29 December 2015

November ePostal results (2nd edition)

Here is the first release of the November are the standings of the Winter ePostal match:
Last Updated 09Jan2016

Class Shooter Bangstick score Targets Hit
Rimfire Pistol, Iron sights

Mike B S&W 617 8 8 free parking

Billll Ruger Mk I 8 8 free parking

True Blue Sam Ruger .22/45 7 6 Free Parking + 1 Steering Wheel

True Blue Sam Ruger Mk III 6 5 Free Parking + 1 Steering Wheel

Ed Hibbard Ruger Mk III .22/45 5 2 Free parking + 2 Steering Wheels + 1 Driver's License 8F

True Blue Sam Ruger Single Six 4 4 Steering Wheels + 1 Yield – 1 citation

Matthew Pond Ruger Mk III .22/45 4 2 Free parking + Stop Sign + Steering Wheel

danno Ruger Single Six 1 1 Stop, 11 yards

Mr. CCBCC Ruger Single Six 0 1 Yield + 1 Driver's License – 2 citations, 11 yards

Mr. CCBCC Ruger .22/45 -1 1 Free Parking – 2 citations, 11 yards

danno Ruger .22/45 -1 -1 collision warning, 11 yards

Rimfire Pistol, magnified optic sights

True Blue Sam TC .22LR scope 7 7 Steering Wheels

Rimfire Rifle, Magnified Optic sights

Billll Marlin 795, 3x sight 7 7 Free Parking

Ed Hibbard Savage Mk II, 3-9x sight 7 4 Free Parking + 2 Steering Wheels + 1 stop. 8 degrees F

Matthew Pond Savage Mk II, 3-9x sight 3 Free Parking + Yield + Steering Wheel

Center Fire Pistol, Iron sights

Billll CZ v82 6 6 Free Parking

Billll Glock 22 6 6 Free Parking

Mr. CCBCC Hi Power 2 1 Yield + 1 Driver's License, 11 yards

danno Hi Power 1 1 Stop, 11 yards

There was some confusion on the scoring - hits on the bold lines of the parking spot score as a miss (0), not a "no-shoot" (-1).  Also the sign posts and grass sprigs are part of the target at the top of the post.  The intent here was to add additional scoring area.  (Except on the collision no shoot, the post and grass enlarge that no-shoot (-1).  Sorry for the confusion.  If there is any question in the interpretation of the rules, please ask!

This match is not over!  This is only the first edition results.  I will continue to accept entries until the next match is posted around the end of February/beginning of March.  Also, do not limit yourself to the above classes.  Shoot it however you want and if it doesn't fit the above classes, I will add classes as necessary.

Maybe we SandCastle residents can improve our negative scores.

26 December 2015

New PC...

Not for me, but the SCSon.   He received a new computer game for Christmas and quickly found his PC wouldn't run it as it needed 2x the RAM he had installed.  Quick research showed the DDR2 RAM he uses has fallen from favor and is getting more expensive.  Another 4GB would cost about $150.

Further research showed his processor & Mobo were really old so it really wasn't worth upgrading.

So instead we jacked up the Hard Drive & Case and slid a new CPU + MoBo + RAM underneath.  Fry's had a deal for an AMD FX6600 + MSI 970-G43 MoBo for $109 (After rebates & discounts).  Another $70 brought 16GB RAM.  That meant we could upgrade him several hardware generations for barely more than the cost of the additional RAM into the old system.  That's the way this business works.  Sometimes you just have to jettison the old.

That and about 6 hours of reloading /upgrading to Win10 64bit and mucho frustration, he is now upgraded.  At one point he came to me for help.  I had to beg off "I'm sorry - you are the leading expert in this family on this topic.  You upgraded my netbook and mom's laptop.  You have the experience.  I cannot help."  (besides I was reloading and not enjoying the interruption)  He understood but wasn't very happy about it.  30 mins later he was frustrated to the point of walking away.  Another 30 later, he was successful.  Hopefully the "don't give up" lesson is reinforced.

BTW, the timing here is good as he has the time to apply on the problem, and the motivation to succeed.

And from my experience, 6 hours is about on par to bring up a new system by the time the hardware is installed, drivers installed, OS installed and brought up to date with updates, adding a virus scanner, etc.

And my turn in the barrel is coming..  I run most everything on a Linux box built from leftovers in the junk box.  There is an Win7 machine adjacent for stuff that just runs on Windows (AMD Phenom 8450 triple core, 2.10 GHz).  It too is becoming dated even running Win7.  But I don't really want to upgrade to Win10 until updated hardware is in place.

I'm not very happy that every family needs a resident IT "guy".  But we seem to be there.  And I'm ecstatic the SCSon is stepping up!

24 December 2015


A long time friend is changing jobs and we scheduled a farewell lunch.  Another longtime mutual friend lives across town.  I invited him to fly down and join us.  This is known in pilot circles as "an excuse to fly".  And any real pilot would jump at the chance!  See also "no brainer!"  IOW the trip is the destination,

The nearest airport is one he hadn't landed at in many years.  As he was taxiing in, someone came on the radio to let him know the CTAF* frequency had recently changed.  My friend checked the current AFD** (Apparently it's and android app - Yeah Technology!) and it still showed CTAF on 122.9.  He inquired to the caller "What is the source of your information?"  "That's what somebody told me".  :-(  That's not a very good answer.

My cross-town friend emails tonight:
On the way out of XYZ I saw a sign at the end of RWYnn that said CTAF had changed effective Dec (??).   When I got home I called Flight Service and asked for the CTAF for XYZ.  I was told 122.9.  I told my story and asked was he sure it was 122.9.  He then found the notam that published the change.  Asking for the CTAF is not enough, you have to ask for weather/notams.  What a stupid system.
(Emphasis mine).  I wish for a double bold font for those last four words!  Bold Italics will have to do.

Y'all be careful out there!  And keep the scan going.

* CTAF = (Cee-TAF) =Common Traffic Advisory Frequency,,  This is a frequency used at an uncontrolled airport where  pilots can communicate and coordinate between themselves as to where they are in the pattern and coordinate landing sequence.
** Airport Facilities Directory

22 December 2015

Last Call!!!...

... before posting initial winter ePostal match scores.

The original plan was to post first round scores 'round about yesterday or today.  However I just received the first entries from Mike & Billll.  Unfortunately the "yet to shoot" list includes the SandCastle Crew (we did Sporting Clays yesterday to prep for a year end match instead.  The SCSon beat me by one with a 33/50).

So here's the deal - I'm granting a one week extension.  Rain (or snow) or shine, first round will be posted NLT 12/29.  But additional entries will be accepted and added until the next match is posted in late Feb/Early March 2016.

BTW... I'm noticing a problem with Billll's targets - the traffic citation has no limit.  I'm working with Billll to see where the problem occurred - on my posting the target, his printing, his scanning, or somewhere else.  If you have issues with the target, lets talk and work it out.  eaddy on the target.

19 December 2015

Amazon Air?

So it seems Amazon is no happier with UPS than I am.    Quoting a quote from the article quoted below:
“Amazon is pretty fed up with the third-party carriers being a bottleneck to their growth,” Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst Colin Sebastian said.
Solution? build their own airborne shipping infrastructure!  Everything from this point forward in the post is rampant speculation as a I have no connection to the company save that as a customer.

Ok..  let's think about this..  A network of jets only gets product from the distribution warehouse to a distant city, not to the end address.  So say AtoZco has a distribution warehouse in the Phoenix metro area.  The jet network effectively expands the reach of that network to Southern CA, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, maybe Reno, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and probably Western Texas.

