Apr 30, 2011

Day 2, mid-way wrap

MrsZ and I decided this morning, after breakfast, to try traffic and go to the show.

I'm glad we did. The drive in was MUCH easier, and while parking wasn't great, it wasn't half as bad as yesterday. (Cheaper, too, with weekend rates.)

Show wandering commenced - many more people, longer lines here and there, and I stuck to the "Upper Level" exhibit hall today. Tomorrow we'll try the main floor.

I waited in line about 15 minutes for a signature from R. Lee Ermey, then wandered off as the line had only moved about ten feet. He was taking time for a few words with everyone who came to him, posing for pictures, and so forth. I respect and appreciate that, but it wasn't worth the wait for me. (Weerd apparently caught him in the men's room; you'll have to ask HIM for that story.)

I moseyed on to the Beretta booth, where they had a simunition/laser range setup with their PX4 Storm pistols. Very nice little piece of equipment, even though I'm not in love with the DA/SA trigger arrangement. They're looking like they're in the mid-$500 range on Gallery of Guns, which is entirely reasonable.

I wandered by Taurus/Rossi's and played with the Ranch Hand - nice little piece of kit, and in .357 that could be a heck of a truck gun. I want one as a matter of course, anyways.


Over by Ruger again and this time I managed to keep my pictures of the SR1911. We'll have to see how it shakes out from real range reports, but I expect it will give the Springer RO a strong run - stainless and US-made is worth a small price premium to a lot of folks. I'm also a fan of the relatively minimal stamping/engraving on the slide. The new Scout Rifle has a wonderful feel to it, and with the right scope (they had a Leupold 1.5-4x on theirs) it's a great all-purpose gun.




Somehow, though, this has turned into a knife show for me. Yesterday I bought the Izula and Stone River knives, and today I picked up a few selections from Ka-Bar.


In the back are the Stone River ceramic kitchen knives, the Big Honkin' Knife is a Ka-Bar Potbelly, the small one to the left of that is a made-in-China "Ka-Bar" knife that came with the Potbelly, the flat black folder is a Ka-Bar Fin, and in front is the ESEE Izula with the ESEE Fire Kit.

And now that MrsZ is about done doing herself up, we're off to gunnie prom!

Barn, foundation

I finally got all the footers dug, set, and leveled - half-tabs of asphalt shingles are just the right size to make shims for 8x16 concrete blocks. Sixteen footers, roughly 3'6" spacing - I eyeballed them, as these don't have to be exact (they'll be well inside the outer edges of the barn on three sides; the fourth side I was careful about).


Once the footers were set, I laid out the skids and tacked them together. Sadly, a framing nailer is NOT easy to use with the framing plates - it's just too tough to line up the nail and the hole. After jamming my nailer more than once, I went back to good old-fashioned hammering and had the job done in no time. The far area - the 12x4' open area - will be the goats' stall, with a bare-dirt floor. The near area, with the 8' 4x4 skids, will be floored, and one third will become a chicken coop, while the remaining two thirds will be storage and work space for MrsZ's hobbies.


Next step: joists, then flooring and walls!

Apr 29, 2011

Day 1, wrap up

Good grief, what a day. I ended up bailing on the Happy Hour at Tilted Kilt sponsored by Crimson Trace far earlier than I might have - I was exhausted, the restaurant was loud, and I'd had my fill of people. Sometimes being a bit introverted can be unpleasant, but I've generally learned to heed the little voice on my shoulder that says, "Hey, enough. Time to bail."

So, the day, in rough order of events:
MrsZ and I caught up with Newbius and his wife for breakfast in the hotel. MrsZ stayed at the hotel for the day, I carpooled in to the show with Newbius and his wife. 13 miles - 1:40 from hotel door to parked. Pittsburgh has NO idea how to handle this kind of event. Traffic was a mess, parking was a disaster, and I heard lots of mutters around the show about commute times etc. It was bad enough that I'm debating whether or not I really want to go back to the show tomorrow. (I will go again Sunday, but we may just be lazy tourists tomorrow.)

We walked the four blocks from our parking lot to the convention center, found the media room, got our credentials, and headed for the show floor. I wandered on my own for the better part of the day, with occasional stops back in the media room to see who had accumulated, or just to sit down and have a cup of coffee for a moment.

