Saturday, August 25, 2012

Final Garden update of 2012

It is almost September and my garden is done for the year.  I put the last plant in the trash, put my tomato cages back in the garage, pulled the last weed and turned the last spade of soil on it yesterday. 

This year was a lot like last year in some ways: it wasn't the seasons changing that did my garden in.  It was negligence.  Last year my grandfather suffered a stroke and we left town for over a week, when our area was consistently getting 100 degree days and the garden died.

This year I left for a week to clean out a barn back home while my wife was incredibly busy (we're talking 14+ hour days busy) and the weather was 100 degrees.  The garden went unwatered, and predictable results followed.

I got to thinking about a general overview of this year gardening, and thought yall might enjoy it too.

What we did differently this year:

  • Added 3 planters to the garden.  One with herbs in it (Only Basil did well) and the other two with strawberries (that never produced anything)
  • Put down mulch/sheeting around to garden to help prevent grass growth in the beds.  This was mostly successful, though there was still some grass that popped up in the garden beds.
  • Planted less peppers and tomatoes to add watermelon and squash.  
  • I didn't bother setting up  drip irrigation this year.  Last year I had problems with the lines clogging a little, and the pressure always seemed too high or low.  I either flooded plants or they didn't get enough water.

 Plants that did well this year:

  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Jalapenos
  • Basil
Plants that underperformed:

  •   Bell peppers
  • Pretty much every pepper besides the Jalapenos
  • Watermelons
  • Strawberries

Over all, it was another good year.  We got a TON  of squash and tomatoes, used the basil a lot, and had a decent amount of jalapenos.

Got a quick hint for yall of an upcoming post now.....when I actually post about it I'll include some installation details as well:

Monday, July 30, 2012

The perfect pair

Some of yall might remember my very first gun post was about one of my favorite rifles, my Marlin 1894c chambered for .357 magnum. 

To quote my final paragraph of that post:

"One more good reason to own a lever gun (as if we need MORE reasons) is the fact that they're beautiful rifles and an important part of American gun history.  From the Spencer rifles of the 1860s to my Marlin produced in the 21st century, lever guns have been owned and used for personal protection, war, and pure enjoyment for 150 years here in Texas.  That's a good enough reason for me."

 Well, owning a lever gun is nice and all, but there just seems to be something missing if you don't own a single action revolver to pair with it.  I finally remedied that problem this past week, when I picked up a like new in box Ruger Blackhawk convertible. 

For those who aren't aware, single action revolvers are an old design.  When you see cowboys in Westerns, they're usually carrying some variant of the Single Action Army revolver.   Thus, they're perfect to pair with a cowboy assault rifle, aka lever action rifle. 

What is a single action?  They vary from modern revolvers in 2 large ways.  1) The hammer must be manually cocked before each shot.  You can pull on the trigger all day long, but without the hammer being cocked back, the gun won't do a thing.  2) The cylinder is fixed in the frame.  Almost all modern revolver cylinders swing out of the frame, so you can unload/reload the entire cylinder at once.  A single action must be loaded and unloaded one round at a time, through the loading gate.  Here's a picture of what I'm talking about:

My blackhawk is a 6 1/2" model, chambered in .357/38.  The neat thing about this particular gun is it came with an extra cylinder chambered for 9mm ammunition.  So with a quick cylinder change that can be done with no tools in about 20 seconds, I have a gun that can shoot 3 different types of ammunition.  Pretty neat!

Couple more pics of the blackhawk to finish this post out, and I'll leave you with this final thought:  A lever action rifle and revolver chambered for the same ammunition is a pretty nice pair of guns to own.  I love both of these, and now I just need to get a western style holster and a cowboy hat and I'll be ready to ride the range.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

$3 dollar security upgrade

Just a quick blog this weekend, and then I'm busy until next weekend, but I thought I'd share a cheap home security upgrade with everyone.

Most robberies occur when a thief kicks in a door, grabs some valuables and gets back out.  A security alarm is a good way to help detect/prevent this, but if that is out of your price range or you're a renter, there's no reason to not do anything to help protect your stuff.  Ready for a simple upgrade? 

I'll give you a hint...we're messing with this:

 This picture shows the weak part of your door.  Contractors who build houses like building them cheaply.  One way this manifests itself is the screw they use to secure the strike plate of your front door.  The screws pictured are a whole 3/4" long.  That means they secure the strike plate to the jam.

