Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas

Christmas is here. After the shopping, after the wrapping, after the decorating, after the seemingly endless barrage of marketing, the true celebration begins.

When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another, 
"Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place, 
which the Lord has made known to us."
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, 
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God 
for all they had heard and seen, 
just as it had been told to them.
--Luke 2:15-20

In fact, this joyous celebration continues until Epiphany on January 6. Surprisingly few realize that the season of Christmas only begins today, December 25.  It it is disappointing to see the lights and decorations disappear the day after Christmas. Surely as Christians we believe the birth of Our Savior is an event worthy of more than a single day of rejoicing.

However you mark the season, I wish you a very joyous and peaceful holiday season. May it be spent with family, friends, and good cheer.

Merry Christmas!!!

The Church at Shepherd's Field, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010

Friday, December 20, 2019

December IDPA Match

A plethora of fall activities, both family and work related, have severely limited my opportunities to hit the range of late. I managed to hit but one IDPA match and just two trips to the indoor range in November. December had looked to be a washout, but the folks at Sanner's Lake rescheduled their match to Sunday last weekend, which turned out to fit my schedule. This would be the last shooting activity of the year for me.

Despite days of wet and cold weather in the week leading up to Sunday, the day was dry and, relatively, warm. I was joined for the trip across the Potomac River by three regular shooting companions.

We started out on a stage that involved both strong and weak hand shooting. It was certainly quite the stage to "warm up" on. Three "tuxedo" targets were set against the berm, two further limited by non-threats. The targets were engaged from progressively advancing shooting positions across the bay, shooting freestyle, strong hand only, then weak hand only at successive targets. A second string reversed the direction. An errant weak hand shot cost me a -5 and was my only miss of the match.

The next stage started us seated on a stool. There were three targets behind a non-threat that we engaged strong hand only while advancing to the first shooting position where we found a lone distant target. Two more groups of targets were visible from a second position of cover. I dropped just one point on the stage.

Next up was a stage I enjoyed very much. It was also the first stage we shot mostly in the sun, which helped to take some of the chill off. Standing behind a row of barrels we shot a paper target and three falling steel targets in the open. Then from cover, there were six more paper targets arranged among barrels and non-threats. The final target from this position was a low, leaning target set very close to the cover wall. Perhaps it was the bright sun, or simply that I was getting warmed up, but the shooting felt very smooth on this stage and the sights aligned quickly. I dropped two points in the final target.

Seven targets set in a line in front of a toolbox on the ground greeted us at the next stage. The first two targets in the array presented only head shots, while the last five were open, offering a fast shoot. Our unloaded gun and all magazines were placed in the closed toolbox and we started standing, facing up range. Since the gear was on the ground, dropping to and shooting from kneeling was the logical choice. After careful aiming on the first two targets, the rest of the group could be shot as quickly as the sights appeared on target. All my shots here were -0.

After the stand and shoot stage (actually kneel and shoot,) the next course of fire offered lots of movement. We started be engaging a single open target while moving backwards to the first point of cover to shoot at two distant targets that were placed partially in front of a non-threat — watch out for shoot-throughs. Next we shot a single target through a window in the wall, before moving to the last fault line to find more targets. I dropped two points here.

The last stage our squad shot again gave us the opportunity for movement while shooting. The first targets were engaged from cover. From this same position, one could also engage two additional targets in the distance, if a non-threat at a menacing position in the middle could be avoided. My observation was the only the taller shooters opted to do so. The rest of us had to weave around the wall the shoot from another spot. On the way to that optional position there was an open target to be engaged along the way. The course of fire ended at another shooting position where two final targets were found. I ended my shooting day with another -0 stage.

As is typical for the matches at Sanner's Lake, the shooting went fast and we were packed and in the car by 11:30. As is also typical, we made a stop to acquire distilled spirits, and to eat a tasty Tex-Mex lunch.

The stages in the match were interesting and fun. Traveling, shooting, and dining with friends made for an enjoyable day. I managed to get home with enough daylight left to do some yard work, and then enjoy a fine Drew Estate Joya Black cigar and hot coffee on my deck in the waning sun.

I was well pleased with my shooting on this day. It's been almost a year of recovery from the medical emergency of January. It feels good to be shooting reasonably well again. In this match I placed 8th of 46 Overall, and 2nd of 14 in the SSP division. All in all it was an exceptionally pleasant way to wind down the weekend and my shooting year.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation. 
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington
Although President Washington proclaimed this day of thanksgiving and prayer in 1789, the Thanksgiving Day we celebrate today didn't become a national holiday until1863 when President Lincoln established the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving.

