Saturday, November 30, 2019

Rogue Blades over at Black Gate

Thanks to Black Gate head honcho John O'Neil, I introduce Rogue Blades Foundation over at the Black Gate site. Check it out. You might learn a few things.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Beer of the Week: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

Beer score: 8.4

Company: McAuslan Brewing Company

ABV: 5.0
IBU: 45

I have a bad habit of thinking of Canadian beers as mere imitators of their American cousins, but this is a beer that proves my habit wrong. In fact, this might be the best beer from Canada I've ever tasted.

Pours black and thick from the bottle into a clear glass with the barest hints of light passing through. The head is thick and tan but doesn't last long. The smell strikes one with scents of dark, rich coffee, a touch of chocolate, and deeply roasted malt.

The taste is something special. There's that stout taste one often associates with Guinness, but there's also a deeper heavy, burnt syrup flavor that pushes this one over the edge. Guinness fans will like this one, but the truth is, this is a richer stout than Guinness. There's tons of full flavor here along with some nuttiness.

All in all, this is one of the best stouts I've ever tried. Not sure I'd say it's the absolute best I've ever tried, but boy, it's up there.

Books read in 2019: No. 49 -- How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life

by Dr. Gregory R. Frizzell

Started: Nov. 19
Finished: Nov. 25

Notes: I'm reading this as part of a prayer ministry at church. Perhaps it'll open my eyes to a few things or teach me something new.

Mini review: Christians looking to expand and/or stratify their prayer life could do worse than this book. It's easy to read, simple to understand, and offers some straightforward suggestions on how to kick up your prayer time.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Beer of the Week: Fischer Bitter

Beer score: 5.4

Company: Heineken

ABV: 4.9

Once upon a time, this French beer was brewed by the Brasserie Fischer brewery, but then they got bought out by the folks at Heineken, so ... take that for whatever it's worth, but at least you know.

Anyway, the French aren't usually known for making great beer, but I have to say this one isn't too bad, though I also wouldn't call it a superb beer. It's a bit dry and harsh for a bitter-style beer. There was next to no carbonation when I tasted this, leaving it with a bit of a flat texture, but it had a nice grainy, flowery taste to it.

You likely won't want to drink this regularly, but it's not an awful beer, which means it's at least worth giving a try.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 48 -- Analysis of the Gunfight at O.K. Corral

by Ben T. Traywick

Started: Nov. 19
Finished: Nov. 19

Notes: Last year on vacation I spent a few days in Tombstone, Arizona, site of the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and of course while there I picked up a number of books. It's only now, though, that I've gotten through a bunch of other books I wanted to read and am finally getting around to those books I purchased in Tombstone (along with a straw Stetson hate of which I'm rather fond). I expect this book to be interesting a it's written by the Tombstone town historian.

Mini review: A nice little read. It as obvious the author came down on the side of the Earps in the seemingly eternal Earps vs. the Cowboys feud, but not so much that it ruined the writing and telling here. Besides, from my limited experience, most of the locals in Tombstone come down on one side or another of that old fight and it's always interesting to hear both sides, whatever one chooses to believe personally. Me? I don't know. I don't blame either side and think the whole situation leading up to the gunfight and during the gunfight was probably a lot more convoluted politically and emotionally than movies and most books make out. If anything, probably all sides were to blame to some extent or other. But that's just my opinion.

Books read in 2019: No. 47 -- Lando

by Louis L'Amour

Started: Nov. 14
Finished: Nov. 19

Notes: I've read a fair amount of L'Amour over the years, but I've never been a big fan of his fiction. That being said, it has been a long time since I've read any of his work, so I thought I'd give him another go but this time with the eyes of an older man.

Mini review: This was a fair read. Told in a rustic first person, it didn't bring me around to being a fan of L'Amour's fiction, but I also didn't hate it. I will say a lot happened in less than 160 pages. Without giving away any details, the protagonist, Lando, leaves his birth home after being betrayed by some people there, then heads to Texas and down to Mexico where he runs into some more trouble. It all ends in a fairly glorious boxing match which I believe would have made Robert E. Howard proud.

Friday, November 15, 2019

In Defense of the Heroic

"In Defense of the Heroic" is an article I wrote concerning heroism and heroic literature for the Rogue Blades web site.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 46 -- Calypso

by Ed McBain

Started: Nov. 9
Finished: Nov. 13

Notes: Since I love me some Ed McBain and I just finished a collection of his short tales, I thought I'd keep reading some of his work, especially as it's an 87th Precinct novel.

