31 December 2008

Phoenix Light Rail

The daily agenda was clear at the SandCastle. We decided to take a ride down town on the new Phoenix Light Rail. It opened on Dec27th and was free through the end of the year.

The idea was hardly original however as the picture shows. Pretty much sardine can mode. I looked around for a "Maximum Occupancy" sign but never found one.

Most of the riders seemed just out for a joy ride. This was confirmed on the return trip as one traveler said they rode to the far end of the line. Their plan was to get off, wander around there and then ride back. However seeing the lines to get on at the far end they kept their seats and rode on back.

We got off in downtown Phoenix and found a place for lunch. Then walked a block south to a rail stop for the trip back to our car. The outbound train seemed late and the SCSon was getting antsy. I speculated the train might have had an accident with a car. Turns out I may have been right. This occurred just about the time we were headed home and just upstream of our rail spot.

A couple moms with their brood of 5 kids pushed their way on a couple stops later. The three boys (est age 6-7) found an otherwise unused square foot on the floor under some seats. They reported it was also cooler down there. One of the moms noted all the bars and restaurants along the route in Tempe and speculated aloud on the bar hopping possibilities. But the Police have thought about that too and already have plans to stake out the park and ride lots, just waiting to pick up the DUIs.

29 December 2008

Winter GBRM range session

I avoided the local range over the weekend figuring it'd be SRO with all the long boxes under the tree as suggested by recent NICS data (H/T SIH). I held off until today when I calculated at least some percentage would have to be back at work.

No such luck. There was one ahead of me for a bench when I arrived. Ok, not bad. When I left an hour later, there was 20-30 shooters waiting.

Anyway today's mission was to shoot the Winter GBRM. While I had two lucky shots with the SKS, the total score (100 out of 300 possible) was pretty low. I couldn't figure out the commie sling there at the bench. However sitting at home the function seems obvious. I think I can do better and have ~10 weeks left to try (Hint hint... that's also how much time you have to get your entries in!)

I also brought out the 10/22 and will submit this entry. I suck big time offhand, and a sling would undoubtedly help. But here is what I shot today. Actually this is the best of my two attempts. Score: 77, 1X

26 December 2008

In for a Penny, in for a Pound...

Or, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

One of the best bits of advice/wisdom ever read was "Make sure she has her own desk, AND KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF!" I think it was from the notes of Lazarus Long (RAH). The current extension of this idea would extend to "Make sure she has her own PC and KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF!".

Now I've lived by that wisdom both in terms of desk and PC. However the SCSon does not yet comprehend the rule. And his favorite online destination is RoBlox. Kind of WOW for the Legos Set. Some time back we set him up on Mom's old PC (an eMachines 1 GHZ Celeron machine). It simply wasn't up to running RoBlox. So he spend all his time on the SCQueen machine.

Leading in to Christmas, The Frys add posted on the wall at work drew my eye and the gears started to grind. They had an ECS motherboard with AMD 64x2 dual core processor bundle on sale for $80. Add in another $20 for 4MB RAM. Yea, a C-note could upgrade the old machine and get the SCSon off SCQueen's machine. It won't be bleeding edge, but up to the task. I did a little late night poking around the old eMachine and it appeared the Powersupply and case would transfer, as well as the CD Burner and 20G hard drive. Small but adequate for the task.

Today, Merry Christmas plus one I sat down to do the swap. First problem, the new motherboard would not fit into the case. There is a physical interference between a drive bay and the memory cards. Ok, I can solve this with some Dremel work, but that's not all... The eMachine's powersupply is small (150W) and has the wrong connector. Oh, and the CPU cooling fan isn't compatible either.

So back to Frys today for a new case & fan. Found a case & 380W powersupply combo for $35 and CPU fan for another $11. Also picked up a $4 tube of thermal grease. Ok, summing it up in my head, I'm now into this for a hundred and a half.

Back home to continue assembly. The fan is wrong, made for an Intel MB, not AMD. Dang... should have read the box closer. My bad. Rats, that means another trip to Frys. Continue assembly and put the return trip off as long as possible. Moved over the drives and Oh that eMachines CD drive really looks gawdawful in that new case. Besides it's not even a DVD drive. Add a DVD drive to the Frys list.

It's back to Fry's after dinner. The return line is long and slow as molasses in January (Slow even in AZ!) Their procedure seems to require a supervisor's password to complete even the simplest return. Didn't help that the supe was over chatting up with the exit door monitor and would answer each "PASSWORD" call with what can only be called a "mosey".

20 minutes later I had the credit paperwork. Found the correct fan (+5 more than the first fan) and picked up a DVD drive ($30). Mental total $185.

