Things to Put in Holes

Posted: March 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’ve been in kind of a shooty shooty bang bang sort of mood lately, so I thought I might mention how I figure firearms fit into the whole zombie apocalypse (and other things) preparedness idea.

It’s mostly entertainment. Which on the surface seems like an odd perspective to take, and certainly puts me at odds with the party line of survivalists and gun people both. The thing is, though, the first thing I’m preparing for is for a disaster not to happen — whatever I do has to work even if the zombies don’t come. In the absence of zombies, the function of my firearms is to entertain me and contribute to my personal development, and they need to be able to perform this function well.

I think a good zombie story needs to have at least some zombie shooting in it. And possibly also some zombie stabbing, which is why I’m thinking that my M1 Garand is my designated zombie weapon.

Then there’s the not-zombie bit. Outside of zombies, I’m mostly interested in preparing for everyday life and relatively minor but more probable disruptions where the priority is to avoid upsetting people and drawing negative attention more so than expecting to engage in outright combat. This implies an emphasis on concealed carry handguns over openly carried longarms, and that’s what I view as my focus for emergency preparedness firearms use.

Even there, I think this is more a matter of having an idea of how one of my hobbies can potentially be put to use — I generally see the pointy end of self defense as something that has more of an effect on the population level (that bad things sometimes happen to people who attempt to commit crimes) than for any given individual (who will likely be involved in such an event perhaps once, or more likely never).

So it’s not the most exciting story in the world there, but it does well enough for me.

Coke Fiend

Posted: March 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have a lot of experience at quitting caffeine. Back in undergrad I had a habit of steadily ramping up my caffeine consumption until the point where I was constantly either having a headache from too little caffeine or feeling twitchy and nasty… at which point I’d quit cold turkey, only to repeat the cycle again. Continued on this path until an unfortunate metabolic incident a few years ago.

The story behind that incident is interesting in itself, but the pertinent part of it is this: Caffeine has a function that is in some senses similar to thyroid hormone. I have a thyroid condition; it got out of control. Before I figured out what was going on, I unconsciously attempted to substitute caffeine. Needless to say, this did not work. I still got ragingly addicted though, and because a rather hard time in my life followed from that experience I also became distinctly intolerant to the sorts of sensations that came from caffeine withdrawal. So I ended up with a pretty much permanent caffeine addiction that was something of a joke among my friends and family and a minor financial burden.

I finally decided to quit (again) around Thanksgiving weekend. I’d traveled to visit my family in Houston, and was dependent on my parents and their rental car to get around. What I found was that when uprooted from my daily habits and reliable access to the company snack bar / the 7-11 around the corner / the grocery store, I was constantly having to go off to random gas stations to get my fix. Some of these gas stations didn’t take especially good care of their stock, and in addition the disruption to my schedule was causing me to be sick and cranky anyway.

Obviously, this would interfere greatly with my enjoyment of the zombie apocalypse.

What I ended up doing was something of a hybrid between the “cold turkey” and “imperceptible taper” solutions — the former is distinctly unpleasant, while I find the latter gives me the opportunity to imperceptibly taper right back up to where I was before. Instead, I cut down to drinking one cup of coffee from the company snack bar each morning. Since I’d cut out the class of caffeinated soft drinks entirely, this being my primary problem, and the thing that I was allowed was relatively contained, this solved the problem of letting myself slide back. The fact that I was consuming some coffee in the morning also helped deal with some of the… gastric… consequences of caffeine withdrawal.

The most important aspect of my success here was the mental game — not so much in resisting the simple temptation to drink this or that, but in telling myself that I could deal with the depressed and low-energy feeling while it lasted and still get things done while I felt that way. Had I not maintained that attitude, I probably would have quit the project entirely after a couple days.

I hadn’t intended to quit caffeine near-completely in the beginning; I was planning to keep up the morning cup of coffee more or less indefinitely. What I found, though, was that I was reliably crashing and having minor caffeine withdrawal symptoms (tiredness and headaches) in the late afternoon or early evening. Hence, after a brief period of toying with half-decaf coffee, I went entirely to decaf.

Not sure where exactly I am going to go from here. I’m not deeply committed to never drinking caffeine again; I simply choose not to do it regularly at the moment because it’s not convenient. And in any case I’m permitting myself to occasionally have caffeinated soft drinks or coffee beverages if I care to — although I’m finding that I have to be careful about this, as a tall Starbucks coffee beverage seems to be enough to virtually induce altered states of consciousness at the level of tolerance I’m at now.