In no particular order, the things that caught my attention, for good or bad:
The Smith & Wesson M&P 22. If you carry an M&P as a duty or personal weapon, this should be a no-brainer. Size and weight are similar to a standard center-fire M&P, manual of arms is identical. With an MSRP of $419, expect to see these on the street for $350-375ish. Reliability, of course, remains to be seen, but given S&W's reputation for standing behind their products, I have high hopes for this one.


The Remington Centennial 1911R1. I like Remington products, generally speaking. I swear by their 870 series of shotguns, and clay- and wing-shooters alike will sing the praises of the 11xx series autoloaders. This just seems ... misguided. It's a government-size 1911A1, with three-dot sights, a lowered/flared ejection port, stainless barrel, flat MSH, GI beavertail, etc. The grips are coarse-checkered wood of some kind, and the checkering is aggressive enough that simply holding the gun was unpleasant. Shooting it with anything resembling a full-house load would be painful. There's a touch of engraved scrollwork on the slide that strikes me as an afterthought more than anything else. With an MSRP of $1250, I expected more from Big Green.


On the flip side of that coin, however, Remington may have cracked one out of the park with the new VersaMax autoloader. A series of gas ports self-adjusts the amount of gas vented or cycled to the action, meaning it (at least in theory) can go from light 2-3/4" trap loads to high-brass field loads or 3-1/2" waterfowl loads with no adjustments to the gas system. Major-plus features in my book are the large button to disengage the safety (a treat for waterfowlers wearing gloves in the blind - no need to fumble that tiny button!), a vent-rib with checkered top to reduce glare, and twin beads to help alignment. Shouldering feels much like the 870; I had to make one tiny adjustment the first time I brought the gun up and then it was like it was made for me.



Kimber has just released their new "Solo Carry" compact 9mm. Initial impression: if you're used to the 1911 manual of arms, or don't like the idea of a gun with no manual safety, this may be an ideal alternative to the Kahr PM9/Ruger LC9, etc. Fit and finish is, as expected, excellent, and the gun points well. If anything, I think the grip is a bit too narrow, but that's easy enough to beef up with some new panels. Some stippling or checkering on the fore- and back-straps would go a long way towards grip as well.


Chiappa Firearms has a few real beauties out this year. The Rhino remains an ugly duckling, but I won't denigrate it for ugly. They have a lever-action pistol out, a la the Rossi "Ranch Hand" series; their show model was chambered in .44-40. Perhaps of more interest to many, however, are the new "Plinkerton" series of single-action revolvers. All chambered in .22LR, they are available in several finishes and barrel lengths, and, depending on price, could be wonderful "fun" guns - potentially giving the Single Six a good run for its money.



Tactical Solutions had a nice setup, with their products mounted on several Browning Buckmark lowers and Ruger MkIII lowers. Thanks to Ruger serializing the barrel on the MkIII series, a TS upper means going through an FFL; the Browning barrels were available at the show. I asked one of their booth guys for advice on how best to disassemble and reassemble a MkIII; he provided me with a few tips that I'll explore when I get home.



Springfield Armory had an extensive display of XD, XDm, M1A, and 1911 pistols. I poked at their recently-released "Range Officer" model and was not wildly impressed. For the price - they're running $7-800 on GunBroker right now - you should be able to get into a Ruger SR1911, which I think will be a far better value.


Ithaca Gun had a display of their shotguns and 1911s. The shotguns look halfway decent but are, of course, not as buttery-smooth as a gun that's been used for fifty years. The 1911 I tried had a trigger pull in excess of 10 pounds (by my rough guestimation), which is FAR too heavy for ANY single-action sear. Also, I'm biased, and seeing "Ithaca Gun Co, Upper Sandusky OH" just rubs me wrong.

Other things of interest... Silver Stag knives are pretty, but their managing partner is rude. I'm not a knife guy, I'm a gun guy, and I don't know all the gun makers out there. No way I'm going to know all the knife folks out there! Don't be insulted if someone doesn't know your name, treat them as a potential new customer!

I *did* buy a set of ceramic kitchen knives from the folks at Stone River; show pricing ($75) and some fondling convinced me to take a chance on them.

I also picked up an ESEE Izula (in pink!) and Fire Kit from the folks at EMGear. Yes, pink. The other options were black, tan, and olive green. If I dropped one of those in the yard, I'd find it when the lawnmower did. At least I have a small chance of finding a pink knife!

