30 April 2010

May ePostal Contest

Twofer weekend. JimmyB's April contest extends through Midnight Sunday. So this weekend only you can shoot both contests at one range visit. two-fer weekend is over...

This month we are "Throwin' Darts".

The target is courtesy of Targetz.Com: 20041 or 20042 (Do not download the image to the right as it probably won't print correctly, instead go to Targetz and download the .pdf there).

Scoring:
I suspect most are familiar with dartboard scoring. But for the sake of completeness and avoid arguments over the value of the bullseye, the score is the value of the slice hit. The outer ring is the double ring, and the inner ring is triple ring. The center is the bullseye. Outer bull scores 25 and the inner bull is double (50).

Just to complicate things make things interesting, the "loop rule" is in effect. An actual dart board uses a wire mesh to divert the dart tip one side or the other so there are no "liners". These form many loops and only one hit per loop counts.. Any given number has four loops: an inner pieslice, a triple score, an outer slice and a double score. The second hit within a loop does not score, but a hit on the same number but within a different loop does score.

Our paper targets do not include any such mesh. Instead the shot scores the higher score. In the case of two "liners" such as depicted here, one scores high, one scores low. This would score 80 (20 + 60). With multiple liners on a given loop, this could get complicated. In general the scoring will be interpreted to give the shooter the highest possible score, but a loop only scores once. Once it's scored, a second liner takes the next highest score.

You have 9 shots per target. A perfect score would be:
Triple 20 = 60
Triple 19 = 57
Triple 18 = 54
Triple 17 = 51
Double bull = 50
Triple 16 = 48
Triple 15 = 45
Triple 14 = 42
Double 20 = 40
Total = 347 er, 447

Shooting details:9 shots, Standing unsupported, one or two hands. No time limit.
Range:
Rimfire Rifles: 25 yards (Print target 100% size)
Centerfire Rifle: 50 yards (Print target 100% size).
Pistols 7 yards or range minimum. For longer distances, target should be printed under/oversize to compensate for the additional distance as follows:

7 yards = 21 feet = 84% *
25 feet = 100%
10 yards = 30 feet = 120%
11 yards = 33 feet = 132% (this should just fit on an 11x17!)
These ratios preserve the same sight picture for the increased range.

Enter as many times as you like but only entry one per shooter per gun. More entries mean more chances to win Cheaper-Than-Dirt's $50 give away.

Classes:
0: Airgun pistol (.177 CO2 or compressed air)
1: Rimfire pistol, iron sights
2: Rimfire pistol, optic sights
3: Centerfire pistol, iron sights
4: Centerfire pistol, optic sights
5: Rimfire rifle, iron sights (25 yards)
6: Rimfire rifle, optic sights (25 yards)
7: Centerfire rifle, iron sights (50 yds)
8: Centerfire rifle, optic sights (50 yards)
9: other? Shoot it and let me know.

Taking Credit:
Send Name, blog or website URL, a scan or photo of target, class, score, gun details (Make & Model, caliber, barrel length, sight system), range to sandcastlescrolls at msn dot com

PS MauserGirl in NY
... this is for you. I took your comment to JimmyB last month to imply you only have rifles. You ask and we respond! We have rifle classes this month! I EXPECT at least one entry from you! Show us what you can do with that Mauser! ;-)

* Range Correction calculation:
I started out calculating the ratio of the full target diameter to the distance (both in inches). Turns out the target diameter doesn't matter, a simple ratio of the distances is sufficient.

Correction percentage = range (in feet) / 25 * 100

29 April 2010

Stay tuned!

May's ePostal contest will be posted here at 12:01 PM (AZST*) Friday April 30th. Heads up though, this is a two-fer weekend. JimmyB's Contest "Rounds and Rounds" closes at midnight Sunday. This weekend you can score both contests at one range session.

For Jimmy B's contest this is LAST CALL! Let's get 'em in!
For May, we're just about to get started!

* AZST = Arizona Standard Time: "The most stable timebase ever. We never change!" We don't do Daylight Savings Time. The rest of the world rotates around us!. Currently we are the same as PDT. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

16 April 2010

Brewer signs "Constitutional Carry"

Just heard on the news on KFYI. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed the bill to remove the penalties for carrying concealed without a permit. This is phenomenal! It never stopped the bad guys.

That said... Anyone saying Wooah! and heading out with a .38 in your belt, You had better know what you are doing. The penalties for using it are far worse than just carrying one without a permit. Just ask that guy in Walmart. They have him on some 6 charges, at least one of which is sure to be "Criminally Stupid".

Alan Korwin's "The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide" is a good place to start.

15 April 2010

Princess *sigh*

It sucks to lose a loved one.

I think most would agree there are cat people and dog people. Some like the affectionate ways of dogs, we like the self sufficient ways of cats. The SandCastle has been home to many cats over the years. Sometimes as few as one but as many as four at times.