I suspect AtoZco has a similar network of distribution warehouses throughout the country, maybe Spokane or Boise, Iowa, Kentucky, and Alabama-ish to cover the SE corner of USA.  That means just a few planes can cut a day, maybe two off 3rd party deliveries.

And then if AtoZco can get the drone deliveries* up and running...  Then they-will-be-golden with 24 hr delivery to most anywhere withing the CONUS a reality.

But this is mere rampant speculation.  What do I know?  I'm a customer and not in the shipping biz and not at all satisfied with BigBrown.  This is the way capitalism is supposed to work - find a need and fill it.  Or in this case, when your transportation chain is broken, work around them!

And lately, seems BigBrown tracking is "broken".  I received a package yesterday (I didn't have a choice of shipper) that wasn't even shown as "out for delivery".  Maybe they are\working the "under-promise, over-deliver" angle.

Again, rampant speculation.

At the very least, maybe it will force BigBrown to up their game,  or they will die.  That's how Capitalism works.  And that's a good thing!

* I'm still not convince on the drone delivery thing.

03 December 2015

Amazon -> U ROCK!

I'm sick of dealing with UPS.  I'm done with them.  Got on live chat with Amazon and explained the problem, asking them to start a trace with UPS.

He said "No problem.  We'll refund the original order, then have you re-order with the fastest shipping option and we will waive the shipping fees."

OK, that's not quite what I had in mind but it achieves the goal.

I re-ordered with the fastest service, same day delivery.  Sent the order # to the Amazon guy.  Fees were waived and I had the order by 6pm.

Amazon, You Rock!

FDA disclaimer - The AtoZ company paid me nothing for this post.They don't even know I put it on the web.  They didn't ask and I didn't tell.  The comped shipping was to make sure I got my order when Big Brown effed it up.

02 December 2015


I placed a small Amazon order last week.  I found a laser sight in my shooting bag.  It works but the batteries are dead.  The SCQueen tried to source the LR44 batteries locally but came up empty.

It then occurred to me I had inadvertently signed up for a free 30 day Amazon-prime trial (The link said "click here for free 2 day shipping" only to find out later it was the free 30 day trial.  I actually tried to get out of it but couldn't find a way).  OK.. one of the Prime benefits is free shipping without a minimum price.  So I when found a 10 pack of batteries I needed for five bucks & change, ok.. buy.

The package has taken on a life foretold in song:

swap my package for "Charlie" and UPS truck for "MTA"!*

UPS's tracker no longer even tracks the package.   Last thing I see is "packaged delayed one day"... dated MONDAY.  And everyday they do not deliver they simply move the "planned delivery date out a day".  Take away:  UPS tracking is USELESS!  The grief this shipping has caused both on my side and likely UPS as well vastly exceeds the package value.  Of course there is one simple way to resolve this, and that is for UPS to DELIVER THE PACKAGE!  Easy-Peasy!

Tonight the guy on the help desk (after 35 mins on hold) offered...  Well it is the holiday season and we are getting slammed.  I countered "Hello, do you have a CALENDAR?  this boon is as predictable as boons come.  How could you NOT be set up to handle it?  Excuses are like... well you know the rest.

I have screenshots to back up all of the above...  I didn't even bother with customer support this afternoon figuring "why listen to the lies?"  same same tonight... the people at online support don't know anything that's not in their computer, and they are no longer scanning this package.

I put this up as a "this in my experience"  as we enter this holiday buying season.  I offer this as fair warning to others.  I'm a capitalist...  Here are my takeaways:
  1. Caveat Emptor baby!  Buyer Beware!  I will avoid UPS if at all possible. FedEx and even USPS (GAG) are superior choices.    I'm struggling to find a shipper inferior to UPS and I come up blank.  I wouldn't trust UPS with my dirty laundry right now.
  2. If unavoidable, ship to $DayJob instead of $SandCastle. 
And hey Amazon... This affects you too...  You ship via UPS and they are not delivering.  This is  a big factor in NOT purchasing Prime for the year!  UPS has cost you business.  You should be involved.

That said, this feels very small considering the activities in San Bernadino, but this has been going on for 3 days now and is not over.  People, carry your guns.  They talk about "first RESPONDERS"  I want to talk about "Zero'th responders!"  That is people that are on site when the deed  goes down.   These things typically end when a good guy with a gun shows up.   They don't "respond" because they are already there!   YOU should be that good guy!  I want for  someone to "respond" with a reach to their hip, pull a gun a stop the offender(s) and control the situation until the "first" responders um...respond.

When I contact UPS (local) in the AM, I will specifically request they check under the drivers seat and any other cubby holes in the truck.  This wouldn't be the first time a vindictive UPS employee subverted my delivery.

Update 12/3:  I made the morning call..  The "manager" that answered was very dismissive.  "We don't know where your package is.  Just call Amazon and have them start a trace."  In otherwords, same thing everyone else looking at their computer screen has told me.  The one gem in the sea of Rocks was K...  I'm afraid to use her full name lest she get into trouble...  She took a genuine interest in the case.  I was sad to tell her "I'm sorry... I don't care anymore.  Amazon has made this right on their end and I've learnt my lesson WRT UPS."  Thank you for trying K...

Update 12/4:  Big Brown finally delivered the package today and on the early truck (before noon).  So my guess that "The driver threw the package away" incorrect.  However I suspect the only reason it arrived today and on the early truck is through the heroic efforts of the above mentioned K...  No one else seemed to care or was able to do anything.  Thanks K...!  Your efforts were noticed.  You are an inspiration to others.

Timeline:  Ordered 11/26, shipped 3 day select..  They scheduled delivery for 12/2 because they don't count Thanksgiving and the following Friday.  But the truck was enroute and got to town 11/30 and put on a truck for delivery Monday.  Which didn't happen.  They kept making excuses, finally delivered Friday 12/4 after a whole load of grief.

* I do not know the original date of the song..  I only know if it because it was probably the most appealing song we sung in 6th grade mandatory chorus, which I hated.  My  $.02, the best music is that without words!  The music speaks for itself.  See also Frankenstein.  Awesome piece, zero words.  The music speaks for itself.  But I digress...

FDA disclaimer:  Do you really think UPS would have paid for this post?   Really?

27 November 2015

I need to add a new label....

 ...to the top of my toolbox.  The one there already says "Check the Fuse first!"  This is there because I spent several hours tearing into a broken system only to find the problem was a blown fuse.  I really felt stupid, hence rule #1.

Today SCSIL (Sand Castle Sister In Law) offered to give the SCSon some driving lessons in her manual transmission truck. (he has struggled with my attempt to teach him)    After a few stalls, the truck wouldn't start.

A jump start didn't work, but a bump start did... that got them back to the SandCastle.  We checked fuses and checked battery capacity.  That's not the problem.  I'm beginning to think "starter".  I located what I think is the starter but it's nothing I want to get involved in.

The SCQueen called around and found a local shop open today (most are not).  Not too surprising, I'm on holiday today too.

Fortunately the shop apparently has some integrity...   They quickly identified the problem in the clutch interlock rather than the starter itself.  The car won't attempt engine start unless the clutch is depressed.  Problem is, the thing that hits the microswitch breaks and now the engine won't start.  Apparently this is a rather common problem for this make & model.  To their credit, rather than selling her a starter (+installation) they sold her the $5 part she needed.  Good on ya guys!  (A small person would complain about the $.01 part that costs $5 rather than celebrating the $125-200 they saved her by correctly diagnosing the actual problem.  I count that as a win).  

