Saturday, April 13, 2002

I was sifting through the news and I came across this item. It seems that the U.S. military has developed a sandwich that has a very long shelf life. This got me to thinking about the history of food preservation.


Since the dawn of civilization there's only been four ways to preserve food: drying, salting, pickling, and spicing it up so's you don't mind eating it when it turns.

Salting preserves food by drying it out, or at least drying out the bacteria and inhibiting their growth. Pickling will inhibit bacterial growth through increasing the acidity of the food. Drying or dehydrating food will preserve it by denying bacteria one of the three things that all bacteria needs to grow (food, water and warmth). That just leaves the last method.

Sausage is a wholesome food that, with today's modern food preservation tech, is perfectly safe. But it originally was a bunch of heavily spiced, chopped up meat that was stuffed in a section of intestine (come to think of it, sausage hasn't changed any over the centuries). The extra spices were there to cover up the taste of ripening meat. Along with flour (ground up and dried out cereal grains), it was considered the perfect military ration. In fact, people would realize that a war was about to start if the local king would start buying up all of the sausage and flour. No tube steak or fresh bread and it was time to bury your valuables and think of where you were going to run when the armies started to march.

What we would call "modern" methods of food preservation didn't get started until the Napoleonic Wars. In fact, it was Napoleon himself that is the one person most responsible for modern food. I'd discuss it right now but I'm really tired, this post is long enough as it is, and I want to prolong your agony. So I'll post the rest when I wake up.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

I have 3 dogs named Germanicus, Dressus and Hannibal. We all enjoy going off to the woods once a week, even though it's nearly an hour's drive each way. I bought all of the dogs an orange sweater so the hunters I hear blasting away at the deer wouldn't make a mistake and bag a really small and particularly hairy trophy. It goes to show you how much I think of my own safety that I didn't think of getting an orange vest for myself until the day before we were about to make the weekly trip.

A few months ago I parked the car in the usual spot off a dirt road and we started the fun. The dogs fanned out and sniffed the area carefully, looking for Gawd knows what. They always do it with an alarming intensity. I was watching the new Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers", and there's a scene where some helicopters land in a clearing deep in enemy territory and disgorge American soldiers. The troops fan out in a circle and start firing in to the woods. I recognized the grim faced expression on the faces as the guns rocked and rolled. I don't know what's going on in my dog's heads when they first jump out of the car and move agressively in to the bracken, but so far I've been safe from attack from rabid woodchucks. I'm sure that this is proof to the dogs that they've been doing their jobs.

On this particular day we moved off away from the road and the car and started walking in no particular direction. After about 30 minutes a deer stood up from under a bush and started running. Two bounds and it was gone, in the next county, nothing left but a memory. The dogs didn't believe it, though. Barking like mad they gave chase. So I, being their owner and resonsible for them, gave chase after the dogs.

We were all doomed, victims of good intentions and instinct. No way that a pack of living room wolves could catch up to a deer in the wild. No way that a middle aged, overweight man could keep up with a pack of dogs. We all gave it the ol' college try, though. My only advantage was that the dogs wouldn't shut up. They were following their instincts and were on the hunt, something that they definately couldn't do while lieing on the futon in front of the TV. They sang their joy as they gave chase.

At least they did for a while. Then they all shut up at once, sudden silence except for my breath rasping in my ears and my heart pounding in my chest. I knew what had happened. It had finally dawned on them that they hadn't seen any sign of the deer for the past quarter mile or so, and they had all stopped at once to cast around for a scent.

Good news for me. I leaned against a tree, hawked up some of that slime that always coats the inside of your throat when you get dangerously close to a heart attack, and started to call the dogs. I'd call for a bit, then stop to catch some more of my breath and listen. After five minutes they all ran back to me through the brush, happy and as excited as a group of pre-schoolers that were going to the zoo for the first time. For all the rest of the day they would stand around with their front paws together, eyes slitted and nose slightly elevated. They looked just like the stone lions that are on either side of the library entrance.

I knew what they were thinking. If only the two-legs had hustled we could all have eaten like kings!
Natalie Solent recently posted an Email on her blog from Alex Bensky. Although the subject of the 'mail is Norway's recent spate of anti-semetism, Mr. Bensky asks the question "What is the definition of a true 'Yankee'?"

