31 December 2008

Phoenix Light Rail

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

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

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

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

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

29 December 2008

Winter GBRM range session

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

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

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

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

26 December 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total cost about $335, and no crapware!

24 December 2008

Christmas Eve Traditions

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

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

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

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

19 December 2008

Christmas Vacation Kickoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 December 2008

Christmas Wishes

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

5 Christmas wishes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 December 2008

Deliver us from evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

09 December 2008

Behind door number three...

there is a homeowner with a gun!

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

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

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

08 December 2008

SandCastle Sunset

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

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

05 December 2008

Official State Certified Good Gal

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

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

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

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

Love you hon,

04 December 2008

Woo Hoo!

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

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

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

02 December 2008

Shuffling the deck chairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 November 2008

How Rude!

Following a couple days of rainy weather here in the desert, we had a bright sunny day. 70F and little or no wind.

I told the boy to get his shoes on. The SCQueen asked where we were going. "To wash the airplane" I announced. She agreed the boy needed to go along and help. With a warm sun but cool air temps, it was a very nice day to give it a bath.

Following the wash it's customary to take it for a flight, also known as "the dry cycle". I decided to head down to a nearby airport with the $2.95/gallon AvGas. However nearing the airport we were advised the runway was closed due to a gear up landing.

How Rude!

We flew by on downwind and sure enough the runway was fouled with emergency vehicles and a stuck airplane. Someone had forgotten one of the critical factors in aviation.

There a several schools of thought on how to ensure the critical tasks are completed prior to touchdown:

The GUMPS check is a common one (Gas on fullest, Undercarriage down, Mixture rich, Prop forward). Some add the S but I don't know what it's supposed to stand for. Perhaps Speed. Conjured acronyms don't work for me. Also, when I was taught GUMP, it always seemed the tasks needed to be done at different times.

A USAF trained pilot related they were taught to check aircraft configuration at every turn in the pattern and again on short final. IOW, Entering the pattern: Gear down three green, Flaps 10. Turning base, Gear down three green, flaps 20. Turning final, Gear down three green flaps 30. Short final confirm gear down full flaps. Great, but what happens on a straight in approach?

I was taught by an airline pilot to fly a speed schedule. The arrival process starts back at the top of descent from cruise with a power reduction schedule which is designed to get the plane to flap speed and pattern altitude 6 miles from the airport. There we drop in 15deg flaps which slows the plane to gear speed. As the plane slows to gear speed now about 4 miles from the field the gear comes out. I don't let go of the gear handle until we have 3 green. As we enter the pattern we drop to 20deg flaps. Turning final, recheck three green and drop full flaps.

Find a method that works for you and your plane. (If you have another method, feel free to chime in via the comments)

Some say, there are those that have and those that will. They say the same thing about taildraggers and groundloops. I don't subscribe to such fatalism. My goal is to prove the adage wrong and go to my grave having done neither.

Still it was a beautiful day for a nice flight with the boy. On the way back he asked if we could fly over the SandCastle. Since the airport owning the airspace over the SandCastle wasn't busy they were happy to oblige. He found his school and the house. Completing the first turn we noticed the SCQueen waving out front. We waved back with the wings. Finishing the second turn we headed back to home field.

There may be better moments in life, but this one will be tough to top.

Update: Here's the boy's drawing of the event. Obviously this is a bird's eye view as we flew over the airport at about 1000 ft AGL (Above Ground Level).
So we have a twin engine aircraft disabled on the runway. The large vehicle in the upper left is a fire truck with a firehose at the ready. The smaller vehicle is a police cruiser.

(Interesting... when editing an existing post, it apparently pulls down the original until reposted. I did not expect that. Stay tuned for update 2 tomorrow when the preliminary report is posted. The plan was to do one update covering both, but apparently blogger doesn't work that way).

Update 2: FAA Preliminary Accident Report:
** Report created 12/1/2008 Record 1 **

Regis#: 12VB Make/Model: BE95 Description: 95 Travel Air
Date: 11/29/2008 Time: 2035

Event Type: Incident Highest Injury: None Mid Air: N Missing: N
Damage: Minor

City: CASA GRANDE State: AZ Country: US


INJURY DATA Total Fatal: 0
# Crew: 1 Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:
# Pass: 1 Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:
# Grnd: Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:

26 November 2008

Day off range day

The home range closes only four days a year (New Years, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Since the range will be closed tomorrow and Weekends are SRO as will be Friday after Thanksgiving, I hit the range today.

Today's missions were to a) check SKS sighting and b) check the Sig mags. I still need to prep for the Fall/Winter GBRM and the SCQ had complained that one mag wasn't feeding. Half way there, I realized I'd forgotten the big SR1 target and the spotting scope. Oh well, I can buy/rent both at the range for less than the gas to turn around and go back home. (Yes these are the calculation running through my head).
I pulled up to see a lot of shooters standing around. Figured "Rats we're in a cease fire and I won't have time to post a target". That means sitting around for the next shooting period until I can put a target out. But some days you just live right. The red flag was still out so I grabbed the big bag, signed in and found a bench. Just in time to hear "One minute warning..." Cool perfect timing.

Head to the target hut where I find a frame with an unused target, exactly the target I intended to shoot! The cold winds are howling and it's drizzling a bit. Guess it exceeded someone's threshold of pain. I took the target and posted it at 100 yards. The sights were set where I thought appropriate for 100 yards and proceeded to put 40 rounds down range. (then warmed my digits on the barrel)

Set up another target frame for minimum range to check out the Sig mags.

Cease fire called. Set new target at 11yards and collected the 100 yd target. All SKS rounds hit high. Looking close at the sight, it can go down a bit more. Good info, just what I wanted to know.

Loaded up all Sig mags and ran them through without issue. The SCQ and I need to have a talk about limp wristing and grip 20% harder. Poked a bunch more holes with the .22. Can't wait for the ePostal matches to start up again.

24 November 2008

Bogus headline

"Man Found Dead at Usery Mountain Shooting Range"

Story here

Which immediately makes one think someone was accidentally shot.

Actual story
"The victim ... was found on a roadway around 7 a.m. Monday near the Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club..."
The death has nothing to do with the club but of course that's not the impression left by the headline.