I’ve made abortive attempts to also quit non-caffeinated soft drinks and miscellaneous beverages, but that nut is a bit tougher to crack as I often find myself needing the sensory stimulation. However, I don’t see that as a terribly high priority given that it doesn’t affect my energy levels and (given that I exclusively drink diet drinks) doesn’t have the health impact of non-diet drinks (I’m aware of the yipping about artificial sweeteners and think it largely bullshit, in any case marginal, and certainly nothing compared to the likely consequences of my drinking a lot of corn syrup on a daily basis given my family history). So that may be next… or it may come after I’ve dealt with more pressing dietary issues.

Lentil Experiment

Posted: March 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

Yes, an actual test in the kitchen. Who’d have thought!

Being as I’m a quasi-single sort of person, food preparation is kind of a problem — it’s hard to plan sufficiently well to use up perishable items before they go bad and plus, well, I’m kind of lazy. I end up eating out much more often than I should, and it doesn’t do great things for my budget. So I’ve been working on getting together some options to have on hand that aren’t dependent on perishable items, are fairly simple to prepare, ideally fit well with my nutrition goals (which are fairly loose at the moment, but still) and, of course, are zombie approved.

Hence the experimentation with lentils. Thing about lentils is that they have much the same nutrition profile as beans, but require far less cooking. They don’t have to be soaked, and they cook in about 25 minutes. That’s comparable to cooking rice, and it therefore follows that they can be cooked in a rice cooker — along with rice itself, which means that the recommended combination of beans and rice can be cooked at once in the same implement. This muchly pleases my brain meats.

The first experiment with this — just combining the rice and lentils with the recommended amount of water in the rice cooker and letting it go — worked quite well. The result was fairly tasty on its own, and when combined with a bit of teriyaki sauce was quite good indeed.

So I branched out a bit. This time I tried a couple new concepts: cooking an egg along with the rice and beans, and adding seasoning in the cooking phase rather than after.

The egg bit was inspired by one of my fast food temptations — Tokyo Joe’s Oyako Bowl, which features an egg poached in what I think is chicken broth. Obviously, if water is boiling in the rice cooker for about 25 minutes, that’s enough to cook an egg — and then there’s rice and beans and egg all in the same pot.

As for the seasoning bit, I took a leaf from the 1950s better-living-through-food-science that has something of an influence on the sort of food I was raised with. I refer, of course, to Lipton onion soup mix — in this case onion and mushroom, since I also had some barely-expired mushrooms (leftover from a long-ago crock pot experiment) that I also wanted to dispose of.

Here are the ingredients:

photo-2

Preparation was pretty straightforward — put everything in the pot with proportional amounts of water and turn the thing on. Here’s the result:

photo-1

Truthfully, it looks a little better than it tasted. The rice and lentils were a bit undercooked, possibly because of cooking with the soup mix which itself was a bit underwhelming. The egg, however, was perfectly cooked. With a little bit of the teriyaki sauce previously mentioned, it became a fairly respectable meal.

Overall, I think the egg concept was a success and the seasoning concept didn’t work out. For my next experiment, I’m going to try cooking the egg, lentils, and rice together and then try adding the soup mix after cooking.

Feline Interlude

Posted: March 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

I decided to celebrate the snowstorm this weekend by skipping the Appleseed I signed up for (this probably means that I fail as a Founding Father, but at least I haven’t put one of the vehicles in a ditch) and drowning my sorrows in beer, rooster sauce, saltine crackers, and a Ken Burns documentary.

(The camera pans across a picture of a person being gnawed on by several zombies. Voiceover: “But the impact of the Zombie War on the people of Austin, Texas, Sacramento, California, Pune, India, and McMurdo, Antarctica was not yet fully realized.”)

This is the sort of thing one can do when one is the sort of bipoly quasi-bachelor that I am. It is not, however, the sort of thing that always works well when you have a cat that loves:

  1.  Beer.
  2. Whatever the human is eating.
  3. Oh, and also the human. Possibly to eat.

I promptly found myself with a dilemma between stopping the cat from drinking my beer and stopping the cat from eating my rooster sauce. This called for one of them Executive Decisions; I prioritized the beer, figuring that I’d be most unhappy if it were dumped into my laptop.

The rooster sauce turned out to be, shall we say, a self-solving problem. The cat went after it with great anticipation of the food glory to come, took a lick… and instantly did a kitty version of the Mr. Yuk face and ran off.

