Thursday, December 03, 2009

I Don't Get Vertical Foregrips

My understanding of rifle technique is pretty weak, but it largely breaks down to "whenever possible use your muscles as little as possible." This is because your skeleton doesn't expand or contract, but your muscles are always moving whether you like it or not. Therefore you want to support and aim the gun using rigid skeletal members, not by shoving it about using your muscles which are far more variable. This yields better accuracy.

Enter the vertical foregrip which appears to be designed almost solely to allow you to muscle the gun around. I've tried it and except for being a convenient place to hide a bipod, I find that I'll never get proper skeletal support using one. My accuracy drops into the toilet accordingly.

Now I can understand why some people like it. If I had a select fire weapon, the gun is going to be bouncing around anyway. I'm going to have to apply muscle to it to hold it on target so I might as well affix a convenient lever arm to help me out. But like almost all civilians, I don't have a select-fire weapon. That guy isn't me. Accordingly the vertical foregrip looks to me like something civilian shooters adopted from the military without thinking it through.

Now I'm more than willing to admit my shortcomings in this area. Can someone that shoots a rifle/carbine much more than I do help me out?

Monday, November 30, 2009


From the Timesonline via Instapundit:
SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based. It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.
The issue is not a long-term temperature increase over the last 150 years. 150 years ago was the end of the Little Ice Age, so no one really disputes that temperatures have increased since then. The real issue that has been deliberately obfuscated is (1) how warm the Medieval Warm Period was and (2) whether the divergence of temperature behavior from historical trends over the last 50 years is the result of how the historical data has been subjected to a moving average while recent data has not.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Six months after putting General McChrystal in charge, the news this morning was that President Obama has finally made a decision about Afghanistan. No idea what that decision was as the White House will not divulge its actual content for another week. Is the man such a lightweight that merely having meetings and deciding something is national news?

What's next? This just in, after intense discussions with the highly trained White House chef corps, the President has opted for Cheddar instead of Swiss on his turkey club. The effects of this change on the Presidential Gastronomy should be known early next week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Expensive Deer Hunting

And a deductable later...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This Week's Gunblogger Groupthink Is...

The 5.7x28mm round used by the Fort Hood shooter is no more powerful than a .22 rimfire magnum. It's crap. Why? The 40 grain 5.7 is blazing down range at 1750 fps from a pistol. The 40 grain rimfire mag is moving at more like 1200-1300 fps from the same barrel length. The 5.7 has 80% more muzzle energy than the .22 mag. That's a lot people. Now maybe they'll both through and through with similar terminal performance, but you can't just dismiss that level of difference.

Is the 5.7x28 round a copkiller? No. There are no instances of it being used to actually kill cops. For that matter the civilian legal ammo isn't even particularly dangerous to people in common police body armor. At least no more dangerous than 7.62 Tokarev.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New Look

Ever since Blogrolling went down and then came back with crappy popups, I've been looking to rework my layout. I've been running this one for long enough on the test blog (and using the test blog for my regular blogsurfing) that it's time to put it on here. I don't love it, but I've decided it is a 90% solution. Unfortunately that means the demise of haloscan comments for the time being.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Loving Midlength

I think a discussion of AR-15 gas system lengths deserves it's own post and this is it. The big issue here is barrel length and port pressure needed to cycle the gun. As the gas port move closer to the gun's chamber (and away from the muzzle), the port pressure goes up and the gun cycles harder. This is good in that it is more likely to cycle, but bad in that too hard will break things.

Rifle length systems are about 12 inches long. As they are the longest, they are also typically the gentlest of the gas systems. But if the barrel is too short, then they won't cycle properly because the gas port pressure will drop too low after the bullet leaves the barrel. Because of this they are typically used on guns with barrels 20 inches or longer like the M16.

Carbine length systems are about 7 inches long. There are shorter lengths (like the pistols), but for most people this is as short they want to go. These cycle the action quite hard. Hard enough that Colt had to make changes from the M4 to the M16 to beef up some parts, alter the feed ramps, and use a heavier buffer to slow the bolt down. These are typically used on guns in the 14.5 to 16 inch range like the M4 carbine. However civilians can't have barrel lengths below 16 inches without a special tax stamp, so most people with carbine length gas systems have 16" barrels or 14.7" inch barrels with longer pinned flash hiders to meet the 16" legal requirement.

Midlength systems are in the middle and are about 9 inches long. These shoot softer than carbine, but harder than rifle. It's a happy medium and works very well for 16 inch guns. Since I have a 16 inch gun, this is what I bought. The disadvantage is that this is a purely civilian length gas system and has less support than the rifle and carbine lengths in the aftermarket. Until recently only one company made a free float tube for it. About the only accessory my midlength can use that a carbine can't is a standard military bayonet.

And for the record, I think the 14 inch barrels that are pinned to 16 inches are silly. The 5.56 round need all the barrel it can get to tumble and fragment for proper lethality. I also think the stepped barrels on 16" guns are silly. Military carbines have that feature so you can mount M203 grenade launchers on them. Civilians can't own those either.

Shiver Me Timbers

I heard an interesting rumor on the internet. (And with a source like the internet, you know it must be true.) Rumor has it that the US Coast Guard has started reissuing boarding cutlasses for some drug interdiction searches. Evidently a sailor making a standard drug search was attacked and forced to defend himself with a fire axe. You have to wonder what his sidearm was though.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Being Too Niche a Market

I own an AR-15. This is not uncommon. It uses the 9 inch midlength gas system. I prefer that length for a 16 inch barrel, unfortunately very few AR parts makers tool for it. Lots of them only do rifle and carbine length. If I wanted to free float my barrel, I could go to Rock River for a tube or YHM for rails or cut down a rifle length part or spend a lot of money. I even asked several parts shops at small arms conventions I attended in May whether they were planning on supporting midlength. Several hemmed and hawed, but surprisingly it was the guy at the UTG/CAA booth that felt my pain.

UTG now has an aluminum midlength free-float rail. Not sure I want UTG parts on my gun, but I don't think I mind them putting some downward pressure on the market. More importantly Hogue is now making midlength free float tubes for less than $50. Now that's something I might pick up and put on my gun.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ammo Sales

Looks the like the ammo rush is really over and the suppliers are starting to meet inventory in earnest. While shopping with Amy yesterday, I picked up 200 rounds of 55gr .223 at Dicks. Not only did they have it on the shelf, but it was on sale for $8/20 rounds. That should be my range needs for a few trips at least.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Boom Headshot!

Seasonal hostage situation resolved.

I Concur

Sebastion points out that covering your car in NRA bumperstickers isn't a good idea. Guns are one of the major targets of property crime. Criminals want them and so there will always be a black market for firearms. Criminals especially like to know where you store them, because they don't want to rob an armed man or woman, but they love to rob unoccupied houses or vehicles.

When you put an NRA, pro-2nd, or pro-carry sticker on your car, what you're saying to criminals is "this car might contain guns, rob me when nobody's around." This is also true for anything on the outside of your home.

In a slightly related concept, you're not really concealed carrying if you're wearing overtly pro-gun gear. Some of the esoteric logos might be fine, but anything else calls attention to yourself and makes people take a second look. Not a good idea.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Steam Punk Rock

Note to self: While Jeph Jacques was kidding about the Society for Creative Rock Anachronism, there are actually steampunk bands like Abney Park and Vernian Process. The hard part is going to be finding out if their music is any good without spending money on it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Habitat for Humanity New Castle County has announced their 2009 fundraising Christmas tree ornament: Blue Ball Farm. You may now giggle like an adolescent. But not for too long.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sometimes Complaints Show More about the Complainer

From this article criticizing the M4:
"My weapon was overheating," McKaig said, according to Cubbison's report. "I had shot about 12 magazines by this point already and it had only been about a half hour or so into the fight. I couldn't charge my weapon and put another round in because it was too hot, so I got mad and threw my weapon down."
360 rounds in 30 minutes through your rifle and your gun became unreliable? Wow I would have never guessed that if you overheat a machine, it becomes unreliable or breaks. Ditto the other soldier who ran 600 rounds through his M249. If you want to avoid overheating, you can change out the barrels on machine guns for a reason.

More telling for me is the opener of the piece:
In the chaos of an early morning assault on a remote U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips' M4 carbine quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn't work either.
If someone is trying multiple types of weapons and none of them work, that isn't a criticism of the weapon. If none of the guns work, the only systematic element they all have in common is the soldiers tasked with maintaining them. And there is no magic rifle design that won't fail without proper maintenance.

