Torn Between Two Calibers

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I like to shoot. I shoot for accuracy. I shoot for relaxation. I shoot for fun. But sometimes I overthink this fun and end up in a dilemma. That’s what I’m having today.

Lately, I have been struggling between two calibers. The rifle I intend to purchase, in whatever caliber I decide on, are essentially. They are both manufactured by Savage Arms, they are both heavy barreled, and they are both the same barrel length. So, the firearm is not part of my dilemma.

My dilemma is deciding between the .22WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire) and the .17HMR (Hornaday Magnum Rimfire). They’re both light. They both have almost no recoil. They’re both readily available. Hmm…let’s see.

The .22WMR was developed by Winchester in 1959 as a long-range varmint round; a boost from the reliable .22LR used by every farm kid since 1887. It is really an extended case using the same basic .22 bullet giving the round more powder, and therefore, more power. It shoots fast and flat and reaches our further with more energy on the target. It’s effective for small game between 100-150 yards. Mostly, it’s a fun round for plinking. “So is the .22LR,” you say, “and they’re cheaper.” Well, you’d be right about that and I can’t deny just wanting it for the purpose of honing my own proficiency at further and further distances. Again, I shoot for fun and this would be a fun round to shoot.

So, let’s look at the .17HMR. It’s been around since development by Hornaday in 2002. It is a necked-down .22HMR case to fit the .17″ diameter round. When speaking about “fast and flat,” this little guy gets that job done handily. My opinion is that it’s the new darling of the varmint circle and maybe that’s why I’m considering it. Because it’s small, it really zings out at longer range reaching speeds approaching Mach 2. That’s also it’s downfall; due to it’s smaller stature, it delivers less energy to it’s target at further distances, and it has a tendency to get pushed around by the wind a little more than the .22WMR. And if you want to gouge me on the cost of this fun, the .17HMR is even more expensive to shoot than the .22WMR. Nice thing about it, though, is its extended effective range over the .22WMR.

So the question is this: do I want the screamingly fast .17 to “whistle” downrange, or do I enjoy and moderate “crack” of the .22 round? Do I really need either when the .22LR is still the cheapest popular round on every store shelf in America? The .17 sounds exciting and new, but stocking a new round for a new gun just for the excitement? Sounds a bit like an extravagance, but then this whole debate is about want versus need, isn’t it?

So, the debate in my head rages on and it’ll probably end up in a coin flip, which, by the way, both of these rounds could effectively hit at 150 yards away! Happy shooting, whatever you choose.

Photo by Michael B., Flickr Creative Commons

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The Role of Government

I was recently told that the service I was being provided was a “courtesy.” It was meant to demonstrate that I was being afforded someone’s time outside the normal process, but it was also meant to position themselves over me and my project, insinuating that government, and the job they do, is more important than the people it serves.

WRONG!

I’m not anti-government. In fact, I enjoy working as a private individual, along with my local government, to ensure the orderly and prosperous growth and maintenance of the community in which I live. However, I must protest this notion that the “government,” (who are people that enjoy paychecks funded by taxpaying members of a community, and elected officials that also work in that structure) work every day on projects mortals wouldn’t understand or comprehend. They are there by the combined work and effort of the people governmental structure is meant to serve.

We didn’t invent this structure to rule over ourselves and serve someone else’s interests. We invented, put into action, and staffed a structure (even the smallest local level) to serve our interests in matters larger or more complex than citizens could perform alone. Schools, infrastructure, public healthcare, and community economic development are some of the areas that benefits a community’s health and prosperity, and are much too large for a group of concerned citizens to manage daily.

So if you work in a governmental structure of any size, go to work every day remembering where you get your power from, where you get your direction from, and where you should get your inspiration from; it’s the citizenry of the community in which you live and work and play.

Your time and effort are NEVER a courtesy; they are an obligation.

