Archives for the ‘Blog Entries.Local’ Category

The annual luminaria at Fredericksburg National Cemetery

Author: From • May 28th, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Photography.Local

The annual luminaria at Fredericksburg National Cemetery

Decisions, decisions…

Author: From • May 28th, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local
Finally, the weather is pleasant, the sun is shining and the grill will be fired up shortly. But first, what's on tap tonight? To answer that question, Colleen and I headed over to Maltese Brewing to pick up a growler fill. Of course, we had to first do some research to decide what to get for the evening.

We opted to try pints of Raspberry Wheat and Pineapple IPA. The Pineapple IPA a regular at Maltese, and may be their most popular beer; it's one of my favorites. The Raspberry Wheat is a newer offering and brewed with fresh raspberries, which give the beer just hint of tartness. The fruit flavor is mild and combined with the wheat base, it's a very refreshing and flavorful beer. But then again, I really do like that Pineapple IPA...

And now, the fire pit is prepped for an evening fire, and a growler of Raspberry Wheat awaits.

Memorial Day

Author: From • May 28th, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local
As we begin the unofficial start of Summer, please take a moment to pray for those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. Celebrate the holiday with food, fun and friends, but do it remembering the reason behind it. Without our fallen heroes this great country, and indeed the world, would be a much different and lesser place.

Ballast Point to Build Virginia Brewery

Author: From • May 27th, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local
Somehow I missed this announcement the other day. Perhaps so many breweries are starting call Virginia home that the news doesn't stand out any more. Ballast Point Brewing, the makers of the popular Sculpin IPA series, like the Habanero Sculpin reviewed earlier, is planning to build a new east coast brewery in Virginia. Brewbound has the information...
The Commonwealth of Virginia is quickly becoming the San Diego of the East.

Ballast Point today confirmed plans to purchase a massive 259,000 sq. ft. building in Botetourt County, Virginia, where it will build its first East Coast production facility.

According to a press release from the office of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the company plans to spend $48 million to build the new outpost. Ballast Point spokeswoman Hilary Cocalis told Brewbound the new location will include a large-scale production brewery, distribution warehouse and retail taproom. The company — which was acquired by Constellation Brands for $1 billion last November — is also considering a restaurant component, she added.

The exact timeline and production details are not finalized, but construction is expected to begin later this year. I'm looking forward to visiting, and I hope the restaurant component comes through as well.

See "Ballast Point to Build $48 Million Brewery in Virginia" for more information.

Spring Flowers on the Range

Author: From • May 26th, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local
Colleen sent me this photo she took at the range from a few years ago. The plant is a native orchid called "Showy Orchis" or Galearis spectabilis. I actually remember quite clearly the day we saw the blooms when were shooting and she stopped to take some pictures.

The blooms appear in April and May. I don't recall seeing the plants last time I was at the range, so I wonder if they survived some recent range renovations. Perhaps I'll just have to go shooting after work today to check it out.

Not a bad way to spend the first nice day in a few weeks

Author: From • May 25th, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Photography.Local

Not a bad way to spend the first nice day in a few weeks

Not a bad way to spend the first nice day in a few weeks

Author: From • May 25th, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Photography.Local

Not a bad way to spend the first nice day in a few weeks

Cavalier IDPA Match

Author: From • May 24th, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local
The way the calendar worked out this month, the Rivanna and Cavalier IDPA matches fell on the same weekend, so I shot the former on Saturday and the latter on Sunday. It's been a while since I could make it to Cavalier for their monthly IDPA match, so I was quite eager to return despite the busy weekend. Driving to the range I encountered heavy rain, and that's when I realized I left my jacket at home, and the rain jacket I (usually) keep in my range bag had not been returned to its place after its last wearing. Fortunately the heavy rain was short-lived, and we faced only intermittent rain during the match.

The stages in the match were not especially difficult, but they offered different and enjoyable challenges, including some inconveniently placed non-threats and head shots. On stage one, we started off by engaging a close target offering a partial head area. Three more targets were engaged between some barrels, before the stage ended with another head shot target, and a full target seen by a hard lean around cover.

