The Smith and Wesson Collector’s Association annual symposium was in Spokane this year.
Archive for the ‘Endorsements’ Category
Christmas is coming. But you don’t have a lot of time to shop and get physical objects delivered.
What to do? What. To. Do.
Well, if the object of gift giving has a Kindle or something like it, ebooks make fine gifts. And they can be delivered, even on Christmas morning.
I just finished, and enthusiastically recommend, Brian Krebs’ Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door. It isn’t quite the general book about spam I was expecting. His Krebsness is mostly writing about the Russian pharmacy spam gangs and their internecine warfare. There’s a lot of good stuff in Spam Nation; I’d recommend it for anyone in your life who has a interest in computers, computer security, or spam.
Another book that I really enjoyed this year is Amy Alkon’s Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, an etiquette guide for the modern age. Much of her advice is based on the latest developments in cognitive science, too, so it isn’t just a list of arbitrary rules. Also enthusiastically recommended, for just about everyone. (With the possible exception of very small children. But if you have a late pre-teen or teenager on your list, I think they could get a lot out of this.)
This is your reminder that, if you use the Amazon link on the right-hand sidebar to do your holiday shopping, I get a small kickback.
Said small kickbacks keep this blog flush, and support my bad habit of purchasing firearms related books. (I am currently pinching pennies towards purchasing a copy of The Rifleman’s Rifle, which is apparently printed on the hide of baby unicorns or something equally expensive.)
Speaking of Lawrence, this is also your annual reminder that books from Lame Excuse Books make swell presents for every major and minor holiday, especially if you have an SF fan in your life.
I actually haven’t read the book yet. (It is at the top of the pile.) But Krebs did a signing here in Austin last night, and he came across as a really nice affable guy. I didn’t get a chance to talk with him much: I’d estimate there were 150 people there for the signing, many of whom were purchasing multiple copies of the book, so time was limited. But he signed everyone’s book, and even posed for photos with those who wanted, and in general it was just a swell experience. Based on that, I have few qualms about recommending that you purchase the book.
Before last week, I had not purchased a gun since July of 2012*.
There are reasons for that. One was that I went through a period of unemployment, where I wasn’t purchasing anything but essential items.
A second reason is that it has been hard to find things I’ve been interested in purchasing. My local gun shops have had very few used guns that I was interested in; it seems that people are mostly holding on to guns rather than trading them in. When Mike the Musicologist and I went down to San Antonio, I did find a few interesting used guns, but either the prices were out of line (in my opinion) or (at Nagel‘s) I didn’t have the ready cash available to make the purchase.
When I decided I was going to the Smith and Wesson Collectors Association symposium in Columbus, I thought there was a good chance that I’d break the drought. I don’t buy guns just for the sake of buying guns, but I generally have a mental list of “grail” guns at any given time. The S&WCA annual meetings are a good place to find at least some of those guns, since many of my “grail” guns are Smiths.
I was lucky enough to find two guns that I fell in love with, both at the table of noted dealer David Carroll. I was even luckier in that they were within price ranges I felt I could afford, and that Mr. Carroll was willing to work with me on payment and shipping. (Mr. Carroll is a swell guy. Go buy things from him. Please.)
(As a side note, it isn’t as easy to buy guns over the Internet or out of state as lying liars who lie would have you believe. The S&WCA meeting was in Ohio. I live in Texas. As a non-resident of Ohio who doesn’t have any type of Federal Firearms License (FFL), I couldn’t legally buy a gun in the state. Private sale or dealer, it wouldn’t make any difference; I’d be breaking the law, as would the person who sold it to me. I had to have my dealer in Texas send Mr. Carroll (who is a licensed dealer) a copy of his FFL, Mr. Carroll had to ship the guns to my FFL dealer, and then I had to go to my dealer, fill out a BATFE Form 4473, and provide my Texas concealed carry permit to my FFL dealer before I could take possession of the guns. If I didn’t have a Texas concealed carry permit, I still could have gone through with the purchase, but my dealer would have had to phone in a NICS check. The only thing my Texas concealed carry permit gets me is bypassing the phone call, since I’ve already been through a background check.)
