30 January 2009

International Spy Name

Dang! He's right! It's uncanny!
What's Your International Spy Name?
Your International Spy Name is Buck Goodnight
Your Code Name: The Pilot

You Reside in: Las Vegas

Why You're a Good Spy: You're good with gadgets

What, "Buck Rodgers" was already taken? "Buck Goodnight", well that's just weak.
"The Pilot" - Check
The location is a near miss but close enough.
"Good with Gadgets"? Eh, I'm a geek, waddya expect?

Oh, and if you don't like the first answer, just back up and try again!

27 January 2009

How to win a Paid Vacation!

My full disgust has yet to find words. I'm sure D. Codrea will capture it well. But this needs to get out.

Here we have the case of officer Fraiser who reportedly:
* Crashed his car,
* Left DNA evidence at the scene (Puked his guts out)
* Fled the scene of the accident
* Lied to investigators

And now has been rewarded with a PAID VACATION!

From the Arizona Republic:
Gilbert police arrived on scene ... after 4 a.m. Dec. 5 to find officer Brent Frasier's abandoned Chevrolet Tahoe against a large water fountain, with the vehicle's airbags deployed, police reports state.

Frasier was nowhere to be found, but inside the vehicle, they found Frasier's Mesa police badge, a Glock handgun and ammunition for an AR15 assault rifle.

Outside the vehicle, they noticed where someone, possibly the driver, had thrown up, and they were able to collect DNA evidence from it.Frasier, who declined to comment, is on administrative leave with pay.

"left his Mesa police badge and department issue Glock behind unattended".

Clearly this breeches the trust I have for our men in blue. I want only honest stand up responsible guys in this position of authority. This guy pretty much broke every one of those requirements. Sorry, the excuses don't cut it, because they are just that: EXCUSES!

Ok, this guy will be hit with some minor charges and probably lose his job. Too bad, So Sad. The downside risk to the public of losing his badge and gun are epic!

If us little people did the same thing, I can't possibly imagine we'd be extended the same courtesy. Instead we'd be charged with multiple felonies. They quote some 2 hour rule, but I'd bet he'd still meet the extreme DUI standard even when questioned several hours later.

Tell me again what parallel universe are we living in where this meets the definition of "Equal treatment under the law"?

While Gilbert PD is pursuing charges, even the wrist slaps that they are, I trust they will remember that I am a potential juror and if called to serve, I will recall these standards when judging my peers.

Besides, there are several cheaper options to drinking and driving. Aside from the obvious, "call a cab" or "call a friend", there is a local service (DESI) which will take you and tow your car home for only $25.

23 January 2009

DirecTV bonus!

Just noticed.. DirecTV has dropped the golf channel* and replaced it with the Sportmans Channel (SPMN) on 605.

That means Tom Gresham's Personal Defense TV and Guns and Ammo are once again viewable here at the SandCastle!

Oh, and some feedback for G&A TV.. Your "what's it worth" cliff hangers are totally bogus. You know what my answer pretty much always is? I DON'T KNOW! These spots highlighting guns I'm not familiar with are interesting because They are guns I'm not familiar with!. That means I don't have a clue as to what they are worth! Just tell me the value. Or don't. I care enough to expand my horizons, but I'm probably not going to buy one. Or this is a rerun from a couple years ago and that information is several years out of date. That means the answer is either a "don't care" or "wrong". Either way it's a waste of program time.

* What, Curling already had a channel? I mean really. If there was ever a "sport" that begged to be "played" and not "watched", golf is it!

20 January 2009

Child or Adult?

I'm not much of a sports fan. As the bio reads "I'd rather be doing anything than watching others play a game". Watching football falls somewhere on the same tier as curling and badmitton, That's below Baseball and Soccer but above ice fishing and gymnastics.