Mild is…middle-ish

Mild is the equivalent of tepid. While some think of the mild as being relaxing, I think of it as boring or uninteresting. I’m not an advocate of the extreme, but I don’t like the middle of the road, either. Be exciting! Move to one side or the other.

Please don’t be mild around me.

If it’s temperature, then make me a little uncomfortable. Allow me to respond by seeking shade or grabbing a jacket.

Please don’t be mild around me.

If it’s opinion, then engage me in challenging dialog. Force me to think of a position and defend it or bring me into agreement with your own.

Please don’t be mild around me.

If it’s flavor, then allow me to change the recipe. Make me taste carefully and bring thoughtful spices and herbs to the dish or allow me room to critique and suggest.

Please don’t be mild around me.

And if it’s temperament, then give me someone exciting to know. Become a thoughtful lover of all things or a firebrand, ready to take on the world!

Please, don’t be mild around me.

via Daily Prompt: Mild

Juggling

I’ve never learned to juggle beyond the simple mimicry of children playing, so it doesn’t occur to me to perform as a juggler or tell people to trust that I can. It doesn’t enter my brain that I should just be able to do it naturally, or that without training, I should take my show on the road and charge people money to see how many things I can successfully juggle. You see, there’s not only an art to the way you propel and catch objects, but there’s years of solid practice. Go ahead, try it.

Scheduling work, home, and family is a lot like juggling. Knowing what objects to keep aloft and what ones that require your immediate attention and personal interaction is paramount to success. but, just like real juggling, I’ve not had any professional guidance or training beyond mimicking my professional colleagues or my parent’s example while growing up. So, there’s no expectation that I know what I’m doing. Nor should I convince my clients, my friends, my spouse, or my children that I can schedule all of my responsibilities, needs, desires, and dreams, keeping all priorities safely aloft, touching only those that require attention at exactly the right moment, taking care that important ones don’t fall to the ground.

What kind of training do people seek or need to be proficient jugglers of life? Do we include this essential skill in school? Should we? What about university? Surely the things we learn there set us up for a different professional path than if we hadn’t gone. One only assumes this means the juggling will get progressively more difficult. To answer my own question: Yes. People in the world need to know how to prioritize for themselves and it shouldn’t be a realization when they finally see this for themselves. Taking charge of our lives and living independently should be a normal goal. All our growing lives we are set upon by the expectations of parents, supervisors, educators, ministers, and our growing relationship. All vie for time. All externally prioritize.

Teach children, teens, young adults, and those fresh in the world to take charge of their lives. Teach them from an early age and reinforce all along the way that they have the power and the responsibility to learn to do this for themselves. If you fall into that group of people who have power over other’s daily lives, forcing priorities on others, be clear in communicating your expectation so it’s easier for them to successfully juggle. When you see them bobbling their objects, provide training, guidance, and support. Not everybody knows how to juggle, you know. We all have to learn it, whether we perform it in front of other, or just perform for our families in the garden.

And when you drop something, for Pete’s sake, pick it up and start over. You’re learning and eventually you’ll put on a show for all to witness.

Inspiration From Others

I have long desired writing a story.

I have been a student of the creative process all my life. Not in the sense of wanting to learn to paint or draw or sculpt; no, I have been fascinated by watching others perform what I cannot and, then wishing I could that. When I read, and admittedly it’s not often I have the time, I am amazed at how some authors are able to craft, seemingly fully-formed plots and characters that are both complex and at the same time, effortless.

JRR Tolkien has long been a favorite of mine. Not because his stories have made it to the screen time and time again, but because his education as a linguist and his imagination and historical curiosity  about his own country led him to imagine a history either long-forgotten, or never presented. There has been so much written about how his stories hold the core component of good versus evil and, honestly, it’s quite evident. What I find most appealing is the manner in which he’s joined words to form sentences that, in turn, weave pictures together in my mind. The mark of a good author, if ever there was one.

So I will continue to practice stringing together words that weave stories that I enjoy telling and others may enjoy reading.