Stage two started with a close partial target and a distant target, before we headed down range to engage two more targets from behind cover. At the final position were two more targets, one partial and one full. It seemed pretty simple but the target positioning required attention as some no-shoots were placed behind cover so that the head area appeared first, and tempted a shot if you weren't careful.

The next stage had six targets arranged on either side of an "alley" created by barrels. We started down range at the berm, and the course was shot while backing up and engaging targets as they became visible. The stage seemed straightforward, but the some of the targets had non-threats over them, and I almost shot one before catching myself.

At stage four we found six targets in a line, with a couple non-threats interspersed, along with a shooting area marked with rope and barrels. For this stage all magazines were downloaded to six rounds; we started with a loaded gun and two magazines left on the barrels.  At the start we engaged each target with one shot each while advancing to the first barrel. Retrieving a magazine from the barrel, the targets were engaged again while moving right to left. Finally, the third magazine was grabbed and the targets were engaged again while retreating. I felt myself let the gun move as I stepped a few times but knew I had no makeup rounds.

The final stage of the match used the same six targets. This time they were shot from behind cover, three targets from each side of the barrel stack. I ended up shooting low on most of the targets, even though they were only about 12 yards out. I try to learn from each match and this is something I need to work on. As I've noticed in the IDPA classifier I tend to shoot low when leaning around a barricade. Other than a bunch of -1 hits, all shots were on target. 

Despite the intermittent rain, the morning shooting event made for a pleasant outing. The match ran smoothly and quickly, and I felt like I shot well. By just a little after 11:00 AM I was in the car and heading home. That left plenty of time for an afternoon nap, something that was greatly needed after two early morning starts this weekend.

Rivanna IPDA Match

Author: From • May 23rd, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local
So, it's been raining nearly every day for something like four weeks now. Saturday was no different when I left in the early morning to drive to Charlottesville for the monthly IDPA match at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club. Fortunately the club has an indoor range where the matches are held during inclement weather, so other than making driving tedious, the heavy rains wouldn't dissuade the dedicated shooters.

Four stages that tested accuracy and unusual shooting positions awaited us. Stage one had two sets of two stacked targets with the outside edges hidden by hand cover. The stage was shot on the move between four shooting positions arranged in a rectangle. At the start we engaged each target with one shot each strong hand only while moving forward. Then moving to the left engaged the targets weak hand only. From the left position each target was shot freestyle while retreating. Finally while moving to the right, and back to the starting position, we engaged the arrays with a headshot to each target. Besides concentrating on the shooting positions, at each direction change we were also required to do a tactical reload, stowing the partial mag. That also meant that we had to retrieve a previously stowed magazine to complete the headshot string. This was a great stage with which to get your brain working.

Stage two, in the same bay, had us shooting from a prone position, between a barrel and a large wooden spool. There were five targets requiring three shots on each. It was a fun stage, and I welcomed the chance to shoot from such a seldom-used position.

Moving to the second indoor bay, next third stage had an array of four targets centered by a non-threat target. Shooting from a stationary position, the targets required two body and one head shot each. The lower head shots required extra care in aiming as they were partially blocked. Finishing that array we retreated up range, around a barrel stack and then headed back downrange. Arriving at the second position there were three more targets to be engaged in tactical sequence with two shots each.

The final challenge of the match was a seated stage; magazines on the table and the unloaded gun in a lidded "IDPA box." There were four targets down range requiring three body shots each, in tactical sequence, followed by a head shot on each. After missing head shots in both stages one and three, I was happy to finally get "warmed up" and make all four on this stage.

The match was very challenging and required concentration on both the shooting sequences and the front sight. The lower light level of the indoor range added to the difficulty. While I didn't shoot as accurately as I did at last month's match, I had a lot of fun with the challenges and was moderately pleased with the results. (I think I will work on shooting partially obscured targets in some upcoming practice sessions.) The match director did an excellent job of packing fun stages into a small space. While there was a bit of consternation over the difficulty from some shooters, most folks I think welcomed the opportunity to do something a bit out of the ordinary. And it was a chance to shoot, despite the dreary weather. We were out for a late night the evening prior, and I was sorely tempted to sleep in on Saturday, but at the end of the day, I was very glad I opted to make the rainy morning drive.