My own mistake ate several of the pictures I took today - so there are some things missing I wanted to show y'all. I'll try to re-take the important stuff before I come home!

Gunnie prom tomorrow, looking forward to seeing y'all some more!

Show quick notes

First, this thing is huge. I think I've seen it all and then turn a corner and find a whole new area I haven't seen.

Most of the exhibits are happy to answer any questions I've had - with special thanks to Tactical Solutions for several tips on tearing down and reassembling my 22/45.

A moderate dart at Silver Stag knives, whose representative seemed horribly offended that I'd never heard of their product line - admittedly beautiful stag-handled knives.

Nothing truly revolutionary has caught my eye, but lots of nice evolutions. The Ruger SR1911looks great, as does the Kimber Solo Carry. Chiappa has some nice new single-action rimfires and cowboy guns.

Remington: VersaMax is gorgeous. Want. The centennial R1911, however, is a pig. With lipstick. Ugly grips that are actually painful to hold, and engraving that seems like an afterthought.

More later, and pictures!

Safety at the Show

Wandering the floor and stopped by the Crimson Trace booth. Played with a nice set of grips after clearing the gun. Sales rep sidled over and told me I was the first one he'd seen clear a gun yet. Rule One, kids. Rule One.

Apr 28, 2011

It's like a giant who's-who! Appearing in no particular order: Jay, Weerd, Dragon, Bubblehead Les, Breda, Uncle, and more!

Also appearing:
Heath and Amanda, Falnfenix, Caleb, MBtGE, Newbius, Cybrus (and Mrs. Cybrus), Alan, T-Bolt... hell, I'm sure I'm missing someone.

Nearly two dozen legally armed citizens, drinking alcohol in a public establishment, many open-carrying their pistol of choice ... and NOTHING HAPPENED.

Funny how that works.

Apr 24, 2011

The crux of the matter

When you get right down to it, the biggest reason I'm going to Pittsburgh next week is to meet a lot of you. And I am incredibly eager to do so. Putting faces and handshakes with handles on the screen will be wonderful.

I'm not generally a "polished" kind of guy. Jeans and a t-shirt, two-day face-fuzz, hiking boots, etc. That's how I'll look for most of the weekend. I reckon I'll clean up as best I can for prom night... but that begs one question:


And, obviously, the corollary:

OPEN CARRY?? (Just because we can, and hey, our lawyer is that guy right there!)

If there's a better night for a court or BBQ rig, I don't know what it would be. Decisions to make...


It's odd. I've lived in eight or nine different places since I stopped living with mom and dad, and I've never had the JW's show up on my door until we bought the house. We've been there almost two years and there've been at least two sets knocking.

The last pair, however, really surprised me.

I'm used to the clean-cut young white males. They're well-spoken, not pushy, and polite. They ask to spread the Word of God, and I make some polite excuse, and they smile and thank me for my time and go on their way. (I say "I'm used to them" - what I mean is that I'm relatively used to seeing them strolling from door to door in neighborhoods; they're not hard to pick out with a white oxford shirt, black tie, black pants, and name tag.)

Thursday morning I was at home wishing it would warm up enough to do some outside work, and the doorbell rang. I peered out the front window, black mid-size Chevy sedan parked on the roadside. Any number of possibilities, so I opened the front door to see who was there.

Two early-twenties women, one with a surplus of melanin (what's the proper PC term now?), the other arguably a doppelganger for Mena Suvari circa "American Pie", copies of "The Watchtower" in hand.

They started their spiel (while I performed the intricate balancing act of foot behind door, left hand restraining dog, right hand still hovering near carry piece) and I politely interrupted and declined ... and they thanked me for my time, and went on their way.

Still - when did the Mormons start being sneaky about these things??! Tempting healthy young men with attractive young women? For shame!


Apr 22, 2011

Chicks with guns

Uncle tends to post a lot of these, but he's all-linky-no-thinky. ;-)

This is my own hardware, my own models. Sure, Oleg has nicer guns and hotter chicks, but so what?

I still have chicks with guns!



Apr 20, 2011

Barn, Baby Steps (1)

The weather has decided to un-cooperate with me. I got all my building materials (less shingles) last week and promptly started digging the footers and working on leveling them.

