27 February 2011

It Makes Me Wonder

Today the temps are in the mid seventies and the sun is shining.

I have seen model airplanes flying and motorcycles humming along the roadways.

I have seen groups of people out fishing and riding horses.

I have also seen people out and about in convertible cars.

Only three of those cars, including mine, had their tops down.

Apropos of nothing, I suppose, all three were Mustangs.

25 February 2011

Be Prepared

Yesterday there was a message on my phone from the Sheriff's Department. My CWP was ready to be picked up.

This morning I put the Grok in it's plastic case, put the case in the back of the Baja under the Ozzbros cover, and went to the Sheriff's Department.

After getting the permit in hand and placing the Grok in it's holster I went to the gun store to see if I could find another holster for IWB carry. Florida's laws are such that any exposure is a violation, so I needed something to carry to Eldest Daughter's house.

They had an Uncle Mike's IWB holster that fit the bill, so I've been carrying with it all day to get used to it. It should do the trick quite nicely.

It has also been a beautiful day, temperatures in the seventies and partly cloudy. Right now the sky is clear and blue and it's 72 degrees. I fired the grille up and did some burgers and steaks.

And so with supper out of the way, I think I'll go for a ride.

24 February 2011


This morning I finally made an appointment to get my eyes checked. I'm probably going to need the kind with lines on them, so that's something to look forward to.

Nothing planned this weekend, no running off to Roanoke like we have done the past couple of weeks. This weekend we will just hang around the Refuge. Bob is probably breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Roberta X had a post about how if the balloon went up most of us were done for. I was reminded of it as I was cooking supper, most of what I was doing was mixing up pre-packaged ingredients. She's probably right on the money, most people living in the US today have never really known hardship and don't know how to do things from the ground up like our grandfathers did.

My mother was a good cook and usually prepared everything from basic fresh ingredients, but these days it's much easier to open a can, jar or bottle and mix it with browned hamburger, or combine it with the contents of the powdered spice package...you get the idea. Home-cooked has certainly taken on different meanings since I was young.

Fortunately the chances of things really going sideways are vanishingly small, but small scale natural and "man-made" disasters are always a possibility, and time and again political and financial systems have crashed and burned, leaving strewn wreckage in their wake.

I don't really know what I would do, but I'm far enough out that I could probably get going farther if need be, I have firearms and a fair bit of electro-mechanical skills that would end up being useful when the immediate danger was over and some sort of effort at rebuilding was being made, but things would certainly be dicey for a while. Hunker down and remain in place or run for the hills, that is the question. The answer would likely depend on the situation.

But for now this is just an exercise in brain-stretching, luckily I have nothing pressing on my schedule, the lights are on, and we are all warm, dry and well fed. Things could change in an instant, and you never know if or when, so the best thing you can do is be prepared as much as you can, pray for the best and plan for the worst.

So for today we are having a bit of the mundane life, there are kids to be picked up from school and groceries to buy. I checked out a new grocery store that has just opened and they have my brand. I also picked up some of this, I'm not usually too fond of lagers but I do like the redheads.

And since we don't have anything planned this weekend I think I'll have a few.

20 February 2011

Range Report

A preliminary report can be found here, but it's scarce on details.

The first thing that was done was a sighting in at 25 yards, just to make sure everything was close enough to mark the paper. The Arisaka shot slightly high and right, about the same distance high as right, but close enough to get on the paper (or so we thought at the time).

The Saiga was also high, but slightly left. Once again, it was determined to be close enough to get on the paper.

We set the targets up at the 200 yard line and prepped the rifles. Five shots out of the Arisaka and ten out of the Saiga, and a peek through the spotting scope revealed that...

Actually it revealed that the spotting scope wasn't strong enough for 200 yards, so we had to hike the distance back to the targets. The Arisaka was high and right enough to be off the paper and on the cardboard, the Saiga was high and slightly left.

Back on the firing line the Saiga got it's sights adjusted, and we decided to fire one rifle at a time and check shot placement after each magazine (the ulterior motive was to make sure all the ammo would feed out of each of the Saiga magazines since I had some trouble with one or two of them before). Each round of firing required a 200 yard hike to the target and 200 yards back.

Since the Saiga had more capacity we started with it. By the time we were through the third magazine we had it sighted in fairly well, so the fourth magazine grouped right in the middle where it should have been. The group was in a pattern about eight inches or so across (32 rounds in each magazine) scattered evenly around the X, so not bad for iron sights.

