Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Relaxing Labor Day

It's hard to believe the summer is winding down, right?

Had a pretty laid back Labor Day weekend, nothing too exciting to talk about.

Had a chance to smoke of these guys on Sunday, very nice and very smooth.

Kristoff Cigar

That's a Kristoff Brittania Reserva stick - the corojo and criollo from them are decent too but this one kind of surprised me because it was incredibly mellow without being too boring.

Anyway, I've been really enjoying porch time of late with cigars just about every weekend. Because of it, I've had the chance to smoke a lot of really good and really bad cigars. If I run across an especially good one, I like to share them because there are so many bad ones out there!

Oh, and the Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest didn't hurt any either! :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

.308 Winchester vs. 7.62x51

This is pretty cool and a good look at an issue I know causes a lot of questions out there.

I have a rifle chambered in .308 and always just buy .308 Winchester but it sounds like I could have strayed and gotten into some 7.62x51mm if the price was right.

Thanks to BulkAmmo for look at .308 vs. 7.62x51mm ammo.

308 vs. 7.62x51

Monday, July 28, 2014

Staying Busy... Time to Relax With a Cigar Review

Things have been relatively hectic over the past few weeks.

Lots of work.

Bad weather in the area yesterday.

Civilian planes being shot of the sky, Israelis and Palestinians lobbing bombs...

Now seems as good of a time to sit on the front porch rocking chair and enjoy a cigar!

Cigar Review: Gurkha Beauty

Gurkha Cigar
Gurkha's Beauty - a pretty good smoke for the money.
I'm definitely not a cigar aficionado... at least not yet.

I often don't taste the creamy notes a lot of folks report when they talk about cigars.

The leather, oak, and other assortment wood flavors are often lost on me.

But I'm getting better at it.

This past weekend I had a chance to sit down and catch up on my reading while checking out the Gurkha Beauty cigar. Good stick, great packaging. I'm a sucker for Gurkhas branding, I admit it.

This cigar was a pretty large stick that took me about an hour from start to finish and I tend to take more drags than the average cigar smoker. I did struggle at first to get a nice even burn line with this cigar and early on, I didn't have a ton of smoke coming out of the cigar.

About 15 minutes in, things started to really get cooking. The cigar was medium-to-strong in my opinion. Frankly, I picked up more pepper than I expected.

At about the half hour point, the Misses brought out some vanilla ice cream. That, was fantastic paired with the cigar. The cool ice cream paired with the burn brought in with each puff was absolutely delightful.

As for breaking the cigar into thirds, I must admit the flavor profile didn't change a whole lot to my untrained palate. If you're a novice, like myself - I definitely would recommend this cigar. Although, if you're REALLY new to cigars, you might want to try something more mild.

Oh, and fun fact: You know the cigar that Bill Clinton used when he... umm... well with Monica Lewinsky. Yeah, it was a Gurkha. Ha!

Any suggestions for cigars I should try out? I'm hoping to make this a Saturday ritual. I won't write about them all the time but I found it was a nice way to draw down my Saturday evening.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Iraq Update

I can't stop thinking about it but I don't know what to think about the situation in Iraq right now.

Photo Courtesy: NBCNews.com
The photo above shows Iraqi soldiers led by this militant group ISIS to an open field where they were shot and killed, execution style.

In all, they're saying 1,700 Iraqi Shia air force recruits near Tikrit were the victims.

Disheartening? Yes.

Frustrating? Absolutely.

Now, it sounds like our nation may even consider working with Iran in hopes of saving Baghdad.

ISIS in Iraq
Photo Courtesy: The Guardian

It's really tough for me to separate the sacrifice of all the good folks our nation has already lost for their "freedom" and the concept of cutting our losses. 

If you have any thoughts that are well thought out, I'd love to hear them. Every time sometime pops up on the news now I really don't know what direction my mind wants to go. It's incredibly sad that the blood and sacrifice we've spilled into that nation have apparently been erased in less than a decade.

Friday, June 6, 2014

70th Anniversary of D-Day

General Dwight D. Eisenhower's message sent just prior to the invasion at Normandy 70 years ago today (June 6, 1944):

General Eisenhower speaking to troops during World War II.

"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.   
The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory! 
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

Hard to imagine a world in which the allied forces didn't storm and win Normandy. Things could be a lot different --- a lot worse if not for their courage.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Credit to Obama Where It Is Due

I had a fairly introspective Memorial Day.

It was a quiet morning at a local cemetery followed by an afternoon with the family and some reading.