In the process, I fell in the pasture, and banged my shoulder/chest on the wheelbarrow handle on the way down. It hurt - a lot. Enough that I only dug out a couple more holes before I said "heck with this!"

Since then, either I've been working or the weather has been lousy. The last day or so has been in the high 30s and low 40s with rain - miserable weather for ANY kind of outdoor work.

But since I promised to photo-document the process, here we go...

Here's the basic site:

The goats have been in that little lean-to for almost two years, and it's beginning to show its age - no surprise, since it's untreated OSB and KD studs. I'll be happy to have that eyesore out of the way.


The rough outline of the footers - just inside the 12x12 final dimensions. Marking out footers proved interesting, as the stupid goat kept plucking my survey flags and wandering off with them.


This is (should be) the tallest footer... I hope.


Gratuitous dog shot; she enjoyed the sun while I dug holes. Lazy mutt.

Apr 19, 2011

Gun Prom

Gun Prom is coming up soon - and I'm arguably more nervous than I was about my actual prom! I'm not a "crowd" person by nature - the NRA Convention will be far and away the largest expo I've ever attended - and tend to be a bit of an introvert/wallflower at social gatherings. It's not that I don't like people, I just don't like lots of them.

Of course, Jay's blogshoots have gone swimmingly, so I have some hopes that I won't spill my drink on Alan Gura or something equally gauche.

I'm a small fish in the gun blogger world, and I'm going to meet the Rock Stars. I promise to try hard to contain my girlish giggles. Looking forward to it!

Ruger 1911

I know I'm behind most everyone on this, but Ruger has just released their 1911-pattern pistol, model "SR1911".

Eight big ones list price, I'd hope for a street price around seven. IF it runs well, it should be a heck of a bargain, and most gamers would find it to be pretty well-set already for IDPA's CDP class.

Hopefully they'll have a few in Pittsburgh next weekend that I can fondle and examine.

Apr 17, 2011

Collecting Firearms and You

I don't consider myself a firearms expert - not by any stretch of the imagination. If you want expertise on antique and/or collectible guns, there are plenty of other sources out there. I know a little bit more than the average bear about a few particular guns, and one of those is the Ithaca 1911. It's my one and only Grail Gun at the moment; I would gladly trade almost anything in my safe for a correct sample.

I was curious when I got an email from Goose Hillock that they would be listing used handguns online, so I clicked over and saw that they had a listing for an Ithaca. Sure enough, it's a 1911, and listed for $1400 - a pretty fair price if the gun is correct.

"Correct" to a collector means a few things: proper markings (slide, barrel, frame, inspection, ordnance, etc), proper parts (grips, mainspring housing, trigger, hammer, grip safety, etc), and does not necessarily put "overall condition" high on the list. These are things that the average counter ninja at $BoxGunStore isn't going to know to look for.

An "Ithaca Gun Co" slide can be had on Gunbroker for as little as a hundred bucks, and a cheap 1911A1 can be another $500. Put them together and you've got a gun that clearly says "Ithaca" on it, but there's only about $600 worth of investment. Turn around and take it to $BoxGunStore and ask for $1000 trade value; leave with a new AR or what-have-you and you're money ahead, and the store is sitting on a worthless gun.

So, here's a few things to look for - or at least the things that caught my eye.

We'll start with the overall gun:


Looks like a pretty decent gun. Some wear, but that's to be expected with a 65-70 year old gun, right? But a few things jump out...
The trigger:

Ithaca used a knurled trigger face on their 1911s, and it had a fairly significant radius to it. You should be able to see the knurling on the leading edge from that angle. Also, there should NOT be a gap between the trigger and the frame - along the bottom half of the back edge. Additionally, a gun of this age should have much more wear on the sides of the trigger.

In the same photo, above and to the right of the trigger is where the ordnance inspection mark should be stamped. "FJA" was the inspector at the Rochester Ordnance Depot and was responsible for ALL of the Ithaca 1911s. (Cite.) There should also be a "P" under the magazine release - indicating a proof test.

Same photo, note the difference in wear and patina between the slide and frame.

The mainspring housing:

Ithaca used a seven-groove MSH for their 1911s. This one *appears* to be un-grooved; in other words, a replacement. Also note the significant color/patina difference between the MSH and the frame.

The right rear of the frame:

To the left of the grip panel is where the ordnance acceptance stamp (crossed cannons) should be.

