the murmur of  your breath as you work,  one ear still listening.

Waiting for that phone to ring.

You're all grown now, still logging those miles on the road, still checking in with your Dad when you arrive at your hotel when you travel, for though you're grown up, he's had his 90th birthday and he worries, especially now that his days grow short.  The phone lays silent on the seat of the car as you head out, the thump of the tires on the pavement tapping out a Morse code that is unheard, the wheels pulling you further away from everything you have counted on and closer towards the unknown.

The thump of the tires takes you back to those days on the back of a motorcycle, riding with your brother. You think of him, his arms strong in command of that bike, his hands calloused but delicate as he tended to your father all these years. You can't imagine him being sick, of ever dying.  You can't think of them both gone, but you do, as his next round of chemo starts.  You can't be there this week, but if either take a turn, you will be there, at the sound of the phone.

But you're nearing your destination, the blue and read lights guiding you to where you are called. For now, you can't think of such things, you can only drive through avatars that mark the accumulation of tears

Waiting for that phone to ring.

You are here, this moment, now, laying in bed.  You shut your eyes, laying your hands flat against the cool sheets, trying to will yourself to sleep.  You remember what your martial arts instructor told you about breathing, how you enter the true home of your spirit with each intake of breath, each exhalation, actions as old as time, a rhythm that is both life and death.

On the nightstand, your firearm and two phones, your personal one and the one that tethers you to duty. You never know when that one will ring, a call signaling the exorbitant burden that is nature, fate or someone's personal jihad. Tonight, you somehow expect it to go off, thinking of swinging out of bed and grabbing gear,  jumping into the truck.  Gear in the back, teetering as if to fall, as you accelerate too fast, the high beams blinding more than illuminating as they cut through fog that coils in the lows in the road like a snake.

You do this, as the world sleeps, in that state of blessed forgetfulness in which the most fragile of senses can slumber, free from the godless dark intents of man and nature. You go because it is what you do, as much as who you are.

But tonight, the thought of that drive already exhausts you, even as you can't get to sleep.  You look to the clock, wondering what time it is in Europe, your Partner headed that way, on a mission that's as much a part of love of what one does, as duty, something you so understand.  You wish he wasn't flying right now, burying the worry under the kevlar exterior, but it's what he does, as much as who he is.

He'll call when he gets in to his hotel, so you know he's safe. You will smile, and you will both laugh. Till then, you lay in the embrace of the sheets, all the thoughts of what is going on in the world tickling your senses like electricity, a flicker of current before darkness.

On the nightstand  are photos, a boy and  little girl in the lap of the man that chose to be their Dad, as they have a snack of apples as he reads to them.  There's another picture of them both, in motorcycle leathers, years later, in front of a couple of Valkyries in his driveway.  There's an old picture of a group of pilots, all friends, all intact, even after a scare or two.  There's a photo of someone holding a musical instrument, not the silly high school crush, but a person of substance and honor, who, through time and the tears that come from suspect choices, has always been there when you needed a friend.

Among the photos on the nightstand is one of a little girl, with eyes the color of a storm tossed sea, just like yours. You  glance at it and smile, breathe deep and drift off to sleep, at peace.

 
Somewhere out there trouble stirs, shadows rouse themselves from sleep.  Somewhere far above and far away, someone slumbers aloft, their breath, in and out, a rhythm which not the mind, but the heart, marks and calls the measure for. Somewhere far away, your child, and her child, sleep safe in their beds, as safe as a scared teenager, turned protector of those that have no voice, could make them.

The clock ticks off one more notch of breath as you lay in that burgeoning true that is life.

Waiting for that phone to ring.

Drop a Bomb on Me, Baby

I'll SIT for a treat,  but do you have any idea how COLD  my butt is right now?

That had BETTER be a really good treat.

Barkley's No-Bake Nut Butter Bombs

3/4 cup 100% natural  unsweetened peanut or almond butter
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup almond milk
1  and 1/4 cups slow cooking rolled oats (NOT instant oatmeal, it can contain salt)
1 Tablespoon fresh flax seed (ground in a blender first)

These treats are dairy free but always check with your vet first if your dog is food sensitive.  Peanut and almond butter based treats are safe for dogs, served in moderation.

