Feb 28, 2011


Two local college students died this weekend, in unrelated incidents. According to local law enforcement, "Alcohol consumption appears to have played a part in the separate deaths of two students in two days."

The comments section of the local rag's site is getting the usual assortment of comments: a few condolences, and the rest suggesting that Something Must Be Done.

Make alcohol illegal! (That worked well ninety years ago.)
Lower the drinking age! (I have no argument with this.)
Charge the person(s) who gave them alcohol! (It's a college town, parties are the rule, and good luck figuring out where they were drinking.)
Stop building off-campus housing! (Good luck with that.)

And it continues in similar veins.

The answer is, like many problems, not to be found in more laws. The underlying problem is far too complex, as you try to balance societal mores, family values, peer pressure, and so forth. Instead, it's going to take a cultural sea change. Parents, educators, actors, athletes, everyone around a child should be aware of the image they're presenting.

I hear my peers - nominal adults in their late 20s and 30s - bragging about the night they had at the bar over the weekend, and I cringe. I won't claim a holier-than-thou: I've overindulged a handful of times, and lived to regret it. I do wonder, though: what kind of lives have we built for ourselves, and our future generations, when the high point of the weekend is hugging the toilet? (And then posting pictures of it on facebook?)

I won't say my weekends are glamor-filled. I live in a rural area and have had a house for less than two years. Last weekend actually did involve hugging a toilet - as I tried to get it properly seated on a new wax ring in the floor I spent the preceding weekends putting down. Mowing, maintenance, improvement... it's not always fun, but I've usually got something to show for my effort.

The names in the news lately? Charlie Sheen - presumed to be high and/or drunk. Lindsay Lohan - busted for shoplifting. Athletes on drugs, musicians driving drunk... how is any of this something to aspire to?

I don't have an answer. Just my nickel. But please be mindful of the image you're showing to the world on a regular basis.

Feb 26, 2011

Online-offline Selling and You

In other words: *list. Sure, it's just a step from newspaper classifieds, but the fact that it's free - and easy - attracts a much higher volume. Pick any private classified section (i.e., not "legal notices" or "real estate") in your local litterbox liner. Count the ads.

Flip over to your local *list site. Find the same section and count. I'll bet you a stale donut there's several times if not an order of magnitude more.

Is it a good way to find a buyer for your stuff? Absolutely. I've sold all kinds of crap online. Old optical drives. Movies. Decoys. Cameras. I've bought all kinds of crap online too. Antiques, oddities, a gun, etc.

There's been one common theme about those things, though: they're portable.

The anonymity of *list works both ways. If someone is trying to do you (or anyone, really) harm, a gmail account is free and a pre-paid cell phone is $30. With those two things, I can be anyone I wish.

Remember all the advice you've heard over the years about meeting people from teh innertoobz? Take a friend? Meet in a public place? Just because you're not meeting this person with the intention/hope of swapping bodily fluids doesn't mean you shouldn't take the same precautions - or even more. You're going to be bringing cash to this deal, and in some instances, quite a bit of it. (I sold a camera for a few hundred bucks, I bought a rifle for about as much.)

Regardless of whether you're buying or selling, safety works both ways. Every time I've sold something, I've suggested meeting in a public place. The parking lot of a shopping center, a local coffee shop, whatever. When buying, I've tried the same approach, but some sellers don't want to go to the effort. Their choice - and if things sound hinky, don't be afraid to back out of the deal beforehand.

Going to someone's house to buy something? Take a friend, and preferably two. One should ride on your belt and say something like, "9x19mm," and the other should be flesh-and-blood and wait in the car while you do your transaction. This isn't paranoia, it's preparedness.

Occasionally, however, you're going to have to bring a buyer into your domain. Example: today I sold a washing machine. There's no way I'm going to load it into my truck and take it to the mall parking lot to show to a "maybe" buyer.

So how do you get ready for that? Have whatever you're selling in a "public" area of the house. Don't tromp someone upstairs and into the bedroom to look at a bed frame: have it in the den/dining room/kitchen and ready to go. Put away ANYTHING that could be considered "easy taking". Wallets, keys, cameras, purses, laptop bags, etc. Make a quick look around and try to make some effort to keep people out of sight of the "hard taking but worth it" targets: nice AV equipment, the desktop computer, or the gun safe.

If you can have two people home, then do it. The second person doesn't have to be involved, just around with a phone nearby. Make sure you've got the OTHER friend handy - and if it's practical, a bigger friend is not a bad idea.