Update: This morning's print edition has a more accurate headline:
"Man found dead on road near shooting range"

23 November 2008

New shooter range report

Note to self: When making a range trip, don't forget the bullets!

I'll have to check, but I'm pretty sure that's really high on the priority list.


1. Eyes & ears.
2. LEDs* to shoot
3. Ammunition as appropriate to the LEDs.
4. Clips/Magazines as appropriate to the LEDs.
5. Targets
6. spotting scope (if rifle distances are involved).
7. etc

Yea, #3 on the list. I can get targets at the range and most can be used single shot mode without the clips or magazines. Heck I can even rent a spotting scope for a buck. But bullets are not available at the range.

The whole Raison d^etre was to give the Sister In Law (SIL) some experience with the 9mm. As a secondary goal, I grabbed the SKS to check sight alignment in preparation for the Fall/Winter GBRM, and a couple .22s just because they are cheap and fun to shoot.

The range was crowded and we had to wait for a bench. While standing there waiting, it occurred to me I forgot the 9mm ammo. Checked the range bag. Sure enough, a big box of .22 and a couple 7.62s but no 9mm. The SCQueen headed to the nearest Wally world to get more while we waited for our bench.

A cease fire was called and we were notified of an available bench. We posted a target at the 100yd line to check the SKS while waiting for the 9mm. I put about 10 on target, the let the SIL try. She later commented favorably on the "low recoil". The M1 Garand she shot during the last range trip apparently left quite an impression on her.

The SCQ returned with a box of shells for the 9mm. I was surprised she only bought one box of 50. She pled sticker shock, $19 for a box 50 WWB, and only bought one. As soon as I started to load a magazine, the reason for the price was obvious. These were hollowpoints. Checking the box, they were 147gr FMJ-HPs. Now this isn't the SCQs first ammo trip to Wally world. She said the guy behind the counter was clueless and she didn't catch the error. It's also possible they were out of the cheaper 115gr round nose WWB and this was all they had left. It's also not like I haven't made a similar error recently so this should not be taken in a disparaging tone. It's not meant that way.

I pulled the target in to 11yds (range minimum) and put up a pair of 8inch Shoot*N*Cs. many of her shots missed entirely. I tried and put one in the 8 ring at 11 O'Clock. I think we need to talk some about sight picture.

We shot some of the 147gr FMJ-HPs. Rummaging around the range bag, I found some magazines were preloaded with 9mm. Between those, the SKS and the .22s, we made a decent range trip for the family and SIL who took home a very nicely perforated target. But it severely crippled the reason excuse for the trip. Oh well, we'll just have to make another trip! And the SIL is good with that.

* LED = Lead Emitting Devices

21 November 2008

Beautiful day for a layoff

Our CEO at the dayjob(tm) has decided that business conditions dictate shutting down the manufacturing side for a week to prevent over building inventory. This of course represents a paycut to those in manufacturing. And to prevent hard feelings within the company, he had dictated that the rest of the company will also take the same paycut. However while the manufacturing side has a specific week to be layed off, the rest of us get to choose when to take our unpaid week, so long as it's within this quarter.

Ok, this is a paycut. But it's a paycut of the best kind. The money comes back when the work comes back and in the meantime I reclaim something of value (a day off). It also avoid the unpleasant alternative: An actual layoff.

When the news came out, I checked my calendar and realized there were only 7 remaining fridays in the quarter. So I told the boss I'm taking five of em off.

Days one and two were spent wrenching on airplanes as annual inspections were due.
Today was layoff day #3 and could end up as a perfect day:

1. Slept in but woke up in time for Rush (10 am local). Temps in the high 70's, pushing low 80';s.
2. Headed out to the range to test out some new powder in the .223 loads. Scored about 20 really nice Springfield 30.06 brass! Woo Hoo
3. Washed the car (Couldn't see through the rear vinyl rear window)
4. Post annual test flight. The first flight out of annual is always a bit of a test flight. Not quite testing out a new theory, but rather a test of the plane to see what was left unattached. Much as I would have liked to take the SandCastle Son with me, these flights are strictly solo. Today was a loose screw and a quarter turn fastener. Nothing fatal. It also offered the opportunity to fill up on some 100LL at $2.95. Yea, Avgas just under three bucks a gallon. Over the summer we saw prices pushing $6 and even now the best price at the homefield is $4.30 so this is really quite a bargain. Saved about $75.

Add it up: Day off, warm temps, shooting, flying, etc. Does life get any better?
(There are other elements to a "perfect day", but to since this is a family friendly blog, I'll leave those unwritten)

19 November 2008


Blogger published a post long before it was ready. I can't figure out how to delete it but I can edit it. That means you get VACATION PICTURES!

So here's the story. We (SCQ and myself) were sitting on a log at Old Faithful eating lunch. SC boy was standing facing us munching on his sandwich. Suddenly his eyes turned to saucers. We turned around to see this guy moseying about 30 feet behind us. Even though he was trailing a pack of paparazzi(some of which may be seen in the upper right of the frame). I set lunch down, grabbed the camera and came up with this shot.

17 November 2008

Most Annoying Feature Ever Imposed on Users..

Sometime back a year or so ago, the Dayjob(tm) switched over from Notes to Outlook. In someways Outlook was quite an improvement as Notes was a veritable Jabba the Hutt definition of bloated software, while the current incantation of Outlook was much lighter and faster.

But somewhere along the line it came with the Most Annoying Feature Ever: "Reading View".

Opening a .DOC file attached to a message, instead of just opening up in Word's normal WYSISYG mode, it opens in "Reading View". On my system it comes up in a two page book format, but the text in each "page" is blown up to the point that it might get three or four words per line without discernable formatting at all.

Q: How does this help?
A: It does not. It's really quite annoying.

Why does this feel like a feature dreamed up by some PHd candidate on how to make computers easier for older users? The idea seems to be to blow up the text so it can be read without putting on ones reading glasses. But of course when the text is blown up like that, the formatting gets trashed... so they just don't format it at all! Gee Thanks. The formatting was there for a reason. It clarifies the meaning of the text and makes it easier to read. Oh, and BTW, if I'm working on the computer, I already have my readers on! Thanks for nothing.