The jam isn't strong enough to withstand a kick from a teenager, much less a criminal who's desperate enough to break into your house to finance his crack habit.  There are lots of elaborate, expensive solutions that could give a dedicated swat team a bit of trouble, but we're talking about cheap and easy here. 

So if the screws only secure the strike plate to the jam, why don't we fix that?  

A 3" screw can actually reach and anchor into the framing boards in the wall.  So instead of kicking against a jam, someone trying to break in has to manage to break the screws themselves or the framing board they're drilled into.

 Not an impossible task by any means, but certainly more difficult than kicking a jam out, wouldn't you agree?  Here's quick pictorial comparison of an old screw with its replacements:

So, what does an upgrade like this cost?  I got these four 3" wood screws for a whole $3 at my local hardware store.  You will need a drill to get them anchored, but if you don't have one I'm sure you can find someone you can borrow an electric drill from.  Its a whole minute and a half of work to swap out the old screws for the new, and you've improved your home security a decent amount.

Not bad for $3!

Monday, May 21, 2012

FIrst Harvest of the year

Got to pick the first veggies out of the garden today, which was exciting.  Our tomatoes are still green, but we have lot of them, so hopefully I'll get to pick some of them soon.  Watermelon is growing like a weed (though no fruit yet) and our squash plants are actively trying to choke out 2 of my pepper plants.  I keep trimming it back, but they keep trying to cover the peppers up.   In the meantime, I can just eat this squash for a week.  Seriously.  Its huge.  I even put sunglasses in the picture for reference.

I also had a couple of Jalapenos ready to go, so they got picked as well (and instantly thrown into a mix for some Jalapeno Ranch...mmmm).  The squash got cut up and baked into squash fries.  I'll try to get some pictures up of those some other time. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Brief Thought on Welfare Cards

I'm not going to get into a whole discussion regarding welfare, but as a libertarian most of you can probably guess where I stand on that one.

Instead, I'd like to share a personal story about a overweight lady in front of me in line at Walgreens.  As I'm standing there waiting to purchase Mothers Day cards (see? I'm such a capitalist I even participate in made up holidays designed to do nothing but sell crap) I notice there seems to be a problem in front of me.

This lady was becoming slightly angered by the fact that the cashier had swiped her Lone Star card twice, and the machine was claiming she still owed money.  Being a curious soul, I decided to peek into the bags and see what this poor woman was unable to provide for herself that I and other taxpayers helped her purchase. 

8 or 10 cans of Arizona Iced Tea (which are of course, super healthy...right?) and a pack of cigarettes she was purchasing with cash.  That was it.  No food, no medicine, no toiletries.  Arizona Tea. 

The poor cashier winds up having to call a manager over, and void the transactions, etc before rechecking her out.  When this happens, this woman lets out a huge sigh, rolls her eyes and huffs like an angry walrus (which she kind of looked like...back hair, body size and all.  Truly, the only thing missing was the tusks). 

Now, you're purchasing a frivolous drink...using taxpayer money...and you're going to get ANGRY that the cashier is taking too long?  I mean, I'm sure her time is valuable as hell!  Holy crap.  The sense of entitlement in this country that some people have is flat out astounding to me. 

I'd love to drop Suzy Walrus into Somalia for a week to see how far her fat ass and sense of entitlement would get her. 

Rant off. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Garden Update (4?)

Not sure what update I'm on, but I have lot of garden news! First a couple of quick pictures of the garden:

The tomato plants, due to their continued instance that "I grow where I want", have been placed in govt reeducation centers, also known as "cages".  These cages should help the tomatoes grow upright, though the quality of the cages leaves much to be desired, as they were obtained by govt contract or "at walmart".

Our watermelon plants continue to grow wherever as well, but hopefully the intimidation of seeing the tomatoes cages will show them how to get in line.  I doubt it though, because they're dirty fuzzy watermelon hippies.

The Cherry tomato plants have begun producing lots of flowers and little tomatoes, and should be ready for taxing or  "harvesting"  soon.  The strawberry and herbs planted in our gardening pots continue to under perform, proving yet again that separate but equal is a crock of BS.  

The peppers are the soccer moms or "most confusing" plants of the lot.  They can't decide what they want to do yet.  I'm not sure if its just not hot enough for them, if they haven't been pandered to enough, or if I simply need to start getting more expensive haircuts to win their love, but we have some pepper plants that are very big but haven't so much as flowered, and some that are tiny and will probably crush themselves under the weight of the single pepper they're growing. 

