The Daft Musings Hall

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

After Some Time Had Passed…

It is difficult to believe that nearly four years have passed since I last put electronic pen to paper.  Much has changed, and I realize that time more or less dissolves when I’m not writing.  I make no claim to any sort of talent for it, nor do I advertise or even really want an audience.  But it is something I have always found that I needed to do.  Surprising to even myself, my wife and I have had another child and moved across the country since the last time I wrote anything.  The Tot of Steele (Grace) is now five and her brother two.  My last real post was February 2009.  The day I started my new job as a contractor for the US Army.  I’m now done with that, and have gone to Seattle to work for and  I don’t know where to start, so I’ll just go a little at a time, trying to decompress the last four years out onto the page.  My goal is to do this two or three times a week, even if all I’m writing about is the grey and foggy Seattle weather in January.

I mostly blame Facebook for the length of time that has passed since my last posting.  They make it so easy to just post something quick and easy that I simply neglect doing anything more substantial.  It is time to rectify that.

Some observations on my use of the Mosin Nagant M44 rifle at the DMG match (Nov 2008).

I wrote this last year after shooting a Mosin Nagant M44 rifle at the Tactical Training Group’s monthly 3-Gun match last November.  I had sent it to the group, but never posted it up here.

First, I will explain my justification for doing something so silly. Part of the reason we have IDPA is to provide more or less real-world scenarios in which we might be forced to deploy our firearms. To that end, the organization more or less discourages the use of competition-only type gear of the sort normally seen in IPSC’s open division. We often emphasize that competition is not training, and while we understand the reasons for this, competition does seem to help us develop skills for gun-handling under pressure. The Mosin Nagant has been around in one form or another since 1891, and the last estimate I saw suggested that around 35 million were made. They’re not pretty, they’re not tacti-cool, and perhaps most importantly, they’re not expensive. It fires a cartridge that is about as powerful as the .30-06, and ammunition can be found anywhere in the world. The 7.62x54R is the oldest military cartridge still in use. It is powerful enough, accurate enough, and generally available with ammunition for less than $100. A good condition Enfield No. 4 can still be found for around $160, and a Swiss K31 can still be had for the $200 range. The SKS is also in this price range, and features a slightly less powerful cartridge, a 10-round fixed magazine, and a terrible trigger. For a person who wants a gun, but is on a tight budget, there is a seemingly unending supply of Mosin Nagants. The question I set out to answer, was “if I had no other choice, could I effectively defend my home or homeland with this old workhorse of a rifle?” Also, I think I correctly judged the comedy value of firing that big boomer against all of the ARs and AKs. It’s best that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, but the best gun is the one you’ve got. Several people offered to let me finish with their ARs or AKs, but I think doing so would have been to abandon an experiment in the middle. The best way to find out whether or not something works is to go out and USE it.

Accuracy: The first rifle stage required us to eliminate six clay birds at a distance I estimated at between 75 and 90 yards, shooting down-hill. This, I also estimated to be equivalent of a head-sized target at 250-300 yards. I’m still pretty new to rifle shooting, so both estimates could be wildly off. Of the six, targets, I think I broke three on the second shot. I may have gotten one on the first shot, and one… well I remember reloading… twice. Still, as the sights are bad and the trigger is terrible, I was amazed I hit any of the clay birds at all. In the end, I got all six. Against standard IDPA targets at similar distance, I had no trouble except perhaps target discrimination against the non-threat. This was not a problem with the rifle, but the eyes behind it.

Handling: The M44 is a carbine-length Mosin Nagant (40″ OAL with bayonet retracted) with a permanently fixed bayonet. Though it is quite heavy by AR-15 standards (about 9 lbs), it handles quite well with the bayonet retracted. For me, it is a bit unwieldy with the bayonet extended, particularly firing from prone.

Operation: The Mosin Nagant is fed by means of a 4-round fixed magazine, with one round in the chamber. For “quick” reloads, the rimmed cartridges can be pushed in by means of a 5-round spring-steel “stripper” clip. This sounds easier than it is. The first problem I experienced was during “load and make ready.” Round number 4 jumped out of the stripper during loading, due to operator error. This resulted in round number 4 sliding into the chamber, with round number 5’s rim slipping below the interrupter. The result was that 4 was wedged into the chamber, and 5 was wedged into the mag well. Neither one wanted to move. Eventually, I got them all out by dumping the magazine floor-plate and using a loose round to pry the stuck number 5 free. In a battle-field situation, this would be a severe problem, but one that could probably be mitigated through training and practice. The second problem I experienced with operation was during “unload and show clear.” Any round that is sitting on top of the interrupter when you dump the magazine tended to pivot nose-up around the rear of the interrupter with the base getting stuck in the mag well.

As you’re not likely to be tempted to “unload and show clear” in the middle of a fire-fight, this isn’t quite as bad a problem. However, this limitation does tend to render the Mosin Nagant inconvenient for IDPA use. I’ve never fired an SKS, but as it is also equipped with a fixed magazine, it may be similarly difficult to unload. Both the stripper clips and the rifle have quite a few sharp edges. This resulted in gloves snagging during reloads, and could be a problem in a hurry. I’ve also busted knuckles on this rifle in the past, but not since I learned the correct technique for stripper-clip loading. The bolt handle is a little too far out there for me to reach without taking the butt of the stock out of my shoulder. For those of you with longer arms, you’d be able to work the bolt during the recoil impulse and very quickly reacquire the target during recoil recovery. This, of course would require some practice.