I had asked around to see if anyone knew the proper MSIncantation to disable this "feature". No one did, but heads shook in agreement at the annoyance of it all. Today the annoyance reached critical mass which caused me enough to pop up the paperclip and type in "I never want to see the reading view ever again". And Low and behold, it told me where I could turn it off!

Halleluja! Tip of the day: Tools|Options|General tab, uncheck Open in reading view.
The checkbox is a little hard to find as it's not in the left hand column. Instead it's all alone at the top of the right column.

15 November 2008

'Twas the ides of November...

... and all through the Castle,
not a creature was stirring
'cept... um ... a couple of cats.

That opening rhyme needs work... Sorry, a poet I'm not. No apology. (Feel free to post your rhymes in the comments)

The SandCastle Son is off at a weekend long birthday bash, and the SandCastle Queen (SCQ) is taking a CCW (Carry Concealed Weapon) class. After taking the Babes with Bullets class, she felt confident with the weapon and wanted to get her CCW.

Arizona mandates an length and content of the class. Leading up to the class she was apprehensive that she was the only woman in the class and that their might be some yea-hoo in the class. You know the one... Wears combat boots and camo while bragging about covert operations. But the beer belly physique and beater car suggests quite a different background. I promised her there would be one of those in the class, all the while hoping that with a class of only 8, she might get lucky.

From the stories she reports, it was even worse than expected. The day started with the Yea-Hoo, er, Socially Inept Character (SIC guy) bragging "I killed a man with my bare hands in New York. I head butted him three times but the sucker wouldn't go down...", and "I was required to register myself as a deadly weapon". The class rolled their eyes in unison and the stories got worse as the day wore on.

I happened to be chatting with the Arizona Rifleman FTF when she called on lunch break. She was disappointed in her shooting only 90% on the qualifier (5 shots at 5 yds, 5 more at 10 yds on "the biggest target we have"). She said a breeze in the range caused the target to flap about. She asked to try again. The instructor shooed her away saying "This is a 70% government test. You passed, now go away!"

She further related how whenever the SIC guy spoke up the two guys a the table with her would pick up the application form and point to the "Adjudicated Mentally Defective" question.

Since she had completed her shooting qualification, I took her weapon home. Good thing since as class wore on they talked about different confrontations. For every story the instructor told, the SIC guy always had to top him. Ugg.

JR the instructor kept the class lively and entertaining. Most of the class is on is justifiable and what is not. They teach the basics - your CCW is for protection of yourself and immediate family. Anything else, you don't have enough information. Call 911 and hope for the best. The discussion of different scenarios alone are worth the price of admission. "As you arrive home and open the garage door, someone runs out and heads down the street with your stuff. SCQ answer: "Call the insurance company and say I want new stuff!" She also now understands my suggestion for the umbrella insurance policy. Of course the SIC guy wants to engage and shoot 'em in the back.

She's tired and her application is almost complete 'cept the state required processing fee money order (no, the state doesn't take checks or cash). SandCastle Son is also tired and ready to sleep in his own bed too. Expect din to resume normal levels in the AM.

13 November 2008

No it won't...

A flying car based on a Ferrari could be ferrying wealthy commuters to work within two years, designers have predicted.

No it won't. Story here

The first line of the story told the tale: "... is being developed by "Moller International"". Moller has been working on the topic for decades and never actually produced anything that's flown untethered. I don't buy their "insurance requirements" excuse. If you're going to sell a flying machine at some point you have to take off the leash and they never have.

Further, I do not recall ever hearing that they have taken a vehicle through FAA certification. Quite the contrary, they intended to sell the M400 with a 10 foot AGL limitation to avoid having to get FAA Certification.

Certification of flying machines using a proven configuration that the FAA understands, is a demanding process. Now you want to certify an unproven configuration? Expect that effort and cost to multiply. By what factor? 2x? 3x? 5x? 10x? Any of these would be reasonable guesses.

And good luck getting an FAA waiver to let you take off and land on public roads. That means you're limited to existing airports and heliports. Which negates the vehicles main feature - leaping out of and over traffic.

So lets look at the finances. You've got this machine that's worth the better part of a $million. Aircraft are built light. A soccer mom yakking on a cell phone backing into it is going to cause significant damage. Not to mention the distracted driver that blows a red light taking off the back end. Good thing you weren't T-boned because you probably wouldn't survive. Instead just the car is totalled. His insurance limits won't cover the loss and he doesn't have two nickles to rub together. Can you afford to write off that $1E6 as a total loss? You'll need collision insurance and that's going to run something like $30k a year. That $30k buys a pretty nice new car to leave at the other airport and the other half million you didn't spend having your $350k Ferrari converted to fly buys a pretty nice plane that will fly faster and cheaper, including the pilot, to fly you to that airport.

The bottom line is that when you try to build a machine that does two such vastly different tasks, you end up with a compromise that does neither very well. Car-boats (like the Amphicar) work but they don't stack up very well against cars or boats. Amphibious boat-planes do better but the boat hull, floats and wheel retraction mechanism extracts a significant performance penalty. Heck I'll even throw helicopters into the mix. The ability to fly at zero forward airspeed greatly increases complexity, reduces useful load and limits maximum speed over a conventional airplane. Efforts to build convertables such as the Osprey just make the complexity problem worse.

However they seem to be going after the "money is no object" crowd. When you've just spent 40 minutes in a traffic jam, been passed by three snails and now are late for the Board of Directors meeting for your $1B company. How much would you pay right now to get out of this mess? At a million bucks or ten, you'll probably get a couple takers.

10 November 2008


We have a winner!

Subtitle: Michael Ramirez +1

Though if I may quibble; to my eye the figure above the heels more resembles "ThunderThighs" Hillary than Sarah...

(Link blatantly stolen from Kevin)

07 November 2008

Friday afternoon rant...

Two things...

When you leave a voicemail and expect a callback, DO NOT leave a long rambling message describing the problem, then rattle off your phone number like a lawyer in the last two seconds of a used car commercial. Say it slow and say it twice. I may not be ready to copy the first time, and if I have to start the voicemail and listen to the rant again, I'm gonna be annoyed. And that's going to delay the response.

