Until we meet again

It's been quite a week since we got home from some amazing experiences, first on the AT through SNP and then in Charleston.  When we got home late Saturday something wasn't quite right with our dog, which lead us to the emergency vet early Sunday morning which then lead to a week long stay at our regular vet.  Final diagnosis is pancreatitis.  He's home now and getting better each day, but still not out of the woods.

We weren't quite recovered from the roller coaster ride of having to decide each day whether a long time friend should live or die, when we went up to the barn yesterday to find my horse, Levi, dead in his stall.  No warning, no sickness and no sign of exactly what happened.  Just dead on the stall floor, having kicked out about half of the wall (unclear whether he did that before, during or after experiencing whatever it was that did him in).

I've been a bit numb for the last 24 hours.  I think that is just a natural defense to so much.  But I've started to process some of it and this is an attempt to work out for myself, what it all means.  We humans after all are nothing more than story telling monkeys, so until I can tell a cohesive story about all of it, it will just be unprocessed mess.  What follows is a jumble of ideas, thoughts and emotions I have had over the preceding day.  Putting it down here is, as always, my attempt to work it out for myself.

I have such a wide mix of emotions about Levi dying.  I'm sad, of course, that he clearly suffered before he died.  I'm morning the little bit of my identity that has died with him.  I am no longer a cowboy / horseman.  Sure I still have horses on property, but none of them are "mine".  I have no doubt that I could borrow any of my family's horses whenever I wanted, but it's not the same.  I'm not sure that I will ever have another horse that's "mine" so that part of me may be relegated to the past forever.

I regret not riding him more,  taking it for granted that there would always be time "mañana".  There was always some chore to do, some dinner to eat, some movie to watch.  My only hope is that Levi was happy without a job.  It seems to me Levi had a pretty good life – he had good pasture, was leader of his herd, was put in at night and had vet care when he needed it.  I hope that not getting to work didn't bother him too much.

I am also a bit freaked out.  After coming off the trail a few weeks ago, I had started to think seriously about transitioning off the farm and getting into a setup that would allow us to travel more often and more freely.  No, I don't believe in the "The Secret" or anything like that, but it did make me start to think more carefully about the intentions I am putting out there is the world.

But (and this is probably where the story telling starts), I am also grateful.  I am grateful that he didn't die when we were on vacation – that would have been horrible for the person watching the house, dogs and horses.  I am grateful that I didn't have to make a decision.  I had reached the point of life/death decision making fatigue earlier in the week with my dog, so that would have been just too much. I get that it's just pets, but unlike humans, they can't tell you what they are feeling or what they want. This gratitude makes me feel a bit guilty too…still processing that.

As odd as it may sound, I am grateful for the chance to deal with death so directly.  For those of you that have never had to bury a 1+ ton animal, I won't go into details, but suffice to say that you appreciate the body for what it is and pretty quickly realize that there has got to be more to horses (and by extension people) that the meat suits that we ride around in.  In our highly sanitized, medicalized and funeralized society we don't get to deal with death so directly anymore.  It's not fun, but it is a teacher.

I'm grateful for the kick in the ass this has given me to be more mindful about my choices.  When we moved to our farm more than a decade ago it was to be with our horses and by extension use them more.  That hasn't worked out as planned and with some life transitions coming up in the next two to six years, I realize that now is the time to start envisioning and, most importantly, experimenting to figure out what we really like and what we really will do (as opposed to what we think / say we will do).  This is hopefully a useful outcome from the regret of not riding more.  I can't change what I haven't done in the past, but I can make more mindful choices in the future.

Lastly, I am grateful for the too few times we rode together.  Levi was a great teacher.  I am not by any stretch of the imagination a great horseman.  Levi was always patient and helped me get better.  It wasn't nearly often enough, but every time we did get to ride I came away feeling relaxed, accomplished and connected.

Happy trails, Levi, until we meet again.


The blessings of busyness

The last few months had been a whirlwind. The day job has ramped up to a new high both in terms of number of simultaneous big projects, hours worked per week and travel, much of it international. At the same time we’ve doubled down on the time we’ve spend working with Mason on homeschool. It’s also Kendall’s senior year with all of the typical pomp, circumstance and drama that comes with the end of something and the start of something new. Oh, and I also was elected to a position at my church.  There’s probably a few things I’m forgetting. 