This isn't to say that everything is hunky dory with US small arms. The SAW in particular is not a very good gun, something the newer lightweight versions of the weapon only make worse. But the M4 is, by all accounts, a decent weapon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hitting the Usual Suspects

Amybear went to a bridal shower today so I was left to my own devices. I was planning on making a trip to Ommelanden, but just as I was getting dressed it started to rain. The doppler map of the area showed that it was going to last a while, so instead I made a survey of the local gun shops.

The result? Miller's has a lightly used Sig P6 for under $400. It was a reasonable piece at a reasonable price. Patriot had a used Heritage Rough Rider with both .22lr and .22 rimfire magnum cylinders. I have a hard time spending big money on a .22 and that seemed like a nice little gun. The also had a Pietta 1858 Navy model converted to .38sp. Great gun except that the bore of a .36 cap and ball is larger than a modern .38 so you can't feed it any old ammo off the shelf.

Patriot is also stocking EAA's Windicator model of .38 and .357 double action revolvers. Good trigger, very nice grips, and all steel so I'm not too concerned about them. They're a lot of gun for under $300 and seem well worth the price.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I just finished reading the Twilight books. Pretty good in spots, but not without their faults. The most annoying thing is how emo Bella Swan is in books two and three. She's the first person narrator for 90% of the novels so you can't really get away from her either.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roman Polanski

He's a pedophile. Stop defending him. While he was taking naked pictures of a thirteen year-old model, he got her drunk with champagne and quaaludes, and then he raped her in every orifice. Around that time he also had a romantic relationship with fifteen year-old Nastassja Kinski. Polanski was in his forties during this time.

Stop justifying it. The excellence of Chinatown or the Pianist or Rosemary's Baby doesn't change anything. His pregnant wife being murdered by the Manson family doesn't excuse it either.

On a related note: Mumia did it. He's a murderer not a damn martyr. Kindly stop trying to free him.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Young Adult Employment Stinks

Instapundit points out that the worst job market right now is the 18 to 24 year-old non-students.

My question: does this have anything to do with the skyrocketing price of unskilled labor thanks to recent minimum wage hikes? Congress enacted a minimum wage increase that took it from $5.15 to $7.25 over the last 3 years. Meanwhile the job market has gone in the toilet. Who gets paid the minimum wage? Kids living with their parents. What a surprise 52% of them are out of work.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy

So Michael Bloomberg's Mayor's Against Illegal Guns is an ideological front for the Brady Campaign? That's amazing, that's astounding, that's... well not really surprising at all. I wonder if the Joyce Foundation pays any of MAIG's bills for them. That would complete the anti-gun circle of life.

Big Screen Goes Bust

The 42" Philips we picked up about 16 months ago died a couple of weeks back while we were visiting Amy's parents. It's going to cost us $700 to fix. Seven hundred minus... carry the one... ah right that equals time to buy a new TV.

This time around we're going to go with a 40" Samsung, either the 40B530 or the 40B550. I'm leaning towards the 550 just because it has a few extras ports and supports firmware upgrades via USB. We'll probably go with Best Buy because we ended up having Geek Squad look at the Philips when it broke. The 4 year extended service contract through Best Buy costs less than a home visit fee from the repairman without it.

But I have to say that I really hate buying TVs. It seems like none of the stores have decent feeds playing on their TV walls. Best Buy's tape loop is all herky jerky so you can never tell what is going on or accurately pair two TVs. Walmart's feed was so fuzzy I'd have thought it was standard def if the pictures weren't widescreen. What I want is still images with good color depth, slow pans that let me pick up on pixelation, and finally quick motion that repeats at least 3 or 4 times in succession so you can accurately compare motion blur on two different TVs.

UPDATE: We hit Sears and Boscov's before picking up the 40B550 at Best Buy. The feed sears had was awful, but it wasn't exactly their fault. They were showing one of the high def ESPN channels which, unfortunately for them, was currently showing a pro basketball slam dunk competition from the mid '80s. This did not make for good high def viewing. Boscov's was showing a different ESPN channel that actually worked very well. Slow shots of brightly colored uniforms, the occasional quick break for repetitive motion, and wide pans over the venue all made for good comparisons. Unfortunately they didn't carry the TVs we were looking for and didn't have the same repair apparatus to stand behind what they were selling.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Trivial Tidbit

Today's Dangerous Book for Boys calendar trivia item: Lewis Carroll invented the portmanteau "chortle" for his poem Jackerwocky as a combination of chuckle and snort. He also coined the term "portmanteau" for words of this type in Through the Looking Glass.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Teen Birth Rates

A long time ago I did a paper on teen pregnancy rates. One of the things I discovered was that in the 1950s teen pregnancy was huge. Just as huge as it was in the early '90s (which at the time was the most recent data). The rub? In the '50s those teen mothers were 19 and married instead of 16 and not.

I'm betting similar phenomenon is happening in the latest study of teen pregnancy rates in conservative and liberal areas Instapundit has brought up. In particular even if the age of the teenage moms is similar, the effect of abortion between the two is probably going to be very different.

Now They're Community Organizers International

Citizen journalists have demonstrated that ACORN is widely corrupt. So what does ACORN do? Reform itself? Nope. Make blanket statements and then change their name so nobody knows that COI is really ACORN in a different hat.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Will It Kill a Zombie?

Important experimental work to prevent the zombie apocalypse:

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Fresh Eye on WWII

The Russians have some sort of internet archive storing military memoirs from the Great Patriotic War. Some are even translated into English. Good stuff. The aforelinked tanker drove a US supplied Sherman throughout the war. He liked it a lot better than the British tanks and even the T-34, but hated the Tommyguns that were issued with them.

Via Tam.


The Senate has voted to defund ACORN by 83-7. Call your Senators and thank them, unless you live in VT or IL. Suggest they vote to defend a lot of federal bullshit spending.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mayors Against Illegal Guns

While it sounds relatively harmless, Mayors Against Illegal Guns is an anti-gun group founded by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Because it sounds like group against obvious bad thing, there is evidence that some of the current members don't really know or understand what agenda is being driven. Recent efforts by the blogosphere, pro-gun groups, and the NRA have been making them aware. Several mayors, especially from conservative districts, have left the group.

The mayors of Dover, Newark, and Wilmington are all members. I recently received an NRA flier about Vance Funk. Which would be great if I actually lived within the Newark city limits, but I don't. Perhaps I'll send the letter anyway and hope that he doesn't notice.

Monday, September 07, 2009


Amy is paging through a Betty Crocker Microwave Cookbook. One recipe suggests microwaving a pork shoulder in several stages that total over 40 minutes. Look, if you're cooking something in microwave for the better part of an hour, you picked the wrong appliance.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel

For $30 and 0.745 shares of Disney per Marvel share. Speculation abounds about what effects this will have on the Marvel Universe. I'm guessing it really won't have much of an effect on the comics, but will probably change how Marvel Studios and Marvel's merchanising system will work.

The real question is: now that Howard the Duck and Donald Duck are under the same corporate banner, are they still going to make Howard wear pants?

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Reset Button

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% would vote to replace the entire Congress and start all over again.
Amen to that sentiment assessed by Rasmussen.

I think there should be an official "vote the bums out" mechanism for Congress. One that doesn't involve pitchforks, torches, and rifles. It could go something like this: when invoked by popular vote, all sitting members of congress at the time of the referendum would be forbidden to run for re-election. The House would turn over upon the next election. The Senate would turn over completely in 3 Congressional election cycles. Anyone effected would be barred from federal office for at least 6 to 10 years. They cannot run or be appointed to elected federal office. They would also be forbidden from being appointed to any unelected office that requires congressional approval. It would essentially be a 6-10 year ostracism from federal office. I think we need one of those.

Via Alphecca.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted's Dead Baby, Ted's Dead

Ted Kennedy has died. Expect conflicting eulogies that portray him as the last in a line of true American aristocrats or as a foul-smelling drunkard. I'm not sure how Massachusetts intends to handle replacing him in the Senate, but we can expect another Democrat. Kennedy wanted his current wife to hold his seat. Unfortunately whomever his replacement is, they will probably be in good enough health to actually show up and help break any filibuster attempts by the Republicans.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Looking Forward to Rosh Hashanah

It seems that the Whitehouse is Jewish community organizing for the high holy days this year. The marching orders have gone out and this year's sermons are to be on the moral urgency of adopting universal health care. Great.

Amy and I go down to her parents' house for services during one of the holy days every year. When we can swing it, it's Rosh Hashanah instead of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur involves fasting which Amy hates and I mildly dislike. But this is important to her parents so we go and I like Amy's parents. Their synagogue and rabbi? Not so much.