Mix nut butter, cinnamon and almond milk. Add in oats and flax seeds (mixture will be thick but you can add another Tbsp. of almond milk if it's too hard to work with).

Use a teaspoon to scoop and shape small balls.  Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate a couple of hours.

Keeps 3 weeks in airtight container in fridge or freeze some for later. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Back to the Grinder - A HOTR Sandwich Review

There's been lots of talk about Subway sandwiches in the news lately, including a lawsuit.  I can't say I've ever measured my sandwich with a ruler, but I've done worse things with tools when bored.

But the Subway issue caught my eye when it showed up in my unit in a report from a colleague,

"Reward offered for information leading to the discovery of the whereabouts of a six inch  Subway Italian Bravo Mike Tango with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, salt, pepper and spicy mustard on a nine grain honey wheat bun. Subject was last seen at approximately 1300 hours Tuesday in the west most refrigerator in the lunch room wearing a Subway wrapper surrounded by a cellophane Subway sandwich bag."

Being the ever on alert, stalwart professional, I replied

"So we're looking for the unsub?"


I will happily eat a cold Subway sandwich if the alternate is most burger type fast food.  Actually, I'd eat a live carp if the alternative was Hardee's but that's just my preference.  My former Squirrel Partner used to hyperventilate over the original Hardee's Big Shef.  Taste is very much an individual thing.

But for "sub" style sandwiches, there is no competition for me.

Bellecino's Grinders.  They are located in IN, MO, Ohio,  Illinois and Michigan and possibly other states. (www.bellacinos.com)

There's all sorts of stories about the origin of the name of the Grinder, and the difference between one and a "Sub"  sandwich.  One story regards a A New London shop (Capaldos Market?) who made sandwiches and sold them from a cart at the entrance to the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton during WWII. The sandwiches were a favorite with the welders and grinders (the guys who grind the weld down smooth), and were usually called "Grinder's Sandwiches", later shortened to Grinders.

Not that I have anything against "subs", but once you've had a hot Grinder it's hard to go back.

I'm  not sure if that's the true origin of the term "grinder" but all the ones I have tried have one similarity.  They are baked.  And not "toasted" like in the Subway "toasted" which is done in this sort of combined microwave/toaster oven/linear accelerator that magically sucks out all of the freshness out of otherwise recently baked  bread leaving it the consistency of a chalkboard eraser. No, I'm talking about baked in a PIZZA OVEN,  and not in 3 minutes either.  The combination of this incredible homemade bread baked slow with gooey cheese and sauces and meats with lettuce as a "garnish", is hard to beat.  You won't 'get your sandwich in 2 minutes, but that 10 to 15 minutes will be well worth the wait.

The one I stop at frequently is the Bellecino's in Plainfield IN as it's not far from the Indy airport, being only a few miles West of the terminal. I try and eat before I go on a flight, to avoid the "carbon dated for freshness" airport sandwiches.

The Plainfield location is spotlessly clean and the young man that  takes the ordersthere most days that I stop in pre or post travel is very welcoming  and makes sure everyone has good food and good service.

All of their locations have really good pizza (they put huge pieces of bacon on the bacon /pepperoni pizza), salads, lasagna and other oven baked pastas and $2 and change garlic cheese bread you'll want to order every time.
Still, what has me make that out of my way "dog leg" in my trip to the airport is the hot, cheesy Grinders.

This is Partner's sandwich one day when he went with me. This is a HALF, not a whole (the six inch Subway is hiding in a closet now).

Look at the size of those tomato slices, heck, look at the size of the sandwich.

I don't like cold tomatos so here's my  plain turkey grinder with just lettuce. It's probably not as "blog photo pretty" as some of the sandwiches with all sorts of Italian Meats and real bacon on them, but this is my favorite, "pre-flight" sandwichBut I just took these for pictures of a fun day, not intending to post  them until the whole Subway debate reminded me I should tell readers about this hidden little gem.