Two, if you're tailgating me down an eight lane freeway (4 lanes each direction) honking and generally acting like a jerk is not a very good way to get me to speed up or move over*. I'm already 6 over the limit and passing a car in the next lane. You have 4 lanes to choose from, pick a different one.

This is especially a bad thing to do when I'm headed to the range and have several weapons to choose from. BTW, given that I was fairly lightly armed today with only a pair of .22s and a 9mm, which weapon did I reach for? Answer: None of the above, not even the proverbial middle finger salute. I reached for the cellphone. Once he figured out I was dialing 911, he found another way past me two lanes over with nary even an evil glance.

Sometimes just the threat of a 911 call is enough to end a tense situation. When it's not, what's your plan B?

* My general attitude towards faster drivers is "Hey knock yourselves out. Go find those DPS officers laying in wait. " I always like a blocker if you get the Burt Reynolds reference.... Just come up easy and I'll move over as soon as I get to a safe place to pull over. Then you can take off and attract all the unwanted attention, letting me cruise on by while Officer Friendly writes you a ticket.

PS.. I need to find that old digital camera and keep it in the car for just such occasions...

06 November 2008

Aw Nuts!

Stopped by the local Sportsmans Warehouse the other day for powder & primers. As mentioned the other day, for small quantities the hazmat fee kills any savings from mail order places.

But opening the bag tonight, I see instead of buying CCI 500 Small Pistol Primers, I actually brought home CCI 550 Magnum small pistol primers. While I missed the word "Magnum" on the package, I recall reading CCI 550 and thinking, "yea that's right". So its my bad for not reading carefully before buying

No store is going to take them back, no matter how unopened the package is. Seems my options are to either find someone locally to take them, or buy a gun that uses them.

Looking through my databooks, only Lyman's 48 shows the CCI550 as applicable to the .357 Magnum. Are there any other uses for the primers?

04 November 2008

We are so screwed.

MSM has called the election for the most socialist ever.

I have a number of scenarios how this plays out, and even the best case is pretty bleak (I keep my Dayjob(tm) but taxes take all my money(Earnings, 401k, healthcare)). The worst case leads to a second civil war as the old maxim of "A democracy will only last until the majority learns it can vote itself largess from the treasury."

I'll have more to say later on the quality of the campaign later... for now we'll let the drowning of sorrows begin....

We are so screwed.

03 November 2008

Reloading Blues

Ain't got no primers (ba ba ba ba bah)
Ain't got no Brass (ba ba ba ba bah)
I'm almost outta powder (ba ba ba ba bah)
I think I'm gonna crash.. Cuz I got those..

Reloading Blues....
Reloading Blues....
I wanna pull the handle
But I just don't have the news...

Ok, ok.. I'm gonna keep the Dayjob(tm).

I've loaded up everything I have to the limits of the raw materials.
9mm - out of bullets, but fat on brass.
.40 - out of powder, way low on brass, just a handful of mixed headstamps.
.223 - out of powder. Bullets and brass are critically low.
.30 Carbine - no Brass.

The SandCastle Queen made a trip out to Sportsmans Warehouse today in search of IMR4895. For small quantities, the hazmat fee is significant so I prefer to buy locally. SW was out of the 1lb jars, but had 8lb kegs. I passed. I shoot far more pistol than rifle and 8lbs would last me a really long time. Also, their price was ~150 something. Powder Valley's price on the 8lb keg is thirtysomething dollars less which easily covers the hazmat & shipping. Besides, I really don't want 8lbs of powder sitting around the house.

Oh well... FedEx has custody of 26 lbs of 9mm & 223, should be here on Thursday.

31 October 2008

How to get rid of a troublesome neighbor

Subtitle: Yes, you can find anything on the web.

So we're sitting out on the lawn in front of the SandCastle, got a fire going in the portable fireplace even though we are having a rather warm fall and OATs are still in the mid 80s. You could not possibly imagine a nicer evening to enjoy the warm evening and an Ale.

We have lots of trick-or-treaters. More than live in the area. In fact we strongly suspect most are bussed in from "across the tracks". A few are too young to understand as mom & dad push them around in strollers. Some are too old and costumed quite... Um, provacatively. Some of the older ones don't even bother to dress up.

The neighbor across the street really gets into Halloween. He's been working on his graveyard for a month. They have a smoke machine, strobe lights and some really spooky music going.

For a moment we were suprised when a police cruiser pulled up and a young guy dressed in a very authentic uniform stepped out to talk to the neighbor. Another neighbor called the police over the noise at 7:30 PM on Halloween. In reality it was probably the officer's easiest call of the night. No argument, no grief, no problem. The volume went down and that was it. I guess there is one in every neighborhood and we all know who the local whiner is. The officer would neither confirm nor deny, but there was a body twitch at the mention of the whiner's name.

So the link that popped up tonight when verifying the spelling of "Neighborly" on the left hand side, seemed especially relevant: "How to get rid of a troublesome neighbor". Hmmm that's almost too coincidental.

30 October 2008

Charlie & George in unison: " Waaaaaaah!"

Caught Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopolis on the news wringing their hands about how early voting is a bad thing.

Video here.
CG: "They don't hear the whole campaign play out"
GS: "Voters are voting with varying degrees of information and they may miss some last minute news. "

GS practically blurts out "They haven't heard the October surprise!". Offered as evidence, he brings up an OBL tape four years ago and GWB's DUI eight years ago and a 1992 indictment of Caspar Weinburger relating to Iran Contra.
Waaah Waah Waah!

Guys, I have news for you... Absolutely nothing could make me pull the lever for your chosen socialist big government, freedom limiting messiah. That was true three months ago, three weeks ago, three days ago and will still be true five days from now on election day.

Unfortunately it will be proven true three months from now if the Big D majority starts passing bills to limit our 2A rights and redistribute the wealth. The tax increase won't start at $250k, nor $200k, not even $150k. I'll bet the actual line will be in the $80-100k range.