(If I had a limited collectors license, what BATFE calls a “Curios and Relics” (or “C&R”) license, I probably could have brought one of the guns home with me. The “C&R” license is less expensive and less invasive than a full FFL, but it limits you (generally) to guns more than 50 years old. So I still would have had to have the second gun shipped to my FFL, plus there’s the whole “traveling with a gun on an airline” thing, which is kind of complicated.)
(And I’ll admit, it gave me more than a little thrill when I went to my FFL to pick up the guns, and the guy behind the counter said, “Oh, yeah. I saw those earlier. Those are pretty.” They especially admired the one I’m about to write about.)
(I’m sure many of my readers already know these things. The above is for the benefit of new readers, and people who may not be aware of the process. Remember: lying liars who lie, will lie.)
After the jump, photos and words and things.
Apologies for the extended radio silence. The past few days have been busy.
As many of the Whipped Cream Irregulars know, Sunday was my birthday, as well as Easter. This will not happen again until 2025.
Anyway, Mike the Musicologist came up late Friday night, rented a Silvercar, and we drove down to San Antonio on Saturday to do some gun shopping, tour Ranger Creek (which will be the subject of another post), and have dinner with Andrew and Lawrence at Bohanan’s (which may be the subject of another post).
I spent Easter Sunday with family, eating an excellent ham from the Noble Pig and a very good cake baked by my sister. (I don’t remember which cookbook she got the recipe from, but I thought it was very good; perhaps she’ll post here and update.)
Then on Monday, MtM and I took the Silvercar to Dallas, where we did some more gun shopping (including a stop at Cabela’s, but not that one), had a very good lunch at Chop House Burgers, and did some shopping for tacky souvenirs of pre-revolutionary America at the 6th Floor Museum shop.
So Saturday through Monday were jam packed. (For the record, I did not buy any guns. Though I was really tempted by the Sig Sauer 1911 22 at GrabAGun. I was also tempted at one of the San Antonio gun stores that had a couple of Nylon 66s, but I just can’t bring myself to pay $350 for one, even if it did have a scope.)
(Edited to add: Also, $1,300 for a K-22, even if it was an early post-war gun with the box, seems really really high.)
Anyway, I’m back and trying to get caught up on blogging. Profuse thanks to MtM for organizing the weekend.
This is why I love the Alamo Drafthouse so much. I was sitting in my seat watching the closing credits. The usher/waiter came over and asked me, “Was everything okay? Did you have any issues?” And I told him, kind of jokingly, “The only issue I had is that I can’t get these darn pens to write.” (There’s pens at each seat that you use to write down your order.)
And the guy smiles at me, says “Here. Go see a movie on me.” and hands me a free pass. When was the last time this happened to you?
I liked “American Hustle” a little better than “The Wolf of Wall Street” for two reasons. Namely, these two:
Ms. Adams is wonderful. As are her costumes. I could stare at her all day long (or at least until she said “Stop staring at my cleavage”) and would happily take her out for the usual cheeseburger and house red.
Christian Bale completely disappears into the role of an overweight balding scam artist, and Bradley Cooper is fine as his FBI handler. “Hustle” is a perfectly fine way to spend a little over two hours. (At least it is fairly efficient in its storytelling, with no digressions about Quaaludes.) It even has a redemptive arc. So why don’t I have warmer feelings about the movie? Idiosyncratic personal reasons, which you can agree or disagree with.
There is a school of criticism that says you should judge the movie based on what’s on the screen, not the background or the subtext or even how closely it sticks to real events, even if it claims to be “based on a true story”. I mostly agree with this school of thought, but as I get older and Hollywood turns out more “based on a true story” movies, I start to think that it is fair to judge a movie that makes that claim, at least in part, on how closely it sticks to the facts. I don’t think that should be the only factor, but I do believe it is fair to say, “Look, the people behind this movie changed X, Y, and Z, their reasons for doing so aren’t convincing, and I think these changes make the movie weaker.”
“American Hustle”, to be fair, does not claim to be “based on a true story”. David O. Russell states up front that “Some of this actually happened”. And it is arguably fair for him and for the writers to deviate some from the real story behind Abscam.