The hammer looks ... wrong. Can't quite pin it - perhaps short? - but it's not right, either. Same for the grip safety. Again, finish and patina consistent with the overall gun should be a big clue.

And, last but not least, the serial number:

Government-purchased 1911 serial number ranges are very well documented. Ithaca did not produce ANY in the 400,000 range. On top of that, all the Ithacas should be stamped "US GOVT PROPERTY" immediately under the serial number.

There is a LOT of money in collectible guns - no question about it. If you choose to get into it, arm yourself with knowledge before buying, and take a second set of eyes if you're looking at a large price tag. This Ithaca is stickered at $1400, but the reality is whomever buys it is probably getting a mix-master pot-metal gun with an Ithaca slide slapped on, worth perhaps $4-500.

Caveat Emptor.

Apr 16, 2011

BAG day

BAG day was yesterday.

I considered buying something - anything - just to say I had. Then I realized that really defeats the whole point of the matter.

Without getting into specifics, I have handguns in minor and major calibers, I have rifles from tiny rimfire to mid-bore centerfire, and I have shotguns in the more popular gauges.

I certainly don't have ALL the guns I would ever want. I want a 5.56x45 carbine. I would like to replace my .357 that went down the road two months back (perhaps with a pony). I'd like a large-bore rifle of some kind. I'd like a less-common-gauge shotgun (28ga, I'm looking at you).

However, the reality is, I have what could be (is) considered by many to be a complete collection of firearms. (Rimfire rifle and pistol, centerfire bolt gun, centerfire semi-auto, pump shotgun.) Anything I'm likely to acquire in the future is going to fill a particular desire, not a hole in the safe.

So I didn't buy a gun yesterday. I did buy a miter saw. :-)

Apr 14, 2011

Quick Updates

At least they've taken "chance of snow showers" out of the weekend forecast. Yeesh.

I've been scheduled a pretty consisted 25ish hours at BBHIS, on top of the 40 at Day Job. I'm generally having fun with it, although it certainly helps that I'm doing it because I want to and not because I have to. I can see people getting frustrated in it - "full part time" seems to be a standard for them (39 hour weeks) and a certain repetitiveness to the day. We're usually out the door around 11pm after doing nightly closing chores - facing, stacking and restocking, sweeping, etc. I really enjoy that hour after the door is locked. Half the lights go off, I can turn off my brain and just start winding down. Pushing a dust mop up and down an aisle isn't stimulating work, but that's not what I need then.

I ordered and brought home most of the materials needed to build a small (12x12) barn for the goats and the impending chickens, along with enough space for MrsZ to keep her garden stuff and maybe a potting bench. Driving home, the load came loose and tried to end up in traffic. The city officers were polite and professional, exactly what I expect from them. No tickets, although if they had chosen to write me for an unsecured load I wouldn't have argued - it's their job, and it was pretty clearly inadequately secured. DPW happened by with a loader and shoved the load back on the truck enough for me to get out of traffic and re-stack everything. No harm, no foul.

I'm going to try to document (and photograph) the barn-building process as I go. This is my first attempt at real framing and I've been reading *constantly* to pick up tips and ideas and see how others have done it.

Apr 10, 2011


Carteach0 has a destructive test of safety glasses up on his blog. It's worth a read, and a good reminder. I'm not as particular about adding safety glasses when I shoot because I wear eyeglasses, and finding a decent pair of safety glasses is harder for me. I am pretty particular about wearing a hat of some kind and keeping the brim pulled down to keep stray brass etc from dropping in.

I've heard good things about RX-Safety (not making it hot, I haven't dealt with them yet) and need to look into getting some 'scrip safety glasses. I may just talk to my optometrist to see what he can do as well.

As a side note, many power tools now come with a set of inexpensive but ANSI-rated safety glasses in the box. I've got several pairs of Dewalt glasses (similar to these) kicking around. There's ALWAYS a pair or two in the range bag for someone who doesn't have them, and a few more floating around the house in strategic places - near the tool board, in the tool box, etc.

You can't buy new eyes - take care of them.

Apr 9, 2011


In what may be his longest post ever - regarding an eight-year-old who was pepper-sprayed by police - is this gem:
Time for the parents to be parents and unfuck this potential terror before he does some real damage.

Ambulance Driver refers to the presenting symptoms as "Chronic Hickory Deficiency".