Eliminating 2A rights will start with re-instating the AWB and go on from there. Massive taxes on ammunition? Microstamping? Propellant tagging? Ban private sales (AKA Gun Show Loophole)? All that too. No scheme will be off the table.

Of course CG & GS know most voters have already made up their mind. They are really whining about the so called "undecided".

29 October 2008

BSA comes through

Earlier in the month, Midway sent an inexpensive laser sight. It was really a $25 bet on a dry fire training aid as the laser makes any movement obvious. I can practice dry firing while keeping point of aim.

But one of the threaded holes for the mounting screws was a little too large. A replacement screw helped but didn't cure. So I called the number for BSA service. First off, the number is a toll call. Who these days does not have an 800 number for customer service? When the line answered, it put me on hold saying "All operators are busy helping other customers, please hold for the next available agent." This went on for 10 minutes then forwarded me to voicemail. I tried again. Same story. 10 minutes on hold just about to the second. I left my name and number and (politely) expressed my disappointment. This gave me lots of time to carefully read through the fine print on warranty support: you have to pay shipping both ways. They want $10 for S&H on their end and roughly $5 outbound. So in effect any warranty service on this item will cost 60% of a new item.

Given the strikes against them (toll call for help, voice jail & exorbitant shipping fees), I chalked it up as a "you get what you pay for" lesson learned. So I was genuinely surprised to get a call back. Jessica asked a couple questions including when did I buy it. She came back with "replacement of defective parts is free for the first 30 days. Just fax your receipt and a description of what is wrong."

A week or so later I got around to writing the letter and faxing it with the receipt.

The replacement parts arrived within a week and seems to have solved the problem.

BSA could learn a lesson from RCBS, but they made good on the defective part. Will I buy another BSA product? Well this episode served to reinforce the old saw "you get what you pay for." With BSA, you don't pay much and it's a fair deal.

The laser itself is not bright enough for daytime use at the local outdoor range. But indoors and as a training aid, not to mention "Helping bad guys make informed choices". I'll say the $25 BSA you do have is better than the $300 Crimson Trace you don't. If it fails, I'm no worse off than without it.

24 October 2008

Gotta love the local elections commission

I'm a pretty opinionated person. (a shocking revelation, I know). I don't waffle on many issues. Any waffling is really "don't cares", like Dog Catcher. And then I'm just as likely to write in "Ham Sandwich"

I also don't like to stand in lines. Since my state allows vote by mail, I've signed up for the permanent vote by mail list. That means a ballot arrives in the mail about 30 days ahead of the election. I sit down at my leisure and cast my ballot. Drop it back in the mail the next day and I'm done. No trying my patience while octogenarians slowly search for my name in their rolls.

That also means I voted and returned my ballot roughly two weeks ago.

So what arrived in today's mail? A sample ballot.

The registrar of elections knows I've voted. They update their lists of who has cast an early ballot on a weekly if not daily basis. They do this so the candidates can mark the early voters off their lists and not waste their resources calling on people who have already voted.

So why does the elections divisions waste my tax money sending me an early ballot weeks after I've cast an actual ballot?

Inquiring minds want to know.

22 October 2008

I Hope to He!! they're right!

Surfing through the channels, I caught a bit of Nightline. They were talking about how win or lose, Sarah Palin is a political star rising. If McCain Wins, She'll be the heir apparent. If he loses and there is a fight to challenge, she'll have a seat at the table.

I hope to He!! they are right! Sarah Rocks. JSMcCain sucks donkey appendages. Immigration, free speech, etc. BLEAH! Grand Dame McCain's comment about "Holding their nose and pull the lever for Johnny" was almost too much to swallow. Sarah is the sugar on that horse pill that lets it go down. And I mean that in an idea logical way. Drill in Anwar, lower taxes, 2A proponent, Immigration. You go girl!

Lets be clear. I do not like McCain. I've voted against him in his last two at bats. Last three if you include this recent presidential primary election. I wish he weren't the nominee. Quite frankly, I wish the ticket were inverted with Palin at the top and anyone else on the bottom. But McCain's still a darn sight better than the viable opposition if for no other reason than SCOTUS nominees. So here's the bumper sticker I've been meaning to create. (please keep your critiques to yourself on my rendering. I am admittedly "artistically challenged", to use the polite term. Instead please do better and I'll adopt your version!)

The Mother-in-law (MIL) and offspring unit had a moment of pause when I exclaimed "I'm voting for Palin". The MIL had to think about the comment a bit before the meaning sank in. It was a teaching moment for the son as I explained how the people do not actually elect the president and electoral college does. And thus, I can't really vote for Palin without voting for McCain. But Palin is the reason for the vote.

President Palin? F^(% Yea! She Rocks!
Next Reagan? I'm optomistic! We NEED another Reagan!

20 October 2008

October e-postal match

US Citizen offers an interesting twist on the e-postal match. Shooter gets to choose the distance with a multiplier incentive. So base distance is 10 yards with a multiplier of 1. Shorter or further earns a multiplier based on the 10 Yard distance.

So Shooting the match at 50 yards earns a 5x multiplier. Here's my best target submitted:

As usual, there is a close call. This time on the center square. I called it a hit. Here's the hi-res scan, feel free to disagree (Send your dissenting opinion directly to USCitizen@well-regulatedmilitia.org) Better yet, send your winning target to the same e-addy!

So I score this 290. Five 8's and Three 6's at 50 yards. 58 with a multiplier of 5 equals 290.

You still have at least one weekend, mebbe two to shoot your own entry. This entry represents less than 60% of the available score at this distance. Can you do better?

15 October 2008

Babes with Bullets

SandCastle queen just got home from 3 days with the ladies of Babes with Bullets.

I talked her into signing up after hearing Kay Micuilek on Tom Gresham's Gun talk, and reading Melody Byrne's AAR of last year's class. A couple co-workers signed their wives up too.

Leading up to the class they were all apprehensive. But since it was already past the refund date, they went with it. Since we're local to the range, they also decided to come home each night rather than crash at the townhouses.

End of day one: Arrive home, eyes at half mast, muttering "I hope I make it to tomorrow" and "what have I gotten myself into". Head straight for the shower, eat dinner and then straight to bed.