Amy's family's head rabbi gave a sermon on the high holy days in 2004 which I can summarize as "George Bush is evil - Vote Kerry." I find her sermons unenlightening generally. This isn't a Christian/Jew thing. I mean the sermon she preached on matzoh balls missed me culturally, but that isn't her fault. It's mostly a liberal theology thing for me. When any kind of religious instructor preaches a sermon like "Abraham would have been morally right to tell God to go to hell instead of offering up Isaac," I just can't grasp where they are coming from theologically. Actually I can, but I have absolutely no respect for it.

I have no doubt that this year's sermon will focus on the moral imperative that we fold, spindle, and mutilate the Commerce Clause even further to justify more federally run health care. It's for the children. Or not because they already have S-CHIP. The elderly? Medicare. The disabled? Early Medicaid. Hmm... Lazy people who consistently vote Democrat? Is there a program for them yet? Well there soon will be.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Cheap Shooting

I like cowboy guns. I'd love to pick up a .45 colt single action revolver with a .45 acp conversion cylinder one of these days. I don't reload, so the .45 acp conversion is almost mandatory as .45 colt is cost prohibitive.

Another option are these .22 lr chamber inserts for .45 colt revolvers (or similar ones for .45 acp). I had initially dismissed them because I couldn't understand how they would be accurate. Without a barrel to stabilize them, the .22lr bullet will just bounce down a .45 caliber barrel and wind up flying any which way. Turns out a portion of the insert is rifled so it acts as barrel and chamber in one. The actual pistol barrel would act like a giant flash hider. I'm still not sure I'd buy a set, but they no longer seem like a complete waste of money.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Back Together Again

I finally finished fitting the arched mainspring housing for my 1911 yesterday. I did a cold reblue last night to clean up the shiny spots on the housing. Everything went back together smoothly this morning. Everything works, or as near as I can tell without taking it to the range. I'd rather not have learned how to detail strip the receiver of a 1911 the hard way though.

I'd still like to change the sights, but after taking over a month to get the gun back into working condition, I'm in no hurry to take it out of action again.

Friday, July 31, 2009

As You Get Older

I had an interesting conversation with some coworkers while coming back from lunch a few days ago. We all noticed that while our parents are not technically illiterate, they don't necessarily grasp the latest technologies. Most of our parents had a lot of trouble with e-mail for instance. We wondered what technology we wouldn't be able to grasp when our as yet unborn children get to be our ages.
  • Jeez dad, why do you keep using these old mp3 players? Don't you know everything's on audio crystals now?

  • I know. My dad is still listening to music with his ears. I keep telling him he can get it piped straight into his audio center in higher fidelity now. Especially with his hearing.

  • Well he probably refuses to mindjack onto the connected global consciousness anyway.

  • Yeah, my parents will only get on using a hardline. I keep telling them that the info cloud is subspace accessible now, but the idea of instantaneous high bandwidth connectivity inside their heads freaks them out. They still make me talk to them with words! It takes me forever to tell them anything! Like whole minutes even!
We know it's going to happen, we just don't know when or what with.

Banana Bread

French toast was created as a very tasty way to get rid of stale bread. I've mentioned that banana bread is the fruit equivalent. It is where the overripe bananas wind up at my house. We recently discovered that bananas for bread freeze very well too. They retain their flavor and while the ice crystals make bananas really mushy, that's an advantage when you're going to recycle them into bread.

We've been trying different recipes lately. I started with one Amy's mother gave us. It uses bisquick and sour cream. I was very tasty, but I don't generally keep either of those ingredients around the house. Plus the sour cream gives Amy trouble. Then Amy suggested a healthy recipe from Hungry Girl. It didn't rise well and sat like a sweet banana brick at the bottom of my load pan. It wasn't bad and we still ate it, but we're not trying that one again. We tried this one from this week:
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3 ripe bananas
Bread pan

In medium size bowl mix first three ingredients. Add flour and baking soda, mix well. Add bananas crushed with fork. Mix well. Grease bread pan and put mixture in pan. Bake 1 hour in 325 degree oven.
We use pam instead of grease and eggbeaters instead of eggs, but the recipe still worked very well. Its simple and tasty and isn't giving my wife stomach problems. I think I'll stick with it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Blackberry Ambiguity

A coworker asked if me whether I liked blackberries. I replied no, thinking that she meant the ever-present smart-phone that the Army issues to middle management and up. One of the things that keeps me from working too hard here is the prospect of being issued my own cyberleash.

Nope. Turns out she has bushes in her back yard. Her berries are quite yummy with a nice tart juiciness. My parents had Blackberries in the backyard when I was little and I remember enjoying them a lot. I'd plant a bush of my own, but whenever I think about picking them it sends me into Age of Empires flashbacks.

Friday, July 24, 2009

American Chopper Meets Antiques Roadshow

Amy and I caught Pawn Stars last night on the History Channel. It's a reality show set at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. The post title says it all. Amy liked seeing people bringing in their antiques and I liked the interplay between the family members that kept the show interesting. I wouldn't mind catching it again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tiny Terror

My Eee 1005 arrived on Monday and I've been slowly whipping it into shape. On Monday I charged it and installed a real web browser. Tuesday took me to the Army website to download our anti-virus and security suite. On Wednesday, I installed my Army copy of MS Office and worked on getting my browser bookmarks sorted. I'll probably just apply all of Office&'s patches tonight and transfer more files over from my desktop.

I really like this netbook a lot. It's smaller and lighter than my churchgoing bible. The screen is clear and bright, even before the BIOS upgrade gave me a larger range of adjustment. The keyboard still works. The touchpad is good although multitouch commands were easy to accidentally activate. The battery life is immense, especially since Asus lets you play with the clock speed from the system tray. I hooked it up to charge last night more out of guilty than necessity. Installing software from CD/DVD requires an intermediate step because the netbook doesn't have an optical drive. I could buy an external USB unit of course, but my ipod works perfectly for sneaker-netting things over. What they say about the glossy finish picking up fingerprints is true as well.. So far so good though.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solar Irradiance and Climate Change

The New York Times has an article on the dearth of sun spots this year which also mentions the improbability of their relationship to the cool summer we're having:
The idea that solar cycles are related to climate is hard to fit with the actual change in energy output from the sun. From solar maximum to solar minimum, the Sun's energy output drops a minuscule 0.1 percent.
Most people reading this probably haven't had college and graduate level thermodynamics or heat transfer. Allow me to explain the fundamentals. You do not do heat transfer or thermo in Fahrenheit or Celsius. You perform the calculations in Rankine or Kelvin respectively. These are just the former scales adjusted to zero at absolute zero. With convection and conduction, you can cheat because the temperature terms are linear and so the conversion cancels itself out. With radiative heating you can't take that shortcut because radiation is proportional to the temperature difference to the fourth power.

Why does this matter? It matters because room temperature on earth is around 300 K or 530 R. A 0.1% change in irradiance would produce a temperature shift of ~0.3 C or ~0.5 F. Global warming is credited with temperature shifts anywhere from there up to about a degree Celsius. While small, a simple back of the envelope calculation should show that that change in irradiance is nowhere near negligible in relation to the phenomenon being studied.

Update: Fixed the formatting left over from mailing it in. Did it on the new toy. Liking it so far, especially now that I have Firefox installed.

40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

In celebration, I give you Buzz Aldrin punching Bart Sibrel in the face:

Sibrel is one of the most prominent moon landing deniers. At the time Buzz was 72 and Sibrel was not. Go Buzz.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Getting Your Manga Fix

I've been reading a lot of manga online lately. I initially got caught up on Naruto at OneManga after my wife started talking about their iPhone manga app. It's a good site and most of the content seems to be fan translations, which is nice because I have no problem reading something on the internet that I can't get in the US. Spectrum Nexus and Manga Fox are similar but at least some of their content seems to be direct scans of US translations. Not sure if they're fan subs or not. Spectrum Nexus also has some flash vids of unlicensed anime like Blade of the Immortal.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Toys

Being the spender in the family, I've had an itch to buy something extravagant for a while now.

I looked at some swords. The French 1829 artillery saber is a beautiful weapon. The US patterned the 1840 artillery saber (not the NCO sword of the same year) after it. Unfortunately the only company making a replica is Deepeeka, so even at $75 it probably isn't a bargain. The alternative is something like the Musashi Bamboo Katana which is a bargain. It's so nice I actually gave my brother one its sister swords as a Christmas present.