Our squash, like most politicians, are very pretty and have promised lots and lots of crop for harvest.  Unfortunately, just like most politicians...our squash have promised lots and delivered little.  We have one small squash that is starting to grow, but they promise to do better if we reelect them in November.

All of our plants, minus the political squash, seem to be suffering the effects of bugs or "1000s of pages of petty laws and regulations" which isn't helping them to grow and produce.  Man, my garden has lots of issues! 




Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thoughts on riots

Between race baiters fanning the flames regarding a shooting in Florida, people like Van Jones encouraging the Occupy protestors to step it up and get violent this summer, etc I thought it was time to write down a few thoughts on staying safe in unsettled times.

These are mainly my thoughts on Joe Civilian and riots (seeing as how I've never been in a riot, just done lots of reading, you can take or leave the advice as you see fit).

Seems that most civil unrest/violence in the US occurs in commercial or very low income/rent residential neighborhoods.  That being said, how to react in order to keep yourself safe from an angry mob is going to be wildly different depending on which area you are in, commercial or residential (or more simply....are you at work or home when things happen).

Some things you should do regardless of location:

1) Be Aware
Look outside occasionally, check the local tv/radio news for reports of "crowds forming" or "unrest".  Be aware of any national news that could incite violence (for example...Zimmerman goes to trial.  Once the jury is deliberating, I'd keep a very close ear to the ground waiting for an announcement of guilty/not guilty).  If you don't realize a riot is going on until the mob is breaking into your business or setting your car on fire in the driveway, you're already way behind the curve.

2) Have a Plan
You should always have a plan.  If a riot is in or heading to your area, what are you going to do?  When would you try to get the heck out?  What situation would necessitate you holding your position?  What would you need to do either one?  What supplies would be good to have in the event of a riot?

A lot of those questions don't have universal answers, but will depend on your specific situation.  A few things that I think are universal:

Have gas in the car.  If you can only drive 30 miles before you run out of gas, it makes it a lot harder to flee from a bad situation.

Have at least a weeks worth of food/water.  If you can't get to the store because they're closed or the mobs in the way, can you feed yourself something?

Have fire extinguishers.  Even if its not the mob setting your property on fire, your local PD/FD will be busy with the if something happens at your home/business being able to take care of it yourself is important.  Their response times to non riot related calls will likely be VERY long, if they're able to respond at all.

3) Be armed.
More than that, be armed enough to face multiple assailants.  I know people love their 5 shot J frame, or their pocket .380.  Would you care to face a crowd with them?  Try to carry the largest capacity gun in a service caliber (9/40/45) that you can.  And carry reloads.  Make sure you have a rifle or shotgun and reloads handy.  Fairly self explanatory why.

Now, regarding commercial/residential.

In a commercial/business setting:

If at all possible, get the heck out!  Insurance will cover any damage done to the business.  Whether you own the place or work for someone else, your life isn't worth defending those computers, or twinkies, or whatever random item the rioters decide to steal.  Your life is more important.  Make sure your coworkers are able to get out, and leave!  If you are not able to leave, retreat to a warehouse/backroom that has at least 2 exits, lock the doors and dim the lights.  Hopefully anyone who breaks in will only be interested in grabbing what looks good out front and leaving, not exploring thoroughly.

Leaving a commercial location

Okay, so you've decided to flee.  Smart call.  Since you're being smart, you probably can grab that long gun from the trunk and throw a towel over it to keep it up front with you, right?  Good.  That being said, you're driving a 3000 lbs weapon.  Simply put...if you can avoid the riot at all, do so.  If you somehow manage to take a wrong turn/come across it unexpectedly....Doors locked.  Do NOT stop moving. Mobs are dangerous.  If they get you out of the car, you could be beaten, crippled or killed.  Do not let them get you out.  DRIVE.  

In a residential setting:

Most people have a problem with this, because we're talking about our homes as opposed to where we work.  But again, the safest thing to do (if you can do so without going through the mob) is to get out of dodge.  Yes, you may lose some "stuff"....but thats why we have everything documented for insurance, right?  My neighborhood does only have 1 entrance/exit, so I've had to consider the possibility that fleeing isn't an option.  So in that case..