With the local team playing for the championship, I wasn't about to waste an afternoon getting fat in front of the 'tube. Instead I went about the activities of the day. But with the local teams in the Championship game, I will tune the radio over and listen while on the road. Caught the latter half of the second quarter. Sounded like all offense, no defense on both sides But while the Cards scored TDs, the Eagles could only post FGs. Ok, Cards are up 24 -6 at the half (Who are you an what have you done with the local team?) Returning an hour or so later, "WTF Happened in the third?" I dunno 'cause I was DOING STUFF!

Still now we have this story.
The two men ... were arrested Saturday around 6 p.m., for using the fuel to kill the grass in the Philadelphia quarterback's lawn and leave the messages., "Go Cards," "Go Kurt," and "I (heart) AZ."

No Class.

Practical jokes are one thing. But there is a wide fat line between "practical joke" and "vandalism". And that is where physical damage is involved. So long as the "damage" is limited to nothing more than yanking the offending item and dropping it into the garbage, it's a "Ha Ha, you just wish you were me". But using diesel fuel to selectively kill the grass and leave messages in the lawn is waaaay over the line.

Good sportsmanship is all about winning the game on the field, not rubbing their noses in it off the field. At least that's what we teach here at the SandCastle. The SCSon started the SBD races with lots of advice, first and foremost though was good sportsmanship. As the starter asked if each participant if they were ready, he'd offer "Good Race!" to the competitor, and shake their hand at the far end.

In reality I'll bet these guys will probably get off pretty easy. A couple grand in court costs and restitution plus a year's probation. They're lucky this isn't CA where state would declare the contaminated soil HAZMAT and require mega expensive disposal and rehab. That $2k figure would go up by at least 10x.

Oh, and these guys look familiar... I don't recognize the names, but it's possible I've seen them at the DayJob(tm). Companies don't like convicts working for them. This "prank" could easily put them at the top of the list should layoffs become necessary (or when given the current economic situation). I'll check the company email tomorrow, but it's also possible they've already been "abducted by aliens"*.

Pretty expensive prank. Hope it was worth it.

What is the difference between a child and an adult? Adults consider the consequences of their actions, children do not. These guys are still children.

* The DayJob(tm) likes to do dismissals quietly. People are here one day and gone the next. They disappear in the middle of the night, as if "abducted by aliens". A friend on the sour end of the deal reported it was about 10 minutes between "Can I talk to you for a minute" and "standing in the parking lot without a badge". And walk from our end of the complex to HR takes about 5 of those.

18 January 2009

Soap Box Derby

A good friend sent a meeting invite last month for an upcoming Soap Box Derby race in a nearby* town. Hmnmmph. That's one of those things that we only saw as a 20 second piece on the news or maybe a minute or two on "ABC's Wide World of Sports". Could be interesting. He said the club has extra cars and the SCSon can use one at no extra charge.

Hey, that sounds like fun and maybe give him something to concentrate on to the besides Halo.

The flyer says sign in, tech inspection and weighing is from 7-9 with a drivers meeting a 9:05. We get up before the sun and drive an hour to arrive about 8:25 sign in for both races scheduled, a double elimination and a single elimination, and a pick out a car. Friend helps us with Wheels. And we sit.

About 9:30 someone starts the weighing process. Friend weighs his son in first, then gives us the balance of his weights. All loaded up with SCSon and spare steel, the car is 19 lbs under weight for the class. Eh, close enough. Actually with the wind (10-15 kts on the tail, what he really needs is a sail!)

Drivers meeting starts after 11 and the first cars head down track around 11:30. SCSon loses the first race putting him into the consolation bracket. Next two are wins followed by a loss. Timing & Scoring advised he still had to runoff for 7th/8th place. Hey great! Today is all about track time so more runs are better.

I'll spare the gory details, but as the day ran on, the pace of racing slowed considerably. He never got to run his 7/8th place heat and darkness was winning the race for the single elimination heat.

