Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bourbon and the Convention

Going to the NRA Convention isn’t just about hearing speakers, meeting fellow bloggers, seeing acres of guns. It’s also about going new places and enjoying seeing new things. Because this was the fourth convention in a row, we didn’t tour the exhibit floor until Sunday (hint, some of the exhibits don’t change too often).

There were other things we wanted to do and we took the opportunity to soak up culture. We toured a Bourbon maker and tasted some of their finer offerings (that’s enough culture for me).

We toured their warehouses and saw thousand of barrels of corn whiskey aging into true Bourbon. Later, an experienced Bourbon guide led us through telling the difference between a good Bourbon and a great one. We tasted a sample that had been aged for 18 years and a premium Bourbon aged the more usual 10 years. Damn that spoiled our palates, now we’ll end up buying their 18 year old stuff if we can find it locally.

They had a bottle of 23 year old Bourbon for sale—the only place in the United States you can find it. The price tag of $350.00 was just a little too painful for us.

If you find yourself near Louisville, drive out of town to Bardsville and hang a right to the Heaven Hill distillery. We’re glad we did.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Glenn Beck's Cummberbund at NRA

Yosemite Sam and I are back from the NRA Convention. We got in late last night and I am sneaking a little blog time in at work. We will have one or two more posts up a little later, but I was reading other's coverage of the Convention, and Ahab asked if anyone got a picture of Glenn Beck's cummerbund. Ask and ye shall receive:

We took this off the Jumbotron, but the quality is decent. He is receiving the customary musket the NRA gives to keynote speakers. Beck had a joke about it; something like, "I was wearing this cummerbund on my way here and someone asked if I were a pirate. No, I said, I'm a politician so I can do all that raping and looting." This is not an exact quote but close.

As Ahab said, Beck gave a very good speech. It was funny, sad, uplifting, depressing all at the same time.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Professional at Work

This will be a snark-free post about Mainstream Media reporters. As mentioned, we have media passes to the NRA convention here in Louisville. We set in one of the press areas and a professional reporter came in about the middle of the program and plugged in his laptop, got his digital recorder ready, checked e-mail, and a few other quotidian things.

I am going to confess now that was I totally and unabashedly rude. In fact, if Mr. Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune reads this, I apologize now. I looked over his shoulder and watched how a professional crafts a news story. It was fascinating.

He had an advance copy of McCain's speech and he copied that to Word. He wrote in his byline and a tentative title and began pulling quotes from the speech. He started framing his story even while other politicians were talking. He wrote about McCain's admitted differences with the NRA and mentioned "polite applause."

When McCain started speaking, Pearson followed the prepared text and used all caps to enter any deviations as well as recording the speech digitally. He bolded a few deviations particularly when McCain discussed Barack Obama's challenge to debate McCain on foreign policy.

I read the story in today's Chicago Tribune and was amazed to see how he and two other journalists had crafted the final version. It started with Obama's challenge and then discussed McCain's appearance at the NRA.

We sometimes criticize reporters, but they do work hard. The man I watched probably travels almost as much as the candidates, lives out of a suitcase, all to record his observations. If print newspapers are dying, we will still need professional reporters to collect and analyze what they see and hear. It is a skill they gain through practice. It was a privilege to see how a professional observes and reports.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hello Louisville

Since Denise just did a quick post, I thought that I would do a quick one as well. We're having a great time here so far. Most of the day (Friday) was spent at the Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum. Having media credentials and sitting in the press area was an interesting experience. In some ways I felt that we had more access and in others, I felt that we were separated and isolated from everyone else. Of course we were physically separated, but it seemed we were separated emotionally as well. It was very strange seeing things on that side of the fence.

Most of the speeches were the typical political stem winders. Rah Rah Republicans. Rah Rah McCain. I liked Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson's speech a lot and she seemed the most dedicated of the politicians to 2nd Amendment rights. McCain's speech was typical McCain. He just sucks less than the rest of them. The whole thing was basically a Republican campaign rally. The NRA really needs to get more Democrats to speak at these events. I think Rep. David Boren was the only self identified Democrat on the stage.

After the McCain campaign rally, err Leadership forum, we headed over to the Bass Pro Shop for a get together with A LOT of bloggers. It was great to finally put faces to all the names and get to meet people whose blogs I have been reading for many years. Thanks to Bitter and Michael Bane for putting this together and I'm looking forward to the banquet tomorrow night.

Also, when we were in Louisville, 3 years ago, we toured the excellent Frazier Firearms Museum. It now has a politically correct name, but I suspect that it still has a lot of gunny goodness. If anyone has an extra 4 hours(we took the good part of a day), they should really visit this museum. It is, in my opinion, one of the best gun museums in the world. They have an entire floor of arms from the English Royal Armouries, which is worth the price of admission alone. This place is a do not miss for gunnies.

Good Time Had By All

Yosemite Sam and I are in Louisville attending the NRA Convention--the fourth convention in a row that we blogged. There are a few differences this year. Thanks to the hard work of Bitter, many bloggers were given media credentials including Sam and me. This is allowing us access to meetings and resources we did not have before. We set in a press area and heard John McCain and a number of other politicians speak at the "Celebration of American Values: Leadership Forum" (more on this tomorrow--it is late for us right now).

Another great thing that Bitter and others did was to arrange a blogger mixer. Michael Bane was our host. We met many bloggers who are on our blog roll and a few that will be on it soon. We swapped stories over beer, ice tea, soda, or spirits. We met Todd Jarrett, one of America's best practical pistol shooters.