Next we attempted to sight in the Arisaka. Attempted I say, because the tool we used on the Saiga did absolutely nothing for the Arisaka. We put 20 rounds through it total and it consistently shot about eight to ten inches high and eight to ten inches to the right, but the grouping was pretty good at about 4 to 5 inches for a 5 round magazine (once again, iron sights).

I don't know how the elevation problem is going to get resolved because there is absolutely no adjustment for elevation, but with the proper tool I should be able to get the azimuth dialed in. There didn't seem to be any performance differences between the 129 grain and the 140 grain bullets, the original Japanese rounds were 139 grains so I'll probably stick with the 140 grain rounds unless I get a good deal on something else.

We have also decided that 100 yards is a good enough distance, and since the spotting scope is good for 100 yards it would cut down on the hiking time.

Next we moved over to the pistol and shotgun range. I pulled the plug out of the Franchi and wanted to see how it did. With the plug out the magazine holds 4 rounds, two more than with the plug in. To load 5 rounds you have to first load the chamber and then load the magazine, which is kind of a pain in the nether regions due to the way the semi-auto feed system works. The grouping with a modified choke installed (the Franchi has screw in chokes, unlike the pump-action Mossberg) was pretty good at 25 yards, so it would be a good duck gun (with the plug in, of course).

I then shot about 75 rounds through the Glock and made a big hole in the middle of the paper at six yards, so I'm happy with that. I had absolutely no feed issues this time, not like during quals when I had one stovepipe on me. It may have been something to do with the ammo I purchased from the range, the ammo I had on hand did just fine.

After all was said and done and the toys were put away I said something about getting a Mosin Nagant to play with since it would be cheaper to feed than the Arisaka. As luck would have it my range buddy just so happened to have one, along with enough ammo that I should be able to pass it down to my grandkids. Russian surplus, so I'll have to get some good cleaner for the bore, but plenty of it.

So now my gun safe is multicultural; I have two Russian rifles, one Japanese rifle (the older Russian and the Japanese rifles might have either faced each other or served side by side, they are about the same age*), one American rifle and one American pump shotgun, one Italian semi-auto shotgun, and an Austrian pistol. I have rifle calibers in .22, .223, 6.5 x 50 and 7.62 x 54R so all my bases should pretty well be covered. Both shotguns are 12 gauge and the Glock is .45 so I'm pretty well equipped there, too. I'd like to get another .357 before I'm all done, maybe a 9mm and a .380, but by now I have the "needs" covered and so I'm down to "wants."

The next thing I need to do is find the proper sight adjusting tool for the Arisaka (and more ammo for it), then I will take it and the Mosin out to see how they do.

*EDIT: The Mosin and the Arisaka are not, in fact, about the same age; the Mosin is forty years younger. The Arisaka T-30 was produced in a four or five year span right around 1900 and the Mosin was made in 1943.

Good Things Come

To those who wait.

Science Channel.

Sunday, March 6th.

Eight PM EST.

In the correct order, and in HiDef.

Since I work Sundays the DVR will be programmed and ready to fly.

A tip of the hat to BruHa. Man wears a hat like that, you know he's not afraid of anything.

Image credit: Sidney Baldwin

The Teachers Are Revolting

My heart bleeds little pink polka-dots for them as our military works longer hours for less money per year with no three month break over the summer.

My heart bleeds little purple unicorns for them as they take a sick day and march, knowing that if I pulled any such nonsense as that I’d be looking for a job the very next day.

My heart bleeds baby blue lightning bolts for them while our children still can’t read and a large number of them graduate without being able to locate their home country, much less their home state, on a map of the world.

The sad thing is there are many talented and dedicated teachers in our schools, both public and private, that don't get the credit they deserve because their slacker co-workers are protected by the same union. One bad apple spoils the entire barrel, and there is a lot more than one bad apple in that particular barrel.

Fire all the slackers and replace them with returning veterans (Troops to Teachers Program). At least the vets are aware of what happens outside their own little insular world.

And by the way, while we are discussing who needs to be fired...

19 February 2011

Mission Accomplished!

Youngest Son and I finally got out on the Blue Ridge Parkway all by ourselves today. Sister had to work but you can be sure the new convertible went with her!

It was a bit cold even though the sun was shining, so the top stayed up. Youngest son even managed to drag me down a trail or two. The scenery was spectacular.

I guess I'm going to have to do more of this, if for no other reason than to make sure I can.

18 February 2011

He's Going To Kill Us

The plan was simple; take the Firefly out on the Blue Ridge Parkway and have a fun couple of hours in the sun.