My problem is that I read Robert Greene’s The Sting Man: Inside Abscam last week (in addition to having lived through Abscam) so the real story is fresh in my mind. And I had problems with the choices Russell made.
Specifically, I didn’t buy into the whole love triangle between Richie DiMaso (the FBI agent), Irving Rosenfeld (the Bale character) Sydney Prosser (the Amy Adams character, who starts out as Rosenfeld’s mistress). Other than Sydney wearing dresses slit down to waist level, what is the reason for the engaged DiMaso to fall so hard for her, hard enough to endanger his career? (In the real world, the Rosenfeld character’s mistress was nowhere near as heavily involved in Abscam as “Prosser” was; the Rosenfeld character got her off the hook as a condition for participating in the operation.)
What happens between the three of them sets up a nice twist ending that gives us catharsis; but the catharsis wouldn’t have been needed without that peculiar choice, which seems to have been motivated primarily by the desire to show off Amy Adams’ cleavage. (I won’t give away the twist in case you haven’t seen the movie, but in reality? Nothing even remotely close to it happened.)
Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe I’m being unfair to the movie. But I think Russell could have made just as good a movie by sticking closer to the true story, while still working in Ms. Adams and her spectacular cleavage.
Remember I wrote a while back about the raffle for Bonnie? Matt Rodgers, the guy behind the Echo Sling, was nice enough to donate several of them to the raffle, and to the Squeak or Treat raffle the great and good Erin Palette was running as well.
And I was lucky enough to win one.
Which has been sitting on the gun cabinet since early November, for various uninteresting reasons. (If you want to say “because you’re slow and lazy”, well, that’s a pretty good summary.)
I actually went to install mine last night, and discovered something that would make the late Col. Cooper cry; none of my current long guns has sling swivels installed. (That’s stretching the truth just a bit; my sporterized M1917 Enfield does have sling swivels. However, it lacks sights; I’ve been saving my pennies to put some good glass on it.) I would have sworn one of my two 10/22s had swivels. Or failing that, the Marlin I bought as a car gun. Or some other gun from the arsenal. But noooooooooooooooo! Apparently, this is something to add to the “things I need to fix” list.
So I can’t bring you a review of the Echo Sling, because I can’t review it, because I’m not set up to review it. Yet.
So why am I writing about it and endorsing it, when I haven’t actually used it yet? Reason one: reliable sources say it is an excellent product. And I believe them.
Reason two: because Matt Rodgers deserves some sort of “thank you” for his donations. So call this a long overdue “thank you, Matt”.
Reason three: word through the gun blogger grapevine is that Echo Sling is struggling a bit at the moment, and I’d like for them to hang around until I can pick up at least two or three more Echo Slings. So this is my small way of helping out someone who’s a good guy. (If he wasn’t a good guy, would he have pitched in for Bonnie?)
Look at it this way: the Echo Sling is only $22 – $23 shipped to your freaking door. For that little money, how can you not at least take a flyer on one? You’ve probably spent that much money on a bad lunch, and I promise you the Echo Sling is much more satisfying.
Especially since the Echo Sling is engineered to withstand German Shepherds.
I’ll provide a comprehensive review once I’m able to get it set up and running on one of my long guns, but for now, consider this an official WCD endorsement.
I haven’t gone crazy since I got the new job. I did purchase a few things: I bought a couple of DVDs during the Criterion 50% off sale. And I bought myself a snazzy new lunchbox, because I really needed one to take my lunch to work in. (I can’t use one of those plastic grocery bags, after all.)
I haven’t bought any guns, yet. (One of our local gunshops had a really nice US property marked Mossberg 44, at a reasonable price. But first I had to leave town, and then I dithered some when I got back, and when I went back Saturday they’d already sold it.)
There are a few other things I have on my agenda, but those may wait either until I get paid or until I empty the change bank. (I don’t really need the money in the change bank that badly, but it has actually gotten so full that the coins in it are interfering with the mechanism and keeping me from adding more coins.)
There’s one thing that I was glad to be able to do before time ran out: donate to the Evict Lyme FUNdraiser.
