Wednesday, June 30, 2010

For all the “Camouflage People”

Sweet Daughter started drawing flag pictures around Memorial Day. We had done our best to explain how Memorial Day was to honor those people in uniform that keep us safe here in the United States. (We left out the part about honoring the ones that died. She’s four, and we figure five is old enough to introduce that buzzkill.) She remembered the “camouflage people” from our event at Petersburg in April, and she knows that there is evil in the world. In her case it takes the form of the Big, Bad Wolf in her dreams, but she understands that there are bad guys around and that special people exist to help keep her safe from them. Whether it’s a soldier, policeman or parent, some people step up when things go bad.

Her first flag picture was one of our house with a flag, and I was instructed to give it to a “Camouflage Person”. I tucked it away to put in the “forever box”, but I got busted. We were in line at the grocery store when she noticed a gentleman in uniform behind us.

“Momma! A camouflage guy! Where’s that picture I drew??”

“Ummm, I don’t have it with me, honey. It’s too big to carry in my purse.” (Yeah, that’s it!)

So she went home, drew a smaller one which she folded in half and tucked it in my purse with a reminder to give it to the next CP I saw. I carried it around for a week or so when I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few last-minute items for our trip to Williamsburg. The parking lot was mostly empty -- except for the car parked way over to the side with the guy in ACUs rummaging around in his very large, very full camouflage bag in the trunk.

Crap. I was hoping SD would be with me when this happened. I don’t do so well with strangers and she has no problem with them. But I promised, so I walked over, folded drawing in hand.

“Um, excuse me.”

He looked up. He looked tired and edgy. “Yes, ma’am?” He sounded tired and edgy, too.

“Uh, my-four-year-old-daughter-drew-this-and-asked-that-I-give-it-to-the-next-person-in-uniform-that-I-saw” I stammered as I kind of pushed the paper towards him. I felt like I was interrupting something.

He very politely opened it, looked at it, and soberly said “thank you, ma’am” before folding it back up and stuffing it in his bag.

I managed to blurt out, “No, thank you” before turning tail and hurrying into the store while wiping tears off of my face. I felt as though I’d made him feel worse, and I felt selfish, and small.

So. Here is the first picture that I was instructed to give to a Camouflage Person. I’m posting it to share it with any CP that would be happy to have it. Know that a four-year-old girl and her parents are praying for you, and that we're really glad you're keeping us safe.

Going out to eat tomorrow night!

Why? Because as of July 1st, concealed carry permit holders in Virginia may carry a concealed firearm for self-defense in restaurants that serve alcohol, provided they do not consume alcohol. Anyone else?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Death by petticoat - or how to do an 18th century patch job.

One of the prevalent reenactor myths is that the second leading cause of death for women during the 18th century was by what we call “death by petticoat*”, or women dying from their clothing catching on fire and burning them to a crisp. (With the leading cause of death believed to be complications of childbirth.) Those myths are busted here, but I can tell you from personal experience that your skirts catching fire is not an automatic death sentence.

I was assisting the costumer at a film shoot, dressed in my linen working gown with the back polonaised up off the floor. It was a bloody cold, windy day in December, and the cast and crew were inside one of the interior sets trying to stay warm while a couple of exterior kerosene heaters were going full blast. These heaters had the heating element/flame set up about three feet above the floor. I was standing about a foot in front of one, feverishly sewing one of the “talent” into her gown as the director was standing in the open door bleating “We must go NOW! We’re losing the LIGHT!” I felt what seemed like someone brushing against the back of me and thought nothing of it until the talent was out the door and a nice young man said to me “Ma’am – your butt was on fire. But I put it out for you!” Who said chivalry was dead? (And proof that at least once in my life I had a hot ... backside.)

Upon further examination, I found that my gown had some rather interesting holes burned in it. Had I been dressed in polyester, or some sort of poly blend, I would have been shrink-wrapped like a package of bacon. Wool would have shown less damage, as wool is self-extinguishing and won’t hold a flame. This is good to know if you are shooting anything that requires a priming pan filled with black powder. Wool is a good choice for your upper body garment.

Patching the gown was one of my projects this past weekend. In the 18th century, labor was cheap and fabric was dear, so patching was done a little differently – it was patched from the back.

First step is to find a piece of fabric that matches as closely as possible to the original. Or, at least as closely as practical for the character you are portraying. I had scraps from the original gown, and had my gown been old and faded I would have used these to show a subtle change of color. Since I was wearing for the gown for the first time when it caught fire, I found another shade of brown to use. I wanted them gown to be neatly patched, but still noticeable enough to use as a talking point.