Mini review: The term "calypso" here refers to the style of music, in case you were wondering. A string of shooting murders, a brother missing for seven years, it all adds up to a mystery for the gang of the 87th. This tale, however, turns gorier than most stories from the 87th Precinct, at least towards the end. Considering this particular 87th Precinct novel preceded my favorite of these books, Ghosts, I'm not so surprised at how differently this one ended, for Ghosts itself is unlike any of the other dozens of novels I've read in this series.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Beer of the Week: Firestone Lager

Beer score: 6.2

Company: Firestone Walker Brewing Company

ABV: 4.5
IBU: 17

This brew from California used to be available in bottles years ago, but of late I've only been able to find it in the can.

It comes out of the can (or bottle back in the day) a clear color with just the barest hint of gold. It's head is thick and fizzy but will die down after a handful of seconds.

The smell and taste are fruitier than your average lager, and that fruity taste turns somewhat spicy and grows as you drink more of this one. There's also a touch of honey, clover, and maybe a little burning, almost like bread left in the oven a little too long. There's a bit of an almost-sour kick just as one swallows, but then the overall taste, texture and smoothness of this beer mellows out as it goes down your pipes.

Real beer tasters will enjoy this one as long as they realize this is a good beer but not a beer that's overly unique or special. If you like fruitiness in your beers, you could drink this one regularly.



Friday, November 08, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 45 -- The McBain Brief

by Ed McBain

Started: Oct. 28
Finished: Nov. 8

Notes: I've been on something of a short story kick of late, so it makes sense for me to turn to this collection by one of my favorite authors. Oddly enough, even though I've read quite a bit of McBain, I don't believe I've ever read any short stories by him, but then he seems to have been more of a novel writer. Whatever the case, I'm expecting to enjoy this one.

Mini review: These were some solid short stories. As could be expected, most of them are cop related. The few tales which don't features police are still crime related. Here can be found police thrillers, crime tales, even some hard boiled action. Fans of McBain of these genres should check out this book.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Rogue Blades Foundation

If you've been more than just a casual fan of Sword and Sorcery literature during the past decade or so, you should be familiar with the name of Rogue Blades Entertainment, a small specialty book publisher who has produced more than a few fine short story collections as well as other works related to the speculative genres.

All along, publisher and editor Jason M. Waltz has been the captain behind Rogue Blades Entertainment, but most recently he has taken on another hat to wear, that of president. As of a month ago (give or take), Waltz has been president of the Rogue Blades Foundation, a non-profit with a focus upon all things heroic, especially bringing heroic literature to all readers.

Rogue Blades Entertainment (RBE) will continue to operate as a for-profit publishing house. Meanwhile, Rogue Blades Foundation (RBF) will work to promote heroic art, and part of RBF's mission will include publishing specialty works which the editor does not feel are quite right for RBE.

You might be asking why I'm telling you all this. Well, for one thing, over the years I've had a few short stories published with RBE and I've always appreciated what that publishing house has done and accomplished.

More importantly, I am the vice president of the Rogue Blades Foundation. Yes, that's right, I'll be working alongside Jason M. Waltz to bring heroic art to the world. I'm thankful for this opportunity and I'm looking forward to bringing RBF to life.

What will the future hold for RBF? Two books are already in the works, and you can find out more at the RBF web site. If you want to know more, there's also the RBF Facebook page. For that matter, I've my own author's page at Facebook, so you might find a few RBF-related items there.

Also, if you are interested in helping RBF to promote heroic literature and art in all forms, you can join RBF's Ring of Heroes, allowing you to donate to the cause. If you not only want to help but would like to occasionally receive some excellent fiction in book form, you can also become an RBF Companion Member.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Craft Holsters: Beretta 92FS holster

A while back the good folks over at Craft Holsters contacted me and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. They would custom make for me a leather, open top pancake holster for the firearm of my choosing -- for free -- and all I had to do was review their product. Sounded like a good deal to me then and it still seems like a good deal now that I've had the holster for a week or so.

As for the firearm involved, I decided a holster for my Beretta 92FS would be best. I carry my Beretta fairly regularly, so another holster for it would serve me well.

First off, I have to say this is a quality holster. It's made of thick, solid leather and has double stitching all the way around. It has been shaped to a Beretta 92FS perfectly, allowing my own handgun to slide in and out of it with ease.