I also looked at guns. A bunch of the online parts shops have gotten .45 acp cylinders in stock for the Uberti-made single action revolvers. That's important because .45 colt costs a fortune to shoot unless you reload. CDNN is selling the Beretta Stampede for a song. The Stampede is also made by Uberti but has a modern transfer bar safety so it's harder to shoot yourself with it. I like not shooting myself. But even after a Virginian in cowboy gear actually broke up a convenience story robbery with a Peacemaker over the weekend, I just can't justify spending hundreds of dollars for a gun I probably won't shoot that much. Especially since I'd have to buy a cowboy hat and a proper holster rig once I bought it.

Instead I spent my money on a netbook: the Asus 1005HA-P. I tried the cheapest version of this model at Best Buy and was shocked that I could actually touch type on the keyboard. It's a great little machine, but the Best Buy version is pretty badly neutered. I bought the top end version on Amazon along with additional memory. Now when work sends me on travel, which it has been threatening to do regularly lately, I'll have a computer to take with me. It should come in handy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Something About Maria

Amy loves BBC America. Right now we're watching "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" a reality show trying to cast the lead in the Sound of Music. Sometimes it's unintentionally funny. For instance they regularly comment on one contestant's Romanian accent. They mention that she was really good as Evita, but that was something of an accent part. Where do they think Maria von Trapp is from? She certainly wasn't born in Surrey like Julie Andrews.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

This Just In...

Michael Jackson is still dead. Should he turn out to be undead, please act accordingly.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Rule of Law in Honduras

Michael Wade at QandO discusses the current situation in Honduras with citations from the Honduran Constitution to back up the governments actions. The constitution has very strong protections on presidential term limits. Trying to remove them results in immediate loss of office. Lobbying for removal by private citizens results in loss of civil liberties. In short, people stating that his is some sort of extra-legal coup on the part of the Honduran military, courts, and congress don't have a leg to stand on.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Truth About Grad School

PhD Comics current series on the dramatization of science is damn near perfect. It starts here and is currently ongoing.

Whenever I see someone doing research on TV, either in a movie or often in a documentary, they're sitting in shiny modernist offices or laboratories full of gleaming chrome and fluorescent lighting. In my experience the fluorescent lighting is about all they get right. My lab in college was largely held together by epoxy and duct tape. Anything metal was probably the worse for wear and the windows hadn't been cleaned. Ever. The greatest part is the repurposed lab equipment and old experimental gear which almost never clutters the corners of movie shots. At one point my lab was using an optical table as a desk. This was a precisely drilled and mounted slab of steel that weighed and cost more than an SUV. It's so heavy and unwieldy that after the experiments using it were completed eons ago, nobody had the desire to move it. The lab just grew up around it. It's probably still an incredibly expensive workdesk in Spencer Lab to this day.

The comic about making the graduate student wear a labcoat and look important? False. The only time I ever saw a professor in the lab was when photos were being taken. At which point they were the ones dressed up and looking official while making intelligent looking adjustments to the coolest piece of equipment in the lab.

But the bit about not being able to explain your research is true and classic. I worked on composite manufacturing using RTM, VARTM, and SCRIMP. Just Google them. Most of my work was modeling fluid flow through porous media using Darcy's Law. I tried explaining this to Amy once. About all she got was "you suck glue through tiny tubes." Yes, yes, that's what I do alright.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sam Colt Made Them Equal

An international feminist group is advocating for disarmament in order to protect women.

Look, here's the deal. Men are bigger than women. Even when we're the same weight, men are stronger because women have more body fat and higher skeletal mass. Even when all things are equal, women are at a distinct disadvantage in a fight. And things are rarely equal if an attacker can help it.

How do you level the playing field? Give women a weapon that doesn't rely on physical size or strength. Something that cashes in on women's excellent fine motor skills. I don't know, maybe we could power it with small cartridges of powerful chemicals instead of a person's arm or leg strength. Make it ranged so the man's extra reach won't matter so much. Hey that sounds great! Where could we get such a device?

Guns have historically been great equalizers. The hand cannon leveled the social classes, it gave the peasant the ability to bring down the rich noble in his suit of armor. When you're talking about violence between men and women, they can do the same thing there as well. Which is why I take my female friends out to the range whenever they ask.

Oh and not everything those women want is stupid. I have no problem with making it hard for violent sex offenders to get guns. But a lot of their advocacy seems to be dedicated to the sort of gun buy back programs that the left loves, but which really don't work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I just replaced my driver's side headlight again. I've changed it 3 times now. The passenger side is still factory original. Every time the bulb has blown, I've used a standard Sylvania replacement from Walmart or an auto-parts store. I think I've figured out what false economy feels like now.

Famous Last Words

While not quite General John Sedgwick's "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance," SaysUncle points out that "What are you going to do?" certainly ought to make the list.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fitness for on the Cheap

For those of you who have already tossed out your WiiFits, Instapundit linked to a site that all about working out on the cheap.

Life Sized Gundam

In construction. Now finished. How the first link classified the Gundam as "green," I'll never know. Maybe they made it out of recycled Sapporo cans.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

David Eddings Dies

He was 77. Eddings' wife and coauthor Leigh died in 2007. Chris Byrne was also a fan.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Lego Aircraft Carrier

Just Awesome. My inner ten-year old thinks that is the coolest thing evar.

Via Tam.

Playing Catchup

Well I'm still alive. The month of May was pretty crazy for me. I spent two of my four work-weeks in either training or a symposium (more on that later). My workload was much heavier than usual and I only had half as much time finish them. So I dug deep and finished everything by their suspense dates. And now June is here and it looks like I might be able to catch my breath at work and have energy left when I get home to write something for everyone here.

Hopefully you'll see more blogging here in the coming days. Some of it might actually be on current topics as a clean out my queue of old posts I never quite had time to finish.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The New Trek

Saw it last night while Amy was in class. Good and very pretty, but it has a pretty bad case of the stupids in spots.

A few examples? The villian's ship has a bad case of flame factory. The interior has huge open spaces and lots of platforms with no railings that forebode future plummeting. The Enterprise wasn't any better. Several scenes in the engineering spaces made me wonder when Scotty was going to have to work his way through the Chompers. And Jim Kirk went from being a bad ass to being the galaxy's punching bag. I don't think he wins a fight in the whole movie. And when did Chekov become competent?

I felt similar to when I first watched Deadwood. Deadwood was every cliched Western I'd ever seen, but with more dirt, profanity, and general immorality of screen. Star Trek was every sci-fi cliche I'd ever seen, but shined up until everything glowed.

But boy was it pretty.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Not Stimulated Enough

I had my meeting to price out a new central air unit. It's going to hurt, but I'm going to do it anyway. The new unit will be 40% more efficient and will be probably be under parts and labor warranty for as long as I'm likely to own this house. It will also have humidity control which the current unit lacks and, in my mind, is practically mandatory for any sort of forced air unit.

Oh and the tax breaks and stimulus money? Yeah he told me not to expect any. In order to qualify for federal dollars I'd need an insane SERE rating. State money is limited by funded and the money is almost always spent by now. About all I can expect is a tax deduction come next April.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Color Me Stimulated

Whether you like it or not...

My AC went out this weekend. The local service people came by to check it out today. It's screwed. The cooling coil in my house's forced air loop has a leak. That means it's shot and will need to be replaced to the tune of $900 just for parts. I'm looking at two grand with install, recharging the now empty system with R22, servicing everything that needs it, etc. Ouch.

It's enough money that the service guys suggested pricing out a completely new unit. Why a new unit? Because the government is phasing out R22 due to environmental concerns. This process starts in January. The refrigerant replacing it in most applications (like household air conditioners) is R410a. Except that R410a is not backwards compatible with R22 equipment. If I'm lucky I'll be able to keep the lines that run between the two halves of my split unit. But the compressor and air handler are not compatible and would have to go. I'll find out what that would cost on Friday. That sounds like it's going to be a great way to spend my Friday off.

Not that any of this can really be laid at Obama's feet. I'm fairly sure the changeover is tied to agreements signed in the 1980s and was decided on at least two years ago. But I still want to gripe.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Great Books

Physics Geek Jesus Freak mentioned Bill Bennett's list of books every high school student should read before graduation. He mentions that the Great Gatsby, which I haven't read, is overrated. Ditto Catcher in the Rye. Never read Gatsby, but I have to second him on Catcher. Holden Caulfield whines through 100 pages, the end.

The list reminds me that I still need to read 1984. We never covered it in school for some odd reason. When I had the chance to pick it up on my own, I read A Brave New World instead. It was the 90s. I thought that controlling people through their excesses was a far more timely topic than socialist totalitarian rule. But the world has kept turning and I find that I have to rectify the missing bits of my education.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ammo Prices

Tam gives a thorough explanation of why ammo costs so much right now and why prices will have to come down eventually. I'm shooting a lot of .22 right now because of this. I have at least 4000 rounds of it left in the case I bought so I should be good for a while. On the other hand the last time I bought 5.56, I paid $13 for 20 rounds. Compare that to $6 per box when I built my AR a few years ago.

