Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

It only seems proper to commemorate the season with a nod toward familial traditions. So far as I'm concerned, the religious aspects have been covered adequately elsewhere, or Inadequately, depending on your personal perspective.

My Beloved Bride, Holly, has commented elsewhere
about HER family's Christmas traditions. I was fascinated several years back, when I learned of them and how they in some ways paralleled those of my childhood.

It never occurred to me to ask about when Mother and Dad reached their compromise about Christmas. Dad was just barely a Texan by birth, being whisked across the Red River as an infant, and grew up in and around Ryan, Oklahoma. Mother's family was centered around a farm outside Itasca, Texas. After nursing school, she took a job at the little community hospital in Ryan, met Dad, and history unspooled.

When I was small, we'd spend Christmas Eve at Ryan and have the major celebration and gift exchange that night. There were my Grandparents, Dad's sister, her husband and daughter, and usually Dad's aunt and uncle. What with other relatives and friends dropping by, it seemed like a nice houseful to me. Happily, my only first cousin, was withing a year of my age, something of a tomboy, and enjoyed climbing the backyard trees as much as I did. The Christmas I was four, my brother Gerald was present but he wasn't a major irritant for a few years.

Early on Christmas Day, we'd pile into the car and drive the 140-odd miles south to spend Christmas afternoon and night with Mother's family. She was one of eight siblings, all of whom had their own families, so the house was full-to-overflowing every year. At least some of my aunts and uncles had already had their own festivities before arriving at the g'parents' place. Somehow, it didn't bother me that the same Santa Claus I'd seen in Oklahoma the previous night made another appearance in Central Texas. Or, speaking of appearance, that he LOOKED somewhat different . . . .

There were two male first cousins in this group when I was still pre-school, with many more cousins to arrive later. The other two guys and I ranged far and wide. The farm was a ways out from town and the blackland fields were almost table flat, so our parents could see us as far as we'd travel.

When we moved out to El Paso while I was in the fourth grade, it was a lot more hassle to make the family Christmas celebrations. As it happened, though, Dad was almost always able to take vacation time, and we made it far more often than not. We did a lot of traveling during that week or so, but it was just what we did, and it usually seemed worthwhile. We always drove, and I'll note that this was before the days of the Interstate Highway system, at least out in our direction, and I doubt there was 50 miles of four-lane road between El Paso and Ryan. Dad liked well tuned, big-engined cars, though, and he wasn't hesitant to drive them a bit, uh, rapidly when he had the chance. Traffic enforcement radar was in it's infancy, and Dad was a very alert driver.

I wonder if many of you did much regular long-range travel during Christmas time, in YOUR youth?

This year, as BB has already blogged, we had a somewhat smaller group than usual at our place. Her mother was here, and both Holly's son and daughter. Younger Son David was here, though he had to go to work later on. Late in the evening, H's stepbrother, his wife, and one daughter showed up to visit. Matt was absent, but for a happy reason - - His wife had already taken their kids to visit her side of the family for the first time in years. Matt drove down to join them in Austin on Monday, and took his mother with him for the celebrations.

What with all the aforementioned activity, our Christmas day was very quiet. I fixed French toast and bacon for breakfast, and we've been grazing on leftovers since. We've talked on the phone with several relatives and special friends. Matt sent a text greeting, and technologically challenged as I am, I couldn't do likewise, so I just phoned to return the greetings.

Withal, we are in relatively good health, warm, nicely fed, and fairly basking in well-being. We are conscious of the blessings we enjoy and are mindful of those less fortunate. A grand Christmas season, and we extend our sincere wishes that you all have had, and are having, the same.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Obsolete vs. Obsolescent

To begin with, let's get the dictionary definitions out of the way. Oxford American Dictionary says - -
Obsolete adj. no longer used; antiquated
Obsolescent adj. Becoming obsolete, going out of use or out of fashion.

Obsolete is often used as a term of derogation, mostly by those with some stake in the nifty new model something or other.

A lot of people confuse the two words, but in their place they are very useful and descriptive terms. It'll be no surprise that this blog entry deals with the application of these terms to firearms. In my mind, a firearm is only obsolete when it is completely superseded by something that does the job better.

Back in 1994, I watched the movie “Legends of the Fall” with my girl friend (later to become my Beloved Bride.) Toward the end of the movie, the now-aged protagonist hunts for and shoots a great bear. While he was maneuvering for the shot, I remarked, “Model 1886 Winchester.” She asked later, “Would that model rifle have been proper for the period?” I figured that if Tristan had been twenty in 1915, then to be about 70, the final hunt would have been in about 1965. The oldest the rifle could have been was 79 years, and Winchester produced the '86 until about 1927.

The answer to BB's question, of course, was yes, it would have been proper. NOT the latest and greatest hunting rifle perhaps - - There had been a dozen more modern sporting arms produced by 1965. However, a well-cared-for '86 in, say, .45-70, will kill a bear in 1965 as well as it would have in 1900. An owner satisfied with an old model rifle, who cares naught for “the newest style,” might well decline to spend good money on a modern bolt action rifle. That particular rifle would certainly have been considered obsolescent, if not truly obsolete by 1965, but it would still work quite well for the intended purpose. People seldom toss away a still functional and reliable tool.