I've been thinking a lot about the military, imperialism, and the concept of building an empire. You might remember, I mentioned a couple posts back the "New Empire of Debt" book that I'm reading. It has led to a lot of reflection on the past couple decades as well as decisions made in my personal life about finances, investments, and the future.

The End of American Imperialism

Then, it kind of hit me as I was watching some coverage of President Obama visiting troops in Afghanistan.
President Obama in Afghanistan. Credit: NYTimes.com
During the "W" era and Bush presidency we did a lot of things as a nation that weren't exactly fiscally responsible. We started a war on a unknown enemy that can't be quantitatively described or defined: terrorism.

Our country spent billions to send troops to police the world. And by "spent", I of course mean "borrowed".

Actually, the cost of Iraq and Afghan operations cumulatively is about $1.5 trillion.

But you knew all this.

Here's what kind of struck me the more I thought about the issues involved: So far, Barack Obama hasn't given into the temptress that is imperialism.

Source: Associated Press
Despite political pressure, we really didn't do much in Syria --- at least not to our previously set standards. We didn't put our men and women's lives on the line there and we didn't sacrifice nearly as much treasure.

Ukrainian troops in an airborne combat vehicle. Source: RT.com
Russia/Ukraine is a similar situation. You had political pressure from all over telling the President it was time to jump in, take more authoritative action and ramp up the military presence in the Ukraine.

He didn't.

Now, Putin has backed off with the Russian military backpeddling toward the motherland.

There is now new Ukrainian president.

While things aren't back to "normal", there is certainly a good chance at sustainable peace.

I'm not saying that President Obama hasn't spent the money other places. Health-care, unemployment benefits, etc. are bills that we're going to be saddled with as entitlements mount. I'm not attempting to paint Obama as the great "budget-balancer".

4 More Years of George W. Bush?

But while I rip Obama for the economy and other doomed policies, on the foreign policy front he has been able to resist the temptation that most of his predecessors as POTUS were not.

In fact, it seems a vote for McCain back in 2008 would have led to a little different result. Unless the Arizona Senator is just playing a role and party-puppet in his questioning a president of the other party.

Courtesy: CBS News
McCain says we should have gotten involved in Syria.

McCain says we should be more involved in Russia.

It seems in some ways, the election of John McCain absolutely would have been like another 4-years of George W. Bush --- at least on the foreign policy side.

That's not to say Russia isn't still a threat and that military action may at some point be unavoidable but as of today, it sure doesn't seem that escalation is in the cards for that part of the world.

So, credit to Obama for resisting the urge to grow the empire, spend the money, and drop the bombs at a time when we really don't need the casualties, bill, or distractions.

That's worth something, right?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Enjoy Your Memorial Day Everyone

Thank you for your sacrifice in the name of freedom veterans.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Nothing to See Here!

Thanks Bloomberg.com for the photo.

"No no no. Don't look at the economy.

Look over here! It's the Super Bowl Champs with me, the Prez!"

Bloomberg has an interesting look at sports as a political refuge.

They say "political refuge", I say "diversion".

Seems President Obama has been busy chatting with the Seattle Seahawks, taking in Little League games in the D.C. area, and even visited Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Never mind everything at Veterans Affairs right now.

Also, please don't notice that unemployment claims are up once again.

Go Seahawks I guess.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Good Guys vs. Bad Guys (with Guns)

I've posted about John Stewart before.

I hate to admit it, but I don't hate the guy or the show as a whole.

In fact, I watch it fairly often when I'm at home for the replay at 7 p.m. (Sorry, the first-run 11 p.m. is far too late for my lifestyle!)

It's a little preachy and often comes out pretty "progressive" for my personal taste.

But I think he's good at what he does.

With this latest commentary about the whole Chipotle situation... we pretty much agree. At least once you get through his snark and mocking of gun owners of the first 1:30 of the segment:

But wait, there's more.

It seems Stewart also had to weigh-in on "Smart Guns".

Apparently a gun shop owner in Maryland was getting threatened by 2A supporters because he was willing to sell Smart Guns.

I don't get it. It's probably the same class of gun owners that caused the uproar at the Dallas Chipotles.

Personally, I'm not a fan of Smart Guns but death threats to a gun shop owner for carrying a product isn't exactly what we need to be projecting as a community.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stupid Chipotle... Irresponsible Open Carriers?

I wasn't going to write anything about this.

After all, when Starbucks had to go forward with a pseudo-statement that asked gun-owners not to be idiots and open-carry into their coffee shops, I thought we were all on the same page.

Now, open-carry idiots in Texas are forcing Chipotle to do pretty much the same thing.