We sat around waiting 5 or 6 hours for a race that wasn't going to run.
Very frustrating. But being the noobs at this, it seemed rude to point out what races can be run in effort to keep things moving. Still gentle pointers seemed to help, only to be met with "the driver just went to the bathroom" (Which are at the other end of the track), holding up the process even more. I got the feeling the other racers just accepted the long delays waiting to be called rather than pay attention and get the runs in. There was no process to keep track of what races need to be run and what racers are available to run.

What's really frustrating is that the process could run much smoother. There are just a few people trying to do everything, while others are around and available to help. I personally offered at least 3 times to help only to be told "no thanks, we've got it". And given enough time, they do have "it". But time (AKA Daylight) is the limiting resource.

Bottom line, This is probably a good program, but with relatively high barriers to entry** in terms of both time and money. This is the first activity the SCSon has taken seriously and that's a good thing. (He's played class clown at every team sport). Here once on the starting ramps he was all business. Never panicked and hit the brakes early nor forgot hitting the haybales. It would go smoother with better organization and more delegation instead of a few hero's trying to do it all.

I hear there is another race in April. We'll see about making it.

BTW, The normal brake is a rubber pad that scrapes on the ground. Effective enough, but I'd think it'd be more fun if they could arrange aircraft carrier style arresting wires!

* "Nearby" is, of course, a relative term. In this case it means an hour's drive which is the cutover point where we'd normally fly instead of drive. But with no viable nearby airport, a road trip is the only option.

** This is not a quibble about money. They have a fair investment in hardware (scales, ramps, timing equipment etc.) But especially in today's economy, who has a spare kilobuck to build a car and run a couple races?

14 January 2009

Midway comes through

This story starts out normally. Boy places order to Midway USA, order arrives complete and as expected. Boy checks order and finds one item (a Holster) doesn't fit either of the guns intended.


Oh well, Midway has great customer service, they'll take it back and it'll only cost me a couple extra bucks shipping. Holster is mailed back within a few days, with receipt and in original packaging and obviously unused.

Fast forward two months. A review of the credit card statements and the Midway account still shows no credit. Sent an email to Midway's customer support asking what happened. They responded two business days later saying the return had never been received.

Midway has a great reputation for customer service. It never occurred to me that there would be a hiccup in the return. So I didn't bother with proof of mailing nor insurance. So I had no documentation that I had indeed sent the package. At best I might have a credit card statement showing the shipping, but that probably wouldn't show the destination.

So when Midway's customer service replied that they never got it, I felt truly screwed. I had nothing to back up my story. Only thing I could do was to write off the loss and chalk up the lesson learned. And make plans to make purchases from other suppliers and forward copies of the receipts to Midway. I also considered taking a couple guesses at Larry Potterfield's email address to raise the issue to the top.

But I never got the chance. Today Midway emailed saying they were behind in returns and my return had been found. This reaffirms the faith I had in their customer service, with only half a ding for the near two month delay. I say half a ding because it's possible the package was never actually received and they just decided to eat the cost (under $20) in the interest of good service (smart choice for a good customer if this is the case).

Either way, I credit them for making it right. Now I can continue making plans for my next order. This will include a chronograph and I'd still like to find a holster for the PT-92.

PS I still may make a couple guesses at Larry P's e-address. Only this time it will be a "GoodOnYa" for customer support.

13 January 2009

Power Upgrade

The SCQueen accepted an offer last week to upgrade the SandCastle to 5x fiberoptic speed and lower the bill in the process. Today the installer arrived. The SCQueen called asking for the modem password.

Heck if I know!

But I know the sucker has a reset switch. Hit that for a five count. No joy. That reset the connection but it's still looking for the admin id and password.

AwSheet! I'm gonna have to call tech support. Don't I have something my enjoyable on the agenda, like a root canal? I ask the SCQueen to make the call as she has a higher threshold of pain than I do for such matters. She pretends not to hear.

NRA news is coming on soon so I'm motivated to call myself. I get the robot which sets my blood pressure rising. After a couple spoon fed questions I've had enough and cry uncle and start pressing zero until it connects me with a live person.

