The Shootists

Allysen and I went shootin’ yesterday. That is to say, we took a firearms safety class, which culminated in our firing a few rounds into paper targets in the adjoining shooting range, and coming away with safety certificates.

Let me explain. We’re not exactly gun people, we don’t aspire to gun ownership, and we’re both strong supporters of gun-control laws. But guns are part of our culture, and it seems to make sense to have some basic knowledge of how they work. Plus, the actual aiming and shooting at targets promised to be an enjoyable challenge. (My previous experience with firearms consisted of firing one bullet at a tree with my grandfather’s rifle, when I was a kid.)

This, however, actually started some years ago, when Allysen and Jayce went to a women’s-only, all-day training program, where they learned about and got to try out a variety of guns, ranging from muzzle-loaders to revolvers to modern pistols. Also, bows and arrows. They had a great time—they learned a lot, in an atmosphere that was friendly and supportive, and largely devoid of macho bullshit. Allysen wanted me have a chance at the same kind of thing, and so as a surprise present, she researched local ranges and found one that had good reviews, no NRA requirement (!), and basic classes.

As it turned out, this class was interesting, as much from a sociological as a firearms-learning perspective. But it sure wasn’t what she’d experienced before, or was hoping for. The instructor was affable and a decent teacher when he was on topic about basic gun knowledge, legal requirements, and safety. But when he wandered into the morass of anti-gun-control political opinion mongering, I just wanted to stuff a sock in his mouth. Except, you know, he totes a gun. Loaded. With a chambered round. (I already knew about some of this stuff; I learned it from Jack Reacher novels.)

I was particularly troubled that he was urging gun neophytes to carry loaded weapons, with a chambered round ready to fire. His analogy was this: If a bad guy comes at you, not having a round in your chamber ready to go is like saying you’ll fasten your seatbelt right before you crash your car. Wellll, that’s just a load of dingoes’ kidneys, in my opinion. Fastening your seatbelt ahead of time doesn’t threaten the safety of others around you; carrying a locked and loaded weapon just might. Sure, it’s possible there will be that rare situation when you’re attacked without warning and maybe being ready to stop the baddie at a moment’s notice will be good. But mostly, I think it’s a recipe for shooting the wrong people, either by accident or in the heat of an argument.

Another bit of codswallop was his assertion that banning bump stocks—devices to make your gun fire faster, definitely useful if your plans for the day include shooting up a crowd of people—was equivalent to banning the remote starters on car key fobs. Ahhh…. no, I don’t think so.

Debatable advice like that notwithstanding, we learned some interesting and occasionally surprising things, such as that having a license to carry a concealed weapon means you must conceal the weapon. I never knew that. I always assumed it meant you could conceal the weapon, not that you had to. But it turns out if you make your sidearm visible to others, that’s considered brandishing the gun, and that’s a felony. Oops. (We didn’t get into how this applies to carrying a rifle, which is sort of hard to conceal.)

Eventually we all got to go into the range, and we each popped off a few rounds from a 22 revolver and a 22 pistol. That part was definitely fun—but disappointing, because we thought we’d get to do a lot more hands-on learning than we did. I was hoping we’d have a chance to try a bigger variety of hardware, maybe including a rifle. But nope. Pop pop pop. Here’s your certificate. Go thou and apply for a firearms permit.

Will we? Well, if I look like I’m getting ready to carry a concealed weapon, please give me a sedative, confiscate my credit cards, and send me to bed. But target shooting? And maybe clay pigeon shooting? I think that could be fun. We’ll see. 

Home Again, Home Again

We returned home earlier this week, and our first major order of business (after getting some sleep) was to take our beloved 19-year-old cat Moonlight in for minor surgery (not that any surgery on a cat that old is minor). She had these weird, keratinous things on the back of her neck, one of which kept bleeding and weeping, and the only treatment was to get them off. She came through with flying colors, and is now resting comfortably with a sock-vest around her neck!

Where’s the food?

Wake me when winter’s over.

Christmas Greetings!