I was surprised at how quickly I was able to take aimed shots during stage 3. Again, with practice, I’m sure it could be sped up. As anyone who has ever owned an MN knows, its safety mechanism is somewhat difficult to operate.

Recoil: The recoil of the MN isn’t too bad, being somewhere greater than a .223 and less than a 12 gauge firing slugs. Admittedly, it isn’t much less than the 12 gauge firing slugs, but after about 40 rounds of 7.62x54R and 6 slugs that I fired during the match, I have only a slightly sore shoulder. Given the chance to do the same course of fire today, I’d do it again with a smile. Jeff Cooper teaches us that recoil is about %80 mental, and I buy into that idea.

Conclusion: Decades of communist oppression have rendered the Mosin Nagant impervious to physical destruction. If it does break (not bloody likely), you just go buy another one. I like the idea of using a bolt-operated rifle in the DMG competition, though perhaps with rules to allow one hit to neutralize a target just because of the time it takes for reloads. This could just be me whining, but a single .30 caliber hit in the real world is more likely to take the bad guy out of the fight than a single .223 hit… Perhaps a bolt-rifle division would be in order, as many countries in the world prohibit the peasantry from owning a self-loading rifle. The bottom line is that despite its shortcomings, the MN would seem to serve the purpose as a battle rifle. It wouldn’t be my first choice, and is indeed a bit problematic in IDPA. However, if you have time to load it casually before action, and you’re not facing down wave after wave of angry Germans it should be adequate. With practice, it could be quite effective. I want to emphasize that while loading and unloading were problematic, once the rifle was loaded, it functioned perfectly. The answer to my original question is a qualified “yes, but you have to practice.”

The next time I try a bolt-gun in a DMG match, I’ll probably use an Enfield No. 4. It has better sights, a detachable 10-round magazine, and I can operate the bolt with the rifle mounted on my shoulder. Like the 7.62x54R, its cartridge still features a rim, so charging it from stripper clips could still be problematic. However, the Enfield’s superior design and construction should be enough to overcome some of the problems associated with the MN.

The Bare Face of Tyranny

The founders of this country were more than just casually worried about the potential abuses of a standing army. We’ve had a standing army for about the last 225 years, and in that time, liberty has been more harmed by the existence of a standing legislature. I’m not sure if that thought is my own, or if I picked it up somewhere. In any case, it’s true.

Independence Weekend

Independence Day weekend was something of a marathon for me.  This, primarily because the wife and thepacked up and headed to Arkansas to visit her relatives on Thursday morning.  I had determined to keep busy so as not to miss them as much.  

Wednesday night, my grandparents and two of my dad’s sisters came into town, staying at my uncle’s house near Athens.  We visited for a good while, and got home at about 11:30; at which time my wife told me that she had an appointment on her way out of town to get the truck serviced at 8:30 Thursday morning.  This of course, necessitated her getting packed that night, and leaving not later than 7:45 the next morning to make it to Decatur on time.  She finished, and got in bed by 1:30 and was out again by 5:30.  I never can understand how she functions on so little sleep.

Thursday night was designated as “camp-out” night at my uncle’s.  After work, I stopped by the local sporting goods store, and got a small air-mattress.  After going home to load my tent and a few extra sleeping bags, I was off to Christopher’s to feed a very grateful Harley the Cat, then straight to my uncle’s.  I had a nice, quick supper of fresh catfish, and headed down to the camp site.  I got everything hauled-in and set-up in about half an hour.  It was by that time, about 7:30, and darkness would be coming soon.  Not soon enough, because it just didn’t seem to want to cool down.  Indeed, this would continue to be the case until about 5:30 the next morning.

We had a good time, sitting around the camp fire, and doing the family thing.  Stories were exchanged, some of them scary, some of them had their scariness augmented by an unnamed camper leaping out from behind a tent and screaming at an unexpected interval.  At one point, I feared our little group would loose cohesion when a certain aunt was terrorized by an unapologetic amphibian croaking in a near-by pond.

At about 10:00, we’d all said good night, and zipped up our tents.  I was alone in mine (save my immensely powerful Beretta Neos in caliber .22 LR), but my cousin, David, slept in a hammock between my tent and the others.  We were all-assembled, quite a crew; some dozen in number with our youngest being around 10 years of age and my grandfather being precisely that eight-times over.  

It was uncomfortable like a camp-out is supposed to be, but not the worst I’ve attended.  Even though it was just a bit too hot, the bugs weren’t a-bugging, it wasn’t raining, and the fire was in no way inhospitable.  At 11:45, my phone rang and I awoke just in time to catch the voice-mail telling me that Ms. Maggie Elizabeth Bailey had arrived in Seattle not thirty minutes earlier, at 7lbs 14oz!  Good news, indeed!

I slept for some time, a bit restlessly at first because I had no pillow and had propped up my head on my lumpy back-pack.  Then, I head a bit of commotion about, pulled on my glasses, and looked out of the tent.  There, I saw everyone milling about, and my 80-year-old grandfather packing it up for the house.  After 80 years, he’d apparently exceeded the lifetime maximum for camp-outs.  I didn’t wish to argue, as he’d earned his rest.  Speaking a testament to his former days as a drill instructor in the USMC; about half the troops followed him up the hill to the house.  They didn’t need any coaxing.  For my part, I was curious to know what was going on, but not so curious to be worth putting on my boots to go investigate.

The next morning, I woke up at 7:00, 7:30, and 8:00.  By that time I’d gotten comfortable, but I could tell it was warming up fast.  At about that time, my uncle Greg was coming out of his tent.  When I asked how many made it, I knew the answer before he gave it: “Just us two.”