I 'splain the problem. "NuGuy set us up today, I need to get into the modem ( but lost the password." She starts at the top of her script. "What OS are you using". By now I've had enough and explain to her with force that "I am using Windows XP, the last stable version any OS to emanate from the vicinity of Seattle, that her question has absolutely nothing to do with the problem at hand. She ignores my indignation. A few questions later she tells me to navigate browser to I lost it. I explain "That's where I started this call. Obviously I know more about this crap than you do." I fire a shot across her bow that her that her next response will determine whether we solve this problem or I will order her to cancel our service and come get her crap off my property. BTW, that is no idle threat. I've never liked the MSN service bundled with qwest and I'll jump at the slightest excuse.

Not the least of reasons is their India based tech support. Normally though the reps speak pretty good english. Not so much tonight.

She finally explains you need to hit the reset button for 20 seconds. So I make her listen to a twenty count of "one-thousand one, one thousand two...". Sure enough, that cleared the password and allowed direct access to the modem page where we enter the correct settings.

Then she starts in with "Ok, lets make sure it's up and running. Go back to your browser and type in double-ee double-ee double-ee." (me) "Huh? I don't understand you". She repeats "double-ee double-ee double-ee". me: "I think you mean double-U,double-u double-u".

Plugging the modem into the network, we are all up and running and about 5x faster than before. I inform her she needs to work on her english and hang up the phone.

So here we are now.. operating on a nominal 7MBs instead of the old 1.5MBs. Could have used that last week when I downloaded Fedora 10. Took just under 12 hours. Now it should be in the 2-3 hour range.

12 January 2009

Winchester .22 ammo recall

Xavier posts a bent .22 pistol with a link to THR thread. Obviously not a reloading error.

We have a box of Winchester Xpert .22 here at the SandCastle. The SCQueen came home with it when the local WalMart was out of the more usual Federal bulk pack. I've never been happy with the Xpert and forbidden it's purchase in the future. It feels anemic and frequently fails to cycle the semi autos compared to the Federal which feels more solid and rarely fails to cycle. Now to find out it's also at risk of double charges! Great.

The recall notice on the Winchester site says to look for a lot number of XN, YA, YB, or YC. Checking my box, sure 'nuff, lot number YA30M. Can't tell if the first character is an I, 1 or something else.

The recall notice says "Send it back" but no details on how they plan to make it right. I trust they will make it right. Whatever the case, check back here for details.

The more troubling concern is the timing involved. Winchester's recall notice is dated 4/18/2007. This particular box was purchased less than 6 months ago.

That leads to two possibilities: a) This box is not subject to recall. Or b) why is WalMart selling recalled ammo better than a year after the recall notice?

Stay tuned for more details

11 January 2009

Reason # 6493 Newspapers are going out of business

Subtitle "if it bleeds, it leads"

From today's "East Valley Tribune" (AKA EV Tabloid)
Liliane George, who has owned the Hangar Cafe at the Chandler Municipal Airport for more than a decade, has seen several of her regular customers - friends - take flight and never return.

The main thrust of the story talks about the normal everyday activities at a local cafe. Could be a cafe on Main street of Anytown USA. This one just happens to be on an airport and feature a landscape of airplanes taking off and landing.

But the first five paragraphs talk about DEATH. People the owner has served many times before and may have had their last meals served here. It practically screams COME EAT BREAKFAST WITH PEOPLE WHO MIGHT DIE TODAY.

Of course the headline is far from the truth. Many eat there every day. A few, low single digits may die in a year. Compare that to any particular Denny's or Waffle House. Many eat there every day. A few die between visits there as well and probably in higher numbers than at the Hangar Cafe.

Good Job there Ari... Drip a little blood on it. That'll get it to the front page. Nice.

(The East Valley Tribune used to be a very good newspaper. However some six months ago they switched to a "tabloid" format, and ceased home delivery in most areas as of January 5th. Now it's a 4 day a week rag smaller on par with The Penny Saver. The mighty have fallen.)