Unknown Source on the Photo. Sorry.

"The display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers" - Chipotle
ABC News also quotes Moms Demand Action in their story:
Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for the group, said she thought the move by Chipotle was a "bold statement," especially considering its previous stance of complying with local laws.
Was this really a "bold" statement? I mean, Chipotle is a business. They sell food. With, what, say 40% of the population completely freaked out by guns, let alone "scary looking" Armalite rifles do you blame them for asking gun owners not to bring the firearms into the restaurant with them?

Once again, the dollar speaks more loudly to corporations than The Constitution. Why can't we learn this lesson as a community?

Sebastian at PA Gun Blog is one of the gun owners who has spoken out about this repeatedly and even tried to mount a counter campaign to the Moms Demand action over the weekend.
Unfortunately, the responsible actions of many couldn't make up for the showboating of a few tactical fanboys. Now, my lunch options are further limited if I listen to the pleas of many of my 2nd Amendment supporting brothers and sisters. Although, I'm not sure that the free market side of my mind can blame Chipotle for their actions following the display we saw in Texas over the weekend.

Don't be stupid.


While this will surely help my diet that damn Chipotle cilantro rice will surely be missed.

Debt and Depression - The New Empire of Debt

I'm in the middle of reading "The New Empire of Debt".

I'm sure you've realized, we're broke as a nation and so far, this book does a pretty thorough job of explaining the why and how of the situation.

I'll spare you the majority of the details in this 350-page saga but essentially, the spirit of empire-building intoxicated our leadership and at about the time of Woodrow Wilson's presidency, we got on the gravy-train of printing money that we'll never get off. It's the same story with great empires of the past such as the Romans, Mongols, etc...

I'm not saying the authors are wrong.

But, damn. It's depressing.

As a younger guy with minimal personal debt, is there something we should be doing as individuals to get ready for this collapse? I know prepping is one outlet folks lean to and I've done some of that. But, in all seriousness, if we are in a place where we need to have our own food, water, and safety for an extended period of time I'm not sure if I trust myself to be militant enough to protect what is mine.

Further, should we be convinced that at some point in the coming decades we will be forced to lower our expectations from thriving to merely surviving? It sounds somewhat petty, maybe a little immature, but if we don't have "hope" to cling to and our best days are behind us, what's the point?

(Please note, this use of the word "hope" and use of the word "hope" in any political campaigns past or present are merely coincidental and absolutely do not indicate an endorsement!)

I find the prospects depressing. I know a lot of you think it's worth fighting for here on the homefront through education and political awareness but I'm not convinced it's a battle that can be won. Looking around our communities, seeing the type of people we share society with, I just don't see the drive, personal ambition, and desire to get off the government teet.

So, where do we go?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Godzilla: Trailer Myths and a Review

So, like billions of other people. I went to see Godzilla this weekend.

How was it? In a nutshell, "meh".

There are going to be a few spoilers in here, so please bear with me and you may want to bypass this post if you have plans to see it.

Although, come on, the Godzilla movies are 60 years old so isn't the whole premise of a Godzilla movie a spoiler? It's not like things are going to seriously change and all of a sudden Godzilla is on a ruthless mission for belly-rubs.

The film itself was ok. The special effects were better than I expected. Although, I must admit, I was a fan of the original Godzilla films as a child so I might be comparing the modern day special effects to the robotic tricks they had in the 1950's.

The original Godzilla in 1954.

As for plot, it was about what you'd expect from an action film: Pretty thin.

I expected better because of Bryan Cranston's involvement in the film. (More on that in a moment). Really, I guess knowing it was Godzilla with no major changes to the premise occurring other than the country being "attacked", I probably shouldn't have set the bar so high and just have entered the theater expecting a popcorn movie. That's my fault but I do feel like the trailer misled me to expect a few things I didn't see in the film itself.

So, What's Deceiving About the Trailer vs. the Actual Film?

There are a few things that'll get you if you enter with expectations set by the trailer.

1.) This movie isn't about Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston). This movie is about Joe Brody's son, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson, which is too bad. In the trailer embedded below, Cranston's voice or face is featured for about 20 seconds total. Taylor-Johnson --- only about 4 seconds worth of coverage. I'd say Taylor-Johnson is on camera or a major part of the action about 10x more than Cranston in the film itself.

Cranston, featured in front of Taylor-Johnson on set of the film.
2.) While a significant portion of this film is set in the United States, a lot of the story takes place in Asia. You'll see the devastation left behind in the United States throughout the trailer but the movie starts out giving a lot more background about how Godzilla "feeds".