I'm not a parent - at least, not anymore, yet. (I cohabited with a woman who had three kids from a prior marriage - I think that gives my opinions SOME validity.)

It's not about beating your children - AD's diagnosis is tongue-in-cheek, natch - it's about teaching them the difference between right and wrong, by example, and by correction as necessary. Corporal Punishment DOES have a place in parenting - but not as the only method of discipline.

Children are, by and large, a whole hell of a lot smarter than many people want to give them credit for. Treating them as such will help them turn into polite, productive, smart adults.

Apr 5, 2011

Tech again, work some more

Wirefly - not recommended. Incompetent customer service. I ordered a Galaxy Tab from them over the weekend, and they needed the PIN for my Verizon account in order to activate it. I went by the Verizon kiosk and set one up, called Wirefly and gave them the information, and was told my order was going to shipping. Then I got an email that they needed the PIN, so I punched it into their site. Thirty minutes later I got a call that they still needed the PIN.

An hour later I clicked the "order status" link, and it had been switched to "cancelled". I started by emailing them, then tried the "live chat" link.

Chat Monkey 1 took all my info and promptly kicked me up to "Specialized Team". Chat Monkey 2 basically told me, "Too bad, so sad." Their reason for canceling the order - without ever talking to me - was that they were unable to verify my shipping address.

(1) Their order form ONLY had a space for a shipping address (NO PO BOXES!), not for a billing address. (My bills go to a PO Box.)
(2) They told me the problem was with my credit card company - except that I know for a fact that the company has BOTH my mailbox and street address as approved addresses, and EVERY merchant I've ordered from has been able to send to one or the other.

I had a (3), but now I don't.

In any case - "we can't fix it and we don't care".

Worked BBHIS last night, spent the evening on register. Pretty slow; learned that Timberlands are NOT a good option if you're going to be standing in one place on concrete all night. Further research required.

Only working the Day Job for the next two days, then day shift at BBHIS.

Apr 3, 2011

Tech update

Technology - a curse, a cure, an addiction? Yes, a little of all of these, and more.

When we bought our house, it was listed as "high speed internet available". I didn't do proper checking to find out what, precisely, they considered "high speed internet". Turns out they meant satellite internet - because they were leaving the hardware from their subscription to WildBlue.

We considered it and after a lot of research, quickly nixed that, choosing instead to survive on dial-up as needed. I think that lasted about six months before I was going nuts. It's better to simply not have a network connection than to have one that's unreliable or horribly slow.

Almost exactly a year ago, I upgraded my phone and went to the Palm Pre Plus via Verizon, explicitly because of the free Mobile Hotspot (MHS) promo. I reviewed the phone shortly after getting it and was pleased at the time.

It's been a year and it's time for an update.

Several weeks after I got the phone, it stopped letting me turn on MHS - giving me an error about "needing the feature enabled by Verizon". I went through all the troubleshooting I could think of and got nowhere, so went back to the store and had them poke at it. The only option was a hard reset of the phone, erasing ALL my apps and data in the process. Most of them were backed up, but restoring data was a headache.

I'd also noticed a disturbing trend with the phone heating up while charging and especially when using MHS - to the point that it was uncomfortable to touch the phone. A month later, the "feature required" problem occurred again, and combined with the heat issues, I decided to use the warranty.

I took it to Verizon and politely but firmly insisted on a new phone. The tech balked at first, saying the phone was working fine, it was normal for it to get warm, etc. I stuck to my guns and they sent a new (refurbished) phone by two-day shipping.

The new one didn't have the heat issue, so that was a plus in its favor. However, it has continually had issues with other things. The MHS has had the "feature required" error a few times. The "Mail" app has lost count of unread messages in my inboxes, indicating that there are new messages when there aren't any. The fix for that is either a hard reset of the phone, or deleting and re-adding ALL the mail accounts.

The touch screen is not bad, generally speaking - except that it doesn't respond if your skin is dry, as mine usually is in winter. Licking the tip of a finger just to use the phone is aggravating at best.

And since I'm calling it a phone ... actually making a phone call is arguably the worst part of dealing with this thing. It just seems tedious. If the slider is open, as I tend to prefer when talking on the phone, snapping it closed *doesn't end the call* - you still have to punch the "end" button on-screen. Perhaps I've been spoiled by ten-plus years of flip-phones.