She also makes the point that if you're carrying a semi-automatic handgun, you ought to carry a spare magazine. It doesn't matter if the pistol mag carries a million rounds. You aren't carrying the extra mag for the capacity, you're carrying it as a reliability measure. If the magazine isn't the heart of the pistol, it's at least its stomach. If your one mag goes bad, then you have a very expensive and cumbersome breach-loader. Even if you can thumb a round into the chamber, that's a great way to break an extractor hook on some pistol models. Then you'll have a gun that can't feed or extract and you're doubly screwed. Carry a spare mag. It's cheap, it's easy, and it could save your life.

Oh, and how about that Ninth Circus? Broken clocks and all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day Tea Party

A number of Tea Parties are being held today even in the tiny state of Delaware. The one of most interest to me will be at the Shipyard Shops in Wilmington from 4:30 to 6pm. I don't think I'll actually be able to get there because it's too early and too far away from work, but good luck to anyone who can.

Friday, April 10, 2009

West Pointers Make a Good Impression

Amy and I caught this part of the ACM awards and were impressed:

Thanks to the reminder on Chris Byrne's site, I just picked up the audio and video off of iTunes. Might as well put that gift card to good use and the proceeds go directly to the Wounded Warrior Fund.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Very Fitting

I just heard that the last book of Jordan's Wheel of Time will be so large, they're going to split it up into 3 separate volumes. That's a fitting tribute to both the Wheel of Time's incredible length and Jordan's long-winded and repetitive writing style.

More likely though it's just proof that most of the books in the middle of the series (the entire drought/weather arc) should have been greatly abbreviated. He could have gotten on with it and still had plenty of pages left for the endgame.

These Colors Don't Run

Or even walk much. Hilarious. But wait, there's more.

I'm somewhat active in the gun rights and self-defense communities. I'm not a competitive shooter or instructor, but I'm at least aware of what is going on. It always amazes me when self-proclaimed serious self-defense enthusiasts are fifty or more pounds overweight. Some of them smoke like chimneys. Now I'm no pro athlete, but I try to keep myself somewhat healthy. Why? Because the first skill you want to have down for self defense is running away. Hotfoot your ass out of trouble. I can do that. My knees will be sore the next day, but the alternative is even less appealing.

Movement is the foundation of any serious self-defense system, both in defense and attack. You need to be able to get yourself physically away from trouble if you find yourself outmatched. You need to move explosively to properly employ cover and limit exposure in offense or defense. This is important. Plan your self defense training around it.

Self-defense is not about owning or carrying a weapon. The biggest part is mindset. Looking for threats and react to them before they get to you. Train so that you can properly use your defensive tools. Maintain basic physical health so you can handle the stress you will be under in these situations. I'll be the first to admit that I don't have all of these down, but that doesn't make any of them less important.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Google Chrome

My home computer is an old HP celeron box I bought fiveish years ago when my Dell laptop died its last death. Lately browsing on this machine has been horribly slow. Especially with multiple tabs open and extra-specially if any sort of flash is involved. I was handling this by blocking flash ads and praying a lot when queueing multiple YouTube feeds at the same time. Eventually the whole computer grinds to a halt and the only thing I can do is kill the browser and start over.

I've recently come to realize it's not completely my computer's fault. For whatever reason, Firefox 3.0 is just really slow and seems to develop memory leaks over time. So I installed Google Chrome this morning. It is noticeably faster now but it's a little early to say how it will hold up after extended browsing. Especially when flash will eat up processor cycles on any machine and there isn't a flash-blocker plugin for Chrome.

I definitely wish I had Firefox's skinning option though. Chrome puts its tabs on the title bar above the address and tool bars. I suppose this is an efficient use of screen space. Perhaps it has the Mac throw-the-mouse-at-the-top-of-the-screen logic as well. But it seems clunky to me. I'd much rather have my tabs near the display window where every other browser puts them.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

GM and Rising Dread

Obama has now pressured CEO Rick Wagonner to step down. The president will presumeably appoint or at least suggest someone else to take his place. Because of course Obama's appointments have really been the strong core of his new administration.

Birthday Presents from Midway USA

Hey, the order I placed in November just shipped! I'll soon have AR mags, an extra mag for my hipower, and a red-dot for my M1. Everything was very back ordered.

Makes me really wonder whether I want to risk ordering a gun belt and mag pouches from them, but if they have them in stock it should be ok.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Trip to the Left Coast

I spent most of last week in California. I was at a meeting in the middle of the Mohave desert but flew in and out of the Los Angeles area. It was my first trip out to Southern California and honestly, it could be my last for all I care.

I flew into the LA valley where the scenery is two kinds of heartbreaking. The city is full of idiots who get to routinely enjoy the obscene beautiful landscapes. The mountains seem to spring up and tower effortlessly over the urban plain. But on a bad day, you can barely see the mountains through the smog. Coming back into the valley through one of the mountain passes at the end of the trip, I could see the air change color as I approached the valley and things only got worse as I descended into it. I've often heard jokes about the air in LA being yellow. It's true. On the day I left, looking up at the sky made me feel like I was standing at the bottom of a used urinal. The city's general level of cleanliness didn't help matters.

The high desert was better. Cool crisp nights gave way to dry warm days with a pleasant but constant wind. The drive back and forth was over an hour of rocky hills, blooming desert, tiny towns, and power lines stretching back to the hungry Los Angeles Megalopolis. On the trip out it occurred to me that if the car died, I'd be over a day's walk from anyone that would care. I bought a small case of bottled water for the trip back. When my coworker asked me about it, I pointed out that our tiny Yaris had been requesting an oil change since we pulled off the rental lot.

I can't help but wonder if LA doesn't heavily shape media perception of the US as the center of the entertainment industry. The land is beautiful but polluted. Crime is rampant. There is a sharp division between rich and poor. It's poor are very poor and trying to make do however they can. It's most prominent upper class are famous people who make undeserved millions for being professionally photogenic. Isn't that media portrayal of American?

Oh and I hate LAX. Typical of older busy airports, it hasn't adapted well to the heightened security requirements of the post-9/11 era. The security lines were so long that my coworker returned the rental car at a different site, hopped the rental shuttle, went through the faster frequent flier line, and sat at the gate for almost a half hour before I got there. It was also the only time I've had the TSA get surly with me.

And no I didn't see anybody famous there.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Free as in Beer and Speech

Geek with a .45 makes an important point in this current post. I often hear the planned economy folks talking about the horrible perils of the free market. They have a point. The market is not an all-knowing, all-seeing hive mind. At best it represents the collected wisdom from a huge number of professionals. At worst, market movements are based on total SWAGs or groupthink reinforced by peer pressure and investor dollars. But the important thing to remember is that the free market is fundamentally free.

The free market is the result of allowing people to spend their money how they choose and with whom they choose. They get to use their insight and their money how they see fit and with whom they see fit. This is their fundamental right as free individuals. The more you infringe on this process, the more you must infringe on the fundamental rights of property and association.

Now some of these infringements are good ideas. I don't mind financial professionals having to be regulated and licensed to handle other people's money any more than I mind engineers having to be licensed to design a bridge other people will drive across. Ditto independent auditing requirements. But ultimately these laws reinforce the market by insuring the trustworthiness of free market agents. This is a good thing.

Still, I'm wary of those touting ideas like planned economies. Because they're ultimately about removing free choice from a group of people, in favor of something else. Often that something else defaults to decisions by a bunch of political appointees who could never get anywhere in the free market. And if the free market continues to be a nuisance to these people, soon that group denied free choice will grow include you and me.

Markets are ugly and they're messy. They're fallible and they can be manipulated. They can definitely use some level of regulation just to maintain trust and honestly. But they're free and that, in and of itself, is worth something.

Dark Comedy for the Day

In honor of the President's gallows humor on 60 minutes:

Q: Why did the Founding Fathers create the Federal Government with three branches?

A: Because a three ring circus is far more fun.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Wisdom of Proverbs

My son, keep your father's commands
and do not forsake your mother's teaching.

Bind them upon your heart forever;
fasten them around your neck.

When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
Tam has related economy snark. I remember doing a study in Proverbs several years ago in Singles Group. Proverbs isn't a book of continuous prose, it is a book of often repeated and restated maxims. People who don't listen to their parents (or the words of the wise) and then coming to ruin is one of the major threads running through the entire book.

