25 November 2010


I want one... a light sub 3 pounds, all the peripherals my 5+ YO laptop doesn't have (Wi-Fi. bluetooth, camera) and enough battery life to not even sweat the usage.

I've been waiting for prices to hit my $250 trigger point and they are finally getting there.  Unfortunately it appears they are reaching that point by cheaping out on the battery.  The new low priced units only offer "3 cell batteries, with up to 4 hours battery life.

 Caveat Emptor, baby!  Read those specs carefully!

Yuk... I'm not buying those either.

PS... Samsclub had an HP that looked good for $228.  But I couldn't find in the ad when the sale started.  I figured it was probably 5 am but in what timezone?  No matter, apparently the sale has started and they are already sold out online.  And there is NFW I'm getting up at OMG-dark-thirty to try for one at the local store.  I'd rather pay the extra $50.

Update: The SandCastle Queen is nothing if not relentless.  While we missed out on the SamsClub HP deal, a little bird tells me she found an even better deal in today's Fry's ad.  A Toshiba with the 6 cell battery for $199!  And our local store still had two in stock.  She beat feet up the road and caught one of them.  Looks like there will be a netbook under the SandCastle Tree!  Woot!

21 November 2010

Top Gear, American Style

Episode 1 leaves me less than impressed.  The BBCA shows are a hoot with the interaction between Jeremy, Hamster & May.  Even a former neighbor visiting from the UK (picture middle aged British mum, about as far from a gear-head) raves about the show.

Mega props for dramatic photography and the cool cars.  But starting off with not just supercars, but the ultimate in supercars leaves me concerned.  Specifically, where do you go from there?   Can they talk superlatively about the latest BMW, Porche or Prius after driving the hottest Lambo's & Vipers?

Good call to start off with Buzz Aldrin as the first guest.   Talking about the cars he's owned and why is good, but where are the questions like "so you walked on the moon at age 39.  What have you done since then?  Surely he'd have had some more interesting stories to tell (Seems I've read of him criticizing NASA for not pressing more for a Mars mission).  Guess that footage ended up on the cutting room floor.  He drove your car, give him a chance to sell his vision.

But so far the host personalities aren't there.  NYTimes has an article detailing the history of the show and the attempts to transplant it noting especially there have been several cast changes.  That suggests it's hard/difficult/one-in-a-million chance to get the three way chemistry to go critical.   NYTimes article notes one guy is a stand up comic and another does stand ups for NASCAR.  Could be but I wouldn't know as NASCAR is about the one form of motor racing I don't follow.

Also it's embarrassing(an insult really) they felt the need to explain "The Stig".  "You will never see the face nor hear the voice."  Did WKRP have to explain Les Nesman's bandaids?  Or Captain Kirk's ripped shirts?  NOOOO!  Let the audience figure out the gag, explaining it in episode 1 is an insult to the audience's intelligence! What's next... explaining that the hosts never win any of the challenges?

The SandCastle Queen suggests one of the hosts should be a woman.  Maybe she's right.  Surely there is at least one female gear-head that would fit in and offer an alternate perspective to the "My Lambo is better than your Lambo" argument  beyond "Your's is made of plastic". 

However the look forward to next weeks show holds some promise.    Two of the hosts make fun of Tanner Foust for being a drifter "So you're the Brian Boitano** of drifting?"  Maybe the personalities will come through.

Top Shot also started off slow (like the first 8 episodes), Maybe this is a similar slow start.   I'll stick with Top Gear for a while. But so far it's miles behind the original.

(How are they going to top Jeremy's V8 Blender?  And how about the absurdity of their version of the Olympic Biathlon?  Enquiring minds want to know!)

* An uber-technical driver is not required for the show, but hosts should be able to rattle off the cars specs and know what the numbers mean.  ("redline" is not a makeup tip.)

** I had to look up the spelling because I care about spelling names right.  I didn't know how to spell the name because I follow ice skating even less than NASCAR.  In fact, any "sport" with subjective scoring, really isn't much of a sport.