End of day two: Arrive home wide awake and jazzed. Couldn't wait to talk about what she'd learned and done. She felt like she was shooting well and then they started in on moving. She felt comfortable shooting from a standing position, but the movement took her well out of her comfort zone. She took it slow and kept the accuracy.

End of day three: called me while still working the dayjob(tm). "Not the fastest time, but I avoided the no shoots, got all A zone hits, including one dead center on a swinger target!

Tonight she 'fessed up to her initial reluctance but now says it was one of the best things she's ever done in her life. We'll see if we can get out for Tuesday Night Steel next week.

THR moves to new home

Time to update the bookmarks!
Welcome to the new home of The High Road(tm) forum.

My name is Oleg Volk, and I am the owner of The High Road(tm). When I started
the forum in 2002, my vision was to create a place where people from around
the world could engage in cordial discussion of RKBA related matters.
Since then, you have helped make The High Road(tm) one of the best places on
the web for learning about firearms, for educating new shooters and for
supporting effective advocacy of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Due to pending legal issues, I am moving the forum to a new home at
TheHighRoad.us. This is the one and only official site at this time,
owned by me. The same high standards of civility apply. In the near future,
we will provide more than just a forum. The High Road(tm) is becoming an
information and activism center for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

With the help of GeoVario, our new host, The High Road(tm) is now online in
its new home. The new location of The High Road(tm) --
http://www.thehighroad.us -- will serve our members while the conversion
of the .org domain name by THR's former sysadmin is being challenged in
court (Copy of the complaint available:
http://www.geovario.com/legal/Complaint1.pdf ).

Feel free to mirror this announcement on your blog (here is a link to mine
with details of this matter and how you can help.
http://olegvolk.livejournal.com/474369.html ). If you link to THR, please
update the link to point to thehighroad.us Eventually, both .us and .org
addresses will point to the same site again.

Thank you all
- Oleg Volk, Owner
The High Road(tm)
You'll also find a link to THR on the left.

10 October 2008

Sensitive Digits

The BBTOJ made a delivery today, with the latest order from Midway USA. SandCastle queen needed some single stack mag holders for an upcoming class. I had them put in a BSA laser sight since one of the pistols had a naked rail. Worst case, it's a $25 bet on a training aid.

I had ordered one several months ago, but it arrived broken in the package. Midway of course took it back without question and refunded the price. I got the feeling they sent the whole batch back to the supplier.

Installing it on the pistol, one of the screws felt stripped. It just turned and turned without getting tight. The literature included a tan stop sign saying "DO NOT RETURN TO STORE..." Hmmm... that's new. But I figured I could just get a slightly larger hex head screw at the local Ace hardware and get it going tonight instead of waiting until Monday to call and then another week or so to have new parts shipped.

The helpful guy quickly identified it as a 4mm (it was like 4 minutes to closing on a Friday night and I think he was motivated to get me the He!! out of the store). The 5mm screws looked huge in comparison so I went back to the 4s. Rolling one of theirs and the old one between my fingers, I could feel a size difference. Side note - this is why I went to Ace, bypassing the Home Depot two miles closer - I can actually touch the hardware while HD has everything encased in plastic. I've heard fingers are extremely sensitive in comparison and can detect a ridge as small as a ten-thousandth (.00001) of an inch. "This one's bigger" I said.

The helpful guy looked at me like I was crazy, felt the two and announced they were the same size. Then he screwed a 4mm nut on each and threw them on the counter as to say "SEE!". (Not his finest hour I might observe)

I took the nuts off, picked up both screws and said "Thank you, I'm buying this one anyway".

Sure enough at home the new screw fit perfectly. Pulling out the micrometer, the new screw measured 4 thou (.004") larger.

Update: (10/13) I sent the bottom part of this post to Ace Hardware via their website. I did this for two reasons. First to thank them for having the hardware out where I can touch it. And second to let them know the helpful guy could have done better. The local manager sent an email this morning asking more details of the event.

BTW, looking back, "threw" might have been too strong a word. "Tossed" is probably a closer verb. "Threw" implies force behind the event while "Tossed" implies much less energy. But he didn't just set the bolts down either. It was a flick of the wrist that showed he dismissed my "different size" assessment.

He could have handled it better. I hope he doesn't suffer much from the complaint, but rather takes it as a teaching moment on how it could have been handled better. Particularly the part where "the customer is always right".

09 October 2008

Gas Prices

I'd like to note, we all bitch and moan when gas prices take on skyrocket-like climbs. But I'd like to note a precipitous slope the other direction.

Case in point, I was at the gas station on 10/6 and put in a couple gallons at $3.199.
Today (10/9) at the same station it was 3.099. A full dime less in 3 days.

Still high yes, but definitely headed in the right direction! And with Oil prices headed the same way, I hope it will continue.

Car update

I put the car back together tonight. The original scraping noise apparently was coming from one of the timing belt covers. The Miata engine has 3 plastic covers over the timing belt. Interestingly enough, the top two are available on ebay while the bottom one is not. Calling the normal "Miata recycling center" was rewarded with the answer "We have one but it's pretty torn up too".

Ok, Seems to me this is a weak point is the design. Called an old friend who owns several race prepped versions he rents out for racing. He also says he's short a lower cover.

Seems the problem is that the timing marks are cast into the part and when the water pump/alternator belt breaks it tears the marks away from the rest of the cover.

OTOH, the part was only ~$40 from the dealer. Yea, pretty pricey for a piece of plastic with metal inserts but cheaper then the couple hours it would take to make a fiberglass copy. Toss in another ~$40 for replacement an upper radiator hose and belts (AC and Waterpump/Alternator). Now she's back together, but may still need a radiator tank. Seems to have a pinhole leak. But since it's a plastic tank, I'll drill it out and try a screw & gasket before spending the time & $$$ for an new one.

06 October 2008


Subtitle: "Step 7 Fabricate Tool"

Ok, By choice I drive old cars. They are cheap to buy, cheap to register and cheap to insure. The downside however is that they need more repairs than newer cars. But since I can handle nearly all of these repairs, it's a net gain to me which preserves hard earned $$$ for more interesting uses like flying and shooting.