P.S. To put a gunnie spin on the story, the door has no anti-gun signs. So no restrictions on CCW. (That's a hint to the bad guys. Thinking about knocking off the joint? Remember this is Arizona. Roughly one in ten in this state are legally armed. More carry without the state stamp of approval. How good are you at math? Wanna calculate the odds? Let me help you "NOT GOOD!"

08 January 2009

Theme song for the next four years...

A theme song I think we'll be hearing (and using to remind those that voted for the One):

"Headed for Nowhere" - Triumph, 1987

I've had a long long time to think it over now.
You're not the one I waited for.
You're askin' me to let it go for now.
I just can't take it any more.

What did you expect?
You've thrown away your self-respect.
But I'm not gonna let you take me down
So see you around.

Headed for Nowhere. I don't want to go there.
I know that you've been leading me on.
Headed for Nowhere. I know that you don't care. So
Don't try to drag me along

06 January 2009


The recent "100" meme had me thinking how I'd answer. I didn't bother because half a dozen or so of those to me are things that I hope to leave unmarked when I take my last breath.

But a couple questions caught my eye. For instance #82 "Bought a new car". Nope, never done it, never expect to do it.

Another of the best pieces of advice came at the end of a financial radio show on a dull Sunday morning circa 1980 San Francisco Bay Area. I was filling in for my brother in a tennis pro shop. The job really boiled down to answering the phone and taking tennis court reservations for the Tuesday ladies league. I was bored out of my mind and the only program on the radio was this finance show. The guest kept extolling the benefits of investing in real estate. In hindsight this was probably sage advice as what $100k would buy then is probably still north of $1M even in today's depressed market. But as a barely legal adult, my finances meant he might as well have been talking about life on Mars. Neither in reach.

They took lightning calls just before wrapping up the program. A 10 year old called in asking "What can I do". "Open a lemonade stand" he snarked. Snark yes, but lets face it. The Ante to the real estate game a fair chunk of change and a 10YO can't buy in. Neither could I but at least I was here making a couple bucks an hour which put me better off than him, so I felt bad for the kid.

It may have been another question in the closing part of the program or a parting shot. The question was "What's you best piece of financial advice". Without hesitation the guest answered "Buy cheap cars and expensive houses" with the explanation that cars lose value while real estate gains.

That made perfectly logical sense to me.

The economics of cars is badly stacked against it. Cars devalue 20% just driving it off the lot and another 20% in the first year. Not only that, new cars means new car taxes and new car insurance. It boggles my mind that people can afford to plunk down 30-60k for a car, another kilobuck or so in annual property taxes and better'n a C-note every month in insurance. In my value system, that's the kind of coin that's spent on house payments not cars!

Interesting fun fact about me: To date this lifetime I have bought 7 cars and spent a total of $22,000.
* 1974 Mercury Capri (in 1976) $2500
* 1973 Datsun 240Z (in 1978) $2400
* 1976 Datsun 280Z (in 1979) $7000
* 1987 Nissan 4x4 truck (in 1990)$5000
* 1981 Honda Accord (in 1995) $ 900
* 1977 Datsun 280Z (in 2002) $2200
* 1991 Miata (In 2008) $2000

One thing most of these cars have in common, particularly the last three, is that they are fully depreciated. That means I can drive them for basic operating costs of gas and oil. Taxes and insurance are cheap and they don't lose any more value. Worst case, I can afford the loss (I'll take "salvage writeoff" for $400, Alex) should something bad happen.

But it also means they occasionally need some work. Most people don't have the inclination or skills to twist a wrench, I benefit from their lack of ability. I've done many jobs up to and including replacing engines and overhauling transmissions.

Which brings me to tonight's want.

The brake light came on in the Miata. Checking the fluid level, it was a little low but above the min line. Added fluid and the light went out. For 3 days.