As we put the kettle on for some rough camp-coffee (again, NOT the worst I’ve had), he told me that the girls (my cousins Kim, Emily, and Lydia) had been troopers and held-out until about 0530.  They couldn’t take any more after that.  Apparently the cause of the commotion the night before had come at about 0130 when David, Greg, and Kathy were awoken by a pair of foxes playing in the creek-bed just behind my tent.  I asked if he was sure it wasn’t just my snoring, and he assured me that it wasn’t.  If I heard any foxes, I surely wasn’t bothered by them, but David was a bit moved.  By this, I mean he packed his kit and moved it up to the house with all speed.  Had we been in darkest Africa, I surely would have been gobbled-up by a lion, and David safe.

Had cousin David awoken me, I would have like to have taken my flash light and chased the little buggers down.  He suggested the next morning upon discovering that I had the little Beretta that we could have simply exterminated the fox.  I would have done so such thing.  I like foxes, and it would have been nice to catch a glimpse of them in their own environment and earning their living.  David had gotten a fairly good video of him a week or so before, standing out in the open bold as the face on a clock.  In any case, David would be wise in recounting the story to introduce the faintest trace of flair into his narrative.  Something along the lines of him chasing off the mutant fox who was in the process of nobbling poor old grand-dad’s leg off and killing poor cousin Emily TO DEATH should suffice.

After coffee, we had a bit of breakfast, then broke camp.  It was a fine little adventure, and I’ll probably not see the like for many a year.  I let David take a crack with the .22, and I’m here to tell you that CCI “Stingers” are HOT.  High velocity .22s come in the 1100 FPS range, and the CCI Stinger is rated at 1640 FPS.  1640 is much too high for tin-can duty, and standard High Velocity rounds do cycle the Beretta’s slide.

Later on Friday, we re-assembled the crew for lunch at my favorite closed-on-Sunday-chicken-sandwich establishment.  I swear they put an addictive ingredient in their chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly.  After lunch, we headed over to the theater to see Wall-E, which was brilliant.

Friday night, I slept the sleep of the righteous.  

Saturday, I got up and drove to Arab, about an hour away for an IDPA match.  I did terribly, but it was fun.  Saturday night, Greg took us to dinner for his birthday.  That doesn’t make any sense unless you know how generous my family all are, then it makes perfect sense.

On Sunday afternoon, I managed to make it to another IDPA match in Manchester, TN, about an hour and a half away.  I didn’t do too bad here, but I suspect most of the people I was shooting with are all classified better than MM.

On Monday morning, I made it to work just in time; I needed the rest!

Tough breaks

It’s been a really tough year for the conservative movement first with the loss of William F. Buckley Jr., and now with the loss of Tony Snow.  I’ve talked about Tony in these pages once or twice before, and described him as an overgrown boy scout, and possibly the nicest guy in media.  Tony was down-to-earth and as confident as you’d need to be as an adult man playing a flute in a rock band.  Tony was always optimistic and polite.  We’ll miss that.  There aren’t enough like him to go around, and our prayers go out to his family.  His death is a detriment to the nation.

Of Wedding Bells and Close Shaves…

We at the Daft Musings Hall have had a flurry of activity disrupt our normally sedate and sedentary lives of quiet contemplation.  On the Friday after Liberty Day, we drove to Pell City to participate in the matrimonial proceedings of our brother Robb.  This being the second such arrangement for each of the principals, we were amused by the bride’s suggestion that she complete the ceremony with her three-year-old daughter on her hip.  Fortunately for all concerned, she didn’t go through with that amusing plan.  The service was simple and short.  Indeed the pictures drug on significantly longer that the ceremony.  

Both bride and groom managed to get through it without any significant gaffes (such as failing to remember to kiss the bride).

We gifted Robb with an excellent Weber One-Touch grill and the admonition that neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night should ever keep him from using it.  Also, we threw in a nice Vulfix shaving brush and the most excellent Taylor of Old Bond Street Lavender shaving cream so that the groom could fail at being scruffy on his wedding day.

As best-man, the heavy responsibility of the bachelor party was to me.  Again, this was a simple affair replete with the absence of debauchery.  We arrived at one of Robb’s formerly frequent haunts at about 10:15.  Robb had a couple of Newcastle Brown Ales, and because I didn’t notice the beer list, I had a single Amber Bock (which is neither and amber nor a bock) while we enjoyed our Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 Churchills.  We were back at the hotel by 12:30.  We had a great time despite being menaced by a very tall and excessively drunk man who insisted on standing between me and the exit.  I don’t know what he wanted and he probably didn’t either.  I think that was as close to condition red I’ve ever been.  Fortunately, being sober I was able to outrun and outsmart him by walking around a table.  Mitch Hedberg was wrong.  This dude had legs and was flammable, and he was blocking a fire escape…  Total cost of the bachelor party: $37.

After the reception, we headed for home, and the ToS slept the whole way.

On Sunday after church, we headed out to the Huntsville International Airport for the 2008 Air Show.  The plan was to enjoy the excitement of the Blue Angels.  We got a good deal more excitement than we could enjoy, but the Blue Angels stayed on the ground.  

There was a thunderstorm headed toward us as we got out of the truck.  We talked about it, and Amy ran back about 50 yards to the truck and grabbed her umbrella.  While she was coming back toward us, I heard the air boss on the radio, lining up the next airplane.  He told the pilot that the storm was about 10 miles wide and moving fast, but that the worst part of it had pushed up to the north.  He also said that there was clear weather behind this storm.  The air boss didn’t expect it to last long, so the pilot should hold his position while air show operations were suspended for a few minutes while it passed.

