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.