Back home the continue assembly. The fan fits. Connect up the DVD drive and external peripherals. Windoze fails to boot. Reload Windoze and still no joy. It seems wrong I should have to buy a new copy of windoze when I already have this license and intent is to upgrade the hardware. Anyone know the upgrade procedure (old MB would be taken out of service and/or converted to Linux)? Seems I shouldn't have to buy a new license to upgrade the hardware.

But if I do, it appears Frys still has XP available ($100) and while I'm at it, I'd put in a 500GB drive for another $60.

Mental sum, that C-note system is now $345. Not including tax license, dealer prep, options and destination charges. You can see why I want to reuse the XP license. That $100 represents about 29% of the system cost.

I'm open to alternate solutions. Do you know how to make the existing XP license transfer? RoBlox won't run under linux (heck, it barely runs under windows!). Hmmm.. better test that theory assumption. If Roblox will run under Fedora... That would solve the problem, and cut off a whole host of others!

Update: NewEgg had XP for $90 and the 500GB drive was $60 ($ten less than Frys). Also no tax and free shipping.

Total cost about $335, and no crapware!

24 December 2008

Christmas Eve Traditions

One of the traditions we observe here at the SandCastle is the opening of one present Christmas eve. This tradition dates back to when I was young. However the SCQueen has modified it a bit. Back when, we each chose the gift we would open. The SCQueen now chooses for me.

This evening she picked this one out (she bought it so she knew what it was). It's titled "Stunt Studios" which really doesn't describe the toy. I have to think something got lost in the translation. More descriptively, it's an Airsoft(r) target set with a moving target. The target moves back and forth on a 4 1/2 foot track. Once knocked down, the target resets at the end of the track. While the kit includes the track, moving target, "X-18 Pistol" (which bears a striking resemblence to a 1911) and a hundred 6mm plastic BBs, no backstop, nor safety glasses are included. We of course have safety glasses close as the shooting bag and rigged up a towel for a backstop. Still the ricochets off the falling target bounce a long way.

While it's fun, I suspect she may soon rue the day as the 6mm BBs collect in the corners.

Update -- I should add, should you find one of these under your tree, pay close attention to track assembly. There are several permutations (intentional math term) and most are wrong. The track comes in six sections. Two tracks have extra slots cut into them to hold the "Reset wire". One is right and one is left (Couldn't they have made this obvious?) Identify these first. Even after consulting the instructions (which are completely inadequate) SCQueen and I tried several different builds before completely understanding the proper configuration. It would have been so much simpler if they'd have made it impossible to assemble incorrectly using different sized connectors for the ends where it matters.

19 December 2008

Christmas Vacation Kickoff

Beautiful day here in the desert to start my Christmas vacation from the dayjob (tm). High's around 60's light winds and bright sunshine through high thin cirrus clouds. It's T-shirt comfortable in the sun, but a little chilly in the shade.

1st priority was to check out some 147gr 9mm rounds. Hornday's 7th gives a range of 6.0 to 6.7 gr AA#7. Meanwhile Accurate's guide gives a range of 6.5 to 7.2gr with the same bullet & powder. I built a handful with 6.0, 6.2 and 6.5 gr. They all felt anemic compared to my usual 115gr rounds (7.2 gr AA#7).

A friend took advantage of the trip to try out his new toy (Remington R-15 in .204 Ruger). I brought out my AR-15 as well.

We had some targets set out at 100 yards. Here's a shot from the AR-15: Normally I'd be really happy with a hit like this:

But when taken in context of the rest of the target, um well not so much to write home about. I'll blame my aging eyes. Focused on the front sight, the black target is just a fuzzy blur.

BTW, these targets were created in Open Office Draw and designed to duplicate the black portion of the SR-1 target using an 8.5x11" paper. That allows me to put four on a target frame instead of one SR-1.

16 December 2008

Christmas Wishes

First seen at Caleb's, followed by JayG's & RobbA's places:

5 Christmas wishes:

1. Delivery of the Stag Arms upper ordered at the beginning of November. They estimated a 6-8 week lead time which puts it at the SandCastle sometime right around Christmas. BTW, Their website now estimates a 20-24 week lead time!

2. Learn the science of long range shooting. Books to get me started, Joe's Precision Rifle clinic all culminating with a trip to Boomershoot and Camp Perry.

3. .30 carbine brass. I've borrowed the dies, but don't have much brass. OTOH, I do have a bunch of .45 Auto and a handful of .38 super brass. Anyone wanna trade?

4. Chronometer. Needed to eliminate the "anemic", "it feels right" and "OUCH" guesswork of reloading pressures. Sure Midway has 'em for round a C note, but we wanna build our own.