We walked on into the gate, paid our $10, and tried to move on to the exhibits and vendor booths.  As we crossed in front of the six F/A-18 blue and yellow planes, nature betrayed us.  The rain that had been light sprinkles a moment before was now peppering us.  We turned the ToS’s stroller perpendicular to the wind, pulled down her canopy tight, and put the umbrella out to block the wind and rain.  I put my left shoulder into the stroller to keep it from blowing over, and Amy held on to her umbrella like Mary Poppins in a tornado.  

And the wind did blow, and the wind did howl, and all we could do was hold on and laugh.  Yes, we laughed.  The world was coming apart around us, and we laughed.  The ToS didn’t cry, scream, or even look concerned.  People were screaming, but there was nowhere to run.  My guess is that there were over 50,000 people there., caught out in the open  while the storm intensified over our heads.  There was nothing anyone could have done.  The wind and rain were so intense that you couldn’t have seen to run even if you’d have had a place to run.

There wasn’t much lightning, and that which was there seemed to have developed on the east side of the storm after that part of it had passed over our heads.  I remember that during my scouting days we were taught never to sit under a tree during a lightning storm.  Regardless, our first instinct during a storm like this is to seek any kind of shelter.  In this case, that turned out to be the exact wrong thing to do.

Amy swears it lasted ten minutes.  I’d be shocked to learn that it lasted as much as four.  After an eternity huddled behind our umbrella, the horizontal wall of rain gave way to a light vertical sprinkling.  Then the rain stopped, and the sun appeared.  Then the ambulances and fire trucks appeared.  Then the announcer told everyone that the air show was cancelled.  What we would later find out had been a microburst had turned over at least a dozen of the VIP tents.  It was apparent immediately that people had been hurt.  What we didn’t know until the next day was that a 5-year-old boy had been killed when a generator fell on him.  The only available shelter in sight was that row of tents, and ironically they were the least safe place to be.

Again, we are given a somber reminder of how fragile we are, and no matter how much the hippies like to pretend otherwise nature is not the green mother.  She is unkind, unfeeling, unpredictable, and extremely dangerous.  We hope that given the history Huntsville has with the aerospace industry, we get another air show soon.  I worry that with the litigious culture we’re cursed with, it will be many years before we see another.

Happy Liberty Day!

I hereby declare June 26, 2008 Liberty Day.

Now, run right out an exercise your right with the purchase of a new handgun. We suggest a nice 1911, but ours turned out to be an excellent Beretta Neos in .22 LR caliber.

Blah, blah, blah…

Today, before I left for work, I was treated to the ToS forcefully saying the word “Momma!”

And, yes Amy was holding her at the time.

You talk too much…

Yesterday, the Tot of Steele said what I consider to be her first word… About 1000 times a day, we look at her and say something to the effect of “Hey, little girl!”

So yesterday, I got home and Amy said: “Watch this… HEY!!!” Grace: “HEY!!!” Mimicking mom’s sounds or not, at 4 months and 2 days old THAT WAS A WORD!

You’ll never convince me otherwise.

Into the swing of things…

Back in September, a couple months before Grace was born I found out about an IDPA affiliated club that meets in Huntsville. I knew that before the baby was born and for the first couple of months after would be a bad time to get involved in anything new. I signed up for the email list, but held off attending any of the shoots.

Eventually, they generated enough interest in new shooters that they decided to do a new shooter’s orientation class last Tuesday night. I attended as did a few guys I work with, and we all had a good time. Last night was a scheduled shoot (first and third Tuesday of each month), and was my first match. According to the score sheet, I came in last place in my division. I’m not too worried about that because this was my first time out, and I made my share of rookie mistakes. Most importantly, I had a good time, and didn’t accidentally shoot anyone.

The division that I chose was Custom Defensive Pistol, which means pretty much any .45 ACP pistol but mostly 1911s.

There are a couple other options for practical pistol competition, most notably IPSC/USPSA in which Nathan competes. I’m not going to turn it down out of hand, but IDPA seems more my style. For one thing, IDPA is fairly restrictive about what modifications you may and may not make to your pistol. This makes it more production-friendly. Meaning, my normal carry rig will do just fine. I don’t have to worry about going out and buying $3000 worth of tricked-out, match-only hardware to be competitive. The only things you really need to compete are:

  • A pistol or revolver of at least 9x19mm calibre
  • A good holster
  • Two spare magazines
  • A magazine carrier
  • A good belt
  • A cover garment of some sort
  • Proper PPE (earplugs and safety glasses)
  • The $10 – $15 match fee

I might add that the satisfactory Springfield Armory XD comes with most of what you need in the box. This piece in most calibers qualifies for Enhanced Service Pistol division, and I think that in .45 ACP it might qualify for CDP division. I might also add that starting this year, Springfield has added the option of a thumb safety to the XD. The XD’s trigger is better than most, but still not quite up to 1911 standards.

I had most of that stuff already, so it was easy for me. Also, since I reload, I can keep things fairly cheap. Some things to make it easier on myself are fairly cheap to come by:

  • Redding Powder Dispenser for faster reloading: $100 or less
  • Extra magazines: $16 – $35 each, depending on what you get
  • Better front sight, with fiber insert: About $40 plus installation
  • Range bag to cart all this stuff around in: $25
  • More bullets/powder/primers to load: $160 or less per thousand

You get the point. Nothing outrageous that’s going to keep my kid from going to college.

The down side? Well, there were a couple of people who took it all too seriously. In their defense, most of the ones who did really knew how to shoot. So I guess they were justified… Except that one guy plagued with the “California Twitch.”