Don't leave your buyer unattended inside - not even for a second. It's simply asking for trouble. If they ask to use the bathroom or a glass of water, deflect. "Sorry, we're having problems with the septic and can't run any more water than we absolutely have to." "Our water is terrible - lots of sulfur." Improvise!

Today, selling the washing machine, I had about twenty minutes warning that my buyer would be here. I made sure the washer was in the front room, ready to go, the closer on the door was removed (makes the door too narrow), the electronics were as put-away as possible, and the gun safe would be as much out of sight as possible. I had my normal carry piece on, but also made the 870 "cruiser-ready" - full magazine, hammer DOWN on an empty chamber - and slipped it in the hall closet.

As my buyer left, I made a note of his license plate. Do I expect any problems? No. But if something were to happen here in the next week or two, he would be Name One to give the police.

It's not about distrust, folks: it's about knowing that you are your own keeper.

Feb 25, 2011

Dead Trees

I've been slowly acquiring and working my way through the "Honor Harrington" series by David Weber. I'd picked up book 1 ("On Basilisk Station") at a used book store in Pike's Market in Seattle, and since picked 2-4.

The local Borders Books is on the chopping list, so I stopped in last night to see what they had. Aside from the nausea-inducing wall-to-wall hangings every other ceiling tile in red/black/yellow screaming "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS", "STORE CLOSING", "ENTIRE STORE 20-40% OFF!!!", they had not been thoroughly picked over yet - that'll be when it's 50% or more off, I expect. I didn't want to wait, so picked up books 5-11 in the series, leaving just one to find ("Mission of Honor") at a later point. I should be set on reading material for a few weeks, in any case.

From there I wandered over to $BoxSportingStore to burn a rewards certificate that expired tomorrow. I eyeballed their ammo selections (all overpriced) then the display of knives. I've been carrying a Kershaw Chive as my pocket knife for a while, and while it's a fine knife, it's really too small for my hands. I played with a Kershaw Zing briefly and decided to get it. Except they were out of stock. So the clerk sold me the display model (no box) for $30 - ten bucks off the list price. Knock off the $10 reward certificate, and I walked out with a brand-new Kershaw for $20. No complaints. Nice size knife, no complaints thus far!

Feb 22, 2011

Charon's Fare

It seems like I've been hearing the rattle of coins into Charon's hands too much lately.

It's a one-way ride, folks. Take joy from the small things as much as the big.

Information Bleg

MrsZ and I had a Talk the other night (with me half-asleep, always a good start), and both of us foresee a time when moving from this state is going to become not just desirable, but essential. Don't get me wrong: I *like* where I live, in the geographic sense - and even culturally to a certain extent. However, fiscally, New York is making it harder and harder for someone to make an honest go of it.

Our house is modest - 1800sf, three bedrooms, bath-and-a-half, unfinished (read "dirt floor") cellar, detached three-car, on just over an acre. There's no high-speed internet, no cable TV service, and no natural gas service. Our appraised value (according to the county) is about $115k. We are paying nearly $4,000 a year in property taxes. Almost HALF of our mortage payment goes into escrow to pay our taxes and PMI.

Plus our state income taxes. And sales tax (8%).

We are ostensibly that enviable income type of "DINK" - but we're pinching pennies to keep things reasonable.

At the current rate that New York is trying to take our money, there is no way I'm going to make it to retirement in my current job. (Hey, guess what? I'm a union employee, without a contract, stalled negotiations, no dental or vision benefits, and no raise since January of 2009. And I'm still going to work! But unions are another rant entirely.)

If we can hang tight another five years or so, I'll be vested into my retirement program and will have SOME of it coming no matter what, and hopefully we'll have finances well in hand... and then we'll be getting serious about moving.

We don't have any one place in mind yet. I can automatically eliminate New York, Massachusetts (sorry Jay), New Jersey, California, and Hawaii, on the basis of gun laws alone. The ideal place for us would be a fairly low population density, with a small city (30-50k) nearby, preferably with a reasonably-sized college (some hope of "culture" showing up occasionally), and larger cities (>100k) within a two hour drive. Enough open space that buying a 30-100 acre parcel is possible and land values aren't prohibitive. (Local real estate ad I saw this week, guy wants $8,000 PER ACRE for undeveloped ag-zoned land.)

Solid economy, of course.

I like the non-coastal Southeast (northern AL/MS/GA, mountain-ends of NC/TN/KY, etc), would consider the midwest to a certain extent, not interested in the true plains states (KS, NE, OK, SD, ND)...

Mostly just looking for suggestions, ideas, things I may not have considered.

Ready? Go!

