Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I discovered a lot of drones in the Midwest

So me and the fam journeyed back to the Midwest this Christmas. It was a great trip and, overall, a great Christmas. We went to the local Cabela's and I hooked up with some serious ammo, a limbsaver deresonator for the rifle (reduces recoil and increases accuracy), and a new non-BPA Nalgene bottle. In all honesty, I made out like a bandit.

And before I continue to the main topic of my post, I just wanted to note that Cabela's has the best and most organized rifle ammo selection out there that I have seen in a big box store, unlike, unfortunately, Gander Mountain. Thank you Cabela's for keeping it real.

OK, so we go visit my family and it's like everyone drank the Koolaide...yes, Obama supporters.

So many people voted for Obama and don't know a damn thing about him, except that "he is definitely better than 8 years of Bush." No matter what, every Obama supporter I spoke with uttered this same piece of drivel, the same damn same thing, practically verbatim, as their final defense for why they support the O. It's pathetic. The liberal media has programmed its drones well.

Never mind that Obama thinks it's ok to throw babies in closet to die after a failed abortion, there is a lot of cooing over Obama amongst the public, just because the news media coos. If Hussein is in Hawaii with his shirt off, it's Camelot. If G.W. golfs with his father, it's dereliction of duty. There is just so much outrage over Bush, just because the liberal media is outraged.

WTF people? I don't agree with every decision Bush ever made, but I am not outraged, except by the bailout mania. Under Bush we had the most prosperous economy ever and no repeats of 9-11. He's had to make tough decisions as the leader of the free world and all he's gotten is a lot of spittle, at least when it comes to the liberal media. So, let me say it, hey liberal media, I've got 2 words for you: FU!

I know not every Obama supporter is of the glazed over type, but so many so easily turned a blind lie to the parade of lies and deceit on the campaign trail. I always challenge them with 20 years of Rev. Wright, and they say, "I don't believe everything my pastor says either." My response: except that racism is a fundamental tennet of black liberation theology. Unbelieveable.

But if W went to a white supremecist Church for a funeral, not that he would, it would be a international scandal. Yet Obama can sit in the pews of Rev. Wright for 20 years, say he didn't know what his pastor thought, and be exonerrated as a political hero.

"Ayers is just a guy in my neighborhood," was another big-time lie. Really? He was also the guy you sat on the Annenberg challenge with for 5 years, and his the same house where you began your political career.

It is freaking maddening that Obama has such blind support, especially from members of my own family. Nobody thinks that he's going to be, as President, the radical they know he's been. Sigh.

The greatest lie the devil ever told is making people believe he doesn't exist.

God help us.

Over and Out,


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


This past weekend, figuring it wasn't going to get any worse, I ended my months long hiatus on the bathroom and decided it was time to get cracking.

I spent all of Saturday retrofitting an old wall with new studs and creating a door frame and trim, not to mention figure out a tasteful way to add tile on a wall that's totally out of plumb.

This week I made a special trip to Lowes in search of a paneled solid pine door on clearance and, lo and behold! I found the (almost) perfect fit for my doorway. I needed a solid door to cut to size and was delighted when I discovered that I was able to get it for a fraction of the price. I mean, who wants to pay big bucks for a door?

The end to this project is ever seemingly more in sight with the passing of each milestone. Having a door on the bathroom feels like such a luxury. We also have a festive night light, which was given to us as a gift, that casts a neat red glow all over the place.

Watching this project finally come together is such a thrill. There are some things I would have done differently in retrospect now that I have the benefit of this experience, but hindsight is 20/20. For instance, in the long run it is far easier to build new walls, if possible, than to try and replumb old ones that are out of whack. In the latter scenario you are constantly battling "the line" and having to worry about staying straight in addition to all the normal stuff and that can be maddening and make it difficult to add in finishes.

So even though I haven't been updating as much on the blog as I would like, I've been updating things here at the house (as well as feeding my "Heroes" addiction.) And that's cool by me.

Merry Christmas.

Over and Out,


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mumbai in America? Preparing for the Inevitable.

I have long thought since 9-11 that if organized terrorists wanted, they could easily perpetrate a Mumbai-like event here in America. Our infrastructure is wide open and undefended. And even if there were guards everywhere armed with assault rifles, it doesn't mean a terrorist could not strike. It just means his capacity to destroy as many Americans as possible may be inhibited.

So what are we to do? The enemy we face is a shadow. They are essentially guerrillas, materializing when and where they choose to cause the most havoc and inflict the most damage.
Sometimes it's airplanes they use, sometimes suicide bombers, and now we are seeing coordinated sociopathic-suicide killing sprees like the ones in recent days in Mumbai.

Our strategy to exterminate terrorist breeding grounds abroad is not a poor one, but let's face it, we can't kill them all. We can kick ass militarily, but we do not have the resources to wipe out radical Islam short of a nuclear holocaust, and even then there's no guarrantee. There will always be a terrorist camp and breeding ground somewhere. There will always be another Jihadist, if history is any indicator.

And now we are hearing reports of a "likely" bio attack on US soil in the next five years and Iran with nukes during Obama's first year in office. China and Russia support Iran both tacitly and directly, not to mention other socialist enterprises. Our enemies are chomping at the bit to destroy us and our newly elected leader wants to decrease our military and increase the Peace Corps.

In a word, our Commander-in-Chief is not only asleep at the wheel, he is also blind to the threats against America.

But even if he weren't, the terrorists and their affiliates would still be hell-bent on destroying our nation, our culture and way of life. And that's what they intend to do. No government program can stop this, only determined individuals, with actions and prayers to God, honestly, have the capacity to maintain our way of life.

A terrorist can strike at any time, any where--I am surprised they haven't already.

So here are some things to remember in considering the enemy, and a likely, newly-formed attack:

  1. Remember that ultimately we can only stop what we can stop. If a massive bomb goes off in our cities or elsewhere, it's aim is not just to destroy as many people as possible, but our way of life too.
  2. In Mumbai, like elsewhere, the gunmen attacked where they thought the people would be sitting ducks. Even where there were armed guards, the guards were so scared they did nothing to fight back and stop the bloodletting.
  3. The terrorists are sociopaths, and will only stop when they are dead.

So essentially what I am saying is that you and I need to prepare ourselves against not only an attack against our person, but one against our way of life.

Some action items to seriously consider to take steps to protect yourself and be less of a victim:

  1. Own and carry a firearm. You and you alone are responsible for your persnonal protection and that of your family.
  2. Put together a bug-out bag for your car and other excursions.
  3. Take it from someone who knows, consider a bug-out location and create and stick to a plan of action in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. You don't want to end up living in a FEMA trailer, do you, or end at a Superdome?
  4. Go to confession.

If the fabric of our life begins to unravel, consider what you will do and where you and your family will go and how you would survive long-term. Most generations have not had it as good as ours in the US of A, but we are in danger of squandering it and losing it.

I don't want to be doom and gloom. But just because this post may seem paranoid doesn't mean there aren't people who are out to get you. It's better to be prepared and never need it, than to know better and be found wanting in the hour of need.

Over and Out,


Friday, November 28, 2008

This is it for awhile...

Sometimes you pick the (fill in the ______), and other times it picks you. This time the rifle picked me, I swear!

Above is pictured a hardly-used Remington Model 700 SPS in .300 WSM caliber, with barely 50 rounds through it. It features a 24" matte finished barrel with Leupold bases and rings installed. It is also composed of a black synthetic stock, molded in gripping surface at wrist and forend, swivel studs and a limbsaver recoil pad.

And I'm telling you, it has my name all over it.

I originally became interested in the Remington 700 after watching the movie Shooter and well-before that seeing some old codgers on tv rebuild a Turkish Mauzer into a sniper rifle. Avid Update readers may recall my post from last year around this time, extolling the virtues of cold weather and showcasing Mark Wahlberg's bad-ass pose on the cover of Shooter, where he happens to be holding a Remington 700 SPS.

After doing some research of various bolt-action rifles, I decided to stick with the Remington 700 because of its legendary performance and affordable price. Out of the box, the SPS is a tack driver, and with the .300 WSM in the chamber you can reach out and touch someone, and handle big game. Not to mention that the 700 is highly modifiable, should you want to move in that direction.

So if Clare ever decides that we need to move to a more conservative state, we will be prepared in the firearms department when it comes to guarding the yard. Cause you know, we need to cover all the bases.