Quoth Jeff Cooper:

We are amused to see the prevalence of the “California Twitch” on the range. This manoeuver, executed by the shooter after firing and before making safe, involves pointing to the right and the left of the target while wearing a fearsome scowl. It serves no purpose except to show that the shooter has been to a school which picked up his mannerism in the confusion. Once acquired, the “California Twitch” is almost impossible to eradicate, something like a tattoo.

I’m not one to make fun of people more experienced than I, but man you look silly doing that.

The only other bad thing that I can think of is that I’ve never been too fond of .40 S&W as a cartridge. Particularly not at an indoor range. The damn thing is just too loud for me (and remember that I’m a drummer). As loud as the .40 S&W is, its little brother is worse. TWO people insisted on shooting short-barreled pieces in caliber .357 SIG. This mean little thing was designed to get close to .357 Magnum ballistics from an auto loader. I don’t understand why we need it, since everything I’ve seen shows that .40 S&W will throw a heaver bullet the same speed or faster… and .357 SIG is just a .40 S&W case necked-down to .357 caliber… We don’t need it, but we have it. And it. Is. LOUD! I had ear muffs on top of plugs, and it was still way too loud from even 25 yards away.

Disparity of Force

Seems that the mayor of Toledo, Ohio has a problem with the Marine Corps doing drills in his city, and has ordered them to leave.

The only appropriate response from the Marine Corps is: “Make us.”

Mmmmm….. Beer

So, tonight while Amy and Grace are hanging out with the fams in Mobile, I opened a bottle of Rogue Smoke Ale that I’ve had in the cabinet since probably 2004. This is a big-ish beer at 5.8 ABV, that should have withstood the extra lagering time in a cool, dark environment.

To my palate, it is a passible American interpretation of a German Rauch Bier (Smoke Beer). For the life of me, I can’t detect even a hint of smoke. Like most Rogue beers, I really want to like this beer but I don’t. And I think I know why. I believe (and have for some time) that it has to do with their yeast. According to the Rogue website:

Yeast: Rogues proprietary ale yeast is PacMan. “Pacman is really great yeast; everything about it is good. Pacman attenuates well, is alcohol tolerant, and it produces beers with no diacetyl if the beer is well made. Its very flocculent, which makes it a great choice for bottle conditioning. I ferment almost all my beers at 60deg.F; once in a while for certain styles Ill ferment as high as 70deg.F, but never higher. Use lots of oxygen, and a high pitch rate. I never repitch past the 6th generation, and I always use Wyeast Yeast Nutrient.”- John Maier, Brewmaster, Rogue Ales

Wha? Attenuation is good. It converts sugar into alcohol and CO2. Alcohol tolerant is good. That means that the yeasties can work their magic for longer before the alcohol puts them into stasis. NO diacetyl? I think we have a problem! Diacetyl is the chemical responsible for putting butter and butterscotch flavors into beer. Now, style guidelines say that the presence of diacetyl is verboten in Classic Rauch Bier. However, Classic Rauch Bier is a lager, and Rogue’s PacMan yeast is an ale yeast. According to the style guide they nailed it. But I like diacetyl in my most of my beers(dry stout is obviously the exception)! Perhaps what I really wanted was another Bass Ale, but it was all gone.

Rogue’s PacMan yeast just doesn’t work for me. From “Dead Guy Ale” to “Shakespeare Stout” I really WANT to like these beers, but I can’t. I just don’t like something in the flavor profile that I can’t yet define. It has been said that most breweries develop “house” flavors. These are flavor components that are common to all of the various styles any brewery makes. Young’s has theirs. Fuller’s has theirs. Give me a new beer from either brewery, and I can probably tell you which it was from (if either of these were more available in Alabama, I promise I’d have done enough research to be able to definitively tell you). Give me a Rogue beer and don’t tell me where it is from, and I will tell you “This is from Rogue!” Their house flavor is that distinct, and again I think it is because of that yeast.

What Rogue does right is that most (if not all) of their ales are bottle conditioned. This is quite important. It makes the beer taste better, and gives each beer a better texture. Essentially, this means that Rogue is kind enough to leave us live yeasties in the bottle. That is good for a number of reasons, not the least being that it makes the beer quite healthy for you to drink. It isn’t a beer for beginners, nor for lightweights because it ships in 22 oz bottles. It certainly has a flavor, and plenty of it. Almost enough for me to like, but not quite.



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Wait for it…

So, here we are. One week past our alleged due-date of October 27, and wondering if our child will ever be born. Our sources tell us that no one has been pregnant forever, and we are keen to believe them. However, we do remember one news story a few months ago about a woman in some third world country who had been pregnant for some 40 years. We don’t remember all of the details, mostly because it seems like we’ve been there ourselves by now.

Nathan, Shiver, Robb, and I have set out to do a pheasant hunt. That date, we know for sure. It will be Saturday, December 1 2007, at the Lookout Creek Farm hunting preserve, near Mentone, AL. For the meager cost of $200 per gun, we each get to pot seven cock pheasants. Now, I’ve never seen a pheasant on the hoof or on the plate, but I have read “Danny Champion of the World.” Mr. Dahl was down on the idea of shooting pheasants, and I can tell you why…. This is the description that the pheasant hunting establishment nearest my house game me as an idea of good sport:

…at this time I don’t have a place to do a quality pheasant hunt. I don’t have a place that offers adequate cover for the large birds. Let me suggest something that I think you and your friends would really enjoy. I offer a European pheasant shoot that is great fun. Here is how it works. We need a group of ten people to stand in a large circle here on our property. We then throw 100 pheasant into the air one at a time. It is just like a driven hunt like the Europeans do it. Shooters are 100 yards apart, we rotate every 10 birds to keep things fair for everyone. At the end of the shoot there are usually several missed birds. We will then take the dogs and shooters and hunt the birds on the ground.