Let me introduce Princess. She came to the SandCastle with her brother "Tuxedo Kitty" due to his black coat with a white vest. We named her "Princess" for her uppity attitude or sometimes "Champagne Kitty" to include her color with the attitude. She didn't like to be petted or touched but she always held her head high. Unfortunately Tuxedo Kitty was killed several years ago by a neighborhood dog.

She ascended the top cat throne when my first cat died a couple years ago. Since then she has taken on responsibility for guarding the house. Anytime I'm in the house, she'd be in a position to keep an eye on me. Frequently she'd climb up on the back of my office chair as a headrest. Or she'd be out front on guard for the other neighborhood cats. She was no lap kitty and but she also wouldn't get violent when the SCSon would pick her up and carry her around the house.

Looks like we are about to lose Princess. She has been going through at least 10 seizures a day like this for about a week.
videoMind you the convulsions had been going on for at least 10 seconds before the video starts. Also I'm surprised the back end does not seem to be involved as most I've seen involve all four limbs plus the head. Most occur away from anything that can injure her during the convulsions, but the other day her head kept banging on the railing.

The vet proffered there are many reasons she might be having convulsions. Maybe she got into something she shouldn't have. Maybe a scorpion like what got the SCSon last week or some chemical problem. But once he saw this video, he pretty much ruled those causes out. He prescribed some kitty sized epilepsy drugs. As the pharmacist handed over the prescription he read out the dosage and schedule "3mL, twice a day... but I don't know how you're going to get her to take it! Good luck!" We are now two days into the drugs and there is no real change. Still some 10 seizures a day. The seizures can't be fun for Princess nor the kitty downers. It may be time to put her down.

The newest feline arrival, "Lear", has been giving her room and not taking advantage of Princess' diminished capacity. But then Lear is a 'fraidy cat and won't set foot outside the front door or let us approach.

The SCSon is understandably upset. We've lost pets before but this is the first one where he's old enough to understand what's happening. He doesn't understand why more can't be done. We have seen others spend thousands on expensive treatments and in the end the pet died anyway. We are not in a position to make that choice.

Update: The deed is done. SCSon reports she went down swinging, Apparently she didn't think much of being stuck with a needle. (But then neither do I.) (scson:I HATE SHOTS!!!!!) The vet shaved off some hair and gave it too him. It's been placed into a glass bottle within a stained and decorated wooden box. I commended him for being strong enough to be there in the room.

Also the SCQueen corrects my memory... Tuxedo Kitty's name was actually "Whiskers" for her white whiskers contrasting dramatically against her mostly black coat. Oh, and he was a she. Whiskers was a girl. (I never looked and it wasn't important to me)

SCSon will probably cry himself to sleep tonight. He just mentioned the vet wasn't very caring and made no attempt to calm her down. Squeaks, I wish we could have come to you. I know you'd have taken good care of her. I tried to explain some doctors have a real sucky bedside manner. Unfortunately this is just one of life's painful lessons.

Always the optimist, SCSon saw the comment about Princess resting atop my office chair. He then noted many of the hairs were still there and took to collecting them. "Maybe there's enough DNA here that we can clone her!" Ah the optimism of youth.

Thanks to everyone for the good thoughts. We appreciate it.

14 April 2010

Fun with stamps

Breda has fun arranging the books on the shelves. I have fun with stamps. The 30th anniversary Star Wars set provided a nice selection of good guys, bad guys, spaceships, lowlifes, and royalty. Something appropriate for every letter. For instance, I wrapped up the final tax return tonight. It's signed, sealed, stamped and ready to mail. There were some USA Shooting stickers in the desk as well.

09 April 2010

T-6 days to the Ides of April...

AKA tax day. Are your taxes done?

One of the values the SCDad instilled was "Never pay someone to do a job you can do yourself". He always worked on his own cars, built his own deck, mowed his own lawn (or assigned an offspring unit to the task) and did his own taxes. The reasoning follows that if you hire someone to do the task, you pay them with your own post-tax dollars and their rates will include a portion that serves just to keep their office open, sometimes called "the nut". So it's much cheaper to just do it yourself.

It's interesting to talk to people about taxes. One friend opined "Paying someone else to do your taxes is giving-in to the government. You're saying "you win... taxes are too complicated for me to understand"". Another offered "if you're not getting audited regularly, you're not trying hard enough". Yet another weighed in with "We work some 2000 hours a year to earn our pay. The government wants you to pay a significant fraction of that, roughly 4-700 hours worth to them. Don't you think it's worth investing a few hours to minimize that fraction?"

I've always done my own. I used to build a spreadsheet representing the form 1040. The first one was a bear but from there it was just tweaking last years. Creating the spreadsheet forced me to research and understand the tax return line-by-line. Kind of like programming in assembly language. The end result is fast and efficient but the process is slow and cumbersome. There is a reason few programs are written in assembly today.

Many years ago I looked at the time investment to create the spreadsheet (~10 hours + error prone) and the cost of a tax preparation program ($25). $2.50/hr isn't much of a return on my time so that and the reducing the error factor tilted the needle in favor of buying a program.