Next, with the right side of the fabric facing up, place the patch behind the hole and pin in place making sure the garment fabric isn’t distorted. Try to match the straight-of-grain. Turn under a narrow hem (like about an eighth of an inch or less) and sew with tiny overcast stitches.

Partially done on the back.

Turn the garment over and trim the patch to about a quarter of an inch away from your stitching. Turn that raw edge under, and repeat with the tiny overcast stitches. Repeat for each hole.

Done in back.

Finished in front.

Five of the ten holes patched.

*Petticoat – what we today would call a skirt – a garment (usually at least two at a time) worn under your
gown (what we would call a “dress” today). Your skirts were the bottom portion of your petticoat or gown.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity

Okay. So it was the heat this weekend. Friday was not unpleasant. We set up camp in the evening, and it dropped down to 75 degrees at some point that night. Nice sleeping weather. Saturday hit a high of 98 degrees – which was a bit rough. Saturday night reached a "balmy" low of 80. Even with both ends of my tent tied open, there wasn’t a breath of air moving. On Sunday it hit 103 degrees. Even the grass was hot to walk on. I knew it wasn’t 104 – a couple of years ago, it hit 104 and that’s when I found out the pointy bits of my elbows can sweat. But even with dry elbows, 103 was bad enough.

Time to cool off!

My favorite Tourist Stunt of the weekend happened as one family passed by, and the teenage son absent-mindedly grabbed a handful of grapes out of a bowl on the table where we had our lunch sitting out. That was actually pretty funny as you could tell the Dad was mentally calculating how much discipline he could get away with dispensing in public, and the son was properly horrified when he realized what he had done, and apologized profusely.

"Stay out of my grapes!"

Friday, June 25, 2010

We play the Palace

Why I think it’s a good idea to wait until the last minute to launch sewing projects – just in case my sewing muse returns – is a good idea is beyond me.

My old shift was in shreds, Sweet Daughter had outgrown hers, and I had a Banyan project that had been taunting me for close to nine months. SD now has two new shifts, mine is finally complete (I decided I had to sew the whole thing by hand. Even the interior seams that nobody will ever see), and I’m taming the banyan. The problem there was the “pattern” was a drawing with a few remarks written in French. I don’t read French, and I had no clue as to what the scale is supposed to be. With me doing the hemming in the car, it should be done in time for Chris to wear.

Did I mention this is all needed for an event in Williamsburg this weekend? Yup. It’s “Under the Redcoat” – the British Occupation of Williamsburg. The medical types get to interpret from inside the Governer's Palace. I'm stuck outside. It’s going to be hot. It’s going to be busy. We’re going to be shorthanded this year. But we love it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New addition to the family

A coworker is going to be moving this summer and she thought Sweet Daughter might like their pet goldfish. Another coworker (who is Snow White reincarnated – she has a stray cat trained to sleep in a crate at night so it won’t bother the baby flying squirrels. She has a stingray she can pet.) donated a 10 gallon tank and filter. What I knew about goldfish could be written on the inside of a matchbook cover with a grease pencil, but I said “Sure! We’ll take Goldie!” After a crash course in fish care, ammonia levels, the evils of overfeeding, and spending an awful lot of money on “extras”, we brought her home. Did I mention this was an outdoor fish that lived in an artificial pond? Year round?

Goldie is about 8” long and clearly understands that he/she is now living the good life. This fish has lived outside in 100 degree heat in summer and under the ice in winter. It has survived eagles flying overhead and pre-adolescent boys roaming the neighborhood. It would be pretty tragic if it died now. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Looking for an Ammo Geek

Shorter Half has an ammo question. He noticed ads for UAE produced “M193” 5.56 mm ball ammo, supposedly to US military specification – but he wants to know if this stuff performs like USGI M193. Does anyone really know what the exterior and terminal ballistics are like? Like, firsthand experience. Not what the cousin of your Shootin' Buddy's girlfriend says it is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Zombie Apocalypse Pie Chart

I don't have a boat, so it would have to be green. For as long as possible.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flag Origins

The Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777, stated: “Resolved: that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

 You will notice that this does not state whether the red or white stripes should be at the top and bottom, or how many points the stars should have. It wasn’t until June 24, 1912, that the proportions of the flag were established, and it was specified that the stars were to be in horizontal rows with a single point of each star pointing upward.

If you go here, you’ll find a wonderful collection of 18th century flag images. You may notice that none look like the ubiquitous “Betsy Ross” flag.


