Monday, February 18, 2008

Cajun Curry

LawDog and Matt G occasionally share their recipes for nice family meals. I figured to toss out this hearty Meal-for-One.
“Authentic recipe?*” I seriously doubt it, but a fairly rapid, filling meal.

1 can Campbell's Chicken Gumbo
¾ can of water
2 tsp curry powder
1tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp Sambal Olek ground chili paste
-- or
1 tbsp Sriracha chili sauce

Steamed white rice

Put soup into medium-size sauce pan
Add water and stir
Whisk in peanut butter and chili sauce OR chili paste
Bring to slow boil, watching lest it boil over.
Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.
Whisk in curry powder and simmer for another five minutes or until thickened.

Spoon over steamed rice. Eat with mango chutney or Indian mango and lime relish.

Serves one hungry person. I like spicy food. You might want to halve the curry powder and chili the first time you try this.

*Any authenticity is by coincidence. I worked out this one by myownself.

Friday, February 15, 2008

What I Like in Firearms -- I

Recently Elder Son wrote a blog post about being shown a friend's new 1911-type pistol. More specifically, Matt told us what he liked and did NOT like about it. As I read, I thought, what a good article it was. Reality check: Certainly I should think so. He could hardly help having some of my personal firearms preferences rub off on him. Please understand – it's not as if we agree on everything. In fact, we have a few definite disagreements, and we've learned to just chalk it up to reasonable men sometimes drawing different conclusions.

I did a post recently on choosing one's own carry handguns, and why I believe it's unwise to tell another person what he should or should not carry. In this installment, I'll address some of my personal preferences on the use of sidearms. I won't try to talk you into doing it my way, but I'll give my reasons and you can decide. I've had handguns around me since I was 15. I've carried them on my person daily for the past 41 years, except for a few weeks outside the USA. That doesn't make my opinions infallible but it should give me standing HAVE some.

In handguns, I like the basic 1911-type pistol. If need be, I could get along with a Colt Commander from now on. It is a near-ideal combination of ease of operation, size, weight, and manageable power. It is flat, compact, and a proven design. It is a material savings in bulk and weight compared to the full size 1911, but large enough to use easily and to retain excellent reliability.

I'm not particularly fond of the tinier variants. The more the size of the original is reduced, the more problematic becomes function.

I have a Colt Officers ACP lightweight which is tried and true, but I wouldn't trust another one until I personally put 500 rounds through it.

There was a time - - Oh, yeah, there was indeed a time - - when I was one of those who thought I could equip myself into pistol mastery. If an accessory was offered, I kinda felt like I wanted to try it out. I had big hands, so I wanted extra full stocks. I went through big thick stag, hand filling ivory, thumb rest custom wood, and presentation grade, big heavy sterling silver overlaid with gold trim. They all looked good, too. I had extended ambidextrous safeties, and even got an extended slide catch from a M1914 Norwegian .45. I tried two different types of adjustable sights. I ruined two good barrels with my home gunsmithing, hogging out the lower chambers to "better" feed hollow points and SWC bullets. I went through spring loaded recoil spring guide shock absorbers, fiber and neoprene buffers.

After a time, though, I grew tired of all these bells and whistles. Then I fell in with a group of the early practical shooting competitors. I was humbled by their expertise and was mildly astounded to see what superb work they did with what appeared to be rather plain-Jane pistols. By the time I went to Gunsite Academy in early 1980, I had gotten rid of most of the bolt-on “improvements.” It was a rather rapid process, realizing that generations of users had taken the .45 automatic into battle for nearly 80 years in essentially the form first designed by John Browning. One's time and money are far better spent on ammunition and range time, and good, careful practice.

I want my 1911s to have a good trigger and decent sights, with standard thickness and profile stocks. I prefer checked wood or ivory but can manage with Micarta, carbon fiber, or even GI plastic. Stag is attractive but it is impossible to find it with good figure without it being too thick. The same is true of sterling silver. The stocks on my 1911s are held in place with slot head screws. Not as sporty as Torx or hex-heads, but I can manage them without a special tool. I specifically do not want rubber stocks on any auto pistol. They are too “tacky,” and tend to make a cover garment adhere to them. I like rubber slightly more on revolvers.

I do NOT want a “full length guide rod” (FLGR) for the recoil spring. Since I don't care for extra heavy .45 loads, the recoil spring and mainspring are of standard weight. I want only the standard slide latch and magazine catch button. I can live with either standard or slightly extended safety thumb piece, but I don't like an ambidextrous safety. I learned to shoot a .45 with an arched mainspring housing (MSH) and prefer this, though I can manage with a flat one. Since we're talking everyday carry pistols, I want no trigger lighter than about four pounds and 4.5 or even five is just fine, if crisp.

Sights on my carry pistols are fixed, high profile. I used to need to have these installed. Thankfully, Colt and most other makers now install such sights as standard, except for “GI” style and some special pieces. I carried a Colt National Match “Gold Cup” for a few years. Believe me, the adjustable sights are NOT worth the trouble. Unless they are “melted” extensively, they tear up jacket or suit coat linings, and they're easy to knock out of adjustment.

In short, but for non-factory stocks, it is hard to tell my carry pistol from hundreds of others at large gun shows or well stocked dealers. The greatest side benefit to this minimalist trend is the utter simplicity. The nearer to box stock the pistol that I shoot most, the easier it would be to pick up another of the same type and do decent work with it. I can take a Commander, a Government Model, a Gold Cup, or any of several clones by other manufacturers, and they'll all operate and even feel about the same.

Aside from the endemic FLGR, there are three other “modern improvements” without which I can do very well, thank you. The ski jump shaped grip safety tang leaves me utterly cold. A slight polish on the standard tang, and perhaps bobbing off the rear of the hammer spur, or replacement with a rowel type Commander hammer serve quite well. I realize there are some who feel they need the swoopy tang, but I am not one.