Now it's time to save up for a scope. Peace out.

Over and Out,


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Routine

So I am back to my long-departed ritual of eating oatmeal every day in the mornings. I have to say the effect has been very positive.

For one, I am not craving sugar in the mornings, or hungry until lunch, and I have energy for action. It is also relaxing to work on a full stomach, and not have a piece of my mind focused on food when I am trying to focus on work.

Secondly, I have noticed a large difference in my metabolism. At 11:45, I am damn hungry, and again when I arrive home from work, I am right there. The main thing for me is to eat light for my last meal so I don't go to bed with a heavy stomach. This creates space for being more active and energetic in the evenings instead of feeling like a big lug.
I have been following my oatmeal in the morning with some premium Darjeeling, ordered from A robust cup of tea is excellent. You get the jolt of caffeine, but unlike coffee and other substances, tea stimulates the entire person. It delivers the needed "feeling," if you will, according to the situation. To quote one of the Chinese ancients:
"If you are cold, tea will warm you; If you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you.
I have also been drinking tea in the evening as well. I don't usually feel the negative effects of caffeine when I go to sleep, just more like a smooth transition. I favor green tea, but even the lighter black teas will do.

Over and Out,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Conundrum & Gambit

Sorry everyone for the lack of recent "Monday" Updates. I usually end updating on a day that's not Monday, if I update at all.

You see, I am often in a bit of a conundrum as to what to post, so I play around with various ideas until something comes to mind--usually after Monday.

I try not to force the muse these days, because I legitamately fear the consequences. I had to do that back in the day when I re-wrote magazine articles for well-meaning authors who couldn't write worth a damn. So now I just try to take it easy and let the spirit of creativity move when it wants.

Right now I am listening to Chris Thile's new project called "Punch Brothers" on NPR, and it's quite cool. I miss Nickelcreek, but I believe they will reunite in the future after various wanderings to other projects and come up with some great new stuff down the line.

That is, if Obama doesn't end the world first. LOL.

So, in reference to my previous post, I bought a bit of ammo to replace what I've been shooting and made the purchase of a 18.5 inch barrel for my Maverick 88 Shotgun. This way it can be used for home-defense because it will be much easier to maneuver. Next dress-up items for the shotgun include a side-saddle (for ammunition) and a mag extension tube. I may also invest in a tac light for the gun down the line and a kickback reducer for the shoulder. Pics to come.

Right now that's it. I would like to purchase a serious sniper rifle, but that's just out of my league these days. But if that's of interest to you, be sure to visit Tactical Rifle's webpage. They are serious and have a whole host of goodies to whet the appetite.

In the meantime I will continue to convalesce here at home. I've been sick since Friday night, and now I am enjoying the fourth movement of this bastard cold of Antioch, which involves having a sore throat. Hopefully, I will be less of a space cadet today, as yesterday I was pretty much useless to those around me in my opinion.

Thanks for visiting the Update. I will do my best to keep the muse on its best game from now on. But I am not making any promises.

Over and Out,


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Mandate, New Measures

I don't have much to say right now, except that Obama the radical has now been given a mandate to rule by 63 million fools.

Now gun sales have literally skyrocketed everywhere because people are are preparing for the expansion of the People's Republic of Illinois to the rest of the lower 48 and beyond. There almost isn't a black rifle to be found. Personally, I don't have enough coin to keep up adequately with my newfound addiction to guns, but that doesn't stop me from salivating all over my keyboard. I just wish I would have bought my guns years ago.

So I am pondering what I am going to buy next: a Glock 19, a bolt action rifle, chambered either in .308 or .270, or a 1000 rounds of ammunition? I need each of these things. I just have to prioritize.

Part of me wants another Glock, because they are so awesome, and because I won't feel like Clare is unsafe if I am carrying. Yes, we have a shotgun, which is easy to use, but there's a certain convenience to a pistol that makes it more desireable in some circumstances.

I know all of my readers may not be fans of Glocks. We each have our own opinions. For those who wonder about my obsession, I chose to shoot a Glock because it feels right in my hand, in addition to its reliability, quality and accuracy.

The other part of me likes the idea of a bolt action rifle because I can hunt with it, use it to snipe varmints, or if there are roving mobs coming down the street--an unlikely occurance out here in "Buckton," to say the least--I have another means of defending myself.

Thirdly, just getting a thousand rounds for the Glock sounds like a good idea. If the SHTF, you want to have enough ammo to last a long time. Besides, I think it's fun to build an aresenal.

And finally, I also need to pick up an 18.5 in barrell for the shotgun, for home defense, a biometric safe for the Glock, and some other "stuff."

Hopefully Santa will be good to me, because Chairman Obama won't.

Over and Out,


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tactical Thigh Rig

You know, I am usually very frugal about buying stuff, but not when it comes to firearms and their accoutrements.

No, if I see it, I have to have it now. Granted I wanted a Glock 17 for years, and so when I finally pulled the trigger (pun intended) the floodgates opened and the credit card company has never been happier.

Just kidding. Well, sort of. In all seriousness, my firearms interest is not really an interest. It's a need. Yes, I need to have guns. I need to have boxes upon boxes of ammo, "just in case." My house is not just a cottage, it's an armory.

But for those occasions when I can't be sitting inside the cofines of my armory, cleaning my guns while listening to Rush Limbaugh, I purchased a new Fobus Roto Holster for open carry from I wanted something cheap that would form fit my Glock. I also wanted a proven system that would allow for both rentention and quick, smooth drawing. Fobus, a company out of Israel, seemed to be the perfect fit, and for the price I couldn't really go wrong.

But there is a deeper reason I picked this particular holster. It's the option to attach and carry it on a "tactical thigh rig." Now, it's not that I just want to be Hans Solo or something, which is, in all actuality, actually true. Carrying a gun on your belt can be uncomfortable, cumbersome or inconvenient, depending on your situation.

You know, say you get into an X-Wing. Those cockpits are tight. A fast draw to take down a snow yeti climbing onto your hood before take off might be a little more complicated than you think. But if the gun is on your thigh, you should be good to go, no problem.

As it is, I keep everything on my belt--my cell phone, multi-tool, and occasionally a flashlight--and I have this bad habit of placing my hand on my hips to push on this stuff for the hell of it. When I wore my Fobus holster (empty) around town just to get the feel of the thing, I kept having to resist the temptation of fiddling or messing with it.

And finally, it seems far easier to draw from your thigh than your hip, and much harder IMHO for a stranger to attempt to draw it as well.

That said, I very simply chose, without fear of retribution (except from Clare), to purchase the tactical thigh rig attachment. It has not yet arrived. I look forward to testing it out and seeing how comfortable it is. The Roto Holster is very light and comfortable, so I am expecting nice things from the thigh rig, *ahem* excuse me, tactical thigh rig.

Sorry for the delay on the Update. I have been spending a lot of free time checking out the gun forums to expand my knowledge and for personal entertainment.

Over and Out,


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Of axes, oaks and woodstoves


Because of Isabel's birth, I have been able to take some serious R&R as well as get things done around the house that need being done. The thing about the latter is that I can, during this time off, not feel rushed in the process, do it my own pace, and so enjoy the work moreso than I would normally.

Today, I bought a new axe from Lowe's for splitting wood. Unlike a traditional maul, it has a winged axe head, so you have the wedge qualities of a maul, and the cutting qualities of an axe. Moreoever, the winged axe is 4 pounds lighter, which makes cutting large amounts of wood far easier.

I just got back inside from splitting 15-20 inch sections of white oak (about 14-15 inches in diameter) with relative ease. I am most impressed with the winged axe's performance and have been trying out the different woods I have gathered in my woodstove.

We have been running the stove for the past few days now to take the chill out of the air and get a feel for the heat output. So far it has been remarkable.

This is what I mean. Last year, I ran the woodstove at Clare's parents all winter. It got to the point that I could get the catalytic converter to kick on in two minutes, which, if you knew this thing, is saying something. It means that the fan turns on to help spread the heat from the stove to the rest of the room, but it has to be hot enough to do that.

Anyway, this thing ate wood like no tomorrow. It's an old stove, and they tend not to be too efficient from what I know. I am sure there are exceptions, but, that being said, it burned what it burned, and that was it.

