I started writing this post a couple of days ago.
This morning I got up early and mowed the one strip of lawn I wasn’t able to get last night before dark, the strip that runs the length of my driveway beside my next door neighbor’s house. Then I raked the sticks on the patio and in the driveway that’ve been there since last week’s storm. Put the sticks and debris at the curb by the mailbox, then got the leafblower and cleaned up everything else. I mowed yesterday evening because my wife had found a tick on our son’s hand and I figured mowing the grass down from six to three-and-a-half inches would help disrupt arachnid and insect life-cycles. I finished out there by about 8:30 pm and it was dark, then. The John Deere 235E’s headlights are functional, and the mowing I’d done last night looked respectable in this morning’s sunlight.
The plan had originally been to spend the day paddling the RZ96 with my friend Daryl, but he hurt his back on the job last week. Although it is pretty fast and unreal stable, the RZ96’s back”rests” are so so poorly designed that prolonged use would probably result in spondylolysis or similar disabling condition. I recommended that Daryl take care of his back.
I’ve mentioned it so much on Facebook that I’ve forgotten I haven’t written anything about it here – starlings have infested the enclosed eaves/soffits above the window in the den where I sit as I write this. I hate the damned birds, and I have done more than, by intensity of thought and speech consigned them to eternal torment. I have destroyed the nest two or three times, hosed the nest out four or five times with a power-nozzle, liberally sprinkled their nest with moth crystals, times I’ve lost count of sprayed the nest with bird-repellant. None of that has done more than to provoke angry shrieks. Each time, the filthy winged histoplasmotic beasts have returned. The day I had planned to give them minute-rice to eat, it rained.
Determined at last to kill the birds, I ordered a paintball gun with sniper rifle modifications: 18” rifled barrel; scope; offset scope mount; adjustable carbine-style stock; remote-line; Guerilla Air Myth 48/3000 HPA tank, and 500 .68 caliber clear mess-free paintballs (which are on backorder will not ship until maybe Tuesday 31 May); three-point tactical sling (how does it attach at the barrel? Dunno), and largely decorative muzzle brake that does provide an attachment point for the sling. Took the seller, www.choicepaintballguns.com, a while to get the order together (drop-shipped from a manufacturer or other source) because the "Flexi-Air” system I ordered was not available to fit the current iteration of the Tippmann 98 Custom Platinum (which is why I wound up getting the Guerrilla Air tank and remote line; CPBG has removed the package I ordered from its site), but the company’s owner, Dan, didn’t know that when I placed the order.
When my order finally arrived, I was unable to get the local specialty gas/welding supply house to charge the Guerrilla Air tank because their fill apparatus does not connect to the tank’s 1/8” NPT Quik Connector fill nipple (we checked the Swagelok catalogue gas building’s office and their product wouldn’t work with the GA nipple). Tech-support at www.guerrillaair.com wasn’t very helpful. To the good, once I obtain the adapter, the welding supply company will be able to charge the tank with nitrogen at 3000 psi. I’ve ordered an adapter from www.tippmannparts.com and I’ll let you know whether it works.All of these trifling small hassles, including the fact that my T98 shipped without a hopper, have been a real pain in the arse vis-à-vis my war with the starlings.
As soon as I informed Dan at ChoicePaintballGuns he sent one out USPS Priority Mail. The less expensive paintball hoppers are roughly kidney-shaped and look like those plastic bottles you have to urinate into if you’re bedridden in hospital. The one delivered this afternoon has a lid that pops open when the marker (what the paintball cognoscenti call their guns) is fired, and pops open from the weight of the paintballs when the gun’s aimed at birds in the air. The more expensive hoppers resemble bicycle helmets. All of them mar any sort of “mil-sim” realism to the paintgun’s appearance. I’d almost prefer a 15 round, inline tube sticking out the top right-side’s feed port for simplicity and target shooting. Another type of feeder called the Q-Loader looks like an interesting solution, but expensive.
A final word about ChoicePaintballGuns.com – really easy to deal with and extremely helpful. A Better Business Bureau A+ rated company, and the guy answering the phone, who’s also the owner, even laughed at a couple of my jokes.
I remember many years ago (20? Has it been that long?) when I lived at San Pedro, California, across the street from a bar called The Spot, my neighbors, brothers whose names will not appear in this blog, and I used my plastic paintball pistol to snipe at cars driving by through their living-room’s slit window that faced the intersection at 22nd Street and Pacific Avenue. The gun used one of those little CO2 cartridges of the sort used to power drinks spritzers and held 10 maraschino-cherry-like paintballs in a tube above the barrel. We never got caught, although we had a couple of close calls with angry motorists who objected to the sensation of something striking their vehicles, as well as to the red smears left by broken paintballs.