My pastor went on to lament about his own generation, the Baby Boomers. He pointed out, quite correctly, that the common formative thread of his generation is "don't trust anyone over 30". Your parents are idiots. Don't listen to them. This explains why their parents are "the Greatest Generation" and their kids are not.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mexican Gun Running

While the feds keep making outrageous claims about Mexicans running guns from the US to drug cartels across the border, current events are showing something different:
The Feb. 21 attack on police headquarters in coastal Zihuatanejo, which injured four people, fit a disturbing trend of Mexico's drug wars. Traffickers have escalated their arms race, acquiring military-grade weapons, including hand grenades, grenade launchers, armor-piercing munitions and antitank rockets with firepower far beyond the assault rifles and pistols that have dominated their arsenals.
Why would you spend a lot of time jumping through legal hoops in Texas in order to get a semi-automatic assault weapon, when I can go to a Latin American banana republic and buy them in bulk from a corrupt supply sergeant or captain or general?

Via Smallest Minority

Friday, March 13, 2009

Watching the Watchmen

I caught the 7:30 show at People's yesterday along with about 15 other moviegoers. Good but not great. Thoughts?
  • Malin Akerman doesn't quite pull off Laurie. In some places she's ok, but none of the scenes Laurie has with her mother work. Maybe she's too wooden (although it could easily go too far the other way), maybe the direction sucked, maybe it's because Carla Gugino is so obviously 30 something in lots of makeup.

  • Ozymandius is turned into an obvious villain and wasn't cast properly. The actor playing him is too scrawny for an olympic gymnast and you don't get a feeling of depth or intelligence. He's not even dressed properly. Instead of being in the comic's regal purples and golds, he's in more sinister navy blue and silver.

  • Very ham-handed direction in parts. The comic very skillfully and tastefully cuts around nudity and graphic violence. The movie revels in them. Ditto major plot points like Laurie father.

  • The script could be more streamlined, especially since Hollis Mason's role is so pared down in the theatrical release he might as well not be there. Nixon's role was also mostly unnecessary and horribly done.

  • Nite Owl, Rorschach, the Comedian, and Dr. Manhattan are all executed near perfectly. Matt Frewer makes a good Moloch and Danny Woodburn (whom I fondly remember as Carl the Gnome) goes a good job as Big Figure.

  • I like the new plot climax. The comic's plot climax was it's weakest part, the new one is simpler and in almost all ways better. Falling action was mediocre though.
I realize that my list is mostly criticisms, but honestly those four good character executions absolve a multitude of sins. I have a similar feeling to what I experienced after the Lord of the Rings films. I don't regret seeing it in the theater and I don't think most people will either.

UPDATE: People are saying that the opening credit sequence is great, but what do you think?

Just kidding.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

But HK Says Its Good

The Norwegians are having trouble with the ultra-reliable HK416.

I'm not sure if I've pointed it out here, but nothing in the HK416 is revolutionary. Colt has developed and testing all these changes as planned product improvements for the M16/M4 series of weapons. The government didn't adopt the changes then because they didn't bear fruit. Now HK is trying to sell this stuff as the 416, largely by buying articles in Army Times. No thank you.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Neon Demon on Wheels

Netflix brought us the Wachowski Brothers' Speed Racer movie this weekend. Despite the bad mouthing it took in the press, we both really enjoyed it. They capture the feel of the classic show perfectly. But you aren't going to get depth of plot here. Why would you expect that with a Speed Racer movie?

I could give you a brief plot overview, but it's Speed Racer. Speed drives fast cars through multiple exotic and completely made-up countries as he tries to win the Grand Prix. Every race is fixed against him, but Speed has his friends like Racer X and his family on his side. And an awesome bulletproof car with buzz saws.

What you're going to get is action oriented racing scenes turned up to eleven. Most of the tracks and rally scenes look like they're taken straight out of a racing video game. But it's an alternative future/present/whatever. Every car has the Mach 5's jump jacks and if you ain't bumping, you ain't racing. Actually most of the racing scenes are more like boxing or wrestling than bumping. Cars are frequently destroyed in candy-colored pixie-stick explosions with the pilots being thrown clear in their gumball safety gear. Or brightly colored parachutes if they fall into a deep icy crevasse. Good stuff.

There are decent bare-knuckle fight scenes. With ninjas! Or cigar-chomping mobsters! And a monkey! That's hitting all the bases right there.

There are the obligatory scenes where Spritle and Chim-Chim stow away in various places. Unlike on TV, they are generally useful. They're either exposition and foreshadowing or acting as an important diversion that actually helps the Racers out. Good. Nothing like having to be constantly saving your grubby little brother and his monkey for no good reason.

Anyway, great movie. About my only complaint is that some of the characters curse. Rent it and be a kid again. But still best not to think too much.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Urban Ghillie Suit

Well I guess this might work in a third grade classroom...

Sorta looks like a construction paper version of Madame Trashheap or Cousin It to me.

Oil Prices

Well this article goes a long way to explaining why oil is below $40/barrel and yet regular unleaded is still running $1.80 at the pumps. The answer? Oil companies and speculators are paying people to sit on it supply, mostly by paying tankers to sit on what's in their holds.

Now I can't be too pissed off about this. Because of plummeting prices the companies were drawing down crude inventories at an accelerated rate earlier this year. That (and stupid laws designed to curb "price gouging") caused shortages across the south last hurricane season. Now that the prices have bottomed, they ought to replenish those stocks as fast as possible. But I'd like those cheap prices to trickle down to me at some point. More importantly, they were running record profits for quite a while there, so it would be nice if the oil companies were willing to accept less when that's the cards they've been dealt.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Done with Blogrolling

Well the new service is up. It's also worthless. Not only does it automatically serve up embedded ads which reduce the usefulness of the service, but the whole thing is horribly slow. No thanks.

I've discovered that Blogger has a widget that lets me do the same thing. All I have to do is update my site from 1.0 templates to 2.0 layouts. Looks like I'll have to front burner that effort.

Monday, March 02, 2009

AIG Bailout to the Nth Power

When I turned on the news this morning, I heard that AIG is receiving even more money from the US Government. Uncle Sam now owns a substantial portion of the business. Why do they keep receiving government funds? Could be a lot of reasons I suppose, but the big one has to do with AIG handling insurance for the US congressional pension program. That's an interesting factoid, isn't it?

By the way, why does Congress still have an old school pension system when the rest of the US government was phased over to 401k style Thrift Spending Accounts when the Federal Employee Retirement System went live over two decades ago? Why does Congress have a retirement system at all?

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Tea Parties

For those interested in getting into the activist action, the Philadelphia Tea Party is happening at Independence Mall at noon tomorrow. Geek with a .45 says that he will be there. Unfortunately it's probably too late to get one of these bumperstickers for the drive.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dangerous Women Circa 1925

When I said dangerous I meant it, these ladies from the University of Maryland beat the U of M. men's team that year:
U. of M. Coeds Defeat Men in Rifle Match

Co-eds of the University of Maryland Proved themselves better marksmen than the male students at the institution in a rifle match Tuesday at College Park, according to a "post-mortem" examination of the score today.

The score showed the men had made a desperate effort to avoid defeat, registering 497 marks out of a possible 500. But the female of the species proved "more deadly than the male" with the rifle - at least the girls came off with a score of 499.

The campus yesterday was a dismal place so far as men were concerned. Vainly they tried to show resignation, or smile or treat the whole affair as an accident. It was hard to realize and acknowledge that girls had beaten them.

However, the vanquished team had forgotten that its triumphant adversaries had a reputation for marksmanship to preserve in the contest Tuesday. The reputation was won when the girls gained third place in the nation-wide intercollegiate competition last year, although it was only their second year of shooting at targets.

The five girls who made the best scores were Miss Thelma Winkjer, of Washington, captain of the team, who scored 100; Miss Helen Beyerle, of Baltimore, a former pupil at Western High school, 100; Miss Rebecca Willis, of Washington, 100; Miss Julie Louise Behring, of Washington, 100; and Miss Mary Harbaugh, of Washington, 99.

Washington Post, Feb 12, 1925
And just to point out how times have really changed, this picture was probably taken at a rifle match that included these far homelier Drexel Girls. The match was held at George Washington University in Northwest DC.

The Kindle 2.0

If they sold them with "Don't Panic" written on the cover, I might consider it.

Frankly $349 is a lot of money to spend upfront in order to read books more cheaply later. That's the cost of forty to fifty paperbacks. That's at least a year's reading for me. I don't think I want to spend that when the Kindle 3.0 will almost certainly be out in a few years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

1911 Upgrades

I ordered an arched mainspring housing from CDNN for the low low price of $15 plus shipping. I tried putting it in last night. One of the pin holes is either misaligned or simply too small and while I got the housing reassembled, I can't get it mounted on the gun.