 

Lilacs

When I was growing up, my great-grandmother lived in the same town as my grandparents. Having lost her husband before even my mother was born, she lived alone in a small house three blocks from my grandparents. Picture, if you will, a rotund woman with a perennial smile and horn-rimmed glasses. She wasn’t obese by today’s standard; she was what we politely called “big boned.”

Growing up during the turn of the last century, she was still very prim and proper when I was little. She matched her shoes to her handbag, wore a dress every day, and wore gloves to church on Sunday, being the God-fearing Christian woman she was. The other thing she did was bake. I don’t mean the odd cake or a tin of muffins. This woman baked every day. There was a fresh loaf of bread each day with an accompanying cake in a glass cake plate. If you had dinner (lunch) with her on Sunday after church, there was always baked goods.

After the death of her husband, she moved into town at the insistence of her son, my grandfather. He took care of her from that time on. She continued to work, cooking for the residents of a local private Christian college, today’s modern equivalent to a “dorm Mother.” She did that until she finally retired and stayed at home.

I told you that to tell you this. When I was little, I spent weekends at my grandparents house. And because I was always there, my grandmother would direct me to take something to Great-gradnma’s house. I would walk down the alley, cut across the elementary school lawn and walk the half-block to her house. She would invite me in and I’d have a piece of cake and deliver whatever I was tasked with. On the occasion that my parents were in town to pick me up, we’d eat over there. While the meal was being prepared, the kids were asked to go outside and play.

Great-grandma had a gigantic lilac bush in her front yard. It was gigantic to me, anyway. The kids would crawl on hands-and-knees under the bush where the boughs would create a small clubhouse. We’d take our toy soldiers or Hot Wheels under the bush and play until we were called into the house to eat. It was a great time to be a kid.

Great-grandma died in the late 1970’s. Her house was eventually sold and another person moved in. As I got older, I’d drive by the house when I was visiting my ailing Grandmother and look at that ancient lilac bush in the front yard. Eventually, my Grandmother died and the only reason to go back to her town was to visit the cemetery on Memorial Day. I still drive by the houses I used to occupy as a child. Great-grandma’s house is gone and the corner lot is now part of someone’s yard. The lilac bush survives.

Yesterday, I was riding my bicycle long a rural roadway and happened to pass a farmhouse with a large lilac bush out front and the wind was just right, bringing that telltale scent and sending me back to my childhood for just an instant. That smell reminds me of my Great-grandma and I appreciate it every springtime when the purple blooms are in full maturity.

Photo by DougAlder, Flickr, No Derivs.

Just Pens and Pencils

Writing instruments are to some, an extension of their personality and to others, an extension of their hands. For those who have professions or hobbies that bring them into contact with particular instruments in a use other than jotting meeting notes or writing checks, they tend toward finding something they like and sticking with it. Still, there are people walking around in the world today that have no regard for what they write with. I find that idea strange because I belong to the world of the former, rather than the latter. I have a preference for even the common #2 pencil (Dixon Ticonderoga, but only to a certain length). I also find a preference for common writing instruments as well as expensive one. I have a favorite marker (Sharpie) and a favorite disposable pen (Uniball Signo). I have a preferred lead softness (depending on the activity) and size (also dependent on the activity).

There are things to consider like the paper used (vellum, cotton, muslin, recycled and virgin content), the tooth of the paper (rough, medium, and fine), the type of writing engagement (dipped nib, converted nib, ballpoint, roller ball, technical lead, sharpened lead), the size of the engagement (Parker makes twelve different nib sizes), the angle of engagement (some nibs are custom ground), the type of ink used or the softness of lead preferred (vehicle, pigment, binders, additives, 2B, B, HB, H, 2H, 4H), and the activity being performed (writing, drawing, sketching, technical drafting, calligraphy).