Have A Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you a day filled with family, friends, and fond memories. May God bless your life with His gifts today and everyday.

This Never Gets Old

It just wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving if I didn't laugh at this again.

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

It Was a Cold IDPA Match

Over the weekend, I joined a couple of friends as we traveled across the Potomac River to shoot the monthly IDPA match at Sanner's Lake in Lexington Park, MD. Leaving before dawn, and feeling the cold morning temperature, left me questioning my choices to start the day. As the sun rose, it gave very limited relief, with the thermometer barely cracking 50° all morning.

The first stage our squad shot started us facing both near and far targets from behind a barricade. Then we moved down range, engaging targets in the open as they appeared. Arriving at the end of the course, we found both threat and non-threat targets behind a stack of barrels. Shooting the course -0 was a nice way to start the day.

The next stage I thought offered a fun course of fire. From the start, we engaged an open target with six rounds, then turned to shoot a couple distant targets that were partially hidden behind a non-threat. Moving to the next point of cover, the course ended with a few more partial targets, with more non-threats restricting open shots.

The fun course became less so for me as I arrived at the first point of cover. As I looked around the barrel, the rising sun hit my right through the side of my glasses. I moved back a bit but the damage was done. I had a bright yellow spot burned into my vision that remained for the next 20 seconds or so. It made the sights on the gun hard to see. I did my best to get through it, but ended up hitting a non-threat and earning quite a few points down. Disappointing, but the match goes on even after a little adversity.

The stage labeled "Carnival" was probably my favorite of the match. We started the course of fire standing at a table, with a tennis ball in our strong hand. Down range were three targets, placed in different orientations, which were partially obscured by a both a non-threat and a row of bowling pins placed on barrels. Moving just slightly side-to-side allowed the shooter to get shots at the targets around the obstacles. Of course, shooting the bowling pins out of the way was an option, but that wasted both time and ammo.

After engaging that first group of targets, there were more targets to be found by moving to the left and shooting through a port, and by also moving right and shooting around the wall. The targets to the left were challenging in that a fairly heard lean was required at the fault line see the targets. The array of three targets and three non-threats on the other side offered an especially deceivingly target array. The non-threat covering the center target also extended behind the most leftward target. Taking the "open" shot to the center -0 would also lead to a shoot-through — right into the head of the non-threat. And it did catch some folks.

Next up was a straight forward "Standards" stage. Four paper targets, requiring three hits each, and four steel poppers were placed down range of a barrel barricade, half visible from each side. It was a quick shoot and resulted in my best stage finish of the match, — 6th overall and 2nd in SSP.

After the steel, the next challenge face was a course of fire combining both distance shooting and head shots. To add to the interest, this was a limited stage which meant there would be no make up shots. We began with six rounds in the gun, and engaged three distant targets partially blocked by non-threats. Then while reloading we advanced to shoot three head shot only targets from behind a barricaded of barrels. I felt really good while shooting this stage. Even my fingers were beginning to warm slightly. As I was engaging the head shots, I could see the hits on the heads. I probably got a little too confident and rushed the very last shot, pulling it off target for a miss.

The last stage our group shot was a two string course requiring both strong and weak hand shooting. Three close targets were placed to the rear of two non-threats. The first string required 5 body hits and 1 head shot on the center target, all shot weak hand only. The second string was shot strong hand only and called for 5 body and one head on each of the two outside targets. This was one of two -0 stages I shot this day.

It was a good morning of shooting, despite the cold. The one sun-blinded stage did have an adverse affect my overall finish. Despite that, I managed 16th of 52 overall, and 8th of 25 in SSP.  The match moved quickly and we finished all six stages in about 2 1/2 hours. The quick, well-run match is a welcome foil to the two hour drive each way to shoot it. The travel time is made also made more bearable by the company of friends. As is tradition, we shopped for distilled beverages after the match, and consumed a filling lunch at a local Mexican restaurant.

I think I was still feeling the chill later in the evening. A roaring fire in the back yard, watching the sunset, while enjoying with some bourbon and a couple good cigars, helped to finish the day a little warmer than it started.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Irish Pubs

We enjoyed more than a few pubs during our trip to Ireland. The beer, the whiskey, the food, the music, and the friendly people made everyone of those visits memorable. (Okay, some of those memories might be little fuzzy.

The Field in Kilkenny provided a refreshing lunch on a rainy afternoon.

The lamb stew I had went very well with a properly poured Stout.

Tynan's Bridge House Bar is reputed to be one of the oldest pubs in Kilkenny. 