Feb 20, 2011

Trim the truck

A while back there was a gun-manufacturer version of the "Coexist" sticker floating about. I got to wondering if anyone was having them printed up.

Turns out Stoner Arms in Oregon has them available for $4/ea. I'll be ordering a few shortly. Would love one of the hitch covers too, but can't quite justify $55 for one.

I emailed Matt (the owner) and he would be happy to have this spread around, so feel free to link as you see fit.

Feb 18, 2011

Pro Tip

When trying to shoot at and get away from a top-of-the-food-chain large predator:
(A) carry more than a 9mm single-stack subcompact
(B) make sure it doesn't jam every other round

Yep, had one of those dreams last night. Right carry piece. Right round count per mag.

Big sharp bear teeth and claws.

Feb 10, 2011

Going home, in a manner of speaking

I've been chatting back and forth with the gentleman who is acquiring my 28-2 as we sort out the details of the transaction.

He mentioned as an aside that he'd be carrying it as his off-duty piece in the midwest city where he is an officer.

This pleases me in a way that I find very hard to express. I am, without question, sad to see such a fine pistol going down the road. They do not make them like they used to. On the flip side, 28-2s are not entirely uncommon, and prices haven't skyrocketed out of sight yet - so I will likely be able to obtain another one someday.

According to the Wikipedia entry:

Since this relatively deluxe model [(the Model 27)] was the only revolver available for this cartridge at the time, police departments, as well as individual officers and private shooters, requested from Smith and Wesson a more strictly utilitarian "budget" .357 magnum revolver. S&W responded with the Highway Patrolman[.]

It makes me very happy to know that this piece of history is going back to serve the purpose for which it was originally designed and intended. LW, carry it in good health, and may you never need to draw in anger.

Feb 7, 2011

You were a shitty banker anyway.

I was re-reading Adaptive Curmudgeon's post titled "Are We Not Men?" the other day, and this one rings so very true to me:

A man who is temporarily unemployed should be fixing the roof and stacking firewood. If the condition of unemployment stays too long you’re overvaluing yourself. Step back and realize your true value; somewhere there is a ditch that needs digging and you were a shitty banker anyway.

There are far too many people over-valuing themselves in society. I've been through a dozen stores in the past week with "help wanted" signs of one form or another. Yes, most of them are minimum-wage jobs... but they'll put some food on the table.

Feb 6, 2011


Went to MrsZ's hockey game last night after work. When I left work it was spitting a slushy bit of crap, downtown was raining, and home had a bit of crunchy in the rain. Back downtown for the game and it was raining.

We left the game, and it looked like someone had exploded a huge feather pillow overhead. HUGE snowflakes falling heavily - almost three inches worth in the 90 minutes we'd been inside. We started for home, then when traffic stopped because people were sliding around, we turned around and had dinner at a greasy spoon before taking the back roads home. Slow going but no traffic and no problems.

Feb 4, 2011

Reality sets in

Reality is a harsh mistress. We've done this bathroom upgrade as inexpensively as reasonably possible, but the numbers at the end of the month just aren't adding up. On top of that, overtime at work has essentially dried up, as we're at full staffing for the first time since I've worked there.

Accordingly, I'll be moving several guns in order to make things come out a bit closer to right. I do not have pictures of all these handy, although most have gone across the pages here occasionally. All prices are including shipping FFL-FFL for pistols, individual-FFL for long guns; face-to-face deals in NY are possible within reason. Reasonable offers will be considered. No trades, sadly. Please send ALL offers by private email - zercool gmail com.

Smith & Wesson 28-2 Highway Patrolman 4" .357Mag. Refinished to bright nickel sometime in its life, has a fantastic trigger. Magna stocks, not numbered (I added them at some point) but I believe period-correct. N-series, four-digit serial. One flake in the nickel on the cylinder approximately 1/4" in diameter, near the front of a flute. Flame cutting is minimal, lockup is solid. $475. ** Sold pending payment **


Interarms Virginia Dragoon 7.5" .44Mag. Single-action revolver, stainless with wood grips. Arguably as sturdy as a Ruger; it's a hell of a shooter and has a wonderful single-action trigger. S-series, three-digit serial. Butt engraved "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Thus always to tyrants). Includes original box which has some wear but is in good shape. $425.


Thompson-Center Contender pistol, .30-30 Super 14 barrel with 2x Tasco scope. Blue frame and barrel, Pachmyr grips. Sling studs. Hell of a shooter; I never did get to take a deer with it. $425.