Which brings us to Betsy Ross. It wasn’t until shortly before the Centennial that the story about Betsy Ross making the first American flag for General George Washington surfaced. In 1870, Ross's grandson claimed that his grandmother had "made with her hands the first flag" of the United States. He said he first obtained this information from his aunt Clarissa Wilson in 1857, twenty years after Betsy Ross's death.

There is no documentation to show that the Betsy Ross flag was ever carried in any battle. We don’t have proof that she designed it. We do know, however, that Betsy Ross was a seamstress, and that she sewed (among other things) flags.

So who did design the first American flag? We’re not sure, but:

Hopkinson never got his wine. In their report to Congress, the Treasury Board stated that Hopkinson was not the only person consulted on those designs that were incidental to the board and that in their opinion, civil servants such as Hopkinson already received adequate salaries and hence should not expect further compensation from Congress for such work.

The idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. You can find out the details here. It was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.


Sunday, June 13, 2010


Early afternoon today, it was 94 degree outside with the sun shining brilliantly, and the rain pouring down. And there wasn't any rainbow.

And I'm still the number one Google hit for "Where a goat can go".

No Triumph

Remember my Dad’s Triumph? Starting back in my 20’s, I always said that if I was going to have a mid-life crisis car, it was going to be a red TR-3. I figured if my Dad fit in it with his 36” inseam, I’d fit in it with mine. My dad, of course, was quick to point out that when he bought his car, the only color choices were British Racing Green and Robins Egg Blue. It didn’t come in red.

Guess what I saw yesterday, not one mile from my house? A red Triumph. For sale. I went back today to see if could take some pictures of it, but it was gone. Considering that even if I didn’t have two bathrooms and one kitchen that need replacing (I do), AND I had the money (I don’t), I’m lacking the electrical engineering degree necessary to be able to drive at night.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Favorite Patriotic Songs?

I’m putting together some patriotic music for Sweet Daughter, and I’m looking for some input – both for song titles and versions. For instance, I’m having a devil of a time finding an understandable vocal arrangement of the “Star Spangled Banner”. Choirs are lovely, but I’m hoping SD will learn the words. And did you know that if you put “Patriotic” in the album title, you have NO idea what you’re in for. Especially if the genre is “New Age”.

This album was titled “Songs Patriotic” and had this song listing:

My Country ' Tis Of Thee
Country Roads (Take Me Home)
America The Beautiful
Star Spangled Banner

Okay, even with Country Roads, I’m on board with this. Then we have:

Shower the People
Here Comes The Sun
Nights In White Satin

I beg your pardon???? This was followed by:

Amazing Grace
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Homeward Bound
Coast To Coast


Out of curiosity, I click to listen to a few snippets of song, and it’s freakin’ Zamphir. Okay. I don’t know if it’s really Zamfir, but those are either Pan pipes or somebody’s been slipping something into my Lucky Charms. I also came across patriotic music on bagpipes (yay!) and accordion (I kept looking for the St. Pauli girl to show up with those huge jugs mugs of beer).

Anyhow, the songs I've got on my potential list so far are:

Stars and Stripes Forever
This Land is Your Land (Woody Guthrie version)
Grand Old Flag
Yankee Doodle
Yankee Doodle Dandy – James Cagney?
Johnny Comes Marching Home
Battle Hymn of the Republic
God Bless America
My Country Tis of Thee
Ballad of the Green Berets – S. Sgt. Barry Saddler

I have a feeling this is going to morph into including a bunch of the old standards. Musical cultural literacy, so to speak.

Got any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

D-Day photos

I'm late to the party on this, but some wonderful photos can be found here. I've never seen most of them before.

U.S. Soldiers march through a southern English coastal town, en route to board landing ships for the invasion of France, circa late May or early June 1944. (Army Signal Corps Collection/U.S. National Archives)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bits and pieces

I put a couple dozen rounds through my Springfield XD on Memorial Day. This was the first time I'd fired it since late January. (Bad Nancy!)

This is the target from the first magazine at about 25 feet, fired a tad slower than a shot/second. As long as I just point and shoot, I do okay. It was when I realized that people were WATCHING, and I tried to adjust my stance and concentrate on my sights and stuff, that things started going a bit wobbly.

All 16 on the cardboard, at least.

Speaking of targets, do you know what happens when you hit the “reset” square on a reactive target really hard and for some reason it doesn’t react?  (BTW, this has been wonderful for teaching me to use those odd modern things calles "sights".)
The pellet reacts instead!

Awesome picture on page 50 of the July 2010 copy of Tactical Weapons article, “Dogs of War”.

