It’s been a long time since my last post. I do intend to catch up, but between a new baby, a job, and the building of a house, I haven’t been able to make the blog a priority. This winter I hope to write some catch up posts and get back on track.
My sister, who may be more of a renaissance man than I, started telling me about this rap musical about Alexander Hamilton a couple years ago. I listened to a few of the songs, but I didn’t really get it. Once Hamilton really started blowing up, I realized I probably hadn’t given it is due. I think the main problem I had was that despite a love for American history, I didn’t know or remember much about Hamilton. For Christmas last year, my parents got my wife and me season tickets to The Kennedy Center. They’ve been habitués of the theater for about thirty years, and generously though we’d appreciate going to shows as much as they have. They even watch the little ones while we’re out, which is honestly about all we get it, so we greatly appreciate it.
I’d only managed to read about 30% of the book before seeing the show. I highly recommend getting some context before seeing the show. At a bare minimum, read wikipedia and then listen to the songs in order. I thought the musical was absolutely incredible. It was very well done. I thought the execution of the DC cast was on par with the original, save maybe for Angelica. However, several members of my family saw the show a few weeks after I did, and they told me that an understudy had filled in for Angelica who was quite good. I thought that Washington was particular exceptional in the DC cast. The set was surprisingly simple, but I don’t think that detracted from the show in any way. I won’t waste any more time of a review as you all know its great and can’t be missed. I hope to see it again, and hear a filmed performance by the original cast my come out as a movie, which I’d love to see. The only show I’ve ever seen that had the audience as engaged and as excited is perhaps The Book of Mormon. However, The Book of Mormon is a pretty pure comedy while Hamilton really has it all.
I finished the book last night after what felt like an eternity of trying to finish it. It’s a lot of book. That’s not to say its not a page turner, but it’s definitely not a light or short read. I’ve ready 1776, and Founding Brothers. I’ve watched John Adams on HBO. Chernow’s Hamilton stands out to me as it really highlights the personalities of the founding fathers and other associates of Hamilton. I also really think it speaks to the savagery of politics and the cynicism and grim view of the human condition held by many great and influential men. In school we learn about great leaders and founders of this nation, and they’re presented as exceptional and superhuman. Chernow’s Hamilton really speaks to the flaws of these men, the failures and shortcomings, which really gives another dimension to their history and a much richer appreciation of their lives and legacies. Interestingly, only George Washington is portrayed as exceptional in both his accomplishments and integrity. Chernow makes it clear that Washington owed much of his success to Hamilton, just as Hamilton did to Washington. Really, they were indispensable to each other. But Washington stands alone as a man of unwavering character, selflessness, magnanimity, integrity, sacrifice, and optimism. He saw the good in all people, and saw beyond party politics, all while holding himself to the highest standards. He was not perfect, but his honestly and exceptionalism is not matched. Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, and etc., while exceptional, all fall victim to the human condition. They are guilty of being petty, dishonest, of infidelities, and many similar shortcomings. In addition to dirty politics, Hamilton had other mistakes, such as the Alien and Sedition acts. Particularly remarkable since Hamilton was an immigrant. Despite these mistakes, most founders are remembered for accomplishments. Adams and Jefferson included. We know all along that Burr is the villain, but short of murder, many of the founding fathers are guilty of similar lapses in judgement and/or failings of character. While their careers and legacies are exceptional, and they weren’t regular people, they were susceptible to many of the same temptations and weaknesses of their inferiors. This seems particularly relevant in the age of Trump. While Bill Clinton may best be remembered due to the cause of his impeachment, politics in my lifetime has seemed less scandalous than during Hamilton’s time. Until now. While not comforting to me personally, perhaps because I’m too cynical or impatient, its nice to know America has been through a lot and still persevered and thrived. It makes one think that Trump too shall pass. Its hard not to draw parallels. And while the best example of a selfless public servant, especially given his recent passing, is McCain, its difficult to see how or when the reasonable and upstanding republicans like McCain will retake their party. While the book is truly an all encompassing biography, the musical seems to focus on legacy. Only a few years ago, most people probably wouldn’t name Hamilton as a founding father. Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin, etc., could all probably easily be recalled, but Hamilton would probably be as forgettable as John Jay. In his own time and shortly thereafter, Hamilton may have been most infamous for his infidelity and then his duel. It’s interesting that such an accomplished man could have his legacy be something other than The Federalist Papers, the Treasury Department, Neutrality, or Abolitionism. The musical has gone a lone way towards enriching and cementing Hamilton’s legacy. Especially with current generations. But despite the book and musical, Hamilton will likely continue to be best known for the duel. A man of many mistakes, but known for one big one. It gives one pause that one can go from being remembered as a Vice President, to a murderer, in just a split second. Or a from perhaps the most accomplished founding father, to a the victim of a duel.by rsiv with
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Its that time again!