Most of these jobs are not too terrible for someone with a modicum of mechanical skill. A water pump change on my old car (1977 280Z) was a 20 minute job. On my Truck it's an 18 hour job. I wasn't sure where the job on the "new car" would fall. Reading the manual all was well until it said "remove timing covers (Section 2A)". Referring to section 2A it says "Remove crankshaft pulley". Then step seven says "Fabricate tool".

There isn't room for the impact wrench, but the crankshaft pulley is slotted which allows for hooking a lever. That and a breaker bar might do it. Look around the garage. Hmmm.. this handle from an old floor jack looks like a good starting point (Once again vindication for a packrat). If I can run a few bolts through this to fit into the slots... Hmmm might work. Take a few measurements, diameter of the slots, width of the handle, include room for a bolt.. 1/4" x 1 1/2" should do it. It's late but Home Depot is still open. Yep this should work, .13 each. Wait.... Grade 8 bolts would be stronger. $0.48 for the pair.

Drill the holes, run the bolts and give it a try...

FAIL! One of the grade 8 bolts has sheared. I think the problem is the bending moment. Tomorrow I'll cut down the bolts (after I buy new ones) and give that a try.

Now I fault Mazda for making removal of the crankshaft pulley a requirement to change the water pump. But I fault both Mazda and Haynes for simply saying "Fabricate tool" without any guidance on how to do so. In the past, manuals have been known to say "Use special tool xyz123 to remove..." but at least they'd show a picture of "special tool xyz123" so as to give you an idea of how it was to work.

No such help here...

Update: Second time is a charm. Back to Home Depot today for more grade 8 bolts. This time shorten the length to move the stress more to shear and less to bending. Prop the lever against the frame and pull on the breaker bar. Success!

03 October 2008

Rippin' Vinyl

As a quirk of my formative years, most of my music collection is on vinyl. Heck, one album is titled "Vinyl Confession", not "CD Confessions", nor "Digital Confessions", but "Vinyl Confessions" (Kansas-1982). I have about 120 LPs while only about 75 CDs. And I've never bought an MP3 or anything in a digital format, no napster, no i-tunes, no wal-tunes, etc. And while I have a couple "MP3 players", I'll never own an I-pod!

So tonight while doing other tasks, I'm ripping vinyl. Courtesy of an ION USB turntable.

On the Turntable tonight:
- Styx: Cornerstone
- Zebra: 3.V
- Europe: Final Countdown (Special request from the SandCastle Prince. Apparently it's big in the cartoon set these days)

Lessons learned
Audacity is by far the way to go, once you learn to use it. ION's cheat sheet ("Audacity Software Guide") is pretty good. In fact, I'd say they hit exactly the right mix of how to's and why's.

They offer their own ripping software but it requires far too much interactivity and requires i-tunes. Audacity lets me rip away and come back to clean up the pops and chop up the tracks later.

In a purely cost/benefit analysis, depending on how you value your time, one could make a pretty good argument for either buying the track in digital format, or at least the CD to RIP is a cheaper way to go. CD's can be ripped hands off in a couple minutes, while Vinyl takes about an hour per LP. But I'm enjoying the oldies. Most of my vinyl is near three decades old. Heck, a couple have never been opened because I accidentally bought duplicates.

An American Carol

Opens today and I'm not going to rush out and see it. SandCastle Queen has been raving about it for weeks and really wants to go. Rush and Hannity have pretty much asserted it's the duty of every Conservative to go see the movie and make it a commercial success.

I'd actually like to see it and I support the conservative cause. But these days the "Theater experience" is only slightly less annoying than the "airline experience" (But I don't want to give them any ideas). It's too expensive these days, in terms of both time and money. For example, We have a MovieMegaplex just a mile or so down the road. It takes about 5 minutes to drive there, 10-15 to find a parking spot. Then it's a 1/2 mile hike to the ticket booth and a 20 minute wait in line once there. And now they tack on 15-20 minutes of commercials before the feature actually starts.

This all means a typical 100-120 minute flick takes the better part of 3 hours out of the day. And that doesn't even begin to cover the high ticket and concession prices.

In all, I'd rather wait until it comes out on DVD when I can buy it for less than the cost of the "theater experience". So while I hope the flick does well, I'm waiting for the DVD - because of the movie house BS, not because of the flick.

30 September 2008


VH1C ran a Rush @ 30 special last night... I rolled tape while doing other things. This came in handy when Cam ran a few seconds of the children singing for O-get-a-real-name-bama. About the same time I took a stack of pictures off the shelf, this also fell onto the desk: My ticket stub from Rush's Moving Picture Tour - June 6, 1981.

Only $7.50. IIRC this was about the standard rate for a concert back then (27 yrs ago). Prices today boggle my mind! I looked at a couple has been bands earlier this year, prices started at $55 in the nosebleeds.

29 September 2008

Not sure what to make of this...

On a day when everything is down (Google down 11%, Apple down 22%, etc). At one point today, the only two in the green on my watch list were Smith & Wesson (SWHC) and Sturm Ruger (RGR). Even those ended in the red, but only slightly compared to the 5-25% the others are down.

26 September 2008


I'll nominate Jim Lehrer as "Most irrelevant".

The candidate's answers were obviously pre-written. JL's claim that the questions have not been shared not withstanding... Quite frankly Jim could have asked "What is your opinion of the three toed mountain goat in Afganistan" and the candidates would have spewed the same blather.

I'm believe the questions weren't shared. But it doesn't take a seer to divine the hot issues of the day and formulate answers. Then the candidates regurgitate the memorized lines in a Pavlovian response like trained monkeys.

24 September 2008

Item #14, Check.

Checked item #14 off the "to do this life" list Monday. "Visit USAF museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton OH." We arrived around noon local (having had lunch) and they kicked us out at 5pm. We barely covered it. Here's a couple pics (click on pics for zoomation).

Piper PA-48 Enforcer ground attack prototype. The sign notes it's a 1980's take on the P-51 with gas turbine power.

BockScar - The B-29 that dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

P-82 Twin Mustang

Allison V-3420 engine. 24 cylinders, 3420 CID, 3000HP. It's effectively a pair of Allison V-1710's in a single engine block. Each side has it's own crankshaft. The power is merged through a gearbox at the prop hub.