MHS still works mostly-OK, as long as it has decent signal. Sometimes it has signal but won't exchange data - either via MHS or on the phone itself - and I chalk that up to a network problem, not the phone. If the signal drops to 1X (2G), data speeds tend to be slower than dial-up. Unless I'm trying to do something critical, I'll close the laptop and go do something else. One major issue with MHS - when a client device connects, the phone loses network connection for up to a full minute.

The last nitpick - the charger doesn't have enough juice to keep the phone charged while running MHS. A constant data stream (IRC, AIM, Skype, etc) will kill the battery in 2-3 hours on 3G, and less on 1X. If its being used for web browsing, 4-6 hours is more likely, and relatively reasonable. For off-charger use, sixteen hours of "in pocket" time is about it - without heavy data usage or game playing. In other words: the battery isn't sufficient for the device.

I've just ordered a Samsung Galaxy Tab that I hope to use for most of my mobile data. We're going to look at a Verizon Mifi for our home internet connection, and dropping both MrsZ and myself back to "dumb" phones for daily usage - perhaps even pre-paid phones if we can find something with moderately-acceptable coverage at home.

Short form: Palm Pre Plus NOT recommended.

Apr 2, 2011


As I mentioned last week, I'm now working part-time for Big Blue Home Improvement Store. The first week has been an interesting experience; this is my first time working in a large corporate entity.

My first job out of college was selling cars; the dealership had perhaps 35 employees. From there I went to a software company of about 280 people, a different software company of 75ish, and now to my government job in an office of about 35 people. BBHIS employs about a quarter-million people according to what numbers I can find.

I arrived for my new-hire orientation Monday evening as instructed, and joined a group of five other new hires. Interesting cross-section of the world - a retiree, a former Air Force EM, two students, and a guy whose background I don't know. Most of Monday evening was listening to the HR Manager go through policies and rules - no big deal and nothing unexpected.

Tuesday evening I got plugged in to their computer-based training system and turned loose. I cordially detest CBTs because they are generally lowest-common-denominator and not necessarily self-paced. This was compounded by a slow network connection and/or antique hardware (566MHz/512MB thin clients on a *nix platform) - imagine watching YouTube over a 56k modem. It's just not pretty. Regardless, I plugged through the courses and got a lot done.

I also found out what department I'd be in (building materials; i.e., lumber and masonry) and my pay rate. I have never before had an employer offer me MORE than what I'd asked for in my application - but BBHIS has a pay matrix they use, and apparently my background and position point to the rate I was given, about 5% more than what I requested. What am I going to say, no? :-)

Wednesday night I was off and MrsZ and I celebrated my best man's 36th birthday at a local pub and gave him a bottle of Balvenie Caribbean Cask. (Yes, I would like one of my own, please.)

Thursday I was off from the day job and worked 8-5 at BBHIS - more CBTs. Yes, eight hours of CBTs.

Friday was again at BBHIS, but after a couple hours of CBTs, I was sent back to receiving to learn fork lifts. The standard counterbalance fork trucks were pretty simple once I adjusted to front-drive rear-steer. After that we did a quick run-through of order pickers which were a little harder to work but manageable. They'll take some more practice. And then ... reach trucks. Basically, a forklift that allows you to extend the forks, and is capable of operating in much tighter spaces than a standard fork truck. These are ... tricky. One hand to steer, and the other hand does ALL the other controls - moving forward/back, fork up/down/forward/back/in/out/left/right. Side note - if you see someone zooming their forklift - of any type - around a warehouse and picking things accurately and quickly, they've been doing it a while. It's easy work but it's not easy to do well.

After lunch I was tossed on registers. Not terribly hard given my background (the software company I worked for did cashless and POS systems), just a learning curve.

I've got the weekend off from BBHIS, but I'm back at the day job. Back to BBHIS for a few evenings and a few days next week, and hopefully I'll start getting regular (perhaps even consistent) hours there soon.


I've spent the vast majority of the past week working in one form or another - 50 hours at my day job, and 26 hours at BBHIS. I generally am able to read blogs during the day job, but tend to put the internet away on my "weekends". So I fired up GoogleReader this morning and found nearly 200 unread entries from y'all.

I skimmed. I read a few entries in full. I don't think I missed any major events. If I did, my apologies.

More on BBHIS in an upcoming post.