Paintball guns appear to have evolved a great deal since the early 1990s, but a rifle scope remains a nonfunctional accessory. My neighbor Jeff, ex USMC, rifle-team, combat veteran and generally smart, capable guy was happy to help me this morning with the chore of sighting-in the scope. After an hour and a half, we were still much more accurate sighting down the barrel. We tried the offset mounting option, then monkeyed with the sight mounted along the top-rail. No joy. Jeff said, “There doesn’t seem to be enough ‘up’ to this (scope)” in order to make the necessary vertical adjustment. Shooting at the target, most of our shots hit way low and to the right.
It was clear to me that I probably should have ordered a red/green-dot sight instead of the rubber-armored rifle scope. The Tippmann 98’s front sight is slightly spring-loaded, small blivit that does not have enough profile for the shooter to line it up with the rear sight. Jeff and I both shot better sighting down the barrel than using the scope’s crosshairs.
My son came out to observe while Jeff and I (mostly Jeff) were working on the scope. Later on he came out again while I was shooting at cans and wanted to load paintballs for me. He also likes playing with the paintballs – tactile pleasure of little marble-like things. He found the noise of the airgun unpleasant and complained by covering his ears with his hands. Once or twice he wanted to pull the trigger, but almost immediately changed his mind.
We turned the velocity all the way up. It’s not like I plan to do much with this gun besides potting at birds and plinking at cans and milk cartons in the backyard. To that end, after Jeff figured he’d done all he could do to make the T98 serviceable and had gone to visit our other neighbors who were seated near their fishpond, I set up targets. Two cans and a milk carton out of the house on sticks at the base of a tree like like the severed heads of ancestral enemies displayed made more interesting targets lower to the ground. Birds make good targets when they’re on the ground, too, but none obliged me this morning.
Because I never was able to get Guerrilla Air tank filled, I bought a couple of cheap CO2 canisters at Wal-Mart and got them filled at Race Connection for six bucks total. I wasn’t expecting to get many shots out of the tanks, but by the time I was done for the day, I’d fired about 200 shots with one bottle and it still had some left when I put it away. The orange paint smears hosed off the shed and the tree. According to the product literature on the box, the paintballs I used have something called Eco-Fill that does not stain clothing or structures and biodegrades easily. Certainly, I was favorably impressed by the ease with which I was able to clean up the orange smears.
I didn’t kill or harass the starlings today. One day during the week I found a few minutes to get the ladder out and get up to the nest thinking I would again destroy it or soak it down a harsh-smelling bird repellant, and then stuff some steel wool into the birds’ access gap, but when I got up there I saw about five hatchlings squeaking for worms or whatever it is their parents feed them. I climbed back down, put the ladder and steel wool away without harming the birds or destroying their nest. I am told that within six weeks they will take wing and not return to the nest, so I’ll clean it out and stop the hole then.
Last Saturday 5/21/11
Two or three weeks ago while I was out in the back yard playing with Seventy-Six we went over and said “Hello” to our neighbor Deanna, she is Jeff’s wife, and was just then looking after her two young granddaughters, one of whom is a little older and the other a little younger than my son. He enjoyed playing with them, and Deanna asked me if I had any plans for Saturday morning 21 May. No, not really, what’s happening then? Deanna said she and her husband had a couple of tickets for the annual Kiwanis Club Prayer Breakfast at Stepford’s First Big Arminian Church, and would I like to have them. Sure, I’d be happy to have them.
I invited my friend and congregation’s pastor to attend with me. We don’t get to hang out much, and he’s a guy who’s much smarter than I am theologically (and maybe full-stop) and whose company I enjoy. In my very limited experience with things culturally Christian, a prayer breakfast is usually a pancake festival with second helpings encouraged and an early morning, come as you are, more-manly-than-usual church activity. I wore my favorite T-shirt, a pair of khaki cargo shorts, and those New Balance trail runners. Upon arrival, I quickly discovered that I was underdressed for the occasion; Theodore, with a wider experience of North American Christian subcultural mores, was appropriately attired for the occasion. A large number of men present wore suits.
Because I ‘d read again, and while the guy’s lack of insight or depth of character is glaring his comedic prose made me laugh out loud two or three times, the three chapters in Matt Taibbi’s The Great Derangement dealing with his infiltration of blowhard John Hagee’s Texas mega-“church”, I brought my copy along for Theodore’s amusement. He, in turn, loaned me his copy of Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple. Maybe more about Roose’s book another time.