Drobo 5N NAS Keeps Losing Network Connection – Problem Solved!

Author: From • May 22nd, 2016
   Category: Blog Entries.Local

A few months back, I decided to upgrade our home network's disk storage solution from several SATA drives housed in a network-connected, vintage Apple Mac Pro to a brand spanking new Drobo 5N network-attached storage ("NAS") device. The Drobo 5N is a 5-bay disk array with a gigabit wired ethernet connection. This solution is a great way to provide massive amounts of upgradeable disk storage to every computer on your local area network.

After an easy set-up and uneventful data migration, we were ready to experience high-performance data access across all of the devices on the home LAN. Unfortunately, I was perplexed and somewhat dismayed at the initial poor quality of the Drobo performance... or at least what I thought was the fault of the Drobo 5N.

Data transfer speeds were very mediocre and the connection to the NAS would drop intermittently for what seemed to be no apparent reason. This would happen for computers accessing the NAS device through either a hard-wired ethernet or wi-fi connection, both being provided via a Verizon FiOS Quantum Gateway.

The AC1750 Quantum Gateway is advertised to feature gigabit wired ethernet, and 802-11 bfg / nfac, 2.4 and 5.0 GHz wi-fi speeds up to 800 Mbps. However, the data transfer rates I was observing were painfully slower than this.

Was the problem the Drobo 5N, the FiOS Quantum Gateway, or maybe something else? 

We decided to start with troubleshooting the network and the easiest components to test were the ethernet cables that interconnect the various network devices. Test the cables? Yes. We've discovered that ethernet cables can be a not-so-obvious weak point in any network. Don't be fooled that more expensive cables are better quality. Bad connectors. Stretched and kinked cables. Cheap materials. All of these factors are contributors to poor data communications and slow speeds and all problems that can be discovered in both cheap and expensive ethernet cables.

A cable tester does not need to be costly to be effective. We found a very inexpensive, generic RJ45 / RJ11 / Cat 5 / Cat 6 cable tester available online years ago, and it has proven to be one of the best tools in the shop drawer. Simply plug your subject cable into the two ports of the tester and observe if there are any short or open circuits.

Wouldn't you know it? The ethernet cable connecting the Drobo 5N to the router had an open circuit and was only working at 10 Mbps; that's only one percent of the gigabit speed we expected and an obvious bottleneck in the connection to the NAS. We also found faults in cables that connected a network printer and our AT&T MicroCell Wireless Network Extender. All-in-all, testing the ethernet cables proved to be a worthwhile exercise!

With new cables in place, we were pleased to experience a meaningful improvement in network performance. However, data speeds were still a bit lackluster and the connection to the NAS would still drop intermittently. With all of the ethernet ports on the Verizon FiOS Quantum Gateway in use, we suspected that the device was possibly being taxed beyond its capability. 

While the FiOS Quantum Gateway has proven to be a speedy and worthy Internet access point, we believe that it's not an ethernet routing workhorse. Our experience is that all in-one devices typically do not perform all tasks equally well. We decided to place the responsibility of the network's ethernet routing on a device designed to do just that. While it may not have been normal practice to use a stand-alone network switch in a home network in the past, the introduction of more and more network devices makes it a more much more common practice. We selected the NETGEAR ProSAFE Gigabit Model GS108 Unmanaged Switch to do the heavy lifting on our LAN. 

With a dedicated network switch and good ethernet cables all around, the home network suddenly came alive, and both wired and wireless connections to the Drobo 5N proved to be fast and reliable. No more lost connections. No more slow data transfer speeds.

This experience proved to me that it's important to consider all of the system's components when troubleshooting poor performance. Please consider using the same kind of scrutiny when looking for your own local area network bottleneck.