As we were heading towards the Parkway, Sister noticed a bright red 2009 Mustang convertible in a used car lot. "Let's go in and look" she said, "I don't want to buy it, I'm happy with my car (2000 Mustang convertible), but I'm curious."

The next thing I know she's trading in the 2000 for the 2009. The funny thing is, seven or eight months ago she was signing papers for the 2000, and once again it was one that she had noticed while riding in my car. It was like deja vu all over again.

Brother In Law is never going to let me visit ever again.

Living With Women

Yesterday was beautiful, but today is going to be phenomenal with temps in the mid seventies. Topless weather for sure, and where better to be topless than on the Blue Ridge?

Youngest son and I loaded up the Firefly last night and went to Roanoke with the intent of driving the Blue Ridge, north this time towards the Shenandoah Valley. Of course we stopped off at Sister's for the night, she isn't at work today so she is coming along for the ride.

As I stepped into the shower this morning I was overwhelmed by the sheer femininity of it. Sister has two teen-aged daughters and poor Brother In Law is the lone male, living solo amongst all that fluffery. It's a wonder he still has his man-parts.

For Christmas this year I'm going to go to the man-store and buy Brother In Law shampoo that smells like gunsmoke, soap with lava in it that smells like motor oil baking on hot metal and will take the first layer of hide off, shaving cream that smells like race car exhaust, and after-shave that smells like wood smoke. That should hold him over until the girls go to college.

17 February 2011

After Action (Preliminary) Report

The Arisaka shoots high and to the right, the Saiga has been pretty well sighted in, and I have a new (well, new to me) rifle that I have yet to put anything through. It's a Mosin Nagant purchased from the same friend that provides range time.

All told it was a pretty good day. I am presently in Roanoke VA and tomorrow we will be cruising the Blue Ridge for the day with the top down.

I hope your day was a good one as well.

15 February 2011

Concealed Carry Forums

I tried to register at carryconcealed.net and got bounced for being a spammer. When I attempted to contact them, apparently their computer system doesn't like the answer "John Moses Browning" for "Who invented the 1911" and I couldn't figure out what answer it wanted for "What is CCW" either. I'm thinking that's also the reason they tagged me for a spammer.

I was going to send them another message, but decided "to hell with it." At this point I'm thinking it's not worth the effort. That's a hell of a way to improve your membership.

So here's the deal for my gunny type readers out there, are there any concealed carry forums that are worth getting into, and what is the general opinion of USCCA? Worth the price of admission or no?

I could just troll the boards, I guess, but it's not as good if you can't ask questions.

Train Lover's Day

Last Saturday was Train Lover's Day at the Virginia Museum of Transportation, so youngest son and I hopped in the Mustang and went to Roanoke.

Chesapeake and Ohio 4-8-4 number 614 was on display along with the usual Norfolk and Western locos. She was missing her piston rods, but otherwise she looked pretty good.

Of course I also had to take a peek at the most beautiful steam locomotive ever made while I was there, in all her black and red glory. That's her on the left in the picture.

The museum also hosted the local model railroad clubs, there were displays of N scale, HO scale, On3 scale and Lionel three-rail trains as well as a few items for sale. I picked up a LifeLike F-7 in Pennsylvania livery to go with the fleet of Bachmann Spectrums I have on hand.

All together it was a good day, and of course it is always good to see Sister.


A range session has been scheduled for Wednesday.

Planned festivities are to see how the Arisaka does with two different weights of ammo (I have a feeling the heavier bullets are going to work better with the shorter carbine), sight in the Saiga (it was shooting a bit high, but that might have been the shorter range that we were using), and get some much needed practice with the Glock.

I will be filing an after-action report on the Arisaka soon.

14 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

11 February 2011

Star Drives and Phantasms

I am a professional knuckledragger.

I have always had a love of things mechanical and electrical. I began as an amateur fixing my own bicycles (and cars a bit later on) and gained professional status when Uncle Sam taught me how to fix airplanes on floating airports. Nowadays my machines don't fly, and I don't have to float to fix them, but it's still machine fixing. No one really notices when all the machines work, but when they don't it's up to the knuckledraggers (both amateur and professional) to Make It Better.

An aircraft is nothing more than a collection of nuts, bolts, rivets and assorted parts all traveling approximately the same direction at more or less the same time. It's the job of the professional knuckledragger to keep this a true statement, and when it is not all sorts of Unpleasant Individuals with no discernable sense of humor start asking Probing Questions. This is, in the knuckledragging community, what we call A Bad Thing.

