Thursday, January 23, 2014

The making of an action hero, pt 42

There’s a fine line between sucking it up and needless stupidity. Somewhere between “don’t be a wimp” and “stop you’re wining or I’ll break your other arm” one needs to decide when something is serious enough to see the doctor. I’m not at that point yet, but I’m getting there.

I’ve been restricting physical activity for two weeks giving my foot time to heal. The regular application of anti-inflammatory and heat has helped. I’ve been able to walk relatively consistently rather than going horribly lame as in the past. I’m happy that I haven’t had to make an emergency trip to express care for prescription strength help. But we’re fast approaching the point where if the issue doesn’t fix itself I’m going to see the doctor.

I hate going to the doctor. It costs money, usually requires me to take a day off, requires finding transportation, and often involves getting tests and referrals which suck up yet more time and money. Paradoxically, I like my doctor. He’s honest without being condescending and acknowledges the limitations of real life. I know that if this doesn’t heal up soon it’s more than a simple problem. I need to get it on the record both to get it treated and to make sure that if it recurs there’s a record of the issue. But I really hate going to the doctor.

On the upside, my hip, elbow, and back are all healing up nicely. Not exercising seems to agree with me. I’m down to 281.4 pounds this morning, a 3 pound drop this month in spite of terrible early diet control. Even when we went to taco bell on Tuesday, I got my standard low-cal option. I’ve stuck with the lesser intake work meals and it seems to be paying off. I’ve been transferring money out of my general account to earmarked savings so I don’t have the cash available for incidental meal purchases. I don’t exactly feel better, but I do feel like I’m getting back on track. My goal is to get down less than 280 pounds by the end of January and then keep focused on the diet before exercise for 2014.

I should be exercising, but it seems like every time I really get going I end up putting myself down. I’ve been picking my routine from an instructional DVD with the help of sighted friends. To date my assumption has been that if the video says to do it I should try and do it. That concept is getting trashed. There are a few movements like the ankle stretches, side lunges, and back lunges that just aren’t working. Either I can’t do the movement safely or pushing through is over-stressing joints. So all three of those are out until further notice. I’ll take it easy on the front lunges and work more for cardio than for stretch too. Ok, I’ll do that when my foot comes back which will hopefully be soon. My original goal was to work through the entire DVD by the end of 2014. Now, I’m going to take it slow. I may even cut back to 3 times a week instead of every other day. I’m going to stop focusing on exercise as a primary goal and look at it as an enhancement. The diet has to come first.

One of the things that has really helped with the diet is spice. I love Sriracha. I love hot, flavorful seasoning. We bought a case of 30 oz Sriracha bottles recently and I’m going through one a month. A little bit flavors recipes. A couple tablespoons refresh leftovers and make some unwanted dishes palatable. Spice kicks up your metabolism and aids in digestion. Last year I liked Sriracha and hot spices. Now I love them. I use my tonguespank seasonings on lots of things. I spread Sriracha like ketchup on leftovers. Kicking the food up a couple degrees seems to kill the residual urge to keep eating. I’m looking for new ways to spice up meals, especially lunch.


Breakfast=the rest of my leftover banana bread.

Work meal=roast beef and provolone on wheat and an apple.

Dinner=the last of my tropical chicken and rice leftovers.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tongue Spank, or how to spice up your day.

I wanted to give a short review of the tongue spank basic spice variants, Smokey bourbon, Garlic and grappa, Wasabi sake, and citrus rum.

Last week I kosher brined a turkey with a mixture of Smokey bourbon blend, black pepper, garlic salt, minced garlic, and fresh sage. I left the bird wrapped in plastic bags for a day for the juices to absorb the flavor. The turkey was then stuffed with a quartered lemon, yellow onion, and blood orange. Finally it was rubbed with olive oil mixed with kitchen bouquet and Elijah Craig bourbon. The turkey was cooked in an electric roaster for 2.5 hours with a light mix of bourbon and water covering the bottom of the pan. Considering that the turkey had been frozen longer than was probably good for it, it came out very well. The rub left a Smokey spicy taste to the meat. The bourbon fumes lightly flavored the skin. The aromatics gave a nice sweet base to the juice. In future I’ll go lighter on the salt and black pepper. The tongue spank Smokey bourbon stands on its own—needing no help to kick ass.

