31 July 2006

To all those who have left comments on here...

Ummm, yeah. I didn't realize I had comment verification turned on or something, so I had 7 comments, spanning six months (yeah, this is a high traffic blog) that didn't get published. I was not being unresponsive if I neglected to respond to these comments...just unaware that they existed, and all that. Thanks to my wife for pointing out the obvious.

Josh...the Gervais show is a podcast, downloadable (or at least it used to be, you may have to pay for it now) at www.rickygervais.com.

Matt, thanks for the MacDonald link, and no, the commie libs at UMKC didn't put anything in my yard, presumably because they are aware of my intense appreciation of diversity: .303, .38, .45, .223, etc. Muahahaha. Also thanks for the offer of loaning Orthodoxy...I'm immersed in library books regarding English cooking and restaurant planning right now so don't worry about getting it to me right away, but it is something I'd love to read.

29 July 2006

Say hello to my little friend...

This is my Kel-Tec PLR-16, a long-range pistol chambered in .223 Remington. It is similar to an AR-15 pistol, but it does not use direct impingement, relying instead on a short stroke piston system. It also does not have the buffer tube the AR pistols typically do. It has been customised to an extent...note the 30 round magazine and the compact foreend with the picatinny rail, both nice upgrades I think. I added a holographic reflex sight, BSA's multi-reticle version, which has worked out great. And most recently, the soft case (on which it is sitting) and the Yankee Hill Machine flash suppressor were given to me by my father-in-law for my birthday...quite nifty. I *could* modify it further with accessories on the underbarrel rail (such as a laser, or a tactical light) but I don't really need that at all. And a vertical foregrip would put this into a restricted class of weapons so I'll happily skip that.

How about a better view of the flash suppressor and reflex sight:

I'm looking to get this back out on the range again soon. It doesn't kick as much as you expect...the weight absorbs a good amount of recoil. Certainly nothing like the recoil you'd expect from something like this:


25 July 2006

So we went to the lake this last weekend...quite a nice weekend for it too, great weather, not even breaking into the 90s. Of course I brought a fair share of ammunition and put my firearms through their paces. I even fired my PLR-16, which is a .223 AR-15 pistol, at night...that was a treat, quite a flash signature! Also I shot my .45 auto, which confirmed a few things from my last trip to the range. It continuously kept choking on the Remington ball ammo I was feeding it, with probably 2-3 malfunctions per clip of 7 rounds. The two forms of malfunction encountered were same as the last trip, failure to go into battery and failure to extract. I knew what to do this time and could quickly resolve these malfunctions, the first with a light tap to the back of the slide, the latter by locking the slide back, extracting the magazine, racking the slide til the casing is extracted, and reinserting the magazine. However, rereading some manuals leads me to mention a correction in a previous post:

A type II malfunction, the failure to eject or stovepipe malfunction, is not ideally corrected by racking the slide, as I wrote before (and read in a Gabe Suarez book). Because the slide catches on the casing as it is returning forward, it could be that the next round is being chambered, and racking the slide back fully could chamber another round, resulting in a much more frustrating double feed malfunction. The ideal choice here is to curl your support hand over the top of the slide, in front of the ejection port, and sweep your hand backwards, catching the half-ejected casing and pushing it (as well as the slide that is holding it) enough to release it, which will then allow the slide to finish its action and go into battery. Since you aren't racking it all the way back, you won't be in danger of a double feed.

However, I luckily haven't been hit with one of these yet, so I can't say that my method works better in practice. Actually it certainly isn't my method, it's very common...I read it in an Erik Lawrence book, but I'm sure its been around for some time.

I watched "Walk The Line" over the weekend too, and have some strong feelings about the movie. I've never been a huge fan of his music; in my opinion I think people enjoy his style, his character, and those aspects of Johnny Cash more than his music itself. Kind of the same with Bob Dylan, though his are more about the lyrics. But I'm getting off topic. I grew to hate this movie for its message. It made a feeble attempt at justifying Cash's abandonment of his wife, and somehow tried to make his adulterous pursuit of another married (off and on) woman seem "romantic". It may be true to life, and I'm not condemning Cash here, but I'm disgusted how the movie portrays him as cool/admirable/etc. As Sam Miles would say, he was a "butt sniffer". Totally without character or integrity, totally given to whatever he felt he wanted at the time. It is very popular to justify infidelity and divorce with feelings and emotions...his wife "didn't support him or share his dreams", they were emotionally distant, they fell out of love, he and June were soulmates, all that BS. Just like John Lennon and Cynthia Lennon...one reason I never had much respect for Lennon, as an individual (though he had a wicked wit and and amazing musical gift). I've heard this movie defended in that their marriage was "over" by the time he pursued June, but that's respectfully a load of bollocks. A good half of the movie, spanning years, represents the time in which he is chasing one particular skirt and neglecting and dishonoring his wife, still very much married to him and still very much wanting him to be back with her. And all through the movie, they documented countless times when Vivian would desperately work to revive or repair their marriage, but I can't think of any drop of effort made by Cash to make it work.