I can’t say that it was a slow ramp. I wasn’t the proverbial frog in the hot pot. But still I was taken by surprise.and for the last few weeks I’ve been struggling to keep ahead of it all, living in a relatively constant state of thinking I’m forgetting something despite my ninja monk GTD practice.  

I think I heard it first on Tim Ferris that busyness is laziness. When I first heard it I thought it was for other people. That I could be the special one to figure out a way to fit it all in. The blessing of this sustained period of failure has taught me a lot about my own limitations. Everything is a teacher. This extended period of busyness has taught me to not be lazy when considering what to say yes to. 

Say hello to my little friend

This article from the Federalist has been bouncing around the interwebs for nearly a month now, but I just had a chance to read it. I think it makes a pretty compelling narrative argument for the central claim that Trump has an innate sense of how to rev up outrage against his opponents using their own post-modernist tricks against them, although it does cherry pick a few rather extreme examples of PC turned SJW to supportquestion question it leaves unanswered however is: to what end? I’m always curious as to why would want to be anyone president, but in this case the answer seems to me to be critical as it will determine whether our anti-hero president is from the mold of Batman or Scarface. 

Label me this, Batman.

I had a rather unique day yesterday.  I spent the morning until early afternoon running and competing in a local IDPA pistol shooting match.  Lot’s of SJW jokes and general cheeriness about the results of the recent election.  I spent the evening participating in a live podcast from a community contemplative center that among other things teaches people how to protest for social just causes.  Lots of libertation theology and dreariness for the results from the recent elections.

So my days go.  I seem to bounce back and forth between these two groups, generally enjoying the company of both while at the same time cringing (inside at least) when some things are said out loud by either.  Being accepted by both but not completely self-identifying with either.  Life just seems much more complicated, or perhaps taking a positive spin, more nuanced than those labels to me.

One thing I have observed is that while each of those groups are quick to label the other, they are subconsciously just as quick to label themselves.  They see all the bad in the other label and all of the good in their own.  The probelm with these labels is that they are a shortcut and one I think we would do well to dispose of, but it will come at a cost.

We would be better without the left / right labels (and their near synonyms) because it would force us to ask questions of each other and of ourselves.  Questions about what we really believe and more importantly why.  Questions about issues instead of identity.  Questions of values and principles instead of who did what to whom.

The cost we have to pay if we are going to drop these labels seems high.  We have to be willing to spend a lot of our only true commodity: time.  Time with ourselves to figure out what we really think (and again, why we think that).  It’s far easier to select the number 5 combo meal on the left and the number 4 combo meal of the right than come up with something on our own for our own reasons.  We have to be willing to spend time with others to listen without judgement about what they think and why.  It’s far easier to not engage and stick with our own tribe in the eternal echo chamber.  We have to be accepting of the small death that comes with accepting the fact that we might have been wrong about something and the rebirth of establishing a better model of the world in our minds through dialog.

Us and them is easy.  “What do you think about…?” followed by authentic listening is hard.

I live between what you both perceive as different worlds and I can tell you that they aren’t nearly as different as you think.  Reach out to them and find out for yourself.  The clock is ticking.

Bon jour

Long time no see. Not sure what happened there. Guess it was a combination of loosing steam post election and new year’s resolutions, specifically spending more time on meditation / journaling and giving up a hang up I had on reviewing every book I read. 

My Facebook fast is well into its second month. When I did it last January I got the joneses almost immediately. This time was way different. Not only did I not miss it, I actually felt better – more in control, more focused / less distracted. I realized that I was “just clicking over for a few scrolls” everytime I felt just the slightest bit of “resistance” in whatever I was doing. It was worse on my phone. Removing the option has helped me stay more on task and while it may be more uncomfortable in the moment, it leads to much better days. All fears of being disconnected are gone. If anything I am more connected to those I am closest to and less reactionary to the daily churn. 

I finally took a few of the maker courses I’d been wanting to for a while at a local hacker space. I am now certified on the metal shop tools and the mill. I’m going to try to get back to welding class in the next few months. It feels good to know how to make things.