Again, this is  HALF of a sandwich.  The menu said this was 9 inches.  I didn't bring a ruler, but I'd say. . . based on a forensically trained eye :-) yes, that is, at least.

When you have to cut a HALF sandwich in half to handle it with two hands, that's a big sandwich.

The Plainfield location is tucked into a small, older mall complex about 3/4 mile East of Plainfield Shooting Supplies.  From  Highway 465 on the west side of Indy, take the Washington St. exit. Go West a few miles.  Look for the Kohl's and Applebee's on your left and turn left into the mall area and you'll see it on your right by Massage Envy and some other sandwich place.   

The "small" club
You know, I think if I get one of these Grinders for my colleague, he'll close his missing sandwich investigation as a cold case file.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Working All the Angles

If

[sin 4x - cos 4x] / [sin 2x - cos 2x]

and you factor the denominator

 [sin 4x - cos 4x] / [sin 2x - cos 2x] = [sin 2x - cos 2x][sin 2x + cos 2x] / [sin 2x - cos 2x] 

and simplify 

 = [sin 2x + cos 2x] = 1 

and further simplify 

x = whiskey  (and yes, I'll have 1)

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

You all have a good night.  My brain is tired and it's cold in Hoosierville so I'm taking a night off to relax. No computer, just music, a warm, furry lab and a small neat glass.  Those of you that can, should do the same.  

Cheers - B.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Red Blood and Reciprocity

There is one word which may serve as a rule of
 practice for all one's life - reciprocity. 
 ~Confucius

They were in the kitchen, Pepper, our dog, asleep on a rug in the living room.  Mom was drying the last of the dishes while Dad sipped at a cup of coffee as he helped, talking that talk of parents that for kids is equally without interest and yet comforting.  It's not what they are talking about or who (though our ears are always perked up for words like "inoculation" "liver and onions" and "parent-teacher").  It was  simply that steady hum that is life continuing as we know it.  It was where Big Bro and I could  play on the floor with our small cars and legos under the sheltering shadow of much taller people, listening to their voices without hearing, not knowing that they would give their lives for us, but perhaps sensing it somehow.

Evenings were pretty much always the same, after dinner, we kids would clear the table, Dad would help Mom get things ready to wash and then they'd chat and laugh while the chores were done and we had a little quiet playtime or finished a homework assignment. It was simply an evening at home, the routine of chores, the tick of the clock, the sound of the chime that indicated bedtime, as if the clock cleared its throat like a parent's not so subtle reminder.  All of these simple actions being part of the the  foundation of family that helped us to hold and protect each other.

Then the phone rang. "It's the hospital",  Mom says, but no one looks anxious.  For it is a call for my Dad, who has a fairly rare blood type, of which some is needed.  He washes up, kisses my Mom and leaves.  He doesn't talk much about it, but over a course of a life, there were many such calls, and pins he proudly wore that showed how many gallons of blood from his veins that found their way to someone in need.  Later, when his medications were such he couldn't donate, he volunteered to be a driver for the local blood bank, collecting the blood they packed in special coolers at this rural gathering point and driving it into the city an hour or so away in his own car to be delivered to the hospital.  He got some sort of small stipend for it, enough to cover gas and a meal,  but that was all.  But that's not why he did it.

It was giving up something of himself, something we all have to give.
I'd like to say I took up the cause but I did not. As  kid I thought about being a medical doctor.  I loved science; had no problems dissecting Mr. Toad (though the teacher did NOT buy in on the slightly eaten, glossy lemon drop placed in the abdominal cavity as a "new organ!").  Then came the day I actually had to stick a classmate's finger with a sterilized need in a junior high science class.  Couldn't do it.  I could NOT stick a sharp object into a living thing. I couldn't watch someone else do it. Yet, a lifetime later, I'm reading the barbaric language of injury and affronts, the sights of which would sear the eyeballs of the naive.