23 September 2008

Miracle at FL360

We witnessed several truly miraculous recoveries today.

You see, flying home on SWA, there must have been 15 people in wheelchairs lined through the boarding area and spilling out into the hallway needing special assistance to board. They took up about the first seven rows of the plane.

We spent the next 3 1/2 hours at FL360 (36,000 ft). Reaching the gate however most of these first 7 rows were up and out of their seats with out any "need for special assistance". Some were practically elbowing each other to be the first off the plane. It's a miracle! No more wheelchairs! Even though the flight attendant asked them to wait until they had enough wheel chairs, they had none of it and made a bolt for the door.

National Institute of Health really ought to investigate this miracle!

19 September 2008

Tony Packo's

Family events have required a temporary relocation to the Toledo area. While out and about we made the required pilgrimage to Tony Packo's.

Packo's has been on location serving Hungarian hot dogs since 1932. They've become an institution. Celebs of any stripe make it a point to visit and sign hot dog buns which are displayed on the walls. Actors, musicians, heads, politicians, and heads of state are all represented (President Ford's and Nancy Reagan's were spotted on the way in).

Charleton Heston's was on display above our table.

17 September 2008


House passes the NRA sponsored DC gun bill to allow residents to protect themselves


16 September 2008

What planet are you from?

'Cuz if the laws of physics are suspended the way logic and reason apparently are, it ought to be a really fun place!

Sitting here watching the house debate on whether to spank DC over their obstinance in complying with the DC Heller ruling.

So I'd like to politely inquire of Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), what planet are you from? What place in this universe is so utterly devoid of logic and reason. I'd like to visit as I'm sure the laws of physics don't apply there either. Heck, I'm not picky... if "this universe" is too limiting, If you're from a different one, I'd be interested in that too!

Among others she asserted the amendment would:
* Allow children to carry AK-47's"
* May possess AK-47, or a Bushmaster (oh the humanity!)
* Permit "gunrunning" between Maryland and DC.

And of course she had to lay blame for the 9/11 attacks on the NRA.

ENH, et al, How can you listen to the stories "These laws only limit law abiding from carrying guns" and congressman Dan Burton whose secretary lived 4 blocks from the capital and was attacked in her home with only a frying pan to fend off the knife attack. Same for the bare logic of 30 years of statistical data (DC murder capital of the US and the top three are all 30 years), and not see the truth of it.

And the sad part is she is not alone. Denny Hoyer, H. Waxman and others are apparently from the same devoid-of-logic planet.

Rep Mike Ross (D-ARK), Jason Altmire (D-PA) - Blue dog Demos! Bravo

12 September 2008

Subconscious mind or dual processors?

The subconscious mind is an amazing thing.

This evening I headed out on a quick errand just a few minutes before sunset. I headed north on the local street then needing a left turn onto the arterial street. Looking left there is a traffic pattern a few seconds out, led by a minivan in the right hand lane. Checking right another traffic will arrive a few seconds behind the east bound pattern.

Ok, judging the speed-time-distance equation, if the minivan turns south I'll have about 1 second, may be 2 to leap in front of the westbound pattern. The minivan slows and signals a right turn. Check right, yea still have time. Look left *God I hope this works* (thinking leap of faith - I can't see S&^! left)

And before I consciously perceive the threat, my feet are on the brakes and clutch. Peering through the glare a Ford F250/350 truck has skidded to a stop in the second lane. I'm stopped in the first lane while the truck is in the second lane. No blood no foul. Wish I'd gotten a han off the wheel to wave "Oops, my bad". The amazing thing here are the automatic reactions. My feet (as were the truck driver's) were on the brakes before the threat was visibly perceived. To quote Maverick "If you think, you're dead!" Been there, done that. Today! OTOH, whenever I find myself driving with the sun at my back, I turn my headlights on to improve visibility.

Once the truck was convinced I'd seen him and held fast, he proceeded. I still had time to beat the westbound pattern.

08 September 2008

Fourth amendment doesn't mean what it says.

We have a trial for a couple guys accused of serial shootings around the area getting underway. The (very) short version of the story is that the two are accused of several apparently random attacks over the course of 15 months, resulting in six deaths and 20-30 injuries.

But here is what has my dander up tonight. Potential Jurors have been instructed to complete a 56 item questionnaire .

Question 18 has me concerned (emphasis mine):
18. An emergency wiretap was used in this case, and recordings from this wiretap will be admitted into evidence at this trial. A wiretap may be authorized by a Judge, or under certain circumstances the County Attorney may authorize the interception.

Do you have any opinion regarding this procedure? YES____ NO____
Now I'm no lawyer which means I simply have to read the words and make sense of them. Like these here from the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution:
Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Now it only says the warrant must be supported by oath or affirmation, but does not say who judges the request. But if this isn't the job for a Judge, what is? Under what reasonable justification could a politician who arguably has an interest in the outcome be reasonably unbiased in judging the request? Talk about the fox guarding the hen house! Yea, they probably wrote the due process law to allow a County Attorney emergency authority which *wink-wink* makes it legal. How can such authority be constitutional?

And it's not like the request couldn't have been presented before a judge. These cowards were at it for over a year. They weren't running for the border. Past news stories have proudly announced local judges are apparently available 24 hours a day in case a DUI suspect comes in and declines to give a blood sample. (Police call a judge who signs an order and they collect their evidence). The whole thing reeks of a rubber stamp operation. But this was a big case. What Judge wouldn't be proud to wake up in the wee hours to sign the warrant that'll break the big case? Are they really going to argue emergency circumstances prevented timely presentation in front of a judge?

So why didn't he take advantage of the rubber stamp in this case? My guess, they didn't have enough, you know evidence, for even this low standard.

Don't get me wrong. I believe these guys did at least some of what they are accused of and should never again walk among the free. But the prosecutor's tactics should scare us all. We've all seen what happens when unaccountable petty tyrants get an expansive power like this. My biggest fear is that the case will eventually be thrown out by the CA's shortcut, putting these cowardly predators back on the street.

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no inside information on the case. This account may be factually incorrect. In My Opinion!