I don’t know Bonnie of Squeaky Wheel Seeks Grease. I’ve never met her in person, and if I did, I suspect she’d want to punch me in the nose. But she has a problem of the kind that requires expensive and extensive surgery, and she needs help paying for it.
I don’t know Jennifer, of In Jennifer’s Head, either. I’ve never met her in person, and if I did, I suspect she’d want to punch me in the nose. (If you think you’ve detected a theme here, you’re right. I pretty much assume everyone wants to punch me in the nose until proven otherwise.) But I feel pretty confident in saying that Jennifer is a good and decent person. Why? Because she’s running a raffle to help Bonnie out.
Not a charity, a raffle. With some pretty nice prizes. I like that leather range bag from Brownell’s (and I like the fact that Brownell’s donated it; it makes me feel all squishy inside when I think about them. Or that may be the enchilada burger making me feel that way. I can’t tell.) And that’s a swell looking holster from Dragon Leatherworks. (If I don’t win that one in the raffle, I’m planning to order a holster from Dragon soon-ish.)
There’s other nifty prizes as well. Would you like a shot at a pen and a bottle opener made from spent 50 BMG brass? A nice rifle sling? Wind chimes?
Go over and check out Jennifer’s post for rules, instructions, and a full list of prizes.
As I’ve said before, I don’t like using this blog to beg folks for money, so I try to keep the number of charitable solicitations down. I also don’t like asking you to give to a cause I haven’t given to myself, which is why I waited until I had a job and could chip in before posting here. In a way, I kind of feel that being employed now is sort of like being touched by grace, and giving money for Bonnie is kind of a thank-you prayer, or a way of paying that grace forward.
(Yeah, my theology is probably a little messed up. But this is the theology I have, and which is mine.)
These folks are interesting for a couple of reasons:
- They are making saké in Texas.
- They use Texas rice to make their saké.
- If it matters to you, the rice they use and the saké they produce are both organic.
Mike the Musicologist and I went down to their tasting room yesterday and had a flight of the four varieties of saké they currently produce. Their Tumbleweed Saké is a very dry, kind of light tasting saké; it really doesn’t have any kind of assertive flavor, just a kind of dry mouth feel. I believe Mike liked this one the best out of the four. As for me, I think this is an excellent drinking saké, but not a sipping one.
I slightly prefer the Whooping Crane for a clear saké. This has some nice floral notes, and is closer to what I’d consider a sipping saké.
The Rising Star is an unfiltered saké with a very assertive taste. I think this would match very well with food; I’d like to try it with some barbecue, perhaps.
The fourth saké we had was a “double nigori” unfiltered saké. If I remember correctly, not only is that one unfiltered, but they add additional rice sediment in the brewing process. Again, this is another one that I think would pair well with food; the taste is even more assertive than that of the single nigori.
Don’t get me wrong: all four of the sakés we had were very good, and I commend them to your attention. Mike, who is more of a saké connoisseur than I am, commented that they tasted different than what he was used to. Not “bad”, just “different”. I suspect that there are several factors involved; brewing style, perhaps, or a taste difference between Texas and Japanese rice. If you’re not a fan of Japanese saké, the Texas saké may still be worth a try for that reason. In Austin, you can find at least some of them at Whole Foods and Central Market.
And I’d also like to note that the folks at the tasting room – Toji, the head brewer, and the young lady who was helping him – were very nice to us. The tasting room isn’t a big place, and there were quite a few people there, and we didn’t have reservations, but they still went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
Unfortunately, the tasting room is closing down for the summer: it also doubles as the brewery, and apparently it is just too hot to make saké during the summer in Texas. But Texas Saké is having their second anniversary party on September 28th, so you might clear your calendar if you live in the Austin area.
These are swell folks, and they make an excellent product. I’d very much like to see them succeed to the point where they can’t sleep at night because there are too many $100 bills stuffed in the mattress.
This endorsement may be of limited utility to most of you, since Silvercar currently only operates in DFW and Austin. But I am hopeful that they will expand to other cities.
What are they? Silvercar is a car rental firm, but they’re different from your normal car rental company.
First of all, they only rent one type of car: silver Audi A4s. That’s not so bad, for reasons I’ll get into in a bit.