Another example might better define an “obsolete” arm. In its day, the Colt 1860 Army revolver was considered by many to be the finest combat sidearm available. Far lighter than the previous .44 caliber revolvers, it had a much-improved loading lever system, and it was powerful compared to the Navy caliber (.36”) revolvers. This fine arm was immediately rendered obsolescent with the advent of reliable revolvers using metallic cartridges. It avoided being obsolete for a time, only because there were so many thousand '60 Armies in everyday use, and because large caliber metallic cartridge sidearms were in short supply for some years. Several things occurred in the next several years, though. The U. S. Army adopted the Colt's Peacemaker, the famous Single Action Army .45 revolver. Smith & Wesson was producing the Russian, American, and Scofield revolvers. Colt's introduced the SAA in the .44 Winchester Center fire cartridge. These factors combined to render the 1860 Army obsolete as a combat revolver. Something far better was at hand, economically and readily available.

Military arms tend to obsolesce with some regularity, at least until recent years. The smooth bore flintlock musket, typified by the French Charleville and the British Brown Bess, were the world standard for generations. With the advent of the reliable, nearly waterproof, percussion cap, the flinters were immediately obsolete. Then the smoothbore percussion cap arm was destined for the scrap heap with the advent of the rifled musket and the self obturating hollow base conical ball invented by the French Captain Minie. For the first time, a rifle could be loaded as rapidly as the smoothbore.. The Springfield Models of 1861 and 1863, and the British Pattern 1853 Enfield were the infantry mainstay long arms in the mass fratricide of 1861 – 1865.

Despite the wholesale carnage wrought by use of rifled muskets, the handwriting was already on the wall with thousands of breechloading arms in use before war's end. The US Army and Navy also adopted the Spencer Repeating Rifle and Carbine. Slowness of production and distribution prevented this repeater from being a decisive factor in the war.

The US Army “obsoleted” the rifled muskets immediately upon the end of hostilities, with the Springfield “trap door” series, chambered first for the .50-70 cartridge and later in .45-70. during 1870 – 73.

Many thought the lever action repeating rifle, exemplified by the Henry and Winchester 1866, would render single shot rifles antiques immediately. It was clear, though, that the short, low-powered cartridges of these arms would not meet the military need for longer range riflery. Even the .52 Spencer was underpowered, and was soon replaced by the trap door Springfields.

This latter arm lasted for over 20 years until replaced by the bolt action Krag rifle, which served 1894 – 1903. A new Springfield rifle was adopted in 1903, using an already-obsolete cartridge. But three years later it was rechambered for the US Cartridge, caliber .30, model of 1906. The .30'06 round was our military standard for 50 years, being retained when the M1 Garand rifle was adopted in 1935.

Do we see a pattern here? A given design arm or load serves its role well for a shorter or longer period. Then something else comes along, not only newer, but basically BETTER SUITED to the job. This is when the old one is obsolescent, and in due course, if the new item is proven satisfactory, the old one is phased out entirely, and becomes obsolete.

This is getting to be too long. We're at a good stopping point, so I'll close it for now. Stay tuned for more later.


Monday, December 10, 2007

How Much is WHOSE Blog Worth?

Here's some data I really don't understand.

Reference hereinbelow is made to the content of Matt G's recent post concerning the supposed dollar value of different blogs. Click on over there and read his observations. They are interesting and a necessary predicate to my below-subscribed efforts. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Matt's stuff perked my interest so I checked Technorati's rating of my own blog. The result:

My blog is worth $11,290.80.
How much is your blog worth?

Now, I make no pretense to any understanding of marketing and financial matters. I can just about balance a checkbook and pay bills, but really need an accountant to prepare my taxes. My ego is in pretty decent shape, thank you very much. At my moments of very highest self-esteem, however, I would never claim that my modest blog was equal to Tamara's primary, View From the Porch .

I certainly cannot fathom how in the name of Samuel Colt ANYONE would assess the value of my blog at TWICE that of hers. It just don't compute, nohow, no way.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

More on-line testing

Okay, it's been a while since I made any kind of blog post, and I've been looking for something significant to write. Still haven't found it, but I've noticed a couple of the little quizzes which caught my eye.

The “What American Accent Do You Have” quiz is of minor interest:
What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The South

That's a Southern accent you've got there. You may love it, you may hate it, you may swear you don't have it, but whatever the case, we can hear it.

The Inland North
The Northeast
The Midland
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I pretty much grew up in El Paso - - Second grade through high school -- WAY out on the western tip of Texas, with perhaps a lot more Western US and Mexican influence on speech than South or East Texas. When I moved to Fort Worth to attrend university, I noticed that not only the accents but even the speech patterns were a LOT different.

Other tests - - My Beloved Bride posted one in her blog. Frankly, I have more faith in being able to assess an accent with a short series of questions than being able to tell how ignorant/intelligent a person is by the same means. Since she scored higher on that one than I did, I'll decline to post THAT result.

There's another one, though, pertaining to IQ scores. My results are a good deal lower than I scored when I entered high school, but that was a LONG time ago. I guess I shouldn't be too disappointed. I haven't dulled out as much as I had feared. In any case, though, - - -
Free IQ Test Score
Free-IQTest.net - IQ Test