Other knuckledraggers in fields other than aviation can tell similar tales. Ship fixers, for instance, have their own collection of stories about main shaft bearings seizing up at inopportune times (for instance, when you already have two of your props dragging and the INSURV team is onboard; the only solution is to shut the third main down long enough to get their helo off the deck, fire up the two that will run long enough without causing the water outside to come inside, launch everything else off, shut them both back down and head for home...slowly...on one screw - not that I would have heard any of those stories, of course).

And now it appears as if starship maintenance is no different than anything else, only in this case the collection of odd fasteners travels more or less in formation in a hard vacuum, and it's the professional knuckledragger's job to keep the vacuum out, the air in, and the rivets all heading in the same general direction. "I Work On A Starship" is a book and blog about just that.

You see, it seems that unbeknownst to anyone else, the Nazis managed to put men on the moon before their precious Reich collapsed in on itself, long before Armstrong and Company arrived. Those Who Followed found the equipment as they were gearing up to put a defensive installation on the moon and promptly confiscated it for their own use, who knew? Good thing they're not Nazis, but at least the war is over.

This is not a single story containing the normal good guys vs bad guys conflict and resolution. It's a collection of tales and anecdotes that will be familar to anyone who gets grubby for a living, and if you are that sort of person you will find yourself chuckling and nodding at parts that, even in an unfamiliar setting, are intimately familiar. And that's just the first half.

The second half of the book is an actual story, with chapters and everything. It does have good guys, bad guys, conflicts and resolutions, and if you only read that part of the book it's a good tale in and of itself. You don't have to be a knuckledragger to appreciate "Another Day" (although it does help), but if you are looking for a space tale this is a good one.

I can only hope that Senior Drive Tech Roberta X, wherever she is, keeps writing about her adventures on the USAS Lupine. Maybe her counterpart on USAS Vulpine will be encouraged to spin a yarn or two as well.

I could also hope that the USSF would be interested in a fat old retired squid next time they need knuckledraggers, but for now I can at least read about it.

Man Bites Dog

I don't know why no one is covering this, but I haven't seen it at any of the usual sources. I heard it on the radio on my way home yesterday.

Maybe no one thinks it's a big deal, but it seems pretty significant to me.

Well, I guess I can't say no one is covering it. The Other McCain has a headline on it at the Live At Five post.

Somehow I thought it was at least worth a flaming skull.

UPDATE: Ace has it now. No flaming skull, but you can't have everything.

The Taxman Cometh

I just got done e-filing my return. All together I am paying as much in income tax as I made my first year in the US Navy as a raw recruit and airplane fixer in training.

Of course I'm making much more now than I did then. I'm not quite up to the level of evil rich yet, but my itemized deductions are worth more than my standard ones would be so there is still hope.

There is also hope that this year the state of North Carolina won't see fit to hold on to the paltry amount they are returning to me until the last available moment like they did last year.

Hope springs eternal. Now I'm just waiting for my change.

04 February 2011

Browncoats: Redemption

Suffering from a Firefly jones I found and ordered this little gem. After a not unreasonable wait it showed up at my doorstep. As I had to work when it arrived I didn't have time to review it, but since then I've had a chance to sit down and watch it.

The scenery and acting is par for the course for a low-budget fan film (I have seen numbers of 20K and 25K, total, for the entire film). Not that there isn't a lot of heart in the effort, it's just that without the expertise that an accomplished studio and a seasoned cast brings to the table the result is always going to be less than polished.

In the acting there are some that are better than others, but in the end they are all delivering lines, and it's pretty clear. The cast is made up of unknowns that have few films to their credit, many of those being low budget B-movie specials (ninjas and vampires feature strongly in them), and several of the actors have only been in this one. One of them, Chris Lark, was employed in exactly two scenes and was apparently cast only for his resemblance to Nathan Fillion. Another, Guy Wellman (playing medic Cameron Allen), is actually one of the better actors in the film.

The intonation and timing of the dialog is off, sometimes jarringly so, and it does detract from the overall effort. Line delivery is flat, and the emphasis never seems to be on the right words in the right places. The Chinese is stilted and forced, a bit of practice would likely have helped the delivery. It's kind of like watching the high-school drama club put on a production; no matter how much energy each individual brings to the scene it's always pretty clear the actors are not greatly experienced. I have also seen it written somewhere that shooting the film only took ten days start to finish, perhaps if there had been more time to rehearse the finished product would have been more refined.