Today I grabbed some cold cuts and veggies from the store and tested out some combinations on my Panini maker. Group favorites included:

• Provolone, pepperoni, minced garlic, garlic and grappa, sliced roma tomatoes, and light mayonnaise.

• Provolone, fresh garlic, Smokey bourbon blend, sliced tomatoes, and light mayonnaise.

• We used the wasabi sake and citrus rum on two similar sandwiches and the flavors weren’t as compatible as I’d like. They were fantastic but not well suited to the available ingredients. I’m going to try the wasabi on a roast beef sandwich for work Tuesday.

Tonight I’m going to sauté chicken in olive oil, fresh sage, cider vinegar, garlic, sriracha, and citrus rum. I’ll then cook in red pepper, yellow onion, pineapple, and Asian veggie mix over brown rice. My hope is that the mix of flavors will compliment the seasoned chicken.

I’m very happy with the tongue spank spices. I haven’t found a good venue for the scorpion bourbon blend yet, but it’s just a matter of time. When I originally kickstarted this I hoped I would end up with one or two good flavors. Each flavor is distinct, well blended, finished with a kick, and at a level where it works as a condiment or cooking aid. A teaspoon of the seasoning makes a spicy flavorful sandwich. Anything more than that and the flavor and spice amp up proportionally, often overwhelming the other elements. The spice blends well with other sauces, such as mayonnaise, spreading the flavor nicely without killing the combined affect. Basically, a little bit of this goes a long way. My only regret is that I only got two of each bottle.

My most recent Kickstarter--Wargame edition

Friday, January 17, 2014

The making of an action hero, pt41

This has been one of those weeks where I can’t seem to get it right. Last week my foot started acting up. I had already planned to workout at a lesser intensity to avoid aggravating persistent joint pain. Then my Plantar’s started kicking in. Fortunately I could tell right off what was coming and dosed up on anti-inflammatory and soked the foot in hot water. The pain and gimpy walk have persisted, but not to the point where I can’t sleep or to where I need a ride to and from work. I hate injuries. Mostly because they suck on principal but also because they give me a perfectly good excuse not to do things I should be doing, like exercising. There’s a defeatist voice in the back of my head that says that if I stop I’ll never get up the gumption to start again. Not going to let that happen. Still, not exercising right now…grrr.

On the other hand, not exercising has forced me to look at my intake. I was going to do that anyway but the lack of activity has made it a greater priority. I’m down to 283 pounds—a small drop even with no exercise. It’s my intent to end January back at or less than 280 pounds. That will see me making up all my losses. It helps that I’m back with the health shakes in the morning. It helps that I haven’t been drinking coffee in the morning and have slepped better as a result. It helps that we don’t have anything to snack on at home. Mainly though, it helps that I’m out of that holiday slump. I want progress. I want to fix my plantar’s once and for all. If hitting the diet is the only way to do that, so be it. I’m not going to exercise till I’m back at 100%. There’s no point in reinjuring myself. So, back to the diet it is.


Morning health shake with oatmeal, mixed berries, spinach, and almond milk.

Work meal=A turkey and Swiss sandwich on wheat bread, two apples, and a couple hand fulls of unsalted almonds.

Dinner will be at a friend’s home where I’ll have one main serving, as much salad as I want, no more than 2 mixed drinks, and possibly apple pie.

Initial Impressions of the Mechtech CCU

I’ve had my sights on the Mechtech CCU for almost as long as I’ve wanted a pistol caliber carbine. Last week I finally took delivery of said unit. The following are my initial impressions after one range trip, 50 rounds, and a lot of research. A full review will follow after I’ve had some time to truly take the beast’s measure.