Eww. None of us was happy with that idea. Perhaps when we are 90 and much less ambulatory.

Lookout Creek Farm is about two hours from my house. I know this because when it became abundantly clear that Amy wasn’t going to have a baby today, we packed it in, and drove out there. The place is easy to find, and seems quite scenic. As we were in the neighborhood, we took the opportunity to checkout DeSoto Falls and the DeSoto State Park. Both of these were quite nice, but due to the drought, the Falls had been reduced to a small trickle. The canyon they poured into was still quite impressive, and every Alabamian needs to make the trip at least once.

One of the interesting historic tidbits posted on the park’s bulletin board was that the park contains the ruin of what appears to be a fortification built by Welsh explorers circa 1140. This would seem to suggest that the Welsh founded Alabama slightly less than 75 years after the Norman invasion, and about fifty years after founding Cardiff Castle.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Step Right Up

And take the Civics Literacy Quiz!

Let’s see how you match up. For what it’s worth, I scored %76, which is seven percentage-points higher than the average senior at Harvard. Harvard seniors scored the highest of all schools surveyed.

So, give it a try, see how you do, then work on improving your score. (Hint: You improve your score by reading more, not by going back and taking the test multiple times).

Friday Kipling

This passage is taken from the story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, from Kipling’s Jungle Book. In this passage, our hero meets evil in the form of Nag the cobra. He stares into the eyes of evil, and knows that it is his lot in life to fight it and defeat it. And he never backs down.

Here begins the lesson.

He spread out his hood more than ever, and Rikki-tikki saw the spectacle-mark on the back of it that looks exactly like the eye part of a hook-and-eye fastening. He was afraid for the minute, but it is impossible for a mongoose to stay frightened for any length of time, and though Rikki-tikki had never met a live cobra before, his mother had fed him on dead ones, and he knew that all a grown mongoose’s business in life was to fight and eat snakes. Nag knew that too and, at the bottom of his cold heart, he was afraid.

Here is an excellent article I found this morning on The American Thinker.

In this article, US Army Major Greg Reeson responds to bleating screed written by supposed historian Howard Zinn. Among Mr. Zinn’s absurd notions are the silly suggestions that Switzerland lacks military power, that American Exceptionalism is a fallacy, and that we should be embarrassed both of our history and what we as a nation have become.

Major Reeson disagrees, and so do we. If Mr. Zinn has such a distaste for American Exceptionalism, we would like to take the opportunity to remind him there are plenty other places on this ball of mud to hang his hat. He needn’t salute the colors on his way out the door, but no amount of hand-wringing or bleating on his part cause me embarrassment when I do. Mr. Zinn’s hasty departure to greener pastures can only make the place better.

Major Reeson’s article is right on target. We are proud and blessed to be here, and we know that if we had been born anywhere else on this planet, we would have made it our business to come here.

Here is the money quote from the article:

A former commanding officer of mine summed it up beautifully when he said, “When we deploy our forces, one of two things happens: people either say ‘Thank God, they’re coming, or they say, ‘Oh shit, they’re coming.'” Both speak to the greatness of this nation.

Once again,

Orson Scott Card knocks one out of the park.

I’m always stunned by his analysis. If someone in the administration isn’t listening to him, they damn well should be.

Some of the best parts, any text in bold is my emphasis…

History does repeat itself. Never exactly — there are always enough differences in the details that people who are determined not to learn anything from the past can find an excuse.

But history shows patterns precisely because human beings don’t change.

American politics in the decade of the Zips (it’s zip-seven right now) aren’t British politics in the 1930s. American strategy in the war we’re currently fighting isn’t anything like the specific strategies that Hitler or Churchill needed to follow in order to win.

In fact, in one key way, we are living through the opposite of the run-up to World War II. America has a President who has taken the early action against the maniacs who seek world domination that Chamberlain refused to take.

But there are still some very important lessons we must learn:

  1. When the press has decided to report only one side of the story, the public is ill served.
  2. If you do not believe the threats of an insane enemy and destroy their war capacity early, when it can be cheaply done, you will pay for it in blood and horror.
  3. Only fools believe that an enemy cannot do what he threatens to do.
    The Brits really believed that because they had a long reputation for ruling the ocean, Germany could not really challenge them. They ignored all the intelligence reports about Germany’s effort to rebuild its army and, particularly, its air force.

    They seemed to believe that just by being Britain, they could stop Germany whenever they wanted to.

    Similarly, Americans seem to think that no matter what weapons Iran develops, when it becomes necessary we can stop them.

  4. Only fools allow their best allies to be neutralized before the war begins.
  5. Remember the big picture.
  6. Everybody makes horrible mistakes; the side that learns from its mistakes and relentlessly moves forward is the one that will win.
  7. Without leadership, the cause of democracy cannot be won.

    Here is the place where I have finally come to despair of the Bush administration. There is no one — no one — who speaks with a voice like Churchill’s.
    Right from the beginning of the war against Islamic terror, I have been saying that President Bush needed to ask us for sacrifice, to work together for victory. Instead, his message was to ignore the war and just go about our business. This is not how democracies win wars.

    We only win when we are stirred in our hearts, convinced of the righteousness of our cause, united in a common struggle, and asked to make sacrifices. In other words, in democracies the people have to believe it is their own war.