Winning?

Roundup!

Posted: March 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

Have not been near as prolific as I was anticipating. Oh well. Here’s a rundown of the things I’ve been up to:

— Continuing to go back and forth about which aspects of the shooting hobby I’m going to pursue, and what I’m going to pursue it with. I’m in a financial situation such that I can pretty much get whatever is for sale, barring ridiculous things — admittedly not much, in this environment — but most things I probably shouldn’t get.

— Waiting for my M1 Garand. And waiting… and waiting. I’ve received my order acknowledgment — known in the biz as the “DBU (Don’t Bother Us) Letter”, and I’m guessing that I’m probably around two months out from getting the actual rifle. In the meantime, I’m watching World War Two movies, reading forums, and pondering whether my Zombie Rifle will be this, the RAR, or a rifle to be named later that is likely to be a Gunsite Scout.

— Not watching the news. No. Seriously. NOT watching the news.

— Petting the kitty cat. I kind of quasi-impulsively acquired a kitten over the Christmas holidays — quasi-impulsively in the sense that I’m experienced with cats and had concluded that I could have a cat but was not really planning on getting one until I kinda did. It’s turned out to be a great decision so far, despite the little cuts up and down my arms and legs.

— Engaging in the preliminary stages of taking a bit more of an active part in my career, which has been going well but has been kind of on cruise since I landed my first job out of grad school. Although I  enjoy where I’m presently working, I feel a bit stalled and also observe that the company seems to be in the less-happy phase of its morale/financial/retention cycle. So although I’m not actively searching at the moment and don’t intend to particularly soon, I’m seeing a career coach to help clarify my options and polish up my resume and interview style.

— Working in somewhat of an unfocused manner on financial preparedness and some really basic food storage (which, in this present snowstorm, I am now eating).

— Shaving my head. It’s fun!

More to come… or so I say, right?

Pistol Fundamentals

Posted: March 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

Took this course at BluCore last night. Overall thought it to be a worthwhile experience with a few minor quibbles.

The structure of the course was basically a relatively short period in the classroom going over basic firearm safety and then how to load, unload, and operate a semi-automatic handgun (I thought I knew these things already, but apparently I was wrong). We then went out to the range to run various drills for the rest of the night — these drills being generally of the form “Take one magazine of ~15 rounds (or, for special people like me, two of my seven-rounders) and expend it in thus and such a manner.”

One odd moment came in the competitive drill near the end — I volunteered for the second wave, and there was a bit of a shuffling around positions before I started. Being as I was in front of a table containing several black semi-automatic handguns that looked about the same, I picked up the wrong one at first, then realized it and picked up my own — I think I was the only one there who had Hogue grips. I also happen to have memorized the serial number for that particular firearm, as I used to use it for a password (for a function that I absolutely did not want to forget, hence wanted to have it written down and in my gun cabinet… and figured “hey, efficiency, why not start with what’s already there?”). So I read off the serial number and felt reasonably reassured, then on the second of three shots in the actual drill thought “wait a minute, are those my sights” — they’re slightly faded tritium sights, and whether because of the light or something else they seemed much more visible than I thought they should be — had a minor moment of consternation, then figured that since I’d put my magazine in it and fired it twice, at the very least it was close enough. Turns out I missed advancing in that round by about half a second, which was unfortunate.

I found myself trying to compare the event with the Appleseed I recently took, which is not a very fair comparison given that one is a two-day event and one is a three-hour course. So I felt a bit rushed, or probably more properly that I clearly need much more instruction and practice that can fit into three hours, and also to a degree that I was kind of thrown on the range and told “have at it!” One thing I think they might have done better at was the use of range commands — they did not seem near as standardized in their usage, and as a result I didn’t feel entirely confident when I was meant to start shooting. Not as a safety issue, since it was clear when the range was cold, but I found myself a number of times holding my firearm and sneaking looks to my left and right to see whether other people had loaded, how many shots they were firing, et cetera. The fact that I was doubling my hearing protection as opposed to using the baffle plugs I was using at the Appleseed (nearly normal hearing, but not suitable for use with centerfire rifles or in an indoor range, as I found through experimentation) didn’t exactly help.

Speaking of hearing protection, I do kind of have to wonder about the common sense that said “Where should we put our classroom… how about right on top of the pistol range?” The result was, er, kind of distracting.