The choice of roles is somewhat confusing as well. For example, there are both a chief engineer and a mechanic for Redemption, which is a smaller ship than Serenity who only has a single mechanic to care for her. Jobs are arranged by a businessman who travels with the crew, yet serves no other discernable purpose and is not the Captain. Initially there is no pilot save the Captain, and the medic is never seen practicing his craft so it's not real clear going just by the action in the film what his purpose is until near the end where the Captain is telling the story of when she met him. They could have eliminated or combined several characters and I don't think anyone would have noticed.

There is one scene that doesn't seem to fit, and that is a rocket attack delivered by what is apparently supposed to be Adelai Niska as the ship approaches Ezra. There doesn't seem to be a real reason for it, and the crew's reaction is muted to say the least. The captain, for instance, should have launched into the scene spitting and snarling (imagine Malcolm Reynolds in the first scene of Serenity ripping a strip off of Kaylee because the primary buffer panel just flew off of his "gorram ship"), but instead she walked - WALKED! - to the bridge for a pleasant chat with the pilot. This doesn't really bode well for the "willful suspension of disbelief" and would have been left on the cutting room floor if it were up to me.

The music, while appropriate for the 'verse, is understated and overly mute when it shouldn't be, for instance at the changing of the scenes. Otherwise it adds what it should where it should. The scenery is more contemporary and less Firefly, I can't really put my finger on it but there's more plastic and less wood and other natural looking materials evident, which gives it more of an artificial feel. Redemption herself appears to be made of painted canvas (in other words, obviously a set), but at least the layout looks good.

And now with the bad parts out of the way, let's move on to the high spots. The plot is consistent and well drawn, and the scripting appears to be good, if less than appropriately delivered. The two times we see the ship, once taking off and once entering atmo, are extremely well done and could have been used as-is in a higher quality production. Given a bigger budget, improved sets and experienced actors this would be a great film. As it is it's still good, and since the profits all go to charity it's an acceptable trade-off.

The actors appear to be big fans of the Firefly universe, and it's quite evident that what they lack in spit and polish they make up for in sheer joy and exuberence. There are plenty of references to both the series and the movie "Serenity" (for instance, in the opening scene the ship has just delivered a cargo of beagles and the discussion is how cows may be a better cargo) so it ties in well. It's as if a bunch of fans got together to make a movie.

And in fact, that is exactly what happened.

If you are looking for a well made polished film at the production level of Firefly or Serenity this is not the flick for you. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a fun tale set in the same 'verse, you might do well to check it out.

03 February 2011

Now, We Wait

The application has been made, the paperwork has been filled out, the fees have been paid and the fingerprints and photo have been taken. In six to eight weeks I should be in possession of a North Carolina permit to carry concealed.

I don't know if I will carry all that often, but I might. The main reason I am getting the concealed permit is because I'm a bit self-conscious about carrying openly and I figured this would get me used to carrying at all.

The biggest detriment to carrying openly here in North Carolina is this little tidbit stuck in the law, I have emphasized the pertinent sections:

"By common law in North Carolina, it is unlawful for a person to arm himself/herself with any unusual and dangerous weapon, for the purpose of terrifying others, and go about on public highways in a manner to cause terror to others. The N.C. Supreme Court states that any gun is an unusual and dangerous weapon for purposes of this offense."

Basically what that means is any gun-fearing wussie, when seeing you armed, can call the police and say they are scared, and that's all it takes for you to be in violation of the law. In other words, your Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms is subject to someone else's arbitrarily constructed "right" to be a big pansy. Of course this would be determined on a case-by-case basis, and the winner would be whoever has the better lawyer.

That's one of the reasons I have decided to get the concealed permit. Another reason is that if you possess a concealed carry permit you don't have to go begging to the Sheriff for permission to buy handguns. Either way it isn't right that you should have to get permits to exercise Constitutional rights, but until the laws can be changed that's the way it is.

And so that's why I have applied.

01 February 2011

Seventeen Years Later

Seventeen years after the first space shuttle disaster the orbiter Columbia broke up during re-entry and was lost with all hands.The cause was determined to be a piece of insulating foam from the main booster fuel tank that had come loose during launch and damaged the thermal tiles which protect the ship against excessive heat build-up during re-entry.

On this day we remember the seven astronauts of STS-107:

Mission Commander Rick D. Husband
Pilot William C. McCool
Mission Specialist 1 David M. Brown
Mission Specialist 2 Kalpana Chawla
Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson
Mission Specialist 4 Laurel B. Clark
Payload Specialist 1 Ilian Ramon