The Mechtech CCU, carbine conversion unit, takes a 1911 or glock handgun with the slide and barrel removed and turns it into a compact carbine. It does this by mounting the pistol lower on rails such that the pistol’s magazine feeds the carbine’s chamber while the trigger and hammer act as the firing group. The 1911 slide stop Engages a cutout in the receiver locking the lower in place. You can buy the base unit for $350 and upgrade it with all manner of rails, sights, stocks, bipods, and tac-ti-cool gadgetry. One of the advantages to this set up is that the CCU isn’t considered a firearm until the pistol lower is installed; so you can have the unit shipped to your front door instead of going through a FFL. Another advantage is that as long as your action and magazines will accommodate the switch, you can mount any caliber upper on your lower frame…i.e. you can mount a 10mm 1911 upper on a .45acp lower as long as you have the appropriate magazine and extractor.

After a few email exchanges, I called Robin at Mechtech on 12/31. We reviewed my needs and decided on a 1911 version with folding sights, 3 slot riser for a red dot optic, quad rail, and a telescoping stock. She had the unit fedexed and in my hand a week later, though FedEx delivered it to the wrong address. Ever want to freak out? Have a major firearms accessory delivered to someone you don’t know and then get a call from a random person at work asking what you want to do with it. That-was-not-a-good-day. At last, after much drama, I had the unit in hand…and what a unit.

The CCU came in a standard top-folding shipping container swaddled in foam. The folding sights and riser came in blister packaging along with a basic manual—no other frills or flash. My first thought upon removing the unit was that this thing is small. My second was this thing is heavy. The entire CCU is made of steel and aluminum—mostly steel. It feels like a cross between the rail-centric AR15 and the compressed design of the MP5. The telescoping stock is composed of two steel rods joined by a piece of hard rubber at the shoulder. The rods are notched at regular intervals so the user can adjust length of pull. The notches slot into a spring loaded housing on the rear of the receiver. This design allows the user to adjust the CCU’s length of pull between a compressed 26 inches up to a little over 3 feet. At first I worried that the stock was too flimsy, but it has held up fine so far. The bolt can be pushed in to lock the action, though it’s not what I’d call a firm lock.

I haven’t done a lot of dedicated accessory mounting. Most of my gear mounts directly to rails and needs no special adjustment. The CCU is clearly designed to mimic the layout on an AR15 including the option to mount an adapter for compatible stocks such as those made by Troy and Magpull. The flip up UTG sights took a few minutes for me to figure out. After I got them up and running, I attached a Lucid M7 to the riser and locked it down on the top rail.

Two days later, with sight mounted and accessories ready to rock, I found an issue. While making my original order, it was suggested that I might want a foregrip. I dismissed the idea since I’m used to shooting my lever and bolt actions without a foregrip. Even with the supplied rail covers the weight of the gun made the grip uncomfortable. So I continued with the UTG theme and bought their largest aluminum QD foregrip. That worthy fixed the problem but was far larger than the CCU required.—it looked like I was trying to load the carbine on a crew served mount. At this point I just wanted to get it to the range so I figured I’d try it out before shopping for something else.

Monday, Corc, Cherylkat, and I finally got the CCU to the range. Careful reading of the preceding will show one glaring problem with my plan. Until Monday, I had never disassembled a 1911, much less mounted one on a Mechtech unit. I’d read how it was done, but I’m not so confident in my own skills that I’m willing to risk permanently damaging one of JMB’s finest. So I had the range guy walk me through the process. We got the 1911 taken down and the frame mounted on the CCU. Side note, I love shooting 1911s, but I’m really glad I didn’t try that at home—bad things would have happened.