Just got back from my trip down to Botetourt. I was invited on a fraternity brother’s annual fishing trip his dad as been doing since he was 5. The guys said the water was pretty low this year maybe two feet lower than usual. North and Middle were stocked the week before, and Jennings was stocked the day we arrived. The low water and the heavy fishing pressure made for some tough fishing. I struck out Thursday afternoon and all day Friday. I got some good advice from TPFR, but the few fish I did find were very spooky (they could see me through 6-12 inches of crystal clear water with clear blue skies and I wasn’t particularly stealthy), and when I did approach without scaring them away, they just watched whatever I cast their way float on by. I had a few presentations I was proud of but no fish to show for it. Meanwhile the bait and spin casters were pounding the few deep holes out there and pulling some pretty decent fish out. Thursday I saw one trout. Friday I saw four after fishing almost 12 hours. I stayed busy and challenged though learning to tie the orvis knot faster, and definitely getting experience setting up tandem rigs and adjusting depth. I was also getting to know the area, and finding the fishier looking spots. I took solace in the fact that some of the other guys in the group were striking out as well, and that my hammock setup had handled the 25-30 degree lows no problem. The camping and camaraderie was great, but fishing needed to pick up.
Saturday I drove back down the mountain toward the bend in Jennings where I had seen the four trout the previous day. I was surprised to see no cars parked along that bend despite it being about 9am when I got down there. I walked over to a rock overlooking the stream and saw fifteen trout holding water between two rocks where I had a seen a trout take cover the day before. I went back to the car and got my rod and threw on a san juan worm and a caddis nymph. Then later a black and a blue quill nymph, but nothing. Then I tried some egg patters below a dry fly. I took out a box with some classic trout nymphs and tried a bunch of common stuff, princes and copper johns, etc, but nothing. The only good news at this point is that most of the trout had not spooked off, despite my nymphs flowing right by them. I had been very careful with my casts up to this point. I thought a streamer would scare the fish off, but I was out of ideas. I had a worm egg combo fly I’d had some success with previously, so I tied that on as a last resort before the streamers. I drifted it past/through the group about three times before I finally got a strike. I landed the fish, took a quick picture, and before I could grab my hemostat, the fish flopped out of the net, broke the line, and swam off. I was shocked to see about ten of the trout still near the same rock. Somehow they had not spooked. I switched to a snowhite damsel, and landed two more. A wooly landed my fourth and final fish. By this time, the spin guys had shown up and were waiting on my hot spot. I’d been fishing it about four hours and had missed breakfast, so I conceded the spot, wished the spin guys luck, and left for some lunch. I returned after lunch to find a couple trout left. But they were much more spooky and savvy, and I didn’t land any more. As tough as the fishing was, I would have been happy to land one. I was ecstatic with four.
I fished a little more, but to no avail. The last day, I fished my fiberglass 3wt some, and it was a lot more enjoyable on the small tight pocket water. I also really enjoyed my new Korkers Hatchback wading boots. Still needed some shopping bags to slip in easily, but they were very comfortable. Even though I struggled some, it was some of the most beautiful fishing I’ve ever enjoyed. The boulders, canyons, and waterfalls made for an amazing setting. Saturday evening, I enjoyed some celebratory bourbon with the guys and then made great time getting home the next morning. Can’t wait for next year.by rsiv with
LeBeef did not want to be in-country for the inauguration, so we booked a trip to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. This was EF’s second trip abroad. The island was very family friendly, had amazing dining both casual and upscale, and a beautiful golf course and expansive and gorgeous flats to hunt bonefish. The girls’ snorkling trip got canceled due to weather, so we can’t speak to that, but this island really has it all. The surf was calm most days, and never as rough as the Outer Banks. It was also probably the most beautiful beach we’ve visited. If you’re looking to go to the Caribbean, I’d highly recommend TCI. If you’re just here for the fly fishing write up, please scroll down.
