30 July 2012

Molon Labe, CPSC

Can you see all 216 magnetic balls in this picture?
Last week I had no reason to purchase the toy known as "Buckyballs".  Today I own this set.

I only decided "I must have these""  explicitly because some unelected bureaucrat says they are too dangerous for the public to own.  (Really? Waaaaay cool, mmmust have!)

Here are the 216 blue balls. You can have my Buckyballs when you pry them from my cold, dead, hands!

Really CPSC, you've really overstepped in it this time.  Heel!  You are out of control!

See also, saveourballs.net

Buckyballs... There are many like it but these 216 are mine!

* The 216 blue balls were purchased at retail cost.  I have not received nor do I expect any compensation from anyone associated with Buckyballs.

26 July 2012

ARRL Extra Class License Manual 10th Ed software *crash*

When was the last time you bought a piece of software and it didn't do the most basic functions it is intended to do?

I've run into bugs but the basic functionality at least is there.  I can't think of any time it wasn't.  Until today. 

You see a sibling unit sent an Amazon gift cert for my recent birthday.  I applied it to purchasing ARRL's "The Extra Class License Manual" (Tenth Edition).  One of the things I like about the ARRL manuals is that it comes with software to "flash card" the exam questions and generate practice tests.  I used it to upgrade to General, and the SCSon used it to pass his Technician exam

I loaded the software and set to take a practice exam to learn where I am today and what I need to study.  But starting the practice test, it gave an error message "questions.xml file is missing" and the program crashes.

The real question is how did this happen in the first place?  Verifying the release candidate does the most basic functions, preferably on a machine that has never had the application installed is pretty close to the top of the release verification checklist.  How could they miss it?

An interweb search did not turn up any other hints.  I don't know how I could be the only one to have this problem, but I do have that reputation ;-)  I seem to encounter problems others don't.

The rest of this post documents a work around for anyone else that runs into the same problem.  No need to read on unless you face the same issue.

Tried unloading and reloading a couple more times, and tried it on a Win7 laptop with the same results.

Searching the disk indeed turned up the questions.xml file in directory "c:/program files/ARRL/extra".  While the questions are in the "extra" directory, the application is one up in "ARRL".  As a guess, I copied questions.xml up to the same directory as the app and now it works.

BTW, my "assessment" test scored 36/50.   Thirty-seven required to pass.
Missed it by that much!

19 July 2012

Video, or it didn't happen!

Crimson Trace Midnight 3-gun.

(Seriously, I can't imagine a more phenomenal event. I mean, 3-gun is fun as all get out. But to do it on a no moon night with all the technology to light up the night, Over the top! Glad they grabbed a couple bloggers to attend.

Now the "failure" seems to be "Ok, how do you show this to the world?". I mean, you've come up with the coolest shooting event ever. Only problem is you can't share it with the anyone.

I have some ideas on how it could possibly done, but video is not a strong suit and I'm not up on the technology. Still it seems the technology that allows the shooter to see the target, could also be used to show the action.

Maybe they just could simplify the situation and incorporate some of Joe H's expertise with reactive targets! Keep 'em small and they won't affect the night vision (much ;-).

Again, video or it didn't happen!
(Wish I were there)

(And if there is video out there, I will happily stand corrected and link to same).  Do tell!

12 July 2012

I hate exercise! (updated)

Instead of "Taking the SCSon to" fencing, I am now "Joining the SCSon at". As previously mentioned, there is a really nice facility in the vicinity.  As I just turned 50 and live and work a pretty sedentary lifestyle*.  Now I really need something to get the heart rate up to stave off the diseases of the second half century of life.

I fenced a bit in college back in the good ole' days of Reagan's first term.  It was great exercise while the mind was focused elsewhere. Makes you walk funny for a couple weeks then the body compensates.   A friend invited me to a "boot camp" class a while back.   It was all about getting the heart rate up for an hour a couple times a week and also provided some accountability.  It got me past the immediate goal, but I didn't stick with it. 

Taking into account my OFWG status, I had to adjust a bit on the conditioning end. I did what I could on the games but I lagged behind the teenies.  No surprise at this stage of life.  Life will be better if I can stick with this.  (IMHO the other path leads to a heart attack this before the roar'in 2020s!)   I do not relish that thought.  I am so motivated!

One thing I liked was the "running" section (and I *hate* running), which was not just "jogging".  Instead they mixed it up with inside and outside crossovers, skipping, high knees and high heels.  Crossovers help with coordination.  High knees and High heels work on flexibility.

Tonight the "over 50 N00B" league was pretty sparse.  And it took a while to find a coat and lame(electrical) jacket I could zip up.  They eventually found something I could squeeze into,  Imagine Cinderella's sisters trying to squeeze into a size 8.  or a 6. I may have to purchase my own garments just to make sure there is something into which I can fit.

An up and comer early 20-something was volunteered to spar with me.  He scored a bunch of touches and I think I scored a couple back.  There was a stop thrust that seriously bent my saber.  NFW he got me first.  IMHO he won the bout in no uncertain terms.  The bout ended prior to regulations with sweat dripping into my eyes (note to self - need a sweat band).  I was ready for a break and he was called for a match on another lane.  I saluted, shook his hand and thanked him for the match.