Defending the home

Generally, as CHL holders we are trained to stay inside the house (and its tactically sound advice).  While this is normally a good idea, mobs like fire, and burning things.  So if one thug breaks down the door and is met with gunfire, they won't try to storm the house....but they might go ahead and set fire to your roof before they move on.  In the LA riots, Korean shopkeepers on their roofs kept the mob moving on to other targets.  In a mob/riot situation, the roof is a decent idea.  Its not great cover, but pretty good concealment.  It gives you a great view of the neighborhood, and you'll be able to see anyone trying to start fires, etc.  Again in this situation a rifle or shotgun wins over a pistol.

For the TL,DR crowd.......My riot advice: Be aware of your surroundings, have a plan to get out or defend, be armed, and if you can at all...get the heck out of the area.

Feel free to chime in if you feel I missed anything important or am just flat out wrong.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Garden Visitor

Went out to check on the garden the other day and found this little guy, a red footed tortoise.  They're apparently native to South America, but have been exported as pets in the past.  Its possible this guy got out from somewhere I suppose. 

Either way, after a few pictures he ran off.  I guess he's camera shy. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Becoming an NRA Instructor

As I posted before, I spent some time recently in class to become an NRA Certified Instructor (and got these shiny patches that I'm going to show off one more time)

The NRA offers certifications in a lot of different areas, from the seemingly obvious like pistol, rifle and shotgun, to the more advanced/obscure like reloading metallic cartridges, range safety officer, and muzzle loading pistol, rifle or shotgun.  I am now certified to teach (as if you couldn't tell from the patches) home firearm safety, personal protection in the home, and basic pistol. 

Before you can become certified to teach any of the specific disciplines, you must attend Basic Instructor Training (or BIT), which basically makes sure that you're capable of getting up and speaking in front of others...something only moderately important for a teacher, right?  

Day 1 of class consisted of mostly BIT, though we started covering some of the pistol course information as well.  I really enjoyed the fact that our BIT training consisted not only of making sure we had a good grasp of basic firearms knowledge, but also covered topics such as advertising, writing a press release, checklists of "things to do" before hosting a class, etc.  For someone with no prior paid teaching under their belt, this is a helpful way for you to dip your toes into the pool, and figure out how to swim before you swan dive off the 10 foot board in that first class. 

Day 2 was the meat of our pistol course and a trip to the range which made sitting in a classroom all day worth it.  The information is pretty basic, which is good considering the pistol course is designed to introduce new shooters to pistol shooting in a safe way. 

We begin discussing the various types of pistols and actions, breaking down and explaining the components of a pistol and even a cartridge.  From there, the fundamentals of pistol shooting such as sight alignment/sight picture, proper grip, trigger pull and follow through is all discussed.  This class can take someone who is a complete novice, and turn them into a knowledgeable shooter.  

On the range we mainly were tasked with making sure we were familiar with all the various action types that may be in class, from semi autos to double and single action revolvers.  The single action revolvers were new to me, and I have to admit I prefer modern designs in both revolver and semi auto.  The grip on an old school single action revolver were a little hard to get used to for me.  They're fun to shoot and have nice triggers, but they just feel weird in my hands.  (Though I do want to get a SAA clone in .357 to pair with my lever gun just because they go together like peanut butter and jelly.) 

Day 3 was the most fun day to me because it was more advanced, dealing with home security, personal awareness, and the importance of having a plan for a home invasion.  Personal protection in the home is considered a more advanced class, so the teaching is directed towards those who already know how to shoot or may even be CHL holders, that would like to improve their in home safety knowledge and skills. 

The range session was also a lot of fun, as we got to practice shooting from different positions and behind barriers, not to mention emphasizing defensive shooting as opposed to bulls eye shooting.   Don't get me wrong, its fun to tear a tiny hole in the paper to show what a great shot you are, but knowing that you're able to bring the pistol into action quickly and be accurate enough to stop a threat is a very comforting thing and the perfect range session for a class on in home defense. 

In summary, I felt the classes were very helpful, and absolutely worth the price of admission.  Now that I am certified, I plan on teaching both NRA classes and my own classes, specializing mainly in helping introduce new shooters to pistol shooting.  I don't plan on making "quit your day job" type money, but as long as I can cover my costs regarding ammo/insurance/other expenses, I will be happy.

I'm mainly doing this because I love shooting and enjoy teaching people about things.  If I can infect others with my enthusiasm for the shooting sports, then that is X number of people who are now informed about their 2nd Amendment rights and are therefore less likely to buy the utter drivel that passes for "thinking" regarding guns from the media, the brady bunch, and the statists.  As well, they will possess the knowledge and skill to safely use their gun and enjoy shooting.  That's a win in my book any day! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Garden Update(3)

Well, I'll get around next week to writing about class.  A combination of being in class/on the range from 8am-6pm for 3 days, sleeping on an unfamiliar couch, driving to dallas and back, getting a cold, and coming home to pollen counts that have quadrupled in the past week have me feeling pretty lousy still.