Now enter the Jotul 3, supposedly, according to the company, the best-selling wood stove in the world. I have no idea, so I'll just take their word for it. The thing I like about it, though, is that it creates a very slow, slow burn. Once you get a white hot bed of coals, you can add a small log like once every 4 or 5 hours, and you get lots of heat.

I mean, I am so impressed by this baby, the way it helps your wood to burn slower than it would normally. So for the wood-splitting individual, that means your word splitting time is reduced significantly, time that you could spend enjoying your woodstove. Now, here are some observations of the wood I've been burning, none of which has been "seasoned," other than being dead for a long time:

American Elm: Easy to start, this hardwood burns fast and hot. It's a good wood to start a fire, but because of how fast it goes, not the best for a sustaining fuel.

Black Locust: According to some chart I found, Black Locust is actually the hottest burning wood out there, burning at .057 BTUs (British Thermal Units). As my friend and woodsman extraordinaire Jason Banaszak noted, however, Black Locust may burn [just a little bit] hotter than white oak, but it does not burn longer or cleaner. Point noted, and after putting the two to the test in my stove, I definitely agree.

White Oak: The ideal wood, the powerhouse. It burns slow, white hot, and clean. It yields that classic smell you think of in fall and winter when driving by a house heating with wood. As previously stated, it burns slow and long. It's the ideal wood to heat your house, though it is quite pricy to have it seasoned, split and delivered by the cord. Only Shagbark Hickory burns as hot, but Shagbark Hickories, as my olde friend and farmer Gerald Austin asserts, Hickories are too nice a tree to burn.

Silver Maple: I just chopped a dead one down in my yard, and I have to say, I am rather surprised and impressed by the amount of heat the wood puts out, and for how long it burns. Kudos to the silver maple. I have got a bunch of these at work to chop down, so that means more wood for me.

Boxwood Elder: This is a shit wood. On the list, it is down a good ways in terms of the amount of heat it puts out, and it's a pain to start. I don't recommend this stuff unless you are in the same straits as Poe once was, reduced to burning his furniture in order to survive the winter while at the University of VA. Anyway, Boxwood Elder is for the bonfire pile, not the cord pile.

Over and out,


Monday, October 06, 2008


Welcome back. Today's post is not about track #2 from U2's Unforgettable Fire album, awesome though it is. It's about other stuff.

Isabel Therese Marmalejo was born October 3 at 16:38. Clare has pics at her blog, and, I'm sure, will continue to post them. Another arrow in the quiver, as they say, and that is a very, very great thing.

In keeping with the theme of today's title, I want to recall an incident that happened yesterday at mass. Because Anastasia was full of energy, I was playing toddler-control in the vestibule. When I arrived back from Holy Communion, I noticed an elderly man, kneeling in front of a pew in the vestibule, struggling to get up. But he couldn't. I came by, asked him if he needed some help, and not waiting for a reply, gave him my free hand.

Unable to lift this surprisingly heavy old man, I helped set himself back down, and went to grab an usher, even though, out of pride, he tried to shoo me off with "I'm ok." Not buying it for a minute I looked around hastily, and thinking that the ushers were probably too old to help anyway, I grabbed a big dude in front of me. Both of us couldn't lift him up, and so a third dude joined us and we were able to finally set him on a pew.

I just wanted to state that I felt priveleged to help this devout old man, who took seriously kneeling after Holy Communion on a stone floor, even though he couldn't get up and probably wasn't sure about it to begin with.

I am glad and fortunate that I took the initiative. My first thoughts were "someday this may be me." No one else seemed to notice, and that bothered me a little bit, because people need people to help them sometimes, and apparently no one in a crowd of 50 saw that this guy wasn't going to make it or hurt himself trying.

So this brings me to my moral: If we are not aware, we miss opportunities to practice charity, not to mention protect ourselves and other people from accidents or worse. Practicing awareness daily allows us to be better people and better citizens, giving us the capacity to step into the moment of truth and make a positive difference.

Over and Out,


Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Unthinkable

Yesterday, I did the "unthinkable." I bought a gun.

I did what? I purchased a Glock 17, 9mm. Similar to the sweet-looking gun you see to the left, it is now mine.

Growing up, I came from a non-gunfriendly family, at least in part. My dad disavowed guns as a necessity, while even his best friend, my uncle, owned an arsenal. At an early age, Uncle B showed me his guns when I insisted as a 6 or 7-year-old A-Team enthusiast is wont to do. "Uncle B do you have an M-16?" I remember asking. "No, I have an M-14," which he showed me. And then he showed me the other rifles in his dark, shadowy basement, and how he remade bullets, teaching me the anatomy of ammuntion.

My dad wasn't happy. But I still have the fake reload my uncle made me of an M-16 shell.

I've always taken that experience with me as my introduction to firearms. And when out in the wilderness in Minnesota, I felt safer knowing my uncle was packing.

Everyone has their opinion of firearms, but when trouble arises, even the most outspoken skeptic will feel safer when someone he trusts nearby is carrying.

And therein relies the conundrum, the lesson of Conan, the Riddle of Steel:

"Steel isn't strong, boy, flesh is stronger! ...What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

In other words, what I am saying here, is that it's not the gun that's most dangerous, but the person. A gun magnifies a person's decisions, their consequences and his personality. But it's the human will, ultimately, that determines the direction.

When I went to purchase, the conditioning of my upbringing and the anti-gun mantras of the liberal media came to haunt me. But I made the decision that I was going to purchase and that was that. When I arrived at the counter, the place was swarmed by gun purchasers. Some were your typical respectful hunter types, but not a few were punk ass kid thugs I wouldn't trust with a butter knife, but were still able to purchase because they hadn't yet created a record for themselves.

And so when I saw them clamoring for their guns ahead of me, it confirmed me in the decision I had made, and I said to myself, "Yes, damn, I need a gun."

And the Glock came with me.

Over and Out,


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Farm Boss

If that guy is not the Farm Boss, I don't know who is.

When I saw this guy, I was so pumped. It's pretty much how I see myself in 20 years or so. LOL.

And that's a nice chain saw, too, which brings me to the subject of my post: STIHL products.

Because I live in the countryside, and because I work in facilities, I am very much interested to know what are the best brands for various tools. So when I was on the phone with my dad, who has similar interests (not to mention an encyclopedic knowledge of tools), and he noted that my old parish where he works had just purchased a 20 inch STIHL chain saw, I was interested. Wanting to buy a saw myself some day, and needing one for the chuch where I work, I asked: "Is STIHL a good brand? His answer, "It's the best."

Numerous testimonials attest to his claim and what I have found in my short time becoming acquainted with our new 20 inch MS 290 STIHL Farm Boss chainsaw. (Those testimonials are a great read if that sort of thing at all interests you.) Namely, that STIHL makes a fabulous product.

I am relatively new to chainsaw-ing, but I have found that once you are in the groove with your saw, it is a very manly and rewarding action to cut wood. Chopping wood is one thing, wielding a chainsaw is quite another. It gets the testosterone flowing in a huge way, and after cutting up an entire tree, I felt supremely manly. Don't ask me why, I just did, and I think a new wood stove-friendly addiction has just been born.

In other notes of interest, I just picked up Jerome Corsi's new book, The Obama Nation, and suspect that I will plow through it in record time. Corsi is a senior staff writer at WorldNetDaily, and while I sometimes find their news suspect or dubious, I have no doubt that Corsi's work is an authentic piece of scholarly journalism, to which the Obama campaign's 40-page rubuttal remains impervious.


Over and Out,


Monday, September 08, 2008

Inge's Brats

Well, we had our annual fall festival at Holy Family this past weekend. Because of Tropical Storm Hannah, the event was moved inside. That did not stop people from coming, however, or Inge from making her famous brats and saurkraut.

Inge is an elderly women from Bavaria who loves Pope Benedict, is active in the parish, and sponsors the German booth during the festival, where parishioners from every cultural background, come together, cook, and sell their food at festival.

Last year, Clare and I were super-surprised with Inge's cooking, and I kept going back for more. So this past weekend, I knew right where to go. She would not give me her recipe--their are others before me in line for that, but she divulged to me her authentic German source for bratwurt and saurkraut: Rieker's Prime Meats in Philadelpia.