Sidebar- The hand shake is normally a left handed shake. That's because the hood comes off and is placed under the right arm, still sporting the weapon and glove, In the case of a left handed fencer, it becomes an even more odd, left to right upside down hand shake, But the hand shake is important an acknowledgment that this fight isn't personal. It's just a sport. When it becomes personal, it's time to walk away. But as long as you can shake your opponent's hand and thank them for the bout, life is good.

So the SCSon and I wired up for a bout.  I teased... "Here's your chance for revenge I taunted! "COME AT ME BRO"!(apparently the phrase of rage at the schools round these parts)" Think I've been unfair? here's your chance for payback! But also know, if you leave any opening, I WILL EXPLOIT!

I spanked him roundly as he left himself wide open. He needs to learn defense and attack skills. Only way to improve is via challenge. I scored many and he didn't. In reality I spanked him with my aged experience. Hopefully in the future he should overtake me with youthful sensitivities and quicker reaction times. Oh for the old days where they didn't use masks... could have easily left him with a nice scar or two on the cheeks to remind him.

I paid *US* up for the next month. Now we both have accountability to show up tomorrow when they focus on conditioning.

My goal (written here to make it official) is 3x a week. MWTh is the plan.

* that's a big reason I went to college - so I don't have to rake leaves in the 110+ heat.

09 July 2012

Range report - squib edition

It was hot today, but I hate the feeling of "It's too hot to go outside and do anything".  So I announced I was heading to the range.  The SCQueen opted to come along while the SCSon opted to stay home.   I think she was looking for the excuse to drive her new car ;-)

BTW, the official SandCastle Weather station reports 111.6F today.  I note while our temps significantly top our Illini friends, the humidity makes a huge difference.  While they "only" hit 105, I would venture our 111.6 was more comfortable.  It's a dry heat and it makes a world of difference.  But when the wet air moves in and we have night time lows of 105 with 85% humidity... yea.  Welcome to the Sonoran Desert.

So we shot a bit of this and a bit of that.  I brought out the .44 as I still need the practice.  The first cylinder landed better than expected.  I had a problem with the lead bullets pulling significantly left.  The theory suggested perhaps the bullets were torquing the gun as it engaged the rifling, more so than the brass bullets.

We shot a bit more of this and that  Then I went back to the .44.  The bullets were a little stiff going into the chambers.  I'm thinking, "this needs a good cleaning now".  Pulled the trigger on the first chamber to a "click".  Then I couldn't advance the cylinder and couldn't pop out the cylinder.  Just then they called "one-minute warning".    I fussed with it until the RO came around and 'fessed up.  He suggested a solution for the duration of the cease fire.  We tidied up the cease fire period and vacated afterwards.

Heading out, I'm weighing my options.  A).  get it into the garage where I can get a close look at it.  (I was thinking the problem was the next round was not fully seated into the chamber.  Recall the chambers felt stiff when loading.  B)  Take it to a gunsmith.  Probably only cost a couple bucks.

There is a gunsmith on site so figuring $20 here is cheap compared to what trouble I could get into in the garage on a many-C-note gun, not to mention the unwanted attention should it go "bang" while trying to clear it at home, even if it landed safely into a sand trap.  Suddenly the saw-buck seemed cheap.  We stopped at the 'smith shack.  I'd give'em some linky love as they have a reputation for good work but he muzzled both of us with the loaded firearm.  

He quickly diagnosed the round stuck in the forcing cone as the result of the squib load.  Ok, my bad.  He cleared the squib in about 10 seconds.  And we know exactly who to blame for that (I see him in the mirror every morning.)  The 'smith also wouldn't take any money for clearing the jam.  He also allowed he'd let me point the gun at him.  I declined reasoning two wrongs don't make a right.

Still they have a reputation for accurizing firearms.  I've always meant to talk to them about a trigger job on my 10/.22.  The "6 month delay" has always put me off.  Today he tells me 1 month.  Hmmmm...  "that's doable"

For the record, today marks squib #3 in my reloading history.  First was a 9mm.  Fortunately it jammed the gun and it wouldn't chamber any more rounds.  2nd was a .300 Win Mag.  The bullet did not even leave the brass.  Today was a .44 Magnum.  It didn't make it through the forcing cone and jammed the weapon.   3 failures in ~10000 rounds.  Even though each of these  "failed safe", I am not satisfied with this rate.  Reloading isn't rocket science, but I need to improve my loading procedures.

This .44 run was problematic.  I recall loading and disassembling the batch at least twice.  First time, the powder measure wasn't firmly attached to the head.  fearing uneven powder throws, I pulled the whole batch apart.  Forget the 2nd issue, but pulled the whole batch (and may have earned a greenstick fracture for my efforts).  I thought the third time was a charm.

Still it was a nice afternoon "date" with the SCQueen.  Thanks for coming hon!

PS... I had to look up Ofay as well.