I did a lot of research about the bonefishing options before our trip. There are two main outfitters down there, and both have decent reviews. The American-born/non-local guides seem preferred based on tripadvisor reviews, but when you book with a larger company they don’t guarantee you a specific guide. The reviews were pretty hit and miss overall depending on guide. I read about an independent guide/one man operation down in Provo named Darin Bain. A quick googling of his name provided several articles (found here (written by a fellow Virginian), here, and here) from fly fishing publications that spoke to his skills, qualifications, and reliability. He even guided for Jimmy Buffett. I decided to take a chance on a local entrepreneur, and emailed Darin Bain. He quickly responded with his availability, and I put down a deposit. I only recently got into fly fishing (last couple years), and definitely did not have the casting skills to guarantee bonefishing success. Before heading down, I watch hours and hours of casting videos. Read about bonefishing, and practiced. When I still didn’t feel confident, I booked a casting lesson with Rob Snowhite. After the lesson, I’d learned a lot, but still wasn’t quite there. I watched a Lefty Kreh casting video in which he said to haul (double haul) harder, and not try to cast harder to increase distance. Armed with this information, I took my cast (in moderate wind) from 40 feet max out to 60. Now that I could cast plenty far enough, I focused my practice on accuracy and speed. I finally started feeling like I might be good enough to land a fish. I let Darin know about my experience and casting ability when I contacted him, but he said he had yet to be skunked on a full day trip. My dad and I woke up early to meet Darin in our lobby, and were cautiously optimistic…
As you can see, we both caught fish. I was ecstatic. We motored out to a few atolls/small islands and were put on bones pretty quickly. I fished first and managed a scare a bunch away. I also quickly realized that my biggest weakness was speed. Bonefish are predators and constantly on the move. When Darin called out, “11 o’clock, 30 feet”, it would take me too long to get my fly out there. By the time I did, the fish had moved, and Darin would be yelling, “more left!”, but it was often too late. When I did cast in the right direction, my cast would often be too short to be noticed by the fish, or so long that the floating line hit the water above the fish and spooked them. Finally Darin saw some bones near the shore and for once I was able to see them as well. I cast about 3 feet short of them, and started stripping immediately. Darin yelled, “strip faster!”, I picked up the pace and felt a strike. I strip set just by franticly stripping and was on. The bone took a second to figure out he was hooked, and then he was off like a bullet. After a run or two I got him close to the boat, and Darin showed me how to land and safely handle a bonefish. After a quick picture, I put the fish back in the water and watched him swim away. I was euphoric, but I knew FJ still needed to land a fish for the day to be a success. FJ had taken the casting lesson with me, and practiced some, but was still having trouble with the double haul and distance. He fished a few times before lunch to no reward. At lunch I could tell he was feeling a little down and frustrated despite the interesting political discussion with Darin. After lunch, he protested when Darin and I said it was his turn to fish, but quickly capitulated and picked up his Orvis 8wt. At this point in the day we were about 20 miles from Provo in Middle Caicos. It was a beautiful spot, and things looked fishy. Darin called a fish about 30 feet off the port side. FJ casted out, stripped, and was on. This fish made the reel sound like a circular saw. It was immediately clear it was a monster. I was excited, but also apprehensive as I’d lost three hooked fish earlier. One to a mangrove which snapped the line, and another to my inexperience when I reeled while the fish was still making a run and snapped the line. The last lost fish was when I had a tangle in the line at my feet. Darin ran forward to try to clear it as the fish ran, but it was sucked up into the reel and the line popped before the tangled could be fixed. A comedy of errors, but a great lesson in what not to do… FJ let the bonefish take off, reeled it in, and repeated as the fish made run after run. I started videoing halfway through it was so epic (videos below). FJ brought it in close, I grabbed the leader, and he grabbed the fish. WE BOTH LANDED BONEFISH ON OUR FIRST TRIP!!! FJ’s was a monster, probably twice the weight of the 2-3 pounders I caught. FJ doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, but I could tell he was elated. I think Darin expected us to be more excited to land such a monster for FJ’s first fish ever, but to be honest, neither of us knew how big this thing was until I got home and saw that there were only a couple pictures of bigger fish on Darin’s website. Our success had a lot to do with our preparation, and certainly some luck, but there is no way we could have done it without Darin’s expert guiding. I can’t thank or recommend him enough. If we caught fish with Darin, you can too. As inexperienced as we were, it was definitely a risk to pay so much for a day of fishing. I had tried to prepare myself for a nice sunrise cruise, and a learning experience without fish, before I booked the trip. My dad and I both landing bones our first time out was definitely the highlight of the trip and an experience I’ll never forget. I’m definitely hooked on bonefishing. Next time I’m in TCI, I’m calling Darin Bain for sure.