Our delightful server offered us copious choices of Irish Whiskey.

The aftermath.

Early morning keg retrieval was common activity in every town.

Dingle, the only town on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry was hosting a food festival during our visit. We found seats in John Benny's Pub for a quick lunch of…

…Fish and chips. And a pint.

Murty Rabbitt's in Galway was the site of a dinner feast.

Seafood chowder and brown bread…

…and Shepherd's Pie.

…and a pint.

After dinner we headed down the street to An Púcán for music…

…and more pints and whiskey.

To be continued…

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Saturday Morning IDPA

It's been two months since I was last able to get to an IDPA match, and five weeks since I even touched the gun. Needless to say I was very much looking forward to Saturday's Cavalier IDPA match. As I made the morning drive and was enjoying the colorful fall foliage, I spied a very bright rainbow in the sky directly in front of me. I knew it was going to be a good day.

As is usual for this event, there were five fun stages of shooting fun in store. The first stage had the shooter starting facing wall with the option of going right or left to begin the course of fire. Targets were found by traversing a winding course through the array of walls.

I was the first shooter on the stage and thought I had my plan well in mind. That plan had a momentary hiccup when I remembered where I wanted to do my reload, but failed to fire the extra shot before dropping the mag. I immediately realized my mistake so picked up and reinserted the empty mag before firing the next shot, thus avoiding the penalty. I considered the recovery a win, though my "mental malfunction" earned some good natured ribbing from my squad mates. The joshing was the start of a fun morning of banter among the fun-loving squad.

Shooters started the next stage seated, with the gun and ammo all staged on a table that was by running around a corner behind the chair. After retrieving the magazines and loading the gun, one proceeded to find targets around three places of cover. It was another fun stage, despite eliciting groans of aching knees.

The next stage was quite unique and one that generated a lot of discussion and questions around the shooting requirements. Simply put, the stage brief called for two hits on each body, and one on each head, and all targets engaged in proper priority. The twist was that the "heads" were not connected to the "bodies." In fact, for some targets, the heads were not even visible from the same point as the respective bodies.

The priority of the targets very much was dependent on how the shooter moved along the firing area. Having a good stage plan, and remembering it, was critical to avoid penalties and not skipping targets. In retrospect, it was not has difficult to understand as it was unusual. The priority of targets did manage to trick a few shooters, but I dare say everyone enjoyed it.

Stage 5 had us again starting in the middle of a wall, with a choice of directions to move. There were nine targets lined up at the back of the bay. Getting to the targets meant navigating an array of walls, moving left to right and front to back, depending on the shooter's plan. There was nearly the number of options to complete the course of fire as there were shooters.

The last stage of the match included those "dreaded" steel poppers. It's interesting to me that, even though the steel target zone is larger than some paper scoring zones, steel seems to get missed more. As one shooter remarked, "The thing about steel is you know when you hit it. The other thing about steel is you know when you don't." The entire stage was shot while seated and consisted of three paper targets and three steel. The paper all requiring three hits on each. I did need one make up shot on steel but was otherwise very pleased. The stage was quick and a successful way to close out the match.

I thought this was an exceptionally enjoyable match. Matches are made even more pleasurable when the shooting comes together, and the folks you are shooting with are so much fun. I was also pleased with how I shot on this morning, especially after my hiatus. I had just four points down for the entire match to finish 6th of 36 overall, and 2nd of 19 in the SSP division.

It felt great to be back on the range, and on a morning of pleasant fall weather besides. Maybe I'll even find some time to practice before the next match.

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Fratello Sunset in Killarney

At the beginning of the month we were blessed to make our second pilgrimage to Ireland. For ten fun days we explored historic sites, ate good food, and enjoyed numerous pubs and live music. The scenery on the Emerald Isle is breathtaking. At the same time the tragic history of religious persecution, land theft, and forced starvation imposed upon the Irish people is never far from mind.

I had brought along a few cigars to hopefully smoke on the trip. Unfortunately, smoking is banned indoors in Ireland, even at the cigar shops. For a few days we enjoyed the beautiful and serene setting of the Cahernane Manor House Hotel, in Killarney. The grounds of the manor house offered a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a smoke after a long day of touring, and before an evening of music at a local pub.

This Fratello Bianco Boxer was enjoyed while I watched the sun set behind the distant mountains. 

The view was made even more interesting by the sounds and antics of an angry bull chasing the native elk out of his pasture, as well as the bleating of sheep in another pasture.

Over the coming weeks, I'll share more tales of the places and people, as well as the beer and Irish whiskey that we enjoyed during the trip.