But the goodness does not stop there. The domination gets even better. Inge had leftovers from the festival, and was giving them back to the church to sell or giveaway. Needless to say, I took no prisoners at the opportunity to get some bratwurst. I bought 5 lbs., or 20 premium brats, for 3.29 per pound, Inge's cost, with free shipping and a tub of Inge's kraut! People were scrambling for those things, but at our staff meeting when it was announced there would be some for sale, I exclaimed "Those brats are mine!" I was serious but got lots of laughs, too. That is how I wage war.

I grilled some up tonight and was pleasantly reminded at first bite that, yes, these are the best damn brats I've ever had...

And now I know where to get them.

Over and Out,


PS-Another great thing about our festival is the raffle. First prize, which I think is 5k, went to one of the volunteers who spent his last 10 bucks on the 3 tickets. He's the nicest guy around, and has been volunteering at the Church over the last four months because he's been out of work. When I saw him, I asked him how he was and he said he was still out of work. I said man that's "rough," and he's like "yah...," and here he is walking around with a t-shirt that says Jesus saves, smiling, but suffering inwardly, but helping anyone he can.

Well to make a long story short and festival great, this guy won first prize the next day. Everyone cheers. He starts crying and everyone cheers more. It was genuinely awesome and I am so grateful that this guy, Harrison, won. Thanks be to God!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Random Monday Thoughts

Hey all. It's an update that's actually on time. Yay for Labor Day.

First, a shout out to John McCain for making a great VP choice. I don't think he could have picked a better running mate. Everyone has their fair share of challenges, but to my mind she was the best choice all along and has my full, enthusiastic support. Hip hip for Sarah Palin!

The bathroom is coming along very well. The plumbing is completely finished. The electrical is nearly complete--just have to wire up the new outlet, finish a little more framing and shiming and I'm ready to close this sucker up. Yes, it's been a long windy road, but it's one I'm ready to see the end of real soon.

It's already feeling like Fall out here. We have some early turners. Our black walnut and our neighbor's sycamore have already started to drop their yellowed leaves. I can't tell you how pumped I am for Fall colors this year. I am excited to see what colors the trees in our yard are going to turn. I am also excited for a drop in temperature, so I can wear long sleeves once again and get my wood stove fired up. I will also take that opportunity to get out to my shed and organize it into a worthy workshop.

Last week I mentioned I recommended a 16 0z. (Estwing) hammer for your bag. I have found this to be the perfect size and weight for most projects. However, if you are going to be framing, I recommend a 20 oz. (Estwing). Four ounces doesn't sound like much, but after a couple of swings the difference is clearly noticeable--your arm is tired and your swings pack far more umph. So, if you find yourself framing and doing rough carpentry, step it up to a 20 oz. You'll be happy you did.

Finally, I just want to say that I've seen a lot of hooked up Jeeps this past month and a half on 55. There's an old Jeep trail that goes up to Signal Knob, so maybe that's where they are going. I don't know, but I definitely want to get on that train.

Ok, time to get ready to go chop some wood. In the meantime, have a great Monday.

Over and out.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Tool Bag

I wanted to take a moment to talk about something that has become very dear to my heart over the past year or so, especially the past several months: my tool bag.

Last summer, I became inspired at work to assemble a new tool set replete with a domination tool bag to handle all my service calls. My buddy John, who helps with our HVAC contract, always has the latest gadgets in tools, and it is he who first introduced me to this bad-ass electrician's bag.

John D. has since replaced his (two) bag(s) with a backpack to make it easier to climb on top of buildings, but this bag, in my opinion, is still where it's at. I love it so much, I bought one for myself for home-use and began stocking it each paycheck with the best tools money can buy. That way, whenever I need something, it's not a deal. I don't worry about finding a such-and-such tool. I just go get my bag and handle the problem.

So what's in this organized bag of tricks? Glad you asked. For starters, American-made quality steel to begin tackling any challenge. Here's a breakdown of what I consider essential tools, with commentary on the best brands:

1.) 16 oz. Estwing Hammer. Estwings are the best, hands down. Made in the USA, they take the punishment and dish it out. It's worth the 20-25 bucks to have this in your sack. Their patented hand grip reduces shock, which keeps hammering relatively easy on your body, especially if you are pounding away all day. There is no mistaking the quality of this hammer. After you've used it for awhile, nothing else compares.

2.) Klein Pliers. The electrician's choice. Made in the USA. Anything and everything by Klein is Grade A select. I've had a pair of Klein side-cutting pliers for 17 years, and the domination has not stopped. I recommend all their products. In my bag at home, I keep a pair of their diagonal-cutting and needle-nose pliers as well as their wire-strippers.

3.) Screw Drivers. If you go into any home center, you will inevitably see a display with interchangeable, multiple-head screw drivers. These are ok, but I don't like that the heads sometimes come out of the sockets. It's frustration you just don't need. So I recommend getting normal, solid one piece 6 inch philips and regular screwdrivers, and keeping them very handy and visible. My personal favorite is to go with Kleins. Their rubber grip is comfortable and easy to recognize. Like most good tools, you can feel the quality of their craftsmanship each time you use them, and they will last you for years--that is, provided you don't drop them down an elevator shaft.

4.) ChannelLocks, AKA adjustable wrench. Made in the USA. Like many of my other tools, my dad always had a pair in his garage. These things are ready to rock and quality you can trust. Because there are so many situations where no other tool really works, they are a must have. ChannelLock also makes other products, including pliers, and I have a pair of their side-cutters in my bag. Their hallmark light-blue handles make them easy to find in your bag or tool box, a reminder that what you're picking up is a ChannelLock, a name closely associated with quality.

5.) Flashlight. How many times do you find yourself wondering what the last flashlight you owned looks like and where it's at? You can never seem to find it when you need it. Unless, of course, you make it a part of your tool bag. I prefer a small Maglite. It's made in the USA, can take a beating, and work reliably for years. I keep a full-size in my Jeep for emergencies.

Ok, so those are some of the essentials. Putting together an awesome tool-set is a lot of fun, for some of us anyway, and I will be back with more on what you should keep in your bag, if you can't tell already by looking at the picture.

Until then, over and out.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Habits of Late

Hey everyone. Sorry for being such a complete slacker on the Update. I have a myriad of excuses, of course, but you know they're no good when even I'm like, "WTF, I have to update my blog, pics or no."

Yes, I have taken some pics to upload for interesting subjects of discussion, but getting them up here from home is practically a Herculean effort. A couple of would-be posts were doomed from the start when I began uploading pics and the connection died, leaving me repeatedly throwing my hands up in frustration, putting the computer down, and cursing under my breath. Well, under my breath most of the time.

Progress on the bathroom has been intermittent. Some days the commute and work saps my extra energy and I just need to chill. It's partially the fact that I so love just chilling out here at the house. I can relax here, and that feels palatial, even with the un-finished bathroom.

I also think that my inertia has to do with not training aikido regularly, which for me helps me chill out bigtime. This Weds. I made it down to class, feeling like a lethargic tub, but by the end of class, as predicted to myself, I was just juiced and ready to go.

As many of you are aware, my favorite direction for an update topic is aikido and application in everyday life. So in that wise, I would like to say that when you feel like you have no energy, but you're getting sleep, eating well, but working a lot, chances are you may not be having much, if any, physical fun.

Even if it's tossing the old pig skin with some friends, it's important to get out and play. Play is an oft overlooked good. So many people want to be good professionals, for example, that they stay late at the office and put in extra time, but it often becomes for naught when the good of play is overlooked and the person begins to feel like life is closing in on them.

But when you can just get outside, roll around in the dirt, smash people, or whatever it is you like to do, and play physically--in such a way that you are no longer worried about people at work, or that thing you gotta get done--the effect is postively transforming. Instead of worrying about work, or family or whatever, you zone in on catching that ball or swinging that bat that you've totally forgotten about everything else but that moment and can simply enjoy yourself and what it is you are doing.

In terms of aikido, Saito sensei said you should do jo or bokken suburi every day. It's easy to see why, particularly for a modern aikido-ka (or practitioner of aikido) who easily finds himself caught up in the things of everyday life. When you are focusing on completing you cuts properly, not wasting movement, the right method of extension and so forth, everything else fades into the distance and you just find yourself standing in the here and now. Chill.

And that's generally the way it should be.

Over and out, homies.