I checked with the old housing. Sure enough the mainspring pin will drop right in. New housing? Nope, even with the guts taken out it won't go through. I should be able to fix this by opening that hole up with a needle file but I want to order a pin kit and a spring kit from Brownells first. I[m going to want them anyway and they're cheap.

The nice thing about the 1911 mainspring housing is that it really isn't a stressed part. When the gun is cocked, load from the mainspring is actually transmitted directly to frame through the housing retaining pin. That's why many of the manufacturers can get away with using polymer housings, especially on "lightweight" pistols. Aluminum also works just fine.

UPDATE: I opened up the pin hole with a some files I already have. Unfortunately it wasn't just too small, it was also misdrilled so the frame and mainspring housing holes won't align. More filework is necessary. Remind me not to buy a mainspring housing from John Masen (also known as the JTM Company) again.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No Mention of YouDee?

Wow two whole threads bashing stupid college mascots and not one mention of the Delaware's Fighting Blue Hens.

Via Instapundit.

Obama Joke of the Day

What's the difference between Jesus Christ and Barack Obama?

Punchline. Rimshot.

UPDATE: Don't you wish they had a version of this video for politicians?

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Relationship Pop Quiz

I saw this over at Hube's and thought it was cool.

What are your middle names?
My middle name is Allan. Amy's was her mother's maiden name, but now it's her maiden name. I'm not going to divulge either because Amy has a thing about giving last names on the internet.

How long have you been together?
We'll be married 3 years this May, dated six and half years before that.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?
About a year.

Who asked whom out?
Neither that I remember. We sort of grew into a couple. Amy made some of the first moves to show her interest though.

How old are each of you?
I'm 31, she's 29.

Whose siblings do you see the most?
Mine, she's an only child.

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
We're still getting the hang of arguments. We grew up with very different styles of communication especially regarding the vocal tones you use when you're irritated.

Did you go to the same school?
Yes, we're both UD grads and initially met when we were living in adjacent dorms.

Are you from the same home town?

Who is smarter?
Me, but Amy's a smart cookie.

Who is the most sensitive?
She's cries at every wedding on TV, even if they're cartoon characters or Muppets.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?
Chinese, but that's mostly takeout. After that it's probably the Vietnamese place in Newark.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
The cruise we took to the southern Caribbean for our honeymoon.

Who has the craziest exes?
She does. Although they're mostly harmless.

Who has the worst temper?
Dunno. Probably me although she spends more time mad at me than I do at her. She's never seen me blow my top though.

Who does the cooking?
She does although it's mostly because she gets home first and has a stricter diet. Sometimes I cook when I have the day off. I also do the majority of the baking.

Who is the neat-freak?
I am.

Who is more stubborn?
She is.

Who hogs the bed?
She does although I may steal more of the covers when she isn't rolling herself into a bedding burrito.

Who wakes up earlier?
About the same. I sleep in more when I don't have to get up, but she's definitely the bigger sleepyhead in the morning.

Where was your first date?
I don't even remember. She probably does though.

Who is more jealous?
She is.

How long did it take to get serious?
We dated for years before we really thought it was going to work out over the long haul.

Who eats more?

Who does the laundry?
I have mine, she has hers.

Who's better with the computer?
I'm better with the purely technical parts, but she's a better with some software than I am.

Who drives when you are together?
I do. Amy hates driving and is always afraid she's going to get lost.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Political Corruption

I recall a conversation I had with a Democrat several years ago. He said he was proud to say that the Republicans had become as corrupt in ten years as the Democrats had become in forty. Well buddy, it's taken you guys a scant two years to surpass the Republicans. Let's hope that the Republicans don't feel obliged to try to surpass you when they reclaim Congress. At this rate it hopefully won't take too long to find out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mmmm Flatbread

When I recently stumbled across some Kontos brand flatbreads at my local BJs, I was in heaven. Before this, the closest I could come to flatbread was flour tortillas and that isn't really close enough. I thought about mentioning my discovery here, but I haven't seen them at BJs since and I doubt many of my readers have BJs memberships anyway. But I recently found them in my local Safeway, so they must be out there somewhere.

The products themselves are called Pocket-less Pitas. I assume this is because some marketing exec at the Kontos thought "flatbread" was not a concept that has sufficiently permeated WASP consciousness. They're white or wheat flatbreads sold in packs of five to ten (to the ton at BJs). The five or ten pack is a pretty good size, the BJs massive pack is a bit large and dominates too much of my fridge space.

Straight out of the package, they're a little doughy but I find that twenty second zap in the microwave dispels that entirely and leaves them with a nice fresh-baked feeling. I'll often cut one of these into eight slices and eat it with garlic hummus. It's like a Mediterranean chips and dip. I think it's a bit healthier because nothing is fried (or heavily salted) and a single flatbread gives you built in portion control. I like built in portion control.

I also use them to make personal pizzas using the flatbread like a Boboli pizza crust. For conventional pizza, apply tomato sauce and the appropriate toppings. You can also go Mexican with salsa, pre-cooked taco meat, and cheddar jack. I like to use fajita or taco leftovers up that way. Cook it in the microwave until the cheese melts (about 45 seconds for me). If you want a crispier crust then the oven is probably the way to go, but I haven't tried that yet. As long as you're not a lover of thin or cracker-crusted pizzas, I think you'll be happy with the results.

I like having options and I'm a bread freak, so I'm really happy that I stumbled across this stuff and that I can get it at my local grocery.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

And the Blogosphere Goes Wild!

I first saw this clip at Tamara's place, but the gunblogosphere has been going nuts for about a week over it:

That's a March 2007 clip of present White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He's many different types of stupid. Renew the Assault Weapons Ban even though it did nothing to stop crime, but lots of things to reduce individual liberty. The political right is beholden to special interests even though the NRA is driven by millions of members donations and controlled by member's votes. The equivalent organizations on the left are funded by large endowments and controlled not by elections but by appointees. But the crowning moment the suggestion for legislation using the anti-terror list to prevent gun sales.

Lets ignore the fact that a person is not put on the No Fly list through an act of due process. So using the list in this way is an unscionable infringement of fundamental enumerated rights without due process. Let just discuss the fundamentally flawed nature of using the list itself.

Amy has an uncle that gets nothing by trouble from the No Fly list. He isn't a terrorist. He simply has a common name. The No Fly list is quite literally just a list of names. If someone with your same or a similar name is on it, you have to spend an extra hour or two in the airport every time you fly. Whether you did anything or not. God help you if you don't plan beforehand. Rahm Emanuel knows how broken this system is, because everybody that gets this treatment writes his congressman about it and Emanuel is a congressman.

But hey, the 2nd Amendment isn't a civil right people should have anyway, so who cares if the government infringes on it? A lot of people actually and I have to wonder how those people are going to express their dissatisfaction if laws like this go through.

Concealed Carry Holder Databases

I suppose I should be really pissed about a Memphis newspaper publishing a list of concealed carry permit holders. It's irresponsible, violates the permit holders privacy, and does nothing to improve public safety. In general it actually reduces it because some of those people have guns for a reason. Like hiding out from abusive ex-husbands.

I say I should be pissed, but I'm actually envious. You see in Delaware you are required to post your name and address in the News Journal before you even submit your application for a concealed carry permit. State law mandates this for us, only in slow motion.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Press Conference

I caught bits and pieces in between watching other better programming. The fragments I've seen have been utter bullshit. Obama either talked long enough that no one noticed he didn't answer the question, or he commits multiple logical fallacies to shift blame/justify himself, or he just has no idea what he's doing.

I swear the man said things like "what we need to do next is" when he's about to spend 800 billion-with-a-B dollars. There is no "next" after that. Once you spend that much, you're done. You're out of cash. You might be able to re-regulate, but you can't spend more money. If you're going to put that kind of money down, you need to do it right the first time.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Needed Improvements

I'm thinking about making some changes to my 1911. After looking around for hipower carry gear and coming up empty, I've realized that I want the 1911 to be a viable open carry gun. It just isn't. The first step is the GI sights which are starting to get to me. I'm seriously considering an upgrade to King's Tappan Combat Sights, which look like this on the gun:

They're express sights so you dot the "i" with gold front and white bar on the rear. Unlike most express sights like the XS units, the Tappans still have a workable post and notch as well. They're only about $30 although I'd need to budget for installation as well. I want to make a few other changes to the pistol, like new springs and possibly breaking a few sharp edges on the frame and mainspring housing. I've also relabeled my mags so that I can track any feeding problems with them on the mags themselves. I numbered them previously, but I never had a notebook to keep a failure record with so having mags 1, 2, 3, and 4 meant nothing.