In the meantime, I do have a garden update!  We have officially picked our first produce...a single strawberry.  It had a lot of flavor for a little guy though.

The garden has been overrun with grass/weeds, and we had 2 pepper plants that looked fairly dead, so we did some weeding/replanting today.  Here's hoping our new pepper plants make it longer than the others did.  We also have a cherry tomato plant that is looking stunted, but it also looks healthy so I'm going to give it another week or so.  To help it along, we went ahead and fertilized today as well.

Alright, enough yaking..picture time!

Our pepper/squash bed still over run with weeds

Cleaned up


Thursday, April 19, 2012

So how was your week?

I had a great week in Dallas getting my NRA Instructor certifications.  I slept pretty poorly on a couch for 3 days and came down with the start of a cold, so I'll blog at length about the class and what I did later because I am worn down today. 

But I did say I'd blog when I came back, so here's a quick preview of at least one cool patches.  I know its kind of childish to get excited about such things, but I was very very happy to get these.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weekly Garden update (2)

No pictures, because its raining and I don't feel like getting out in it.

Tomatoes are all still looking strong.  2 of my pepper plants I'll probably wind up replanting next week.  They just never grew any and have been a sickly yellow color since they went into the ground.  Both strawberry plants are already producing fruit, so that's exciting.  Basil is coming on strong, but my other herbs have failed to grow.  3 out of 4 watermelon plants are doing alright, and I have plenty of good looking squash popping up. 

Hope everyone elses gardens are doing well.  As I said with my last post, I will be in Dallas to become an NRA certified pistol instructor next week.  Leaving tonight, and won't be posting again until at least Thursday.  Expect my thoughts on the class, and an actual garden update with pictures later next week.

Until then.....

Friday, April 13, 2012

Time for a rant

I went to the range today, to get a little more practice in before I head up to Dallas next week to certify as an NRA pistol instructor.  (I'll post more about that next week after I'm back, but don't expect a blog from Sunday-Thursday next week.).  Now, anyone who's used a public range has seen the fun variety of people you have the privilege of interacting with in such settings.  Heck, even as a firm and staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment, some of the stuff I see at public ranges makes me feel just the tiniest of a "twinge" of understanding for the Brady nutjobs, which I then purge quickly by doing a mag dump into center mass of the target with whatever pistol/rifle I'm shooting that day.

I may have to blog later about some of the absolute winners I've  seen at the range, but I'm going to try to stay on a single topic today:

A Bersa Thunder .380: NOT a good "first pistol" for Granny

Now, nothing against Bersa, or .380s, or Granny. In fact, I'm mentioning the Bersa because I saw not 1, but 2 women at the range today escorted by their proud husbands who picked out this great gun for their gal, only to watch them have a pretty dang hard time shooting it.  I think that a light .38 revolver, .380 pocket pistol of any variety, or a Desert Eagle in .50AE are about on par as far as "really bad choices for granny" go. 

I know there are people out there who's wives love their little .380 Bersa, or LCP, or .38 revolver.  That's fine, and I understand why people would like these guns.  I also think a small, snappy .380 pistol is a freaking awful choice to learn to shoot with whether you're a man, woman or child. In my mind, a .22 semi auto rifle, followed by a .22 pistol, are the only acceptable "first guns" to teach anyone to shoot well.  Their cheap cost and minimal recoil make them excellent candidates for learning how to shoot with.  That last part in bold?  Yeah it's actually far more important than the cheap cost part. 

The Bersa Thunder is a straight blowback gun, built on a polymer aluminum (hat tip to A-R of for correcting this for me) frame.  They made this thing light, with a double action first trigger pull so its an ok concealed carry choice.  Unfortunately, its lighter weight, long trigger pull and snappy recoil make it a TERRIBLE first pistol choice, especially for older women who don't have great hand strength.

 In fact, I would argue that allowing people to think granny HAS to have a pocket sized pistol, even when she's only planning on keeping it around the house, is turning people off of guns, and preventing some women from being able to effectively protect themselves.  For a woman with minimal shooting experience, I personally prefer a pistol caliber carbine, which I've blogged about before, but any rifle/shotgun is more than adequate, and easier to use than a pocket pistol for home defense, especially for people with weak hand strength and an aversion to practicing at the range.