Friday, July 04, 2008


Last Sunday, Clare and I took Anastasia and the Jeep for some joy-riding after Church. Now, I used to be critical of Sunday drivers for no good reason, but these days it seems to me to be the most natural thing in the world. You know, to head out for ice cream, or a snack, and a cruise/adventure after Sunday Mass.

Fate first brought us to Woodstock, Va., where I replaced a dying Jeep battery, probably the original, and threw in some more coolant. Ready for further adventure, I took us to Fort Valley to Seven Fountains Road, where I discovered this incredibly spectacular setting.

I rolled the Jeep down into this mini-valley off-road--without a problem, of course--and snapped the shot you see here. For me, it doesn't exactly the do the moment the true justice it deserves, or capture totally the sheer granduer of the surrounding mountains and seemingly elusive Blue Ridge in the distance. Still, it does reveal something of that moment's greatness. When I hopped back in the Jeep, I victoriously proclaimed, "To go where no Jeep has gone before."

In other news, Clare and I just purchased a Jotul F3 woodstove (used) from a guy south of Charlottesville. In case you are wondering why I drove so far to get this thing, let me just first answer that the price was right for this certifiably kick-ass Norway-approved, Norway-made heat source.

Similar to the scene in the picture above, he lived on the short side of a mountain at the bottom of a majestic valley. To get to his house, I took a gravel road through an Orchard that literally had to have had something like 3000-4000 apple trees. It was incredible, especially shortly before sunset when I arrived. I wish I had pics to show, but suffice to say the view felt like the crowning achievement to a long drive. Being already familiar with this area before driving down, I was more than happy to further justify the trip to myself to see some spectacular views. And am I glad I did.

I will post pics of the stove in the future after the install, but for more information on Jotul (which is pronounced "yo-dul"), check out their website.

Over and Out,


Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Bathroom, cont.

So, work in my bano continues. Today I put in approximately 13 hours of work around the house, but mostly in my bathroom, interspersed by an occasional Coors Light or a Coke to keep me going.

Today, I finished prepping the floor for the tile by applying thin set (mastic), hardi backer cement board, and the requesite screws. In some ways, that doesn't sound like a lot, but that included a trip to Lowe's for a paddle bit to mix the thin set. Thank God it was only one trip today. It's like that store has a syphon tube to my pocketbook.

After that, I laid the tile out in a "dry" run and successfully cut all the pieces for the floor. Because I am putting marble down, it took a painstaking amount of time to cut the tiles. My wet saw, the cheapest one you can get at Lowe's, is the bomb, but between measuring, spacing, selecting tile, locking up the blade on occasions, looking for my safety glasses for the 18th time, etc.--all that adds up, and before you know it hours have passed.

While cutting tile on my porch, I watched several storms roll in over the mountains. The sky was dark blue and spectacular, with a strong refreshing breeze as the cold front rolled in. Seriously awesome, notwithstanding the humidity. But that's what cold beverages are for.

Pics of the bathroom to come, when I can finally load some up.

To keep myself mentally in the game on this project, I just think that every day is a process in a series of steps until that final day when I can finally shut the door on the place and forget about it because I know it's done.

That said, laying tile is actually really, really cool, especially marble because it looks so nifty. While working the trowel, I felt how I think a medieval craftsman may have felt doing his craft, working to put together something architecturally mighty and stunning.

But right now, sleep sounds even more stunning. Over and out.



Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's not Monday, but I'm still LOCO!

Hey peeps!

So much has happened in the last 2 weeks, it's hard to choose something about which to sound off. So I'll just use the "paint with broad strokes" approach and leave it at that.

My renovation of our bathroom seems to be coming along, but, in all honesty, it has been one roadblock after another. First, the floor, then the plumbing, then leveling everything, and now I have to figure out how and where to tastefully to build the wall and install a soffet (enclosure) for the drain vent. With this bathroom, the drama does not seem to end...

My mom and dad came out last week for four days. My dad was the most completely helpful in going about tackling the plumbing in the bathroom and gave me a host of tools that I remember from when I was 5. No joke. It was actually quite moving for me to be taking this stuff. It kind of feels like the passing of the torch, if you know what I mean.

Being a homeowner is so awesome. I am so content, and I think Clare is too. We just discovered that we have a cherry tree in our yard, with more cherries than we can handle. Clare went and picked a slew of them yesterday, jarred 'em and made pie this evening, which, I have to tell you, was the most splendid treat. Eating fruit creations from your own yard is like winning the lotto and going to your favorite cafe in the Carribean. You bask in the experience.

We also have a blueberry and blackberry patch, but presently it is a domineering weed patch.

Anyhow, there are so many projects for me here, it's overwhelming, but great, because I feel like there is always something productive for me to do. "Build the kingdom," ya know?"

Also of late, I feel that I have become something of a tick expert because this area is swarming with them. Pliny called them "the nastiest creature on earth." My favorite resource is They don't play around over there.

Later, yo's.

Over and out,


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Not a Doomsayer, but...

Well, maybe I am.

The pic to the right is from I am Legend.

My friend Ben Hatke, about a year and half ago, introduced me to the quasi-organized body of knowledge regarding "peak oil," a phenomenon which basically means we are going to run out of oil relatively soon and our economy and way of life will change dramatically.
At the time, I was a car salesman, already seeing the desire of many customers for hybrid vehicles and gas conservation. Because of this, I thought that car companies would see the writing on the wall and make more earnest efforts to alter their fueling technology. But this has not been the case, as the automakers continue to produce gas guzzlers, even while they cut production for vehicles in North America. Ford, has recently announced plans to cut production of their best-selling F-Series and SUVs due to gas.

The F-150, the best-selling large pickup for 31 years only gets an estimated 12 MPG in the city and 18 MPG on the highway. That's awful, but that's been the industry standard for many years now and the industry, while it claims to be "green," has barely made even a dent in our consumption of oil.
Meanwhile, the auto industry in China and India is booming--and they're not drving Hybrids.

What I am gettting to is that this means a lot of consumption of fuel. I presently believe at this time that we are in for an oil shock at the pump, while the MF oil companies' revenues continue to soar to record margins to the tune of a billion a week. Some are preparing in a very serious way to handle this seemingly inevitable catastrophe, and the more gas prices spike to where the oil companies want them to be, the more I think these people aren't so loco and it's time to get a subscription to Mother Earth News.

Back at Christendom, I thought it was almost the cute eccentricity of a bygone age when my history teacher--the college founder--related the sage advice of his grandmother from Maine: "Don't let your life be ruled by a machine."
She had said this in response to the boom in mechanized industry at the beginning of the 2oth century. He had ended his class on this note, and even laughed about it, passing it on for what it's worth to reveal just a glimpse into the hardened personality of those in ages past.

Common sense is that we will one day run out of oil. Many debate when, but it may not matter if price shoots up to 10.00 a gallon and the world's economy comes to a screeching halt. Back to the horse and carriage we shall go.

And the Glock will come with me.
Over and out,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Shout Out to My Homies

Hey there. Sorry for the continued lack of updates, but if you've seen my bathroom lately, or lack thereof, you'd understand.

I've been working hard not only to rebuild our bathroom from scratch, but also to rectify our home's plumbing problems.

After I ripped up the floor in our only bathroom I discovered that I certainly got more than I bargained for:

1.) Termites in ages past had eaten through some of the joists
2.) Others were warped
3.) The plumbing for the entire house is not properly vented
4.) The drain pipes were also configured incorrectly, e.g., a clog in the toilet could very well become a problem in the tub or sink

Thus far, I've leveled and reinforced the joists with new 2x10s and attached them (unlike before) to the wall where they end with brackets. (Because of the wall's configuration, joist hangers, my original plan, would not have worked without serious reconfiguration.) I then cemented in 4 cement posts underneath the middle joists with T brackets in hopes that 15 years from now the floor will be just as strong.

Next comes shoring up some of the remaining floor framing, cutting out the remainder of the shoddy plumbing, and then starting from scratch with a new and hopefully improved design.

Many have said, "Nick it's so good that you can do this!" My response: Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I'm really just flying by the seat of my pants and trying not to get my ass kicked.

And that, my friends, is a Monday moment.

Over and Out,


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Quick Word..Closing Day

Hey everyone! Sorry for the lack of updates in recent days. Clare and I have been preparing, albeit at what sometimes seemed a glacial pace, for closing on our house, moving in, and renovating it, all at the same time.