5. (Whirled Peas category): I wish that our rabid opposition would experience a flash of insight and understand that restrictive gun laws have no effect on criminals (because they are crimials). "Smart gun" technology should be certified to life critical safety levels, where any failure means loss of life.* That any law you have to exempt police government is probably a bad policy.

Failing that they would publicly admit their opposition to guns is purely a political calculation. That their constituents include the criminal element and those that love them. Guns in the hands of free people represent an occupational hazard to murders, thieves and rapists. A Disarmed public provides a safe work environment.

Might as well wish for the decked out Barret fifty, a truck load of Class III toys and enough ammo for these to never want. This has a better chance of coming true than the former.

* Note this is higher standard than aircraft autopilots and medical devices which are designed to be "failsafe". That is they can only rarely fail (one in a billion) and if they fail, the fail in a safe direction. Smart gun should be certified to a higher "Never Fail" standard. It can't go bang when it shouldn't and must go bang when it should. Any lower standard is something I wouldn't bet my life nor the lives of my loved ones on. Nearest system I can compare to is aircraft autoland systems where close to the ground the pilot cannot recover from system errors. These typically employ three or four parallel autopilots and a voting systems to regulate the control systems. Still the system has the failsafe "go around" option. That is, system parameters exceed control limts. therefore, apply full power and climb away from the danger (terra firma).

But even this system is insufficient for the smart gun case. Here is why: When a captain realizes they are getting into an "autoland only" situation, the first item on the agenda is to verify autopilot operation. If one fails the out is to land at an alternate field with out the automation. This happens long before entering the critical life or death "must work" phase of the operation. Trouble is, in the smart gun case, when evil presents itself, there isn't time for such preflight checks.

12 December 2008

Deliver us from evil

The SandCastle parents are in town this weekend. SCDad shot quite a bit growing up on a farm and was a fine shot in the Army ('cept the GI 1911 which he loathed). SCMom OTOH is quite the hoplophobe. Growing up she only grudgingly allowed her sons cap guns ('course that didn't stop us from making our own,,, not just guns but RayGuns! from boards & nails) An actual gun in the house was unthinkable. She is aware of the present day SandCastle collection* and I'm sure she's not comfortable with it.

SCMom related a story tonight about how a SCSister is hosting a shower for a friend while another friend (relation unsure) was killed by her spousal unit who then turned the gun on himself. Thank God the two offspring units (age 4 and 18mo) were left unharmed. We hear too many stories where the aggressor kills the kids as the ultimate FU. She apparently had enough time to call friends some 30 miles away saying "call police". (I didn't bother to ask why she didn't just call 911 herself). This followed by some hand wringing about how the friends were too far away to help. Calling 911 in behalf of someone else is only slightly better than no 911 call at all. The call will be answered by the wrong jurisdiction and by a third party and the information will go through several hands before getting to the actual "1st responders". Remember the childhood "Telephone game"? Um, yeah.

I couldn't contain myself... I blurted out "this is exactly why I exercise my second amendment rights to keep and bear arms." With further explanation that in case of imminent assault, even if you can call 911, the police are at best several minutes away. All they can do is take the report. etc. You all know the arguments, this recap is preaching to the choir.

But it wasn't to her. Her mindset is "Evil in the world" is a phrase used in church but without much physical meaning (the spilt blood of friends) behind it. Further she's a dyed in the wool "guns are bad/evil" believer.

I wish I'd thought to ask her the rhetorical question (hindsight is always 20/20). "Ok, put yourself in her position. You're at home watching TV with the two little ones. A bad guy is banging on the door. She had enough time to phone a friend, but not much more. How are you going to stop the threat? The police can't get there in time, it's up to you. What will you do?" Then explain how the gun is the great equalizer allowing a 90 lb woman to stop the assault of a 300lb attacker.

What if it wasn't an abusive ex, but a baddy that wanted to kidnap the kids. The baddy won't be satisfied with merely killing the her then turn the gun on itself. It wants to put her kids into some form of slavery and she was their only hope of protection. One of her motherly duties is to defend her children from harm. Children that age can't protect themselves, her duty to them is to survive and protect them.

SCMom however would rather not entertain thoughts of such evil in the world nor comtemplate a plausible response. I've heard people in general have to hear something at least 3 times to learn something new. This was probably her first time considering a positive usage of a firearm in protection of the innocent.

I hope the next two experiences are less traumatic...

* collection, set, assemblage, arsenal. It's all semantics.

09 December 2008

Behind door number three...

there is a homeowner with a gun!

One of the reasons for starting the SandCastle Scrolls is to highlight local cases that may miss wider distribution. Here is such a story.