We slid right into the last couple of days before Christmas, with everything coated with ice yesterday morning. I spent most of the day scraping ice, doing last-minute shopping, and cooking up Fantasy Beef Stew* in preparation for Christmas dinner. (Today I’ll be cooking Spacetime Chicken Stew.**) This is so we can have a fine feast, but not spend all day Christmas cooking.

I probably won’t be online much until after Christmas (when we’ll be hosting my brother and his wife and two dogs, our daughters and their boyfriends, and a few other good friends in the bargain). So say I’ll Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone now! Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays!

I thought of writing a rhetorical piece about “How did celebrating the birth of Jesus turn into such a frantic race to get everything done?”—not that that applies to us personally, no!—but I decided instead to take a dog’s eye view of the day. Here’s Captain Jack checking out the beautiful, icy pine tree.

*Named in homage to Diana Wynne Jones’s take on hearty stew in fantasy worlds, in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel.

**Named in homage to Fantasy Beef Stew.

Driveway Chronicles, Pt. 3 (Finale)

Previously on Driveway Chronicles:

When last we saw our intrepid heroes, the paving crew had departed and our heroes were left to reinstall the fence that just one year ago, they had fashioned from raw lumber with their skinned knuckles and calloused hands. Groundhog Day all over again. This might have been a job for a short afternoon break, if everything still fit as it had originally. Of course, nothing did, and so putting it all back took a little longer. But now it is done!

Those are permeable pavers, by the way, in “Beacon Hill Blend.” It’ll be interesting to see how they work out for draining water when Ma Nature hits us with the snows and whatnot.

Here’s the Before and After:

 

 

Driveway Chronicles, Pt. 2

Day two of the driveway rebuild. A tale to be told mainly in pictures.

Here they work on the permeable concrete pavers near the garage:

The first of two layers of asphalt gets its start:

Loading up the paving machine for the straight run down the drive:

Steamrollered!

Starting the top layer:

Here’s the final result!

Tomorrow, I hope to put the fence and gate back up. They need to come back and tweak one thing. And then it will be done.

I learned from this project: a) that there are still people out there who do really good work; and b) that no matter how good they are, you still have to be there, checking every detail. Details have a way of getting lost in the dust cloud of construction. If I hadn’t been there looking in every couple of hours and asking for corrections, we would not have been nearly as happy. But we’re delighted with the final product!

 

 

Driveway Chronicles, Pt. 1

While Mother Nature is tearing things down left and right, we’re doing our little bit to build things up. When we bought our fixer-upper, one of the items on our major house-projects list was to replace the cracked and shifting concrete driveway. Now, a mere 26 years later, we are having it done. The proximate cause was a desire to have Allysen’s mom be able to walk on it without risking her neck. But the guy who shovels the snow every year (me) was not above putting in that he wouldn’t mind having a smooth surface to scrape away at.

Many daunting tasks needed doing to prepare for this undertaking, but the hardest for me psychologically was taking down (even if temporarily) a big section of fence I just built and installed a year ago. Here’s how it looked before today.

The paving crew arrived at 7:30 this morning, which anyone who knows me knows is only a theoretical time of the day, as far as I’m concerned. We had to be not just awake enough to move the cars out of the driveway, but awake enough to discuss design details and make decisions. I wonder if they started this early when they built Rome in a day.

Here’s how things looked, soon after, as they tore up the old concrete:

And cut away the most cracked and crumbling part of the garage floor:

And installed the line of granite cobblestone that will edge the driveway:

And smoothed out the newly patched floor:

And laid out concrete pavers on the new patio-in-progress:

And…dumptrucks!

All that has happened today. And they’re still out there working.

(To be continued…)

 

Puerto Rico: Worse Than We Thought

The situation on the ground in “our” part of Puerto Rico (Ponce) is apparently a lot tougher than we had come to believe. Allysen finally got through to the next-door neighbor for a talk via cellphone. She says conditions are terrible. Still no water, and this in the second largest city on the island. Still no power. They fire up the generator for about an hour a day to charge things up, and they’re being very miserly with the water that’s left in their cistern (which, fortunately, is larger than average for a home). They have enough food still, but many, many people are hungry. The land feels devastated, and for the first two weeks, they felt utterly abandoned. The National Guard was down there somewhere, they supposed, but nobody came up to their side of the city until just recently.