Well, I think I can answer that.

Anyone who is interested in baseball will say that a Yankee is a professional baseball player. Anyone interested in things military (such as myself) will say that it's a type of Russian submarine. But I think Mr. Bensky is looking for something a bit more than that.

If you're from a country other than the United States, then a Yankee is any U.S. citizen ("Die a flaming death, Capitalist Yankee pig-dog!").

If you're a U.S. citizen but you're from a southern state, then a Yankee is any U.S. citizen from the north ("Ah do de-clare, Ah doan' know how those Yankees cahn stand thahr winters!").

If you're from a northern state then a Yankee is anyone from New England ("Those Yankees sure have some mighty fine seafood.").

If you're from New England I suppose you're going to have to suck it up and accept the fact that you're the genuine article.

But Yankees are something more. They're Americans with a very solid reputation. They're known as being thick-necked, hard-headed, practical sorts who will weather any hardship as long as the job gets done. They're considered an ingenious people who always try to do the right thing, no matter what the cost.

Heck, it's a pity we're all not Yankees.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

A few weeks ago I showed you guys this gun. It's pretty much a standard 5.56mm semi-auto rifle with a 20mm grenade launcher and some sighting electronics attached.

Now I've just found out that the French are working on the same thing!

Well, almost. They have a 30mm grenade launcher instead of a wimpy 20mm. And the gun shown has a decided lack of the sighting systems that made the American version so effective in adverse conditions. Other than that it has a no-nonsense Starship Troopers kind of look about it.

I'm personally glad that the French have developed this new and impressive weapon. It'll be very useful to us if we have to declare war on France to stop anti-Semetic attacks. After the surrender we can give them to our own troops and truthfully say "Here, boys! Brand new! Never been fired and only been dropped once!"

Monday, April 08, 2002

It seems that there's an art exhibit in London that features skinned human bodies.

Personally I think it's kinda meat.....uh, I mean "neat". But I'm not really sure that I'd call it "art". Maybe if they smeared some elephant dung around or drenched everything in a 13-year-old virgin's urine, then it would be art.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

I mentioned in the last post about the many FAMP's that are out there in the world, somewhere (not in my collection, alas). It just so happens that I've had an oppurtunity to actually shoot one of them.

It was a little beauty like this one, although it had the optional stock.

I first tried to shoot the damn thing without the stock, which is part of a tradition that forces males to act like buffoons when the testosterone starts to get heavy. (I bet that David only killed Goliath with a sling because he had bragged to his buddies that he could do it.) Even with that stupid little front grip flopping around off of the trigger guard I couldn't control it. The first shot would hit the man-sized target around the groin area and the rest....well, let's just say that some guys must have been playing around with similar guns in Roswell in 1946. Total score: 5 holes in the target and 95 rounds in the air.

Okay, you don't have to hit me over the head. I can tell when I'm being obstinate. $25.00 worth of ammo for 5 stinkin' holes. Time to attach the shoulder stock and go to town.

Town was further away than I thought. It's true that I did better than before, mainly because I'd aim down around the target's knees. I'd manage to put 5 holes per clip in the target, with another 15 sailing right in to the sky. Still, I managed to punch 25 holes in the target out of another 100 rounds.

It was at this point that the guy who owned the gun suggested that I just fire a burst of a few rounds at a time, instead of ripping off a whole 20 round clip at a time. But where would the fun be in that?

I hear that FAMP's are favored amongst Russian bodyguards (those criminals planning on kidnapping Russian people take note). Here in the U.S. our security experts mainly have to worry about lone gunmen, but the Russians are always worried about a raging mob. The idea behind the FAMP's is that the bodyguards will clamp the grip against their right hip and start tripping off three round bursts. They'll let the recoil twist them around counterclockwise, opening up a space in the crowd.
Not a bad idea, but I'd have to see it work first before I'd be willing to try it. Until then I'll just stick to tried and true methods of crowd control.

The biggest problem with the FAMP that I shot was the small front grip. There just wasn't enough there to get a grip on, which was a problem even with the shoulder stock attached. Now it seems that CZ has developed a FAMP that uses the spare clip as a front grip. It's an interesting idea. I wonder how long it will be before I get a chance to see if it works?