TurboTax was and probably still is the premier product. I've been using their tax prep product for the last decade or so. It a tradeoff...I trust their spreadsheet/program is correct so I don't invest the time to understand the forms. So long assembly, hello high level languages! There have been some recent tweaks to the code that I didn't catch but TurboTax did! For instance... we do not qualify to itemize our taxes.. but TT bumped the standard deduction a kilobick to cover the property taxes. In the old days I'd have (hopefully) caught the nuance but TT did it naturally.

Some don't even want to dirty their fingers with trifling matters like taxes. "Just give it to a CPA!" Now I do not wish to paint CPAs with a broad brush but I'm not sure this is a good answer. A good friend is a CPA. I envy her for hanging her shingle out and working for herself. (I don't envy her losing her biggest client and scrambling to crack the nut). But even she has noted taxes are a small part of her business. Also a co-worker had a CPA doing his taxes and they (sex indeterminate) didn't understand the stock reporting with the dayjob(tm). The bottom line to him was a $50k overpayment over a 10 year span, only three years of which they could refile on. Now data is not the plural of anecdote, but I think most CPAs would agree they are accountants, bean counters to use the derogatory term, not tax people. OTOH, Tax people are tax people only. That's all they do and good ones know the tax code far better than CPA's.

In retirement, never one to lol around on his laurels, the SCDad now owns a tax business. He turned the expertise gained over the years into a business. Yet another lesson to learn! (Turn an asset into a business).

If I asked, I'm sure the SCDad would do the SandCastle returns gratis. But I want to stay connected to the tax process rather than "just drop off the forms and pick up the return". Understanding.. ney, having a clue, of the tax implications affects buy/sell decisions going forward. Doing my own return is the best way I know of to keep in touch with the implications.

Bottom line, for technically oriented people, tax programs are a pretty good bet. List price works out to about a third to 40% of what the big guys might charge. If you want a personal touch and a bit of a discount from what the big guys charge, drop me a line and I'll share the SCDad's info. By design their rates are a bit under the big name tax places... you know, the part that goes to pay for advertising! And you don't need to be local... Everything can be done electronically (email/fax/fone).

The only beef I have with the 'lectronic Tax revolution is the fee to file. It costs .gov more for me to file a paper return, so it's to their benefit that I file electronically. And yet If I want to get my refund is under 2 weeks instead of 8, I have to pay someone else to file my return. Why is that? On what planet does this make sense? Why can't I file my return directly? Why do I have to go through a third party?

The SCDad briefly worked for HRBlock before hanging out the shingle. He's mentioned their program concluded with three numbers. One was how to get the maximum refund next year. The second offered how to accurately pay next year, and finally how to optimally owe the max without penalty.

The idea there seems to be people have no saving discipline which means a big tax return is the biggest chunk of money they might see every year. Others see a tax refund as an interest free loan to dot-gov. Personally I'd be tickled pink if I could get the numbers within $100 at the end of the year. I try every year without success. But that's me. If I get there, You'll see me dancing in the streets.

Bottom line, with taxes looming, tax programs are good for the technically minded. For the personal touch and cheaper than HRB, drop me a line for the SCDad's contact info. They can and do work with remote clients literally halfway around the world.

(Disclaimer... the SCDad's tax business has not paid nor solicited this message. Nor has TurboTax or H&R Block. I offer my opinions because taxes are one of the two sure things in this world) I won't post the contact info[Rob9258038013]but if you need some help, drop me a line at sandcastlescrolls@msn.com and I'll return the contact info. )

07 April 2010

It's gonna be a long night...

... The SCSon was stung by a scorpion. The resulting scream was the loudest thing I've heard since watching a Harrier in hover. Poison control center says it's very painful but not lethal. It's going to hurt for about 6 hours.

The SCQueen has taken him to the local urgent care, I'm home hunt down the offending critter. Which brings up the obvious question.

What caliber?

I'm thinking 12 gauge. Discuss.

Update: It went better after he calmed down and he was able to sleep through the night. The doctor checked him today for neurological problems and pronounced him OK. A few random tingles are the only remaining symptoms.

We learned tonight a little more about how it happened... he knelt down to pet the cat but didn't notice that the cat had captured a plaything... the scorpion. Good kitty for catching the lil bugger. Bad kitty for not disposing of it!

BTW, My weapon of choice for hunting scorpions is a 2 1/2 Hp shop vac. It has a 6 foot rigid wand which gives me about 5' 10" of reach on the scorpion. The end of the wand has an "event horizon" about 6" in radius. If I can get the little bugger in that zone, the vacuum quickly accelerates the critter to about 100MPH for the trip through the hose. They don't survive the trip and the mess is contained within the vacuum.

02 April 2010

April's ePostal is up!

CUG (Conservative UAW Guy) as the April ePostal contest posted! This was a fun contest from a couple years back. Big circles are easy to hit but not worth much. Small circles are hard to hit but worth much more. Part of the game is strategy trading off point value with hit probability. A pair of binoculars is helpful to keep track of what's been hit and choose what to aim for next.