There was something special about the TCI. I’ve been to a lot of islands, and this one stands out. I really think we’ll be back soon.
by rsiv with
The women at my office have a book club, but their selections don’t usually interest me. I realize that one of the benefits of a book club is to read books you otherwise wouldn’t, but as in all things in life, I have limited time. I’d prefer to use that precious time to read books that really speak to me. I’ve tried to start a book club with some friends a few times, but its never worked out. I have joined a few online book clubs through goodreads, and have come across some great books that way. I’ve spent a lot of time choosing books based on recommendations of friends, family, my dad, and lists similar to this one put out by esquire, art of manliness, gear patrol, etc. These aren’t all testosterone-fueled thrillers (some are). There are a selection of books all men should read, and they just might change the way you think. Below are some of my all time favorites.
The Right Stuff is the best book I’ve ever read. Its a non-fiction account of the Mercury 7, centering around the space race. Wolfe illustrates the mens’ incredible risks and spectacular achievements, while also describing a a frat house atmosphere in which the astronauts constantly tried to one up each other, played pranks, pulled cookies (read it to find out), street raced, etc. I can’t do the book justice in this brief review, but if you want to read about men who are the epitome of the manly American male who made this country the best in the world and beyond, this is a book for you. Despite being nonfiction, it has the feel of a work of fiction. Its very readable, and trust me, you’ll love it.
Two Souls Indivisible is about the improbable rise of Colonel Fred Cherry, his plane getting shot down over Vietnam, and the bond between him and another soldier, a southern white forced into the same cell as Cherry, an african american, by the Vietnamese in an attempt to break both men. Colonel Cherry spent over seven years as a POW in Vietnam. The book is by James S. Hirsch, author of Hurricane. One of my favorite parts of the book, and a story I’ve heard several times in person, is when Colonel Cherry helped lock another plane’s landing gear into position with the wing of his fighter in midair. Thats just a small taste of the amazing things Colonel Cherry has done in his life. I just recently reread the book, and can’t recommend it enough. This book teaches you to dream, that goals can be achieved, and that nothing is stronger than strength of will. Colonel Cherry returned to the United States with honor, the only captive to provide no intelligence whatsoever (not even fake intelligence), under severe torture and duress. This book will inspire you.
Elmore Leonard is the author behind the TV show Justified. I’ve read the Raylan books (which are good), but my favorite work of Leonard’s is his collection of western short stories. You can get through a story in a night or two, and there are a ton of them. If you’re inbetween books, or want a short read, this is a great go-to.
This book, like the movie, is disturbing. What is even more disturbing is how you begin to identify with the protagonist, and how the way the book is written draws you into his psychopathic mind. This book is unique, but I still consider it one of the best books I’ve ever read. Its themes, though dated, are still very relevant today.
I rowed in high school, but I still thought a book about rowing might not be particularly interesting. On my father’s recommendation, I read The Boys in the Boat just prior to the Rio Olympics. This book is not about rowing, though rowers will particularly enjoy it. This book is about the American experience, coming from nothing, working together, and achieving something great. Even if my description of this book didn’t entice you, click the link below, read some more about, and at least download a sample. Its a really spectacular read.
I don’t really know how to describe a Man in Full. The amazon description also leaves something to be desired. If you read the Right Stuff and like Tom Wofle, this you’ll probably also like this work of fiction.