I feel bad, because I'm not meaning to rag on Cash personally, despite the factual or unfactual nature of the movie, but its more the movie itself and the way it is popularly received that bothers me...that people look with such a flippant eye at the slow degradation of a marriage, the ounce-by-ounce betrayal that is painfully, horribly detailed and documented in this movie. It isn't a love story at all. They at least portrayed June in a more positive light, in that she resisted his advances for a long time and recognized how wrong it was. But like I said, the movie is painful to watch because "romance" is overshadowed and sullied by the terrible slow starvation and death of his first marriage, due to neglect and betrayal. The fact that this is so quickly glossed over and ignored by fans of the movie is what bothers me, that people can easily justify the dissolution of a marriage and the vows that come with it if it just starts to "not feel right" or if something better comes along. The moment you say "I do", you've picked your soulmate, and whoever else comes along, they aren't for you. And did anyone else notice how the Cash character was always doing this kind of lecherous leering thing towards the Carter character?
OK, I'll stop with the crotchety old man thing. It's just one of those things...why do you think 50% of marriages end in divorce? People say it is better to divorce than to lead an unhappy life. I kind of doubt people who try to lead lives of integrity and make every effort to honour their vows to their spouses end up all that unhappy as compared to the people who fly from relationship to relationship down a road paved with infidelity, divorce, and broken promises in pursuit of "happiness". But what do I know, I'm just a 20-something.


Besides, I prefer comedy. Like a romance between Johnny Cash and Jimmy Carter. Think of the giant swimming rabbit jokes that could be made! Oh and that wasn't so much a gay joke as a Jimmy Carter joke, so no offence, pooftas.

Another St. Crispin's dinner is in the works, for August. Perhaps I'll put up a menu, although as our invitees grow more numerous, my dining room is not getting any bigger, so I'm not sure how to handle that, exactly. But so far we've got dishes from Wales and Cheshire for this time. Don't have a deep fryer yet (yet being an operative word) so we'll have to wait a bit longer for fish and chips and Scotch eggs (aka cholesterol cluster bombs, arterial bunker busters, etc).

20 July 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the English

Pardon this poorly titled review of two English culinary items, both sampled last night. First off is the bad...blue Stilton. I should have known better, given that the last time I sampled blue cheese (gorgonzola) I found it so disgusting I had to eat random items of food to expel the acrid, moldy taste from my mouth. Likewise, I found this cheese to be eminently inedible. There are those who love it, who sings its praises, who unjustly crown it "King of English Cheeses". To me, I'll stick with the venerable Cheddar, which in its aged and mature form is quite complex and delicious. Other great cheeses include Wensleydale (a new favorite), Cheshire, and Double Gloucester.

But onto the good...Cheshire Pork and Apple Pies. I diced up a pound of lean pork, added a couple diced rashers of bacon, and seasoned the mixture with salt, pepper, a healthy amount of sage, and a dosage of cream sherry to moisten. Then I diced up two Braeburn apples (I'd have rather had Cox's Orange Pippin, I'm sure, but hey, I'm stateside, and these are good apples) and rolled out two pastry crusts. I layered the pork alternately with layers of apples, and then finally dotted the top layer with a tablespoon or so of butter. I drizzled a tiny bit of apple brandy over each one (just, well, because) and folded the pastry over on itself and sealed it. Brushed it with beaten egg to glaze and vented the top with a knife...then into the oven for an hour.

It was quite good! Very interesting, a definite change of pace from other meat pies, most of which have a formula predominantly of beef/lamb, onion, and potatoes or other veg. I might go a little bit easier on the sage next time, and maybe sweeten the apples with a dusting of brown sugar, but on the whole it was great. Another obscure discovery of English cooking. Cheers to my wife for putting up with the experimentation.

14 July 2006

Discourse on Randomly Selected Topics

First off, Henry V remains firmly the greatest of Shakespeare's works...challenged in my view only by Hamlet and Richard III. Henry V on the surface appears to be a simple patriotic history, but what a great play it is. Cheers to Lucian Cannole and the rest of the cast in the KC Shakespeare festival. All did a great job. I'll address what I think were the strengths and weaknesses, in comparison to Kenneth Branaugh's cinematic version, which I hold in high regard. Henry V in the stage version does well and seems very reminiscent of Branaugh, but the one area he lacks is due to the nature of stage performance. He doesn't get to cooly whisper lines with "hard favour'd rage" on his brow, the subtlety and self-control that Branaugh's character showed (thanks to closeups and good audio, luxuries the stage version lacked by nature) was one of my favourite things about it. Exeter, as well, had a kind of John Rhys Davies sort of authority as he was cast in the movie. The scene where Exeter addresses the French council in a full suit of armor and thunders his message...again, with some subtlety and a certain awing sense of bridled power...was excellent. "Scorn and defiance...slight regard...contempt..." And lastly, you just can't really upstage Derek Jacobi as Chorus. He put an almost comical amount of energy into that performance. The stage actor did well, too, but Jacobi had a fierce, visceral intensity that befits the seriousness of the play. Now, on the other hand...I think the "ethnic" portion of the play (Welsh, Scotch, Irish, and lower class English) had loads of great actors. The Welsh captain Llewellyn was particular excellent ("aye, leeks is good!"). And Captain Jamie, of course...played by Mr. Cannole quite well. But on the whole, I think you get more of an authentic Shakespeare experience with the staged version. A movie version offers a great many advantages and I admit I tend to prefer them (Gibson's Hamlet being another favourite of mine...and try as a I might I have never really liked Lawrence Olivier versions). But you get the feeling you are at a traditional play when they cast off the luxuries of movie sets, special effects, and the like.