I loaded a magazine with three rounds of Federal ball, raised the carbine, got sighted in, and pulled the trigger. “Click.” Drop mag, clear chamber, dry fire, re load, chamber round, aim, and “click”…sigh. The range officer and I went over the unit and found that the pistol lower hadn’t been pushed far enough forward for the firing mechanism to engage the chamber. It’s a testament to how tightly the CCU fits that I thought the lower was locked in when it was actually free-floating on the rails. We re-positioned the unit; made sure everything was aligned, and couldn’t get the bolt to close. I figured out the problem after a few minutes of tinkering. The pistol hadn’t worn in yet and needed to be pushed slightly down and forward, releasing the bolt. After that it worked fine. The bolt locked back occasionally if cycled manually but always released with negligible forward pressure on the pistol lower from the shooting hand.

So…raise carbine, get on target, breathe, and squeeze trigger…and boom. The CCU cycles with an audible and tactile “chunk” as the heavy bolt returns to battery. There is a slight residual thrumming as the stock vibrates. Recoil is perceptible but very mild—more than I expected but very light. The next shot is more of the same. At this point I was just happy the unit worked. A break in period is to be expected but somehow I always seem to pick the guns that come with an extra helping of drama. After a full magazine firing without issues I was beginning to relax and enjoy the experience.

Next up we needed to sight in the M7. Corc took 3 shots at 75 feet and got a nice 2 inch grouping low and to the left. It took a few more tries but we got the lucid sighted in. Then Corc began boring out the center of the target.

The three of us took turns shooting five shot strings. I liked the stock completely compressed while Corc and Cherylkat preferred it lengthened a bit. Actually Corc said the stock didn’t extend far enough but he’s weird and tall and stuff. Even with the 3 MOA red dot, the carbine consistently grouped under two inches. The CCU felt solid in the hands and pointed easily, though due to its weight it wasn’t as lively as some of its plastic peers. I got a real kick out of the chunk sound the action made cycling the bolt. It was viscerally satisfying. The carbine fed, fired, and extracted all 50 rounds flawlessly. The afore mentioned bolt lock issue never occurred while the gun was firing, only during manual cycling.

With some trigger time under my belt I have some issues with the CCU. They didn’t detract from a generally positive impression, but there are some improvements I’d like to see on the basic design.

1. There is no safety. The manual says that a 1911 with the standard series 70 GI thumb breaker will function on the CCU but not the extended or ambidextrous variants. The grip safety and series 80 firing pin block work as normal, so there is a certain degree of precaution built in. Carrying a pistol in condition-1 in a holster that covers the trigger guard is one thing. Carrying a carbine with hammer cocked and no manual safety lever just doesn’t sit well with me. The thumb safety on my 1911G is a small extended model nothing like the over sized monster on my Colt Gold Cup. Even so it wouldn’t engage—the flare of the receiver blocked it. Extended thumb safeties are common place in the current market. I’d really like to see the design modified to accommodate this feature or have a dedicated safety permanently built into the unit.

2. You can lock the CCU’s bolt back by retracting the bolt handle over a cut out in the receiver and pushing the knob in. The knob then engages the cut out and the bolt is locked. I’m not comfortable with this arrangement especially with the weight of the CCU’s bolt. Once locked, the bolt never managed to unlock itself. That said, there are several things that require a user to access the chamber or lock the bolt back—checking the chamber, assembling or removing the pistol lower, lubricating the mechanism, cleaning, clearing obstructions…etc. The gun needs a dedicated bolt lock—something more secure than positive pressure. Anyone who works the action will understand my concern. The action is very substantial to accommodate the higher pressures generated in the 16inch stainless steel barrel. The larger weight keeps the bolt from extracting the spent brass until the chamber is clear. This is not something you want compressing your fingers—trust me.

3. I really wanted this gun to have a longer bolt handle—something 1.5 to 2 inches long, a steel cylinder—something easy to get a grip on. The current design is a circle of metal with the edges bent out slightly like a jacket button. It’s solid, but gives little purchase. I often wished for something with a little more positive tactile engagement to offset the weight of the bolt and recoil spring.