Screen grab taken from the Godzilla trailer.
3.) There are certainly a lot of special effects in the film but the cinematography was outstanding. I expected to see a ton of flash and bang done by computer animation but there was a lot of beautiful shots throughout the film that I really enjoyed as a hobbyist-photographer.

Did you see it? What'd you think?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Uninvited: Maybe it's for the Best

So you might have heard, Russia says the United States isn't allowed to use their space station anymore.

Good for them. They're hitting us where it hurts.

Or are they?

Spoiler alert: now how is Sandra Bullock going to get home? (Sorry folks that haven't seen Gravity yet).

As it turns out, not being allowed in their space instruments may be a blessing in disguise.  Russia's not as good at "space" as I might have thought.

A Russian Proton-M rocket crashed in Kazakhstan early this morning. It was the air about nine minutes and carrying some sort advanced satellite that my capitalist mind cannot understand.

Luckily, nobody was injured.

Courtesy: RT (Russia Today)
I just think it's funny and somewhat interesting that Russian continues pushing in the space race... long after the U.S. has dropped out and decided to stay in the pits. Maybe we'll regret the decision as a nation but that's not going to stop me from dancing when Russia fails and burns resources (so long as nobody gets hurt).

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Russian Helicopters for Afghanistan?

I received my quarterly "Washington Report" from my local U.S. Representative today.

I typically read it and toss it out without thinking much. It's packed with rhetoric from a guy who has been in D.C. for nearly 25 years now. (Oh, and his Daddy held the office before him... so you know the value of a name).

Anyway, this particular edition had a bit that caught my eye:
"As of last year, the Pentagon had purchased 50 helicopters from a Russian company, Rosoboronexport, for use in Afghanistan at a total cost of $857 million."
In this case, the Congressman makes a good point.

Why are we, as American tax payers, buying helicopters for Afghans with an economic benefit that doesn't even serve an ally? Instead, we're going to fund Russia, a company that we may or may not be on the brink of war with?

A Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter. Photo Credit: AIM.org

Taking the issue one step farther, while there seems to be some sort of apathy toward the absolute withdrawal of American forces in Afghanistan, I believe if you put it to a vote the public would say bring everybody home.

Oh, and Rosoboronexport, the Russian company involved isn't involved like Lockheed-Martin, Halliburton, or one of the so-called "evil" American companies the government often does business with. No, in Russia, they take away all doubt because Rosoboronexport is a state-owned company.

In the United States, you could argue one hand shakes the other as lobbyists, politicians and profits swirl together in democracy. In this case and in Russia, we may as well be cutting the check directly to Vladimir Putin.

But this apparently gets even worse. Reports that are apparently more recent than the info supplied to my Congressman claim the total bill is now more than $1 billion.

So what's the other side of the argument?

Ease of use.

A pair of American airmen flank an Afghan Air Force maintenance worker near a Mi-17 chopper.
Photo Credit: Defense.gov

The rotary craft, or Mi-17 chopper, is the "Ford F-150 pickup truck" of helicopters, Lt. Gen. David Barno, the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 said according to the Christian Science Monitor. "They're like farm tractors - they're simple to operate, simple avionics, simple to maintain."

They are also familiar to Afghan pilots, who flew them during the Soviet era.

Yes, but are they simple enough that if Afghanistan falls to some sort of extremist sect that the terrorists in charge who find the keys will be able to operate them and use them fire at our men and women?

After all, those types of loses would make the billion dollar investment our taxpayers have made seem like just a drop in the bucket.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Can You See Me Now?

Wait, what?

Remember when we thought the whole idea of a accessing someone's computer camera was creepy?

Well, now Google has patented contact lenses with a camera built into them.

It sounds like something that should be one of those silly April Fools' Day pranks that some companies do. The potential here is crazy --- for both good and "evil". Reports say that the Google lenses could go so far as to give humans zoomable "super vision".

It sounds to me as if power is the big question. There's no word if the device would somehow to be wired to a power source or if there are batteries or how exactly you'd make that work. Insane, right?

Think of the possibilities here --- For one, if you're a criminal --- can your Google contact lens history be subpoenaed?  Can someone hack into the network and essentially "see what you see?"

In terms of virtual reality - there seems to be more potential here than with anything else out there. Think of the fantasy lives you could see from a first person perspective.

Incredibly creepy. Incredibly scary.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Putin on Patrol

I'm not sure what to think about Russia.
Good way to start a blog post, right?

Vlad Putin, probably about to kill someone with his hands.