Save your granny the sore hand and bad experience, and don't make a bad choice.  In fact, we as men shouldn't be choosing guns for the women in our lives anyway.  Try to get them interested, let them shoot a .22, offer to sign them up for a class......

but when our female loved ones are getting dressed, do we run into the closet and start telling them what they should wear?  If we're smart, the answer is a resounding NO.  The gun they choose to protect themselves should be their choice as well (though preferably in a reliable caliber/gun). 

/rant off for the day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An ARFCOM style Dinner Picture

For anyone who's on, this picture will look...familiar.

They have a tradition over there of taking whats called "dinner pics".   A meal, presented with a knife, handgun, rifle and reloads, plus alcohol for those who drink are the bare minimum requirements.  I didn't have anything exciting or important to blog about, so I took a dinner pic of my meal tonight.

Food is as follows:  Steak is seasoned with a dry rub using paprika, chili powder, cumin, Tex Joy, kosher salt, freshly pressed garlic and brown sugar. Seasoned 3 hours before grilling, set out to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling.  Potatoes were cubed, then cooked on a skillet with Cajun seasoning and olive oil.  Tex Joy and cheese top off the broccoli. 

Guns:  A Saiga AK-47 type rifle that I converted myself, a Gen4 Glock 19, and reloads for both.

Knife: New production USMC Kabar

Drink: Jack Daniels

Extras: A ballcap from my Alma Mater, and my Aggie ring/wedding ring just to add a little something shiny to the picture.  

This rub is a keeper.  Unless the steak is being prepared specifically to pair with another dish, this rub is how I will do it from now on.  Best steak I think I've ever grilled.

Closeups of the food/my rings just because I thought it was a cool shot:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Light weight pots

We decided to add some containers to our garden this year, so we could continue growing peppers and tomatoes but add some herbs and fruit.

Saw online someone recommended filling containers partway with packing peanuts, then topping off with soil.  This way the containers are lighter, drain better, and you can actually move them around.

So far I'm rather fond of the idea, but we'll see what the first bad storm does regarding knocking things over.  Until anything like that happens, they look stable.

We purchased 2 bags of packing peanuts from Staples, at around $7 per bag, and filled all 3 containers a little over halfway with the peanuts.

We followed this up with potting soil, packing it down lightly.  A word of warning so you don't do what I did:  If you water down the soil, it will pack itself down.  If you plant immediately when the soil is at the top of the pot, once you water it down your plants are going to have a nice little 4 " rim protecting them.  If you want your plant to be higher up, water down the soil and add more a couple of times.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Garden Update

Our garden has been in the ground for a week now, so I thought it was time for a status update.

In general, things are looking pretty good.  1 watermelon plant is dead, our squash have come up, and 2 of my pepper plants are looking sickly..but its early, so I can always replant if needed.

The other addition I've made is a fence.  Some of our friends with dogs live in apartments (my wife is in school), so we make it a point to invite friends and their dogs over to take advantage of our big backyard.  Unfortunately, not all of those dogs respect the garden like our dog does, so if I want to avoid my plants being chewed on, peed and pooped on, or dug up...I have to have a fence.

Alright, enough chatter, its picture time.

Garden with the fence around it:

My squash poking their little heads out:

My 4 watermelon plants (3 looking good, one with no leaves left):

My pepper plants, showing the contrast between a healthy and sickly plant.

Next update will be about our potted herbs and strawberries and how we set up our pots this year.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Glock 19

Time for another gun post, and as promised in yesterdays teaser, its about a Glock!

This is a recent acquisition and has become my favorite gun to carry.  That's right, I drank the kool-aid....I picked up a Gen4 Glock 19.  Coming from the 1911 camp, that's a pretty sacrilegious thing to do. 

But to make up for the sacriledge slightly, I did allow my 1911 to come hang out with the 19 for a picture.

So far I think I  have around ~600 rounds through this gun.  Not a single failure of any kind, and I didn't even clean it till past the 300 round mark.  People like to call Glocks the AKs of the handgun world, and since I like and own AKs, I've been treating the 19 like an AK and have thus far been very impressed.

What I like about it:  This thing is lighter fully loaded than my 1911 is empty, carried 15+1 instead of 8+1, and has been completely error free. 

What I don't like about it: Nothing so far.  Seriously.