19 November 2010

Bad career choices for $400

Answer:  Robbing a Phoenix jewelry store

The owners are on site and they are armed.   In this case the good guy fought back and bad guy #1's gun went off killing bad guy #2.  The good guy is OK.

Look for this to bump Marooned's DGC.

16 November 2010

I Opt Out.

I love to fly but I hate airline flying.   When death row inmates have more rights than an airline passenger, something is very, very, wrong.  And that was pre-"enhanced passenger screening".  It has only gotten worse.

My objection stems from the fact that airline passenger screening is a joke.  It's a show to make other passengers feel good.  TSA is looking to prevent the last attack.  Current radiated/gropage protocol is a result of last year's (yes, a year delayed!) underwear bomber attack.  But it doesn't stop the creative and determined terrorist.  Just ask any prison guardcorrections officer about how thoroughly do they search (patdown) inmates and visitors, and yet how much contraband makes it way into jails and prisons.   I don't want to get too graphic and fortunately I don't have to since Christopher Walken explains it so eloquently.   Do you really want to go through airline security after terrorists set off a bomb secreted inside their body?
Considering all the ground time associated with airline travel (drive to off airport parking, ride the bus to the terminal, wait in line to get irradiated or groped (your choice) , walk the 1/3rd mile to your gate and check in early enough to ensure your seat.  Not to mention the taxi time at some airports from the gate to takeoff can be nearly an hour ( I once asked a stewardressflight attendant for a class of water 45 minutes after leaving the gate and with the runway threshold nowhere in sight due to choking on a dry throat).  The breakeven between driving and flying is around 6 hours.  Last night a caller to Cam & Company noted he quit flying several years ago.  Where he used to fly he now drives.  His additional time in only about 2 hours.

Pre-9/11 I could put up with about 3 airline trips a year.  Post 9/11 that dropped to one a year.  Now in the year of "You agreed you be groped when you bought your ticket".  I'm done.  Alpha Mike Foxtrot.  It's one thing to grope me, I'm adult and never been raped.  I can "close my eyes and think of England", but totally another to expose my family to the gropage.  Go grope someone else. 

Now here is where I have an advantage.  As previously mentioned, I love to fly.  Many years ago I realized a lifelong dream and earned a pilot certificate.  Today instead of cruising the freeways at 70MPH, I'm cruising the airways at 220 MPH with me in the front-left (captains) seat. That moves the time-wise break even point considerably further out.  As a bonus, SandCastle Airlines has NEVER lost my luggage!  As a general rule "If I can fly direct (no fuel stops) I beat the airline's direct flight.  Similarly, one stop for me beats one stop for them.  (5 hours at 220 mph works out to at least 1100 miles).  (There is a delta cost but I'll pay that and consider it the cost to log the time and avoid the grope). 

The best part is I completely avoid the security theater.  Instead, I fly in the best security available.  I personally know each and every single person in the aircraft.

I Opt Out.  If TSA is involved with me getting from here to "there", I really don't need to be "there".  Or maybe if I do, I'll have a fourth amendment case!

* open offer... if this "opt out" option tickles your fancy I am happy to explain how to get from here to there and what it costs and answer questions though the training process.  I do this pro-bono.  Not see a nickel of your $$$ will end up in my pocket.  Rather I'm interested in seeing more certificated pilots out in the air.  I can only hope my guidance will add to this goal.

07 November 2010

Merle seeks airgun recommendations...

Merle in the comments to the post on the value of practicing at home with an airgun when you can't get to the range asks:
Well, that pretty much does away with my last excuse to not buy an air pistol.

Does anybody have a preferred brand, perhaps one with a better trigger?
I want to give his question maximum exposure so I'm bumping it to it's own post.  By all means, do your research (Caveat Emptor, baby!)   Though you might have better luck on a specific air gun forum. A quick search turned up "the new Crosman forum" and surely as the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow, there are more out there.