We will be writing some essays on what we observed at the forum. We have pictures. We have stories. But for now, we're heading to bed with our alarm clock set for o'dark thirty. We want to thank Bitter, Michael, and Todd for the great time that was had by all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

NRA Convention Bound

Yosemite Sam and I are off to Louisville, Kentucky today. We're attending the NRA convention and most (if not all) of the blogger bash activities. Because of new jobs, Sam doesn't have enough leave to take a lot of time off. Because of that, we're flying down instead of driving as we planned originally.

I'm not a big fan of flying. There's the whole security theater thing. There's walking around in stocking feet with everyone else. Then there's the actual flying. You pay to sit in narrow aluminum tubes smelling of the last 500 flyers, their babies, burbs, and farts. Seats are made to fit something other than people. Then there's the seeming interminable wait at the luggage carousel, which is one reason I always try to avoid checking luggage. One other fun thing, the cost of airport parking. I've flown too much to like even the thought of it.

Oops, deep breath, let's go to my happy place. We o
UPDATE: Some how Blogger cut off the bottom of this post and I'm pretty sure this happened after it had been posted awhile. Sigh. Anyway, I was saying we are heading off and we're sure we will have a good time meeting new people, seeing new things. Thanks

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Deadly Antiques

I read a post on Say Uncle about a collector who blew himself up with a Civil War era cannonball. I started leaving a comment there. It got so long; I turned it into a post. There that gives me something to write about!

I used to work in a history museum. People sometimes brought in "cannonballs" they had found for advice on cleaning or to donate or sell to the museum. Once in a while, they would bring in a shell.

A shell looks like solid shot, can be fired from the same cannon, and once corroded is difficult to recognize. A Civil War shell is hollow and filled with black powder. It has a hole in which a gunner placed a wooden cone that had a fuse inside (pointy-side into the hole). The base had numbers on it and little holes drilled by the numbers. A gunner could prick a hole by a number thus cutting the fuse to set a rough time.

They would load the shell into a cannon with the plug facing out. If you placed the fuse against the powder charge and fired the cannon, you'd end up with a Wile E. Coyote shredded cannon (if you were lucky). The fire from the cannon blast was supposed to "wrap" around the shell and ignite the fuse. Relying on the fire to act like this is not the most reliable ignition method. When it didn't work, the shell acted like a cannonball, did whatever damage it could to whatever/whomever it hit and then settled into the dirt. Many duds have stayed intact over time.

Cannonballs are collectable as is any Civil War artifact. Someone finding one decides to clean the dirt off and sees only a rusty blob of metal. Some use grinders to polish it up. A few get out a propane torch and heat the rust in order to scale it off. Occasionally, their work does what the cannon blast failed to do so many years ago.

Black powder has a long life expectancy. Even if it gets wet and doesn't get washed out, it can remain potent once dry. Granted, a lot has to happen for a shell to go off: it has to be found, it has to be cleaned, it has to have an intact charge and fuse, and it has to be exposed to heat/fire/spark. As the story illustrates, all of this can happen even after 140 years.

When shells came to the museum, we explained to the finder what they had. We photographed them, measured them, wrote down the finders' stories, and then turned them over to the bomb squad. No collector in my experience disagreed with that decision.

Once in a while the bomb squad would let us watch the bang. Since they placed the shell in a bunker, it was not too exciting. Still, it was enough to prove that ordnance is nothing to fool around with.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Sticker Shocks

Yosemite Sam and I were in New Hampshire last weekend. We go up there periodically to check on our place there and renew old acquaintances. We had several sticker shocks. First, I had to get gas in Connecticut. I know they have high gas taxes, but when you’re running on fumes, you gotta do what you gotta do.

We paid $3.91 per gallon. It made Maryland’s price of about $3.70 look cheap. It seems like just yesterday I was dismayed when gas hit $3.45 per gallon. Now I long for that price. We may have to cut down on the number of local and interstate trips we make.

We also went to our still favorite gun store, State Line Gun Shop in Mason, New Hampshire. We talked to the owner and poked around for a bit.

State Line has a Reising sub-machine gun for sale. Reisings are World War II era guns used mainly by Marines in the Pacific Theater. They are surprisingly cheap, at least for full-auto guns. State Line is selling their gun for $4,500.00. I was tempted, the gun’s still for sale. I don’t have that much money sitting around (not to mention the difficulty of filing government paperwork when you live in two places), That was actually a good sticker shock—a weapon with history, in good condition, for under $4,500.00.

We had another sticker shock and this one was not good. We bought some ammo. We haven’t been shooting much here in Maryland and most of that was with .22 pistols. Even before moving here, we were using our ammo stockpile, but that’s getting thin in certain calibers particularly because I haven’t moved my reloading equipment down here.

To make a long story short, we picked up enough ammo to use in an afternoon’s shooting session and paid $104.00. The most expensive ammo was for my .45 Colt revolvers and carbine. The only .45 Colt in stock was Hornaday’s Cowboy Action load. The box cost $18.95. That doesn’t sound too mad, until I mention that there are only 20 rounds in the box. I don’t know whether to shoot it or lock it up as an investment in precious metals.

The store’s owner also mentioned that lead shot for reloading has gone up so high that he no longer stocks it. You can’t even save money “rolling your own” anymore.

These prices could hurt gun rights. If someone who’s thinking about buying a gun realizes that prices are fifty cents to a dollar a round they might think again. It could really hurt sports that require a lot of ammo for practice (any action shooting, bowling pins, etc.).

Just like gas, I don’t have an answer, but I can cry about the problem. Too bad, I don’t have a magic wand.