I'm also need to get the sling mounts on my .22 rifle. It came without, but I finally have all the parts to fix that problem. Sling, swivels, and studs all came from different places, but now they're all in my basement. The bad news is that I need a vice to drill the pilot holes for the studs. I don't have one. So I'm either going to wait until I can visit my parents or I'm going to have to front burner putting together my own work bench.

If I get things together, I might be able to do the 1911 sight upgrade myself and the simple stock work to add the sling studs.

Getting Back into the Range

I got to the range for the first time in far too long on Saturday. January was just too cold to get me outside for an hour at a time and December was dominated by the holidays. I did ok. Just ok. Sometimes you have a tack-driving day and sometimes you have days like yesterday where you keep everything on paper and call it ok.

I did get to cycle a box of the Winchester 147 grain hollow-points I've bought as self-defense ammo through my Hipower without a hitch. I disregarded Ommelanden's 10 round rule and shot 15 rounds out of each of my mags. Nobody noticed. I'll probably do this again before I really consider the system trustworthy, but since that gun has never malfunctioned on me, I'm pretty confident in it. Now I just need to figure out a lock box so I can stow it in the bedroom safely in case things go bump in the night.

Prime Time Annoyance

Obama's holding a press conference in prime time tonight. He appears to be following the Jimmy Carter rule book on how to annoy the electorate. You either already know what's going on in Washington or you don't want to know. Both groups will still want to watch their favorite shows tonight. Instead we will be watching Obama look presidential and try to sell his stimulus bill to an increasingly cynical populace.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Steaming Pile of Glorious Crap

No not the stupid stimulus package. That's just a steaming pile of stinking pork. No, Amy and I finally got around to watching Live Free or Die Hard. The movie was a mix of completely stupid scenes followed by completely stupendous action sequences in which most of the named characters should have died at least twice. This is a film where breaking someone's fall generally means banging off of big solid pipes and duct work on the way down. But if you really want to see Justin Long, Mac from those Apple ads, get beat up and knee-capped then this is the DVD for you.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sick of the Game Already

The Cardinals seem to be getting kicked by the refs when they're already down. The redbirds were just called for roughing Roethlisberger after the Steelers QB intentionally grounded the ball to avoid the sack and loss of yardage. Enough. I set the DVR to record so I wouldn't miss the commercials and went looking for something else to do.

So on a completely different subject I stopped by Circuit City this afternoon to peruse their increasingly discounted wares. It made me realize why the chain went under. Even with a 10-50% discount, they weren't offering me any real deals. I did get to play around with some netbooks though. One was a Lenovo and the other an HP. The Lenovo felt squished and forced into its form factor, the keyboard wasn't very good and the touchpad was worse. The Lenovo's touchpad buttons were stuck so far down, they were actually on the corner of the case. Using it felt like the computer was trying to crack my thumbs open like little eggs. The HP was something I'd consider buying though. Its keyboard is wonderful and I typed on in as well as any other laptop. The touchpad was decent if a bit small and the buttons were placed to the sides of the pad to save space. I'd consider buying it if I wasn't waiting for the netbook tablets.

Yes a netbook tablet is essentially an overgrown iPod Touch, but I'm fine with that. I want the bigger screen, the real keyboard, and I still consider a notebook computer the size of a small science textbook "small." Amy dislikes netbooks because she prefers full laptops with horsepower. Eh. She might have a point with how slow the latest Firefox is running on my computer at home. But I still like 'em.

UPDATE: The Cardinals lost but kept it close, good for them.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Reepicheep Lives!

After the disappointing performance of Prince Caspian, Disney backed out of the Narnia movies leaving Walden without a distribution partner. Fox just picked it up, meaning that the Voyage of the Dawn Treader will still get made. This is a good thing as Dawn Treader is most people's favorite book. They're also going to be putting the movie in theaters around Christmas instead of during the summer movie season.

I actually liked the Prince Caspain film a fair bit. I like the book, but it a kind of a narrative muddle. A large part of it takes place in flashback and the Pevensie kids only appear at the end of Caspian's story to set things right. They tried to streamline this in the movie by starting the movie with Caspian's flight and then bringing the British kids into the story earlier. It sort of works. They still don't get Peter's character anywhere near right, but the other three kids are better. I really liked Edmund and the mice.

I think the next movie will be very interesting. They won't have to play with the story so much in order to create huge visuals, those are already in the book. We'll see how the work the book's episodic nature into the movie though.

Rin Tin Tin

You Are a German Shepherd Puppy
Intelligent, quick witted, and a bit aggressive.
You've got the jaw power to take a bite out of anyone you choose.

Amy came out as a chihuahua. Probably something to do with her always being cold.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Standing Atop the Entertainment Industry Yelling Stop

Big Hollywood has had two decent articles so far this month. One is a rather bitter screed from television's Dirk Benedict about how the new Battlestar Galactica sucks. And he's right, it does:
It matters not to Suits if it is Starbuck or Stardoe, if the Cylons are robots or lingerie models, if the show is full of optimism and morality or pessimism and amorality. What matters is that it is marketed well, so that all you people out there in TV land know that you must see this show. And after you see it, you are told that you should like it. That it is new and bold and sleek and sexy and best of all … it is Re-imagined!
The other is from comicbook writer Bill Willingham who points out that comicbooks, by surrendering their moral voice, have largely flushed themselves down the drain. He thinks that this period in comics history will be referred to as "The Age of Superhero Decadence" and from here on out he will decline to take part. Instead he will write stories with backbone.

Gun Show Control

Alphecca brought up a pro-show story from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It points out that despite rhetoric indicting gun shows as a huge source of weapons for criminals, the statistics are quite different:
Federal data indicate otherwise. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report, “Firearm Use by Offenders,” only about 1 percent of guns used in crimes come from gun shows...
It would be nice if Delaware's new governor would re-examine issues like the "gun show loophole" instead of just parroting lefty groupthink on the subject. If it doesn't make sense in a state like Virginia that actual has shows, it makes even less sense in Delaware where shows are practically nonexistent.

Evil Evil Subcontractors

Amy spent two hours yesterday yelling at a satellite TV installer over the phone. We decided to upgrade our regular HD service to HD DVR service. This is mostly because Amy will miss her favorite evening soap because of some classes shes going to be taking this spring. It's also because Chuck and Big Bang Theory are on at the same time.

The Borders Rewards program had a discount deal so Amy purchased the service through them for what still was a princely sum. Last night she had cause to call DirecTV to follow up on a service person's phone message. DirecTV had never heard of any planned change to our service. They also told her that the princely sum she had placed on her debit card was almost twice what she should have paid.

A brief investigation followed. Amy discovered that she had not been dealing with DirecTV at all. She had been dealing with DirectSatTV, one of their installation contractors based out of North Carolina. DirectSatTV appears to be run by the devil.

DirectSatTV padded our bill with installation fees and various other items that we should have gotten for free. When confronted with this they claimed ignorance and that they couldn't locate itemized billing records for the amount Amy had paid. They said we did pay too much and reduced the bill by about twenty bucks. Still not even close to what we should have paid. When an actual DirecTV rep was brought in on a conference call, the subcontractor's position became untenable. Sat TV caved only to uncave the instant that the DirecTV rep left. This sort of argument went back and forth for quite while with Amy getting bounced off of DirecTV reps and SatTV reps several times. The dispute was finally concluded by an agreement that got us the majority of our money back through refunds and credits to our future service bill.

The lesson? One, always know who you're talking with. DirecTV. DirectSatTV. Easy to make a mistake, especially when the subcontract is using the DirecTV logo all over their site. Two, never put this sort of thing on a debit card. By the time Amy realized something was up, the transaction had gone through. DirectSatTV already had our money and was going to hold on to it by hell and high water. If we had used a credit card, we could have called up our credit card company and disputed the charge. This would have made DirectSatTV far more pliable.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Celebrity Passings

So both Ricardo Montalban and Patrick McGoohan passed away this month. National Review did a brief piece on Montalban as he was a long time subscriber. McGoohan is best known as the king in Braveheart in the US, but his finest work is probably the 1960s British TV series The Prisoner which is currently being streamed from the AMC website.

If It's Not Scottish...

Tomorrow is Robbie Burns Day. It's a day to celebrate Scottish poetry and haggis and is often observed with kilted Burns Suppers. But it's going to be cold tomorrow so I think I'll stick with pants.

Via Slashfood.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Testing 2: JMB's Birthday

Lets see if this link comes through...

Tamara has posted a brief list of John Moses Browning's completed firearms designs in honor of his birthday.

UPDATE: Well I cleaned that up.