I have used several technical pens and pencils during my time. I enjoy precision so venture into script using fountain pens was a stretch for me. In time, I grew to enjoy feeling the paper beneath my nib. Knowing when my thought weren’t flowing because my pen wasn’t either. I’ve also become enamored with with the technical nature of caring for the fountain pen. Disassembling, cleaning, reassembling, and loading the converter is a welcome and enjoyable aspect to ownership. The same is true of technical pens and pencils. After use, they are cleaned and put away rather than just set aside. The better the equipment, the better the maintenance, the better the experience.

Use is another important factor to consider. I enjoy rolling a technical pencil in my fingers as I draw the line, striving to keep the tip of the lead as evenly worn all around the edge, thereby drawing the perfect line weight stroke after stroke. Equally, I enjoy chiseling the point to make sure some lines are thin while other enjoy the broadness of graphite on paper. These are all aspects to using the writing instrument as you like, bending the tool to meet your expressive needs.

Sometimes we gravitate toward expensive instruments with particular a build list for use with expert, as well as everyday, tasks. Sometimes not. It’s really individual. The next time you pick up a common writing instrument, feel the weight in your hand. Spin it in your fingers to acquaint yourself with its physicality’s. It could change the way you live (or, at least, the way you write about living)!

Image by Kamujp, Flickr Creative Commons, No alterations.

Shooting

Many people around the world, who don’t have gun rights or property rights or public lands, don’t understand the American gun culture. They always ask why the per capita gun ownership numbers are so high. How is it that America is in love with the gun? That’s because they don’t stop to consider the context.

I can’t speak for the whole of America, and certainly never having lived in the giant cities of the United States, I can’t give any insight, but in the Great Plains and the American West, we have a lot of land. When I say that, I mean that we live in places where our neighbors live miles (kilometers) away. Aussie’s and people living in Africa probably understand what I mean. Because we have so much room, and that room is occupied by many game animals and few humans, we have a history and culture dating back more than 100 years (that’s old for us) where we actively hunt. Today, some hunt for trophies, but most hunt for food. It’s not that we need to, necessarily, although I suppose there are probably some that still do. We enjoy the sport and the meat. We plan to fill our freezers two or three times a season. We like the idea and practice of self-sufficiency. We like free food. We like feeding our family.

To that end, everyone in our families knows how to operate guns. We shoot shotguns and rifles, and we’re familiar with all manner of handguns. My grandmother carried a .38 caliber revolver in her car to shoot rattlesnakes around the house in south Texas. She was protecting her children, not her second amendment rights! But without that right, she would not be able to do that without breaking the law. Could she have killed it with a hoe? Sure! But who wants to get within five feet (1.5m) of a seven foot (2.1m) snake?

Yesterday, I went shooting with my son. Since the age of seven, he’s been shooting guns. He enjoys the plinking of a .22 caliber rifle, but as pulled the trigger on a 5.56 x 45 NATO and a 7.62 x 51 NATO. He likes small-framed pistols but has shot a 9mm, .40 cal and a .45 caliber handgun. All of this is to say that we Americans (at least the ones I hang around with) don’t have guns because we’re crazy. We have them because we like them. We like to shoot them, clean them, operate on them. We like to participate in competitions with them. We like to hunt with them. We have guns that perform different tasks. Could we own just one? Sure. But why? We could also only have one car or one child. But why? We have the means to have more than just one, so why stop at one? Some people have more than one house. Why would a family need more than one house? Because they want another one and they can afford another one.

So, yes. America has a gun culture and there are many people who have and use guns regularly who don’t also carry out nefarious deeds in the dead of night. Therefore, next time there’s some school shooting or bell tower incident in the States. Remember, we’re not all crazy; just that one person was. They intended to inflict harm. They had purpose. and unfortunately, they used a gun to commit horrible acts of violence.

Photo by John Reece. No alterations.