To be fair regarding reliability,  my 5" 1911 has never given me any trouble at all, though my 3.5" 1911 did choke up on a bad magazine a few times until I confirmed which magazine was the offender and threw it away. 

Lets talk about ease of carry: The Glock is thicker than my old 1911, and thickness matters far more than length in a carry gun. (For example, I never found my 3.5" 1911 any easier to carry than my 5" 1911.)   That being said, I only have 1 holster so far for the Glock, a Tagua leather OWB holster.  Its been so comfortable and carried so well I haven't had any interest in finding something else.  The 19 has concealed easily under just my usual wear of shorts and a tshirt (though that may also be partly due to the 30 lbs I've lost from Jan 2011 to now)

Picture to compare thickness: It honestly doesn't feel all that much thicker when carrying to me.

Either way, I really like this gun, and it has become my primary daily carry piece.  I'm now planning on eventually picking up a gen4 Glock 21, and maybe a 26 to round things out.  Yes, I enjoy the 19 that much. I drank the Kool aid.  May John Moses Browning (Inventor of the 1911 for the uninitiated) have mercy on my heathen, plastic soul.

One last picture in its OWB holster and I'm done spamming pics of it.  (For now at least).  Can ya tell I like this gun? 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lazy Mans Kabobs

I enjoy kabob style grilling.  BUT, I loathe trying to cook veggies in combination with shrimp or chicken or steak on the same skewer.  Why?  Because its like trying to time getting ready to go out on a date at the same time as your wife.  If this example, women are veggies and men are meat (read into that what you will, Freudians).  No matter how much you WANT the meat to be ready at the same time as the veggies, it will NEVER happen.  EVER.

So, because I don't like overcooked veggies or undercooked meat, I call this my Lazy Mans method of grilling on skewers.   Simply put, meat goes on one skewer, veggies on another.  I throw the veggie skewers on earlier, if I'm really good, can time throwing the meat on just right for it all to be ready at the same time.  Then, I normally just strip all the food off skewers (man, you type that word more than once and it really starts looking weird) and dump everything into a bowl.  That way, people can grab what they like and move on with life.

This week I did asian inspired chicken kabobs.

Chicken, cut into kabob friendly sized cubes
Bell pepper
Pearl Onions
Soy Sauce
Rice Wine Vinegar
Red Pepper Flakes
Garlic (I used the last of my fresh garlic in the recipe, so had to throw my garlic powder in to the picture...but I prefer using fresh)
Sriracha Sauce
Olive oil (not pictured because I forgot about it)

The pearl onions are the only thing that require much prep.  Boil them, then transfer to a bowl of ice water.  That will allow you to easily peel the outer layer of the onions off.  Once they're stripped the onions are ready to marinade with the other ingredients (I prefer to marinade at least 3 hours).

Cut up the chicken, zucchini, and bell pepper.  Boil/peel the onions, and throw all the veggies into one bag, and the chicken into another (this allows you to baste with the veggie marinade later.  Chicken marinade goes into the trash).  Mix the sauce however you like.  Since I'm not a huge vinegar fan, I went light on the vinegar and pretty heavy on the soy, but there is honestly no wrong answer here.  If you like it spicy, go heavy on the red pepper flakes and sriracha, lighter if you're a spice wimp.

Grill on medium high (12-14 minutes for the veggies, 6-8 for the chicken).  We served on a bed of rice to stretch the recipe out into leftovers, but you don't have to make anything with it. 

Marinading picture, with a teaser of what my next blog post will be about:

After the marinade, ready to go on the grill....(onions in a foil packet, because as I said this is Lazy Man kabobs, and have you ever tried skewering pearl onions?!)

All done and ready to be thrown on rice and devoured!

I hope you enjoyed my ranting on kabobs in general, and really hope you try out the recipe.  I'll certainly be making these again.

Till next time!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

We're in the ground!

Its central Texas, so April first is long enough to wait before planting.  Last year we planted in mid March with no difficulties, but weather and other obligations pushed us back this year.

We have 3 cherry tomato plants, 3 large tomato plants, 4 watermelon seedlings, 2 jalapenos, 1 serrano, 1 anaheim, 1 bell pepper and 1 poblano pepper plants along with 1 sweet basil, 2 strawberries, and seeds in the ground for squash, rosemary, and cilantro. 

Here's to another great year of gardening, grilling and guns!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chess and Starcraft

Today is going to be a bit different from my usual 3 Gs.....but its another G that I enjoy a lot, Gaming!

