29 July 2015

Hot Water is over rated!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 July 2015


As is $Diety$ THAT HURTS!  and THROBS.

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

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

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

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

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

23 July 2015

Armed drone legality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 July 2015

A good start?

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

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

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

16 July 2015

missed it again

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

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

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

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

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

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


11 July 2015

Trump Live Stream

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

10 July 2015

Trump Tix

The SandCastle Crew has tickets to the Donald event tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08 July 2015

Assembly Complete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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