Plans are progressing for an English brewpub in Kansas City. My responsibilities will be creative direction for the food, atmosphere, and all aspects of brewing. The financial and managerial tasks I will leave to my associate. But I am working aggressively to expand my repertoire of British cuisine and enhance my brewing techniques. Perhaps in the not too distant future there will be a place for you to watch the BBC while enjoying bangers and mash and a pint of freshly brewed bitter. Trust me, bangers and mash and a pint of bitter is a lot better than you might assume. I've had the real stuff at an expat joint in LA.

Next...firearms safety, and a discussion of autoloader malfunctions. First the four basic rules of gun safety:

1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded. Additionally, always check the chamber carefully before considering the gun "safe" or unloaded.

2. Muzzle Discipline: never let your muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

3. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Never shoot at shadows, and always realize that bullets can penetrate quite a lot, including interior walls (easily).

4. Keep your finger off the trigger and outside of the trigger guard until on target and ready to fire.

Next up, a discussion of typical autoloader malfunctions. I've experienced a few of these lately and as such have investigated them a bit.

First, failure to go into battery. This means that the bolt has cycled but failed to fully bring the next round into battery, and the symptoms are that the slide doesn't fully close and the trigger is inactive. Simple fix...strike the back of the slide to send it fully into battery. Had two of these but I treated them as duds (type I malfunction and racked the cartridge out of the gun).

Second, a Type I malfunction, failure to fire. Hammer falls and gun does not fire. It is best to hold for 30 seconds to ensure that it isn't a retarded primer, but then you tap the magazine to ensure it is fully seated, rack the slide to eject the dud and chamber a new round, and get back on target to resume firing.

Third, a Type II malfunction, failure to eject, or the "Stovepipe". This happens when a casing gets caught by the returning slide as it was ejecting, jamming the gun. Simple fix, similar to the Type I. Rack the slide back while simultaneously turning the gun to the side, throwing or dropping the spent casing clear, release the slide, and fire.

Fourth, the dreaded Type III, failure to feed/failure to extract. A spent casing fails to extract out of battery and the slide tries to chamber a new round, causing a double feed jam. I had one of these, and the important thing to remember (it took me 3 minutes to figure this out) is to immediately, before doing anything else, lock the slide open. Then remove the magazine (you might have to slide the half-fed cartridge back into the magazine to get it out). Then rack the slide at least twice to eject the spent cartridge...then put in the magazine securely and rack the slide, and you're ready again to fire. This one had me flummoxed, but at least now having dealt with it, I understand it fairly well. Better to be flummoxed by a jam on the range than under a God-forbid situation of extreme circumstances. But this is a tricky one to fix and I'll admit, its a good reason why people should either have a backup gun, or consider the slower firing but more reliable revolver. Autoloaders are excellent machines but they require more dedication, training, and maintenance than a simple double action revolver. Someone who doesn't know how to rapidly and safely address the potential malfunctions listed above should probably stay away from them. They are like racehorses...excellent performance but slightly finicky and jumpy, requiring an expert handler. At this point, anyone considering a firearm for home defense would be best served in my view by a medium frame double action .357 Magnum, or a 12 gauge pump action like a Mossberg 500 or Remington 870.

I've got to step up my dry fire drills, I think, as my marksmanship is a long way from what it needs to be, and I need to smooth out things like my draw/presentation considerably. I'm not sure how I feel about controversial topics such as point shooting. I've read avid praise of it, and ever so much more passionate criticism of it as well. I lean towards the "always use your sights" persuasion, because simply getting a hit will not stop an attacker necessarily, and as has been said before, the three principles of stopping power are marksmanship, marksmanship, and marksmanship. But on the other hand, sometimes you aren't given the luxury of extra time, in the case of a closing-within-arms-length attacker.

I have of late created what I think might be the best beverage I've ever run across. In Normandy there is a drink called "Pommeau de Normand". Normandy is famous for its fermented cider, as well as calvados, its oak-aged apple brandy. Pommeau is an almost equal blend of young apple brandy and fresh, sweet, unfermented apple cider/juice. The brandy preserves the juice, which is typically in the 17% to 20% ABV range. I simulated this hard to find beverage by blending a glass of Martinellis Sparkling Apple Cider (which I have found to be the most flavourful of sweet apple juices I have tried) with Laird's Straight Apple Brandy. The resultant beverage was extraordinary, full of complexity and flavour. Butterscotch, vanilla, floral notes, and of course crisp apple...very unique! I'll be blending and bottling some more of this, definately.