Second of all, their prices are reasonable: right now, they’re charging $75/day on weekdays and $50/day on weekends. That’s actually about what you’d pay for anything from Enterprise at the airport. (I just checked the Enterprise site: cheapest is $66.99 for a full-size car, going up to $127.56 for a “luxury” car.) That is with unlimited milage.
Thirdly, the experience is nowhere near as annoying as your average car rental agency is:
- They pick you up at the airport. You pick your car. You scan the QR code with the Silvercar app on your phone. You drive away with your rental. If you want, they’ll give you a briefing on how to use the navigation and audio systems. If you need help, they have some very pleasant people available to walk you through the process.
- Unlimited mileage.
- Fuel is charged based on what you actually use (at prevailing market rate) plus $5 if you don’t return the car with a full tank.
- They don’t get pushy about the “collision damage waver”. As a matter of fact, I don’t think they have such a thing.
- Those nice people they have on duty kept asking if we’d like a bottle of water or something while we picked up and dropped off the car. When’s the last time Hertz asked you if you wanted a bottle of water?
And the Audi A4s they rent are fun cars. Yes, they have Bluetooth. They also have WiFi. Seriously. You can use your rental car as a WiFi hotspot while driving. Most of this stuff is your basic Audi features, as far as I know, including the navigation and audio. But it is still really nice to have these features in a rental car, especially at this price.
I should note that I didn’t actually rent the car: Mike the Musicologist came up for a visit and handled the interaction with Silvercar. But I was along for the pickup and dropoff, and from what I saw it was the most friction-free car rental experience ever.
We drove the Audi down to New Braunfels Sunday night to have barbecue at the Cooper’s there (which I liked very much). Then we drove back through the city and stopped at the Buc-ees (yes, the one that won the “America’s Best Restroom” contest – and, yes, it is a darn nice men’s room). Monday, MtM and I drove down to Boerne and had lunch at a wonderful German restaurant called Little Gretel. I want to go back. Actually, what I want to do is take a long weekend, book a motel room in Boerne, and stay for a day or two, eating at Little Gretel, feeding the ducks in the creek across the street, and exploring the surrounding area.
We drove back to Austin by way of Fredericksburg (stopping briefly at the shop for the Nimitz Museum/Museum of the Pacific War) and the Audi never missed a beat. It felt like it was on rails even when I pushed it close to 100 MPH, and we got around 26 MPG for the entire Monday trip.
The one small issue I’d bring up with Silvercar, if they asked me, is that they only provide an iPod connector for the Audi MMI system. It’d be nice to have at least the Audi USB connectors as well. (I was unable to find a USB port in the car: the MMI system does have two SD card slots, though, as well as a SIM card slot.)
So, anyway, if you need a good rental car in Austin (or DFW), give Silvercar a try. And thanks to Mike for organizing this adventure.
The weather here yesterday was spectacularly crappy.
Today is beautiful. The sun is shining, the temperature is moderate – a perfect spring day.
For various reasons, including how nice a day it is (as well as some others that I don’t want to touch on just now) I thought it’d be fun to go down to the state capitol and take some photos.
So I loaded up the Honda with
shovels and rakes and implements of destruction the big Nikon with the camera bag and lenses, as well as my tripod. Headed downtown to the capitol, got rockstar parking, and went inside to see a man about a racehorse before I started shooting. (Officious guard: “Sir, where are you going?” Me: “CHL holder.” OG: “Oh.”)
(For those who don’t know, the Texas capitol has a separate line for CHL holders that bypasses the metal detector.)
Anyway, get back outside, set stuff down, take out the camera…
…and the GD battery is dead. And, unlike my SD1000, I don’t have a spare Nikon battery.
Oh, well. I’m going to be down in that general area with the camera tomorrow as well, so I’ll plan on taking my photos tomorrow.
(And I stopped by Precision Camera on the way home so I could fix the “no spare Nikon battery” problem.)
(I’ve been meaning to mention this, but Precision Camera’s new store is really swell. Parking is a vast improvement over the old store, there’s much more space to move around and for them to display stuff, and the men’s room would get three stars if I was rating it for the SDC.)