Close inspection of the engine compartment showed the master cylinder was leaking. Past experience shows it's something to address early before it eats a hole in the power booster diaphram and adds another Benjamin to the bill. 25 years ago the normal plan was to take it apart, hone the cylinder and replace the rubber parts. Total cost was $3 and three hours. Now everyone just wants to sell a new cylinder for $100. Oh, and there's still an hours labor to R&R that.

Three if you're like me working at home with a floor jack. All told, I'll probably spend an hour or so just jacking up the car up and down, pulling the wheels so I can bleed the brakes.

But if I only had one of these, it would be so much easier! (Image lifted from Harbor Freight's website. I will yank it on request but hopefully they will see the advertising benefit here).
A lift would cut a couple hours off this job. I think it will fit in my 3rd garage as it has a higher ceiling than the first two. At under $2k (-15% with a coupon), call it $3k installed since it will take a bit of site prep. It's pretty affordable compared to the money saved driving old cars.


BTW.. of the seven cars previously mentioned, I still own 4 and three are in driveable condition. And the '77 280Z is for sale!

05 January 2009

Good guys: 3, Bad guys: 1

Subtitle "I see your pepper spray and raise you a Smith & Wesson"

OK criminals, here's a hint. Don't try to rob a jewelery store in these parts. Store owners are on premises and and they aren't beholden to any corporate "thou shalt be disarmed policy" that protects the corporation by sacrificing the employee. These guys make the policy and they are armed!

Case in point #1 (today):
The owner of a Phoenix jewelry store shot two men who had used pepper spray on him during an attempted robbery.

Case #2 (<3 wks ago):
A Chandler jewelery store owner is being praised as a hero for thwarting a robbery even as he was being shot in the face.

That makes one bad guy dead, one wounded and all three still breathing in jail. Total take: zero. Meanwhile one good guy unhurt and one recovering. The first story ends with "Investigators say the owner acted in self defense and won't be charged." And who could argue (with a straight face) that the guy who took a bullet in the face wasn't justified in his shooting?

Good Shootin' there guys! And good choice in picking 1911 over 911! You chose wisely.

Note to self: Next time shopping for the SCQueen, pick a local merchant not a chain!

01 January 2009

Happy New Year!

The New Years holiday is the one holiday that never made much sense to me. The others have a reason. Some have historical/patriotic backgrounds such as Presidents, Memorial, Independence & Labor day, and Thanksgiving. Others have religious history like Good Friday and Christmas.

But a day celebrating hanging a new calendar on the wall? Why? Why not celebrate the Vernal Equinox, or Dow 10000? These make about as much sense.

Whatever... it may be the most universal celebration worldwide and that in itself is a reason to celebrate!

We stay very local to the SandCastle on New Year's eve. A few years back a local TV station ran Blazing Saddles uncut with no commercials every New Year's Eve. Gotta love that flick in it's glorious un PC-ness. Now we all meet around a firepit in a neighbor's driveway to ring in the new year. A block over someone apparently had some mortar launched fireworks (we could hear the "poomph") and someone else had some ground based pyro in the park.

We also did not hear any gunshots this year and police reported half as many "gunshots fired" over last year. Responsible gunnies understand shooting a gun into the air violates rule #4 (be sure of your target and what is beyond). For the benefit of irresponsible gun owners, Arizona has punctuated rule #4 with Shannon's Law which makes it a felony to fire a gun into the air (Shannon was hit and killed by a falling bullet while talking on the phone in her backyard). Despite what the Mythbusters may suggest, a shot in the air can be lethal. The random chance of a hit are very low but non-zero. Don't do it. But I digress...

New Year's Day was absolutely gorgeous here in the desert. Temps in the high 60's/low 70's and practically no wind. The SCSon and I flew up to Payson (KPAN) for lunch. Here's a couple pictures taken along the way. There is a bit of snow left on the north side of the peaks from last week's storms.

The second shot shows a snow draped Mogollon rim, an earth rise running two hundred miles or so across the state. The restaurant subtitles itself as "The Restaurant with a Million Dollar View".
(Click on the pics to zoomify)