So even though this day often felt like it would never come, when it finally did come, it went as fast and smooth as could be asked for, thanks be to God.

So, yes, we're homeowners now. Big Dogs. Now we have just have to open up a bottle of Wild Turkey, walk around with a couple of shot glasses in our hand and introduce ourselves to the rest of the neighborhood.

Some other good news is that everything in the house works more or less. The bad news is that the floors need some love and attention, which is hard to give when you are being distracted by 5 other things that also need your love and attenion..

We're just happy to have a place of our own, finally. Hope all is well with you. More later.



Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Pilgrim's Journey

Well, today is so special for so many reasons, one of which is that I was able to attend His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's papal mass at the new National's Stadium in Washington, D.C. The last I heard, some 46,000 excited Catholics were in attendence, which made for an extremely powerful experience.

The Pope said the Mass of the Holy Spirit in anticipation of Pentecost and consonnant with his trip theme of "Christ Our Hope." His homily was beautiful, but tough to understand at times because of his German accent. Indeed, his Spanish feels far more comfortable than his English. All hispanics in attendenance were thrilled that he addressed them in their native tongue, and so smoothly at that.

His preaching alighted on the theme of interior conversion from the frequent reception of the sacrament of reconcilliation, which produces an effect--holiness--that it both "inspires and accomplishes." It is the fruit of this conversion, joy, hope and love, that becomes leaven to our confused and increasingly secular society that inspires others to take up Gospel message.

The Pope also had frank and sweet, healing words of compassion regarding the grave evil of the sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. In case you missed it, the Pope had a private, unscheduled meeting with some of the victims of sexual abuse at the Apostalic Nunciature in D.C. You can read about this moving event here.

I am gladdened that the Pope has been so forthright and direct in his dealings regarding the scandal. I am presently reminded of his words (then Cardinal Ratzinger) from the 9th Station during the Papal Stations of the Cross on March 24, 2005: "How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!" To be sure, one reason Pope Benedict has come to America and D.C. is to bring healing and hope the Church for this great evil. It is my feeling, and that of those around me, that his words and example are having their intended effect.

The Pope has many messages and insights for us to be sure on this trip, more definitely than I am able to give justice to here. I just want to say, due to a lack of some time to really update, that I love Pope Benedict. He is the total bomb!

Viva el Papa!


Monday, April 14, 2008

Some Spiritual Thoughts

Hey everybody! It's another Monday, and so it's time for another update.

Today's post, I thought, should take into account some spiritual thoughts, especially since Pope Benedict XVI leaves tomorrow morning for his historic trip to the United States.

Before Easter, I went to confession. It is a requirement of the Church that Catholics go to confession once a year during Lent. I was fortunate to go to a confessor who exuded that sense of holiness you long for when you go to confession--a man passionate about souls, someone who seriously takes into account your journey and others,' the quest to get to Heaven.

It is honestly a huge boon to go to a confessor who you know cares about you and understands, if only intuitively, your troubles and the burdens of both daily and spiritual life. At just the right moment, a holy confessor can turn the tables for you with the right words and directives. Your soul has to be willing, of course, too, to do what it must, which can be painful if you are trying to grasp and hold onto undue pride.

Anyway, I hit a turning point for myself when, on following my confessor's urging, I right then and there decided to really make every effort to say a daily rosary again in earnest. That is to say, a daily rosary approached with the mindset that I am actually going to pray because I need to to be holy, not because it's a routine I do.

Since then, I have noticed a major difference in myself and the world. Just by being really sincere in saying the rosary every day, my family and I have benefitted tremendously. For example, I am less of a jerk and way more happy. Moreover, I have been brought back to the truth that we really do come to Jesus through Mary. This isn't just a Catholic saying, but a physical and spiritual reality. In fact, my whole conversion began through the Discalced Carmelites, an austere order devoted to the due honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Anyway, I just wanted to sound off about that. Do not under estimate the power of the rosary. And do not under estimate your need to say it. St. Padre Pio, a holy and stigmatic priest, called it 'the weapon.' You can read more about the benefits of the rosary here.

I used to have a bumper sticker that said "A rosary a day keeps the devil away." If you pray it faithfully, it will. Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!

Over and Out,


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The first & the last

...cups of coffee today.

So, this morning, before getting pegged with an Orange via my cell phone, I brewed a pot of some amazing Intelligentsia Coffee. Intelligentsia on Broadway in Chicago is my favorite coffee shop of all time, hands down. I am a bit biased, of course, being from Chicago and all, but there are many other coffee enthusiasts nationwide who would agree that the shop's sophisticated ethos and name aptly reflects the sheer magnificence of their coffee and espresso, not to mention the decision to drink it.
Indeed, there are many on whom Intelligensia's greatness would and will be lost. I honestly don't mind, first, because those people really don't care anyway, and second, that means more stupendous Intelligensia Coffee for me.
This evening, Clare and I took a jaunt into D.C., admittedly to purchase a kitchen table off Craig's List. After the exchange, we took a detour to check out Tryst, a centerpiece of D.C.'s happenin' coffee scene. Though it's seemingly more a night time hang-out and Adam's Morgan social institution, their coffee and espresso was not disappointing. Perhaps not the amazingness of other coffee places, but still cool nonetheless.
So no sooner than we checked out of D.C. than we hit some traffic delays. Good thing we were well caffeniated to handle the situation. I even called WTOP to let them know of an additional delay. I talked to the traffic person, who was really cool, and she announced my update on the radio! How sweet is that?!
Anyway, that wraps up the update, albeit a day late. Watch out for oranges.
Over and Out,

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Still Fills Me with the Juice

Every time I watch it...

Hell ya.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

To be a Champion...

That is, a Champion Spark plug.

Today I changed the Spark Plugs in the Jeep to Champion 4412s--good, old-fashioned Made in the US of A truck plugs, and now the Jeep runs smooth as silk. Thank you fellow Jeepers for your online reviews and recommendations. Good to remember.

But more importantly, Happy Easter! Christ Is Risen! Indeed He is Risen.

So that's it for now. I am chomping at the bit to get into my new house. We are looking forward to cracking open a bottle of wine and celebrating. I have the perfect bottle for the occasion, too.

More later, juicebags!
Over and Out,


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rolled by....

This weekend rolled by faster than I could say, "What the...?"

Yesterday, Clare and I went to Olde Town Occoquan, which is mostly for old people who want country crafts, and then traipsed out to Strasburg to scope out the new house and explore the area a bit more. We visited some of our hillbilly neighbors--er, I mean, just passed by their houses--and it was such an eclectic mix of old buildings, some new ones, and, of course, ones in between.

It was just good to be out there envisioning the possibilities and looking forward to the move, sometimes after our new closing date of April 30. We decided on a locale for the eventual garage, which won't interfere with the main view. Also good to note, is that our view of Signal Knob, at least, depending on where you stand, should be visible all year round, which is damn good. I look forward to sipping beverages on our porch and gazing out to the mountains (hell, yeah!)

Today we went for a moderate hike in Caledon Natural area, though we didn't see any caledons (aka, bald eagles). It was more of just an excuse to get out and walk with nature. After a brief stop at Hyperion Espresso and Old Mill Park, we got a seat at St. Mary's in the cry room, where I chased Anastasia back and forth during the reading of the Passion.

So here I am, back at the in-laws, listening to the wood crackling in the wood stove as I type, waiting on din-din to be served.

So, not much else is going on, really, other than eagerly awaiting our transition from here to a new house.

Thanks for stopping by. Over and out.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

"Sweating Metal" & YouTube

So, this week flew by rather quickly--about as the fast as the winds blowing through this region yesterday at gale force. I had to go check out a fallen tree at work. Thankfully it landed quite safely on the grass. Anyone under that thing would have been gacked.

Determined to learn the art of soldering copper, I re-embarked this week on the craft as we move to towards completion of Phase II of our office renovation project at work, the kitchen/work area. With the exception of the electrical and floor tiling, we are doing everything ourselves from the demo to the plumbing to the finish work. We will probably have the counter installed, too, since I don't think it comes any other way.

Anyway, part of the job is to plumb for the kitchen sink. I ripped out the old one, cutting the copper lines that led to the faucet in the process, figuring (correctly, thank goodness) that I could just solder on some new and improved connections for the faucet.