Smith & Wesson 5946 9mm autoloader. Double-action only, stainless. Some duty wear, overall excellent shape. Three-dot sights. NYPD still issues these as duty guns. S&W has discontinued production of the third-gen autos in favor of low-cost plastics. With five pre-ban magazines. $475.


Remington 572 Fieldmaster .22LR pump rifle. With Weaver rimfire scope. Standard field wear, no rust. 1950s vintage, it's C&R eligible. I've never had it to the range. Beautiful rifle. $250. ** Sold pending payment **

Remington 710 .270 bolt rifle. With Bushnell 3-9x40 scope, two or three mags. Shoots 1.5MOA with 130gr CoreLokt. Solid deer rifle. Synthetic stock, parkerized barrel, bit of freckling on the bolt handle. $325.

Savage 93 .17HMR bolt rifle w/ Accutrigger. GV model - hardwood stock, heavy blued barrel. With Bushnell Banner 3-9x40 scope, three mags. Unbelievably accurate. $375.
**Additionally, have approximately 1,400 rounds of .17HMR ammo. Mostly Hornady 17gr Vmax, some others. $275 w/ the rifle, $300 without and only if the rifle goes first.**


AR-style rifle. Anvil Arms lower w/ Gadsden Flag engraving on mag well, DPMS parts kit. A2 stock, Falcon ERGO overmold grip. DPMS DCM A2 upper. 20" 1/8 stainless heavy barrel, free-floated, no muzzle device or bayo lug (ban compliant). Match sights, front post replaced with a KNS hooded reticle. DCM-approved fore-end weight included (3lb lead weight that fits in the handguard). $1000.


And one book: "Sixguns" by Elmer Keith. This is perhaps THE definitive book on revolvers and has some wonderful stories in in. Hardbound, with dustcover, as-new condition. $100 shipped. ** Sold pending payment to OldNFO **

One more thing: One pair of Danner Pronghorn 800 hunting boots. Mens 12 wide (EE). Worn twice in the snow, as-new, no box. A size too small for me. $150 shipped in the US.

This is a post of last resort. Pictures can be taken of any of these upon request.

Damn, this sucks.

Photodump, major repairs done!

Mostly of the bathroom.

In the initial post, I had a few pictures up of the "before", along with the early stages of demolition.

Over the intervening weekend we took a side trip into the kitchen to fix a leaking draing, and in the process found out the vent on that drain line had been rather kludged:


That's a shining example of "what not to do" or "redneck engineering". It makes the drains slow, and when pressures change just right, it vents sewer gas back out. In our case, it was venting it into a wall space which made our bedroom occasionally smell bad. We put the proper vent in (called a "cheater vent", and meets code if there is a real vent elsewhere) and it has (A) stopped the stench and (B) the kitchen sink drains MUCH faster.

While Dad and I were fixing that drain, MrsZ was getting the bathroom sanded and primed.

So here goes the dump, with commentary along the way.

After the first post, this is where things were:

The vanity and washer/dryer were out, the toilet had been removed from its base, and the tile and underlayment were all stripped up. No pictures of the sanding/priming, as I was either at work, or occupied with the drain repair.

Monday this week, we started (and finished) painting:



Tuesday, I sanded the subfloor, wiped it with bleach solution, and let it dry. Then I started cutting and putting down underlayment. This was an all-day project as I measured, remeasured, and cut around the stubs for plumbing. I did the best I could, but it wasn't perfect. Fortunately, the ugliest ones will be well-hidden by the vanity.



(Handy tip: an 8oz margarine tub seals a toilet stub just perfectly!)



That was Tuesday. I was rapidly running out of energy and patience with this project...

Wednesday morning I slept in a little bit, then got ready for tiling. Vinyl tile (and sheet) has a tendency to show ANY imperfections in the underlayment: gaps larger than 1/16", any bumps, etc. So I spackled the one large gap (my straight cut wasn't quite), swept several times, vacuumed carefully, swept again, vacuumed again, and waited for the spackle to dry.

I chose to use tile adhesive in addition to the self-adhesive tiles*, so that required a fair bit more effort. First I found and marked the center of the room, then determined what pattern I wanted to lay. MrsZ had strongly pushed for a diamond pattern, but looking at it I didn't care for it. I tried jack-on-jack and that looked far too institutional, so I tried running bond. Perfect!

I spread adhesive over the back half of the room and let it set for its needed "open time" (time to let the glue tack up and evaporate some of the solvents), then started laying tile at the center of the floor. I laid all the field tiles first, then the edge pieces that needed trimming, then spread the front half of the room and started cutting the tiles for the stubs in the back half.