But I still hate needles in living flesh of any kind, and adulthood didn't cure my fear of that. I hate shots.  I'd had enough of them to go visit strange places where the local insects might carry me off.  Then I was not able to donate for some time as I'd visited such places.  As for blood, well, I'd seen way too much of it spilled and I sort of wanted to keep all of mine.

It was just something I knew I should do, but couldn't get past my fear.  I recognized that sort of thinking in women I knew that expressed interest in learning to shoot for self defense but said they were "afraid", not afraid of the firearm actually, but the unknown.  Like my fear of needles, they create a sort space around their fear, a "blasted heath" like that in Shakespeare's Macbeth, where nothing lives but toads, hot brass and ghostly warnings.  It takes a life changing event, or perhaps just someone you trust, to get you past that zone to face your fear, where you often find yourself embracing it.
For me it was some folks I trusted with my back, some Marines I worked with.  They'd been stateside long enough they could donate blood again and asked me to go with them.  I thought about it. I could check all the boxes "no" on the form regarding  participating in Naked Twister in Calcutta and it was years since I'd consumed fried Guinea Pig in Peru (OK, probably not disqualifying but it should be).  I've been dissed by a CF700 engine, been shot at, eaten battered rodent, had my underwear stolen out of a tent in Africa (don't ask) and been around sploody things that could turn me into a flesh and bone hula skirt.  But I was afraid of needles.

It didn't help that one of the biggest of my posse, a large wall of muscle on legs with a buzz cut, damn near fainted at the start of the procedure.  He said later it didn't hurt, but when the needle went in he went all Tactical Raggedy Andy on us.

But everyone else was fine and he was right, it didn't really hurt, and after they would give me cookies AND juice.  As always I was treated with the utmost of warmth and care and genuinely thanked.  I've got O positive blood.  Folks like me can only receive O blood, where other blood types have more options.  So if it's in short supply someone is going to have a bad day.  So I go back, three or four times a year.
Not everyone can donate, a few (though not many) healthy individuals like my friend, can have reactions to it that make them briefly very dizzy and sick.  Others have disqualifying conditions, medications or exposure to people and places that have put them at risk to donate for now. The screening you get with your little mini physical prior to donating will make it quite clear if you can donate or not now, and even if you can't, you will be thanked for trying and sent on your way with a smile and some cookies.

But I urge you, if have not donated, consider it.  With the increased numbers of complex treatment such as chemotherapy, organ transplants and heart surgeries, which require large amounts of blood, supplies can get dangerously low.  They may have to fetch 120 units of blood for one liver transplant.
I don't even look away now as the bag fills up with that pint. To my eyes,  it's not blood in the sense of bloodshed, of loss.  It's simply the shape of a need being met, filling the bag with a movement like warm molasses, flowing out of my body into that vessel, til it lays full and motionless, a compelling shape, completely without life, yet profoundly full of it. 

Somewhere soon, there will be another form, a parent, spouse, daughter, brother, laying in the shadow of a hospital room, listening to the comforting talk of their family around them, without hearing the words.  They wait for that gift of healing. Fighting for that chance to receive it.  Even the most egregiously injured fight, veins coursing with the blood that remains, from which they ARE, and without which, emptied of all but dark sleep, they are NOT.
Any of us could, one day, need blood. We think that as we go about our routine lives that we'll be safe.  We take our vitamins, drive cars with air bags, and don't have an attack of selective Tourettes with the guy with 12  skull and dagger tattoos and the chainsaw that decided he wanted one of our trees for firewood.  But we're not.  Safety, viewed as such, is a lie. The things that we think are safe just those things that we've repeated so many times, so many days, over and over again that the sharp margins have worn away and there's nothing in the conduct of them that says "you know, if someone makes the wrong choice here, I could die".

You may one day be that person in that hospital that needs blood.  So think about it, call or visit the Indiana Blood Center link in my comments if you live in the State or the Red Cross website, also provided there.
  
In my wallet is my Blood Donor Card,  showing my O positive status should I need to be a recipient.  Like my Concealed Carry Card, it's something I bear, not as a burden, but as a way I can protect a life, one small action at a time.

 - Brigid