Saturday, February 28, 2009

Everybody Doing Fine!

Around the middle of January, I wrote about two of the residents of Naruna who were in the process of recuperating. The Lovely Bride had a skin cancer whittled off the side of her nose and Oliver, the whiny cat, had skinned his nose trying to get out of a live trap. As the first picture shows, they were fine back then, just with funny looking noses.

They are now pretty much back to normal, although Oliver's nose will probably never look the same.
The second photo shows them this afternoon, enjoying a sunny Texas winter day by resting their eyes...for just fifteen minutes or so. Just another lazy day in Naruna.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gun Show

Sunday afternoon the son-in-law and I headed into town for a little "guy-time". He is still recuperating from repairs to his collar bone following a minor motorcycle mishap, and has been limited a bit in getting out and about. A gun show in north Austin was our recreational goal.

Gun shows are self-justifying events. Just as no woman needs a reason to go shopping at Neiman-Marcus, men are always ready to wander up and down the rows of crowded tables. We visit firearms exhibits to breathe in the heady aroma of gun oil and solvent...emerging revitalized and refreshed after marinating in this gunpowder and testosterone rich environment.

Although no excuse is necessary, we did have some rather vague goals for our visit. I was wanting to look over the selection of Russian made rifles, including some of the AK variants as well as the civilian rifles now becoming available. After spending the last year in Iraq, the son-in-law was to be my subject matter expert. At the same time, he was wanting to evaluate some of the newer 9mm pistols as possible replacement carry pieces.

Sadly, although we were able to find what we were looking for, we emerged empty handed at the end of the day. We fell victim to our own need to go into this wholesale free-for-all armed with as much information as we could. The guns were there, and finding interesting ones was not difficult. However, when we began checking prices, it was painfully obvious that the heyday of the Great American Gun Show has faded. Weapons were generally marked up 50% - 100% over prices available on-line. One table had stock Saiga rifles(about $400 online) marked at $1,395.00, and wouldn't budge a cent. Heavily used SKS rifles were marked, but not selling, at around $350, rather than the approximate $150 found online. If you didn't mind scouring off layers of Cosmoline, you could get an SKS for just under $300...but you couldn't tell what the condition was under the congealed grease. If you just didn't have any idea of prevailing prices, you could have spent a lot of money and walked out with some "treasure".

We fared somewhat better while looking at pistols. Most of these were new, and pricing was pretty consistent from vendor to vendor. After an hour of hefting black handguns, they all began to look and feel alike. Sensory overload kicked in, and energy levels began to wane. What was a little surprising, was we both ended up gravitating toward the same couple of pistols, with the new Beretta PX4 Storm emerging as our mutual favorite. Now all we need is an extra 6 or 700 dollars each and our wives in a generous mood.

After getting home, I kept pondering how different this gun show was from past events I had attended. At shows in Houston or San Antonio in the 70's and 80's, the atmosphere was more of a group of guys getting together to spend time together, swap stories, and maybe sell something to pay for the table rental. Family groups were common, and while there was plenty of junk being offered, there were always those unexpected bargains if you looked hard enough.

Yesterday, there was an almost frantic feel, as shoppers rushed about looking for something they could afford. It felt a lot like last minute shopping on Christmas Eve. Gun magazines and conservative media have been loudly warning about the expected coming crackdown on gun rights under the new Democratic regime. Shooters have been told to stock up and get ready for the coming political, economic, and social turmoil which is going to overtake our country at any moment! It seems another casualty of our country's political battles is the gun show as we knew it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Walking to Emmaus