It's labor-intensive work, but not overly complicated. Vinyl tiles score easily with a utility knife, and using the spacers makes the gaps consistent. Those spacers work a trick, but they hurt about as much as Legos to step on with bare feet.




We had briefly debated whether we wanted to gap-and-grout the tiles, or lay them on tight seams. It meant more effort, but I'm very glad we went with the grout. Once a tile was down flat, it wasn't coming back up, nor was it shifting side-to-side more than a tiny bit. Even being careful with the spacers, there are a few spots where my 1/8" spacing widened out a tiny bit, and the grout hides that admirably.

Wednesday evening the adhesive cured, and Thursday morning I got what I needed to do grout. Just before I dug in, the delivery driver called to tell me he was half an hour away with the washer, so I sat back and read a book instead. The washer was delivered (to the middle of the dining room), and I started with the grout:


One quart of pre-mixed grout, one bucket of clean water, one large sponge, one roll paper towels, one grout float, one grout tube, a trash bag, and some paper to catch the mess. The tube is optional - it's essentially an overgrown cake decorator's tube - but it makes laying grout right in the seams MUCH easier.

Work on 4-6 square feet at a time, which will be about 10-12 linear feet. Use a damp paper towel and wipe down the seams and a couple inches on each side. Squeeze grout into about 2/3 of the space you're working on, then use the float at a 45-degree angle (from the floor) to push the grout in and along.

As you finish a section, use the sponge - just barely damp - to lightly buff the area you're working. You're trying to smooth the joints and loosen up the excess. Use paper towels to wipe off the tiles. Whenever the bucket of water is cloudy, change it for clean water. Expect to do this after *every* patch of tile. Just keep chugging along - it goes fairly quickly.




With that done ... put a fan in the door and walk away. Don't walk on it for several hours while the grout dries and sets. When it is dry to the touch (four hours in my case), use a soft rag (like a car polishing rag, old diaper, old flannel shirt, whatever) to gently buff the whole floor. There's going to be a light grit on the whole thing until you do this. DO NOT MOP IT. Just lightly buff it by hand.

The next day or two days later, seal your grout - this will keep it from growing mildew or discoloring over time.

When I was done with all that last night, I looked at our pile of laundry and decided it would be OK to put the appliances back in... So I did.


New washer, old dryer. I'll be working on baseboard trim, wall plates, and getting the vanity and toilet back in over the coming week. We have clean clothes in the meantime. :-)

* - Whoever did the upstairs bathroom used self-adhesive tiles without glue or grout, and they shifted over time. This is the end result:

See why glue and grout makes sense?

Feb 1, 2011

Bathroom Update

Forgive the lack of posting. The last work week saw me working my normal 7a-3p, then coming home and working on demolishing the bathroom. Sometime around Thursday, MrsZ found a suspicious wet spot on the cellar ceiling. Saturday and Sunday evenings were spent tearing apart our kitchen cabinets and repairing the drain line. On the plus side of that, we found that someone had kludged the vent for the drain - by putting in an upright with a 90 in a wall space, and stuffing the open end with a bit of pink fiberglass insulation and a bottlecap to hold it in place. That has since been corrected to code, and I expect that we will no longer have funny smells in the bedroom that were blamed on the cats.

Unfortunately, that set back my schedule for working on the bathroom by two evenings. MrsZ managed to get the sanding and priming done, and we did the painting yesterday. (Valspar calls it "Snowy Dusk", I call it "very light gray".) I rolled, she did the finicky details.

This morning I pulled out everything that was in the room and sanded the subfloor, then vacuumed, then wiped the whole floor with a mild bleach solution, then damp-wiped the walls (no bleach). Put a heater and fan in to dry things out, and had lunch.

Lunch complete, I started measuring very very carefully, and then cutting up the underlayment panels. The room was just the wrong size to do the whole thing with two sheets (9x7, underlayment comes in 4x8 sheets) without some inconvenient seams. So, three sheets cut apart, and NINE stubs drilled or cut (washer hot/cold, washer drain, dryer gas, toilet cold, toilet drain, sink hot/cold, sink drain), with only minor corrections necessary. I won't win any prizes for pretty, but they're in. Stapled down according to spec (2" interval on edges, 4" across the body) means there are approximately eleventy-billion staples now in our bathroom floor, and if they ever need to come out I pity the foo'.

Tomorrow I'll be laying tile. Home Depot may be delivering the washer in the afternoon (depending on weather), but it can't be hooked up for at least three days - two for the tile to cure, one day to grout and let that cure. And, of course, we have to find baseboard trim and get that cut and installed as well.

I've taken pictures as the process progresses - look for one large photo post in a week or so.