I found the above link in as the 1st or 2nd link of an 'net search after the fact..  Dang... I forgot about the clutch interlock.  In my defense, most of the cars I've owned didn't have one.  Wanna drive the car on the starter?  Go right ahead!  The car would allow that.

So new label on the tool box will read:
2.  Check the interwebs!
(and a special thanks to the SCSIL for taking time to work with the SCSon on learning to drive a manual transmission from someone who is not "dad".  A lot of time, just hearing the message from  a non-$PARENT makes all the difference.)

But what I think he really needs, is to take the car out on his own.    The real learning occurs after the instructor has left the car (this is especially true in airplanes).  Smart pilots look at a pilot's certificate as a "license to learn".

Yea, I'm talkin to you SCSon!

19 November 2015

Winter ePostal match

This is nominally the last ePostal of the year.  Because I'm late in posting and there won't be another until March, I will post results after 5 weekends (on or about Dec 21-22) but will continue to accept late entries until the next ePostal is posted in late February/March.

This target is inspired by Real Life Events.  I present to you "Driving School"!  You see, the SandCastle Son turned 16 this year and qualified for an Arizona graduated driver's license*.  It used to be that every newly minted 16YO wanted a car, preferably a new one.  No such luck for the SCSon...  instead he got DRIVING LESSONS!  In my day drivers training was part of HS curriculum, basic safety stuff in Freshman year then simulators & actual road instruction a year later.  .  Now, the HS does *nothing*.  We are on our own.

We chose this particular school because they include "skid pad" training in the curriculum.  It's not actually a skid pad, but rather a car with the ability to  lift individual/pairs of wheels to induce understeer or oversteer conditions (and lots of overrun room!).  They do this with screaming passengers in the car to supplement the realism.  Gawd I wish I'd had this in my training... All my training was in clear and dry conditions.

The biggest obstacle in getting the license was dealing with MVD business hours to complete the paperwork.  Due to extracurricular activities he starts school before 6AM and doesn't get out until 4pm.  And MVD being a bureaucratic beast doesn't open before 8am, nor linger after 5pm. Fortunately we found an open day.  Bottom line, he did the training and now holds the license.  Probably to the detriment of my insurance bill (we haven't told them yet).

Congrats on your license to learn kiddo!  Now don't get cocky!

On to the course of fire.  download target here.  This target is inspired by the SCSon's summer of driving school.  As usual your task is to hit the shoots and miss the no shoots.  There are two no shoots on the target: The Traffic Citation and the yellow collision sign.

Do not use this target - download actual .pdf from link above.
Edit 12/28 to clarify scoring  (additional text in bold font)
Lets keep scoring simple... +1 pt for any hit on the "hit" targets, -1 on the "no hit" targets (the only no-hit targets are the citation and collision sign, including it's post and unmown grass).  Sign targets includeing the mounting poles below the signs and even the unmown grass at the base.  Intent is to enlarge the sign target area.  No per target limits.
End Clarification

Normal "liners count" rules apply for every target except for  "Free Parking" target.  This is a pet peeve... if you can't park between the lines either you need more parking practice or you shouldn't be driving that vehicle.  I hold myself to these standards - My daily drivers are at each end of the agility spectrum.  I drive both a very agile Miata and a long wheel base truck with a turning radius measured furlongs.   I take pride in parking, even if it takes more than one try.  I wish others cared as much.

Touch a bold line in Free Parking and the shot scores as a miss,  The thin line at the bottom of Free Parking serves only to delimit the spot.  A liner there without touching a bold line scores a hit.    I do not care if you park a little short.  And besides, ePostals are all about quirky rules!  That's part of the fun.  There are many like it but this one is mine ;-)  And as match master, I reserve final scoring judgment authority (but I am a benevolent master :-)

Course of fire: 10 shots, Pistols at 25 ft/10 yds, Rifles at 25 yds/Meters, or whatever works for you.   Let me know how you shot the target (caliber/range etc) and I'll sort out classes.

Send your entries to sandcastlescrolls (at) (emm)(ess)(enn).com.  (thanks Stretch!)

*  Arizona limits 16 & 17 YOs to a "graduated license".  He is limited on hours he can drive and how many "young-uns" in the car with him.  There a lots of legitimate exceptions written into the law.  Note especially 28-3174(3)(D)(2):
D. Except as provided in subsection J of this section (which says none of this applies after he turns 18), for the first six months that a class G licensee holds the license, the licensee shall not drive a motor vehicle on a public highway from 12:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. unless either:
2. The licensee is driving directly to or from a sanctioned school sponsored activity, the licensee's place of employment, a sanctioned religious activity or a family emergency.
That means the SCSon who has to be at school by 0300 Sat AM to board the bus to a drill event 170 miles distant could legally drive himself to the school without violating the law.  Again, that seems a very legitimate exception.  I'm good with that...

25 October 2015

Don't try this at home!

Just don't: Short version: 13-YO injures himself with a homemade shotgun.

A better headline might be "13-YO get's a first hand lesson in Newton's third law".

 There is simply no need in this state for a 13-YO to make his own shotgun when there are so many proper youth opportunities available.

 Right there in his home city of Buckeye there is an SCTP program. $75/yr covers everything the student needs: coaches, shotgun, shells & birds. Everything an aspiring shooter needs!

 The SCTP program will explain and enforce the safety rules. Embrace and abide the rules and you will have a safe & fun time. Reject the rules and expect to be quickly ejected from the program, for everyone's safety, including your own.

14 October 2015

D Party "Debate"

I more "listened" than "watched" "the debate".  "Tried to listen" would even more accurate.  The ambient noise level was pretty high so I missed a lot.

But when I was home and back on the computer with the "debate" on in the background.

Every time Bernie opened his mouth:
 This was the image in my head courtesy of Saturday morning cartoons:
No I am not comparing the openly socialist senator from Vermont to an Aardvark. This is the image in my head hearing the voice. Blame Saturday morning sugar coated crunch bomb commercials>cartoons.   Just sayin'.

Am I wrong?

Are these cartoons still on the air?  If so, he's toast!  No one in their right mind could cast a serious vote for that voice! (even if he used Goldwater or Reagan's words)

* "debate" is in quotes because this wasn't really about defending ideas... it was more of a scripted photo-op with live press releases.

07 October 2015


I don't remember when I started reading Machine Design.  It's a trade publication for engineers.   I think they published an "article" penned by moi.

After a couple issues, I made sure I was on the subscription list.  Not necessarily for the articles but for Ron Khol's editorials!  I even won an NRAnews "contest".  I forget the details....  A very pro-gun ruling had come down and Cam offered up an NRA cap to the first person who could come up with a pro-gun editorial in the local paper.  My local East Valley Tribune ran one of Ron's pro gun columns.  (I declined the cap on the basis of the only difference between Cam's and my hairline is the blade we trim with.  It also served up an excuse to pick a runner up ;-)  You're welcome!

Anyway, I caught on to Ron Khol fairly late in his career.  He became editor in 1983, I became a subscriber after the turn of the century.  Somewhere along the line his publisher Penton Media collected  a  set of his writings into a book in 1997.

Unfortunately he's since died.  Cancer, I think.  He wrote of becoming a "voracious consumer of healthcare" in his waning years.  Lee Teschler has since taken the reins as MD editor.  And he's good too...  Hi Lee! Ron left reallly big shoes to fill.  And you are filling his shows well.   We are linked in.

Somewhere along the lines I became aware of Ron's a book,  It was out of print before I knew it existed.  I'd checked online a couple times but came up empty.  The SCSon recently bought it up again and the internet search came up positive!


I am now the proud owner of a VG copy!  My biggest regret is Ron is not around for autograph duties!  (Pixelation is in the original)

Ron - I miss you and your editorials..