Back in August, I gave soldering a shot in the rectory and it was very nearly my downfall. When the rectory was built, the builders did not install shut-off valves for any of the exterior faucets, let alone access panels. So when I had to take out the exterior faucet, I had to rip out the drywall and then cut the pipe. When I tried to resolder everything back together I failed at every turn. No matter what I did, failure became a closer and more familar companion.

So I learned the hard way that you don't just go cutting copper pipes with abandon. I eventually called a really cool plumber to handle the situation, but that's not a scenario I want to repeat, especially since I was at the rectory that night until 10 PM, trying to figure out a temporary solution to my problem. With no shut-off valve other than the rectory water main, I ran a long piece of black tube out the window and into the grass for the night until my rescue the next day.

Part of me thinks I was at the church so late because, as I found I out the next day, other events were afoot. The church food pantry was broken into that night, sometime after 10:30 PM, and I think the Holy Spirit conspired to keep me there for whatever reason. And let me tell you, if God doesn't want you to succeed, you will definitely not succeed. In this case failure certainly seems to have been part of His will.

So anyway, with not a bit of trepidation, I bought some more plumbing stuff, went to my shop, lit the torch and began heating the metal so I could solder. I have never seen this done, though I knew the elements, sort of, of what you are supposed to do. Having always considered myself the friend of the torch, I was not too put off, but after five or ten minutes of torching I began feeling that my technique was incorrect.

Well, I was right. I went online to see if I could find some soldering videos and came up with a bunch of great, illustrative stuff on YouTube that showed me the error of my ways. Instead of heating for 10 minutes, which, I learned, actually oxidizes the metal and prevents you from soldering correctly, you heat quickly for 8-10 seconds and the solder gets sucked into the joint, zips around the metal, drips and then you're good to go.

Simple! I was making it way, way more tough than it had to be. After my YouTube instruction, I started soldering like a moefoe, which, as you can imagine, with my history of soldering misadventures, felt entirely too good.

So if you have a home improvement or construction question, YouTube may be the answer to your woes.

Good luck and over and out!


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

To Train

Sometimes I think about life. LOL. I know, that's dangerous. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but in all seriousness, as I think, I've noticed that my time to really ponder life's mysteries has been usurped greatly by my numerous duties.

I am at peace with that, because I have been blessed to have received answers to my many, many questions. I feel very satisfied, knowing that, at some point, you just have to take the leap and live what you've learned, putting your knowledge to the test, to handle--with some degree of finesse, hopefully--the battles and drudgery of daily life.

For those who have chosen the warrior's path, daily life becomes the battlefield. I can't imagine what it is for others, because that's what it's always been for me. Often the test comes first and study comes later. Sometimes it is bereft of enemies and othertimes the din of war is ubiquitous.

But it is a windy path, one that winds around always, with long grand vistas at times and at others valleys shrouded in darkness, where we are either made or broken. Regardless of my specific spot on the road, however, and my feelings about it, I am invariably brought back to one of my favorite quotes by an old Japanese spearmaster, Deishu Takahashi:
"If a sword is not constantly polished, it will never show it's lustre."

Oh, and this is me getting launched by one of my favorite teachers. I guess that's what you might call "getting polished."

Over and Out,

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Renovations Ahead

Hey there everyone!

So it is finally March! Hip, Hip! That means we are one tangible month closer to getting into our house.

But it needs work. Cleaning and work.

The realtor has given the go-ahead for us to start cleaning after our financing is finalized. So we are waiting on that.

Then once we actually get the house, the first item of business is to gut and then completely redo our 5x7 bathroom. On the inside it looks like an outhouse--no joke. Clare thinks it's appalling, particularly the faded Mustard Yellow Shower/Tub drop-in, but I have seen way, way worse. Still, I am hoping that with some elbow grease and a hammer my HGTV addiction will not have been for naught.

Yesterday we made a family excursion to Home Depot for a change (we usually go to Lowe's) to get the creativity flowing. Since the bathroom is a small space, we can afford to be a little more choosy about what goes in it, since you can only install so much in a 5x7 area. Without really expecting it, we found the ultimate flooring at el cheapo prices. We picked up some beautiful 1x1 marble tile for less than $10 a box (5 sq. ft.). Not bad, when you only need to cover 24 sq. ft. or so.

My plan is to go for high-end style in a mini-bathroom. I think it can be pulled off, more or less, except that it's just such a small space, it's going to be tough to make it feel opulent, let alone functional.

My budget for this project is about $1000. More or less. I am sure I will go over by a hundred or two when you bring in all the fixtures and drywall. Considering the fools on T.V. will spend upwards of 30k on their master baths, I don't consider this too unreasonable.

I am just ready to rip the damn thing apart.

Over and out,


Monday, February 25, 2008

The 11th Hour

It's 11:10 PM as I start this post. I'm gonna keep it short, as I will be needin' to get to work on the morrow. Below is another pic of our soon to be house (God-willing!) from the street on a nice day.

More to come after this Thursday meeting with the Home Inspector. Please pray, if you can fit us in, that everything goes well with the inspection.

God Bless! Over and Out,


Friday, February 22, 2008

Under Contract...

Well, almost.

Clare and I have bought a house in Strasburg, though it is closer to Front Royal than Strasburg. It's a foreclose fixer-upper with a stupendous partial mountain view and generous yard, bordered by a churtling creek.

Here's a pic:

So, that's what's been up with us!
Over and Out,

Friday, February 15, 2008

More Ultra-Right Wingers Sound Off...

Put another way, law-abiding citizens need to be allowed to carry guns on campus.

Over and Out,


Don't Say "I Told You So": Buy Your GLOCKS Now!

Hey folks, just wanted to chime in quickly. I don't think I'm a fear-monger when I say gun-wielding psycho-paths are becoming more bold. Over the past few years, we've witnessed shootings of the Amish in Intercourse, Pa., the rampage at Virginia Tech, and now again at Northern Illinois University.

I am pissed. This is the generational legacy that my daughter is inheriting--Cho wannabe's.

After the last blood-curdling massacre, I said Cho may not have gone as far as he did if students returned fire. Fred Thompson agreed with me. And now we are faced with another sick wack-job, and Utah continues to remain the only state that allows its university students to carry a legally owned firearm on campus.

Granted, no sane person wants guns in the classroom, but the stakes have changed. Armed maniacs are ambushing unarmed students in class. Even the Amish aren't safe. There's only one solution: return fire. Today it was a school in Northern Illinois. Several months ago Christian churches in Colorado were being attacked, that is, until the guy got gunned down.

But tomorrow, it could be a department store. Who knows? Getting caught in a showdown with an armed psychopath is not high on most people's A-list of things to do. But one day we may not have a choice. These locos need to be capped and bagged.
Let us not forget: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Over and Out,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Sorry I missed you all on Monday, but I decided to take a hiatus and attend to other watching HGTV and reading Drudge.

Now that our depature from the Olde Dominion is pretty much imminent, I have been fiendishly taking every opportunity I can to re-immerse myself in the Civil War and become more personally aquainted with those many places in our state that have become historical markers of that great event.

This past Sunday, Clare and I visted Chancellorsville battlefield. I always thought Chancellorville was a town, but not so. It was a plantation owned by the Chancellors at an intersection where the battle took place.

I can't fully express how completely pumped I was to visit the battlefield, free visitor's center, and take as much of the driving tour we could fit in before mass, but I was thrilled. For years, I have slowly but surely been gaining a sort of topographical appreciation for Virginia and the events that took place here. It was the Civil War that first attracted me to this area, the Shenandoah Valley and then, finally, college.

I'm so grateful that I've been given the opportunity to live and be here. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be cramming as much of Virginia's heritage in as I can.

Over and out,


Monday, February 04, 2008

Some of My Recent Addictions

It's already been a week since my last post. Tonight, I am continuing to satiate my addiction to HGTV while posting and watching Hidden Potential at the same time. Even though it's not one of my favorite shows, I feel like I am "in the know" by staying tuned in.

So what are my favs? I enjoy House Hunters, an HGTV mainstay, Find Your Style with Karen McAloon, Over Your Head with hilarious Chicago native Eric Stromer, Carter Can with cool carpenter Carter Oosterhouse, not to mention my other favorites: Sell This House; Design to Sell; Divine Design: Design on a Dime; Secrets that Sell; and My House is Worth What?

Yah, I'm a dork.