4. The one real issue I have with the CCU is takedown. Basically, don’t do it unless you’re very sure of yourself or you have no other choice. Full disassembly requires complete removal of the quad rail, 8 screws, the barrel and the bolt. You’re going to have to dismount all your accessories and remove a bunch of fiddly bits to be able to get at the bolt. I don’t care about removing the barrel, but this design, especially when burning dirty .45 GI. Ball has to be cleaned well. It would be much easier to maintain the unit if I could remove the bolt without resorting to what for me are extreme measures. I don’t like removing screws unless absolutely required. Doing so risks stripping the threads, bending the shaft, warping the sleeves, or installing the wrong screw in the wrong hole—especially in my fumble-fingered clutches. Adding an easy bolt removal option would make the platform much more enjoyable.

In conclusion, I really like the CCU. Being a pistol caliber carbine it has some obvious limitations. Even so, it’s tons of fun and very versatile. By the end of the evening, the range officer was talking about getting one, my friend was discussing theoretical glock builds, and I was considering a long-term .460 Roland project. The real value in the CCU concept is not that it’s a pistol caliber carbine. It is that one can take an otherwise limited pistol and convert it to a compact unit at a minimal cost. The flexibility is as attractive as the function. More later in the full review.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The making of an action hero, pt40

I’m not a big fan of pain. A certain amount of discomfort is good for bragging rights. Beyond that point and it’s annoying. I’m at that point. I haven’t been able to work out for several days due to pain in my right hip, left elbow, and lower back.

The fifteenth degree black belt who has been training me says that I am out of balance. He means that physically, mentally, and spiritually—which doesn’t mean I get to let up, just that I have more to work on. One of my recurring problems is lower body injuries—knees, back, feet. Next month I’m going to get my boots redone, giving me better support. I may pick up a new set of casual shoes. I’m tired of being slightly injured. It’s just enough to make me think twice about serious exercise but not enough to get me to the doctor. I keep running into this cyclical issue. I have to lose weight to deal with my joint problems. To lose weight I need to exercise. Exercising regularly seems to aggravate my issues…AAARRRGGG! It would be nice if more of my problems were ones I could address without having to spend yet more money on “things.”

Which is the other thing. 2013 was the year of “stuff.” I bought a lot of things—some as rewards for achievements and some because I genuinely needed them. This year is going to be less about stuff and more about me. I need to regain a measure of mental peace and strength. I feel as if material “stuff” has become a disproportionately large focus lately—which would be fine if it was due to a pressing need rather than materialistic urges. Some of the things I genuinely need to spend money on:

• Updating my footwear which is currently more than a year and a half old and seriously wearing out.

• Getting some of the foot treatment systems I’ve seen to better address some of my issues.

• Finish up the Chris reeve project.

• Finish up the perfect pocket pistol project.

• Get a new bed.

• Get the brunette a table so we can start individually setting up our work spaces.

That is a lot of money, but those are the projects and “things” that need to be done. There are lots of other things I “want” to do. Even so, I think I’m better off focusing on those few.

I’m back to 286 pounds. It’s become clear to me that while I maintained over the holidays…I let some good habits go. I also got used to a certain intake based on a certain level of exercise. So, I’m cutting back on the intake until I can get back to exercising again. If I can’t exercise, I don’t need to eat as much. Yesterday we ate out. I had my pre-set order from taco bell less than 400 calories. It was a small thing; but one that proved to me that I can still make good choices.

I’m not saying this very well. I think that most of living well is training your mind to make the right choices. Part of that is dealing with the pidly physical crap that weakens you. There is a direct parallel in my life between my desire to acquire stuff and a weakening of my will to intake less—eat more, want more. So I’m going to work on the pidly stuff now rather than focusing on things. I’m going to start fresh. That’s not a resolution exactly—more of a new understanding.