10 September 2015

What caliber for sniper?

The local Phoenix area seems to be under some sort of attack.   Eleven cars have been hit in the past 11 days.   How can one protect themselves?

No one reports hearing any gun shots. Not surprising when the normal freeway din is enough to drown out most gun shots.  Air Guns are another possibility.

What can we do to protect ourselves?  Unfortunately not much.  Carrying a gun is not a magic talisman to ward off evil.  A gun is only useful when the threat is detected in time.  And that's kind of the point of a sniper - the bullet arrives before anything else, even the sound of the shot.

So far they don't have a clue as to whether the shooter is in a car, or on the side of the road.

Some are avoiding the particular section of I-10  (Most incidents are on I-10 west of downtown "the Avenues"*)  But scattered incidents have occurred across the metro area.

For the most parts, odds are good any given trip through the area will be safely completed.  This isn't the Middle East so I won't be canceling any trips through the area, nor cease using the freeways in general.

I am tempted however to add a couple car cameras to the SandCastle rides.  These days car-cams are inexpensive.  I have one in the air conditioner that takes me around in the summer, and the SandCastle queen has one in her chariot.  It may be time to add one pointing at Cardinal Points of the Compass!  Cameras don't stop incoming fire, and may not even catch any usable video.  But if there is an attack, this is the best bet we have.

True story - I was headed up to our offsite meeting location in moderate traffic.  General flow doing 60-70mph.  Suddenly three cars are weaving in and out of traffic trying to out do each other.  Another mile or two up the road traffic slows.  We come upon a couple spun out cars.  One sideways to flow and one spun 180.   No flashing lights, just bewildered eyes.  It occurred to me later I might have video evidence,  But alas by then the loop had been written over.  (my SD cards are only 8GB).  Wish I'd realized the potential at the time.

Note, this is all cameras are good for - bring the bad guys to justice.  They do nothing to stop the attack in the first place.  But if it can
solve the riddle bring the criminal(s) to justice, bring it on!

Gett'n all geared up and tacticool, is probably not the best answer.   IMHO this is a time to step back and let the professionals handle it.  I wouldn't even OC in the vicinity.  Anyone with a weapon in the area is likely to be questioned.

* Phoenix is laid out in a nice grid pattern with the Avenues on the west side and Streets on the East.  Just hearing an address immediately splits the location in half.

21 August 2015

auto-motif meme..

It's not a meme when they do it. it's a meme when others (meslf incuded) copy (i prefer the term  "leverage" their idea!) and they become meme originators.   I salute thee!

So leveraged....I've been away at conference this week and parked next to this today:

Apologies for the pic quality.   I bought the phone because it's "a phone! dummy"/  Camera and other functions are 2ndary.  

I think it's an 80's vintage Chrystler LeBaronIt's a Buick! with a long horn hood ornament,   I didn't check the state of license (AZ or TX???)   Still this was a bit out of the ordinary, even for these parts.

So memed!

Update 8/28: as Wilson notes, it's a Buick.  Even when I was in to reading car mags, Land Yachts were never my thing (too hard to park!).  I was (and still am) a sports car guy.   Thanks Wilson for the correction!

14 August 2015

Today* I will do nothing...

... outdoors.

We all watched our friends in the upper midwest suffer last winter through record snowfalls while I was out toolin' around in the convertible with the top down into May.

And here is why (courtesy of ABC15 Weather):

Awhile back a bunch of us were duscussing our usual thurs pm up fun steel shoot.  I sent a clip of the 5 day forecast with the 118 highlighted.  (my implication = too hot for me!)  Not happening!

This is our comeuppance here in the desert.  We (might) have mild winters but even when we get down into the lo-teens, it doesn't come with much moisture.  It's just cold, and occasionally ice-foggy.

I'm not sure if I believe that low of 91F.  We have nights when the moisture moves in and we just don't cool off.  Then the night time low gets down to around 105.

The difference between here and our Northern latitude friends is, I don't have to shovel 3ft of 115F anything off my driveway!

I can see the attraction of the snowbird lifestyle!  Should I become one, at least I understand the left turn lane!

* Today assuming it will be Saturday by the time most readers get to this, even though I write late Fri PM.

10 August 2015

Gun Rights Policy Conference

I just registered and you can too!

I've always wanted to go but life keeps getting in the way.  This year, I'm going!  And it's local so I get to forgo the "airline experience" to make the trip.

See you there?

05 August 2015

This seems too perfect...

Bail bondsmen crash police chief's home.  Seems to me the bail bondmen poked the wrong hornet's nest.  They apparently acted on an unconfirmed tip.  I hope they enjoy their proctological exam.
I am surprised no blood was spilt.

29 July 2015

Hot Water is over rated!

The SandCastle has been without hot water for a few days now.

Now if there is a "good" time to lose hot water, it's in the desert in the middle of summer.  The water sitting in the heater absorbs heat from the surrounding air.  My morning shower wasn't exactly "cold", but just "cool", probably about 95F.

Fortunately the problem wasn't the heater itself, but rather the timer that controls the heater.  One of these:
Lifted from the Intermatic website, but I don't think they'll mind
We only need hot water a couple times a day:  Morning showers & evening cleaning.  Most of the rest of the time it sits there and wastes energy keeping water hot that won't be needed for hours.  It turns on our water heater for only a couple hours a day, presumably saving us tons of money.  And of something special comes up,  Hit the square button to manually activate.

This little guy works like a sprinkler or pool pump timer.  It even allows different programming for the weekends.

We are fortunate it was only the timer and not the heater for a couple reasons.  First the timer is a lot cheaper than the heater and it's also very easy to bypass.

So we have a new timer on order and this one is bypassed in the meantime until the new one arrives.

The Amazon reviews have lots of reports of not lasting very long.  Our results are mixed.  This will be our third unit.  The first lasted 2 months and was returned under warranty.  The 2nd, the one that just failed lasted 13 years.   I know this because of the note I added at the time "Installed 10 July 2002".

#include [std.disclaimer]:  No compensation has been provided or promised for this post.  We bought all three units at retail with our own money.  I am all for investing in technology that will save me money in the long run.  YMMV.

Update 8/10/2015 (Head hung low) I have the following prominently displayed on my toolbox "Check the fuse FIRST, dummy!".  It's there because of a circuit failure in a first car that led to a lengthy debugging sessions which ended up with... a blown fuse. :-(  I felt so stupid... obviously this is the first thing I should have checked.

Well now I need to add a 2nd line: "Hit the Reset!"

We replaced the battery, but the clock wouldn't reset and the relays wouldn't operate manually,  so we ordered a replacement.

Rereading the installation instructions getting ready for the replacement I noticed the reset button.  So I went out to the installed unit and viola'  It worked!  Clock and programs are reset and manual works too.

So this brandy new unit is going on the shelf for as soon as we try to return or otherwise dispose of it, the old one will go Tango Uniform.

25 July 2015


As is $Diety$ THAT HURTS!  and THROBS.

I got tagged by a scorpion tonight.  Scorpions are a fact of life in this neck of the woods.  The like to nest on the bark of palm trees.  Then the wind blows and dislodges them.

Tonight I went downstairs to talk to the SCSon and immediately felt a pain in my foot.  A couple throbs later and I was pretty sure what had happened.  Searching the floor I spotted the culprit.... And ran him over with a certain shotgun roller.  Several times!  He may have won the battle but I won the war!  He is dead and I am not,

I had immediate visions of a similar scene in the same spot several years ago when the SCSon got tagged,  Never having been stung before all I could offer the SCSon is "I know it hurts.  But you are not going to die".