How do you describe an awakening? Do your eyes pop open and the world is abruptly revealed in all its glory? Or is it a slow process by which we discover those small and beautiful pieces which go together to make up our world? My recent Walk to Emmaus was closer to the latter.
I won’t try to give all the details of an Emmaus Walk. A Walk is something which needs to be experienced, not described. Rather, I will make an effort to express some of my responses. Briefly, a Walk is a very organized and focused activity which gives participants the opportunity and structure to evaluate their relationship with God, to interact with others doing the same, and to explore ways of being a better disciple.
Distractions are minimized, with watches and cell phones disappearing on arrival. Walks are segregated by gender. The needs of participants are met by a massive outside support team which takes care of meals, housekeeping, and even cheerleading when necessary. One of many surprises of the weekend was how many people turned out for different functions, even though they didn’t know any of the participants personally.
The variety of participants was something of a surprise to me. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but there was a tremendous variety of people there. Retirees, businessmen, ranchers, police officers, teachers, medical types, construction workers, and a few unemployed were just a sampling. Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, and some that defied easy categorization. Ages ranged from early twenties to the eighties. Blue collar, white collar, no collar. It was really not a homogeneous group…the only things we had in common being our beliefs and a desire to explore them.
How do you get a group of grown men who don’t know each other to open up about their thoughts and beliefs and values? Talks, study, group discussions, and doing everything together quickly broke down some barriers. We worshipped together, lived together, meditated together, and broke bread together literally and figuratively. One of the greatest sources of joy to me during this time, was getting to sing together. If you don’t get goose bumps when you are with fifty men singing Blessed Assurance or How Great Thou Art at the top of their lungs and you know they mean every word, you never will. Over and over, I would get choked up as we sang old hymns I knew by heart, and new praise hymns I had never heard before. It has been a long time since I have heard such joy expressed in song.
I’ve been home for almost a week now, and I am still trying to sort out the personal effects of my Walk. Some things are clearer now, and some priorities have been rearranged. One thing I am certain of, if you are offered the opportunity to go on a Walk to Emmaus, cinch up those sandals and go!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Island Comfort Food

When you're stuck in the middle of landlocked central Texas, and you need an island food fix, what do you do? You improvise, naturally. I went cruising on the net a couple of weeks ago because I had a craving for some coconut syrup like I used to find when I lived on the windward side of Oahu. Not surprisingly, I was able to locate a source...the problem was the shipping was more than the cost of a couple bottles of syrup and some guava jelly. I bit the bullet and put in the order and waited. And waited. It took almost two weeks for the UPS driver to make it to my door, and when he did I tore into the package. My Lovely Bride took pity on me, and tonight she fixed what was a typical Hawaiian breakfast when we lived in paradise. She whipped up some pancakes, fried some thick slices of Spam, and topped it all with a couple of eggs fried over easy. I also had to fix a short stack with some toasted macadamia nuts on top, slathered with plenty of coconut syrup to satisfy my sweet tooth. Now that's what I call a well balanced meal!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Big Dry

When foreigners; i.e. anyone not from Texas; think of the Lone Star State they seem to assume the entire place is just one big desert, with occasional dust storms and cacti everywhere. Much of this is due to the movie industry filming "Texas" movies in places such as Utah, Arizona, California, northern Mexico, etc. Anyone who has traveled this state has seen the incredible variety available to visitors and natives alike. Seashores, lush coastal plains, dense pine forests, chains of lakes, rich farmland, mountains, rolling hills, swamps, and impenetrable cedar breaks are only a few of the different ecosystems found between the Red and the Rio Grande. And, of course, there are some areas which really do qualify as desert. Photo Copyright: Edgar Serrano

The problem we are facing now, is that more of the state is becoming desert-like all the time. Much of Texas is facing what is quickly becoming a disastrous drought. There are parts of the state which have survived devastating floods and hurricanes this year, but for Central Texas, this is being reported as the driest year since the early fifties. For the youngsters and those with failing memories, that time was referred to by many as the "Big Dry"; and one Texas author, Elmer Kelton, penned a book describing some of the hardships of the period titled, "The Time it Never Rained". Most of the surrounding counties have been under "Burn Bans" since last spring and there is no end in sight.

In our corner of the world, ranchers are already hurting, spending more in feed than their cattle may bring at auction. Water is becoming more of a problem, which was brought home to me recently when I was approached by a neighbor whose well was failing. As at least a temporary measure, he is using water from our well to provide for his cows and calves. Since we moved to Naruna, I have always tried to convince the LB that we didn't really have enough land to keep livestock of our own. Instead, we could vicariously enjoy the local ranchers' animals, without needing to worry about the price of feed, hay and vet bills, or when it would rain next. Now it seems we really must face those concerns alongside our neighbors.

Time for some catching up

Reading back over the last entry or two, I realize I left a few things hanging and in need of some closure.
1) The LB is almost completely recuperated from her surgery. No bruising and a barely noticeable scar if you know where to look.
2) Oliver, the whiny cat, continues to mend, although he still has a scabby nose.
3) The son-in-law finally got his collar bone put back together, and after a trying time initially with unpleasant reactions to pain meds, he is doing better and anxious to get his bike back together. Of course, I had been waiting for him to get home from Iraq so he could help me work on mine, so who knows when we will both be mobile again. (Some of us never learn...its a guy thing I guess.)

I did something this past week I had never done before. I took off from work and went on a religious retreat over four days. It was a very intense and emotional time for me, and as soon as I am able to sort out my thoughts, I will add an entry here about it.