I seemed to be about in the middle of the field relative to the rest of the class as far as accuracy/speed, and I kind of suspect that the instructors didn’t talk to me much because my faults (though legion) were less. Their advice on grip and stance seemed to cure a persistent problem I’d been having with bashing the knuckle of my right thumb into my watch. I also learned that I have a number of “training scars”. At Appleseed, I noticed this more with regard to speed than any particular tics, but I’ve also not been training with rifles very much. With handguns, I have a number of very “rangey” stereotyped behaviors around loading, unloading, and dealing with malfunctions — I bring my feet together when I unload, for instance, and tend to leave the firearm in place (pointing at the end wall) and step around it when doing various manipulations, rather than bringing it up (which is still in a safe direction, i.e. up, although no longer oriented in the Official Direction of All That Is Good And Safe, i.e. at the bullet trap of the one-way range).

I think I may add loading and unloading procedures and presentation from the high ready position to my at-home practice. With this, it becomes rather clear that I need to institute a better policy with regard to home practice given that my only solution at the moment is a) not doing much firearm manipulation at home b) generally not permitting my finger to be on the trigger except for c) when I’m pointing at the Sand Bucket, which for a safe direction is rather small and inconvenient, also I have some doubt about just how much it will stop. So I need to do me some figuring.

Appleseed

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

Much to the cat’s outrage, I spent last weekend at my first Appleseed event. Here are my thoughts:

I expected to learn basic marksmanship, and I was not disappointed — I went from scoring around 50 out of 250 on their standard test (and that, after a bit of instruction) to around 150. Before this class, I’d never shot at anything at 25 yards with any hope of hitting it, and hadn’t fired at anything further away than that at all. Now I feel like I at least understand the concept, even if I don’t execute it very well.

Additionally, I seem to have gained a greater amount of intimacy with the RAR. The class is fairly fast-paced and the tests themselves have time constraints, so I found myself handling my rifle with much greater authority than I usually do. I start from the perspective of being a fairly methodical person — possibly to a fault, in that I have to fight a tendency to think first and think second, and act maybe perhaps later. With firearms this tendency is somewhat exacerbated, at least when left to my own devices — I tend to be very slow in what I do. However, I’m more comfortable doing that on a controlled range where there are other people keeping an eye on the safety aspects, and I’m kind of forced out of my comfort zone in this matter by the pace of the course.

Do is how you live” — Grandmaster Larry Hampton

That bit, actually, is something that I see as a way I can grow as a person through studying this sort of marksmanship. Being confident in what I do, and maintaining sufficient precision while remaining in motion, is a weakness of mine in more than just firearms. So, as far as the goal of the course in showing people a thing that they didn’t think they could do — I feel as if I’ve got that as well.

On a slightly less esoteric level, I’ve had the notion knocking around in my head that I might get a M1 Garand. The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a delightfully archaic organization that sells military surplus rifles to civilians for the purpose of… well, civilian marksmanship. The Garand is the most recent rifle they sell — the ones after that are select fire, and many bloodsucking insects et cetera. It’s an interesting piece of history, but I had some doubts about how much use I could get out of it as a firearm mostly because of its weight (the magazine capacity, sadly, does not seem to be that much of an issue). I’d handled a M1A at a gun store some months back, this being somewhat similar in size, and found it unspeakably heavy — but I’ve done about eight months of weight training since then, so I thought there might be some difference. One of the people there had a M1 Garand, and I asked if I could handle it to see if the weight was manageable — they said that I could not only handle it, I could shoot it. I fired eight rounds…

… the paperwork was in the mail the next day. The CMP is apparently utterly backed up, partly because of people wanting to get in on the deal before they run out (estimated 2-3 years until this happens) and probably also partly because of the current crisis (which might, I think, have an impact on how long before they run out). So I expect to receive an acknowledgement of my order in something like three weeks, and maybe my rifle a month after that. It should be fun.

So, all in all I was quite impressed with the Appleseed program — I’ve actually signed up for another session later this month. I ended up having a number of experiences that I haven’t had before — firing the Garand, firing an AR-15 (I was intrigued, but a bit less instantly enamored — the thing makes a sound like an old Hide-A-Bed), shooting on a range controlled by range commands, actually making holes where I intend to make holes (more or less), et cetera. And I found a new restaurant, which is always a bonus.

Still not sure where I’m going to go with the shooting thing — tomorrow evening the pistol contingent is going to make its case, as I’m taking an introductory course over at Blucore — but at least I’m having a fun time bouncing around.