Other than watching HGTV almost every night while surfing or playing Scrabble, Clare and I recently made a visit to Olde Towne Fredericksburg, where I picked up a cool antique to carry back to my Chicago pad (when I get one). What did I get, you ask? A chair--from the Library of Congress!

Well, I thought it was cool. It's solid wood. The vendor has all kinds of relics from all sorts of government buildings, but I had been thinking about it for awhile now after visiting some time ago, and was pretty sure I wanted one of these chairs. How cool would it be, I thought, to have an LOC chair in my office? It called to me. So now I've got one.

In other news in addition to slogging through Norwich's Byzantium, I am reading Yukon Alone by John Balzar. (Above is Emerald Lake, Yukon in the pic.) Balzac's work is easier, more contemporary fare, but awesome in its own right nonetheless, describing the 1,000 mile plus annual dog sled journey known as the Yukon Quest. Very worthwhile, if you are interested in dog-sledding.

So that's an Update. Please pray for Clare and I's move. We need to get a house.

Thanks, take care. Over and out.

PS--Blogger is being a pain. Sorry for the formatting.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Did you think I would miss today's post? Not today, my friend.

To the right is a picturesque shot of what modern Anatlya, situated on the Meditereanean in Southern Turkey, must have looked like during the apogee of the Byzantine empire (or any other time for that matter, but stick with me, ok?)

One may well imagine the early Byzantine soldier staring at these mountains wistfully, gazing at a similar awe-inspiring sunset and wishing, perhaps, for more peaceful times.

My inspiration? I have been reading Sir John Julius Norwich's epochal History of Byzantium. Actually, I am reading the truncated version. It's thorough, though a whirlwind and easy to forget the particulars of all the minor emperors. One thing, however, is for sure: the succession of emperor to emperor, reign to reign was often a very bloody, despicable affair. At least in the first 500 years of the Empire, assinations and usurpation was often the norm, even as barbarian or middle eastern hordes stood eager to engulf the Empire's all-too-often vulberable borders.

Americans take for granted their liberty to elect officials to office and form of government. We do not have psychotic rulers standing in the Elipse (a present-day cultural equivalent to Byzantium's Hippodrome) planting a purple boot on the trembling neck of a previous Emperor or failed usurper, before ordering him blinded and thrown into prison at best, or tortured and then sent to a furnace at worst.

No, we tolerate a barbarism far more hidden in its ugliness though fundamentally the same: crimes against life, i.e., abortion, euthanasia, human embryonic stem cell research and the like.

Though what of events of greatness? For me, one event stands out so nobly above all the rest that it encapsulates all that is great about Byznatium and its sense of destiny.

On September 24, 628 A.D. Basileus (Emperor) Heraclius returned most triumphantly to Constantinople after saving the whole empire from the Persians, an event for which posterity must thank him (lest we'd be speaking Farsee today). Before him went the True Cross, rescued from the Persians who stole it, while cheering crowds thronged behind the city's legendary walls, awaiting to see it placed in Hagia Sophia, one of the greatest churches in all of Christendom.

This is greatness. If only the rest of the Empire's history was so magnificent. Every age faces towering obstacles. We just need to surmount our own.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Excellence...In a Cup

Yesterday was superb. Clare and I made the trip to D.C. and a visit to my favorite tea shop in the world: Teaism.

As a tea-enthusiast, I'm very critical of high-end loose tea establishments, but as far as I'm concerned, Teaism--only to be compared with Dragonwell in San Francisco--sets the standard for excellence.

Teaism's R Street location is a trendy American tea-house that serves Asian-inspired cuisine paired with a refined selection of essential teas. The tea and other menu options work together harmoniously to create an unequalled, urban zen experience.

For me, what makes Teaism so completely stand out is their food menu and atmosphere. Their tea is quite good--very good--but anything I've ever sampled from their menu is wonderfully different and utterly divine. The air at teaism is chic and mellow. On weekends this location is packed, but during the work-week you can catch a table upstairs with a window view. In Spring and Fall, those windows open to let in a delectable breeze.

All that said, in my experience the folks who work the register are not great representatives of tea and often share no enthusiasm or appreciation for the place, which is a very big negative. Even still, I find I can overlook this flaw because the place is so good otherwise.

One last thing: be watchful of your tea. They use a ton of tea in the infusion and you don't want to overbrew. I think they may also overheat their greens, using water that is too hot. Maybe that's just me. The brews virtually always end up being supreme.

Try an apricot tea cake and Jasmine Pearls for extreme bliss.

Thank you, Teaism, for ending the corruption of least in one corner of the world.

Over and Out,


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mowth Displacement!

Well, here it is. The eve before Monday. And what shall I discuss? The options are many, but ultimately, "there can be only one." Yah right.

My mouth is still enduring some serious gak-age from early last week when I had my wisdom teeth ripped out with a forklift. Since then I have been treated to, I mean with, 1000 mg. of Hydrocodone, aka Vicodin, every four hours, which is what serious yuppie-junkies use to find their inner-buddha.

Life has been somewhat tough. No real food except yogurt and milk shakes. I call it the Nick-Diet, since I think I've been losing weight. Move over Jenny Craig. Your end has come!

My lower teeth were pretty impacted, so the healing process is slow, relatively speaking. My whole chin is numb with disbelief and pain. Feeling in my lower lip seems to be returning, but I can't really tell. I was warned beforehand that it could be numb for life, since the lower-teeth were so close to the main nerve. Yikes. It could also effect my flute-playing, but I pray it doesn't, not that I've been playing all that much of late.

Actually, life feels a lot better with no wisdom teeth. I kinda wonder sometimes if when they pulled the teeth out they took some of my hard-earned wisdom as well, because I just don't feel as wise. I really don't. I feel silly. Actually, it's probably just the drugs.


On a more serious note, Clare and I are still here in po-dunk, confederate-flag-in-my-old-Ford-pick-up Stafford. We have decided to move to Chicago indefinitely. We will move sometime in the next few months, though we're not sure when. And then it's Sanfratello's, here we come!

Juice-out Juice bags.


Monday, January 07, 2008

The Moment of Truth -- Take 2!

Well, today was--is, actually--a Monday of Mondays. Really, it's been quite a day. Not only did I recieve a truly substantial raise from my job in Dale City, VA, but also I learned that the offer we put on a sweet fixer-upper in Hammond, IN looks like it's going to be accepted--like tomorrow.

Yes, for those of you who don't know, it looks like we'll be moving to Indiana sometime next month, unless, unless, well, I don't really know.

You see, I am still holding out.

I just got the raise I need to stick around, if I want. But it's not just me. It's Clare, Anastasia, Leia, and me. I prefer it that way, obviously, but now I have tons more to consider, even as I write: should I stay or should I go?

Ultimately, you go with what's in your heart, but when you are deciding for everybody it's tough, especially when you are the one putting the food on the table.

A move out to the midwest would be good for us. There's great pizza, great people (in general--you feel like you can say hello without someone scowling at you), Chicago, and family. There's a culture that you can definitely get to, other than the "who can I cut off next?!" mentality so prominent in this area.

Staying here would be cool too, but only, really, if we lived where I would truly like to live--up in the mountains somewhere. I would have a long-ass drive to work (over an hour), but I would have a sweet, sweet setup.

I usually don't talk about something like this on this blog in this way, but I need to make my decision by no later than 9AM tomorrow. After 9AM, I won't be able to talk, because I will be being alleviated (great English, eh?) of my wisdom teeth.

So any wisdom I have goes right out the door.

Anyway, I would love to live in the mountains, ultimately, but it is probably not the best decision collectively, at least not right now. Now that I have a wonderful job at a wonderful place alongside a sweet raise, skipping town is not high on my list. I prayed to St. Joseph to get this job, and I've been praying all along to him about leaving, and I wonder if he was in similar shoes when God directed him to leave Bethlehem for foriegn lands. Had St. Joseph just landed a sweet gig making furniture or building a house for the local authorities, making good money, when the Holy Spirit swept into his life and told him to flee?

I honestly don't know, but that is the Gospel that is speaking to me most right now. It is difficult. I think we will go, but I am very emotionally attached to my job, Virginia and all that it represents for me (that includes my friends, amigos). Don't get me wrong, I am attached to the midwest, too, but in a different sort of a way.

It's just tough. Decision time usually is. We'll see what happens.

Over and out.