Although I’ve not been reviewing them here, I have been reading quite a bit and from.a wide variety. I read a book on pilgrimage that you can hear me yap about on a new podcast project I started with my friend Jason.  I also finished a book that was supposed to be about cultural Marxism, but ended up being more about opera and Faust. Caveat emptor I suppose. I also finished a book on the philosophy espoused by a prolific French writer.  This was a great read and got me motivated again to try to finish at least one volume of In Search of Lost Time. It’s already in my Tsondoku pile, so maybe soon.

A few things are falling in place for experiences this year. I’m suffering a bit from last year being a blow out – Bunbury, Russia, New Hampshire, Ireland. Going to be hard to top that so I don’t think I’ll try. New Hampshire / Porcfest is already set (kudos to the FSP team for taking bitcoin from the get go this year). Also planning a week or so on the Appalachian Trail through the Shenandoah Valley with the elder daughter after she graduates from HS in May. Still thinking on the whole family trip, but hhe pressure is on since life has a way of filling in all the open spots on your calendar without active intervention. 

That’s it for now. Gotta fly home from my favorite Parus airport and get home. 

Labradar chrono analysis of 300 BLK Handloads (it’s good to have friends with toys).

One of the advanatges of having friends that shoot is getting to borrow their toys, which is exactly what I’ve been able to do for the last few days, specifically a Labradar doppler based chronograph.  I’ve had a 8″ 300 BLK SBR (Noveske Barrel) for a while now and have slowly assembled the components to load subsonic ammo: H110 powder and 208 grain HPBT Match King bullets specifically.  The chrono was the last missing piece I needed to make sure I was loading right up to but just enough under supersonic.


I grabbed some load data from the Hornady website which suggested 9.6 grains for s subsonic load.  With that as a base, I rainbowed up .3 grains to 9.9 and down .5 grains to 9.1, loading 5 rounds of each with a crimp.

This was my first time using the Labradar and I have to say I am impressed.  Maybe not ~$600 impressed, but again, it’s good to have friends ;-).  Overall it worked well, although I could not get it to trigger acoustically when my SBR was suppressed, but the doppler based triggering seemed to work fine.

Overall conclusions:

  • I think I will load out the rest of the 208 grain bullets I have with 9.8 grains.  I had one 9.9 that went supersonic.  It was around 43 degrees today so I am thinking 9.8 should keep me right under sub sonic even when it gets warmer.  Although the 9.9 was my best group by far…maybe I need some more experimentation with a better powder measure (see next point).
  • I need a more accurate powder measure.  I was really suprised with the velocity spread on some of the rounds.  I suppose it could be that the Labradar wasn’t triggering or tracking well, but I don’t think so.
  • I found it interesting that all loads cycled the gun with no issues and even locked it back when done.  I will have to try the final load unsupressed to see that is a factor.

Details for each load below:

9.1 grains H110

Stats – Average 926.32 fps
Stats – Highest 936.87 fps
Stats – Lowest 910.69 fps
Stats – Ext. Spread 26.19 fps
Stats – Std. Dev 9.81 fps


9.2 grains H110

Stats – Average 942.55 fps
Stats – Highest 964.82 fps
Stats – Lowest 902.65 fps
Stats – Ext. Spread 62.17 fps
Stats – Std. Dev 34.63 fps


9.3 grains H110

(NO data …I forgot to arm the Labradar… 🙁 )


9.4 grains H110

Stats – Average 939.41 fps
Stats – Highest 1033.25 fps
Stats – Lowest 663.13 fps
Stats – Ext. Spread 370.12 fps
Stats – Std. Dev 136.89 fps


9.5 grains H110

Stats – Average 956.69 fps
Stats – Highest 1038.89 fps
Stats – Lowest 815.3 fps
Stats – Ext. Spread 223.59 fps
Stats – Std. Dev 97.55 fps


9.6 grains H110

(This was my first set of shots and there were only 4 captured since it took me the first shot to figure out that the acoustic triggering wouldn’t work…and even of the 4 I think there were some triggering or tracking issues so this data is probably bogus)