    The sad thing is that our cause is righteous — freedom from religious oppression and from the dictatorship of madmen. We are right now in the business of saving the world from a Muslim empire that will make Hitler look like an amateur, when it comes to murder and oppression. And yet nobody is telling that true story to the American people.

    Instead, it’s as if the administration were trying to hide the war from us so we won’t get annoyed by it. Meanwhile, the appeasers are telling their false and dangerous story and getting away with it. Even the bloggers and the Republicans in Congress waver, because they have no voice leading them.

    President Bush has made the right decisions. But he is, in fact, a manager, not a leader. Nor has he found a Churchill and brought him into the administration to do that job. All the faces are grey, all the voices are dull, and so the opposition dominates the public conversation.

It gets better. You should read for yourself.

The nice thing about having nine months

before your baby is born, is that you have that nine months (presuming you noticed fairly early in the process) to figure out exactly what kind of parent you’re planning to be. Life is unpredictable to be sure, things may change, but we need a good philosophic base from which to start.

We’ve said before that the concept of responsibility involves two parts; One, you stand up and take the consequences when you foul-up and two, do everything in your power not to foul-up in the first place. We think that this principle also applies to parenting. If our child grows up to be a brat or a bum, we are to blame. Therefore it is our responsibility to ensure our child doesn’t become a brat or a bum in the first place.

We offer the following attempt to distill the wisdom we’ve collected over the years into a small proverbia.

  1. No one owes you anything. Everything that you have is a blessing from God and from your parents. We will provide you what you need to survive, but you must work for that which you want.
  2. Thou shalt use common sense. This is the ability to look beyond the first step of any situation in order to avoid disaster at step two, three, or twenty-eight hundred. If you can predict disaster somewhere along the line, you should probably avoid all the steps leading up to it.
  3. Learn from the mistakes of others.
  4. Thou shalt not live in fear of any man, woman, child, or beast. When we are with you, understand that we are equipped with the knowledge and wisdom to protect you and the physical means to destroy those who would seek to do you harm. When we are not by your side, you must use the tools that we have given you, knowing that when we return, we will exact a heavy price on those who would attempt to harm you.
  5. Do not seek to provoke any man, woman, child, or beast.
  6. Never allow any man, woman, child, or beast to cause harm to you or anyone unable to defend themselves. If you can walk away, then walk. If you can’t walk, then run. If you can’t run, then it is honorable to fight.
  7. Seek excellence in all that you do. Understand that you must win the competition with yourself to succeed.
  8. Be curious. We are blessed with a big world. Never cease learning about it. Like Kipling’s mongoose, “Run and find out!” We never pretend to know everything, but it is our job to teach you that which you need to know in order to survive and succeed. That is our motivation in all that we teach you. You can trust that what we tell you is true to the best of our knowledge. Other people in this world may have other agendas. Trust, but verify.
  9. Do not waste your time on people of little worth. This is as true of actors and singers as it is for the brat that calls you names at school. Your time is too precious to involve yourself with them.
  10. It is good to have friends who are your age, but know that they don’t understand life any more than you do. They may think they do, or act like they do, but they don’t. It is a grown-up world. Enjoy your childhood, but know that one of the goals of growing up is to be able to relate to other adults. Remember that grown-ups can teach you things that you need to know because old people know stuff.
  11. Be honorable: Thou shalt shoot straight and speak nothing but the truth.
  12. Respect yourself, and be respectful towards others. Do not keep company with those who do not respect you.
  13. Choose friends that are worth your loyalty, and be loyal to them. Be a good friend. Sometimes, this means asking an adult for help when your friends get into a bad situation. They may get angry at you for doing that. If they stay angry, they are not worth your loyalty. A friend is someone who cares how your life turns out.
  14. Be tough. Life is difficult. It is dishonorable to retreat in the face of adversity. There will be adversity. Being tough means that sometimes, you will have to ask for help when you are embarrassed or afraid to do so. Other times, it means that you have to do things on your own that would be easier to ask someone else to do for you. Never give up.
  15. The value of your life is not measured by your possessions, but rather that which you share.
  16. Live well. We each are blessed with only one life on this world. Make the most of it. Enjoy time with your family and with your friends. Work hard to succeed, but don’t work too much. Every hour you spend working is one hour you will never get back.


It looks like thinks in Britain are going to get much worse before getting any better.

I love this video…

This is a nice video of a guy taking a few shots from a Mosin Nagant M44, similar to mine. This guy has removed his bayonet for some reason or other…

Nice Fireball.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

But the truth is we left the camera at home, so I have some typing to do. Last Thursay, we were privileged to host the President of the United States in our tiny little home town of Huntsville. Neither Darling Wife nor I got close enough to meet the man, but it is quite exciting to have the leader of the free world drop by your neck of the woods.

The highlight of the visit was that we were able to get quite close to runway 36R as Air Force One touched down. We were about 300 yards out on the right side of the plane, perpendicular to the runway. I did have the foresight to bring the air-band radio with me that morning. Darling Wife came down to meet me for lunch, and we were able to tell about 5 minutes before they landed which runway they’d be on. Both of us were surprised that they allowed people to get so close as the plane landed.

It was impressive to see the big, blue Boeing 747 as it came down (ironicly enough, directly over the top of Boeing’s Huntsville office). Everyone cheered as the smoke chipped off the edges of the landing-gear tires. Then in less than a minute, they were at the terminal, nearly out of our sight.