We met some very nice people at Emergency Care.  A while later the PA comes in to assess as a very benign case but is willing to dispense pain killers... I think he mentioned Viocodin and Codine.   Eh, to me these are drugs you take to dim the pain of compound fractures and amputations.  Right now ice is controlling the pain so we'll stick with that.    I am no longer has me jumping out of the chair so..  While we've filled the Rx, it's the 3AM contingency plan.

If anyone wants to steal the Rx, the pills will be ground up and mixed in with next week's used kitty litter.  Enjoy!

23 July 2015

Armed drone legality

No doubt you've seen the vid of the armed drone firing shots (apparently) into a berm. There are many questions floating about regarding the legality of arming a drone.

IANAL but I am a CCW holder which makes me a member of a most law-abiding population.  I am also a pilot and as such have read up upon and internalized much of the relevant FARs (Federal Air Regulations) applicable to GA (General Aviation) flight.  The link has always been there on the left sidebar "FARs, direct from HQ".

Off the top of my head, It seems there are two relevant FARs:  91.15 (Dropping objects):
§91.15   Dropping objects.
No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.
Now I am but a mere pilot and not a lawyer, Even assuming the guy controlling the drone is PIC, it seems to me the craft was well controlled and firing into a berm so it would seem to me "reasonable precautions were taken to avoid injury etc....".  Sorry no sale if I'm on the jury.

But there is also the catchall 91.13 "Careless or reckless":
§91.13   Careless or reckless operation.
(a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.
(b) Aircraft operations other than for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft, other than for the purpose of air navigation, on any part of the surface of an airport used by aircraft for air commerce (including areas used by those aircraft for receiving or discharging persons or cargo), in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.
This is pretty much the FAA's "you are guilty if we deem you so".   Except, is a drone in this situation engaged in air navigation (case a)? It would seem to me not the case.  Nor would (case b) seem to fit as the scene could hardly be described as an airport.

This is truly a case of technology outpacing legislation.  I have great faith our vast army of FAA bureaucrats will write new rules making the arming of drones illegal.  But as of today, I don't think that is the  case.  And.. umm  insert legal doctrine "ex-post-facto" means they can't prosecute someone for an act today that wasn't illegal until tomorrow (or increase penalties in the same situation).

I also have great faith criminals with no concern about our laws will make great use of same-same technology to complete their missions.  Yet again proving laws only stop the law abiding, not the criminals.

Clearly the technology is out there,  Security has to react assuming the worst.  Making it illegal doesn't stop the threat.

Others have brought up the "machine operated gun angle" (does firing a gun from a computer operated solenoid make it a "machine gun"?)   I have no knowledge or opinion on that side.

#include [std.disclaimer]:  I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice.  This opinion is worth exactly what you paid for it ($0).

20 July 2015

A good start?

or an odd case of hoarding, or making his mark for the title in the "he who dies with the best toys..." contest.  I hope and trust these were all acquired and owned legally.  But this being CA, I'm never entirely sure my No.2 pencil is entirely legal at any given time.

The ~1200 guns & 2 tons of ammo tops the SandCastle armory by a long ways!  I admire the spirit.

Still... The SandCastle armory (which doesn't hold a candle to this "collection") has more than one weapon that has been never fired [by me] (Whether that is because of recency of acquisition or some other reason is left as an exercise to the reader).  Either way, I respect that too.  I hope you have some heirs and/or a clear will specifying the disposition of the collection.  It'd be a shame to let the state a) profit from your demise, or b) the bigger shame of letting the state reduce them to scrap.

16 July 2015

missed it again

Dang!  I missed it again.  By one day :-(

Sand Castle Scrolls turned 7 Yesterday.  First post was July 15 2008.  Lots of Yellow flags (slow times) since then but no Checkered flag yet.

Blogging is somewhere about #12 on my priority list.  I derive no monetary value from it so it merely serves as an outlet when I start yelling at the TV.

But then I hear blogging is dead, and I'm certainly not contributing my share.  'd like to think I only speak up when I have something to contribute to the conversation.  IOW, I'm not here to be "meetoo".

Blogging has connected us with some wonderful peeps we'ed never connected with otherwise.  I'd name names but I'll inevitably leave someone out.  Hint - If we've met F2F and your listed on the blog roll, I mean you!    I wouldn't trade it for the world!

It's been a great ride and wonderful to connect with you all!  And if you are listed but we haven't met F2F, I mean you too.  Just consider me a fanboy and I hope we can meetup pronto.


11 July 2015

Trump Live Stream

ABC15 will be streaming the event live here from 2-4pm today.

10 July 2015

Trump Tix

The SandCastle Crew has tickets to the Donald event tomorrow.

The Donald is visiting the valley tomorrow.  The SandCastle Queen mentioned as she headed out to walk the dog "If tickets were still available, I'D GO!".  I asked "Hmmm.. are you sure the event is sold out?"  "That's what I heard on the news." she answered.

Well I don't have a lot of faith in the news based on past events where I had first hand knowledge to compare against their reporting.  I can best sum it up as "if they report the sky is blue, I'm going outside to look for myself."

And that skepticism paid off tonight.  An internet search for "Donald Trump Phoenix" led me to an eventbrite site and now we have tickets (procured 8pm-ish AZ std time*).  I forwarded same to the SCQueen but didn't mention a thing when she & the dog returned home.  You probably heard the scream of delight when she checked her computer!  (I love pranking the SCQueen like this). "HOW DID YOU DO THIS????" (it was actually quite simple)

ABC15 just reported (10pm newscast) the event is sold out and tickets are going on craigslist for anywhere from $25-500.  I remain skeptical..  Then again, maybe The Donald's team as anticipated and the first nnnn people get into the main room and the rest are diverted to overflow.  We do not have reserved seats.

I haven't decided if I'm actually going, but my ticket will not be for sale.  the event is scheduled from 2-4pm.  Add in travel time and it pretty much burns a valuable weekend afternoon.  Those are rare enough so the time alone carries a high value.  If someone already known to this blog or me to theirs, I'll easily cede the ducat gratis.

I kinda bet this is going with the airline model "sell more seats than we actually have and if people get bumped, ces't la vie."  That's not an indictment of them, just a reasonable expectation.

* AZ Standard time is the most stable time base ever.  GMT-7 always.  We never change!

08 July 2015

Assembly Complete

I posted a month ago Some Assembly Required.  Tonight we unveil the finished product:

I like the contrasting colors and very happy with the finished product.  As a review, this is an FMK lower acquired via a FoNRA auction, with a DPMS lower parts kit and adjustable stock.  Topped with a Bushmaster upper in 5.56.  The sight is a Sightmark dual red dot with laser picked up at yet another FoNRA dinner.

And the assembly was almost trivial.  The parts are sized to only fit where they go.  I started by watching Larry Potterfield of Midway USA build a lower.  Thanks Larry, the video helped a lot!

But there are a coupla gotchas:
Mistake #1, I skipped step one (Clean out all the holes).  The holes looked clean so I didn't sweat it.  Unfortunately the buffer retainer pin snagged in it's recess.  But further investigation showed the hole was drilled undersized.  The hole fit a 1/4" drill perfectly, but the retainer pin measured 0.252" dia.  Hmmm methinks interference fit is not a good thing for a pin that's supposed the slide up and down.  Meanwhile a 17/64 drill bit  (.2656")  was loose in the same hole on the "other" FMK lower (another story from another FoNRA dinner).

I stuck with the trigger included with the LPK rather than a fancypants lightweight trigger.  Mebbe next time.

I'll probably add a BUIS because holo-sights are notorious for turning themselves on a burning the battteries.