I’ll end this category with a true classic. The writing is beautiful and I’d never read this in school. Best of all, its free for your kindle on amazon:
In Cold Blood is a novelization of a murder of a family. It starts with the backstory of the victims, the killers planning and carrying out the act, and then being on the lam, while the law tries to catch up, eventually resulting in capture, trial, and justice. If you’re interested in more about the plot, check out the amazon link above, or better yet, wikipedia. I found In Cold Blood to be an engaging page turner, and an enlightening insight into the psyches of stone cold killers. From the savagery of the acts, to the lack of remorse on the part of the killers, its a shocking look at what it takes (or perhaps what one must lack) in order to carry out such reprehensible actions. I highly recommend the book, as it was enjoyable to read, and of a subject matter to which I was not very familiar. When I was about halfway through the book, a friend of mine told me that a college girlfriend of his had written a thesis on the accuracy (or rather, inaccuracies) of In Cold Blood, which is credited with being the first (or at least the first highly successful) work of novelized non-fiction.
Hemingway. Pamplona and bull fighting. Testing your meddle. This book belongs on the list and has it all. However, just about any Hemingway book would fit this list, and I recommend all that I’ve read. If you go on safari, you have to read The Green Hills of Africa.
Another iconic author, especially in the context of manly books. The Rum Diary is Hunter S. Thompson’s first written novel to be published (though it was not published first). I think its also the most accessible of his novels. Its about a young man (Thompson wrote the book when he was 22), on a new job, struggling with the prospect of growing up. Its a great read in your 20s, and its the perfect vacation read for Puerto Rico.
Doctor No. was Ian Fleming’s 6th book, but it turned into the first movie. Its classic James Bond. The books are grittier and you’ll really be able to see how great Sean Connery did portraying Bond, but now, how Daniel Craig is a throwback to the literary Bond. If you haven’t read the books, you’re in for a treat.
My papaw (grandfather for the uninitiated) always kept a .357 magnum and a Louis L’Amour paperback on his nightstand. Hondo is one of my favorites, as is The Quick and the Dead. If you like L’Amour, you’re in luck, because hes written plenty of novels.
How about a modern western? Walt Longmire now has a series on Netflix (pretty good), but I particularly enjoy the books. I’ve read a few, but so far, the first book was the best.
If you’re a DMV local like me, here is a book from a local, set in your hometown. Its a mystery written by a DC street cop. Dude does not play by the rules. The protagonist even smokes cigars at Shelly’s, whats not to love.
The history of bourbon, and everything you need to know to enjoy and discuss the finest of brown liquor. Cowdery is the authority.
This is the only golf book I believe can help your swing. But don’t take my word for it, my handicap is awful.
If you’re interested in the history of Rum, and/or Cuba, this book is for you. I read it before a trip to Cuba, which if you haven’t been, you should plan a trip now. While you’re at it, there is another Elmore Leonard book set in Cuba.
This is the perfect Caribbean vacation book. Its a great read, and easily paired with a cocktail.
I’m only a cigar smoker, but this was fascinating. Its been a while, so I may reread it…
This book is about a very specific subject matter, but is incredibly informative. I highly recommend it if you like Mint Juleps, but you could also read my comprehensive post here.
Even if you don’t like soccer, the world is global now, and its time to appreciate it. This is a great read before the world cup. Another great one is The Ball is Round.
A Tale of Two Plantations is a very slow and dense read. I read it because I wanted to know more about slavery, a topic that is not taught very well in school. This book is a comparison of American and Caribbean slavery, and is very insightful. Its not comprehensive, but it will teach you many things you never learned in school. Particular attention is paid to Virginia and DC, which made it all the more interesting to me personally.
I have a trip planned to the Turks and Caicos later in January. In anticipation of the trip, I’ve downloaded the following on my kindle:
I’ve started Rogue Heroes (25% through), and I already really like it. Its about the history of the SAS. The book is about misfits in the British military raiding German air bases in the African desert at night and changing nature of war by inventing modern combat.by rsiv with
We’ve been busy. I cut a bunch out, but this will still be a long post.
When my daughter was born, I promised myself I’d do what I could to get the guys out at least once a year on a bird hunt. The last couple years I had better success with bigger groups and/or multiple hunts, but this year I still could count on Colin and RP. A great time was had by all.
by rsiv with
Our annual pig roast to celebrate the life and times of HWOIV.
CW rented us an awesome spot to set up base camp for CNU Homecoming 2016.
by rsiv with