A couple hours later, I heard on the radio that they were about to depart. I gathered up some interested people at work, and we went outside with the air-band radio. My office is also perpendicular to the runway, but not quite so close. After a couple of very hot and sunny minutes, we heard Air Force One give its goodbye to Huntsville Tower. Seconds later, we saw it, landing-gear retracted, nose pointed steeply up. Two minutes later, and it was gone. There were no politics discussed. There were no snarky comments from anyone. I was thankful for that because either of those would have soured the occasion.

I may never again get the experience of seeing the leader of the free world touch-down in my home town. I’m glad that I got to see it this time, and my only regret is that we forgot the camera.

Bored as toast

I’m in Atlanta for SAP training this week. Amy came down with me on Sunday, but she went home this morning. The end result is that I’m bored and uninspired. I’ve exhausted my ration of Cadbury’s Royal Dark for the week, and I’m down to orange juice and Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA to stave-off dehydration. As our Mr. Jerome noted, thirst is a dangerous thing. Now, the 90 Minute IPA is quite tasty, but the amazing hops presence and slightly elevated ethanol content means that one has to take it easy with this stuff.

The SAP training is going well. I’ve seen a lot of the material we’re covering before in the real world, but I haven’t usually understood what I was doing or why. This class has done a good job of filling in the gaps in my understanding. I know that I still have a long way to go in understanding why Jerry made some of the decisions he did in desiging this product, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. SAP is a good system, but it’s large and complex. There is a lot to learn about it, and a person so inclined could make a career of it. To a large extent, I have. With the exception of the one year I worked at the NASA Integrated Services Network, I have been supporting SAP systems in one way or another since 1998. With any luck, we’ll keep at it. It seems to pay well, and the hours are good mostly.

Home Front

On the home front, all is good. We have much to be thankful for. We have the prospects of a new job that promises a substantial increase in the standard of living. Previously, the Mrs.’s term of service with Huntsville City Schools came to an end. With a child on the way, neither of us thought it very sporting to start a new school term that everyone concerned knew she would never finish. We’d planned from the outset that once she had the baby, she’d stay home. We both felt and thought that would be the best plan for all concerned (in this case, all concerned are Mommy, Daddy, and Baby).

With approximately one third of our income drying up in a couple month’s time, we realized that we needed to do some belt-tightening, and we have done. Amy is now driving me to work most days, under the pretense that it is cheaper by about $30 -$40 at current prices to fill the car twice in a week than to fill the car once and the truck once. Also, I am brown-bagging lunch more often than not, and this leads to further savings. Since we reload our ammunition, we can save quite a bit, and still get to shoot fairly often. We’re waiting on a batch of Hornady 123 grain, .310″ diameter spire-point bullets to arrive. These will allow quite cost-effective plinking loads for the No. 4 Enfield.

Last week, we found out that my uncle, Greg, had started work on the same NASA contract on which I work. He has taken up with a very challenging group; the Russia Services Group, which will require bi-annual trips to Moscow. Greg is flexible, and perhaps a good deal more hardy than we. There is an amount you could pay us to travel to Moscow, but it ranks in the mid seven-digits. Per day. In dollars, not rubles. We wish him well, but there is no need to wish him success. He is after all a Steele, and due to the heartiness of our constitutions, we achieve what we set out to accomplish. Perhaps it is not a testament to our constitutions, but rather us being too thick to completely understand and comprehend the nature of failure.

The weather is mostly dry. Too dry for our tastes, but it is not without benefit. The fauna do not enjoy it, nor the flora. It is quite dusty and asthmatic, but the pollen and other allergens are down to a most manageable level. Our local water authority has just imposed strict lawn-watering rations, and we are not at all upset about this. I have only had to mow the lawn four times this year, and I’m quite happy about the prospect of keeping with that rate for the rest of the year.

Amy and I have been taking afternoon walks three days per week, and are delighted to report that wildlife is flourishing in our bedroom community, despite the drought. Eastern cottontail rabbits are plentiful in our neighborhood, though we have only two rather scrawny ones. We’ve also seen the requisite squirrels, one chipmunk, many various birds, and a spotted fawn. Odin the cat has taken a particular fancy toward chasing the sprinkler, getting thoroughly soaked in the process. He still doesn’t care for being bathed, but will chase the sprinkler for hours. Several times, when we haven’t had the sprinkler on, he’s resorted to running towards whichever neighbor has the closest running sprinkler. We also have taught him to chase a frizbee. Unfortunately, he hasn’t quite worked out what to do once he’s caught the thing except wait for one of us to throw it again. Freya the cat will have none of it. She is more interested in the rabbits.

Most importantly, Amy and I went to the doctor today, and they confirmed that the Tot of Steele is in fact a daughter. Mother and child are both quite healthy at this point, and everything looks normal. We could not be more happy, but I suspect we will be once Amy has hatched-out. The doctor gave us permission to go right out and procure a new shotgun and large-bore handgun to protect the Tot of Steele’s honor. We are already well-provisioned here, but doctor’s orders are doctor’s orders. We’d hate to disobey them. Perhaps a nice Beretta 12-bore O/U. The wife asked if a .45 wasn’t already enough, to which we replied “Not when a .50 is available! Only the best to protect my daughter!

We’re going to Atlanta next week for an SAP training class (ADM 100), so possibly we will have some travel log postings.

Two Expectant Mommies

Here is a snap of my better half with brother Shannon’s wife, Sojung, taken at Brandon’s wedding. Sojung is due about three weeks before Amy. In fact, the night Shannon emailed me to tell me that Sojung was pregnant, was the night that Amy and I found out. It was hard for me to keep it quiet when I got Shannon’s message, but Amy and I had agreed not to tell anyone until we went to the doctor.

Here are the other few pictures I took at Brandon’s wedding reception.

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