Her description of our property was pretty discouraging, too. We still haven’t seen any pictures, but apparently trees are down everywhere, making things look like a bomb went off. We’re hoping that the original report that the house itself is okay was accurate, but we just won’t know until somebody can send us some pictures.

Frances said in her whole life on the island, she’s never seen anything even remotely this bad. The kicker is that, prior to the hurricane, tourism had been on the rise. Cruise ships had been coming in—not just to San Juan, but to ports like Ponce. Even our house was getting rented. All that’s over. I hate to think how long it will take to rebuild a viable economy.

These folks still need our help in a big way—and will, for a long time to come.

Welcome News from Puerto Rico

We finally heard from our friend and property caretaker in Ponce, and the word is that he and his family and their house are okay! (Concrete house; concrete structures fared far better in the storm than wooden structures.) We had gone so long without word that we were worried, to say the least. But, he said, the cell companies were working together to get communications back up, and he was at last able to call out. He’s been working extremely long hours as a policeman, and he reports that people have really been pulling together to put things back together. The U.S. military is there, and has been providing much-needed assistance. A little bit of power has come back in the city. I don’t know about water.

Our own house (when I say “our,” I mean my mother-in-law’s) escaped major damage, though a much-loved mahogany tree went down, and also a large Northern pine. There was some damage from the trees falling, but amazingly, all but one of the windows survived, and that one was on the side of an open-air dining area that was exposed to the elements anyway. The road up the hill to the house was cleared by the residents.

We count ourselves and the people we care about extremely fortunate, to say the least. I wish the same were true of everyone. These pictures from the New York Times can serve as a reminder that the people of Puerto Rico still very much need our help.

And let’s hear it for Tesla, for sending Powerwall batteries to help with critical power needs!

 

Irma Wasn’t Enough? Here Comes Maria.

As I write this, Hurricane Maria is riding across Dominica and other Caribbean islands, trying to destroy whatever Irma left standing. I cannot imagine what it must be like for the residents of those small islands. Maria has been gaining and losing intensity, in the sense that it’s going back and forth between Category 4 and Category 5. Neither of those is something you want to see coming at you.

Sometime Wednesday, Maria will hit Puerto Rico (the red blob in the center of the storm track). We are of course worried about our friends and the family property in Ponce. The current predicted storm track looks as though it will hit San Juan hardest, but will likely also hit the southern coast of Puerto Rico harder than Irma did. All we can do is wait and pray.

Here’s a stunning and sobering video composition of Irma, Katia, and Jose as seen from a new NOAA weather satellite, GOES-16.

Click to view the video on the NY Times website. Do it. It’s worth it. Be sure to scroll down the page, as there are several video perspectives. These amazing images are from a satellite that’s not yet even fully operational.

Do we really want to cut funding for this kind of science? (The current administration does.) Or are we ready to take seriously the problem of global climate change?

Hurricane Irma, Round Two


Irma Round One (Puerto Rico) left us with gratifying news for our family—friends and neighbors okay, and the house in good shape. We’re still awaiting a detailed report, but word is that the south side of the island didn’t get hit too badly. If there was any damage to the house, we haven’t heard about it yet and it’s unlikely to be serious. We’re keeping an eye on Jose, but it seems to be sheering away.

With that worry down, we turn our attention to Florida, where my brother will be first to feel the effects, near Miami, and then right up the length of the state, where we have family and friends in various locations. Chuck and Youngmee and the dogs are hunkered down in place, having decided that they’re probably as safe in their own house as anywhere on the road or in upstate Florida, given that the whole state is in the hurricane’s crosshairs. The late shift toward the west is good news for them, though not so good for folks on the Gulf Coast. Keeping all appendages crossed, and praying for everyone’s safety!

(Image from National Hurricane Center/NOAA)

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