From the East Valley Tribune: Gilbert homeowner shoots intruder (emphasis mine)
When the unidentified homeowner did not answer the door, Lopez kicked it to the ground. As Lopez entered the home located near the intersection of Riggs and Higley roads, the homeowner shot him in the face and torso, Marino said. Lopez was able to flee the scene and enter a waiting vehicle.
This well illustrates the point The Arizona Rifleman made the other day about answering the door. This happened at 10:15 am. Could the point be illustrated any better?

The "Rest of the story" should be interesting... This report says two hits, probably at least one A zone hit, possibly two. But he was able to get to the getaway car and now being "treated for non-life threatening injuries". Clearly the caliber he used stopped this attack but might not have stopped a more determined attacker.

08 December 2008

SandCastle Sunset

These days the "5 minute rule"* coincides well with sunset. Tonight we had a glorious sunset so I raced home, grabbed the camera and ran upstairs to where last night's storm convienently removed the screen. The SandCastle Queen came running in asking what was wrong. She understood with one glance out the window. Here's the shot from the SandCastle upper level.

* the "5 minute rule" (no wikipedia entry) is a somewhat nebulous idea that suggests the optimal time for peons to depart a particular work location. Specifically, 5 minutes after the boss leaves. That being the approximate time for the boss to clear the parking lot. After all, it's bad form to cut off the boss when leaving the parking lot ;-) Thus, Give'em a 5 minute head start and that should be enough to avoid such embarrasments.

05 December 2008

Official State Certified Good Gal

The SCQueen received her official state seal of approval today. Less than three weeks after taking her CCW class her certificate was in today's mail. About half the time was our fault as she dallied a while to get the required money order. The total processing time was just about one week including USPS time on both ends. She is very happy and proudly showed it off to several friends.

I'll also take a moment to brag about what a grassroots 2A evangelizer she is. She works face to face at the grassroots level and in a very unexpected place. She talks to mothers at the school gates dropping off or picking up the SCSon at school. (occasionally wearing her KalisniKitty shirt). She tells them what a great time she had at Babes with Bullets and about her CCW class.

So far no PSH from the parents. They mostly ask questions on safety rules, safe storage around kids, and how to get started. She tells them of the great instructors at the local commercial range where she took her CCW. She talks about how the instructors have a good attitude (read non-condescending) when working with women and children. They ask what gun they should get. She explains everyone is different and you need to find one that fits your hand. She likes the single stack 9mm Sig 225 because it fits her small hands. She tells them about Ladies day at the range where rentals are free. They can try many different models for the cost of a box of bullets.

Honey, you're doing a great job for the 2A. Keep it up!

Love you hon,

04 December 2008

Woo Hoo!

The last time I filled up the gas tank for under ten bucks, Clinton was in the WhiteHouse. For the first time.

Granted this car only has a 10 gallon tank and it was still 1/3rd full.

In case the pic is hard to read:
6.381 gallons @ 1.559/gallon. Total $9.95

02 December 2008

Shuffling the deck chairs

Couple housekeeping items here at the 'Castle...
  • The 2A Blog Bash reminder is back. Not sure what happened to it... I'll be there, will you?

  • Marked The Bitch Girls dormant. I'll miss Bitter's commentary and counting the days until the voice will no longer allow itself to be silenced.

  • Added Surplus Rifle Forum to the gunnie links. (H/T Sebastian) I didn't start out to be a collector, but I guess I are one. Lots of good info there and graphical warnings of bad reloading stuff gone wrong. I prefer to learn the painful lessons from others rather than making them all myself.

  • Ditto the hat tip for the GunBlogger rifle match. First scores are up. Yours truly took 4th place by an X with the AR-15. Here's the shot that decided the place:
    My shot just cut the line while I imagine Mike's just missed. Reliving the match I know some things I'll do differently next time. Doubt it'll get me to AughtSix's near perfect scores, but I can improve.

    I submitted scores from the Garand even though I wasn't shooting very well that day (hot and dehydrated is not a good combination), An extra shot from the Garand likely put me in last place. I think Sebastian accepted my proposal to consider the next highest scoring shot and drop out a 10 (and X) and brought in a 6. Thus the extra shot may have cost me 4 points and allowed me to steal tail end Charlie spot from SailorCurt.

    Fair enough, no complaints. It's my screw up and I own it. In a real match, they'd have probably disallowed the entire target or some similar penalty for the procedural error.

    In the meantime, the SKS is all sighted in for the Winter match. I just hope we'll use some more of the SR-1 targets since I had to buy the Midway stack of 100.

  • True Blue Sam the Travelin' Man. Most posts seem related to ancient machines. I happened along one day when he'd posted a couple tri-motor pictures. I too have a soft spot for old machinery, but my definition of old reaches back to the 1970's. TBS's reach is considerably longer...