I bought the Crosman 1377 pistol because it looked like what I wanted (a target airgun) and the price was right (~$50).  So if you have a favorite airgun recommendation, Merle would like to hear from you.   Consider the comments section open to recommendations.

I also complained about the trigger in the comments but I'm wondering now if I've been overly harsh. It's heavy and it has a bit of creep. Or does it...

My fish scale shows the trigger break at about 3# with a full 10 pumps, 2 1/2# empty. Nothing wrong with that. It may feel heavier because it's a thinner trigger than my other pistols (1/8" vs 1/4").  BTW, the Crosman forum mentioned above includes a step by step procedure to carve a trigger "shoe" out of PVC pipe to improve the ergomonics by spreading trigger load on your finger .  TBS, I'm thinking Bea would appreciate this mod.

I think the trigger creeps a bit but I'm not sure how to accurately put a number on it. 

Also, it's a $50 pistol. The trigger group is almost certainly constructed of stamped metal parts and they probably don't spend a lot of time cleaning up the mating surfaces.  A nicer trigger is going to require more careful machining and that will drive the price up.

The real question is what do I expect for $50? I'm calling the 1377 a fair deal.
Surfing the interwebs turned up some posts suggesting it may be possible to improve the trigger but I need to do more research before I start grinding metal.  I'll start with carving the shoe.

03 November 2010

SCSon's LEGO(r) mission

A few posts back I mentioned the SCSon created the program to complete a FIRST LEGO league mission in about 90 minutes.

Here are the details.  The mission has two parts.  First to insert a "bone bridge", into the bone.  The bone bridge is the white/gray piece at the bottom of the pic and it has to be placed into the slot on the just above it.

Second part requires bumping the opposite end of the bone to kick the ball into a goal (not shown).

Here's how it looks with the SCSon at the controls:  Note the robot guides against the south wall to ensure it's correctly positioned to set the bone bridge.

Heh.. we may need to dial back the kicking force as it broke the bone bridge and left the ankle disassociated with the leg.  That would be a bad thing (though the rules say if the ball scores, so does the bone bridge!)

chalk one up for Linux...

I use an fairly ancient Dell Laptop for remote uses.   It dates back to the generation just prior to "built in WiFi" and hence I use a slide in PCMCIA card for wireless access.  It seemed to work fine for FIRST LEGO league this afternoon but would only stubbornly BSOD at the Conservative Bloggers thing tonight.

Fortunately the laptop is configured to dual boot with Fedora Linux and it had no problem with the WiFi card.  Thus I was able to actually surf and post while Winder's XP sucked wind.

I'm just saying, While Windows blew chunks, Linux saved my day.

October ePostal results

Traction Control has posted the October match results.

Lest you think you can't get to a range to shoot these contests, know this.  I tied for second place, one point out of first, shooting a stock $50 Crosman air pistol and the cheapest .177 pellets I can find.  The range is setup inside my garage.

The pellet trap is $16*.  The swingers are fun but the first set broke before I'd shot through the first tin of 500 pellets.  I also use an old piece of carpet as an extended backstop for shots that miss the trap.

So there you have it...  2nd place with a $50 gun and a range set up in my garage.  If I can tie for second, you can do better!

Manfred is scheduled for the November match but is battling system issues. In the meantime CTD has a zombie match up.  Entries due by Nov 29th.  Stay tuned, it's looking like a two-fer month! 

* Eye protection is absolutely mandatory.  A significant percentage of the shots are reflected back into the garage.

02 November 2010

Stand By!

The SandCastle crew will be hanging with rest of the Az cool kids live blogging the election results from the KFYI studios.  We'll be on live starting about 7PM local.  See you then.

Update: Internet issues are now resolved and we are up and running.  Comments will appear here at the SandCastle proper and also on KFYI's wordpress sight.

Update 2:  Apparently the crossposting is inop.  You can follow the goings on over at http://dollarjoe.com/election2010/