Being this is a pancake holster, it holds snug against the body, allowing one to pull a shirt over and hide the holster and firearm with ease. Also, while shaped for a firearm, the leather here is smooth enough that the shape of the gun will not easily appear through one's clothing. As a nice bonus feature, the inside of this holster rises a little higher than the outside, placing a strip of thick leather between your firearm and yourself, so you don't have to worry about a handgun pressing into your flesh or any undershirt you might be wearing.

All in all this is a solid holster, a quality holster, and I'd suggest anyone interested should hitch their way on over to the Craft Holsters site and put in an order. The prices for these holsters are not cheap, but they're also not exorbitant; you get what you pay for, and here you actually get a little more than what you pay for.

Now in fairness, is this the perfect holster? No, of course not. There's no such thing as a perfect holster. There might be a perfect holster for you for a particular gun, but that's a rare find and one every gun owner should cherish when it  happens. To put it another way, the particular holster I received is a great holster, but it's not necessarily perfect for me, or at least it's not perfect for every situation in which I carry.

For example, there's not a lot of movement with this holster once it's on your belt. Personally I like to be able to slide my holster around a little because my situations change; sometimes I'm standing, sometimes sitting in a vehicle, other times sitting at a table, etc. This particular holster doesn't slide around easily if at all. In fact, this holster is quite wide, so one might find a difficult time placing it between loops on a pair of pants. This doesn't mean this is a bad holster, just that it's good for some things and not so good for others. If you're someone who doesn't want your holster to have any movement in it, then this holster could be perfect for you. And let me add that I'm talking about one particular holster from Craft Holsters, the holster they sent for my Beretta 92FS, and they offer lots of different styles of holsters for different firearms, so another holster or one for a different gun might not be as immobile as was my own.

The big questions are: Would I buy one of these holsters? And would I wear it? The answer to the first question is "yes," and in fact I'm planning to buy at least a couple more of these holsters. The answer to the second question is a bit more complicated, but it's basically, "yes, I would wear it, but only during certain situations, ones which would have to be determined at the time of holstering up." If that made sense. It basically means that whenever I'm planning to leave the house and carry a sidearm, at the moment of putting on a holster I would have to decide what type of handgun and which holster I'll be taking with me. Sometimes this Craft Holsters holster would be appropriate and even preferable, but not always.

Okay, I've rattled on enough. This really is a top quality holster, and made in Italy to boot. Go check out the Craft Holsters web site for yourself. I'm sure you'll find something there you'll like.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Katahdin beers

The Katahdin brewery of Maine has had an interesting history. For one thing, it no longer exists. The brewery was bought out by the Casco Bay Brewing Company. But then Casco was bought out by the Shipyard Brewing Company. Yet the Katahdin beers live on, at least every once in a while. The folks at Shipyard must have a love for the Katahdin beers, because every now and then they will brew a batch, especially of the Katahdin Red Ale, which is apparently a regional favorite in Maine. Anyway, it's been a good long while since I've had a chance to try any of the Katahdin brews, and the last time I did they were still brewed under the Katahdin brewery folks, so I don't think it would be fair to compare today's Katahdin beers with those of a decade or more back especially as I've not yet had a chance to try the current Katahdin beers.

Okay, did any of that make sense to you? I'll make it more simple. Katahdin beers were good a long while back, but as those beers aren't currently available to me, I thought I'd post some old but brief reviews I did of Katahdin beers from about 10 years ago.

Katahdin Red Ale
Beer score: 7.1

A little stronger than a pale ale, but had that sort of texture, color and feel to it. This is what most of those premium "red" beers try to be. Gets stronger as it goes down.

Katahdin Stout
Beer score: 8.1

Stouts should be served fairly warm because it increases the taste and the pleasure. This stout is no different. This drink is reminiscent of Guinness Extra Stout, for those who would like a comparison. A very sturdy drink with the right amount of bitter and heaviness and strength for a stout.

Katahdin Pale Ale
Beer score: 7.8

According to the bottle, katahdin is a Native-American word for "great mountain." This brew is a strong pale ale and it is wet and bitter. Pretty smooth but not for beginners. A great all-around taste. Good with a meal or for just drinking.

Katahdin Golden Beer
Beer score: 6.4

A pale ale-type beer with a little bitterness and a slight hint of sourness in the aftertaste. Goes down smooth. I've heard this beer was made like a pilsener, but its taste and color were more like that of a pale ale. There was a map on the bottom of this six-pack’s cardboard carrier showing how to get to the brewery of the Casco Bay Brewing Company, once the makers of this decent brew. In fact, lots of beer companies are adding interesting stuff to the bottom of their carriers, so keep a look out.