I have a deep dislike of forward slide serrations. These may serve a purpose when some sort of optical sight must be installed over the rear of the slide. Otherwise, they are a needless hassle, pulling leather fibers from the inside of a holster and abrading my pants in some modes of carry.

Finally, the magazine well funnel attachment has considerably more drawbacks than benefits. For every IPSC/USPA contestant who MAY trim a tenth of a second off his reload with the well, there are a hundred installed just because someone thinks they look cool, and most likely NEVER have sought any training on how to do a speed load. The wide-open maw of the funnel adds to the pistol's height, and materially increases the width at the bottom. It makes a sharp, hard line beneath a cover garment when the pistol is carried "concealed."

Happily, it's NOT necessary to limit myself to one handgun, and I have a real appreciation of other types. Being an adaptable human being, I could live out the rest of my days relying on a K-frame S&W revolver for a defense gun. I have a real affection for various revolvers, and hope I'll always have some.

This post has grown longer than I intended, and I haven't even started on other types of handguns. I think I'll leave other autoloaders, and revolvers, large and small, for later installments.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

On This Date - - -

On 6 February 1911, Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th US President, was born in Tampico, Illinois.
He was POTUS 1981 – 1989, having previously served as Governor of California, 1967 -- 1975

In 1959, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments filed a patent for a “solid circuit.” He was awarded four patents for what we now call the integrated circuit.
It is difficult to comprehend the far-reaching effect of the integrated circuit on our lives today. Almost none of what we broadly term “electronics” would exist without it. Of most immediate concern to those reading this, the IC is vital to our having home computers, and certainly, the Internet.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Were I a Combat Aircraft, I'd Likely be - -

What military aircraft are you?

F-15 Eagle
You are an F-15. Your record in combat is spotless; you've never been defeated. You possess good looks, but are not flashy about it. You prefer to let your reputation do the talking. You are fast, agile, and loud, but reaching the end of your stardom.

Another Personality Quiz
By way of Wyatt at Support Your Local Gunfighter and Ambulance Driver - - They published their ratings, so I took the quiz as well.

I admit, I kinda like it . . . .

Friday, February 01, 2008

Space Shuttle Columbia and Destination Moon

Over at Elder Son's blog, Better and Better, he reminds us of the significance of this date, five years past. He especially celebrates the efforts and projected goals of the the space program in general and the space shuttles in particular. That is a worthy read, and it inspired me to write this post. To better understand my references, I suggest you click the link and read Matt's post. I'll be referring to it. Go ahead, we'll wait right here.

Okay, now - - Personal and historic tie-ins. On 1FEB2003, while Matt was writing his police reports, Holly and I were motoring down Interstate 35. We'd gotten underway early, wanting to arrive at my brother Jerry's place in Georgetown in time for lunch. The music CD in the player ended, and my Belov├ęd Bride was selecting another. While she did, I punched a few presets on the radio. I heard something about the tragedy which had befallen the space shuttle and immediately turned up the volume. I more or less drove on autopilot while we sat and listened to the tragedy and the news medias' attempts to unravel the available information.

Our arrival in Georgetown was delayed, due to my driving slower while concentrating on the radio reports. Our tardiness went unnoticed, as Jerry and his wife Barbara were glued to the TV screen. I'm certain we had some kind of lunch that day, but I recall nothing of it. The details of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster have been well documented, both on that day and in the ensuing years, and I'll not try to recapitulate them here.

I am struck by a couple of points. Matt closed his post with, "When the ship lifts, all bills are paid. No regrets." This is a quote from “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” a segment of the novel, Time Enough for Love, by Robert A. Heinlein . It is precisely suited as a fitting memorial for those brave souls who died while pushing the envelope of space travel, with all that implies.

It is significant that Heinlein, the author, was an active participant in the development of the US space program. He was been called the Dean of Science Fiction and The Grand Master of Science Fiction. His writings from the 1930s onward urged the human spirit forward, beyond the bounds of Earth, first toward the planets, and thence to the stars.

Heinlein's activism was well known and led to his participation in the production of the first scientifically feasible space travel motion picture, “Destination Moon,” 1950. He wrote the screenplay, based on his two 1947 publications: the novel, Rocket Ship Galileo and the short story, also titled “Destination Moon.” Heinlein also served as a technical advisor on the film.

It should be mentioned here that Heinlein was himself an engineer and scientist, having graduated the US Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1929. He served actively on destroyers and aircraft carriers for five years. Found to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. It is arguable that Heinlein's writings and the movie especially, influenced many budding young scientists and fliers who would one day strive to work in the space program.

As a child, I saw "Destination Moon" in theater release and was utterly enchanted. It was decades later when I saw it again, and I must confess I missed the historical significance of a certain scene. When Doctor Charles Cargraves stepped onto the surface of the moon, leaving the space vehicle (Oh, hell. It was 1950. THEY called it The Rocket Ship.) He said, “By the grace of God, and the name of the United States of America, I take possession of this planet on behalf of, and for the benefit of, all mankind.”

Then, in 1969, the following line echoed across a quarter million miles of space when the Apollo 11 crew read aloud the plaque they left behind on the moon: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."

No, not the FIRST words uttered from the surface of another planet, but truly momentous. I think they rank right up there with, “That's one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind.”

I've been unable to confirm that Robert Anson Heinlein had any influence on the writing on the commemorative plaque. We do know that he was present at many NASA functions and that he was welcome in many project offices.

Yes, I'll toast the memory of Columbia and her gallant crew. And I feel much the same as Matt expressed in his closing. Put another way: “Let us not mourn the fact that they are dead. Let us instead thank God that such people lived.”