"Highly trained bomb-sniffing dogs can skydive into action with their handlers. Muzzles are worn for protection and dogs are calm when jumping as they don't perceive height as humans do."

Cocktail napkins were part of my birthday present from my oldest sister:
I think the sense of humor is hereditary.

Friday, June 4, 2010


When Sweet Daughter was almost three, we went crabbing off the dock at my sister’s house. Not wanting to hold her hand the whole weekend (and result in neither of us having fun), I ran over to the local marina, bought a life jacket for her and told her if she fell in and got stung by a jelly-fish, Daddy would have to pee on her where she got stung.* I got a strange look or two from her, but she was careful not to fall in. We’ve been to the beach a couple of times since then, and I just snap on the life jacket and turn her loose. She has a BLAST and loves the water.

So, while were in Charlotte last month, we stayed at a hotel with a pool. By the last morning we were there, SD figured she had things under control and wanted to take her life jacket off. I said that was fine as long as she didn't let go of the floaty-donut-ring-thing she also had. Well, her grip on that lasted all of about 45 seconds. Luckily Michael W.’s wife had spent some time with her the previous day, teaching her how to use her arms AND legs (at the same time, even!) to propel herself around. She swam underwater for about 4-5 feet until she got to the railing and came up for air. (Somehow the concept of just STANDING UP since she was in the shallow end didn't occur to her.) We three adults were starting to kick off our shoes and take off our watches, all the while jockeying for position to go in after her when she surfaced. I think she was under water for less than 10 seconds, but it seemed a whole lot longer. Before she had a chance to realize she was scared, I said "You do realize what just happened, don't you?" The annoyed look on her face said "I dropped the damn floaty ring, sank like a rock, and without any assistance from an ADULT (thank-you-very-much!) had to save my own a$$. Weren't you watching??"

I said, "You just swam underwater. By yourself." As it sunk (hahah! “sunk”!) in, she started beaming like she’d just swum the English Channel. Later on, while talking about how well she handled the situation, I casually reminded her not to try to breathe under water.

“Why not, Momma? You said there was oxygen in water!”

I am in so far over my head (wow – I wasn’t even trying for that one!), it’s not even funny. She starts swimming lessons on Monday.

*Yes, it's an old wives tale, but it did the job of keeping her from falling in the drink.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Upgraded Holster

When I decided to carry using a shoulder rig, Shorter Half got me set up with the entry-level starter set to make sure the concept worked. It did, and so he upgraded it to the nice Galco Miami Classic II rig for my birthday. I’m wearing it around the house this evening while we get it adjusted, and at one point I looked at the magazine carrier. There’s a tab at the bottom with a circle cut into it. “What the heck is that for” I asked.

“You can hang other stuff on it, like a flashlight, or handcuffs.”

::: blink, blink :::

“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be using it for that”, I said, “I’m not the mall-ninja type.”

“Nope”, he said. “That’s definitely not a MILF rig.”

::: crickets chirping :::

Some time I’ll tell you about the “No analogy involving a cow and a pregnant woman can end well” story. And, yes. I was pregnant at the time. It was actually pretty darn funny.**

But no, I’m not the typical demographic to which this is being marketed. I know I never saw an episode of Miami Vice. But then, seven-foot tall (it’s a rumor, I tell you!) middle-aged moms with orangutang arms are a pretty-limited market segment. Yes, we’ve already established that I’m a freak.*

* For instance, we discovered I can functionally draw from this holster with my off-side hand. Yes, from 4 fingers below my armpit.

** Okay, while discussing why belt rigs don't work on me because of my odd proportions, he just now shouted out to no one in particular "SHE'S A SEVEN FOOT TALL SPIDER MONKEY!!"

There was actually a perplexed look on his face as I give him the "I heard that" look.

"You mean I shouldn't have said that with my outside mouth?"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy birthday

Today is my dad’s birthday. He’s a veteran of WWII – a bombardier in the Army Air Corp. From what I understand, he and his entire crew did their 25 missions over Germany and came home. Quite the feat. But then, this was an older crew – most of them in their late 20’s.

It’s also my birthday. Considering that my dad bought this car around 3 years earlier,

and that my siblings are 10 – 15 years older than I am, it’s a fairly safe bet that I was a “whoops!” Especially since my father accused my siblings of giving my mother an ulcer. So she went to the doctor, the rabbit died, and it was time to turn the “den” back into a nursery.

I’m as old today as my father was on the day I was born. Happy Birthday to us!

My dad is 94. You can do the math if you really want to.