I saw one of my neighbors, a local industrialist I like and respect (he’s not from around here), and a retired colleague I was pleased to see. Theodore saw a couple of his former parishioners from his time a First Big Southern Church of Rural County Seat one county over. The meal was a one-serving affair of eggs, ham or bacon (I opted for bacon and was given one slice so I asked for ham, instead, and didn’t have to give my bacon slice back), a side I don’t remember, orange-juice and coffee.
The 21st was also the date Harold Camping had scheduled for the return of Christ to take his people out of the world (or Rapture them) prior to the Great Tribulation. And I wanted to see whether the Arminians had gotten worked up over this much publicized event. At their most extreme, Arminians believe they are constantly in peril of losing their salvation and their holiness. Their theological workaround is to narrowly define sin as “a willful transgression against a known law of God.” Sort of like the common law definition of burglary is, if memory serves, "a trespassory breaking and entering into a dwelling in the nighttime with the intent to commit a felony therein.” All the elements must be present for the act or omission to act to meet the definition of sin. Anything less falls under the category of “mistake.” I can think of no better reason for the average Arminian to avoid Bible reading, because that’s probably a good way to get know the laws of God, in addition to a bunch of other God-related information. A lot of “end-times” misinformation can be found in garage-sale discards penned by Hal Lindsey, a Joe Stalin lookalike who popularized the Dispensationalist idea of pre-millennial eschaton (have I spelled that correctly?).
The occasion, it turns out, was an Armed Forces Day prayer breakfast. A presentation was made to the chapter’s chosen Layperson of The Year – a retired banker with whom I am slightly acquainted. A young woman of angelic voice played piano and sang three songs, one of which I recall that my wife’s sister sang at our wedding. The event’s main speaker was a Nashville TV news weatherman (I don’t think he’s actually a meteorologist). His talk was a biographical tale of determination and somewhat generic faith that referred to values all in a way that could have been well received by Moslems, Zoroastrians, Mooney’s, Christians, Jews, and perhaps even Taoists. The weatherman did make a little joke about Harold Camping’s prediction, and none of those present looked at all worried about Camping’s forecast.
At the time I found myself thinking about the practice of civil religion in America and how my life rarely intersects with it. Also thinking about the “church”-system as what passes for church in North America and about how much money it takes to keep it all going – not just the dyed-in-the-wool thieving televangelists, but also the widely accepted as legitimate mainstream or niche-market/boutique Evangelical church-building set.
Overall, I had a pleasant experience at the prayer breakfast, but I’m glad I was there with a friend who was able to assure me that no, it wasn’t all in my head. Winsome people doing good things in a pleasant environment as they have been doing for a couple of generations. But I don’t think it can last and I’m a little sad about that.
The Saturday Before That 5/14/11
I’m not scared of black cats, dates and days, ladders, shadows, or similar frightful things, so I wasn’t afraid to drive like the hammers of mythical Hades toward home over a slightly winding highway at the end of my working day week. I wasn’t afraid when the car didn’t handle the curves as well as it did just the day before, and thought, “Probably needs shocks. I’d like to get some heavier sway bars, maybe a strut-tower brace.” Back at the house, the front right tire looked a little low and I thought it was time I checked the air pressure in all four. But I went into the house, ate dinner, and forgot about it.
In the morning when I went out to pick up sticks from the yard before mowing, I saw the tire was close to flat and filled it. Then I drove to the Pot County seat where I knew I’d find a tire store open Saturday. I had to wait a couple of hours before the service guys repaired the leak. Instead of sitting around in the waiting room, I walked across the parking lot to look at the Little Waterfowl River that runs beside the store. No good way to get down the steep muddy hill for a closer look, I walked along the highway in front of the store, past a shack/trailer-like red painted barbecue stand (closed at that hour), and walked up the road to the right thinking maybe I’d find easier access to the river. I didn’t, but I kept walking along the road as it curved uphill into fairly nice-seeming neighborhood I’d never seen before and would’ve never guessed was there.
Where the road curved back down the hill to the highway again, I met a man and a woman walking. The man wore a complicated brace arrangement that involved chest, one arm, and his head. I said Good Morning to them and they greeted me. A little farther along and houses looked smaller and less impressively built and well maintained. I saw a woman sweeping a front porch, little more than a stoop. Four or five mostly black puppies ran toward me barking, wagging tails, looking happy. The woman called to them and they went to her. She apologized for them and I told her it wasn’t necessary.
Back at the tire store, I did finally have a cup of their bad coffee, looked at a couple of issues of Field & Stream, and watched the final fifteen minutes of a John Wayne movie – a Western filmed toward the end of his career, I don’t remember what it’s called. When tire was patched I paid for the repair and drove home.