So, on one hand you have an ego-maniac in power of a former Soviet republic that seemingly wants to grab as much land and power as possible with no repercussions. You've got to stop him, right?

On the other hand, you have an American electorate that is tired of fighting wars in places across the world that they have no desire to be in. I'd love hear how many Americans can deliver the capital of Ukraine when asked. (You knew it was Kiev but you're smarter than most Americans).

With Russia being left largely unchecked, Ukraine is freaking out.

"The aim of Putin is not Crimea but all of Ukraine... His troops massed at the border are ready to attack at any moment," Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council chief Andriy Parubiy told a mass unity rally in Kiev.
You know what, I would be freaking out too if I were in their shoes. Is it Team America's job to keep them protected? They're not in NATO (at least not yet) and I'm not really sure where our allegiances lie when it comes to protecting some of those eastern most allies. (Poland, I'm looking at you).

Warning: Probably not safe for work (some profanity):

So, help me out here. Should I be afraid enough of Russia that we need to squash any signs of their aggression at the absolute moment they start? Or, is it time we focus on getting our own house in order and leave Russia to do what it wants with its former soviet republics?

Personally, I worry there is a slippery slope if you get into the business of ensuring actual and not just figurative democracy across the world. What I mean by that is that in places like Ukraine, there has been an election. But there are also elections in nations where the results are riddled with fraud. Should we have to police all of these nations to ensure that their "democracy" is a "fair" democracy?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Final Four Prediction

I'm already out of billion dollar perfect bracket challenge. To be honest, I'm not feeling the whole NCAA basketball tournament as much as I have in past years. But, I suppose it's still good, clean fun, right?

To keep it interesting --- here are my Final Four:

1.) Syracuse
2.) Arizona
3.) Duke
4.) Michigan State

'Cuse wins it all.

Who do you have?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

First Guest Post I hope!

I just wrote a piece for the folks over at Blog Brigade/Military OneSource.

I hope it gets picked up, we'll see!

Feels good to be writing again! More to follow!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

RIP... RIP Ammo

You've heard about this new RIP Ammo, right?

So, it's generated a ton of buzz on the web over the past two weeks. I know I got a bunch of emails about it. The funny thing is, everybody was giddy about it but nobody had ever fired a single round.

Now, there are not one but two at least somewhat critical reviews of this stuff.

In the first video Shooting the Bull shows how this stuff isn't much different than a round of .22lr. Yep, the "wussy" handgun caliber most of us make fun of and say we'd never carry for self-defense.

In the second, Richard Ryan shows petals breaking off and some of the issues this stuff has with drywall.

I think this stuff is a joke and I won't shoot it.

Maybe I'm too "old school" to not drool when I hear about something as gimmicky as this. Their marketing plan was ridiculous and over-zealous. It made gun owners seem like a bunch of blood thirsty pricks, which we (mostly) are not.

The second thing that bothers me is when we jump on something that isn't based on proven results or science at all.

The gun community was all about it. The mainstream media was all about it (for better or worse). Heck, even Esquire wrote about RIP Ammo... and how stupid it made gun owners look.

Come on guys (and gals), we're better than this.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Resolutions

It's the time of the year for resolutions, getting better, improvement and all that jazz.

So who is ready for another year to go down the drain with no action?

(Quit pointing at me).

Thanks Moroch.com for the cartoon.

In no particular order, here are my 2014 resolutions:

1.) Start reading more and watching television less.
I just get annoyed when I watch television. It doesn't matter if it's sit-coms or cable news. It stresses me out, makes me mad and doesn't serve any real purpose. At least reading I can try to make myself a more intelligent person.

2.) Take One Day a Weekend for Fun
The past year I've spent a lot of my free time doing things that were chores. We painted the house, remodeled two bathrooms, and spent a ton of money on things that were investments in the future. It's draining. I'd like to spend more time at the gym and the shooting range. Speaking of which, I was asked to contribute to this piece on what handgun caliber is best and I totally dropped the ball but I'm glad to see some great shooters mentioned in it. Next year, no more dropping the ball on stuff that matters --- I'm a little jealous I didn't get my thoughts submitted in time!

3.) Focus. Focus. Focus.
As much as I try to keep busy, I need to focus more and start knocking things out systematically. There is a ton I could get done in a day if I would start using all my brainpower at once on a given task. I haven't done a good job of prioritizing over the past year and that's got to change!

So, do you do the whole resolution thing or not? Anything you want to share? Want to be accountability-buddies? (Just kidding, I hate that stuff).

Welcome to 2014, I hope it's a great one for you!