Special tools:
Larry goes on a while about all the special tools required to build but I found most were not needed.  The lower armorer's block takes the place of the "third hand" by holding the lower fixed.  Also the roll pin starter punch set made the roll pin easy.  But the foreward retainer pin & spring was very easy to install without special tools.

Lessons learned:
1.  Do the assembly in an "aquarium" or "tent", even drape a towel to catch the small parts and springs that take flight during assembly.  

2.  Order extra parts.  Somewhere here in SandCastle HQ is a buffer retainer pin and spring.  They launched while trying to install the aft take down pin retainer spring.  Next Midway order included not one but two retainers & spring sets (~$2-3 for each set - cheap compared to the time to either find them or acquire a new set).  Then the aft retainer spring took flight while compressing.  Fortunately I had a pretty good idea of the trajectory and was able to find it.  I got lucky.  Next time I'll get extras of both.

Heh.. Midway et al ought to offer a "launched parts kit"  That is a collection of the springs and parts that are likely to get "launched" and lost during assembly,  Probably only cost $5-8 dollars.   I'd  highly recommend!

The "other" FMK lower from the "other" FoNRA dinner is black.  The SCSon advocates wood furniture.  And I think he's right.  I think the dark walnut will go well with the black upper & lower.  Question is, what upper do you pair with a wood furniture lower?  To me, wood implies hunting rather than tactical and to me hunting means distance.  I'm thinking maybe a 20" flat top upper, medium power scope and fancypants trigger.  What do you think?

FTC disclaimer: No compensation has been provided or promised in any form for this post.  All parts mentioned were purchased at retail or acquired as described in the post.  I'm a longtime happy Midway customer and greatly respect the support Midway & the Potterfields give back to the shooting sports.  I *think* the SCSon's SCTP team benefits but that's as close as it gets.

14 June 2015

Father-Son Project

Sporting Clays is sometimes described as "Golf with a shotgun"  And the analogy is apt in many ways.

Both events are something of an endurance race.  It's not just the ability to hit the targets, one has to carry the gear while walking the course.  And always in the heat!

A first step to alleviating the load is carrying the gear in a hand cart instead of over the shoulder.  (The ultimate is a motorized cart but that's beyond...}

Commercial carts are available but run about $300.

The SandCastle Queen was out shopping at a local goodwill "just to get out of the house" and spotted an old "jog behind stroller" for an Andrew Jackson.  I said "Buy It!"

So the weekend task for the SandCastle Son and your humble host was to transform this:

a "jog behind" stroller into this: A shot gun roller.

Carries 4 shotties and plenty of room for a cooler & shells.  We even added cup holders after this shot was taken.  It even folds in half for transport (stay tuned for folded pic).

Total all up cost (including the drink holders), around $50 (tax included).

But my real motive for tackling this project was to teach the SCSon to use power tools safely: eye protection, and never let go of the work piece (or clamp it to the table)!  He fabbed the bottom rest which required trimming with a power saw and notching with a hole saw on the drill press.  Also drilling holes in the PVC caps and laying them out on the final piece.

I took wood working and metal working in 7th & 8th grade, plastics in HS and welding in Jr college.   The SCSon's HS doesn't have any kind of industrial arts on site!  If you want to learn those skills you have to go to a different school for those classes.  This was a huge shock to me.  What a disappointment.   These are valuable life skills no matter whether you intend to make a profession or not!   My HS had wood, metal, plastic and auto shops!  Seems someone today sees different.

I re-installed the "baby seat" for storage.  We may design and sew a new storage area in the future, but this will do for now.

Bonus: the SCSon learned to adjust a bicycle brake!  Yet another skill we learned by age 12 in the day but now.. not so much.

The hard part was finding the stroller at a reasonable price.  New, they are $300 easy.  Used they typically run $75+.  This has some corrosion which knocked the price down.  So far the tires hold air but even if we have to replace tubes, we'll still have a nice cart for far less than a C-note.  And hopefully the SCSon's power tool lessons will last a life time.

And many years down the road he will remember building this cart with dad.   *priceless*

I can only hope.

Happy flag day.  We flew ours, did you?

08 June 2015

Some Assembly Required

I didn't go looking for a project.  I was just trying to help.  Really!  And it was a chance to play an easy joke on the SandCastle Queen.

The FMK stripped lower was up for auction at a recent Friends of NRA dinner.  The thing about an auction is that it takes two bidders to get the price up.  One person might be willing to pay Big$$$ for a given item.  But unless there is someone else willing to pay Big$$$ - a little bit, the price will never get there.  So especially on charity auctions I'll bid just to keep the action going.  Here the bidding stalled at too low a price so I bid.   And then I was outbid but by then the price was more than fair so I bowed out.  And there were no more bids.

Then the auctioneer came over and asked a question I've never heard before:  "If I accept your 2nd place offer, how many would you buy?"  Remember I bid just to get the price up.  I wasn't really looking to purchase.  But I ended up taking a lower.  I could have gotten something less expensive online but by the time shipping and FFL fees are included, this price was in the ballpark.  I got an OK deal.  They sold a couple more at my price and the  committee made a couple hundred extra $$$ for the bid.  My work is done.

Plus I got to prank the SCQueen - She & the SCSon left early for a SCSon event.  I texted her "I bought a gun in the auction".  Which is technically correct - the lower receiver *is* the gun as far as .gov is concerned, the fact that it wouldn't expel so much as a popcorn kernel without extensive additional components not withstanding.  The SCQueen responded with an eye-roll... (heh.. score!)

So then came the question of what to do with it?  I figured to drop in a lower parts kit, add a stock and a finished upper.  A 9mm carbine was one thought, but researching that suggested some special parts are required in the trigger group and the finished uppers were in the $7-800 range.

Before I finished the research down that path, Midway made me an offer I couldn't refuse: A Bushy 16" A3 upper for ~half the price others were asking...  This is exactly what I had in mind, 'cept in .223 instead of 9!  I canbuy an awful lot of .223 for the price difference.  I can live with that!  I quickly added the stock & DPMS lower parts kit to the order to finish the project.  That offer sold out in less than a day and it now shows "out of stock, no backorders".

The parts arrived today.  Should be a fun project for the SCSon and I.

The SCSon is amused.. this build closely matches the airsoft rifle he acquired earlier in the year, save  for the black flash hider in place of the broken orange!

01 June 2015

May ePostal

The SCSon and I hit the range with the May ePostal as a primary objective.  Hope you did as well.  The SCSon will be out of pocket for the next few days so get your targets in by Friday AM so he can post by the weekend.

I shot 5 targets but haven't reviewed them to check scores. I might have shot more but .22 ammo is a rare commodity these days!

Update 6/1
I reviewed my targets tonight and here are my best two (different guns):
Ruger Single Six:  a lucky hit on the ME-262 was cancelled out by an unlucky shot on the #2 engine of the center B-17.  That left the shot on a Bf-109 for 10 points:

And here's my best with the .22/45:  one shot took the spinner off a Bf-109, but an errant shot took the rudder off the lowest B-17 for a final score of -40.

I really need to appeal this to the match master.  After all we all know the B-17 took a lot of damage and still made it home, particularly including several examples of returning sans rudder ;-) ;-) ;-)
Photo Credit to Dave's WarBirds.

Photo Credit Dave's WarBirds

Don't let a negative score keep you from sending your targets!  My best score on one gun was -40.  The worst was -180!  (4 B-17s + 2 109's)!

14 May 2015

Internet issues....