Now, some people hearing "gaming" and sneer at such a "waste of time".  That's fine.  Simple solution...don't play.  However, for many people gaming is a fun activity to share with friends.  For example, I play a lot of Starcraft 2 with high school friends that live in different areas of the country.  Using VOIP, we talk while we play.  Its a great way to share an activity and stay involved with friends I don't get to see very often.

In addition, studies have shown that games involving problem solving increase cognitive function and perceptual skills.  Another study of laparoscopic surgeons found that doctors who played video games were faster and less likely to make errors than their peers who did not play. 

Now that the "video games are bad.....mmmkkkaayyy" counter arguments are out of the way, I want to compare a modern Real Time Strategy(RTS) game to an old classic game no one would argue is bad for you: Chess, the game of Kings. 

A Chess board:

As everyone knows Chess a 2 person game, turn based game played on a board, where the players start with an equal army that can only move certain ways, and tries to force the other player into a checkmate.

A Starcraft 2 map:
Starcraft 2(SC2) is an RTS (in other words, both players make moves at the same time, instead of taking turns), where each player starts with 1 base and 6 worker units.  See the blue crescents on the map?  Those are resource patches.  In SC2 you use workers to collect money, which is then used to make new bases, buildings, and fighting units.  There are 3 different "races" you can play, and each race has ~15 unique units.  They walk on the ground, or fly in the air and some air units cannot attack ground units or vis a versa.

Using these units, players attempt to keep their opponent from collecting money to build armies, destroy army units and buildings of their opponents, all while building their own units/buildings, collecting money, and scouting what their opponent is doing.

In summary, in chess you take turns and focus on army positioning to destroy each other.  In Starcraft, you have to build an economy, make your army at the same time your opponent is....oh and unlike chess, unless your enemies units are within a certain range of yours, you can't see them.

That's right.  Try playing chess while your opponent is making moves simultaneously, and you can only see the 2 squares adjacent to your own pieces. The difficulty, strategies involved, and additional requirements make SC2 a worthy successor to chess in the arena of strategy games.  It expands upon the army positioning that is so critical in chess, adding economic concerns, intelligence gathering and excellent hand coordination. 

Chess may indeed have been the game of kings, but Starcraft is a modern strategy game that I would argue is more involved, requires more thinking, and is more fun.

If any of that has grabbed your attention, check out this youtube video of a game between 2 pro players: Starcraft 2 gameplay

For anyone who enjoys strategy, competition, and out thinking opponents, I highly recommend checking out Starcraft 2.  Email me and we can even play some together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reclaiming the garden

After the tomatoes died off last year and I cut down the pepper plants, I just left our garden beds alone all winter, so they needed a little TLC this year.

 One thing we noticed last year was the tendency of grass to creep up over the beds, and for both purely aesthetic reasons and the practical "i hate grass in my garden" reasons, we decided to put in a plastic liner, spray to kill the grass, cover with a lawn tarp, and add mulch.  It didn't even take a full day of work, but made things look MUCH nicer in my opinion.

Here's how things were looking after a good 6 months of outright neglect (Yes, I threw our dead tree onto the beds so I could mow).

First thing we did was mow on the shortest grass setting around the beds to get a feel for how it would look with the mulch. 

Since we thought that was a pretty good border, I went ahead and sprayed the low cut grass with a grass/weed killer to keep it from coming back up through our tarp/mulch.  After that, it was time to put in our 4" plastic border.  Honestly, I don't know if the border will do a lick of good other than keeping the mulch kind of where its supposed to be, but it looks okay and clearly defines the edge, so thats good enough.  Installing it required digging a nice little trench all the way down the 3 sides of the garden.

While I dug, my wife pulled the stray grasses out of the garden beds.  After I got the border installed, we staked down our weed mat tarp in the feeble hope this spray/tarp/mulch combo will keep grass out of  our gardening area.  Time will tell if it does or not.

10 bags of mulch around the beds and 2 bags of compost on the beds later, I'd say our garden is looking much improved! 

The plan is to go ahead and plant seedlings this weekend.  We will probably go with one full bed of tomatoes again, varying types from cherry and grape to full sized, and one bed of squash/peppers. 

We are also going to be putting some pots between the beds and the fence and attempting to grow some herbs this year as well.  Basil for certain, maybe rosemary as well. 

Amazing what an afternoon of work can do to transform how a garden looks!