People We Know (but really don’t)

Every day for the past five or six years, I have visited the blog of Mr. Steve Tilford. He was born into a regular family in Topeka, Kansas in the 1960’s. Through good genetics and  a willful spirit, he began spending his time and childhood energy enjoying the outdoors and riding his bicycle. It was because of this that he found his way into bicycle racing and soon became a young professional athlete.

He traveled the nation, the continent, and the world racing bicycles for various teams, and when he retired from the professional world with a list of palmarés in road biking, mountain biking (including an induction into the mountain bike hall of fame), and cyclocross (Masters World Champion), he continually repeated it all for fun. There are many people who have stories to share about their experiences meeting and racing with Steve.

The word “stories” is a good segue into Steve’s blog, http://www.stevetilford.com. Not only did he invite you into his daily life, which was filled with traveling, riding, skiing, and racing, he also shared how something that day reminded him of the days when he was in this race or that, a ride here or there, or something he’d learned from one of the vast array of American professional riders in many disciplines. His head was filled with remarkable stories for those of us who read it daily and only wished to be on the fringes of competitive racing that so many of us either enjoy or aspire to. Many times, folks would ask him to write down this vast array of stories and publish a book; they wished he would capture both the narrative of a first-hand account of some historic race, or to impart the lessons learned, knowledge gained, and wisdom accrued from living such a life.

When I opened my browser this morning, I found a post from Steve telling us that he and his good friend Vincent, were driving from Utah where they’d been mountain biking the past week, back to Vincent’s house where they would plan their next adventure. Sadly, and that is the word that sparked this entry, when I opened my browser this evening I saw a post from Vincent: Steve and Vincent and Steve’s dog Tucker, were involved in a late-night auto accident and Steve lost his life in western Colorado.

When I read that my jaw hung open and I genuinely felt sad. Yes, I have personally met, talked with, and raced against Steve Tilford. But like so many other that can say the same thing, I didn’t know him. Today, I am sad that a person I never really knew, but kept track of daily for the past half decade, lost his life. I have lost a daily honorific ritual. The cycling community has lost a wealth of knowledge. For all close to Steve, I send my most heartfelt condolences. For me…I think I’ll go ride.

R.I.P. Steve Tilford

Books and Reading

I’m reading a good book right now. I haven’t finished it so there are no spoilers in case you’re reading it, too. And, I won’t be reviewing it until much later, either. It’s called Tales From the Radiation Age by Jason Sheehan. It’s an entertaining story set in an apocalyptic future. It mixes science and fantasy, and the author uses almost every creative muscle in his body to describe the masses of imaginary creatures and situations that the main character encounters.

The reason I’m writing about it today is because I recognized something about my reading style  that I sort-of knew, but now only proudly declare: I like reading out loud!

When we’re children learning to read, we are asked to read aloud to allow the instructor to know we’re actually reading and we’re pronouncing the words correctly. That’s the technical aspect of reading.

What some people develop is a cadence to reading aloud. They are practiced enough to know how to add inflection and feeling, to take dramatic pauses and add make the story more enjoyable for the audience. I’m sure that’s what voice actors do for a living. Well, I like to do this, too. And, I’m fairly good at it, if you don’t mind me saying so.

I’d like to think I started getting good when I read to my son when he was little. But what I suspect happened transpired when I was still in university. I would read aloud to myself while pacing up and down academic corridors late at night in an effort to understand, and sometimes memorize, material and information. I chalked it up to being an aural learner. Perhaps I am, but now I’m finding I enjoy pleasurable reading in an auditory way. That is to say, I like reading to myself. Now here’s the tricky part; I don’t listen to audiobooks!

It’s not that I don’t like them or have some artisanal need to smell the pages of a new paperback. Nor do I eschew technology. I simply like to see, process, and speak the written word. If you haven’t read out loud in a while, try it. Are you any good at it? Were you ever? Practice a little and see what happens. Who knows? Perhaps we’re both voice actors with unfound careers awaiting us!

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons: Boston Public Library. No modifications.