Stats – Average 863.54 fps
Stats – Highest 1058.76 fps
Stats – Lowest 679.97 fps
Stats – Ext. Spread 378.79 fps
Stats – Std. Dev 173.61 fps


9.7 grains H110

Stats – Average 1025.33 fps
Stats – Highest 1083.55 fps
Stats – Lowest 1005.14 fps
Stats – Ext. Spread 78.4 fps
Stats – Std. Dev 38.81 fps


9.8 grains H110

Stats – Average 1060.98 fps
Stats – Highest 1082.36 fps
Stats – Lowest 1043.84 fps
Stats – Ext. Spread 38.51 fps
Stats – Std. Dev 14.01 fps


9.9 grains H110

Stats – Average 1044.19 fps
Stats – Highest 1119.09 fps
Stats – Lowest 882.99 fps
Stats – Ext. Spread 236.09 fps
Stats – Std. Dev 82.18 fps


I kept coming up with things to do with the Labradar.  I ended up measuring 10 shots of 55 grain 5.56 over 23.6 grains of varget from a 11.5 in SBR supressed, the same SBR unsupressed and then a 16″ standard rifle just to see the differences in velocity:

SBR – Suppressed SBR Standard Rifle
Stats – Average 2172.45 2158.08 2439.6 fps
Stats – Highest 2250.56 2221.8 2463.82 fps
Stats – Lowest 2122.62 2099.7 2410.31 fps
Stats – Ext. Spread 127.95 122.1 53.51 fps
Stats – Std. Dev 45.59 38.86 19.53 fps

The velocity spread on these shots was much smaller, so maybe H110 just doesn’t meter as well as Varget?  Lots more to do before I have to give back the toys 😉

Distracted from distraction by distraction


It may be a little early for new year’s resolutions, but it occurs to me that its rather arbitrary to decide on the first of the year to change a bunch of things.  Arbitrary and often ineffective.  So maybe its better to just start when you have the idea and let it run its course.

On my quest to become a better thinker, I am starting to be more intentional about my use of technology, specifically anything with a screen.  I’m not going Amish (yet) and I also don’t think I am a ‘tech addict’, but I have noticed a few things that trouble me a bit, so best to nip them in the bud.

Specifically, I have noticed myself slipping into the pattern (again) where the first thing I do in the morning is “check my feeds”.  I’m looking for news, entertainment and conversation.  There is nothing bad about any of those per se, but I think I am going to impose a personal ban on screens for an hour after I wake up.  That should give me time to properly wake up and set some intentions for the day before getting sucked into a rabbit hole.

I’ve also noticed getting ‘lost in the scroll’, spending far more time on social and video sites than I sometimes intend.  Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all gotten very good at “and now this” – giving you something else that you are likely to want to see.  I don’t blame them.  Getting me to scroll improves what they know about me, and the more they know about me the more they can sell to me.  It’s just business.  But in the same way I am trying to be a smarter consumer of what I put in my body at the grocery store, I am trying to become a better, or at least a more concious, consumer of what I put in my mind.  Some of that has to do with what I follow and some of it has to do how much time I spend scrolling vs. deep reading and writing.

I have a two pronged approach to getting lost.  First, I am trying to be mindful of setting an intention before I open a laptop or pickup a screen.  What is it specifically I am trying to accomplish?  Check the weather?  Post a podcast?  Write a blog?  Sometimes I even write a few things down on a scratchpad before I start just in case I forget along the way.  On addition, I’m also starting to use tech to fight tech in this area, specifically the StayFocused plugin for chrome that lets me set daily limits on specific sites and the Moment app for my iPhone that lets me track how much I use my phone each day and on what apps.

Anyone that knows me knows I am no luddite.  I would not have nearly as rich a life as I do without tech.  I wouldn’t have rediscovered a love of reading, I wouldn’t have discovered a love of philsophy, and I wouldn’t have found my ‘tribe’.  Tech is just a tool and like any other tool, you have to learn to master it if you want to get the most out of it without hurting yourself.  These are the steps I am taking.  What do you do to make sure you don’t become a screen zombie?

Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plentitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.

– TS Elliot, Four Quartets