I am not an IT guy and I don't play one on TV.  I didn't even stay at a [famous name] motel last night.   The internet should be an appliance like cable TV.  It should just work and I shouldn't have to worry about it.   But for the sake of peace in the home, I have to be.

The SandCastle is back online with the back (old) DSL router.  The very one that quit a few months ago and was then replaced.  Now the new one won't connect to the internet.

Seems to me the problem has to be with the modem.  The DSL service has to be OK if one modem works and the other doesn't.  Same goes for getting into the model (  Works on one (sometimes), but not the other.

We already traded in the "new" modem once, so I'm at a loss.  Is the current model just a turkey?  Time to try another make?

Someone suggested could be a power supply getting flakey.  Good suggestion but I don't think so.  I'm tried each power supply with each modem and the problem follows the modem.  I think we'll try a different manufacturer next time.

Got any suggestions?  I'm open!

13 May 2015

"The hard part was opening the package"

That's what I like to hear!

What is your reaction when some one tells you "You have a tail light out."?  My standard response is "Thank you for letting me know.  We'll get it fixed pronto!"  This was exactly the scenario earlier in the week.

Last night I researched the replacement part number and repair procedure.  Looks like it's a no-tools needed replacement, though the pictures in the Haynes manual weren't very clear (to me)*.

The SCQueen picked up a couple new bulbs while out and about today.  The SCSon agreed to take a crack at putting them in.  Rather than telling him how to do it, I pointed him to the repair manual.  He found the relevant section and enthusiastically replied  "A picture book.  Cool! I can do this!

I inquired about the repair upon returning home.  He replied with "I didn't know which side you wanted replaced so I did both.**" and then the title quote.

One day he will realize the reason I asked him to replace the bulbs stretches far beyond "free maintenance" for me.  The more important lesson is "the engineers have made some of these jobs real easy!  you CAN do this yourself."

A college roommate apparently had no clue ordinary people could make simple mechanical repairs.  I came home from school one day grousing about a flat bicycle tire.  As I pulled out the tools & patch kit he looked at me bewildered and asked "what are you doing?"  "There is a hole in the tube... I need to patch it."  "And you can do that YOURSELF?" he asked incredulously.''

It dawned on me roomie and I grew up in vastly different worlds.  His dad was a furniture salesman and paid others to do what he didn't understand.    His dad understood deal making.  My dad was a hands on fix-it-yourself-engineer and how stuff works.  He grew up on a farm and there was no one else.  I learned at his knee and been patching tires since learning to ride.

I hope to pass along the latter lesson to the SCSon.  You CAN do this!

* This is not a knock on the images in Haynes or any repair manuals.  I've taken extensive "before" pictures prior to extensive invasive automotive surgery and found my own pics significantly less than 100% useful in the "after" reassembly phase.  Or maybe it's just me and he interprets the pics significantly better.  If so, good on him!

** My bad for not being clear.  He'd helped me verify the problem so I thought he knew.  But "replace both" was my actual intent.  We're replacing a possibly 24 YO light bulb.  Just how long do you expect the other one to last?   The expensive part of this job is the labor.  We're already in there, just replace the pair.

10 May 2015

FoNRA dinner 2015

Completely skunked on the raffles this year.    The last raffle item (a gold ticket) was a ~$1500 pistol course with Rob Leatham.  My ticket is 15642.  The ticket pulled was 15641. Dang that hurts!  The night has been a story of near misses but this is the closest,   Ouch!

We picked up a silent auction La Pierre quote:

I bid on a couple other items including a .22 revolver but someone else bought it outright.  (I'm kicking myself because I should have done it first!.)  Yet again, "ya snooze, ya lose!"

I purchased an AR-15 in the live auction (The SCSon & SCqueen had already departed for an evening of paintball)..  Upon retuning home the SCQueen asked "How much did you pay?"  Me:"prolly too much!"

Stay tuned for the rest of the story in a few days. (The game is afoot!)

if there is a FoNRA dinner near you, I highly recommend it.  No matter how cold the Prime Rib (and it was), no matter how cold the coffee (and it was) the dinner & games are still a magnificent time!

Update:  The committee called to tell us we didn't pickup our entire purchase.  The sign included a brick of .22 ammo!  That alone is probably worth the price paid (And they'd have likely gotten alot more for the package if it were made clear).

02 May 2015


If you see a teenager carrying/manipulating a rifle.  DO NOT CALL POLICE!!!

The SCSon is on location in Daytona Beach FLA for the National Drill Meet.  He reports there are posted notices warning of teens carrying guns and it's OK.    DO NOT BE ALARMED!!!

Here is the actual posted notice at the SCSon's hotel:

Very tactful I must add...  Now if only the power outlets in the SCSon's room might provide some power,,  The SCQueen reports "it's an old hotel"...  My response "110VAC is as basic a need as water"

March well team!

(If I might quibble,  It's not that these rifles will not shoot, rather these rifles CANNOT shoot.  There is a difference between "will not" and "can not".  As a  weapon, these rifles are most effective as a "club".)

02 April 2015

Well Played, Sir!

If you haven't seen this, treat your self to 2:11 of awesomeness!

Nicely done.
(via theblaze)

20 March 2015

Sun in my eyes...

The Sun was setting as the SCSon and I headed to the local electronics euphorium to acquire a new router/modem.  We headed West on an freeway section aligned East-West.  I asked the SCSon if he understood why the Sun was right in our face this late afternoon making driving especially challenging.  It was within a day of the Vernal Equinox.

That led to a discussion of sun angles and what is the meaning of Equinox & Solstice.   My good friends at Cap'n Bob & Damsel (though we haven't actually met) have a great image that illustrates this well.   Good times and one day this will help him on a test!  (or a crossword puzzle, which ever comes first).

Just another day in being a Dad.

19 March 2015

Back online

The SandCastle Wired router gave up the ghost today.  The SCSon reports it was about 0930.  He was watching YouTube vids and then.... nothing.  But the SCQueen who connects wirelessly had no problem.  That suggests the problem is not with the ISP, but rather the Wired net had died.

Home for lunch I tried to log into the router (  "webpage not available".  I pinged it but it came back 100% fail.  These things don't last forever.  Best guess this one was 7+YO.  

The SCSon and I visited our local electronics emporium and came home with a new DSL modem/router.  The only hard part of replacing the model is finding the account name & password that the router uses.  The only time it's used is setting up the new modem and that's been 7+ years.  A phone call four phone calls to ISP support later we had the info.  I should probably put that someplace safe where I'll be able to find it next time...

The network has been configured with the WPA key and default admin password changed.  I think we are good to go!

7+ years, I'm not going to quibble.  But I wish they had a graceful failure mode!  This "sudden death" behavior leaves a lot to be desired.  I can't help but wonder if this is a Tin Whisker failure.

18 March 2015

Taxes Are Filed!

I believe my 2014 taxes are correct and complete so I pulled the trigger and filed same.  At least on the Federal side.

The hard part of doing my taxes is that part of the DayJob(tm) compensation is in the form of DayJob(tm) company stock.    That means tracking "basis" which is anything but trivial.   It used to be that we were on our own.   Now the brokerage reports a basis, but 's wrong!  it's wrong because it only tacks acquisition cost, but doesn't include the part of the basis has already been reported as ordinary income, and the brokerage calculation does not comprehend that.  Plus there are additional adjustments.  Heck, now that it's done, I think I should take on something easy, like mastering Chess!

What a P.I.T.A.!!!  I would argue the most useful class offered by the DayJob(tm) HR team is the class on how to report stock based compensation.    Bravo!  Ole!  I couldn't do my taxes without you!

The fed return was filed electronically for two reasons: First, I paid for it with the program purchase,  And 2nd, because THEY OWE ME MONEY!  Filing electronically gets me a quick refund.

I'll file the state on paper for two opposite reasons:  I OWE THEM MONEY!  Thus I'm going to wait until 11PM on the final filing date.  Also it costs me an extra Andrew Jackson to save the state the data entry cost of my return.   You've set up a system with a negative reward scheme.  I'm not in the business of spending money to save the state money.  What a broken system.

Don't blame me for playing the game.   If you changed the system where I filed electronically free, you wouldn't have to spend money manually inputing my return and you'd get my payment sooner.  Fix it and you'll get my money sooner!  eFile should be free!  It's a a benefit to you!

I know, I'm tilting at windmills.

PS... My Dad (LTC US Army Ret) in retirement is now a tax prep pro.  He does taxes for fun!  If you need tax help, he's your man!  Drop me an email and I'll pass along contact info.  Don't worry about his or your locality, he serves clients worldwide.  All docs are transferred encrypted and secured.

Tell him I said Hello!

14 March 2015

driving lesson

The car needed a smog check and there is a light industrial area in the vicinity.  Light industrial means wide roads and nothing to hit.  Also on the weekend they are deserted.  Perfect setup.  Plus the BP meds were a tad too effective and I needed to drive up the numbers.  NOT!

As per any normal first timer learning how to drive a clutch, he's having trouble with the concept of adding power with the right foot while the left foot adds load.  We have to work on that.  I only wish I could introduce him to the fully syncro-smash(tm)  (e.g. unsynchronized) transmissions I learned with.

In addition to the previously noted anticipated repairs, I'd like to add the following:
1.  A new starter.  In 15 minutes training, we hit it 22 times.
2.  A new battery.  The reason we hit it 22 times and not 23 is because the battery was dead!  It didn't have enough power to fire the Bendix.  The SCSon learned another important lesson: the push start!  That ended the lesson while we drove home and put it on the charger.

The SandCastle Queen adds her own prediction: Mucho Hair Dye to cover the grays!*

The good news of the day is the car passed the smog check with flying colors.  25% HC, 20% CO, 56% NOX (percentages of allowable limit, not total).  Not bad for a 24YO car with enough miles to drive to the moon!

* Honest to God, her gray hairs do not register on my retina.  I simply do not see them.  But they bother her so, I'm OK with the colorants.  Better living through chemistry!  Rah!

11 March 2015

Attention Arizona Neighbors

Fair Warning!

The SandCastle Son passed the written test for his learner's permit this AM.  My Arizona neighbors are advised to stay well clear of the sidewalks.

Given the cars available to drive here at the 'Castle, I have two predictions:
a)  he's going to get a fast lesson in learning to drive a manual transmission.  And
b)  A new clutch in my (near) future.

Dang it seems only yesterday he was learning to walk.  Time flies!

09 March 2015


Hope you all had a good weekend.  I did, capped off with an 0035 cursing email to OldNFO.

Let me back up...  The SCSon had Skeet practice Saturday.  I brought "The Grey Man -Payback-" to read as it's kind of 2 hours of downtime for me.  The coach is generally good about letting parents participate but they had a lot of kids and they are the priority.  I didn't even bring a shotty...  Between a run to gas up the car and a snack run, I got to page 21.

I picked it up again Sunday after a few chores.   Here's a few things I remember:

Oh look at that, page 118, hmm  already 1/3 the way through.

Page 186, dang halfway...

I set it down to watch TV after page 194.  less than a minute later, "wait a minute... what was the title of that next chapter" and picked it up again:  P195: "The Shot"  The science of long range shooting holds a deep interest for me.  I wish I knew more about the practical side and experience with same.  Note to self, add to bucket list.  Ok, I gotta see how this goes...  And kept reading...

P322:  Wow... well,  it's not yet midnight, may as well see how it ends..

And the 0035 email..  So effectively, I read -Payback- in a single sitting.  I haven't done that since the last 500 pages of "Sum of All Fears" [Clancy].

Nicely done, JC.  Put me down for a signed copy of book 3.  I know you're good for it and you know I am too.  Keep it up!

26 February 2015


The SCSon is on an 8 hr bus trip today.  It's a nice travel bus with video but the trip rules require G & PG movies only.

He dug around the attic and came up with an original copy of Star Wars episode IV on VHS.

Han shot first!  Greedo never fired.

20 February 2015

Doin' my Taxes

I mean,what else would I be doing on a Friday night?

Here is the outrageconfusion of the day:  I'm entering a 1099-B manually.  Here's the question posed:
Box 3 makes sense:  Was the basis reported to the IRS?  I can reasonably infer a checked box means Yes.  But what about "Box 2  Type of gain or loss".  The possible answers are "Short Term" and "Long Term".  Which one does a checked box mean?

The more I use HRBDeluxe, the more I like Glenn Reeves' spreadsheets!  They have already given me the answer.  I'm still trying to figure out how to get my data into HRBD :-(

Update 20Feb2015 2140: I had to experiment  to learn how it works.  If box 2 is not checked, it doesn't ask any further questions.  But if box 2 is checked, it takes us to another page where it asks the short/long term question.

Com'on guys.... a) you could have put these two questions on the same line of the first page and b) if not, for any reason, at least throw me a bone and give me a hint on how I should check the original box.

19 February 2015

Tax Software Update

Last rant noted how Turbo Tax screwed the pooch by changing support levels without making it plainly obvious, enraging the user base in the process.  Meself included.

HR Block came recommended by people I respect and the third seemed to have it's own issues.

Strike one came when HRB wouldn't (past tense)  import my 2013 return,  The program just crashed, no exceptions, no nothing,  Just bang, you're dead.

I "solved" that problem by upgrading my windows computer from XP to 7.  Yeah, MSFT dropped XP support last year so is it reasonable to expect another company to support XP?   Maybe not.  Table the question for now.   The Win7 upgrade was in the plans, the CD & new hard drive were on site, I just needed to take the time to do the build.   2 hrs install + 6 hrs baby sitting win7 updates later + another week of daily updates, now Win7 is finally up to date.  Oh and the old hardware that ran XP just fine is crawling running Win7.   I see an upgrade in my future.

HRBDeluxe Strike 2:  It won't (present tense) import my DayJob(tm) W2.  Importing data is more than just the time savings.  Manually entry risks a data entry error.  Easy to do and hard to detect.  Keeping the data in the digital domain reduces these errors.   Apparently my S&P500 listed DayJob(tm) uses a payroll processor not supported by HRB.  GAH!!

HRBD Strike 3: it also won't (also present tense) import 1099's from my bank.  The error code 2000 suggests the login information is incorrect.  But it is correct and several others have reported the same error so it seems the problem is in the software.  I need a fix this week, not "mebbe next month!"

I'm also not crazy about having to enter the 1099 details in line by line.

HRB - Dudes... Intuit did a full on face plant giving you a free shot.  Don't blow it! You need to react quickly and fix these problems post haste!

Is this Whiffle ball?  How many strikes are they allowed?  Intuit-don't get cocky..  That little de-support sleight of hand cost you 527,692 strikes.  There is no coming back from that.  Get back to your corner of shame.   But HRB isn't really making the grade either.  Mebbe I should take another look at TaxAct.

Another option just popped up on the radar:  I was about to start recreating a spreadsheet.  But a cursory internet search showed someone else has already done the work:  Glenn Reeves has posted Free taxform spreadsheets.  I used to create my own spreadsheets to do my taxes but decided the time involved wasn't worth the $40 savings.  So far, they look great!  I'm going to give them a try.

The download is free but if they are useful I'll contribute.